Death Star

The Imperial March

When the new Star Wars ComLINKS topic for October 2017 – Favorite Musical Score –  was announced over at Anakin and His Angel I knew I had to jump in and participate. For a while now, I have been thinking about writing a bit more about the music that accompanies Star Wars, the iconic compositions of John Williams that give the original trilogy gravitas and have also influenced other Star Wars composers. It is safe to say – and really a no-brainer – that without the music of Williams, Star Wars would be much different. But I will leave a larger conversation of the music of Star Wars to another person, or at least save it for another occasion. For now, with the ComLINKS topic in mind, I am excited to share my thoughts/feelings on Favorite Musical Score in Star Wars. And, of course, it’s “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme).”

The word “theme” is appropriate here because, let’s face it, I consistently return to The Empire Strikes Back to discuss my favorite aspects of Star Wars. It should really come as no surprise, then, that my favorite score would also come from my favorite Star Wars film. Naturally I love Star Wars across the board, but my deep affection for The Empire Strikes Back – embedded within me as a child – is the true grounding of my Star Wars adoration. That being the case, the issue at hand is not that my favorite musical score comes from The Empire Strikes Back, but rather, why is this particular score from the film’s soundtrack my favorite and not another?

To be entirely blunt, “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)” is my favorite score because it is established as the de facto anthem of the Galactic Empire. As a child, I was fascinated by the Empire, having a “Casterfoian” (google “Casterfo”) interest in the baddies of the Star Wars universe. While I knew the Empire was evil, and I celebrated the destruction of the Death Star in A New Hope with the Rebels, The Empire Strikes Back introduced me to a different way of viewing/experiencing the Empire. No longer were they simply the bad guys with a massive moon-sized space station but, instead, they were the bad guys who had Probe Droids, Super Star Destroyers, Imperial Walkers, Snowtroopers, TIE Bombers, and more. Even though they took a big hit in A New Hope, these baddies were anything but knocked out, and still had the means to level a crushing blow to the Rebel Alliance on the planet Hoth. And, to top it off, the Empire now had distinct piece of music – doubling as the theme for the villainous Darth Vader – to capture their harsh, galactic reach.

To this day, the raw power of “The Imperial March” continues to captivate and hold me not only because it originates in The Empire Strikes Back, but because I have come to appreciate it on a deeper level. As a child, I was unaware that the piece was influenced by Chopin’s “Funeral March” and Gustav Holst’s “Mars, the Bringer of War.” And yet, today, I am equally captivated by these pieces, all thanks to my childhood enjoyment of the Empire/Vader’s powerful anthem. Plus, this is also the case with a number of others scores from Star Wars, my enjoyment of these leading me to a more profound appreciation of other classical pieces.

At the same time, while “The Imperial March” is laced with childhood meaning and has led me to its musical influences, it also continues to be a piece that, quite frankly, captures me and takes hold each time I hear it. The repetition of the strings in the opening riff, crisp and dark (thanks to it being in a minor key), captures my attention until the brass presents the iconic melody in the fifth bar, gripping me with its clear-cut strength and power. Having washed over me like a wave in a storm, there is no escape. The moment I hear the opening to “The Imperial March,” and the iconic brass melody which serves as a leitmotif for Empire and Vader has begun, I must continue to listen. It would be wrong to turn around, to stop the March from moving forward. And so, no matter the situation, I will always let “The Imperial March” continue…

…which is, in a very real sense, the point of the piece. “The Imperial March” is aptly named because it perfectly encompasses the forward progress of the Galactic Empire, a progression which is difficult to stop. The Empire, wounded as it was at Yavin IV, continues its march of terror, death, and destruction. And, of course, Darth Vader spearheads the Imperial march across the galaxy, hunting down those who wish to stop the Empire. But it cannot be stopped, it will not be stopped, and it is futile to even try.


This post is part of the Star Wars ComLINKS series. Check out more Star Wars ComLINKS over at Anakin and His Angelswcomlinksbanner1

Faith in Something Greater

Speeding down the Death Star trench in his X-Wing Starfighter, pursued by the villain Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker does something unexpected: he turns off his Starfighter’s targeting computer. Rebel leaders question Luke’s decision, asking him if something is wrong, but the young man responds simply and directly. “I’m alright,” he states, no further information provided. Nor could he provide explanation if he wanted, as time is of the essence and the reasoning for his decision, quite frankly, defies reason.

