The Empire Strikes Back

Haikuesday: Millennium Falcon

These haiku are based
on “Millennium Falcon”
by James Luceno

Haiku Addendum:
obviously I’m kidding
so let’s begin here…


The “Falcon” is the
single most important ship
in all of Star Wars.

If you don’t agree,
well, that is perfectly fine.
Except, you are wrong.


Make: Corellian
YT-1300f
And sort of trashy.


Cockpit on the right…
…so how the hell does Solo
see ships to his left?

Haiku Addendum:
the cockpit placement seems like
a big design flaw.


A really fast ship:
it makes point five past light speed…
…whatever that means.


Easter Egg Alert!?!?!
Y’all see the “Falcon” over
Jedha in Rogue One!?!?!?!


“What a piece of junk.”
Luke insults Solo’s baby.
Han just doesn’t care.


A really fast ship:
It made the Kessel Run in
less than twelve parsecs.

Point of inquiry:
wasn’t it fourteen parsecs?
Someone go ask Rey.


Han’s best maneuver:
list lazily to the left.
Family Guy joke.


“You came in that thing,”
the Princess asks the Captain.
“Braver than I thought.”


Dorsal and Ventral.
Quad laser cannons blast TIEs.
Luke gets one; Han too.


Last ship to arrive
at the Battle of Yavin.
A Death Star Destroyed.


Inside Echo Base
Chewie and Han make repairs…
…a lot of repairs.


Tool: hydrospanner
Use: fixing broken “Falcons”
A space screw driver.


On the Avenger,
the “Falcon” hides in plain sight,
which is sort of odd.

Point of Inquiry:
how come no TIE pilots saw
the “Falcon” parked there?


On Cloud City we
learn that Calrissian used
to own the “Falcon.”


We never see Han
piloting his prized “Falcon”
in Episode VI.


A really fast ship:
Solo offers his baby
to Calrissian.


“She won’t get a scratch.”
“I got your word…not a scratch.”
She, ah, gets a scratch…


First ship to arrive
at the Battle of Endor.
A Death Star Destroyed.


Leading Endor charge.
The Millennium Falcon
blasts TIEs left and right.


The Endor gunners –
Two Rebels: Cracken and Blount
They deserve praise, too.


Lando and Nien Nunb
pilot the “Falcon” into
the Second Death Star.


Sub-light: Girodyne
Hyperdrive: An Isu-Sim
Power Core: Quadex


“The garbage will do,”
Rey says to Finn as they flee
First Order Fighters.


Stolen by Ducain,
then the Irving Boys, then Plutt,
then by Rey, then Han.


Stress on hyperdrive.
Ignition line compression.
Some moof-milker’s fault.


Now that Han is dead,
who technically owns his ship?
Leia? Chewie? Rey?

Haiku Addendum:
did Solo have a space will?
Maybe Ben gets it…


Haikuesday is a monthly series on The Imperial Talker, a new post with poetic creations coming on the first Tuesday of each month. The haiku topic is chosen by voters on Twitter so be sure to follow @ImperialTalker so you can participate in the voting. Now, check out these past Haikuesday posts:

Droids (February 2017)

Ahsoka Tano (March 2017)

Darth Vader (April 2017)

The Battle of Scarif (May 2017)

The Truce at Bakura (June 2017)

Queen Amidala (July 2017)

Ryloth (August 2017)

Cloud City (September 2017)

General Grievous (October 2017)

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

Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia (An Imperial Talker Review)

Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia, co-authored by Tricia Barr, Adam Bray, and Cole Horton, is at one and the same time intensely fascinating and slightly overwhelming. This latest addition to the catalog of Star Wars reference books contains a veritable mountain of images and information broken into five distinct chapters, each chapter having a handful of subsections. The breadth and depth of Star Wars knowledge in this book will certainly keep the more “die-hard” fan occupied for long periods of time, but might also leave the more casual fan feeling somewhat dizzy by the scope of what Star Wars has to offer. Even as a self-proclaimed die-hard fan, I readily admit that I felt a bit overwhelmed at times by all The Visual Encyclopedia has to offer. Still, this was and is hardly a reason not to explore the book. In fact, I encourage Star Wars fans of all types to do so, patiently and methodically working through the book so as to savor the journey to the summit of the Star Wars mountain.

So what exactly does this particular mountain of Star Wars knowledge contain? In the book’s foreword, Dennis Muren (Senior Creative Director, Industrial Light & Magic) notes that, “In this title you’ll see firsthand the thousands of objects that are inspired by our world, but are uniquely Star Wars.” And right he is, as this reference source presents through countless images and bits of information how the galaxy far, far away is derived from concepts and ideas that we are all familiar with on some level. Identifying specific categories of inquiry, the authors, as I already mentioned, organize the the Encyclopedia into five chapters: Geography, Nature, History, Culture, and Science and Technology. In this way, the book’s organization invites readers to begin in a chapter of their own choosing, beginning an exploration based on one’s personal interests in the real-world or Star Wars universe. Of course, one can also start on page one and simply go from page-to-page, but know that this isn’t required to grasp all the Encyclopedia since it is not set-up in narrative form.

