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Science and the Original Star Wars Trilogy - part 4

Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

by Michael A. Dexter



As C-3PO and R2D2 approached Jabba’s palace near the beginning of the movie, C-3PO commented that Lando and Chewbacca “never came back” from there. But we saw later in the movie that Chewbacca (with Leia) arrived at Jabba’s palace after R2 and 3PO did. Was this a mistake on the film-makers’ parts, or was 3PO deluded somehow?

When Luke was fighting Jabba’s henchmen, how was it that his lightsaber effortlessly sliced through metal, yet didn’t even singe the clothing of Jabba’s henchmen when he hit them with it? Do lightsabers have “stun” settings? Surely, Luke didn’t think that, rather than killing them outright, knocking Jabba’s henchmen off the skiff and into the Sarlaac’s waiting maw to be devoured alive was the merciful thing to do?

After the adventures on Tatooine, Luke went back to Dagobah. Yoda told him that he required no further training. Boy, that was fast! In the prequels, we learned that it took years, if not decades of training to become a Jedi. Luke had what, 3 or 4 weeks of training from Yoda, plus a day or two of training from Obi-Wan? He must have been a fast learner indeed! How did Ben and Yoda expect him to be able to confront Vader and the Emperor after such a ridiculously short training period?

Chewbacca was supposed to be an intelligent being, correct? The fact that, while on the Forest Moon, he tripped what had to be the most obvious trap in the universe really makes you wonder about that, though.

Toward the end of the movie, the Emperor kept trying to goad Luke into anger and thus push him to the Dark Side. Okay. But under the circumstances, attempting to kill the Emperor was surely the right thing to do! There need have been no anger involved – killing this ruthless tyrant would have been doing the galaxy a big favor! And since when did Luke have qualms about killing? Luke had killed lots of people by this point – he had killed countless Stormtroopers, plus scores of Jabba’s henchmen, and he probably killed millions when he blew up the first Death Star. He hadn’t shown the slightest signs of regret about all those people he had killed, nor had he shown any sign of concern that all the killing would make him a bad person. So why was he suddenly worried that killing someone – a ruthless and evil tyrant no less – would drive him to the Dark Side?

Why did Vader prevent Luke from killing the Emperor? Vader told Luke in The Empire Strikes Back that together they could overthrow the Emperor and rule the galaxy as father and son. In the dvd commentary, George Lucas claimed that Vader had been perfectly serious – that he genuinely wanted to get rid of the Emperor and take his place. So why not let Luke kill the Emperor? If the Emperor was correct in his claim that Luke would immediately have gone over to the Dark Side in killing him, this would be a win-win situation for Vader. All he had to do was let Luke complete that saber swing and Luke would have turned to the Dark Side and thus been available as an apprentice, and the Emperor would have been eliminated, leaving Vader in control of the Empire. Maybe there were still a few secret Dark Side skills that the Emperor had promised to “eventually” teach to Vader, and Vader wanted to learn those before the Emperor died – but if he hadn’t gotten around to teaching them to Vader in some 20 years’ time, what made Vader think he’d ever do it?

After defeating Vader, Luke threw away his lightsaber to demonstrate his refusal to give in to anger and join the Dark Side. It was a very dramatic gesture, I suppose, but I don’t believe it. Even if Luke fully intended to die right then and there, you’d think his attachment to his saber would make it impossible for him to throw it away like that. A warrior's life depends on the proper functioning of his weapons. Consequently, warriors tend to become quite attached to their weapons. Granted, Luke could always have made a replacement lightsaber, but it nonetheless seems out of character for him to treat his weapon so disrespectfully and throw it away like that.