Only moments before turning off the computer, the tension in A New Hope’s climactic battle was amplified by conditions outside of Luke’s control. Leading his compatriots – Wedge Antilles and Biggs Darklighter – “full throttle” into the Death Star trench, the farm boy-turned-Rebel pilot soon finds himself alone. Taking a critical hit to his fighter, Antilles is ordered by Luke to pull out of the trench while Darklighter, a childhood friend whom Luke only just reconnected with, is killed. Already filled with anxiety that the audience and Rebel leaders alike could hear in his voice, Skywalker is now faced with the responsibility of destroying the planet killing Death Star entirely by himself.

Anticipation continuing to mount, the distance to his target seeming to close at an incredibly slow pace, Luke suddenly hears the voice of his recently deceased mentor Obi-Wan (Ben) Kenobi. Speaking from “the beyond,” the old Jedi Master tells the young pilot to “Use the Force.” Confused, Skywalker continues to look through his targeting computer apparatus only to be implored by Kenobi to “let go” and to “trust me.” Finally understanding, he switches off his computer.

TargetingComputer
Luke Skywalker looks through his targeting computer.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

That Luke responds to Kenobi by turning off the computer is unexpected because one would anticipate that defeating the technological monstrosity that is the Death Star should require some form of technological assistance. After all, in order for the Rebel pilots to destroy the Empire’s “ultimate power in the universe” they must travel down a trench and fire their proton torpedoes with precision into an exhaust port that is only two meters wide. In turn, as the climactic battle unfolds, the audience is periodically allowed to witness the targeting system on the Death Star AND the targeting systems on the Rebel fighters, a cinematic maneuver which works to heighten tension. The entire battle is, in a very real sense, a race against time to see which side can be the first to use their technology to target and destroy their enemy, something we are constantly reminded of through A New Hope’s final act.

On this point, it’s worth remembering that Red Leader, commander of the Alliance X-Wing force, and presumably the best X-Wing pilot in the battle, does fire a torpedo shot at the Death Star’s weak spot using his targeting computer. In keeping with the film’s narrative, these torpedoes miss the mark so that Luke could lead his own deadly trench run. And yet, Red Leader’s miss is important for another salient reason: it shows that even relying on available technology does not guarantee success, and if Luke is to be heroic,he will also need to rely on a great deal of luck. Or, something far greater than luck.

Rather than depending upon on his artificially constructed computer to show him the target, or hoping he somehow gets lucky, Luke heeds Kenobi’s words to use the Force, the immanent and mystical energy field that pervades the galaxy. After only a moment of hesitation, Skywalker takes a leap of faith, believing he will succeed by relying on that which, we know, he has only begun to explore. Only days before this moment Skywalker knew absolutely nothing about the Force, nor was he aware of his strong connection to it. Now, at this most critical of moments, when failure is not an option, where the fate of the Rebellion and galaxy rest son his shoulders, the young pilot defies all logic by allowing himself to succumb to the ebb and flow of this mysterious Force. In this unexpected moment, precisely because he gives himself over to something greater than himself – or technology, or reason, or luck – Luke Skywalker takes a giant step forward into a realm of possibility more profound and amazing than he, or even we, could have imagined. And in doing so he becomes the hero he was always destined to be. 

The Audacity of Solo

I’ve been thinking a lot about Han Solo lately. No, not the Han Solo movie that is being made, but the man we first meet in A New Hope. From his first appearance in the Mos Eisley Cantina, Han Solo is established as a cocksure, braggadocious, greedy, self-involved, loner whose only priority in life is himself. After all, from a purely symbolical angle, there is a reason his last name is “Solo” and it is hardly coincidental that a bounty hunter named “Greedo” confronts the Captain. Time and again throughout A New Hope, these qualities are reinforced, Solo’s words and actions proving that his instinct for self-preservation can only be superseded by the desire for a little extra money. As we know, the only reason Solo agrees to help free Princess Leia from the clutches of the Empire is because she is rich. 