Mustafar
Southern and Northern Mustafarians.
Photo Credit – Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia

For me, going through the book page-by-page, skimming through the images and info, gave me my initial bearings before really digging into anything concrete. From there, I worked through the book in non-linear fashion, very slowly jumping to different pages based on momentary interests and personal inquiry. During one reading I found myself enamored by the chapter on Nature, discovering new things about the various creatures and alien-species in Star Wars. I never knew, for example, that two types Mustafarians existed, Southerners being stocky while their Northerner counterparts are tall and thin (see image above). In turn, as I explored the chapter on Culture, I was struck by the vast array of royal outfits that Queen Padmé Amidala of the Naboo wore in The Phantom Menace. Fashion in Star Wars has never been a personal point of interest for me (I don’t do any form of cosplay) but the images of Amidala’s outfits, and the explanation that her “elaborate gowns reflect their [Naboo’s] culture,” left me intrigued and reflecting upon other forms of royal and political attire in Star Wars.

To this point about personal interest, the majority of my time spent in The Visual Encyclopedia thus far has centered on the Science and Technology chapter. Of the five, it is the longest chapter, having the most subsections arranged into categories ranging from binoculars, equipment, and medical technology to blasters, warships, all forms of land vehicles, plus a whole lot more. For the sake of brevity I won’t go into detail about everything I found so fascinating about this chapter, but I will note that I was particularly happy to encounter two specific land vehicles that I have always desired to see more of in Star Wars: the UT-AT “Trident” tank and the AT-OT Walker. While the Encyclopedia only has a picture of these two war machines accompanied by their respective names, it is never-the-less reassuring to know that there are Star Wars writers/authors keeping the lesser known vehicles (among other things) in mind.

The Star Wars universe is exceedingly vast and The Visual Encyclopedia does a nice job of covering a great deal of the expanse, the UT-AT and AT-OT being a clear example of just that. Still, the reference book does have its limitations, hardly a shock since Star Wars is far too great to be encapsulated in only 199 pages. Since the Encyclopedia is rooted primarily to the Star Wars movies and television shows, one will be disappointed if they enter the book hoping to encounter a wealth of information and images from the array of Star Wars novels, comics, and games. Further, the book does contain a handful of notable absences. While he is quoted, and his unique shuttle Delta-class shuttle is depicted, there is no image of Director Orson Krennic, the antagonist in Rogue One. One will find Rogue One protagonist Jyn Erso in the book, but her father Galen Erso, who developed the Death Star’s planet-killing weapon, and her mother Lyra are no where to be found. And speaking of parents, perhaps the most disappointing absence is that Anakin’s mother, Shmi Skywalker, does not receive an image in the Encyclopedia, just another reminder that she continues to be an unfortunate afterthought in the Star Wars canon.

Limitations and curious absences aside, Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia is never-the-less an enjoyable reference book that will leave an interested Star Wars fan occupied for quite a while. Try to take in all it offers in a single sitting and one very well might abandon the effort with feelings of being overwhelmed. But fortified with the patience of a Jedi Master and an eager willingness to savor the journey, and one will surely end up expanding their personal knowledge and understanding of the Star Wars universe.


Thanks to DK Publishing for providing me with an advanced copy of Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia

The Force Awakens Without Lando

Admittedly, I was disappointed that Lando Calrissian, our favorite smooth-talking “galactic entrepreneur,” was left out of The Force Awakens. While arguments in defense of his absence have typically revolved around that fact that he was not an “original” character in the Original Trilogy, I have consistently felt that this argument is flawed. True, Lando was not in A New Hope and was only introduced at the outset of the Third Act in The Empire Strikes Back. But from his first appearance as Baron Administrator of Cloud City and onward, Lando Calrissian (portrayed by Billy Dee Williams) was elevated to “origial character” status, playing a critical role in the major events which unfold in the remainder of Original Trilogy.

This being the case, it’s especially important to remember (as if one could really forget) that Lando not only commanded the Rebel Starfighter squadrons during The Battle of Endor, but that he also flew the Millennium Falcon into the superstructure of the Second Death Star and (with the help of X-Wing pilot Wedge Antilles) destroyed the battle station. So sure, Lando wasn’t an “original” Original Trilogy character, but his actions – culminating in his heroics in Return of the Jedi – absolutely established him as a character equal in importance and stature with R2-D2, C-3PO, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, and Han Solo. The iconic last scene in Return of the Jedi, which includes each of these heroes, as well as Lando, is visual proof of this obvious fact (see the featured image above). 

Further, the “not an original character” argument also falls short because Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb, both secondary characters introduced in Return of the Jedi, were in The Force Awakens. While it is pretty damn awesome that Ackbar and Nunb are in the film, it is none-the-less perplexing that Lando was left out while they were not. In fact, this is even more perplexing when one remembers (again, not that one could forget) that Nien Nunb was Lando’s co-pilot during The Battle of Endor. His co-pilot!!!

