Original Trilogy

U-3PO: The Other Protocol Droid

Knowing that I am fanatical in my love of Star Wars, a friend recently asked me a pretty unsurprising question about A New Hope. The question was this:

“What’s the name of the other protocol droid following R2-D2 and C-3PO at the beginning of A New Hope?”

Answer: U-3PO.

My friend then followed-up with a pretty obvious second question:

“What happened to U-3PO?”

Answer: Hell if I know.

Seriously, I have absolutely no idea. All I can tell you about the silver plated U-3PO beyond it’s name – which it officially received in the 1995 Star Wars Customizable Card Game – is that U-3PO follows the other two droids down a corridor in the Tantive IV before turning off into a different room. Then again, you could have figured that out yourself. What happened to U-3PO once it disappeared from view is a mystery. Admittedly, it is a mystery that has periodically popped into my mind. And if I had to take a guess, I would assume U-3PO was either “…sent to the spice mines of Kessel or smashed into who knows what!” Why? Well, honestly, if I have to explain it I’ll be taking the fun out of allowing you to figure it out for yourself (just re-watch the opening of A New Hope).

So the point is this: U-3PO is just the other protocol droid aboard the Tantive IV and has absolutely no bearing on the events of A New Hope. And yet, I will admit that I have always been intrigued that U-3PO is present in the film for those few brief seconds. It is certainly interesting to think about what happened to the protocol droid, and I hardly think some “canonical” answer is necessary. In this regard, the imagination is good enough for me.

But in closing, I will also say this: I find it equally interesting to imagine what role U-3PO could have played in the events of the film if it had stuck with R2-D2 and C-3PO. Who knows, maybe things would have been incredibly different if there had been three droids, and not two, wandering the barren wastelands of Tatooine. 

Haikuesday: Dark Lords of the Sith

Hundred-Year Darkness:
Jedi exiles become
Jen’ari, Dark Lords

The Left-Handed God:
Dark Jedi Ajunta Pall
First Lord of the Sith

Greatest of his Age
A fierce Sith-human hybrid
Lord Marka Ragnos

Great Hyperspace War:
Naga Sadow’s Empire
invades Republic.

On a Deep Core World
Darth Andeddu rules as an
Immortal God-King.

Sadow’s apprentice:
Fallen Jedi, Freedon Nadd.
Onderon entombed.

“I was the greatest
Dark Lord of the Sith,” he states.
“I am Exar Kun.”

Haiku Addendum:
Exar Kun is a badass!
You should check him out.

Reviled, Dreaded.
A Jedi leaves, Sith returns.
He is Darth Revan.

A Sith Apprentice.
Darth Malak betrays Revan
and becomes Master.

Malak’s Shadow Hand:
Darth Bandon, former Jedi.
Vanquished by Revan.

Sith Triumvirate:
Darth Traya suffers betrayal
by Hunger and Pain

The Lord of Hunger.
Draining the Force of all Life.
Dark Lord Nihilus.

Sion, Lord of Pain.
Body fractured and rotting.
And yet, immortal.

“For three hundred years,
we prepared, we grew stronger.”
Malgus leads the charge.

Immortality:
Darth Scabrous’s dream results
in the walking dead.

“The Last Survivor”
Darth Bane, the architect of
the Sith Rule of Two.

A child named “Rain”
sent to war by the Jedi
becomes Darth Zannah.

Iktotchi Huntress
Gifted in divination
The Dark Lord Cognus

Three-eyed mutant Sith
Apprenticed to Darth Cognus –
Darth Millennial

Haiku Addendum:
Darth Millennial enjoys
avocado toast.

Starship Designer
but really, he’s Tenebrous
Dark Lord of the Sith

Darth Plagueis the Wise
Murdered by his apprentice
while he was asleep.

The first Emperor,
a galactic Empire.
Dark Lord Sidious

Devilish Sith Lord
Double-bladed lightsaber.
The Zabrak named Maul.

Elegant Evil.
Former Jedi: Count Dooku.
Dark Lord Tyrannus

Once known as “Anni”
He spirals to the Dark Side
and becomes Vader.

A Son of Solo.
Jacen Solo, Darth Caedus.
Killed by his sister.

Born A’Sharad Hett
Founder of a new Sith Cult:
Darth Krayt’s Rule of One

Anointed by Krayt.
Body covered by tattoos.
Twi’lek Darth Talon.

What about Kylo?
Well, this is awkward because
he is not a Sith.

Haiku Addendum:
Kylo Ren verses Caedus?
Darth Caedus would win.


Check out these other Haikuesday Posts!

Imperial Atrocities

Luke Skywalker (ANH)

Luke Skywalker (ESB)

Luke Skywalker (ROTJ)

Impressed by Paploo

Allow me to paint you a picture with my imagination brush:

I had just returned home around 8:30pm – I had been at a volleyball game coaching my team to another victory (boo yeah!) – and ended up on the couch flipping through the channels trying to find something to watch. Lo and behold, I came across Return of the Jedi during the speeder bike chase and said to myself “You know, I haven’t watched ‘Jedi’ in a while so I might as well keep watching.” So, there I am, on the couch, watching Return of the Jedi as the film continues. The Rebel heroes meet their soon-to-be Ewok allies, Luke tells Leia they are siblings, Han gets jealous and Leia wants a hug, Vader and Luke end up discussing Vader’s moral compass, the Rebel fleet enters hyperspace, and the Rebels discover, thanks to the Ewoks, that there is a “back-door” to the Imperial facility on Endor. 