I could, of course, go on and list every moment Captain Solo acts self-involved and greedy in A New Hope but I really don’t need to. You’ve all watched the film enough to know that, at his core, Han Solo embodies all of these qualities. But what makes these qualities stand out even more is the backdrop of A New Hope, the overarching story about a small band of Rebels struggling to free the galaxy from tyranny and oppression. From the very start of the movie, we know what these Rebels are up against: a massive, technologically powerful Empire that will stop at nothing to maintain complete control over the galaxy. The juxtaposition between Rebellion and Empire is clear and obvious as A New Hope unfolds, and is made all the more poignant when we see the size of the Empire’s Death Star battle station and its planet destroying capability. 

hansoloanewhope2
Solo, speaking with Luke Skywalker, loads his reward while the Rebels prepare for battle.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

When the narrative-arc of A New Hope finally leads the audience to the Rebel’s hidden base – which the Empire has been  searching for – setting up the battle that will determine the fate of the galaxy, Han Solo wants nothing to do with the Rebels or the mammoth task that awaits. But this is hardly a surprise, he had only ever been in it for the money. In fact, it is fitting that while the Rebels scramble around a hanger, preparing to fight for their survival and for the fate of the galaxy, Han Solo is standing in plain sight with the money he was promised. Approaching Solo, Luke Skywalker implores the smuggler to join the Rebel cause, to lend his skills as a pilot to the fight that is about to begin. Solo’s reply fits his character perfectly:”What good is a reward if you ain’t around to use it? Besides, attacking that battle station is not my idea of courage. It’s more like, suicide.” In a sense, this single line encapsulates the greed and self-preservation of Han Solo, his need to take care of himself. Implored by the hero of the story to join the Rebels, Han Solo flatly rebukes Skywalker, proof that he values himself and his money more than the lives of others, even those he would call friends. 

So, the climactic engagement begins, the Rebel allies fighting against all odds to destroy the Empire’s planet-busting battle station. As one would expect, the Rebels fail time and again to destroy the station, leading to the final “attack run” led by the young Skywalker. A wing-man killed, another abandoning the attack due to damage on his fighter, and his droid partner destroyed, Skywalker finds himself alone as he speeds down a Death Star trench to deliver his payload of torpedoes. Just as Skywalker is about to be destroyed by the villain, Darth Vader, a shot rings out that destroys one of Vader’s own wing-men, a shot fired by Han Solo who comes flying in from above. Solo’s sudden presence disorients Vader’s other wing-man, the pilot slamming into his leader and causing the Dark Lord of the Sith to careen off into space. The path cleared by Solo, the young Skywalker fires the heroic shot that, only moments later, causes the battle station to explode. 

hansoloanewhope3
Han Solo comes to the rescue, guns a blazin’ as he excitedly announces his arrival.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

I have often thought about the fact that Solo – cocksure, braggadocious, greedy, selfish – arrives at just the right moment to help Skywalker defeat the Empire. Narratively it makes perfect sense, just the right amount of tension building until, out of nowhere, the suave smuggler – whom we thought had given up on the Rebels – swoops in to assist the film’s young hero. But what we don’t get in the story is the reason for Han Solo’s change of heart, his internal thoughts about why he puts himself at great risk – something so counter to his life philosophy – to help Luke and the Rebels. Then again, I think it better that Solo’s change of heart not be over-explained. In a way, it is far more powerful to imagine what Han might have been thinking, for each audience member to fill in the gaps for her/himself. 

But what we should not lose sight of in our personal speculating is the reality that in choosing to help Luke and the Rebels, Han Solo acted selflessly. Putting aside his penchant for self-preservation and ignoring the reward he was given, Solo had the audacity to give his life to a cause greater than himself. In doing so, Han Solo became a hero. 

And so, as I think about Han Solo, I cannot help but consider the lesson we can learn from his act of selflessness. After all, as a form of modern-day myth, it is not enough for Star Wars to just entertain us. Rather, as myth, it is necessary for Star Wars to show us how we must live as part of a community and world, as part of something greater than ourselves. And what Han Solo teaches us is exceedingly necessary, especially in our consumer-driven and selfie-obsessed culture. Just as Han has a change of heart – putting his riches and life aside for the sake of others – so too must we do the same in our daily lives when the opportunities arise. We can, each one of us, be a hero, going beyond ourselves to assist our local communities, our nations, and our world. It is not enough to just sit back and enjoy the spoils of life and only look out for ourselves. No, like Han we are called to use our individual skills and join the cause of destroying the “Death Stars” of our time: homelessness, poverty, hunger, oppression, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Antisemitism, warfare, genocide, nuclear proliferation, and more. 