Lando and Nien
Lando and Nien Nunb in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Now, in stating, albeit briefly, why I think this particular argument for Lando’s absence is flawed, I also have to acknowledge that after watching The Force Awakens, I don’t really think Lando could have fit into the movie all that easily. It is certainly conceivable, for example, that he would be hanging out at Maz Kanata’s Castle on Takodana, but had he been there when Han, Finn, and Rey enter, his presence would have taken away from our introduction to Maz Kanata. And, had he been a member of the Resistance high command on D’Qar, his presence may have felt much more like a basic cameo, just one voice among many offering insight into the battle against the First Order.

These two possibilities are certainly not the only spots Lando could have appeared. However, I don’t really find it necessary to speculate on every moment Calrissian could have popped up in The Force Awakens. Instead, I’d much rather note that these and many other scenes could have accommodated Lando and his unique, out-going personality, but in doing so the scenes – and by extension the film – would have needed to be fundamentally altered to make his appearance meaningful. Certainly, writer/director J.J. Abrams might have been able to find a way to do this, perhaps installing General Calrissian into the Resistance and putting him center-stage to determine the attack plan against Starkiller Base. Yet, for whatever reason(s), Abrams chose not to include Lando, and again, while I’m disappointed by Lando’s absence, I think the movie Abrams made is a good one even without the “old smoothie.”

Besides, with Episode VII in the books, we must now look toward Episode VIII and IX for Calrissian to make another glorious onscreen appearance. And, even though the IMDB page for Episode VIII does not list Billy Dee Williams as part of the cast, I can certainly imagine a scenario in which Lando’s inclusion hidden until the last possible moment. In fact, I would be quite pleased to go into the film unsure if Calrissian was to appear, only to find out he IS in the movie.

Granted, there is the possibility that Lando will not be in Episode VIII (or even IX), and if this is the case my disappointment is gonna quickly morph into outright anger…and I have a feeling I won’t be the only Star Wars fan feeling that anger.


Check out my follow-up to this piece: Lando Loiters in a Marketplace

Trooping Through the Snow

This month’s Star Wars ComLINKS topic is Favorite Trooper and I have to say, when it was announced I got really excited but also knew that it was gonna end up being hard to narrow down which type of trooper I love. In fact, right after I read the topic on Anakin and His Angel, I jokingly told Jenmarie (who runs the site) that my choice was “all of them.” For a hot minute, I actually thought about writing about all of the troopers in Star Wars, explaining my love for each one, but I decided to nix that idea because 1) I don’t have the time and 2) the topic is singular, not plural. So, I buckled down and spent some time doing reflecting and it hit me:

My Favorite Trooper in Star Wars is the Cold Weather Assault Stormtrooper, otherwise known as the Imperial Snowtrooper.

I feel like I have said this about a hundred thousand times in other posts, but my favorite Star Wars movie has always been The Empire Strikes Back. A while ago, I wrote about how my favorite creature, the Wampa, is introduced in the film, and I have also written posts on my love of the Imperial Walkers and another on my fascination with General Veers. It should really come as no surprise, then, that my favorite type of trooper in Star Wars are the unique-looking soldiers who storm into the Rebel base on the ice planet Hoth. That said, I should note that my fascination with the Snowtrooper is not superficial, a mere by-product of my enduring love of The Empire Strikes Back. Rather, it is really the other way around – the various facets that make up the film provide all of the reasons I love it, especially those facets dealing with the Empire. 

Snowtrooper4
A Snowtrooper fires at the Millenium Falcon.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

You see, like Senator Ransolm Casterfo in Claudia Gray’s novel Bloodline, I too have always had a fascination with the Empire. This is not to suggest I support or admire the unjust, dictatorial and genocidal tendencies of Imperial rule, but rather that I have always found myself wanting to know more about the “bad guys” in Star Wars in hopes of coming to a deeper understanding of how it operates on every level. In this regard, I have always felt that of all three films in the Original Trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back provides the most fascinating look at the Empire, although this hardly means I dislike what we learn in the other two films. Rather, The Empire Strikes Back takes the monolithic Empire from A New Hope and adds a dynamic new way of thinking about it while also maintaining its terrifying essence.

The most obvious way the film does this (though not the only way) is by utilizing elements of the Imperial military first introduced in A New Hope – Star Destroyers, TIE Fighters, and Stormtroopers – while also adding to the Empire’s arsenal of soldiers and weapons. Thus, we are introduced to a handful of new military assets in the film: Probe Droids, a Super Star Destroyer, TIE Bombers, All-Terrain Armored Transports (AT-AT), All-Terrain Scout Transport (AT-ST), and of course, the Snowtrooper. On the surface, these new elements visually represent the breadth of the Imperial military, showing that the Empire has far more at its disposal than previously thought. However, these assets also add incredible depth to Imperial power, depth that I continue to uncover in new ways each time I watch The Empire Strikes Back.