Plot Holes

When Luke first entered Jabba’s throne room, he used the Force to snatch a gun from a guard, but was grabbed before he could do anything with it. Was he planning to have a shootout in the throne room? Without his lightsaber and with only Lando to help out, he really didn’t think he could win, did he? R2 wasn’t nearby, so couldn’t have tossed him his lightsaber. Was falling into the Rancor Pit part of Luke’s plan? If so, it sounds like a pretty foolhardy plan! Was it his intention all along to get Jabba sufficiently riled-up that he’d condemn Luke and company to the Sarlaac Pit? Again, this seems like an amazingly foolhardy plan – while it’s true that R2D2 was quite loyal and trustworthy, was Luke really betting the lives of himself and his friends that R2 would just happen to be assigned to Jabba’s sail barge and therefore be in the right place when needed?

Granted, Luke was a bit flustered at the time and perhaps not thinking too clearly, but why did he throw a skull to hit the button that dropped the overhead door on the Rancor and killed it? Why not simply reach out with the Force to push the button? It would have been a lot simpler, and it would have been consistent with his training in the Jedi arts.

After they were captured on the Forest Moon of Endor, Luke and his companions were taken to the Ewok village, where they were reunited with Leia, whom they feared had been lost or killed. Inexplicably, Leia was sporting a new set of clothes and a new hairdo. Did the Ewoks just happen to have a dress handy in her size? Why did the Ewoks initially view Luke, Han, and Chewie as potential food, but Leia as an honorary Ewok?

When Vader’s shuttle landed on the Forest Moon, we saw that there was an AT-AT guarding the shield generator. Boy, that sure would have been handy for repulsing the Rebel/Ewok attack that was to come shortly! Where did it vanish to?

Planetary Ecology

What was that toad-like creature outside Jabba’s palace that snagged some small furry creature with its tongue, gulped it down, and then burped? Was it supposed to be an actual amphibian? That seems unlikely, given Tatooine’s desert climate. Earthly amphibians lack waterproof skin and die very quickly in a hot and arid climate unless they’re in or very near water. This is no real nitpick, since Tatooine “amphibians” may well have evolved waterproof skin – it just bugs me that it looked so much like a terrestrial amphibian.

Why did the Rancor eat so much? We saw it scarf down an unfortunate dancer just a few hours before Luke arrived; then it gobbled down a Gamorrean before turning on Luke. An animal that size would probably be sated by the first meal, and almost certainly by the second, so it had no particular reason to go after Luke – certainly not hunger, anyway. This would be especially true since the creature appeared to be an ectotherm, given how slowly it moved. So it would have a slow metabolism and very low food requirements compared to an endotherm of the same size. In other words, when presented with Luke and the Gamorrean, it probably would have shown little or no interest. Perhaps it was territorial and disliked intruders in its lair, but that doesn’t explain why it tried to eat them.

Jabba claimed that Luke and his companions would know a new definition of pain and suffering as they were slowly digested in the Sarlaac’s belly over 1,000 years. What? First of all, it’s hardly likely that the Sarlaac would have breathable air in its stomach, so its victims would be dead within minutes even if swallowed whole – at which point their pain and suffering would be over. Second, it’s beyond ludicrous to suggest that the Sarlaac’s digestive processes take 1,000 years to complete! Even 1,000 hours is ridiculous, since the victims’ bodies would have mostly rotted by then anyway!

As Luke and his companions were being taken to the Sarlaac Pit, they passed by a herd of banthas. How could Tatooine support so many large animals, given that it seemed to have almost no water and didn’t appear to have any plants at all? What did those banthas eat? While we’re on the subject, what did the Sarlaac eat? An animal that size would require a considerable amount of food – did Jabba really provide it with enough victims to keep it going? What about “wild” sarlaacs? Were the populations of banthas and other such creatures in this waterless, plant-less environment actually dense-enough to provide sufficient numbers of victims for a creature the size of the Sarlaac to survive? It doesn’t seem even remotely possible!

Dagobah’s ecosystem was at least plausible, so I won’t worry about it further.

