Luke Skywalker: Crisis Manager

It’s been a point of contention on this blog as to how “convoluted” Luke’s plan to save Han from Jabba was. I won’t go step-by-step because, if you haven’t watched Return of the Jedi, please go watch the movie and then come back.

Plan “F.”

Some have observed there were a lot of unnecessary layers, especially when he could have just shown up with his lightsaber and kicked a ton of exhaust port.

Of course, that action isn’t necessarily Jedi–like. And that plays into my new thinking on this matter, because I think we need to start drawing the distinction between Luke’s intended plan and his crisis plan management.

Always In Motion, the Future Is

A lot of people forget that Jedi cannot see into the future with any reliability. To presume that Luke knew for certain that his plan would end with the sail barge fight is fooling ourselves.

As a result, Luke was executing several plans in succession, not one ridiculously ill-conceived one.

“Surprise, surprise! It’s Lando in disguise!”

To wit, Lando was planted as a scout. This is really good thinking, as he could let Luke know the strength of numbers, who was armed and how closely-guarded our favorite frozen Corellian was.

The one hitch with that, and I freely admit it, is that Lando should have given some sort of heads-up about the Rancor pit trap. But let’s presume he didn’t want to blow cover until things went down.

Luke may have also misjudged his ability to get at Jabba before the trap was sprung. In which case, he was just rolling with one more piece of the plan going wrong.

And this plan starts going wrong from the beginning. But we’ll fast forward to the key component.

The Lightsaber

Luke is testing Jabba at each stage to see if he can find a peaceful resolution to everything. The lightsaber is not on him for three possible reasons in this scenario, all of which I think make a lot of sense. You could also take two or all three in conjunction with each other.

    They are:

  1. Luke wants Jabba to underestimate him.Think about it. The Jedi have been extinct for decades by that point, at least so far as the public knows. Better to have Jabba believe he’s a crackpot that presents no threat.
  2. He doesn’t want to rely on the weapon as it sends a more-antagonistic signal than walking in unarmed. Sticking to that pacifist ideal, Luke wants to project that he is unarmed and so avoid escalation. As Lucas repeatedly demonstrates unintentionally, pacifism never works.
  3. There’s not a chance they’re letting him walk in to see Jabba with it on his belt. This is the obvious one. No need for explanation.

So, he puts it in Artoo as that last-resort option. He does not know that last resort will be on the sail barge. He likely thought Artoo would be in the throne room (Artoo gets places) and he could get the saber in a pinch if the last negotiations fail. Of course, this opens up the question of why no one ever thinks of searching Artoo since everyone hides vital things in him constantly, but at that point you’re nit-picking.

Dealing With Things Going Wrong

So with this cascading waterfall of miscues, Luke doesn’t count on Leia being captured and displayed in the way she was.

Remember, she sneaks in to Jabba’s palace to get Solo. Jabba catches her, but instead of imprisoning her with Han and Chewie, he chains her up. You could make the argument her presence makes it more difficult for Luke to threaten Jabba with the gun, since he has to take greater care about firing.

Han, Luke, Chewbacca, Lando, and various thugs on the way to the Sarlacc Pit
“Is this the time to tell you that everything I’ve tried to do up to this point has gone horribly wrong?”

R2 isn’t where he expects him to be. Lando is unable to assist, because he wants to make sure Leia is safe once Luke is sent to the Rancor (notice he was positioned to help if things had gone differently). Threepio is useless in a crisis. Han and Chewie are in the dungeons.

So basically, it’s not that Luke had a convoluted plan, it’s that things constantly went sideways and he kept trying to adapt the plan. He should be lauded for adapting in such a way as to guarantee victory. We never get clued in as the audience because like Qui-Gon, Luke maintains an even keel even in the worst storm.

I think all of us, who manage people and/or projects, should admire this.

Another Unanswered Question from The Empire Strikes Back

Pursuant to the resurrection of the entire series, the next film to enjoy some scrutiny is the venerable, must-never-be-questioned-as-the-best Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back.

Once again, I know that this is dangerous territory in which to be. After all, we know that the Lord Himself came down from Heaven to give us this most perfect of films, and the wisdom of a muppet.

So here it is. Another of my big unanswered questions from The Empire Strikes Back.

Why Not Kill Everyone Once Luke was At Cloud City?

