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Arrakis, Dune, wasteland of the empire, and the most valuable planet in the universe, because it is here and only here, where spice is found

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Dune: Dune: Pt.1 “Dune”

“Arrakis, Dune, wasteland of the empire, and the most valuable planet in the universe, because it is here and only here, where spice is found. The spice, without it there is no commerce in the empire, there is no civilization. Arrakis, Dune, home of the spice, greatest treasure in the universe. And he who controls it, controls our destiny.” – Irulan

Our story starts with a dream. No not the metaphorical dream about ideals, values, and a utopia future. But it is a dream of the future. For the first 30 seconds, we see thrilling clips that we’ll be watching over the next three nights. For the dreamer Paul, these images and sounds, show his future. As with most Hollywood dream sequences, this one too must end in a nightmare. The last image we see in this dream is of Paul’s father Duke Leto, turn around, look past the viewer with dreary dead eyes, then disintegrate into the wind!

After dreaming this, our hero Paul, wakes up in a cold sweat. What follows for the next few minutes is heated argument between Paul and his mother Jessica, a former Bene Gesserit sister. Paul is being forced to moved from his home, the ocean-planet of Caladan, to the wasteland desert world called Arrakis. Like every other 15 year old, Paul gets very melodramatic over the move, and gives Jessica a very hard time.

Jessica explains to Paul that he must visit with the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Mohium. A meeting the Jessica is not looking forward to, yet Paul seems rather courageous but indifferent about it.

Paul is taken into a cool looking chamber with moving fluid walls. All this serves to represent how plentiful water is around the rest of the universe and especially Caladan. Later on Dune, almost no representation of liquid will be found on the water starved planet.Paul starts his meeting with the Reverend Mother on a confrontational note. Mohium asks him to step forward to see him better, and he stubbornly refuses. Presently she tries voice on Paul. Voice is an audio technique that forces the listener to obey the speaker. It takes a great willpower to resist voice. After Mohium repeats her command, Paul appears distressed, but in a show of arrogance, he straightens out his tunic. Reverend Mothers are NOT used to being insulted, and Mohium does not hide her anger.

Moving right along, Mohium questions Paul about his dreams. After a brief show of rebellion on Paul’s part, he explains his dreams to her. Paul believes these to be just dreams, with no true meaning or reason. Reverend Mother Mohium is not so sure and asks him what he thinks the dreams mean. Paul, obviously annoyed with these questions, delivers one final insult to Mohium, he demands, using voice, that she explain the dreams to him. Mohium is taken back by this, as only Bene Gesserit sisters should be able to use voice. The Reverend Mother is greatly distressed by all the knowledge that Jessica has passed onto her son.

After Paul’s egregious insult, Mohium directs Paul to a box on a pedestal. Then tells him to put his hand inside. The young Atreides in a fit of great stupidity, complies. This dude deserves the pain he’s about to receive. If some hoopy woman told be to put my hand in a box… Presently the box’s true purpose emerges. It’s a device that inflicts great pain. Paul feels as if his hand is being burned in a great flame. Before he can pull his hand free, Mohium holds a poison dart to his throat. If he withdrawals his hand, she will puncture and kill him instantly. After much suffering, she ceases the box’s function, and allows him to withdraw is hand.

The mini series does poor job of explaining the gom jabar test. If one passes the test, s/he is human. Because only an animal would kill itself when caught in a trap, to avoid further pain. A real intelligence would wait for the hunter to return to the trap, so that s/he could strike back at their attacker. The Bene Gesserit believe that the average person is not human, and are not worthy of living a truly human existence. What bitches!

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After being released, Paul storms out of the room. Ignoring his mother;’s please for forgiveness for not telling him about the test. Mohium reminds Jessica that Paul should have been born female, to further the Bene Gesserit breeding program. Jessica explains that Leto wanted a boy, so that what she delivered. The reverend mother tells Jessica that Paul “may be worth saving, but for the father, nothing!”.

Soon after the meeting, Paul, Jessica, Gurney and Tufir leave on the Spacing Guild Heighliner for Arrakis. With them are hundreds of Atreides ships, warriors, and equipment.

The next scene lays out the plot for this nights episode. The Harkonnen in James Bond villain fashion, lay out their entire evil scheme for the audience. Actually the miniseries leaves some mysteries, to be revealed later in the series. In the book however, Herbert leaves nothing to surprise!