Cute, Funny, and Very Deadly

“Yub Yub”

As a little kid, I loved the Ewoks. My reason for loving them, simple! The Ewoks were adorable. Okay, well that and they acted silly and funny. Sure, as an adult I may not laugh out loud at the funny things the Ewoks do or say, but I definitely did as a child and I can still appreciate the silliness as an adult.

Leia begins to remove her helmet as Wicket munches on a snack. Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Leia begins to remove her helmet as Wicket munches on a snack.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Take Wicket as an example, the Ewok who pokes Princess Leia awake with his spear. Wicket curious but hesitant as he interacts with her at first, but when Leia takes off her helmet Wicket leaps up, readying his spear and preparing for the worst. All of this because she took off a helmet! Why would he be afraid of a helmet!?!?! Ha! How ridiculous!

Granted, I couldn’t appreciate as a child that maybe Wicket had never seen a helmet before, or perhaps he was just startled by her action. But who cares, little kid me didn’t need to think that hard about the scene. All I had to do was sit back and enjoy, which I still do even if I am not in tears from laughter.

Well, I DO still laugh when Wicket lassos himself with a sling during the battle of Endor. Silly Wicket…

Another example of Ewok hilarity: they bow down and worship the whiny, always complaining C-3PO as a god. C-3PO of all characters! Even Han is taken-aback by “goldenrods” newly christened divine status.

And then there is the moment when the Ewok’s prepare to make Han and Luke the main course in a feast honoring their new god though, as a kid, I never worried that Han or Luke would be consumed(though it would have been a heck of a plot twist in the film if Lucas HAD gone down that road). Naw, what made that scene so great, and what still makes it one of my favorites, is just how absurd the entire situation is – the Ewoks sing a little tune while they stack logs for the feast. Han tries blowing out a torch. Luke makes 3PO “fly” which terrifies the Ewoks and sends them running in all directions. The whole scene is just as hilariously silly!!!

Han attempts to blow out the torch. Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Han attempts to blow out the torch.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Well, hilariously silly but also REALLY messed up. The Ewoks were going to EAT Han and Luke. Wait, sorry, they were going to BURN THEM ALIVE AND EAT THEM. Let that sink in for a second…

This isn’t to say that the scene isn’t meant to be funny. Rather, when the layers of silliness and humor are stripped away in this and other scenes, the Ewoks turn out to be different than we first thought.

In fact, let’s chat about their tactics in the Battle of Endor.

Cuddly but Deadly

Consider this: the Ewoks bludgeon A LOT of Imperial soldiers to death with clubs and spears. Remember when those two Ewoks take control of the AT-ST with Chewie? While our favorite Wookie pulls one of the pilots out of the cockpit, tossing him over the side, the two Ewoks jump in and beat the hell out of the other pilot.

And that is only two Ewoks out of…hundreds? Thousands? Here is a list of things that other Ewoks do during the Battle of Endor:

  • Ewoks swing from vines, throwing two Stormtroopers down a hill where they are then pounced on by other Ewoks who start clubbing them.
  • One Ewok slings a Stormtrooper around the neck, an act that presumably causes the trooper to suffocate.
  • A group sneaks up on Stormtroopers firing at Han and Leia, beating them with clubs and spears (see the featured image at the top of the post).
  • Other Ewoks lasso a speeder bike with rope, sending the bike and its pilot spinning around, and eventually crashing into, a tree. You can hear him scream the entire way to his fiery death.
  • Still others “clothes-line” the pilot of another bike with a rope suspended between two trees – there is no way that trooper’s neck was not instantaneously snapped.
  • A handful of Ewoks standing on a massive log drop rocks on Stormtroopers below them.
  • They send massive logs swinging into the cockpit of an AT-ST, crushing the two soldiers inside.
Ewoks throw rocks onto Stormtroopers. Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Ewoks throw rocks onto Stormtroopers.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

What’s my point? Well, the Ewoks are certainly adorable and silly, but they are also incredibly dangerous and deadly. Primitive they might be, but they are clearly effective warriors, so skilled in the art of war that they can take on a technologically advanced foe in a head-to-head fight.

So, with this thought in mind, I am gonna just come right out and say this: the Ewoks were planning on fighting a war against the Empire before Han and his strike team arrived. Or, perhaps they had already started the fight, and the Rebels just showed up in the middle of it.

