Lucas knows what he is doing. If more people would stop assuming they understand this stuff better than Lucas does, then maybe they would start to understand what it is he is actually doing.
Like you do, Go-Mer? Please, enlighten us concerning your insights into GL's mind.
Anyway, claims of prescience aside, there is no evidence that the podrace was meant to add tension to the "plight of the Naboo" subplot - it was meant to demonstrate Anakin's extraordinary abilities (since, after all, GL now states that the saga is Anakin's story), not to have the viewer think "Oh! How can they take time for this when Naboo's citizens could be suffering... or not, in which case there is no real tension to that subplot... Oh! Sebulba crashed! Waitaminnit, this scene is *longer* on the DVD?!"
There is a lot more to indicate that the segment is about Anakin's characterization than it is for increasing the dramatic element of potential non-existent suffering. Regardless of any motivations fiated by us on Lucas for the choices he made, the point is many folks did not identify with the characters or feel any empathy with the Queen and her plight, and did so for very reasonable reasons. If we're supposed to care about these characters, that's a flaw in the storytelling. We shouldn't have to analyze afterwards why we're supposed to care - it should be self-evident; especially in light of the serial nature of these films. I'm not saying that the audience needs to be spoon-fed; I just think that enough needs to be given to demonstrate whether the threat is real.
It's much more dramatic for the audience to *know* whether the Queen is deluding herself or whether she is acting out of genuine need. A sincere but misguided character is empathetic, as is a heroine in genuine plight - vague and indistinct worries do not compelling story-telling make.
"Oh no, Padme! Look out for that angst!"
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"Controlling her will not be difficult"
He was wrong. Sidious had to change his course midway through and ended up with something more than he bargained for: Control of the Republic from within, not by carving it up as he originally planned by using the TF.