The Forest Moon’s ecosystem seemed fairly plausible, too, particularly if the moon had little or no axial tilt, and so didn’t have any seasons. From space, we could see that the Forest Moon had large bodies of water and extensive cloud formations; so it’s not surprising that it supported forests. It didn’t appear to have any polar icecaps, however, which seems a bit strange.

The graphics at the Rebel briefing showed that the Death Star “orbited” at or near the Forest Moon’s equator. Therefore, Luke and his companions were at or near the equator. Yet the climate did not appear to be tropical. If the moon had much of an axial tilt, it would have had marked seasons and we’d expect to have seen icecaps at one or both poles, whether it was tropical at the equator or not. Since it wasn’t all that warm even at the equator, the Forest Moon was apparently receiving a bit less solar radiation than the Earth does; this makes it all the more strange that it didn’t seem to have polar icecaps.

Strange Physics and Astronomy

In the opening scene, we saw Darth Vader’s stardestroyer approaching the Death Star v2.0. The Death Star was “in orbit” around the “Forest Moon” of Endor. Since the Forest Moon had a very Earth-like atmosphere, climate, and surface gravity, it seems reasonable to assume that it was approximately the size of Earth. But wait a minute. As we saw the Death Star hanging over the Forest Moon in the opening scene, the moon’s curvature was barely evident. That means the Death Star must have been only a few hundred miles up at most. What was holding it up?

It couldn’t possibly be in orbit! At that altitude it would take the Death Star less than 2 hours to complete an orbit of the moon, and you would have clearly seen it moving across the sky from the moon’s surface. Admiral Ackbar stated at the Rebel briefing that the Death Star was in orbit around the Forest Moon, and the graphics he showed seemed to indicate the Death Star was in a geostationary orbit (that is, it orbited the planet at the same rate the planet rotated). If the Forest Moon took less than 2 hours to complete a rotation, sunrise and sunset would be less than an hour apart and the sun would appear to race across the sky. Clearly, this was not the case! Also, if the moon were spinning that fast, centrifugal force would have caused it to be obviously bulged at the equator and flattened at the poles. Since the moon did not show any such distortion, we can confidently conclude that it did not have such a ridiculously fast rotation.

Clearly then, the Death Star was not in orbit, but was hovering directly over the surface installation that generated its shield. Presumably, either the installation or the Death Star itself (or both) were generating some sort of repulsion force to hold the Death Star up and prevent all those trillions of tons of metal from crashing to the moon’s surface. Talk about a ridiculous waste of energy! Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to have constructed the Death Star in a higher, geostationary orbit? Assuming the Forest Moon was the same size and mass as Earth, with the same rotational period, that would be at about 36,000 kilometers’ altitude. That way, there would be no need to expend energy to hold it in position.

“Wouldn’t that make it harder for them to project a shield around the Death Star?” I hear you ask. Well, yes, but I’d be willing to bet it would be a lot less costly than the energy expenditure of holding it in place over the shield-generation facility. Besides, why not just build the shield generator in space, on or near the Death Star? It could be powered by matter/antimatter annihilation, or by power generated on the Forest Moon and beamed directly to the shield generator. Such a space-based shield generator would be far more energy efficient, and would also be more difficult to infiltrate and sabotage, I should think.

Where was Endor? It was repeatedly claimed that the “Forest Moon” was a moon of the planet Endor, but we saw no planets in the Forest Moon’s sky. Even when we saw the Rebel Fleet approaching the Forest Moon from a distance of at least several million kilometers away, Endor was not visible – just the Forest Moon and the Death Star. So why did they keep referring to the Ewoks’ home as a moon if it wasn’t in orbit around a larger planet? Perhaps the Death Star destroyed Endor to test its superlaser, but that would have disrupted the Forest Moon’s orbit, and debris from Endor's destruction raining down on the Forest Moon would have devastated its ecosystems, leaving the moon a ruined wasteland. You’d think the Rebel strike team would have noted Endor’s absence and the devastation of the Forest Moon, put 2 and 2 together, and realized that the Death Star was operational.