Seriously, think about it. Haven’t you ever wondered how the Ewoks were able to prepare for the battle so quickly? It isn’t like they started stacking those massive logs twenty minutes before the battle began, or built catapults right before they launched their attack. To be fair, some of those logs and catapults were surely built and perhaps in place already to deal with an occasional Gorax threat, but as a whole, in my mind, the Ewoks were preparing for a while, waiting for the moment to strike by strategically placing their weapons near and around the bunker. Maybe that day on Endor was not the day they had been planning to launch an all-out war, but the day found them.

But that didn’t really matter because they were clearly ready for it. The battle begins when they decide it is time. The trumpets sound and the Ewoks emerge from their hiding places to shoot arrows and throw spears at Imperial soldiers. As the battle progresses, there are other Ewoks in trees spotting and signaling their comrades, while others lead Imperial troops into ambushes.

Romba mourns the death of Nanta Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Romba mourns the death of Nanta
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Logistically, strategically, tactically, the Ewoks were the superior foe in this fight. Sure, some Ewoks die in the fight, like poor Nanta who is mourned in the moment by his comrade Romba. But as warriors they know the risk and are prepared for what awaits them in battle.

But hold on a second, if they are such skilled warriors, then there is a very good possibility that Ewok tribes on Endor have gone to war with one another countless times. They had to learn the art of war somehow, right? Setting traps for Gorax, and occasionally killing one, would hardly be enough to train them in the ways of warfare. Just picture that – two Ewok tribes fighting a forest battle. It would be the most adorably bloody battle ever!

Oh, and chances are the victors eat their dead enemies, be them Ewok or Imperial. I just hope the Ewoks of Bright Tree Village didn’t feed any dead Stormtroopers to the Rebels after the big win.

Then again, Chewie probably wouldn’t mind. He is always thinking with his stomach.


Leave a comment and check out other Ewok Week posts:

The Imperial Talker Presents: Ewok Week

The Music of the Ewoks

Ewok Jerky

Ewok Haikus

Fan Feelings on Ewoks

Ewoks Battling for Endor

The Scout

Reflections on a Starfighter

“Red Leader, this is Gold Leader.”

“I copy, Gold Leader.”

“We’re starting for the target shaft now.”[i]

Flown by Luke in A New Hope, the X-Wing Starfighter is easily one of, if not THE, most iconic and easily recognizable fighters in the Star Wars galaxy, perhaps only competing for the top spot with the TIE Fighter.

Given the call sign “Red Five,” Luke magnificently piloted his X-Wing through the Death Star trench, narrowly escaping death and destroying the battle station just before it could fire its deadly, planet destroying weapon at the fourth moon of Yavin. Saving the day (with a little help from the Millennium Falcon), Luke flew away in his X-Wing the hero of the Battle of Yavin.

Honestly, who wouldn’t want to be an X-Wing pilot after seeing A New Hope for the first time? I bet kids in 1977 went crazy over Luke and his X-Wing!

Plus, imagine all of the little kids on the planet Aldera…crap, that planet was destroyed. Ummmm, imagine all of the little kids on the planet Chandrila hearing about the heroics of the Rebel pilot who destroyed the Death Star! Some of those little ones would surely want to grow up and join the Alliance fleet and be just like that pilot.

And what would they want to fly? AN X-WING!

Little Chandrilan brats! What about the Y-Wing!?!?!

I am just going to come right out and say it: If I was a pilot in the Rebel Alliance, I would want to fly the Y-Wing Starfighter.

Y-Wings of Gold Squadron fly down the Death Star trench Photo Credit - Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope

Y-Wings of Gold Squadron fly down the Death Star trench
Photo Credit – Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope

Actually, I wouldn’t just say that the Y-Wing is the fighter I would choose to fly for the Alliance, but that it is one of my favorite Starfighters in the Star Wars universe, period. A few others: the TIE Interceptor, the ARC-170, and the Naboo N-1 Royal Starfighter. These are all on a rotating basis as my favorites, but more often than not, the Y-Wing holds the top spot.

Sure, the Y-Wing is slow and lacks maneuverability, making it an easy target for faster Starfighters. In fact, playing the TIE Fighter computer game when I was growing up, I probably shot down more Y-Wings than any other Rebel ship. Yet, this fighter-bomber, with its sleek and somewhat odd looking design, has always held a place in my Star Wars loving heart ever since I first saw A New Hope.