Paploo with Wicket

Paploo discusses his plan with Wicket. Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Okay, so, the Rebels are led to the back-door by the Ewoks. Unfortunately, as you already know, the entry is guarded by four scout troopers milling about and chatting without a care in the galaxy. As Han Solo and his Rebel pathfinders do not want to alert the Empire to their presence, he and the group discuss their options. As they do so, the highly strung C-3PO learns from an Ewok counterpart that “…our furry companion has gone and done something rather rash.” Telling this to the group, Leia expressing an audible “Oh, no” the group watches as one Ewok moves towards the scout troopers.

Or rather, Paploo, the Ewok in question, moves towards the scout bikes sitting at the end of the clearing. Getting onto one of the bikes, Paploo proceeds to turn it on and zips off into the forest pursued by three of the four scouts. “Not bad for a little furball. There is only one left,” Han professes, obviously impressed by Paploo’s ingenuity. 

Like Han, I too have always been impressed by Paploo’s quick-thinking decision to steal a speeder bike. But what truly impressed me during this particular viewing of Return of the Jedi as I sat on my couch was the fact that Paploo seems to know PRECISELY how to operate the scout bike. This realization had never dawned on me prior to this moment, the fact that this primitive creature with absolutely zero technological understanding knew the exact sequence of buttons and switches that needed to be activated for the bike to work. Impressive, Paploo, most impressive.

Granted, it is entirely possible that Paploo just gets lucky, that he randomly flips the correct switches and the bike ends up working. I’m hardly opposed to this possibility. It is, after all, the most likely way the scene is meant to be viewed. Never-the-less, as I sat on my couch watching Paploo start the bike, for the first time it dawned on me that the Ewok furball knew what to do. And, as a result, a second thought, a question, popped into my mind: how can we explain the primitive Paploo’s expertise in Imperial technology?

Honestly, I think explaining Paploo’s actions as intentional is easy, and actually works in conjunction with the thoughts I laid out about the Ewoks in my piece “Cute, Funny, and Very Deadly” way back in 2015. In that post – which was part of Ewok Week – I made the point that the Ewoks were either preparing to fight the Empire, or they had already started the fight when the Rebels show up. You can go read that post to get a deeper look at these ideas, especially since I believe Paploo’s apptitude with a scout bike can easily be tacked onto them. 

Paploo Speeder
Paploo pilots the stolen speeder.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

If the Ewoks were already fighting the Empire, or just preparing for their war, it would make logical sense that the primitive beings took the time to learn about their foreign invaders. We can assume, then, that Paploo, and perhaps a number of other Ewoks, had already stolen scout bikes in order to learn more about these curious and unfamiliar machine. When he sneaks up on the bikes to steal one in Return of the Jedi, Paploo would already have an understanding, even a basic one, about how the contraption works. Not to mention, he also seems to know how to drive the speeder once it zips off into the forest. The initial acceleration surprises Paploo, but he regains control with relative ease and pilots the bike deeper into the forest with the three Imperial scouts hot on his tail. 

Again, it could just be that Paploo gets lucky. Maybe he did. Honestly though, I find it far more likely, and way more interesting, if he and other Ewoks had taken the time to learn about the bikes as part of an attempt to better understand their enemy. But you can decide for yourself.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think about Paploo and his speeder bike excursion!

Haikuesday: Luke Skywalker (ROTJ)

Hologram of Luke
Speaking to Jabba the Hutt
Bargaining for Han


Token of Goodwill:
C-3PO and R2.
Both have served him well.


Scene: Jabba’s Palace.
Main gate opens, Luke walks in.
Confronted by Guards.

Shrouded in Darkness,
Luke draws on the Force and chokes
the Gamorreans.


Threatening Jabba.
“Master Luke, you’re standing on…”
The floor drops away.


“OH NO! THE RANCOR!”
Once, Luke fought a big Wampa.
Rancors are larger…

The Rancor eats pork.
Then it turns towards Skywalker.
How will Luke survive!?!?!

First – use a large bone.
Next – hit its fingers with rocks.
Last – throw human skull.


The Rancor is dead!
But Luke is still in trouble.
Onto the Sarlacc…


The Pit of Carkoon.
Luke preps for Jabba’s justice…
…then springs to action!


A green lightsaber!
Luke built a Jedi weapon!
How’d he manage that?


Slashing and blasting.
A chaotic desert scene.
And Luke’s hand is shot!


What are your thoughts when
Luke blows up Jabba’s sail barge?
Kinda messed up, right?


Back to Dagobah:
Skywalker returns so he
can finish training.


Yoda, very frail.
Tries to avoid Luke’s question:
“…is Vader my dad?”


Obi-Wan Appears!
“From a certain point of view…”
Luke learns a lesson.


Spoiler Alert!
The Princess is Luke’s sister!
O-M-G!!! THEY KISSED!!!!!


Scene: Sullust System.
The Rebel Fleet amasses.
Luke decides to join.


Passing the “Super,”
Luke can sense a dark presence…
“Vader’s on that ship.”


Endor Excursion.
Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, Droids.
And Rebel Soldiers.


Chasing Scout Troopers
through a Forest on Endor.
Team Luke and Leia.


Captured by Ewoks.
Luke will be a main course in
3PO’s honor.


Emotional Talk.
Luke reveals truth to Leia:
Brother and Sister


Taken to Vader – 
“I know there is good in you.”
“I feel the conflict…”


Before Palpatine –
“I have been expecting you.”
Verbal sparring match.


Battle commences:
Rebels caught in an Imp trap
fight for survival.


Watching the battle
Luke is tormented by the
unfolding drama.