The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and his twisted mentat Piter begin to tell us all about their plans for the Atreides destruction. Piter tells Rabband Fey’d that despite they engineered with the Emperor, that they would lose Arrakis, and that the planet would be given as a permanent fief to the Atreides. After a few months of sabotaging their spice production, the Harkonnens would sweep down onto Dune and reclaim the planet as theirs. The other great houses would not oppose the battle because they would be to concerned with getting a stable spice flow back. All this couldn’t happen without the aid of a traitor within the Atreides household. Unlike the novel, we are not told who it is in the miniseries up front.

We travel half way across to the galaxy where Duncan Idaho and Duke Leto are having a chat. Duke Leto asks his most trusted general with a dangerous task. He asks Duncan to join up with the Fremen, the inhabitants of Dune, and seek out there leader. Leto wants to make peace with the Fremen leader, Liet.

In the miniseries, Leto does this just to gain the trust of the inhabitants of the planet, as a means of helping him to control it. But in the novel, Leto knows how rugged the Fremen are, and he believes that they could become his new army. A force that not even the Emperor’s Saurdikar could not defeat.
Soon after Duncan departs to the deep desert, Paul and Jessica meet up with Duke Leto, at the palace in Arrakeen. Immediately after arriving in her new home, Jessica begins the task of personalizing the palace. She takes great concern of where many of the house items are placed in the great hall.
While Jessica tend to her wifely duties, the men of House Atreides get down to business. A meeting of the general staff is held. Most of the items brought up are about spice production, and how to maintain production. Duke Leto asks Gurnery to tell the smugglers that they will ignore what they’re doing so long as they pay up. The Mentat Tufir immediately points out that Emperor Shaddam will not like Leto’s blatant stealing of his spice profits. Paul speaks up, rather annoyed, and says that they should collect the bribes, and bank it all in Shaddam’s name. Then deduct the amount from their taxes to the Emperor and claim it as a cost of doing business. This has two purposes, one is the money, the second is it embarrasses all the Harkonnen who’ve been taking bribes secretly for the last 80 years! Score one for the good guys! In the novel it was Leto who suggested this plan, but for the movie series, the director justifiably decided to show that how clever Paul can be.

The next scene shows Jessica soothing Yeuh. Yeuh’s wife, another Bene Gesserit, was kidnapped by the Harkonnens, and the sunrise on Dune was reminding Yeah of his wife. Jessica assures him that the Atreides will help him get his wife back. And they will…

Alright, now it’s about time to see Dune’s signature creature. The great sandworm. But first our hero’s have to suit up. Leto, Paul, Gurnery and some other people are on their way out of the desert to view a spice harvesting. They strap on some stilsuits (water reclamation devices, that when worn properly keep water loss to under 15 mL/day!).

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Dr. Kynes, the imperial palentologist inspects everyone’s stilsuit to be sure that its worn properly. Kynes is amazed at how well Paul was able to adorn his stilsuit without any help. While inspecting Paul’s work, Paul notices the blue spice eyes of Dr. Kynes. Paul questions him if he’s a Fremen. Kynes evadingly replies that he is “accepted in both seitch and village”
After a quick flight into the dessert, the thopters approach the spice harvester. But before they can land they see worm-sign. A dust cloud that appears when a worm travels. Spice harvesting always attracts worms.

Leto orders the harvester evacuated. But a carryall is not around to pick up the harvester and its crew. Improvising, Leto orders all the thopters to land and pick up the crew. He has the seats ejected from his thopter so that an extra man can escape.
All but three of the harvester crew escape to the wafting thopters. These unfortunate men try to make a run for it away from the airships. Sure enough they’re devoured by the great worm, along with the rest of the harvester.

Because of the extra weight the thopter is carrying, it cannot rise as quickly as it normally could. This makes it a hovering morsel for the sandworm below. Just as the sandworm jumps up into the sky to consume the thopter treat, Leto guns the engines and the thopter makes it away just in time. For a few brief moments, the thopter was actually within the worms giant maw!
After returning safely to Arrakeen, Kyne’s is amazed that Leto risked his life and Paul’s to rescue those workers. Further more Leto cared nothing for the spice either, only the lives of the workers. He makes a cryptic comment to Gurney that “a man like that could have commanded fanatic loyalty”

