How the Emperor Set Up the New Republic for Failure in Star Wars

This post is tied to the episode of Aggressive Negotiations on The Nerd Party that’s released on April 9. Subscribe now for a fascinating discussion that sprang from this topic!

This post is basically an expanded look at the starting point, and we go in some interesting directions I won’t cover below. After all, to quote Darth Tyranus, “This is just the beginning!”

Why the New Republic Fell So Easily

A lot of ideas have been bandied about the Star Wars fan base about what went wrong with the New Republic in the years after Return of the Jedi, that allowed it to be wiped off the face of the galaxy between the single moment Hosnian Prime gets obliterated in The Force Awakens and during the short intermission before The Last Jedi.

There are countless flashy theories, and even Expanded Universe material to set up a grand vision of Sheev Palpatine setting a plan in motion to burn the house down on his way out. I think the solution is much more simple, beautiful, and requires no additional materials, sentinel droids, or people named “Gallius Rax.”

The Death Star Conference Room in Star Wars A New Hope which was called Star Wars in 1977 and featured the Death Star Conference Room and is the only Star Wars movie to feature a Death Star Conference Room since the only other Star Wars movies with Death Stars feature battle bridges and hallways and the Emperor's Throne Room but not the Death Star Conference Room in a Star Wars movie. I can't believe I just repeated Death Star Conference Room and Star Wars so much the words have lost all meaning.
“Next on the agenda, the proposal for more comfortable chairs. Good grief, is anyone else’s back bothering them?”

Remembering a Key Moment from Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope

“The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. I’ve just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the council permanently. The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away.”

“But how will the Emperor maintain control, without the bureaucracy?”

“The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line.”

– Grand Moff Tarkin & General Tagge, Star Wars

This is the most beautiful, simple explanation. It doesn’t even require reading additional materials; anyone who knows me, knows I hate that dodge.

How eloquent it is, that the New Republic was destined for trouble, and eventual failure, by the fact that Palpatine dismantled the mechanism of representative government. If the Empire was defined by his Sith will, and carried out by those personally loyal to him, with no mechanism for how things would work without a clear ascendant.

As a side note, I think one of the most flawed things envisioned in the post-Return of the Jedi storyline is that of Imperial forces unified in any substantive way. Palpatine gave power to people who were specifically antagonistic.

The war of personalities around that conference table on the Death Star is just one example of the type of people who were in Sidious’ Empire. Piett’s flagrant currying of favor with Vader, at the expense of Ozzell, shows two more people who would have been at each other’s throats in a power vacuum. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story shows this even more explicitly through the animosity and political maneuvering between Tarkin and Director Krennic.

Ben Mendelssohn as Director Krennic in Rogue One, who's a snappier dresser than Grand Moff Tarkin, but still not as great a dresser as Craigula, who isn't in Rogue One A Star Wars Story, which is a movie featuring Director Krennic.
Say what you want, he was a pretty snappy dresser.

Listen to Aggressive Negotiations for a Deeper Dive

Every revolution leaves a mess in its wake. What binds those who rebelled together no longer holds true after the rulers are deposed. Sometimes it breaks for the better, like the American Revolutionaries who spent a decade finding a workable method of government. Sometimes it breaks for the worse, like the French Revolutionaries who came to sate their righteous fury with innocent blood.

Matt Rushing and I pick up this topic and explore the implications of what came before, and try to make sense of what came after as we start with a look at what Palpatine did to set up the New Republic for failure.

Question from a Listener: “Why is it called ‘Death Star’?”

Another listener of Words With Nerds (and Aggressive Negotiations) asked me a probing question about Star Wars that I feel compelled to tackle.

The question is why the Galactic Empire called their battle station (The) Death Star. Directly from the note: “I mean, they even confuse it for a moon upon approach, so how come not the Death Moon or Moon of Death.”

It seems simple on its face, but as I mused about it, it seemed fun to ponder. After all, as the Bard once pondered, “What’s in a name?” Surely, a Death Star by any other name would be just as deadly.

Death Moon

I have to admit that Death Moon is a pretty awesome name. It works not only as a name for a dreadful thing, but as an awesome Heavy Metal band.

However, it sounds like a destination. You send convicted criminals to Death Moon. You direct your ex to Death Moon “accidentally,” “mistaking” the coordinates for the nearest WaWa.