“You want this, don’t you?”
Luke looks at his lightsaber.
“Strike me down with it.”

Haiku Addendum:
Palpatine’s “Trap” was always
for Luke Skywalker.

“My young apprentice…”
Luke watches as the Death Star
fires on the fleet.

Filling with anger,
He can no longer resist –
Luke takes his weapon.


Red and Green Collide.
Father and Son engage in
a duel of the fates.


“Twin sister…if you
will not turn to the dark side,
then perhaps she will.”


A rage-filled assault.
Consumed by the darkness, Luke
presses his attack.


“…take your father’s place.”
The hero arrives at his
most critical point.


A farewell to arms.
Luke declares who he shall be:
“I am a Jedi.”


Baptized by Lightning.
The Son pleads to the Father.
The Father responds.


Vader is no more.
Luke burns his father’s body.
Now, the Last Jedi.


Joyful reunion.
Luke celebrates with his friends.
Saga is complete.


This post is Part 3 of 3 in a special three-week version of Haikuesday exploring Luke Skywalker in the Original Star Wars Trilogy. Check out the other two posts below!

Luke Skywalker (ANH)
Luke Skywalker (ESB)

Haikuesday: Luke Skywalker (ESB)

Oh No! A Wampa!
Commander Skywalker is
attacked by a beast!


Hanging Upside-Down
Oh look, it’s his lightsaber…
..but just out of reach. 😦


OH WAIT! USE THE FORCE!
Eyes closed and hand extended…
The saber responds.


OH NO! THE WAMPA!
Freed from the ice, Luke attacks.
Poor one-armed Wampa. 😦


Hoth’s frozen tundra.
A blizzard lashes at Luke
and our hero falls.


Ben’s apparition
gives Luke a direct command:
“Go to Dagobah.”


Stuffed in a Tauntaun…
…they smell bad on the outside
and on the inside.


Floating in Bacta.
Then, a few minutes later,
kissing his sister.


The Battle of Hoth.
All-Terrain Armored Transports.
Luke leads Rogue Squadron.


“Hobbie! “I’ve been hit!”
…annnnnd once again Luke crashes
to Hoth’s snowy ground.


“All the scopes are dead.”
Luke enters Dagobah’s sky.
“I can’t see a thing.”


A swampy landing.
“Artoo, what are we doing…?”
The droid throws up mud.


“Like we’re being watched!”
A strange creature confronts Luke
and trashes his camp.


Important question:
“Why wish you become Jedi?”
“…my father, I guess.”


“We’re wasting our time!”
“Cannot teach him. No patience.”
The creature? Yoda!


Yoda on his back.
Luke begins Jedi training.
And learns of the Force.

Haiku Addendum:
Jedi training involves a
lot of cardio.


Dark, sinister cave.
“That place…strong with the dark side.”
So Luke just walks in…


Dark Confrontation –
Face-to-face with his father’s
killer: Darth Vader.


Red and Blue Collide
A dream like battle ensues.
There is no victor.


Upside-down again.
Luke lifts rocks using the Force.
But crashes again.


His X-Wing sinking.
“We’ll never get it out now!”
Yoda is annoyed.


“Luminous beings.”
“Life creates it, makes it grow.”
“You must feel the Force.”


Yoda moves Luke’s ship.
“I don’t…I don’t believe it.”
“That is why you fail.

Haiku Addendum:
I hope Luke thanked Yoda for
freeing the X-Wing.


Meanwhile, elsewhere…
Han. Leia. Asteroids. Slugs.
Darth Vader. Hunters.


Upside-down again.
This time Luke crashes after
a vision of friends.


Decision to make:
go and help his friends or to
finish his training.

Haiku Addendum:
because he is impatient,
Luke decides to leave.

Haiku Addendum:
internalizing lessons
is not Luke’s strong point.


Onto Cloud City!
Luke waltzes into a trap.
The truth awaits him.


“The Force is with you.”
The Carbon Freezing Chamber.
Luke confronts Vader.


Red and Blue Collide
Skywalker holds his own but
it won’t be enough.


Launched out a window.
Pushed back onto a platform.
An abyss below.


A deadly blade stroke.
Maimed by Vader’s blood red blade.
“There is no escape.”


“I’ll never join you!”
And now the truth is revealed…
“I am your Father.”


“That’s impossible!”
“…we can rule the galaxy
as father and son…”


Calm comes over Luke.
A decision has been made.
He lets go…and falls.


Upside-down again
Luke has nowhere else to go.
One option remains.


Calling to Leia,
Luke reaches out with the Force.
His sister responds.

Haiku Addendum:
in the next film, they will learn
that they are siblings.

Haiku Addendum:
…but pay attention and you
can figure it out. 😉

Haiku Addendum:
Seriously, “Empire”
gives you the info.


Luke gets a new hand!
And Lando wears Han’s clothing.
Did Hobbie survive?


Meanwhile, on Hoth…
the one-armed Wampa adjusts
to a one-armed life. 

Luke maims the Wampa.
And Vader maims Skywalker.
Quite interesting…

This post is Part 2 of 3 in a special three-week version of Haikuesday exploring Luke Skywalker in the Original Star Wars Trilogy. Be on the lookout next Tuesday for for the final installement with haiku about Luke in Return of the Jedi!

Luke Skywalker (ANH)

 

Haikuesday: Luke Skywalker (ANH)

Tatooine farm boy.
Dreaming of a greater life.
Craving adventure.


Bad motivator.
3PO suggests R2.
“What about that one?”


As he cleans R2,
Luke stumbles on a message:
“You’re my only hope.”