On the aircar trip back to the palace, Leto tells Paul, “On Caladan we ruled by air and sea, here we need desert power”. This further shows that he wants the Fremen to be his own elite army. All along the journey, the locals chant Ma’udi at the aircar. They believe Paul to be their messiah. This is because thousands of years ago the Bene Gesserit, secretly implanted a legend into Fremen culture. It said that their messiah would be an off worlder, and the child of a Bene Gesserit witch. The Bene Gesserit started this rumor just in case one of them was stranded on the planet. Little did they realize how important this legend would become!The next morning Paul’s awakes after a prescience dream. This time he dreamt of his future mate, Chani. Too bad that an assanination attempt woke him up before the dream could get really interesting. Out of the wall comes a hunter-seeker. An assassination tools that is commanded from a nearby source. After a brief confrontation, Paul defeats the deadly tool, by submerging it in a pitcher of water. The alarms are set off and after a brief chase the assailant has his throat cut by Gurnery.
A few weeks later Idaho returns, this time with Stilgar a Fremen naib. They returned to Arrakeen to try to heal one of the Fremen warriors injured during an attack on Harkonnen Guerillas. The Fremen utterly annihilated the Harkonnens, but wound up losing a man in the process.Leto, tells Stilgar how much he appreciates his help and sacrifice. But Stilgar still doesn’t trust this offworlder. Stilgar asks that Duncan join his tribe permanently, and that Idaho could serve both Leto and himself. With Duncan’s approval, Leto reluctantly allows it.

To seal the deal, Stilgar takes a deep breath, steps back, stands tall, and hocks a loogey down at Leto’s feet. Leto was ready to order Stilgar tied and quarter for that! Paul quickly steps in and thanks Stilgar for the gift of his bodies water, and accepts it in the spirit for which it was given. In Fremen culture, spitting is a sign of great honor and respect. Somehow, I don’t see this catching on in modern western culture.

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After a few months have passed, and the Atreides have proven that they have the spice situation under control, even with the Harkonnen meddling, the Baron Harkonnen orders an attack on the planet. In the middle of the night the shields are lowered, and enemy ships begin to enter Arrakeen. At first we are thought to believe that Gurney is responsible. Yet we learn after Duke Leto is shot with a stun dart that it was Yeuh. The Suk Doctor explains to the Duke that he had to betray him so that he could get his wife back. This marks the only time in the history of the universe that a Suk Doctor betrayed his employers! To make up for his betrayal, Yeuh, places a capsule in Leto’s mouth. When he bites, it will release a poison gas, that will kill everyone nearby. Yeuh believes that the Baron will gloat directly in front of Leto frozen body, close enough for the poison to kill them both.

After a quick attack, the palace is easily conquered. In the mini-series Tufir Hwat is killed in an explosion, while trying to coordinate a counter-offensive. But in the novel he was captured and later enslaved by the Harkonnens. Paul and Jessica are captured, then thrown into the desert for the worms to eat. But back in the palace, Baron Harkonnen intend to end the family feud between Atreides and his house once and for all, by killing Leto.

With Yeuh’s half of the bargin complete, he demands that the Baron reunite him with his wife. The Barron complies by sending him to the afterlife to meet his dead wife. After taunting Leto for a while, Vladimir closes in on the Duke to thoroughly laugh in his face. Leto bites the capsule, spreading the poison gas. Vladimir floats away fast enough to avoid the poison. But his twisted mentat Pither does not survive, nor do any of his guards.

Paul and Jessica awake in the dessert, realizing that they’re a screwed as a turtle on its back. In the distance they see a thopter approach. They think it may be a Harkonnen patrol returning to finish them off. So they run like the lavender hells! The hot dog pilot flies over the two leaving a clearance of only a meter. Then he lands 20 meters away. He must’ve learned to drive in Philadelphia! From the thopter emerges Duncan, yelling at the Atreides to hurry up and board the thopter.Later, the thopter lands at a nearby seitch. Inside Paul finds out that Dr. Kynes is also Liet, the leader of the Fremen. Leit tells Paul and Jessica to escape and go into the desert, and that he instructed some Fremen to find and care for them. The two leave just in time, because after the thopter takes off, a missile crashes into the sietch, killing Duncan Idaho.

Personally I think that was an insult to the Duncan character. In the novel, Idaho died guarding a doorway from a dozen saurdikar troops, killing many in the process, so that Paul and Jessica could escape. It tooks dozens of knife wounds to the head to kill him! Death by a missile attack is not fitting for one of the greatest swordsman who ever lived!
The attack thopters chase after Paul’s craft, but he out maneuvers them in a canyon. Upon exiting the gorge, he tries to lead them into a sandstorm. Nothing can survive a desert storm, so the attacking craft run away rather then die in pursuit of someone they think about to die anyway. Even after they break pursuit, Paul flies head first into the sandstorm, the whole time saying the Bene Gesserit litany against fear:”I must not fear, fear is the mind killer. I face my fear I will let it pass through me. When the fear is gone, there will be nothing, only I will remain”

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Dune reviews are © 2003 Ryan Bechtel.
Not for reproduction without the authors express permission

Dune names, characters and everything else associated with the series are the property of Sci-Fi Channel, New Amsterdam Entertainment, and the assorted publishing companies who own the rights to the various Dune novels.

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