Death Moon, however, also implies a stationary thing. One does not expect a moon to travel. A planet or a star can travel aimlessly rogue (so it’s a “rogue one” maybe?), which means Death Star or Death Planet makes more sense.

Death Star 1
Death…Moon? Moon of Death?

Death Planet

The hurdle with the name Death Planet is that, while also an awesome Metal band name, it also implies some sort of relatively fixed position. Death Planet would likely be located in the bad part of the galaxy, possibly sick of always living in Krypton’s shadow, and enjoying its bad reputation. It’s on good terms with Giedi Prime, which is a sure sign it belongs to the wrong crowd.

I could see Death Planet being like some neat “survival of the fittest” planet where whoever gets off of it alive gets some special prize. Death Planet is like Running Man/Hunger Games/Predators/LV 426 World where you don’t want to be sent, but at the end of it all you’ve joined the resistance (“cause”) and will topple the something or other. I’m envisioning some planet where you need to wear spandex for some reason, too, though that seems silly since that’s not a terribly breathable fabric.

As a final note, “Death Planet” would be more suited to something like what “Starkiller Base” was.

So Why Death Star?

If you really want a justification, just say it’s got the power of a White Dwarf Star and…something-something-Star Trek-style Explanation. Or name some other class of star whose power it contains.

In the end, you name it “Death Star” just because it sounds cool. I mean, seriously, you just built a station with the destructive firepower to kill a planet. You get free reign to name it what you want. They’re just lucky I wasn’t in charge of naming the thing because I’d have given it a name like Super Happy Death Weapon or Vengeance Ball.

Death Star 2
Look! It’s Super Happy Death Weapon!

Can a Death Star Survive a Blast from Another Death Star?

This appears to be the week where I’m revisiting old thoughts and writing sequels to them. I guess it was inevitable. I kicked over a rock by restarting the block, and look at all the roachy ideas scurrying out.

Obviously, with the release of Rogue One in every format imaginable, including ones that are being retired (3D!), it’s no mystery I’d lock in on an old Death Star thought this week, but in a much more targeted (ha!) way. It’s a key to figuring out, as well, whether the Death Star Death Match could at some point break into a tag-team pro-wrestling match where one flame-painted war machine team could take on another one in a straight-on match of green-lasered punishment.

So my core question is, could it possibly take more than one shot from a Death Star to take out another Death Star?

Can a Death Star Absorb/Survive a Shot from Another Death Star?

I know it may seem like a silly question, but we know a few things about Death Stars.

  1. They are designed to defend against a direct large-scale assault.
  2. The Emperor was building more than one. (Apparently someone was building a Starkiller Base, too, but that’s a different thought for later.)
  3. They can destroy planets with a single shot.

Given the third item on the list, I suppose my question seems non-sensical. I mean, if a single shot can blow up a whole planet, shouldn’t a single shot from one Death Star blow apart the other?

Not necessarily!

Maybe

I can imagine that, if a scenario like theDeath Star Death Match were possible, they’d have built some sort of counter-measure into the thing to make it resistant to, or at least capable of surviving, a blast from another super weapon.

My thinking is that, even if we are proceeding with the unnecessary schematics thrust upon fans through the years, then they would have been built to survive redundant failures. Sure, a concussion blast at the core reactor would cause a failure in the system (Did Galen Erso imagine it would be that explosive though?), but with something that size there has to be some redundancy built into the thing.

If you try to argue with me that the whole thing fails if one section has a fire or an overload, or even if something catastrophic happens in Sector 7G, then I reject your argument completely. There is no way they built the thing to fail.

Homer Simpson, Death Star Safety Inspector
The Death Star’s crack reactor team gets a surprise inspection?

I would accept the idea that it would be severely damaged, but that it would still be able to muster up enough to fire back at least once. From there, is it that much of a leap to imagine it could suffer two or three hard shots and come back for a win?

Deflection

In addition to those considerations, we have on-screen evidence that there was a magnetic field (Red Leader mentions passing through it), so we can presume that would do something to act as a force dissipator for large blasts.

Again, it was designed to defend against a direct, large-scale assault. That line is in the movie! You may ask why, then, they had Anti-Aircraft weaponry clearly designed to defend against smaller starships scattered across the surface and in the trenches, but that’s another a discussion for another time.