As a kid, while I loved to watch Luke Skywalker and his X-Wing destroy the Death Star, I was equally captivated by these curious, Y-shaped ships that appear for only a few moments. We get to see the X-Wings of Red Squadron dogfight, but it is the Y-Wings of Gold Squadron that initially brave the trench in an attempt to destroy the battle station. We watch as Gold Leader, Gold Two, and Gold Five try to “stay on target” as they are pursued, and destroyed, by Vader and his wing men — and just like that, it is time for the X-Wings to make their runs.

Of course, one Y-Wing did survive the Battle of Yavin, which naturally strengthened my fascination, and always left me wondering how that single Y-Wing survived. Plus, I have always felt that whoever she/he was, that pilot deserved just as much praise as Luke.[ii] Heck, Han Solo got a medal and all he did was shoot down one TIE Fighter. I can imagine our lone surviving Y-Wing pilot did a bit more in the battle than Captain Solo. But I digress…

The survivors of the Battle of Yavin, INCLUDING A LONE Y-WING, fly away from the Death Star before it explodes. Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

The survivors of the Battle of Yavin, INCLUDING A LONE Y-WING, fly away from the Death Star before it explodes.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

When it comes right down to it, I hardly need to justify why I love the Y-Wing or any other Starfighter in Star Wars. The fact that I do love it, and think it looks really cool, should be all the justification that matters…which I suppoooose means I should be nicer to those Chandrilan kids who want to fly an X-Wing. If they love it, how am I to deny them?

As for me, I will stick with the Y-shaped craft. And with that, I leave you with this original haiku by yours truly:

Staying on target,

Y-Wings of Gold Squadron fly

Towards their sad demise

Be sure to leave a comment and tell me what Starfighter(s) you like!


[i] Dialogue taken from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

[ii] And so did Wedge Antilles, the other X-Wing pilot who survived the battle.

White Uniform Guy with a Mustache

“Of all the Jedi, why did I have to end up with Skywalker?” – Admiral Yularen 

Of all the iconic scenes in Star Wars: A New Hope, one that truly stands out to me is when Darth Vader chokes Admiral Motti due to Motti’s “lack of faith.” With an upraised hand, Vader begins to slowly crush Motti’s windpipe while the other Imperial officers at the table sit by and watch. Revealing that Vader has supernatural powers, and that he is even willing to turn these powers against his allies, this scene goes a long way towards bolstering Darth Vader’s status as an iconic villain.

But this post is not going to be about Vader. There will be plenty of those posts in the future. Rather, who I really want to focus on is the White Uniform Guy with a Mustache sitting to the right of Admiral Motti.

Admiral Motti in the foreground; Colonel/Deputy Director Yularen in the Background Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Admiral Motti in the foreground; White Uniform Guy in the background
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Mostly expressionless throughout the scene, his biggest reaction to what is happening comes when the choking takes place. However, this is not White Uniform Guy’s only scene in the film, as he also walks past Han, Luke, and Chewie when they are waiting for an elevator.

Two scenes, that is it. Who is this White Uniform Guy with a Mustache? What is his story?

Some May Know Him, Others May Not

Recently, I received a couple of new Lego Star Wars sets in the mail that I bought during the Lego May the Fourth sales event. During this event, Lego offers an exclusive promotional mini-figure if you spend a certain, not insignificant amount of money. I am not going to tell you how much I spent, but let’s just say I received the mini-figure and we will leave it at that, okay? Great!

Here is a picture I took of my new, totally sweet mini-figure:

LEGO Colonel (or Admiral) Wullf Yularen Photo Credit: The Imperial Talker

OH MY GOSH, IT’S WHITE UNIFORM GUY WITH A MUSTACHE! You had to see that coming…

Okay, so White Uniform Guy with a Mustache is actually a character by the name of Wulff Yularen. You would be hard-pressed to find Yularen by name in the film credits of A New Hope, though, because he isn’t actually there.

