An Unanswered Question from Star Wars

It’s been a while since I’ve discussed Star Wars, and I seem to be of a mood to ask questions lately, so I’ve got one that I’ve never seen answered satisfactorily. If at all. It’s really a series of questions, because one hypothetical answer just leads to another question.

Why Was Luke Allowed to Fly in the Battle of Yavin?

Obviously, Luke was the hero character. He was going to have something to do with the climactic battle of the film. But his participation doesn’t make logical sense in the context of the plot.

So here are the questions I have about it.

The Alliance May Have Had Limited Ships, but They Had Plenty of Pilots

When we get to the throne room where they receive their medals for bravery and heroism, there are a ton of pilots in the audience. Seriously, a lot. You’d be able to hit one throwing a baseball without aiming all that well.

So why didn’t one of them fly in the final battle? At least one of them had to have been a great pilot. Even if not great, then at the very least “he” predated Luke as a member of the Alliance. He’d been training and preparing for battles, even if not that particular one, for longer than Luke had.

The Star Wars Radio Drama, which was considered an authoritative outside source until the Special Editions contradicted it, offered a scene where Luke was pre-tested before he went into battle. They wanted to make sure he was rated on the Incom T–65 (if you have to look it up, I’m disappointed) and so they had him undergo a rigorous simulation. In actuality, it’s a really fun scene to hear.

But Those Pilots Were Veterans by Comparison!

Seriously, no matter how well a pilot tests “off the street,” you mean to tell me that Red Leader was not just comfortable letting Luke fly one of their prized ships, of which they had a limited supply, but passing over a flier he had worked with previously?

Do you think somebody walked in out of the blue and just hopped in a P-38 to shoot down the zeroes? No matter how good he was, wouldn’t they have said, “well, that’s great, but this mission’s already the equivalent of pissing in the wind, and you’ll likely just cost us a ship early in the game”?

For That Matter, What If He’d Been a Double Agent?

The Empire already proved–and probably had many times in the past–that they were willing to throw people’s lives away on a gamble (the tracking device/sentry ship ploy that got them to Yavin). He may have rescued the princess, but no one would entertain the possibility he was a deep–cover agent? For goodness’ sake, a mercenary brought him along and Leia never interacted with Obi–Wan. For all she knew, it was an act.

Good screening process there, guys.


No one can really answer this satisfactorily, and that’s OK. I’m just trying to work out a question in the same way that prequel haters nit–pick plot points and devices in such a way to justify maintaining their hatred.

But I’d like to see anyone answer this adequately. (I have answers in my head already, I’m intrigued to see where other people’s reasoning takes them.)

16 thoughts on “An Unanswered Question from Star Wars

      1. It probably would have knocked a few noses out of joints, but Leia and Biggs may well have pulled some strings. I had a look in the book yesterday to see if anything was said, and Biggs mentioned to Blue Leader that Luke was a brilliant pilot.

        Although, I would like to know who Blue Leader is, as he mentioned that he flew with Luke’s father.


        1. “Blue” was the original designation for the X-Wing squadron. It was changed to “Red” because of the blue screen technology being unable to differentiate between the blues effectively; this is also why R2-D2 appears black in most of the space shots in the original versions of the original trilogies.


  1. Ok, I’ll give it a try. The medal ceremony did not have to take place right after the battle. In fact it probably didn’t. Probably, right after they blew up the DS, the rebel base still needed to be evaculated. The DS is gone, but the rest of the Imperial fleet was on it’s way.

    So. On Yavin, they don’t necessarily have all the pilots you see in the medal ceremony. They may simply have just enough pilots for the ships they have. In fact, in general, the Rebels probably would have found it easier to get ships than pilots. People will secretly support a cause with donations a LOT easier than getting in the pilot seats. Also, pilots require a certain level of innate talent and years of training (unless you’re a jedi). Ships probably just require cash to replace.

    So, maaaaybe they only had enough pilots for the number of ships they had *on Yavin*. No Luke and Co. show up *direcly* form saving the princess. Because of the tracking beacon, the DS is hot on thier heals. There’s not time to call in extra ships and pilots from all the scattered rebel cells. (Note: there wasn’t even time for the Empire to have called in extra support ships. It was just the DS and it’s complement of Tie fighters.) They gotta go with what they have. There. On Yavin. And Joe the X-wing Pilot has dyssentary. They of course ask Han first. He’s after all a great pilot. But seeing the odds (“Never tell him the odds!” (Because he’s already calculated them)) he’s outta there. Fortunately Luke “is not such a bad pilot himself”.


    1. An elegant solution, and one that fits very much into something Lucas uses heavily in the endings for the RotJ:SE, Clones and Sith: figurative/abstract time in the endings. For example, people got their panties in a bunch about the “Vader at the Death Star” moment being in the closing montage for Sith — when it wasn’t supposed to be “literally happening at the same moment;” I actually put this theory forward on the old Star Wars message boards (where the name “kesseljunkie” was born) and there was a Lucas employee involved in the prequels (who managed content for the site) that basically said, “Yep. He’s right” when someone challenged it.

      So, though it’s not necessarily the case, the interpretation fits. Nicely done.


  2. Three words: Jedi Mind Trick. Of course you will say “but Clone, Luke was not trained enough to know how to do it.” I didn’t say Luke. Your logical progression would be “Leia?” and there would be confused looks at that guess. But no. Obi-Wan. Yes, he is dead, but think about it. Obi-wan, a student of Qui-Gon Jinn has mastered a way to defeat death, surely Obi-Wan has found a way to enhance that whole “not really dying and being a part of the force thing”. So if Obi-Wan is able to have his image, his thoughts, and his voice, what is stopping him from harnessing the power of the force in death? Even more to that, now that in death Obi-Wan has BECOME part of the living force, don’t you think he could harness the powers, such as the mind trick, even more? Obi-wan is still around, and in death, when Vader stuck him down, he became more powerful than you can possibly imagine.


    1. I told you before, and I’ll say it now: Brilliant take on it, and solves a lot of problems. The *only* issue I’d take with the theory is that if Obi-Wan was that influential, he would have had much more influence on the course of events through the two sequels.

      (Anticipated reply: “How do you know he didn’t?” Which is a reductionist argument that becomes nearly possible to refute as I could say, “How do you know that Artoo’s semi-sentience didn’t evolve into an ability to use the Force and help protect Luke?”)

      In fact, when Obi-Wan speaks to Luke in Empire about facing Vader, he says, “You must do it alone. I cannot interfere.” Also, in early script drafts for Jedi, Lucas talked about Obi-Wan directly getting involved in the final battle with the Emperor and decided against it because it violated the limit previously set forth.

      This doesn’t mean he didn’t appear in a dream to General Dodonna or something; just putting it out there that a “full on Mind Trick” might be a little too far to take it.


  3. The book that went along with the mid-90s video game “X-Wing” stated that the ship Luke flew actually belonged to the hero of the video game, Keyan Farlander. If I had the book on hand, I’d reread the section exactly, but I do remember Farlander gave up his ship voluntarily and took a Y-Wing instead. Supposedly, the Y-Wing flying along side of Luke and Han after the D.S. blows up is Farlander, as he continues on in the game until the evacuation to establish the base on Hoth.


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