Seriously, once Luke was at Cloud City, Vader’s big goal was accomplished. What was the point of taking the princess, Chewie and Threepio back to his ship? Han is frozen, the token extra gets his line delivered, and they know Luke is there.

Just drop them right then and there. Instead of this elaborate, incompletely-explained chase to make Luke go up the wrong elevator, kill them all and have Luke follow the frozen Han to the unfathomably-complex fake…room? Closet? …However the Heck Luke got to the carbon freezing chamber.

The group of people you’re using as bait have an annoying habit of escaping and screwing up your plans. Just kill them.

There are a million possible explanations outside the obvious “for dramatic effect” explanation, but I want to see what ideas float to the top of the dream pool here.

Do You Accept This Challenge?

 

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.

Revising the Text: There Is Another

This is actually going to be a new “series” of blogs I’m starting, where I’ll take questions (if anyone has them, or if I think of an interesting one) about the “text” of the Star Wars films and provide the answers as best I can. May as well, as blog links seem to save me time in Twitter discussions now.

Context

Tolkien re-wrote The Hobbit to fit into the larger story of The Lord of the Rings. Dickens revised Great Expectations. Star Trek: The Motion Picture has been re-edited several times.

Even some of Shakespeare’s plays have multiple versions.

I’ve talked about that sort of thing before, but I’m using the lead-in because blog troublemaker “Jar Jar Hater” felt the need to “introduce” me to another hater via Twitter. I suspect the whole purpose was to try to get me riled up, which failed spectacularly as I just started feeding blog links to him (I knew I did this for a reason!).

But he did ask a question I’ve not specifically addressed before, so I guess I’ll write about it, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s Friday and I’m tired.

But Things Changed!

The prequels revised a number of things that had been presumed by fans. But aside from revisiting assumptions, they re-interpreted things that were in the original scripts, though in most cases those things were never committed to the final cuts of the films.

Case in point, in the original version of the scene where Luke meets Red Leader in the hangar before the attack on the Death Star, Red Leader says:

“I met your father once when I was just a boy. He was a great pilot. You’ll do all right. If you’ve got half of your father’s skill, you’ll do better than all right.”

This was entirely cut from the original film. In the special edition, the scene is added back in, but the dialogue is neatly cut by having an “extra” walk across the scene to remove the reference to the father. It gives us more interaction with Biggs (yay! a reason to give a crap!), and honestly, it’s still not a line committed to film.

And if you’re going to get technical, the Empire Strikes Back novelization by Donald F. Glut lists Yoda as blue and the Return of the Jedi novelization by James Kahn says Owen Lars is Ben Kenobi’s brother.

There are tons of other examples, as novelizations are written while scripts are still in development. Look at the differences between the film and novel versions of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which got to the point where they decided the works were actually complementary but not interdependent.

But but let’s return to the specific question at hand and my answer.

There Is Another

This abrasively angry chap obviously got the memo that I’m still the official Star Wars Ombudsman, and one gem he threw at me was:

@kesseljunkie explain why yoda told Obiwan about leia in empire even though he was at the birth in III

The interpretation of his tweet: Why, when Obi-Wan’s blue ghost says, “That boy is our last hope,” does Yoda reply, “No. There is another”?

He, like many fans, take umbrage at the fact that you can read that Yoda’s suggesting something Obi-Wan doesn’t know. This of course gets destroyed as early as Return of the Jedi, when Ben lets loose with the knowledge that Yoda was speaking of Luke’s twin sister. Of course, it turns out to be Leia.

In the prequels, both Yoda and Obi-Wan are present at the birth of the twins. So what gives, right?

First part of the answer: In story conferences on Empire Lucas debated who the lost sibling was, shelved the reveal until the sequel and kept the exchange so they could keep the audience off-balance. If we know Luke is replaceable, we know Luke can die, which increases the stakes when he fights Vader.

Second part: in the context of the entire series, the exchange is now a sign that Obi-Wan had staked all hope on Luke, and Yoda is telling him that not all is lost. Luke had been watched all his life by Obi-Wan, taken care of by Anakin’s own step-brother (remember, novelizations don’t count) and had been selected to train as a Jedi. Yoda was already approaching 900 years old and it’s not like there were other Jedi Masters waiting around to train Leia should Luke die. And how was Yoda supposed to reach out to Leia? Blue ghost Obi-Wan showed no talent for appearing to anyone other than Luke and Yoda.