Binary Sunset.
A New Hope baptized by Light.
Arise, Skywalker.


“I wish I’d known him.”
Star pilot. Warrior. Friend.
Tales of a Father.


Jawa Massacre.
Imperial Stormtroopers.
A burning homestead.


Stopped by Stormtroopers.
“Not the droids you’re looking for.”
A Jedi mind-trick.


Crossing the threshold.
The Mos Eisley Cantina.
A hero’s journey.


Baba. Evazan.
They don’t like Luke very much.
Old Ben saves the day.


With the blast-shield down
Luke is blinded by his doubts
but takes his first steps.


“The Princess? She’s here?”
“What are you talking about?”
“We’ve got to help her.”


Luke has an idea.
Han thinks it’s a bad idea.
Chewie is just mad.


“I’m Luke Skywalker.”
The hero to the rescue!
Leia is just chill.


Death Star Compactor.
A one-eyed beast tries to eat
the youthful hero.


Chased by Stormtroopers,
a hero swings a Princess
across a chasm.

Haiku Addendum:
 Princess Leia could have done
all the heroics.

Haiku Addendum:
Leia was just letting Luke
play the hero part.


Red and Blue collide.
The sacrifice of Old Ben.
“Run Luke, Run!” Ben’s voice.


A mentor is mourned.
Skywalker struggles with loss.
“Can’t believe he’s gone.”


“Got him, I got him!”
“Great kid, don’t get cocky,” the
smuggler declares.


Pleading with Solo,
Luke learns some are driven by
self-preservation.


Childhood friend: Biggs.
Skywalker and Darklighter.
X-Wing Red Squadron.


“Red Five Standing By.”
He wanted more out of life.
Well, he got his wish…


Running the gauntlet.
Protected by Biggs and Wedge.
Going full throttle.


Biggs dead. Wedge knocked out.
Luke is pursued by Vader,
his father’s killer.


“Use the Force…Let go.”
From the beyond, Old Ben speaks.
Faith in something Great.


Han Solo Returns!
“Let’s blow this thing and go home.”
Torpedoes away.


The Death Star destroyed.
Luke and his friends celebrate.
The Force is with him.


Good news! This post is Part 1 of 3 of a special three-week version of Haikuesday exploring Luke Skywalker in the Original Star Wars Trilogy. Be on the lookout next Tuesday for haiku about Luke in The Empire Strikes Back!

Check Out Other Haikuesday 2.0 Posts Below:

Imperial Atrocities

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Princess Leia

There is a line in Star Wars: A New Hope which often gets lost in the greater scope of the film, a quote which points to the toughness of the movie’s lone female protagonist, Princess Leia. It comes when Darth Vader, the movie’s villain, speaks to Grand Moff Tarkin, the secondary villain in the film. Pacing back and forth as if annoyed, Vader admits that, “Her [Leia’s] resistance to the mind probe is considerable. It will be some time before we can extract any information from her.” Prior to this admission, we saw Vader enter Princess Leia’s prison cell with an interrogation droid floating behind him, a needle protruding from the droid and Leia’s face giving off subtle apprehension. Now, Vader states that it was for not, that the Princess has resisted this “mind probe” and that breaking her will take more time.

I have always loved this line; it has always resonated with me because it points directly to the fearless resolve which resides in the heart of Princess Leia. Even before Vader utters these words, we know that Leia is a force to be reckoned with, a whirlwind of confidence capable of holding her own. After all, it is Leia who was leading the mission to Tatooine to find Jedi General Obi-Wan Kenobi at the film’s outset. When the ship fell under attack, Leia created a new plan to secure Kenobi’s help EVEN AS IMPERIAL SOLDIERS STORMED THE VESSLE! Dispatching the droid R2-D2 to Tatooine’s surface, Leia awaited her inevitable capture, and even shoots/kills an Imperial stormtrooper before she is apprehended.

Leia and Vader
Leia confronts Darth Vader after her ship is attacked and she is captured.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Captured by the Empire’s white-armored soldiers, Princess Leia is escorted before Darth Vader, the nefarious and imposing villain we were JUST formally introduced to as he lifted a man by the neck and crushed his windpipe. The black-clad Vader towers above the petite, white dressed Princess, an obvious visual meant to represent the power of the evil Empire towering over the small, fledgling Rebellion. But Leia is far from intimidated. Oh no, not only does she stand tall next to this masked monster, she speaks first AND is the one who chastises him with palpable disdain!!!

In just a few frames, Leia presents herself as competent and fearless, especially under pressure. Rather than quivering and backing down, she boldy stands her ground against imposing odds. It is no wonder then that later, when Darth Vader assaults Leia, probing her mind for the “location of the Rebel base”, her resistance is “considerable.” Princess Leia is the embodiment of fearless resolve, the very heart and soul of the small Rebellion against an Empire which spans a galaxy. There was never a chance the mind probe would work, it was always going to be an act of futility on the part of Vader.

An Alternative Form of Persuasion

It is Grand Moff Tarkin who chooses a new tactic to extract the information they seek following the failure of the mind-probe. Rather than probing her mind, Tarkin gives Leia a choice: give up the location of the Rebel base OR watch as her home planet of Alderaan is destroyed by the Death Star superweapon. It is a brilliant move on Tarkin’s part, one that catches Leia off-guard. Pleading with him, the Princess turns into a supplicant as she tells the Grand Moff her planet is “peaceful” and has “no weapons.” Tarkin, of course, does not care and, presenting the question again, demands to know where the Rebel base is located. It is now that Leia gives in: “Dantooine. They’re on Dantooine.”

