In The Phantom Menace, after Qui-Gon encounters Darth Maul for the first time, he escapes to Padmé's ship. (Time of interest starting at 2:00)

ANAKIN : Are you alright?

QUI-GON : I think so.

OBI-WAN : What was it?

QUI-GON : I'm not sure. But it was well-trained in the Jedi arts. [R2-D2 beeps] My guess is, it was after the queen.

ANAKIN : What are we going to do about it?

QUI-GON : (exhales) We should be patient. Anakin Skywalker, meet Obi-Wan Kenobi.

ANAKIN : Hi. You're a Jedi too?

Now, arguably the first and last instances of it may not refer to Darth Maul but the situation, but there are at least two undeniable instances in a row of Darth Maul being called it.

Now, this strikes me as strange because:

  • (As far as I'm aware) there hasn't been another (non-droid) sentient referred to as it.
  • Darth Maul clearly has masculine features
  • Other aliens, far less humanoid and far less obviously gendered (from our point of view), are he or she.
  • Even droids in the Star Wars universe have gender and some are called he or she.

In addition, according to a 1999 draft at IMSDB, it wasn't always this way:

ANAKIN : Are you all right?

QUI-GON : I think so... that was a surpirse I wont soon forget.

OBI-WAN : What was it?

QUI-GON : I don't know... but he was well trained in the Jedi arts. My guess is he was after the Queen...

ANAKIN : Do you think he'll follow us?

QUI-GON : We'll be safe enough once we're in hyperspace, but I have no doubt he knows our destination.

ANAKIN : What are we going to do about it?

OBI-WAN gives ANAKIN a "who are you?" look. ANAKIN returns an innocent stare.

QUI-GON : We will be patient. Anakin Skywalker, meet Obi-Wan Kenobi.

ANAKIN : Pleased to meet you. Wow! You're a Jedi too?


What are the in-universe and out-of-universe stories behind the use of the genderless pronoun for Darth Maul?

Is it how Sith were referenced (despite other evidence)? Was Darth Maul's species supposed to be known to Qui-Gon, and genderless? Did Darth Maul have a Tumblr page where he (uh, it) professed its preferred pronouns? Were decisions made at shoot-time, possibly because of the bookending uses of it for the situation in general?

  • 2
    The encounter was probably just too fast for Qui-Gon to determine Maul's gender. So he used the appropriate pronouns to convey that. Zabrak have both genders with the usual array of secondary characteristics.
    – DampeS8N
    Jan 22, 2017 at 6:20
  • 3
    @DampeS8N, even assuming this were true, it wouldn't justify using "it". Jan 22, 2017 at 7:13
  • 2
    I agree that this too weird to not have a real answer somewhere. I have confidence in Valorum's ability to find an answer. :)
    – RedCaio
    Jan 22, 2017 at 10:48
  • 7
    Because it's one big intergalactic game of tag now, and Maul is it
    – Petersaber
    Jan 22, 2017 at 12:14
  • 1
    Genderless pronoun (as much as they exist in English) would be that "who was that". The use of it would imply they had no idea what it was, a primary concern before dealing with gender
    – Naib
    Jan 22, 2017 at 20:27

1 Answer 1


Sadly as there is no further explanation on why Qui-Gon called Maul an it we can only take a guess. A very educated guess though.

We need to take into consideration that the fight lasted only mere moments and that the Star Wars universe contains A LOT of different species (even two legged ones). With some of the species looking very similar to each other and also some having 2 genders, some 1 and some probably more than 2.

As a Jedi, Qui-Gon travelled the galaxy a bit but has probably not seen every species, yet. Thus the information above combined with the shortness of the battle, it is very probable that Qui-Gon was unable to be completely sure what species Maul hailed from....and also what gender he had.

Thus calling Maul an it is the most neutral method of talking about Maul (I dare say even the Jedi way is that way......as it is the most even way of talking about Maul without implying something that the Jedi was not sure about).

  • 1
    Darth Maul is a Zabrak, which is also the species of Jedi Master Aegen Kolar. Granted, they have different skin tones (Maul is red, Kolar is brown) and the fight was brief, but you'd think that Qui-Gon would at least know a little bit about the species of each of the members of the Jedi Council! Feb 1, 2017 at 16:49
  • 2
    @Thunderforge I'm not sure that he could tell a zabrak within mere moments though. We shouldn't forget that there are millions of species and MANY of them are very similar in appearance to each other. And with cybernetics and even shapechangers existing in that universe telling one others species by just a very short fight from ones live could be very hard. Even though he CAN be familiar with the species it is questionable if he saw enough to be sure that it is that species and not a different one.
    – Thomas
    Feb 1, 2017 at 17:22
  • 3
    It is possible that by referring to Maul as "It", Qui-Gon meant not "What species is it", but "what is it", more precisely "what Dark Side group does that guy belong to", or "am I right that it is a Sith"?
    – TimSparrow
    May 7, 2018 at 16:01

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