At this point, I could very well go into detail about the depth I am speaking of as it relates to each military asset introduced in the film. However, since the focus of this piece is my favorite trooper in Star Wars, I will end with some thoughts on the introduction of the Snowtrooper in The Empire Strikes Back and how, as a kid, their appearance added a dynamic dimension to my understanding of the Empire.

Into the Cold

The first thing that should be said about the Snowtroopers is perhaps the most obvious: their appearance in The Empire Strikes Back is very brief. The first Snowtrooper we meet is in a short scene with General Veers, the Imperial officer leading the assault on Hoth in an AT-AT. Speaking to the soldier – presumably a commander of some type – Veers states that “All troops will debark for ground assault.” Otherwise, the bulk of scenes involving the Snowtroopers take place inside the Rebel Base, the men and women racing through the halls along with Darth Vader. In turn, as the Millenium Falcon attempts to escape, we see the troopers set up their weapons and begin firing at the ship, with return fire from the Falcon killing a handful of the white clad soldiers.

Snowtrooper3
A screenshot of a Snowtrooper in Star Wars Battlefront.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Battlefront (EA Dice)

Like I said, their appearance in the film is very brief. And yet, even in their brevity, the Snowtroopers left an indelible mark on me, an enduring fascination that I have never been able to shake (not that I want to). On the surface, this mark is purely aesthetic, an interest in the outfit these soldiers wear into battle. In all honesty, I have always felt that the Snowtrooper uniform is quite beautiful, an admittedly odd sentiment but one I can no more explain than the beauty I see in a flower.

But passing beyond the aesthetic, what the Snowtrooper taught me about the Empire is something far more pointed. It showed me that the Empire utilizes Stormtrooper units that are trained and equipped for certain contingencies, in this case warfare on a icy planets. Granted, we do see different types of Stormtroopers in A New Hope – Sandtroopers and Spacetroopers – but these are all variations on the standard armor that most of these soldiers wear. The Snowtrooper, on the other hand, stands out because its armor is fundamentally different from these other Stormtrooper units. And it is this very reason, this difference in armor, that helped pry open the door to the my Imperial imagination and made me realize these were not just ordinary Stormtroopers with different armor, but an elite type of Stormtrooper with a singular military purpose.

And with that said, I leave you with a thought that has rattled around in my brain for as long as I can remember: while I absolutely love the Imperial Walkers introduced in The Empire Strikes Back, a small part of me wishes, instead, that we could have witnessed the specially trained Snowtroopers methodically capturing the Rebel trenches on Hoth as a blizzard rages around them…that would have been a hell of a sight.


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

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A Man in Debt to a Hutt

Guest Talker: Michael Miller

In the lead up to Hutt Week, Jeff (The Imperial Talker) and I were having a discussion about a Hutt-related issue that has always confused me.  It’s not directly a Hutt thing but it’s certainly Hutt adjacent.  It’s the type of thing I try not to think about, lest it keep me up at night, struggling in vain to find a workable answer.  Try as I might, I can’t.  The question is simple – Why doesn’t Han just pay Jabba what he owes him? 

Jeff’s already discussed the Hutt crime organization this week so there’s no need for me to go back over the whole structure when it’s a handy hyperlink away.  But here’s the basic rundown of the plot that ties Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt, culminating in the first act of Return Of The Jedi.  Han smuggles for Jabba.  Han dumps his shipment at the sign of Imperial cruisers.  Jabba’s (understandably) a little upset about this.  Jabba wants his money…or he wants Han dead.  Han (also understandably) would rather not die.  So he needs some money.

In the original version of A New Hope, Han fries poor Greedo and then gets the hell out of Dodge, with plans to pay Jabba back after his easy charter to Alderaan. In the Special Edition, we see Han and Jabba talk it out first – Han promises Jabba a little more money and Jabba’s fine with it…as long as Han delivers.  And then he skips town for his easy charter.  As fate (of the Force) would have it, there’s nothing easy about the run.  Han Solo and Chewbacca end up in the heart of the rebellion against the Empire, rescuing Princess Leia, and helping Luke Skywalker in the assault against the Death Star.  Victory ensues and medals are awarded…and then we jump to the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back.  The classic exchange on the Hoth Base goes like this:

Han Solo – General, I’ve got to leave.  I can’t stay anymore.
General Rieekan – I’m sorry to hear that.
Han Solo – Well, if I don’t pay off Jabba the Hutt, I’m a dead man.
General Rieekan – A death mark’s not an easy thing to live with.  You’re a good fighter Solo, I hate to lose you.
Han Solo – Thank you, General.

You don’t mess around with the Hutts, especially Jabba.  I get that.  But here’s what troubles me…didn’t Han get a reward for saving Leia?  Didn’t we see Han and Chewie loading several crates of credits on board the Falcon at the end of A New Hope?  Even if Han had given his heart and his soul to the Rebellion (or a certain Princess…), why didn’t he take a short detour to Tatooine to pay off Jabba with the money he had?  The Expanded Universe gave us an answer that involved a gambling problem and some Ocean’s Eleven-style high jinks (thank you Timothy Zahn!) but we all know that’s not canon anymore.  And even if it was, even if Han lost all the money doing something stupid, if he’s such an asset to the Rebellion why wouldn’t they help him with the debt??

