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.

Darth Vader’s Poop

I backed away from the biological questions after being lightly chastised for asking “Does Darth Vader Need to Eat?” I specifically placed the publication of this blog on hold because I care about your feelings and feedback!

But really only to a limited extent, because I’d written this out and had every intent of coming back to it.

(Side note: I appreciate all the comments lately. I’ve enjoyed having actual discussions on these insane topics and promise you this is all far from over! And of course if you want to pitch an idea for a blog question, let me know!)

But the next logical question about the Dark Lord of the Sith needing to eat is…

Does Darth Vader Need to Poop?

Every living thing creates waste. This waste must be expelled or sepsis sets in, because the toxins in the body build up and it can’t get rid of them.

GIVEN: Vader’s body is badly damaged, but kept alive. There is a biological process at work. Any body will create waste.

GIVEN: Vader’s technology for life support is presaged by General Grievous’ horrific bag-of-organs and robot skeleton.

So, given all that, we can clearly see that Grievous has no…”exhaust port”…as it were. It’s just a (plastic?) bag of organs hanging in the middle of a (vulnerable) protective cage. So did he have to get a “flush” every couple of days when his armor got a wash-and-wax?

Perhaps that was the reason for his cough. He was actually expelling microbes of waste with each one, meaning he was a walking virus factory. Also, that his breath would explain Anakin averting his head when Grievous got in his face early in Episode III.

So how did Vader expel this waste? Was there a colostomy box on his belt, and if Luke had hit that instead of Vader’s shoulder in the Bespin duel we have a different ending?

I’m strangely, bizarrely curious on this one.

I am completely aware of what that says about me.

Flashback Blog: I Must Obey My Master

Yep. I’m still in the process of reclaiming my old blogs from their old origin points to protect them from being locked away from me for good. I’m also very tired and going to sleep pretty much immediately after I post this.

This time, I decided to nab another one that explores the nature of the Dark Side, but also Anakin/Vader’s dependency on Palpatine/Sidious. It’s something that, as a fan, I’m always interested in trying to peg down just because of the subtextual complexity laid down in that relationship.

So here are my thoughts from 2005, just a few months after Revenge of the Sith was released.

I Must Obey My Master

Originally published on August 24, 2005, at the original kessel korner.

There is something over which I have pondered for more than twenty years. In Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader, on the forest moon of Endor, declares, “I must obey my master.” In light of the events revealed in Revenge of the Sith, I think finally know why.

Now, you must know that I am not pulling this from any official source. So don’t take my word as ‘canon’, unless like me, it makes the most sense for you. 🙂

I have always wondered why Vader must obey his master. It just didn’t make sense; Vader offered Luke the opportunity in The Empire Strikes Back to overthrow the Emperor. (As a side note, I loved the parallel moment in Sith when he made the same offer to Padmé.)

There are any of a number of noble reasons you can throw out there as well. One which I always favored was that Vader defends the Emperor, in part because on a subconscious level he wants to prevent Luke from making the same mistakes he did. That explanation still works in the subtext, but it’s not a strong enough motivator to keep Sidious alive.

Vader is already doubting the ways of the Sith by the beginning of Return of the Jedi. The statement, “It is too late for me, son” points to a conflicted soul, one who is resigned to his fate but unhappy about it. It’s not the triumphant declaration of power that we came to expect from Vader after A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, when he was still a blazing acolyte of the Dark Side.

Despite the conflict, despite the doubt, Vader acts first out of the Fear of Death. And since we know that Vader fears death above all other things, he must do everything in his power to protect…the wellspring of his life.

After Revenge of the Sith, it clicked for me when Sidious told Anakin the story of Darth Plagueis. The Sith want to acheive immortality by unnaturally prolonging life. The one word that Palpatine/Sidious hit on in the “legend” was power. Later, when Anakin turns, Sidious states that “only one has mastered” the secret to immortality, “but together, I am sure we can discover its secret.”*

The Emperor, when he goes to find Anakin on Mustafar, does not turn and look for a new apprentice. It would have made sense, would it not? Especially for a ruthless, self-serving manipulator like Sidious. He had already won. We know that Anakin is damaged goods by that point, and so does he. But rather, he goes to the lava shore and saves Anakin’s life. This is not a tender man, so to see any sort of tenderness does not fit.

Palpatine still needs Anakin, because as weakened as he is, he is still the key to Palpatine’s chance at immortality. After his slash-and-burn fate, Anakin needs Palpatine’s power to stay alive as well. They act like parasites, one feeding off the other.

That is the key. Together, Sidious and Vader are extremely powerful. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and I believe that one keeps the other alive.

Even in his weakened state as a zombie cyborg, Vader provides the power for the Emperor to cheat death…to a certain point. The problem is that Vader is no longer the powerful man that Anakin was, and as time marches on he cannot feed the Emperor’s “need” much longer. The Emperor now needs the whole, unspoiled son if he is to unlock the secret forever.

Vader, on the other hand, made three plays for power (Mustafar, Death Star, Bespin) and failed. The sun is already setting on him, and he knows that he has blown his chance at “independence”. He needs the Emperor in Return of the Jedi far more than the Emperor needs him. Vader must obey his master, because otherwise he will die. Without Palpatine, the key to Vader’s unnatural life ends.

“Luke, help me take this mask off.”
“But you’ll die.”
“Nothing can stop that now…”

I am already sure that everyone will tell me that it was the Emperor’s lightning that killed Vader. Being more machine than man, blah, blah, blah. But you know what? People survive Force lightning in the films. While I think still that it brings the house crashing down, it is the removal of the Emperor’s power that ensures Vader’s death. This adds even more nobility to the sacrifice. When he throws the Emperor down that ill-placed reactor shaft, he knows that he is committing suicide to save his son. That is the ultimate sacrifice – not to just throw yourself into harm’s way, but to know that it means your end.

So what was the final moment that pushed Vader over the edge? We all know that. But now, maybe I understand why it was such a difficult decision from the start.

* Give me a break. If I mis-quoted something, I know I was at least in the ball park. I haven’t seen Sith more than five times yet, the memorization will come.

I still think this is a pretty valid interpretation after all these years. Anyone have any thoughts?