Yet Another Unanswered Question from #StarWars: #TheEmpireStrikesBack

In my on-again-off-again series of “unanswered questions,” I have a gem of one that’s got about a million explanations, but all of them require “head canon” to work it out.

Why Didn’t the Empire Completely Disconnect or Remove the Hyperdrive from The Millenium Falcon While it Was at Bespin?

In the film, we see that they’re turned it to the “off” position. It worked well enough to fool the heroes. But it was resolved with Artoo flipping a switch, supporting Lucas’ own assertion that Artoo was a real hero of the series. (I agree with this assertion, and have spoken several times about the fact that there’s a moment with Artoo during the escape on Bespin that actually makes me tear up any time I watch it because it’s so beautifully done.)

R2D2 who's known as Artoo Detoo in Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back which is Star Wars Episode V which is a Star Wars movie called The Empire Strikes back which features R2D2 who's known as Artoo Detoo.
Every time. The music, the moment, the pacing…all perfect.

Anyway, when the’re in the Falcon and trying to fly away to freedom (spoilers), they discover they can’t jump to hyperspace. Chewie and Lando start looking for errors to fix, only to come up empty…and fortunately not crippling the ship any further.

Lando exclaims that they told him they (The Imperial techs, presumably) had fixed it, and emphasizes this by saying they promised to fix it. We’ll table Lando’s naivete for the moment, as it’s not the particular point I’m after in this conversation.

The thing that really stands out is that the Imperial techs simply switched the hyperdrive to “off.” Artoo rolls over to the access panel and turns it “on.” We see a flashing red light turn green, in a beautifully simple visual cue.

But there is the question. Why didn’t they disconnect it completely? Simply turning it “off” means it can be turned “on” again…and easily.

Potential Answers

I have a lot of potential answers in my head, but I’d love it if anyone offered a perspective in the comments. You can even tell me if one of these answers works for you, or if I’m just crazy for thinking it works as an explanation.

  1. It was simply in the “off” position so that the techs could work on it. They didn’t count on Lando escaping, and so there was no need to disconnect the hyperdrive. Lando was a collaborator, and they considered him either a low-to-no risk for pulling a stunt, or counted on him to try it afterward, in which case the “off” switch would delay him long enough for them to blow him out of the sky.
  2. It was disconnected, but only an astromech could get to the spot necessary to reconnect it. This would be even better, because then Artoo just keeps being the gift from Vader’s haunted past that keeps on giving.
  3. That’s what was wrong with it the whole time. Chewie and Han never find what was specifically wrong with everything as they’re going around during the asteroid belt chase. Chewie displays a thinking process error we’ve all experienced from time to time, and why IT asks that annoying question all the time: “Are you sure it’s turned on?” Maybe the breaker tripped during the shots they were taking – say, a fuse overloaded when they took some shots while escaping Hoth – and they never thought that was the issue. They could have avoided the whole mess on Bespin if they had checked.
    1. Also, it’s possible the breaker tripped when Han entered the cockpit. Do you remember the power surge where he had to hit the panel to get the ship to power back up? Maybe it tripped then.
  4. Han forgot to reactivate it when before they left Hoth. They didn’t have time for a pre-flight check, Han and Chewie had been working on things, and they simply forgot to check. I dislike this one most of all because it makes Han seem dumb.

So…what do you think? Do you have any thoughts on the issue? Do you think someone from Lucasfilm should hire me for these sorts of pieces so I can get an official stamp on my ideas?

Share your thoughts below!

The Millenium Falcon from Star Wars is a Star Wars ship called the Millenium Falcon in Star Wars.
Yeah, I love this iteration of the design a whole lot, too. It’s like the whole thing I have with the second Death Star. It’s just ever so slightly cooler.

2 thoughts on “Yet Another Unanswered Question from #StarWars: #TheEmpireStrikesBack

  1. I like the explanation that it was intentionally disabled by the imperials and that it’s not simply a switch-flip but R2 has to do some manipulation that only he or another savvy droid could do. Lando and Chewy and Leia were never going to figure it out. R2, with all his experience fixing spacecraft on the fly and under duress, was naturally suited to quickly finding and fixing the problem. It may have been portrayed as a simple switch-flip but that was lazy directing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whoa hey I never meant to imply lazy directing! The direction is fine and visually you have to be able to convey to the audience (including the kids) what’s wrong and what’s fixed in a blink.

      Star Trek is the series that spends 5 minutes on a gobbledygook explanation that still amounts to on/off anyway….


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