The Rebellion, by the very nature of an organization like this, has to have decent cash reserves.  They need to maintain their fleet, bases, equipment, and spy network at the very least.  Why wouldn’t they divert a little money to help Han out, especially if it meant they got to keep Han Solo, Chewbacca, and the fastest ship in the fleet?

han-solo-frozen-in-carbonite_3
Han didn’t pay Jabba, so Han becomes a wall decoration in Jabba’s palace. Seems fair to me.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

It should be a very simple equation.  Like I said, you don’t mess with Jabba the Hutt or you die.  Han has messed with Jabba the Hutt and is going to die.  Han does not want to die so he needs money.  Han gets money/the Rebellion has monetary reserves.  Han uses his/the Rebellion’s money to pay off Jabba, thus appeasing the Hutt and preserving his life.  Except it all gets a little wonky…  The equation ends up going, Han doesn’t want to die so he needs money.  Han (and the Rebellion) just wait around until a bounty hunter grabs him. Then Luke, Leia, Chewie, Lando, and the droids (some of the Rebellion’s most important assets) have to devote a lot of side time trying to rescue Han.

This has always vexed me.  And unfortunately, this short little post isn’t going to offer any brilliant insights or observations to get us out of this little funk.  Because, quite frankly, I have none. If you do, there’s a lovely little comment section below.  You’d be doing me a HUGE favor if you can put my mind at ease and explain this.  Lacking any sort of logical answer to this question, I’ve found it best to just not think about it!  Is that avoiding the problem?  Yes, but I’ve plenty of other things to occupy my mind as I try to fall asleep – like what did Han do with all that money?  Does he have a gambling problem?  Oh poor Chewbacca…


Check out these other Hutt Week posts:

The Imperial Talker Presents: Hutt Week

Hutts: Galactic Gangsters

Hutt Week: “Cute” Jabba the Hutt Merchandise (by Jenmarie from Anakin and His Angel)

Jabba the (CGI) Hutt

Why Ziro’s  My Hero (by Andrew – @AndrewinBelfast)

Hutt Haiku Poems

The Hutts of Mataou

Hutt Profile: Gardulla

Heir to a Criminal Empire

Hutt Week: A Conclusion

Imperial Profile: General Veers

“Com-Scan has detected an energy field protecting an area of the sixth planet of the Hoth system. The field is strong enough to deflect any bombardment.” – General Veers

While he only appears in a handful of scenes in The Empire Strikes Back (ESB), General Maximilian Veers has always been one of those peripheral Star Wars characters who absolutely fascinates me. In fairness, I have a Star Warsie fascination with all of the characters in the franchise, but there are some who really stand out and captivate me, and Veers is definitely one of them. 

So what exactly is the reason for my interest in the character that Julian Glover brought to life in ESB? Well, much of it boils down to the scene in which Veers informs Lord Vader that the fleet has moved out of lightspeed. Standing before Darth Vader, General Veers exudes the poise and self-confidence one would expect from an Imperial officer.  There is no hesitation in his voice as he provides Vader with a situational report, his articulation crisp as he describes the “energy field protecting an area of the sixth planet of the Hoth system.” While he is caught off-guard by Vader’s criticism of Admiral Ozzel, there is no sense of fear as he explains Ozzel’s decision to “surprise” the Rebels. When Veers is ordered to prepare his men for a surface attack, he acknowledges Lord Vader as any commander would his/her superior. In short, what this exchange says about General Veers is clear: he is a clear cut example of military professionalism.  And this professionalism is on display as he leads his elite Blizzard Force into battle of the icy planet.

As I noted in a previous post – Imperial Walkers on the North Ridge – General Veers opts to march his forces across an open tundra in a frontal assault, doing so without any aerial or artillery bombardment of the entrenched Rebel enemy. While this tactical decision may very well defy the logic of warfare, I’ve never felt that Veers actions in the battle are brash or ill-conceived. Rather, I imagine General Veers meticulously planning the battle beforehand, choosing his strategy with care and the input of his commanders. In turn, leading from the front in his Imperial Walker – Blizzard One – he can react much more quickly to the ways in which the battle might change. True, leading from the front is also a great way to get yourself killed, and we see his Walker hit by enemy fire during the fight. Yet, in the scenes where we actually see him throughout the Battle of Hoth, his commanding presence is apparent, a stern determination plastered on his face. This is a man, a General, who knows precisely what he is doing and will see things through to the very end. 

General Veers
General Veers commands the ground assault against the Rebel base.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Seeing things through is precisely what General Veers does, storming across the enemy positions and finally destroying the generator that powers the shield protecting the Rebel base. Of course, the moment Veers destroyed the  power generator is also the final moment we see him in The Empire Strikes Back and the Star Wars canon. Naturally, given my fascination, I am left wondering what became of General Veers in the wake of the battle. Surely reports of the Empire’s masterful victory over the Rebellion would quickly spread across the galaxy, ensuring that Rebel sympathizers would be disheartened and Imperial loyalists emboldened. I can imagine the general being lauded for his brilliant, tactical victory and valiant “lead from the front” style of command. Granted, this may not have been the first time General Veers received sweeping, public notoriety for his actions, but a victory like the one on Hoth would most definitely elevate his name among the Imperial populace and position within the ranks of the Empire. 

