I knew that title would get your attention… 🙂
Once upon a time, my housemate asked me to go see The Phantom Menace with him and a few of his friends (I’d already seen it, and hadn’t been impressed, but what the hell, he was paying for my ticket) so that I could explain to him a few things he didn’t understand about the story and whatnot.
(Disclaimer: I am NOT some kind of expert in all things Star Wars. Most of the extra-trivial trivia I know about it is from a biography on George Lucas that I read back when I was fourteen years old. I have a ridiculously good memory for useless information, but that doesn’t mean I go about memorizing stuff, and half the time I’m not even looking for it. I read Skywalking because simply I was interested in how movies were made. The housemate-creature wanted me along not for any esoteric knowledge about the story’s setting or whatever, but rather for my unacceptably large vocabulary. “It serves no purpose for you to know that!” disappeared instantly when he wanted to know.)
Anyway. Movie. It wasn’t any better the second time through, but at least it wasn’t any worse. Still liked the humongous sea creatures; still hated Jar-jar. Afterward, as we were on our way to get something to eat, I asked, “Has anyone else ever read A Wind in the Door?“
“Yeah,” drawled Housemate’s friend EP. “Mitochondria...” Somehow he managed to drawl that word while also enunciating each syllable distinctly.
“That’s not what they called it!” snapped Housemate.
“That’s what they should have called it,” I said. “It’s so obvious that Lucas just wanted to put his own ‘brand’ on a real scientific term, but he doesn’t own it.”
Next came an attempt to explain to Housemate what mitochondria are (which of course involved a lot of him insisting “It serves no purpose for you to know that!” even though he kept asking), and he… nearly lost it. Apparently the fact that there are parts of our cells — each and every cell — that originated as something else, from outside, freaked him out. (“Don’t ever tell him about intestinal fauna,” whispered SP, EP’s wife.) Also, it offended him that any of us knew something that he didn’t (even though that had been his entire reason for me being along in the first place).
Y’see, mitochondria are essential to energy production in cells. I’ll spare you the biology lesson, but it actually makes a bit of sense to say that mitochondria would be involved in making a person “strong in the Force.” Except for one little problem: mitochondria are not present in rocks and metal and stuff. Just living things.
If Lucas had simply made up something completely new to explain the Force, that would have been okay. Instead, he “borrowed” from someone else’s story (which had used the idea of ‘strong mitochondria means strong esper ability’ in a much more plausible way) and botched the translation. The Star Wars prequel explanation for the Force fails because “midichlorian” (or however the hell it’s spelled) is so much like “mitochondria.” And anyone who knew about the actual cellular biology term could see that instantly.