Not long after the Rebel strike team landed on the Forest Moon, we saw Chewbacca shoot a fleeing Trooper off his speeder bike. It’s interesting that Chewie’s “laser bolt” followed a flat trajectory. This raises the question of what the heck it is that those guns actually fire. A laser beam would indeed follow a flat trajectory like that, but would not be visible, and it would move far faster. If the guns were firing projectiles (e.g. bullets), the projectiles would be expected to follow parabolic (not flat) trajectories in a gravity field. If the guns fired plasma, the plasma would begin to expand rapidly the moment it left the gun’s barrel. Among other things, this would mean that the guns would have extremely limited effective ranges. So what did those guns fire?

Ewoks vs Stormtroopers: Let’s talk about how levers work. Arms and legs are levers. A lever has a turning point, called the fulcrum. A see-saw is a good example. You put a certain amount of force into one end of a lever, the lever turns around the fulcrum, and you get the same amount of force out the other end of the lever, assuming the lever is rigid. The force on both sides of the fulcrum is the same – the question is: how does the force come out? The utility of a lever is that it can be used to alter the power and the speed of what you put in.

Picture a see-saw with the fulcrum exactly in the middle. If you push one end down, so that it moves a distance of 2 meters in exactly one second, then the other end will also move 2 meters in one second (in the opposite direction), since it’s a rigid structure. Fine. Now move the fulcrum so that the portion to which you’re about to apply force (this is called the “Lever Arm In”) is exactly half as long as the portion where the force will come out (this is the “Lever Arm Out”). That is, the fulcrum is located 1/3 of the length of the board from the end where you’ll apply the force.

Since the lever is rigid, the end that you push down and the opposite end must take the same amount of time to complete their movements. If you push the short end down so that the end moves 2 meters in one second, the other end (being twice as long) must move approximately 4 meters in that second. So, a lever can be used to multiply speed. But since the force on both sides of the lever is the same, if one end moves faster, that means it must be moving with less power. By varying the position of the fulcrum, you can change the amount of speed the lever generates at the Lever Arm Out (that is, you can change the Velocity Ratio), and you can change the power that it generates (the Mechanical Advantage).

Because VR and MA are inversely proportional, a lever with a short Lever Arm In and a long Lever Arm Out will generate a lot of speed, but little power. (A baseball bat works on this principle.) A lever with a long Lever Arm In and a short Lever Arm Out will generate little speed, but a lot of power (a crowbar works on this principle).

There’s a portion of bone that sticks out beyond your elbow called the olecranon process. This is the Lever Arm In. For creatures like deer, the olecranon process is relatively short, allowing the forelimbs to generate a lot of speed for running, but not much power. For creatures like aardvarks, the olecranon process is relatively long, allowing them to generate lots of power for digging, but not much speed. The same joint cannot produce both high speed and high power.

Given their short arms and legs, there’s simply no way that Ewoks could generate lots of speed. So, they would be relatively slow runners, and they would not be able to swing their arms fast enough to generate the force necessary to hurt somebody wearing body armor. This assumes that Ewoks’ muscles are not much stronger than those of humans. Since we could see how fast their arms and legs move in the movie, it’s abundantly clear that they weren’t moving their arms fast-enough to impart enough energy to their targets to do any real damage. In other words, even with the clubs they were carrying, they shouldn’t have been able to hurt armored Stormtroopers!

It’s possible, if they had relatively long olecranon processes on those stubby arms, that Ewoks were quite powerful. If so, they might have been able to pull the Stormtroopers’ armour off, and maybe even pull off limbs. But we never saw them attempt any such things. Besides, their arms would look quite different if they were so powerfully-built. So, how the Ewoks were able to defeat armored Stormtroopers in hand-to-hand combat is a true mystery.