Still, I highly doubt General Veers would allow the public spotlight  to go to his head. No, the man we meet in The Empire Strikes Back does not lend himself to personal aggrandizing and building his public image. Certainly other Imperial officers and officials were the type to do just that, reveling in their accomplishments and pining for the favor of the Emperor and his Ruling Council. But Veers just feels different, and I can’t believe he would be anything but a soldier who is committed to his position and duty, not his personal gain. 

While it is interesting to ponder the sort of notoriety General Veers received after his victory on the icy plains of Hoth, my larger question remains: what happened to him after his brief appearance in The Empire Strikes Back? Well, if the novelization of the movie is to believed, any honors he may have received for his actions were posthumous since he died during the battle when a Rebel pilot crashed into the command module of his Imperial Walker. But, since the novelization doesn’t count as canon we can toss his “death” out the window.

Veers in Dark Empire II
Captain Veers contacts his superiors prior to the Battle of Balmorra.
Photo Credit – Dark Empire II, Issue #1 (“Operation Shadow Hand”)

In a bit of twist, that “death” was also thrown out in the Expanded Universe (EU). Veers makes a handful of appearances in the EU, ultimately being demoted to the rank of Captain and meeting his demise during the Battle of Balmorra (found in the Dark Empire II series). However, in the new canon his post-Hoth story has yet to unfold. Then again, we also know next to nothing about the General in his pre-Battle of Hoth days. Veers does make a small appearance in the Star Wars: Commander mobile game, and we also know from a handful of other sources that he is from the planet Denon, is a husband and father, and had some early military successes on the planets Zaloriis and Culroon III. I should note, though, that these last three points about Veers were originally established in the EU and carried over to the new canon.

Other than these few details about him, the pre- and post-Hoth story about General Veers is just waiting to be told, and I really hope there is a plan to tell it. In fairness, I would be equally pleased if other Imperial officers had their stories expanded, but I am entirely biased in my wish to know more about General Veers. Left to me, Veers would receive a full-fledged novel that, at the very least, would dig into his early military career serving in the Clone Wars, his rise through Imperial ranks, and explain what happened to him not only after Hoth, but once the Empire fell. Plus, a book dedicated to Veers could be similar in many ways to the novel Tarkin, providing not only deep insight into the General’s motivations, but also a more thorough understanding of the inner-workings of the Imperial military. 

But since it isn’t up to me, the best I can do for now is remain hopeful that Maximilian Veers will make some further appearances in the Star Wars canon. Until that happens, I will just continue enjoying his handful of scenes in The Empire Strikes Back

Imperial Walkers on the North Ridge

With the one year anniversary of The Imperial Talker coming up, I thought it’d be appropriate to do a post on Imperial Walkers (I think you know why). What follows are some general thoughts and impressions on the use of the Walkers in The Empire Strikes Back


Echo Station 3-T-8. We have spotted Imperial walkers.” – Rebel soldier

A few minutes before the Imperial Walkers make their first appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, we watch as Rebel infantry prepare for the oncoming ground assault. The musical score that plays hints at the tension these soldiers are feeling as they make their preparations and scan the distant horizon for Imperial forces. But all that can be seen in the distance are cloudy billows of snow, made, we can presume, by Imperial ships landing forces on the glacial Moorsh Moraine.

When the enemy is spotted minutes later, shortly after the first transport safely evacuates Echo Base, the tension is cut for viewer and soldier alike. Now, as we look off at the horizon, small black objects can be seen, and a strange mechanical sound, albeit faint, can be heard. In a flash, the infantry prepare their weapons, taking aim while one soldier, a sergeant, places electrobinoculars up to his eyes. Transported into his eye’s, we now get our first glimpse of an Imperial Walker…or rather, of a Walker’s massive foot slamming down to the ground.

Walker Foot
The foot of an Imperial Walker slams to the ground.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

I have always loved this shot, the fact that the first time we see the All-Terrain Armored Transport (AT-AT) – the technical name for the Imperial Walker – we only see a solitary foot. To me, this shot of an Imperial Walker’s foot is one of the most brilliant shots in all of Star Wars. The image serves as a momentary metaphor, a visual statement informing us of what the Empire plans to do to the Rebels on Hoth: crush them. 

Having zoomed in too closely, the Rebel soldier begins to zoom out and pan up, giving us a full profile of the towering war machine the foot belongs too. In turn, as he continues to zoom out, two more Imperial Walkers come into view. Just from looking at them, one can easily tell that these massive, mechanical beasts are perfectly Imperial, each one serving as a visual reminder of the power the Empire possesses, even after the loss of the Death Star.