If we take that small leap about force dissipation (but obviously not Force dissipation; notice the difference in capitalization of the first F before you fall all over yourself for the joke), then a blast from another planet killer likely loses some of its punch and the Death Star itself likely has shielding – they specifically mention ray shielding in the original Star Wars, too – then I think it’s completely conceivable that two Death Stars could trade a couple of shots before the fight was over.

In Conclusion

I’m not even getting really nerdy and arguing about the possibilities of breakaway sections, reflective plating, and the beam going cleanly through to exit the other side of the sphere, allowing for damage to be minimized and contained.

As I’ve mulled this, though, it just makes me pine again for a life free of an “Expanded Universe” or detailed over-explanations of technology that doesn’t, or can’t, exist. This journey has been far more fun than any detailed explanation could be.

This is why I should be class president…on a Death Star.

Death Star Cross Section Posted on the Internet, so Go Bother Them Not Me.
Seems legit.

Princess Leia: Mass Murderess?

In honor of May 4th, I’m going to go with a Star Wars blog.

My hope is that some random Star Wars fan will read this and spin themselves up trying to argue it in some way.

It is spurred primarily by a recent conversation with a coworker wherein I detailed how Princess Leia only accidentally avoided being responsible for mass murder. The key word there is accidentally. As in, the argument could still be made that she has billions of deaths weighted against her eternal soul.

The conversation was spurred when a coworker, looking for clarification on A New Hope, asked about the mind probing interrogation Leia underwent. They were unclear on whether she broke.

I pointed out that Vader comments that her resistance to the mind probe was “considerable,” a fact later shoe–horned into the mythos to support the idea of her latent Force abilities; he says it “will be some time before we can get any information from her.”

What follows is part of my response to my coworker from that point forward:

She didn’t break – hence why they went and threatened Alderaan. Tarkin cited it as an “alternative form of persuasion.” Even then, with billions of people’s lives on the line, she lied about the location of the rebel base (saying it was on Dantooine). But Tarkin said he was going to blow up the planet anyway…so she gets absolution on that count by default.

Or Does She?

Think about this.

She sold out her entire planet. She bartered for the lives of billions with false information. So far as she knew, she had just condemned everyone she knew and loved (and what she believed to be her real father). The best case scenario was that the Death Star would go to Dantooine, find out she lied, and go back to Alderaan. The most she had done was alert Alderaan to the fact that there was a big, scary ship on the way.

The only way I can see around that being a total jerk move is that it might have spurred the rebellion into action, or caused an uproar within the Empire. The problem with that is, as Tarkin mentions, the Senate had been disbanded just around the time the Death Star went operational (remember that Alderaan was the inaugural–and only–use of the Death Star to quell a population).

But Wasn’t the Rebellion More Important?

This is the one counter–argument that really holds some water. If she had told Tarkin the real location of the (main) rebel base, then the rebellion would ostensibly be over, without warning. The major pocket of organized resistance would be snuffed out.

Also, the Royal Family of Alderaan would be traitors still. At a minimum the Empire takes over the planet and declares martial law. Most likely, they double back and blow Alderaan away again (though it makes little sense, considering they have “no weapons” and are a bunch of space hippies.

(I won’t even go into the completely impractical nature of having zero weapons on an entire planet. They had to have something; what if someone started some trash? Also, how would you keep individuals from sneaking them onto the planet, and beginning a reign of terror on the people who are obeying the law? Wouldn’t the cops need to have weapons at least? But I digress.)

So the core question becomes, was Leia instead making a terrifically courageous choice to sacrifice her home and everyone living there for the sake of preserving the main source of resistance to the Empire?

No

I’m pretty sure that just about anyone is going to capitulate when the fate of billions is on the line. That’s the whole idea behind intimidation: getting people to break.

But Leia gets something of a moral pass by virtue of the fact that Tarkin was never dealing straight with her. Maybe she knew that on some level. But she sure did act surprised by his treachery, so the film itself speaks to the idea that she was at best just postponing the inevitable fiery deaths of every Alderaanian because, again, it’s not like they weren’t going to follow up on her information.

Conclusion

So there you go. Your pure–as–snow Princess Leia has blood (ashes, really) all over her hands. When you look at those sparkly eyes and ridiculous hair style now, know that she’d sell you out too.

For those who don’t get it: this was all tongue-in-cheek. An exercise to prove you can create inane reasoning to support any insane conclusion.

Was V’Ger a Borg?

According to the “Shatnerverse,” everyone’s favorite ham has put out into Star Trek lore that the Borg were actually responsible for V’Ger.