By the way, there’s no way that hang-glider we saw had enough surface area to generate the lift necessary to support a hefty Ewok plus several large rocks! I’m assuming the Forest Moon had an atmosphere and surface gravity similar to Earth’s, which certainly seemed to be the case!

At one point, an Ewok threw a loop around a speeder bike, causing it to spiral into a tree. It exploded on impact and killed the pilot. No way! Unless the pilot had muscles like Superman, he couldn’t possibly have held on even if he’d wanted to, and so he would have been thrown clear.

The explosion of the Death Star only a few hundred miles (at most) above the surface of the Forest Moon would have caused an ecological catastrophe that would surely exterminate almost all life on the moon. The energy released by the Death Star’s explosion and intercepted by the Forest Moon would have been at least comparable to that of a large asteroid hitting the moon. If the Death Star had much antimatter on board when it went up, the Forest Moon would have been bathed in lethal radiation that would have almost instantly killed every living thing on that portion of the moon from which the Death Star was visible in the sky. This was evidently not the case, but the effects of the Death Star’s destruction would certainly render the Forest Moon uninhabitable within a few days at most, and probably within a few minutes. (Better get those victory celebrations in quickly!) For the Ewoks, the Rebels’ victory would most-definitely not be a cause for celebration. You could argue that the Rebels had no choice, and that sacrificing the Forest Moon served the greater good – but would the Ewoks have made that choice if they’d known the consequences of the Death Star’s destruction to their world?

Military Incompetence

One thought that occurred to me upon watching The Return of the Jedi was this: “At last! movie bad guys who can learn from their mistakes!” (Well, to a limited extent, anyway.) How many times have we seen some variation of this in movies and television shows?

Bad Guy: “My fiendish plan/device will utterly destroy all opposition! It cannot fail!”
Good Guy: “Actually, that would indeed be true except that it has this one glaringly obvious flaw, which I will now exploit to destroy it.” [Does so.]
Bad Guy: “Oh fudge. I’ll never try that again. Well, back to the drawing board.”

Why is it that movie villains almost never seem to think of the obvious thing to do in these situations, which is: correct the flaw in your foolproof scheme and try again? The original Death Star had a huge flaw that the Rebels were able to exploit. The Emperor, unlike 99% of movie villains, was apparently capable of recognizing that it might be a good idea to correct that flaw and then try again. Good for him! One presumes, anyway, that had the Death Star v2.0 been completed, many of the original’s design flaws would have been corrected.

No offense to Lando, but surely the Rebels had more experienced flight leaders available. Even if he had Han’s support, why would they choose Lando – whom they hardly knew – over well-known and experienced pilots like Wedge Antilles to lead the attack on the Death Star?

Why would the leaders of the Rebel Alliance allow Leia to go on the potentially dangerous mission to destroy the shield generator on the Forest Moon? Leia was an important political leader in the Rebel Alliance, and it hardly seems likely that she’d be allowed to go off on a risky assignment like that. It was irresponsible of her to volunteer in the first place. For that matter, Luke was the last surviving Jedi (discounting Vader), and an important symbol to the Rebel Alliance; it doesn’t seem likely that they’d want him to go on such a mission either.

As Luke and his companions approached the Forest Moon in their stolen shuttle, Vader, aboard the Executor, detected Luke’s presence. Why did he then allow them to land on the Forest Moon, where they might actually succeed in their mission to destroy the shield generator? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to wait until they were well within tractor beam range (they were practically skimming the Executor’s hull – how much closer did they need to be?), snare the shuttle with a tractor beam, and drag it into the landing bay? That way, Vader would have succeeded in his goal of capturing Luke. He would also have gotten Leia as a nice bonus, plus Han Solo. Leia was a prominent leader in the Rebel Alliance and probably high on the Empire’s “Wanted” list; sooner or later they’d have figured out that she was Luke’s sister. Presumably, Han was a wanted criminal in Imperial Space too. All of this without endangering the shield generator.