And That Is That

There’s your answer. Simple. If you don’t like, honestly, I don’t care. But I think there’s a certain poetry in it, a symmetry in the longer arc of the story and it’s not like I’m ever going to get every hater to stop hating. But at least I’ve given the “text” more thought than “but that’s not what I thought when I was ten!”

Seriously, be open and, if I may: Unlearn what you have learned.

Now go re-read the very beginning of the blog again so I don’t have to try to come up with anything snappier.

Flashback Blog: Star Wars Politics and You

I started this reincarnation of ‘kessel korner’ with a revival of one of its original posts from its days at blogs.starwars.com/kesseljunkie. This is a feature that I’d like to keep going because it’s fun to see how the posts hold up and every so often I want to pull back on a post slated to auto-publish on a certain day so I can re-work it a little bit. That happened for the one scheduled today, so enjoy this. It’s nerdy on a scale that almost makes me blush. Almost.

Meh, it’s all in fun. I remember when I originally wrote it, it was more about the punchline at the end than anything else given George Lucas’ ironic political views.

Note: I did correct a spelling error or two I found when I copied and pasted. But also in re-reading, I thought of an additional point and so inserted it below. It’s highlighted.


Star Wars Politics and You

Empire. Republic. Democracy. Peace. War. Bureaucracy.

For all its grandiose themes of Good vs. Evil and Right vs. Wrong, the actual political structure of Star Wars has never been properly laid out. At least not plainly. So, I want to put the puzzle together here.

Going all the way back to 1977, the irony seemed to escape everyone that a princess was seeking to ‘restore freedom to galaxy’. Perhaps that’s because it was mentioned at the end of the title crawl, just before the rebel starship roars across the screen. Hard to be critical when you’ve just been startled into soiling your shorts.

Lucas leaves us to presume that on Alderaan, there’s a duly-elected, bicameral chamber with a robust system of checks and balances. I’ll presume that to avoid a logic breakdown.

However, Princess Leia’s role was obviously more than that. She mentions the Galactic Senate – and we know from extant sources that she was a representative in it. It’s safe to assume that she’s not duly elected to the role, since her adoptive family are the (benevolent) rulers of her world. So, it’s a political appointment, like an ambassador with voting privileges.

The only later mentions of the political structure of the Empire are that this Galactic/Imperial Senate is disbanded, and the Emperor has given control directly to the regional governors. Grand Moff Tarkin is such a ‘Governor’; so they must be political appointees loyal to the Imperial Throne. Instead of representatives of the planets carrying their will to the Emperor for judgment (Imperial Senate), he installs loyalists to carry his will to the people.

So, from about eight lines of dialogue (including Obi-Wan’s) we are told that the Republic is swept away and the Galaxy is under the thrall of a despotic ruler. So though Princess Leia is apparently some sort of benevolent local power base, the Emperor overrules her, and he’s not benevolent.

I mean, the guy built a weapon capable of destroying planets. That’s not nice at all.

Lucas later laid out that the Empire’s jurisdiction actually suffered limitations in The Empire Strikes Back (Cloud City is small enough to escape notice), but we got no real glimpse at further political structure. With Return of the Jedi, we just learned that centralizing the power of government into one central figure is a bad idea – because if they blow up, then you have to start from scratch.

Then came…The Phantom Menace. Glorious, politically specific jewel of the crown, The Phantom Menace served to confirm a few things and pull the curtain back on a few others. They were:

  1. Senators were not elected – they were appointees;
  2. Queens can be elected;
  3. The people were underrepresented, as the chancellor was a position
    filled by a vote of appointees, not elected officials;
  4. Bureaucracy ruled the day;
  5. Jedi are actually a part of the government;
  6. There is a court system; and
  7. Wait…queens can be elected?

Senators were obviously appointees because that was the only way to make sense of the situation. The Galactic Senate made law on a scale that applied to all planets; the planets themselves had sovereignty, and thus jurisdiction over local matters.

The duly elected rulers of the planets would then appoint someone who spoke on their behalf . They served to express the will of their planet.

This theory is supported by Palpatine’s (supposed) obeisance before Amidala. If you notice, he gives her no instruction – just advice. He is bound by her decisions. This is further cemented by the fact that it’s Amidala calling for the vote of No Confidence in Chancellor Valorum. If Palpatine is an appointee, it makes sense that the person who appointed him carries more weight in the Senate when there in person. It’s like when Jaques Chirac visits the UN – his ambassador just shuts up and lets him roll.