Leia Stares Down Tarkin
Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin square-off.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

That Leia gives in to Tarkin is shocking, but all the more painful as Leia must continue to stand and watch as Alderaan is destroyed. This is an unsurprising move on Tarkin’s part, an obvious example being made to the whole galaxy (and the Princess) that no one, not even “peaceful” worlds, are safe from Imperial military might. Now, the fearless young woman who stood her ground at the film’s opening, who chastised Vader and resisted his mind probe must steel herself as she watches her home world and her family perish in a ball of fire.

And yet, what we do not realize in this moment is that Leia has tricked Tarkin. Presented with the choice of Alderaan being destroyed OR the Rebellion being destroyed, the quick-thinking Princess chose a different route: an open-ended lie. We do not discover this right away, not until an Imperial officer informs Tarkin that scout ships discovered a deserted Rebel base on Dantooine. Furious, but more importantly humiliated, the Grand Moff orders the immediate execution of the Princess.

That Leia lies about the location of the Rebel base is brilliant, a narrative misdirect that leads Tarkin and the audience alike to THINK this strong-willed woman has caved under pressure. It is easy to forget this, as later we DO discover the real location of the Rebel base. But in this instance, we are led to believe Leia has given it up, that Dantooine is, in fact, the location. Instead, what we discover a few scenes later is that Princess Leia was in control the entire time, and while her plea to the Grand Moff that “Alderaan is peaceful” is certainly genuine, it, too, was also part of her quick thinking plan to save both Alderaan AND the Rebellion.

Awaiting Tarkin’s Fury

Knowing she has lied to Grand Moff, we can surmise that after being returned to her cell that the Princess sat and waited for Tarkin’s fury. Surely, too, she sat there in mourning, the loss of her world and family weighing heavily on her heart. One could hardly criticize the fearless female if she did break down and cry, although it is hardly necessary to know whether she did. The imagination is enough in this case.

Regardless, when we next see Leia she is reclining on the hard bench in her detention cell. Luke Skywalker, wearing stormtrooper armor, barges in to the rescue and, without missing a beat, the reclined Princess – certainly suspecting Tarkin’s fury has arrived – directs a shot of insulting sarcasm at the soldier: “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”  While Vader’s comment about her resistance to the mind-probe directly points to Leia’s strong-willed personality, this shot of sarcasm – coupled with the sarcasm she throws at Tarkin earlier (see video clip) – highlights her constant disposition towards her Imperial foes. Basically, Leia is always ready to level an attack against the Empire, even if that attack is in the form of words alone.

But she is also more than happy to criticize her own allies, in this case her rescuers: Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca. Cornered by Imperial soldiers in the detention center, the Princess chastises the films heroic men, noting that it “Looks like you managed to cut off our only escape route.” What makes this all the better is that the quick-thinking Princess – who, we should remember, was not anticipating a rescue – immediately comes up with a plan and puts it into action. Taking the blaster from Skywalker, Leia blasts open the wall across from her and demands that everyone jump into the garbage chute. Before objections can be raised, Leia is already on her way into the depths of a Death Star trash compactor.

To be perfectly honest, this has always been my favorite “Leia Moment” in A New Hope. On one hand, her action makes the film’s heroes – Luke and Han – look incredibly foolish for not actually thinking about HOW they should go about completing their rescue mission. On the other hand, and more importantly, this moment demonstrates a clear reversal in fortune for the Princess. When the film begins, and her ship falls under attack, the protocol droid C-3PO tells R2-D2, “There will be no escape for the Princess this time.” True in that moment, C-3PO is ultimately proven wrong as Leia not only escapes, but does so by taking control of her own rescue when she and her allies are quite literally backed into a corner.

Into the Garbage Chute
“Into the garbage chute, flyboy!” – Princess Leia
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

But there is an additional element of control which Leia brings to her escape: her decision to travel directly to the Rebel Base on Yavin 4. Why, if Leia knew the Millennium Falcon was being tracked, would she willingly lead the Empire to the Rebel Base, the location she resisted sharing with Vader and Tarkin? For some time, I felt this was a curious move on her part, a clear flaw in her thinking. Yet, the deeper I have considered it, the more I have realized that it is the safest choice given the stakes. With Alderaan destroyed and Obi-Wan Kenobi dead, Princess Leia is left with the only choice that makes any sense: getting the Death Star schematics stored in R2-D2 to the Rebel High Command as quickly as possible. A detour to another world, or a stop to acquire a new ship, runs the risk of Imperial capture, while traveling directly to the Rebellion ensures that the Death Star information (not to mention her own life) is protected. Besides, the sooner the schematics are delivered, the sooner the Rebellion can craft a plan of attack to destroy the planet-killing superweapon.

A Beacon of Hope

Once Leia and company arrive at the Rebel Base on Yavin 4 her role in the film becomes primarily observational. While Luke Skywalker will jump into an X-Wing to participate in the impending engagement, and Han Solo will get a reward and leave before the fight begins, Leia will stand in the Rebel Command Center watching the battle unfold on display screens. Admittedly, it is a bit odd that with the Death Star approaching and preparing to destroy the Rebel Base, Leia (along with others) choose to stand-around watching rather than evacuating. On some level, this sorta gives away what we know the inevitable outcome of the battle will be: the Rebels will win and the Death Star will be destroyed.