“Soon I’ll be dead, and you along with me,” Luke smugly told the Emperor. Was it really such a good idea to warn your enemy of an imminent attack?

Presumably, the designers of the Death Star v2.0 were going to get around to correcting the design flaws of the original Death Star. If that was the case, considering that the Emperor manipulated the Rebels into attacking at a time of his choosing, you’d think the Imperials would have been better-prepared for the attack. Putting the shield around the Death Star was a good start, but surely any competent designer would have taken steps to ensure that the new Death Star couldn’t be destroyed in the same way that the original was! So, why were there shafts extending from the surface all the way to the reactor core that were large enough for fighters and even the Millennium Falcon to fly through? That there were lots of twists and turns in these shafts was apparently in response to the Rebels’ destruction of the original by firing torpedoes down a shaft that led straight to the reactor core. So, the Imperials were at least capable of learning from their mistakes – to a limited extent, anyway. Especially since they expected the new Death Star to come under attack before it was completed, you’d expect the builders to have put baffle plates in the shafts, to ensure neither fighters nor torpedoes could penetrate into the Death Star’s interior.

Why did the Imperial ships have exposed bridges that could be taken out relatively easily, killing the command crew in the process and causing the ship to spin out of control? You’d think the command centers would be deep in the bowels of the ship, where they’d be immune to direct enemy fire and kamikaze A-wing pilots!

Why couldn’t the Rebel capital ships evade the Death Star’s superlaser? The thing apparently has to be pointed right at its target in order to hit it. How fast could something the size of the Death Star turn in order to track an evading enemy ship?

Miscellaneous Stuff

When Vader first arrived on the Death Star, its commander complained that his men were already overworked, and couldn’t complete the station on the schedule Vader demanded. Vader insisted that they should increase their efforts nonetheless, as the Emperor was coming – but offered to provide no additional workers. Was this wise? If the workers were already pushed to the limit, demanding that they “redouble their efforts” would probably do little more than increase the rates of accidents and errors. If it was so important to complete the Death Star on this schedule, bringing in more workers would have been a really good idea!

Why was it that apparently every droid in the Star Wars universe spoke its own language (many of them apparently uninterpretable by humans), thus making translator droids like C-3PO necessary? Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense for most droids to speak Intergalactic Standard, just as most people did? Translator droids would still be useful, but standardization of droid languages sounds like it would be an awfully good idea.

In Jabba’s palace, we saw a droid being tortured by placing red-hot metal on its feet – and it screamed in response! Why on Earth would anyone put pain receptors in a droid and program it to scream when they’re activated?

How did Jabba move? He had no legs, after all. I imagine he was supposed to move like a large snake, but he was definitely not built for it. Small snakes typically move by folding their bodies into “S” shapes and using the folds to push against surface obstacles (or water, if they’re swimming). This is called lateral undulation, and it works well for small snakes, but not so well for big ones. Big snakes like pythons can use lateral undulation to push off against really sturdy supports (like trees), but they generally have to use rectilinear motion when such sturdy structures aren’t available. Rectilinear motion involves the use of large scales called scutes on snakes’ bellies, to which muscles are attached. Snakes can move these scutes forward individually and anchor them on surface irregularities, and so drag their bodies forward. This is a very slow form of movement at best, and it doesn’t work at all on smooth surfaces.

So, Jabba’s body was too short, squat, and heavy for him to be able to use lateral undulation effectively, and try as I might, I could see no evidence that he had scutes for rectilinear motion. How did he move?

Why did Jabba find human(oid) females attractive? This makes about as much sense as a human male looking at a slug and thinking “Sexay!” Was Jabba considered some sort of sexual pervert among Hutts, given his unhealthy attraction to humanoid females? Why didn’t he find himself a nice 800-pound, legless Hutt girl? What would he possibly find attractive about a human female who weighed next to nothing, had all that repulsive hair, and had those excess limbs? Maybe the point of making Leia wear the bikini was to humiliate her and thus break her pride, but it was nonetheless clear that Jabba found her appealing – why?