So in essence, the Galactic Senate is the UN.

To that point, the Supreme Chancellor is a position filled by one of those representatives; note that the people of the Galaxy have no direct say as to who wields executive power there.

So, let’s address the idea of an elected Queen. Easy. She’s a President. They just call her Queen. The US government is a prime example of how this works. ‘President’ = ‘Chief Executive’. Apparently, in the case of Naboo, ‘Queen’ = ‘Chief Executive’. (I just hope that they also elect Kings too, because otherwise the Naboo should attend sensitivity training and stop being sexists.)

We’ll get to the bit about Jedi in the government later.

Palpatine and Amidala discuss a court system at one point, which takes us to Attack of the Clones.

In Attack of the Clones, things get fleshed out a bit more. This time, Amidala is the Senator – and she confirms that she was an appointee (score!). So there you go. It’s brief, but the dialogue is there when she and Anakin arrive at Naboo.

Further, this role is filled because Palpatine, as Supreme Chancellor, has to abdicate his role as representative of Naboo. This would make sense. Naboo still has a specific voice in the Senate and the Supreme Chancellor has an opportunity to operate without obligation to one planet’s agenda. It’s never clear as to what happens when Palpatine is no longer SC – does he go back to Naboo? Resume his role in the Senate? Since we never see Valorum again, I think it’s safe to assume that Supreme Chancellors retire and become lobbyists.

The supreme irony is that people in the Senate refer to liberty and democracy – when they are obviously not even elected.

The courts are a joke, not because the Trade Federation isn’t behind bars. But they have been tried in the Supreme Court three times. Apparently there is no concept of double jeopardy in the Star Wars Universe. You must just keep trying someone in court until you get the result you want. Ugh. [2010 Note: In re-reading, I realized that the dialogue could have been short-hand that they tried them on different charges three times, resulting in three trials in the Supreme Court. Though it still doesn’t answer whether the court system on a galactic scale would have required appeals up the ladder through some sort of judicial system on a planetary basis (which seems unwieldy), perhaps the term ‘Supreme Court’ is simply shorthand for a ‘Galactic Court’ that operates like our own International Criminal Court.]

Still with me? Good. I’m almost done.

In Revenge of the Sith, we really delve into the Jedi and their role in the government. In the first two prequels, they are revealed as special operatives – they are actually used to strike fear into the Trade Federation. So, though we know the Jedi to be noble, they have set themselves up for what they become by the time of Sith.

They are the Thugs of the Old Republic.

Think about it. Their loyalty is ostensibly to the Senate, but they continually do the will of its leader. This was true with Valorum – he used them as his ‘negotiators’ at the beginning of Menace in an attempt to subdue the Federation. To wit, the line: “I knew it…they’re here to force a settlement.” [Emphasis Added]

This makes them political pawns. When someone gets out of line, the Senate/Chancellor sends some Jedi to go smack them back into line. Why is that so bad? Because the whole point of the Senate was to allow peaceful resolutions to situations; but apparently, when that was undesirable, go rough up the troublemakers and make them behave. This is made worse by the fact that a system like that only works if you can guarantee that the Senate and/or Chancellor are benevolent in their wishes.

Presumably, this is one of the reasons why Dooku left. I cant say I blame him.

So what’s the point? I know I’ve rambled on for a bit.

The point is that George Lucas, for all his thinly veiled references to modern day American politics, has actually set up a potent warning about…the UN. Namely, the dangers of having an appointed body accountable to none but themselves, who elects their own chief representative and sees fit to make law without chance of a referendum. Power should be kept out of its hands at all costs.

But without power, it cannot even adequately arbitrate disputes. To wit, look at the UN’s handling of…well, anything. Their solution is to pass toothless resolutions of disapproval and make weak sanctions.

So that creates situations in this world relatable to that galaxy far, far away. When an entity (Trade Federation) infringes on another, the joint body can do…nothing of consequence. Eventually, something has to give, and either the joint body’s available enforcers (Jedi) are sent in, or more power must handed to the joint body (UN/Galactic Senate) until it becomes dominant and truly starts to rule.

And then, all you need is a new Chancellor. A strong Chancellor. And we can have…peace.