If you don’t recall V’Ger, it was the somewhat lame recycled plot device from The Changeling the antagonist from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Though if you’re reading this blog and you don’t know Star Trek intimately enough to know V’Ger, I’m going to need help remembering how or why you know me. Except for Agent Bun, who may have just learned that Star Trek movies existed.

Anyway, as happens from time to time, it sent me to the Blogoratory!

Honest Thought

So I really did give it an honest thought and I just don’t see how V’Ger could be considered a Borg. The Borg were a meld of organic being and machine, who started as a wonderful illustration about the dangers of a homogeneous dissent–free society, the theoretical antithesis of the Federation, Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a diverse society where nobody dissented. (Um…wait a minute…)

Anyway, the Borg are clearly established as the Evil Robocops of the Universe. I’m discounting a lot of the bullcrap they foisted on us in First Contact, V’Ger, on the other hand, was an emotionless machine seeking the ability to evolve and feel emotions. It was able to communicate telepathically with Spock (because they had to have a reason for Nimoy to be in the movie), and Spock came to realize the gift that emotions were.

So on to my reasonings.

Argument A: It’s Shatner

Arguably, Bill Shatner actually knows less about Star Trek than I do. He’s not going to go into the obsessive detail level and reason out why/how something works as a plot point or not.

For Pete’s sake, the guy wrote TekWar. And as much as I might love it, he also helped birth Star Trek V. Not the strongest track record in writing history.

Now I love Shatner as much as the next guy. Possibly more, because he’s done something that everyone else on that show never could (save Nimoy): have a decades-long, meaningful career afterward. (Also, a true pioneer for toupeé technology.) But it’s Shatner.

Argument B: V’Ger Is Purely Machine

Throughout the entire film, V’Ger is purely machine. Granted, it’s a gigantic machine with enormous power output and the willingness to vaporize people in ill-fitting leisure suit uniforms at whim. But it’s still a machine.

Argument C: V’Ger Arguably Becomes a Borg at the End…

But not really. The Borg are purely corporeal beings basically connected over a galaxy-spanning mesh network.

At the end of the film (spoiler!) V’Ger is much more than that.

What, exactly, is open to interpretation. But it involved a poorly-lit set, a half-naked bald chick and hand-animated sparkles.

I’d say a valid interpretation is that it’s a climactic burst of Roddenberry’s ego.

Argument D: Not Everything Needs to Tie Together!

True!

One of the reasons I became so much more selective about what Star Wars “Expanded Universe” titles I read is because the authors became positively obsessed with tying everything in with some other event, whether in another book or one of the films. If the extensive literature is to be believed, every person in the Star Wars galaxy was, at one point or another, “just off camera” in at least one of the films, if not all. They even tied in those poorly–imagined antagonists, the Yuuzhan Vong, to the timeline as far back as Anakin’s childhood.

(For this fan, when Lucas hit the “reset” button with the prequels it was a major relief. Boba Fett’s a bad guy again, not just a stupid anti-hero!)

It makes me want to shake them violently and remind them that their story should be able to stand on its own merit. One of the more egregious examples of needless tie-in was the Star Wars book “Death Star,” which actually did stand on its own until the very end, when they felt the need to have the protagonists be at the Battle of Yavin but “just off-camera.” It was forced, it didn’t flow and it actually detracted from the book. Just have them get away “just before” or something.

And this trap-laden path has captured Star Trek writers before. I remember a particularly egregious episode of Star Trek: Voyager (ironic, right?) wherein they had Tuvok on the crew of the Excelsior during the events of Star Trek VI because George Takei needed a paycheck, and there was some weirdness that killed someone. Only problem is, the character they show dying is in the final shot of Star Trek VI. You can’t see him on the Pan & Scan edition, but in the full aspect ratio…there he is, not just alive but smiling. Just a great example of how this after-the-fact referencing can get you into trouble if you don’t do it right.

Anyway, I know I went a little off-topic there, but the overall point that it ties into is that as a mature Star Wars fan, I’ve learned one important lesson: if it’s in a book and not on film, it’s not official and can be disregarded. Sometimes for the sake of your own sanity, it has to be.

In Closing

Probably about three people have even stuck with this blog up to this point, so I want you to give yourselves a moment to appreciate that accomplishment.

And remember, V’Ger is not Borg. Never was, never will be. That is all.