Why did the Rancor drop Luke when he jammed a bone in its mouth? It got rid of the bone by clamping down until it broke, so the Rancor didn't need that hand free to clear its mouth.

Leia strangled Jabba – in only a few seconds’ time? I call “No Way!” If Jabba was a tidal breather like terrestrial mammals, he’d have had a considerable reserve of air in his lungs at the moment Leia threw the chain around his neck, even if he’d been unfortunate enough to have exhaled at exactly that moment. If his respiratory system was a flow-through system like that of terrestrial birds, he’d probably have had even greater oxygen reserves in his system. Either way, an animal that size should have had several minutes’ worth of oxygen in its system. Leia might have been strong, but it hardly seems likely that she was strong enough to crush Jabba’s trachea through all that protective blubber, and that she could have kept up the necessary pressure for several minutes as he was trying to pull the chain off his neck.

Perhaps Leia was cutting off blood flow to Jabba’s brain by stopping flow in his equivalents of the carotid arteries, instead of shutting off air flow. If Jabba’s anatomy was anything like that of terrestrial animals though, that would be an even harder task than shutting off his air flow – it would be a faster way to render him unconscious, though.

Say, what was that rope attached to that Luke and Leia swung on from Jabba’s sail barge to Lando’s skiff? By my calculations, it must have been anchored more or less directly between the two vehicles. I don’t recall seeing a tree or tower there.

“So, what I told you was true – from a certain point of view.” What a cop-out! Admit it, Ben! You lied to Luke!

Luke’s compassion for Vader was laudable, I suppose, but why would he allow himself to be captured, thus betting his life on the slim chance that he could turn Vader away from the Dark Side? If he had taken Leia’s advice and run away, he might have served a very useful purpose and distracted Vader from the coming Rebel assault. Allowing himself to be captured served no real purpose, and could be regarded as not just foolish but immoral. He had a duty to help train Leia in the ways of the Force (who else was going to do it, if not him?) and to restore the Jedi! For that reason alone, he should not have gone on the mission at all, much less let himself be captured.

The Emperor referred to the Forest Moon as the “Sanctuary Moon.” Was the moon designated a wildlife sanctuary? That’s quite interesting, since I’d not have thought the Empire would be so environmentally conscious. Maybe it was designated so during the time of the Old Republic, and the Emperor simply hadn’t gotten around to finding something better for it (other than a conveniently out-of-the way place for constructing the new Death Star, that is). It is a big galaxy, after all, and Palpatine couldn’t be expected to micromanage every little administrative detail. The fact that C-3PO spoke Ewokese (wasn’t that convenient?) implies that the Sanctuary Moon had been surveyed at some point in the past. It’s curious that anybody bothered to program such an obscure language as Ewokese into a protocol droid though.

Why did Imperial speeder bikes and walkers explode when they hit something or something hit them? This seems like a serious design flaw!

Granted, the surviving Imperials would have been demoralized by the loss of the command ship Executor and the Death Star with Vader and the Emperor aboard at the Battle of Endor, but they still had a large fleet available that greatly outclassed the Rebel fleet. Did the surviving Imperials turn and run after the Death Star’s destruction? Maybe so, but they certainly could have wiped out the Rebel fleet had they chosen to do so. All of the “Original Trilogy,” Star Wars movies portrayed Imperial officers as highly motivated and seemingly sure of the rightness of their cause. It seems that the surviving Imperial commanders would therefore likely be inclined to avenge their leaders’ deaths and annihilate the surviving Rebel ships. Why not try to salvage a partial victory, after all?