On another level, though, that Leia remains in the Command Center puts the final stamp of bravery on her fearless nature. With the Death Star approaching and preparing to destroy Yavin 4, it is conceivable that the Princess was asked (perhaps even ordered!) to evacuate before the battle begins, her safety and importance to the Rebellion being tantamount. Instead, by remaining, Princess Leia reveals once more that she is the very heart of the Rebel cause, a beacon of hope for the Rebel soldiers fighting the Imperial war machine. She may not be in an X-Wing or Y-Wing fighting the battle, nor giving orders as a General, but Leia’s stoic presence in the face of imminent death testifies not only to her personal resolve, but also the resolve of the Rebel Alliance.

Given her status and importance to the Rebellion, it is unsurprising that Princess Leia is the one to bestow medallions upon Luke Skywalker and Han Solo following the Battle of Yavin. With the Death Star destroyed, the two men (accompanied by Chewbacca) will march down the center of a great hall, flanked on both sides by the entire assembly of Rebels on Yavin 4. Arriving at the bottom of a staircase, the trio ascend the steps until they are standing before, albeit slightly below, the magnificently dressed Leia. This is the only point in the film in which Leia has changed clothing, and she is now without the iconic hair “buns.” Wearing a gown, with her hair in a braided updo and jewlery drapping her neck, Leia now, officially and formally, looks like a Princess. Never-the-less, while she is resplendent in her royal attire, we also know that there is far more to her than meets the eye, and that what makes Princess Leia truly regal is her considerable fearlessness and capacity for hope in the face of overwhelming odds.

The Princess
The Princess
Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

I’ve joined forces with some other exciting bloggers and YouTubers – Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2, Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room, Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous, Kalie of Just Dread-full, Mike of My Comic Relief and Green Onion of The Green Onion Blog – for a little salute to “Fiction’s Fearless Females.” Starting on International Women’s Day and going forward over the next couple months, a different contributor will offer their take on a favorite female who harbors a fearless spirit. Click on the links below to read about the other women being profiled.

Fiction’s Fearless Females

Ellen Ripley

Captain Janeway

Amy Pond

Wonder Woman

Scarlett

Rey

A Star Wars Celebration

My twelfth birthday party was a Star Wars celebration. Just ten days before I turned the big “one-two” (March 24, 1997) the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi was released in movie theaters. So on the Sunday before my birthday, a handful of friends and I were dropped off at the local theater to see Episode VI/

While there are plenty of gripes to be had with the Star Wars Special Edition – George Lucas’ re-mastered/edited Original Trilogy – as a kid I really had no issue with them. At the time, what got me excited was seeing Star Wars on a big screen, plain and simple. Besides, the Original Trilogy Special Edition were not just another set of films. Oh no, they were the pinnacle of cinematic brilliance in my young mind, a new way of experiencing Star Wars in a shape and form I had never imagined possible. Coupled with the knowledge that Lucas was, at the time, working on a new Star Wars trilogy, the Special Edition was, in many respects, my first step into a fundamentally different way of being a Star Wars fan.

I am unable to remember every detail about my twelfth birthday. Today, twenty-two years removed, many of the details are a blur. I can recall which friends I went with, but I do not remember what we talked about as we sat and waited for Return of the Jedi to begin. I am sure our conversation was brilliantly nerdy and immaculately adolescent. I would expect nothing less from almost 12-year-old me. Likewise, my memory of watching the film on that Sunday afternoon is spotty, and I am just not able to bring forth the emotions/feelings I had as the movie played.

Except, that is not entirely true. While memories fade as time moves on, I CAN recall precisely how I felt at the end of the film. Etched into my mind is the sheer joy, hope, and wonder of seeing the various celebrations which took place across the Star Wars galaxy following the Battle of Endor. While the original cut of Return of the Jedi ONLY included the Rebels celebrating with the Ewoks after the battle, in this new Special Edition of the film George Lucas inserted brief shots of galactic citizens flooding streets and celebrating together. As I sat there watching these Star Wars celebrations unfolding on Bespin, Tatooine, Naboo, and Coruscant, I was left feeling dizzy with excitement. Even now, as I think of that moment in the theater, the memory is visceral, I am still dizzy and overwhelmed.

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But why? Why, after watching two hours of Return of the Jedi, would the end, and the inclusion of these celebrations, resonate with me so deeply? Honestly, the answer is so dang obvious that it is almost underwhelming: it’s because humans and aliens across the galaxy were coming together to celebrate the downfall of the Galactic Empire.

I always enjoyed the original celebration at the end of Return of the Jedi, where the Ewoks and Rebels are dancing/singing together (and Lando is awkwardly clapping along to the “Ewok beat”) following their victory at Endor. But this Star Wars celebration was always small scale and localized, it was JUST the participants from the battle who were rejoicing. In the Special Edition, what we end up seeing is the news of the Endor victory cascading across the galaxy: another Death Star destroyed, the Imperial fleet in tatters, and most importantly, the Emperor dead. On Coruscant, in the heart of the Imperial capital, fireworks were launched and statues torn down. On Naboo, Gungans danced and shouted “Wesa free!” Seeing these celebrations taking place on different planets expanded the impact of what the Rebellion had accomplished not for themselves, but for the galaxy writ-large. In that moment, as I sat transfixed by the sights and sounds of these Star Wars celebrations, I was transported across the vast expanse of the Star Wars galaxy and was given the chance to truly experience just how important the Rebel cause, and victory, was for average people. 

George Lucas gets a lot of flak for choices he made with the Special Edition but to this day I am incredibly grateful – as a Star Wars fan and a person – for the addition of these celebrations at the end of Return of the Jedi. On a day I was having a Star Wars celebration of my own, getting to witness the joy of individuals within Star Wars celebrating the defeat of the Empire was truly special. 