Portrayed by B-list actor Robert Clarke in the film, Mr. Clarke did not receive a film credit for his role as Yularen for, so far as I can tell at least, two reasons. The first is because a lot of extras in the film went uncredited. In fact, even James Earl Jones, the iconic voice of Darth Vader, did not receive a credit in the film.[i]

Colonel (or Admiral) Wullf Yularen  Photo Credit - Star Wars: A New Hope

Colonel/Deputy Director Wullf Yularen
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Secondly, the character Mr. Clarke was portraying was an unnamed background character at the time of filming. It would not be until the release of the Star Wars: Customizable Card Game (circa 1995) that the character Mr. Clarke portrayed would officially receive the name Wulff Yularen, as well as a very tiny snippet of back story as a Colonel in the Imperial Security Bureau (ISB).[ii] Though the Card Game no longer counts as part of the “official” Disney canon, Yularen and his back story have been maintained and even expanded.

From the Clone Wars to the Death Star

Wulff Yularen appears for his second stint in the Star Wars universe in The Clone Wars animated movie which was released before the first season of The Clone Wars animated series. Voiced by Tom Kane, Yularen, a Republic Admiral, is one of the first characters to debut in the film.

Admiral Yularen with Jedi General Anakin Skywalker. Photo Credit - Star Wars: The Clone Wars; Season 2 Episode 16

Admiral Yularen with Jedi General Anakin Skywalker.
Photo Credit – Star Wars: The Clone Wars; Season 2 Episode 16

Following the movie, Yularen would also appear in a number of episodes of the animated series itself, and new details about him would begin to emerge.

Throughout the Clone Wars, Admiral Yularen commanded Jedi General Anakin Skywalker’s flagship the Resolute. However, Yularen was not always thrilled to be working with the reckless, young Jedi (see the quote provided at the beginning of the post). None-the-less, Yularen would participate in a number of engagements in the war, including (to name a few): Christophsis, Quell, Ryloth, and Second Geonosis.

Though The Clone Wars animated series has ended, Yularen’s back story garnered a bit more development in the novel Tarkin from author James Luceno. In Tarkin, which takes place 5 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith, the reader discovers that after the Clone Wars ended, Yularen resigned his naval commission for the rank of Colonel in the ISB, and served as a liaison between the Bureau and Military Intelligence. In turn, at the end of the book, Yularen is promoted to Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence, a subset of Military Intelligence. As well, Colonel Yularen has also played critical roles in Timothy Zahn’s novel Thrawn, being a close confidant of the rising, Chiss officer, and also appears in an episode of Star Wars Rebels (Season 3, Episode 17 – “Through Imperial Eyes”). 

In A New Hope, then, Colonel/Deputy Director Yularen is an important intelligence figure serving aboard the Death Star. At this point, no official story has been established that explains his placement on the battle station, though one can imagine a number of reasons for the distinguished, albeit fateful posting.

Storytelling and Star Wars

Though on the surface of things his presence at the conference table on the Death Star still does not add a great deal of weight to the scene itself, Wulff Yularen’s backstory does contribute an additional dimension to the scene which did not originally exist. He may not participate in the dialogue itself, but he is now much more than the unnamed background character he used to be.

In a sense, Wulff Yularen’s character development points at the exciting intricacies of storytelling in the Star Wars universe. The fact that an unnamed background character can emerge from the shadows and be propelled into relevance is one of the many reasons that I continue to love Star Wars. Discovering something new about a character, particularly an unknown background character, and their connection to other individuals and events, is just one of the many reasons Star Wars remains so captivating. And perhaps even more importantly, this also creates different avenues for the imagination, as one is able to engage with and experience the stories in new and dynamic ways. Just think about all the other characters out there, new and old, who are waiting for their time to shine: to receive a name, a back story, the chance to be a promotional Lego mini-figure, and the ability to impact the way you and I experience Star Wars.

Of course, at least in my case, with new developments in Star Wars also come new thoughts and questions.

In the case of Wulff Yularen, I am left pondering a question that, without any of his added back story, would have never otherwise crossed my mind. In short, should I feel bad that he died on the Death Star? Knowing what I do about his background as a Republic officer, but also his loyalty to the Empire, how am I supposed to react to his death? Should I even care that he dies? Is it wrong for me to feel remorse for the death of a loyal follower of the Emperor? Or, did he get what he deserved when Luke’s proton torpedoes hit the main reactor?

Frankly, I am not really sure how to answer these questions.


[i] This was actually Mr. Jones own decision as he felt David Prowse, the actor inside the Vader costume, deserved all the attention.

[ii] I bet a number of you still have these cards from this card game! In fact, I know one friend of mine who had a ton of them…he knows who he is.