At the end of the movie, we saw celebrations on Bespin, Tatooine, Naboo, and even Coruscant. This seems odd, given that nothing in the previous movies had suggested that the average citizen of the galaxy found Imperial rule to be terribly loathsome. Surely, the Emperor maintained an extensive propaganda network and kept tight control over the Imperial news services. As such, you’d think most Imperial citizens, at least in the Core Worlds, would have been inclined to regard the Rebels as little better than terrorists. You’d think most Imperial citizens would have found the thought of the political chaos that would inevitably follow the deaths of Vader and the Emperor to be rather unsettling. In any event, it seems highly unlikely that there would be dancing in the streets of Coruscant in response to the Rebel victory at Endor.

Despite the psychological impact of the loss of Vader and the Emperor, to the Imperial Fleet, the Battle of Endor would have been only a minor tactical defeat at worst. The Imperial Navy would still be a vast and powerful force that would surely remain loyal to the regional governors appointed by the Emperor. If the Emperor had no clear line of succession, then it seems that by far the most likely outcome of the Battle of Endor would be an eruption of civil war as local warlords began to vie with one another for the chance to take the Emperor’s place.

No matter how you look at it, the Battle of Endor would be only a small (but important) step on the Rebels' road to victory.

Some Concluding Thoughts

The original Star Wars movies are generally much better then the Prequels, in my opinion, with many fewer plot holes and internal contradictions. Even so, to watch the movies, you really have to shut down your higher brain centers and just enjoy the spectacle. Frankly, if you stop to think about them, the movies just don’t make much sense. One thing that’s annoying about the Prequels is that there are times when it’s painfully clear that George Lucas did a rather poor job of establishing continuity between the Original Trilogy and the prequels – and where “continuity” is established, it’s often done in such a way as to detract from the quality of the Original Trilogy. For example, if we assume that the events in all six movies happened just as shown, then it’s abundantly clear when watching the prequels (especially Episode III) that Obi-Wan lied through his teeth to Luke on numerous occasions in the Original Trilogy. This makes Obi-Wan a much less admirable character, sadly.

So, while I do indeed enjoy the Star Wars movies, I have the sneaking suspicion that the movies could have been much better. All it would have taken was for someone to have carefully gone through the scripts before filming began, with the goal of correcting some of the more blatant of the numerous contradictions and plot holes. As for plot holes, bad logic, military incompetence, and contradictions in the Prequels, don’t get me started!

Supplemental Readings

Many authors have written stories set in the Star Wars universe, and some of them have attempted to explain a few of the more obvious errors in the movies. Some of the explanations are quite good indeed.

For example, Kevin J. Anderson, in the “Jedi Academy Trilogy” offers a plausible explanation for what Han “really” meant when he made the “parsecs as a unit of speed” goof in A New Hope. According to Anderson, the planet Kessel lies near a cluster of black holes called “The Maw.” The faster your ship, the closer you can get to the black holes without being drawn into the gravitational well of one or another of them, and so the shorter is your traveling distance. As an explanation, this works pretty well.

In the “Thrawn Trilogy,” Timothy Zahn offers a fairly credible explanation for the Imperials’ stunning loss at Endor. According to him, the Emperor was using the Force to control and direct his troops, without their knowledge. When Vader killed the Emperor, this threw the Imperials into confusion and disarray, allowing the Ewoks and Rebel Commandos to defeat the Stormtroopers on the Sanctuary Moon and then destroy the shield generator, leaving the Death Star vulnerable to attack. Similarly, the Imperial fleet was thrown into disarray by the Emperor’s death, allowing a few Rebel pilots to slip past the vast numbers of Imperial fighters and attack the Death Star. As an explanation, this works pretty well, except for the slight problem that we clearly saw in Return of the Jedi that Vader killed the Emperor after the destruction of the shield generator and the onset of the Rebel attack on the Death Star. Oh well. It’s still a good effort. Zahn is the best Star Wars author I’ve read, but even he couldn’t come up with a truly plausible explanation for the events at the end of Return of the Jedi.


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