Battle of Hoth 3
The Rebel soldier zooms out and a number of Imperial Walkers come into view.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Added to this visual reminder of the Empire’s power, though, is also the fact that these slow, cumbersome war machines are marching across an open and barren tundra. In short, General Veers, the commander of the Imperial ground assault, has opted for a frontal assault against a well-fortified position, a position that has received no aerial or artillery bombardment. Logic would suggest that the Imperial force will be cut to shreds, and yet, that is far from what happens…

As the battle opens, it quickly becomes apparent the AT-AT is formidable beyond compare. As Rebel soldiers fire weapons of all types at the advancing machines, nothing happens. Luke Skywalker himself, leading a squadron of T-47 Airspeeders in the battle, exclaims the obvious early in the battle: the armor on the Walkers is too strong for blasters. Some other tactic must be used to slow the advance of these mechanical beasts.

Well, another tactic does work when the Airspeeder flown by Wedge Antilles and  his gunner Wes Janson, trip a Walker with a tow cable. However, it is also the ONLY time this particular tactic will work. Surely, other Airspeeder pilots and gunners followed suit and attempted to destroy the Walkers with tow cables, but it is clear that none were successful. And so, the Walkers continue their march towards the Rebel position, and in the process even knock Skywalker out of the fight when his Airspeeder is hit and crashes. It certainly is telling that the hero of the Rebellion, the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, is shot down during the Battle of Hoth, a clear indication that even he cannot defeat the Empire alone.

What his crash also signifies, though, is the turning point in the Battle of Hoth. Even if his crash is not the tactical turning point, the collapse of Rebel defenses, in the film at least, begins after Luke is knocked out of the fight. We witness this collapse first-hand as the Rebel infantry, whom we earlier watched preparing for battle, now flee their trenches, shouts of “retreat” and “fall back” echoing down the line. In what I would consider to be one of the most iconic shots in all of Star Wars, we see the Imperial Walkers in the background towering over the panicked Rebel soldiers who are in the foreground (the picture is below). The image helps to give us a clear understanding of just how massive these Walkers are compared to the average human, another visual reminder of the size and power of the Empire, and a clear sign that the Rebellion is much smaller and far weaker than its enemy. In a sense, we already know this to be true, but it is fascinating, and chilling, to see it expressed so poignantly in this particular scene.

Battle_of_Hoth
An iconic Star Wars image: Imperial Walkers tower over the retreating Rebel infantry. Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Interestingly, immediately following this iconic scene, Luke Skywalker reappears and uses some creative heroics to destroy another Imperial Walker. While his action is not enough to stem the tide of the Imperial assault, we can certainly assume that some of the retreating Rebels would have been emboldened by the sudden destruction of an AT-AT. Still, the deed is far too little, too late. Only after Luke’s small victory, General Veers, commanding the attack from his own Walker, will destroy the shield generator that protects the Rebel base, and the Battle of Hoth comes to an end.

Thoughts on the (One-Armed) Wampa

My Star Warsie preferences more often than not boil down to one thing: my childhood love of the franchise. This is why, for example, I am a die-hard fan of the infamous Grand Admiral Thrawn. Since I read The Thrawn Trilogy over and over as a kid, I naturally became obsessed with the strategically gifted Chiss. And, since I watched The Empire Strikes Back (ESB) far more than the other two Original Trilogy films, the characters, places, events, and creatures from ESB stuck with me. Which leads me to the wampa.

Something  I have always appreciated about The Empire Strikes Back is how the initial tension in the film is unexpected, coming from a natural cause – an indigenous creature. With little warning other than the agitation of Luke’s tauntaun,  a wampa – Hoth’s apex predator – suddenly appears, launching itself at Luke and his mount. The last time we saw Luke, at the end of A New Hope, he was receiving a medal for heroically destroying the Death Star, but within the first few minutes of The Empire Strikes Back, our hero is incapacitated and being dragged away by a massive snow beast. Absolutely brilliant!!!  The use of the wampa at the outset of ESB is a perfect reminder that the galaxy far, far away, while exotic and exciting, is also exceedingly dangerous. Not even our heroes can prepare for every eventuality and danger that may be lurking, and Luke was certainly unprepared for this ambush.

Wampa 2
The wampa attacks, knocking Luke off of his tauntaun.

Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

But the wampa deserves a lot of credit. Luke may have been caught unaware, but so was his tauntaun, which doesn’t see or smell the predator until it’s already too late. Sneaking up on Luke is one thing but the tauntaun is a different matter. Remember, the tauntaun is native to the ice planet, and are natural prey for wampas. Certainly these snowlizards have evolved defensive mechanisms such as their sense of smell to warn  them of danger, especially important since the wampa’s pristine, white coat camouflages it in the snow. The fact that the tauntaun is caught unaware is proof that the wampa is not to be trifled with, a clear testament to the keen hunting skills of these monstrous beasts. 