Forgotten Faith: Doubting the Sacred

What Luke Skywalker accomplishes in the climactic final Act of Star Wars: A New Hope is nothing short of miraculous. Tasked with the responsibility of destroying the Empire’s planet killing Death Star, to succeed and win the day Skywalker unexpectedly gives himself over to the mystical energy field known as the Force. Doing so at the behest of the recently “deceased” Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, young Luke puts his faith in something greater than his available technology (or luck, or logic and reason), allowing the sacred and mysterious energy to guide his actions. In doing so, Skywalker not only saves the galaxy by destroying the Death Star, but also takes a giant leap of faith into a realm of wondrous possibility. As Skywalker speeds back to the Rebel base after the battle station explodes, Kenobi speaks to the young pilot from “the beyond”, reminding Luke that “the Force will be with you, always.” Luke Skywalker, farmer-turned Rebel pilot-turned galactic hero, will always have the Force as his ally.

Yet, when we once again meet Luke in The Empire Strikes Back three years after his leap of faith and heroic deed, the young man has all but forgotten the Force is with him.

After putting his faith in the Force in A New Hope, one would anticipate that when we meet Skywalker again that he will have started to more fully develop his understanding of, and connection to, the Force. This, however, is not the case, and is actually hinted at early in The Empire Strikes Back as Luke hangs upside down in the Wampa’s lair (having been ambushed and knocked unconscious by Hoth’s apex predator). His lightsaber protruding from the snow a few feet away, Luke’s initial instinct is to desperately grab for his weapon, and only concentrates on using the Force to bring the weapon to him once he recognizes the blade is out of reach.

 

Luke Wampa Cave
Luke hangs upside down in the Wampa’s lair.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Luke’s use of the Force in this instance reminds the audience of his connection to the energy field while likewise foreshadowing the lessons he will learn when he makes his way to Dagobah in the film’s second act. After all, in the Wampa’s lair we see for the very first time that one can move objects using the Force. Later in the film, this reality will be expanded, with Luke moving boulders and the ancient Jedi Master Yoda using the Force to move Luke’s X-Wing Starfighter.

The episode in the Wampa’s lair likewise foreshadows the doubt and disconnect Luke will display, with respect to the Force, when he travels to the Dagobah system to learn from Yoda. The Force is certainly with him, but at the outset of The Empire Strikes Back it is a curious afterthought, a seemingly forgotten aspect of his being. Even after bringing the lightsaber to him in the lair, the Force seems to fade away as panic sets in, Luke maiming the Wampa and anxiously fleeing the snowy cave.

At the end of A New Hope, Luke was the victorious hero who we last saw receiving a medal for destroying the dreaded Death Star. Now, only a short way into The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker stumbles out of the Wampa’s lair, his flight response fully in control. Unsurprisingly, Luke will succumb to the harsh elements on Hoth, collapsing into the snowy Tundra. Face down in the snow (see featured image above), his body surely experiencing the effects of hypothermia, it is here and now that Obi-Wan Kenobi curiously chooses to re-appear. Calling to the (freezing) young man, Kenobi appears in astral form and commands Luke to “go to the Dagobah system” where he will learn the ways of the Force from Yoda. 

Crashing into a Swamp

It is Luke’s journey to Dagobah that serves as the surest example of his mystical disconnect. Consider that as Luke flies his X-Wing into the planet’s atmosphere – the very same X-Wing he piloted to destroy the Death Star! – he relies entirely on the starfighter’s technology to guide him to the planet’s surface. “All the scopes are dead. I can’t see a thing…” he exclaims as he descends into the thick, dense atmosphere/fog covering the planet. The technology at his disposal fails him, and [a panicked] Luke does not call upon the Force to serve as his guide. It is no wonder he crashes into the swamp.

Luke Crashes on Dagobah
Luke stands on the nose of his X-Wing after crashing in the swamp on Dagobah.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

In turn, what makes this scenario all the more fascinating is that Dagobah is teeming with life, and as Yoda will explain to Luke, it is life which makes the Force grow. “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter,” the elderly Master will note once young Skywalker has started his rigorous Jedi training. Luke, we know from his actions in A New Hope, already has a special connection to the Force, an ability to destroy a planet killing superweapon thanks to faith alone. Never-the-less, piloting his X-Wing to Dagobah, Luke Skywalker is incapable of navigating his way to the surface of a planet glowing with the radiance of the Force.

In the three years between the end of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker has chosen to ignore, or has simply forgotten, his connection to the Force. Or, perhaps over time he began to doubt the mysterious energy field, placing more trust in technology than on the mystical source of his power. Indeed, Luke express such doubt to Yoda – “you ask the impossible”, the young man will exclaim when given a Force-specific task – and Yoda will note that it is Luke’s doubt, his inability to believe in the possibility of the impossible, which makes him fail.

Whatever the reason for Luke’s disconnect with the Force – be it doubt, forgetfulness, ignorance, or something else entirely – from a narrative perspective it is a profound way of highlighting that even after becoming a hero one can still face incredible challenges. Luke may have relied on the Force to destroy the Death Star, but he must also face great external/internal struggle to ascend beyond a singular act of heroism to become truly heroic. In fact, The Empire Strikes Back goes to great lengths to show Luke stumbling, being knocked down, and crashing time and time again as he embarks on this new path of ascendance, towards becoming a Jedi Knight. Consider the following:

  • Luke is knocked off his Tauntaun when the Wampa attacks.
  • He falls from the ceiling of the Wampa’s lair.
  • He stumbles over a snow drift as he escapes the lair, and later falls to the ground as he walks across Hoth’s desolate tundra.
  • His Snowspeeder crashes when it is struck by a laser blast.
  • After destroying an AT-AT using his lightsaber and a thermal detonator, he unhooks his harness and falls far to the ground below.
  • Piloting his X-Wing, he crashes into the swamp on Dagobah.
  • Exiting his X-Wing, he jumps into the swampy marsh and must crawl up the muddy embankment.
  • When he is doing his first handstand during his Jedi training, moving large rocks while Yoda sits on his feet, Luke becomes distracted and falls.
  • Later, doing another handstand, suspending a number of containers and his droid R2-D2 in the air, he again becomes distracted once again.
  • As he battles Darth Vader he is knocked into the carbon-freezing chamber; he is blasted out of a window; stumbles to the ground and barely escapes Vader’s next attack; and falls, by choice, into the great abyss at the center of Cloud City after learning he is Vader’s son (presumably choosing death rather than continuing to face his father).

After falling into the abyss on Cloud City, Luke ends up literally hanging below the city on a weather vane, grasping desperately with his one hand (the other had been cut off, along with his lightsaber, by his father) for the door above him. Even here, in this desperate situation, the literal and metaphorical lowest point in his life, Luke forgets his connection to the Force, instead trying to climb to safety with his single hand. Unsurprisingly, Luke once again slips and begins to fall, this time only being saved by his legs (which catch the weather vane).  Just as he was hanging upside down in the Wampa’s lair at the beginning of the film, at the end of the film Luke is once again in a desperate situation hanging upside down.

Luke Weather Vane
Luke hangs upside down from a weathervane below Cloud City. Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

In a sense, this is the most appropriate metaphor for the existential situation Luke Skywalker finds himself in throughout The Empire Strikes Back – his heroic journey has quite literally been turned upside down. Where he gave himself willingly to the Force in A New Hope, placing his faith in something greater, in The Empire Strikes Back he stumbles and falls as he attempts to rekindle, and grow, in his understanding of and relationship with the Force. Eager to learn about the sacred energy field in A New Hope, Luke’s forgetfulness and doubt are why he crashes and fails in The Empire Strikes Back.

Luke Skywalker: The Loss of Innocence

Frantic to return to his homestead to warn his family about an impending Imperial raid, Luke arrives too late. Slowing down in his landspeeder, the young man leaps out and calls to his uncle Owen and aunt Beru as black smoke billows from his burning home. Scanning the destruction, Luke locks eyes on the smoldering carcasses of his guardians. Not only was he too late, but the extermination was absolute. Luke may have expected, as he sped closer to home and could see the smoke on the distant horizon, that he would find the limp bodies of Owen and Beru. But he surely did not expect such an abhorrent scene – the grotesque, distorted skeletons of his loving uncle and aunt. One cannot help but wonder -and certainly the thought must go through Luke’s mind – if his uncle and aunt suffered in their final moments of life, tortured by the pain of being burned alive.

Grotesque
The grotesque corpses of Owen and Beru.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

This short but disturbing moment in A New Hope is one that never fails to move and pain me. Admittedly, the event is a narrative necessity, albeit a disturbing one, a way of jettisoning Luke from the confines of his childhood connections into a larger world. Seeking adventure and desiring to leave home, even petitioning his defiant Uncle at dinner the night before to allow him to leave, Luke’s adolescent dreams can not be fulfilled. There is no longer any resistance standing in his way and he can join Obi-Wan Kenobi on his valiant quest to defeat the Empire.

And yet, as the scene concludes with Luke standing there in the quiet desolation of his childhood as the smoke billows and the carcasses continue to smolder, I have always wondered: what did Luke do next?

Skywalker Alone
What did Luke do after this moment?

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

This is not a question that demands a definitive answer. In fact, I would be furious if the Lucasfilm Story Group was to provide an “official” or “canonical” account regarding Luke’s actions (or his thoughts/feelings) when the scene concludes. On one level, this is because this scene in A New Hope, which we can link with Luke’s sad return to Obi-Wan and his admission that he can now join the Jedi Master’s journey, work with seamless fluidity even though they are separated. We do not need to be told what Luke did in the interval because the narrative intention in A New Hope is to move Luke from one stage of life to the next. The innocence of his childhood is literally destroyed and he will now venture forth into the responsibilities of adulthood.

On another level, any “official” explanation would usurp the imaginative faculties of fans, taking away the opportunity for one to insert their own thoughts and feelings into the heart-wrenching moments before, during, and after Luke arrives. Not knowing what Luke does, or the emotional turmoil he experiences, is in many respects what makes the death of Owen and Beru so powerful. Without explanation, other than the pained look on young Skywalker’s face as he views the carnage of his familiar surroundings, we are left to fill in the gaps, all of which enables our own, individualized connections with Luke, and the film, to flourish.

And so, the question – what did Luke do next? – percolates in my mind precisely because my imaginative faculties, aided by the emotion which the scene evokes inside of me, consistently arrives at a number of possible explanations. Just as I can believe Luke simply turned around, walked back to his speeder and left his home, I can just as easily imagine that Luke feel to the ground and broke down in tears. Or maybe Luke dropped to his knees and screamed, bellowing out the agony and guilt of not being there to protect his loving family.

Perhaps Luke sprung into stoic action, choosing to carefully bury the bodies as he internally contemplated the loss of his innocent and simple life. Digging graves next to those of his great uncle Cliegg and great aunt Shmi, Luke placed the wrapped bodies of uncle Owen and aunt Beru in graves he methodically dug. The burial complete, Luke returned to his land speeder and drove off into the Tatooine desert, taking nothing but the memories of his family, his home, and his youth with him.