I can imagine the wampa stalking the tauntaun, and the strange “thing” on top of it, with incredible stealth, moving closer and closer to its prey. As it moves closer, the wampa observes the body language of the tauntaun and listens the sounds it’s making, gauging whether the snowlizard is aware of impending danger. Realizing that its prey has not caught wind of danger, the wampa sets itself up for a strike, attacking while the tauntaun and the “thing” idle on the open tundra. The ambush complete, the wampa drags the spoils of its victory through the snow, back to its cave.

The Wampa Cave

Wampa
The Wampa hears Luke and moves towards him.

Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

When we see Luke again, after being dragged away, he is hanging upside down inside the cave the wampa calls home. At the same time, off in the distance, we can also hear the wampa and the tauntaun, the former letting out a bloodcurdling howl while the latter cries out in terror and pain. But we don’t just hear the wampa, we also see it feasting, ripping into the limb of (I presume) Luke’s still living tauntaun. Disturbing but pretty cool, especially since we see blood and drool dripping down its pristine white fur. Plus, watching the wampa eat – which was not added until the Special Edition of ESB was released in the 90s – also provides perspective, allowing us to witness how massive and deadly this creature truly is. When the wampa becomes aware that its other captured prey is attempting to escape, and it begins moving to intervene, this new perspective on the wampas size should make us thankful that Luke has his father’s old lightsaber. Or let me say it like this: I’m not entirely sure a blaster would have helped Luke survive.

Yet, survive the encounter Luke does. Freeing himself in the nick of time, Luke is able to awkwardly wield the lightsaber and slice off the wampa’s right arm, causing it to let out a cry of pain and agony. Honestly, I have always felt a feeling of remorse for the wampa in that moment. Its capture of Luke was nothing personal, just survival, a matter of securing a meal. The wampa would hardly starve if it allowed Luke to escape, but why WOULD it let him escape? When it attacks Luke the second time, it certainly isn’t thinking this “thing” will fight back – does anything, other than another wampa, ever fight back? Of course not, but in this case its prey happens to do just that, and as a result the wampa suffers.

Wampa in Pain
The wampa cries out in pain after it is wounded.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

It’s easy to forget that as Luke flees the cave, scrambling his way into the windswept tundra of Hoth, the now one-armed wampa remains behind. At that point, the wampa simply falls out of our minds as the events of the film unfold. However, I can’t help but wonder what happened to it after Luke fled, and I bet I’m not the only one. To be fair, the Expanded Universe novel Darksaber, set many years after ESB, involves Luke heading back to Hoth where he re-encounters the wampa he maimed years before. I won’t go into all the details about this particular meeting, but will say that I never really cared for Darksaber. Still, you should check out the book if you’re curious about Luke’s (non-canonical) second run-in with the beast.

Of course, I do think it reasonable to believe the wampa survived its vicious wound. Chances are it would have needed to change its hunting techniques, but I think our one-armed friend could handle the task. Granted, if the wound did cause its eventual downfall, it would probably be due to a run in with another wampa or perhaps poachers. Still, until I find out otherwise, until some new and official story establishes the death of the one-armed wampa, I’m just gonna keep believing it’s still out there, roaming the cold, windswept plains of Hoth.


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

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The Rank Lists Awaken

This is the first of MANY pieces I have coming on The Force Awakens. Those other posts will start digging into the content of the film, but for now, I wanted to think about The Force Awakens in relation to the Star Wars canon in general, and the other six live-action films specifically.


Almost immediately after seeing The Force Awakens, one of the first questions I was asked about the film had nothing to do with anything that happens in it. Oh no, the question I got was very specific and not at all surprising – where would I rank The Force Awakens in relation to the other Star Wars films. Frankly, the question left me a little dumbfounded.  I was, at this point, less than 12 hours removed from seeing the movie for the first time and had not fully digested what I had watched. I might be a die-hard Star Wars fan but after one viewing of the film there was just no reasonable way for me to rank The Force Awakens with the other films. So, I politely deflected the question and didn’t answer it.

Empire
Photo Credit – Disney/Lucasfilm

Yet, the question won’t leave me alone. It has popped up in a few other conversations I’ve had about The Force Awakens and I have seen some people post their own updated rankings of the Star Wars films on Facebook,  Twitter, in articles,  etc. Now, to be fair, none of this is surprising. Since a new movie has been added to the list of Star Wars films, it was only a matter of time before conversations started circulating about where The Force Awakens should be ranked in that list. I just didn’t anticipate getting the question immediately after seeing it for the first time, though the person who asked it certainly meant well (as do those who continue asking me).

Here’s the funny thing, though – I don’t have a rank list of the Star Wars films. While The Empire Strikes Back has always been my favorite, I have never taken the time to analyze the others and come up with some definitive list for second, third, fourth, etc. In fact, while “Empire” is my favorite, it’s probably not the one I have even watched the most. I have seen all six films so many times that I have lost count, so I really just don’t know which one tops the viewing chart. Then again, that doesn’t matter. At this point, all six are so engrained in my brain that they are, quite frankly, part of who I am, part of my self-identity.

But the more I have thought about ranking the films, the more various angles and questions began popping into my brain.

Anakin and Ahsoka
Ahsoka Tano sits and talks with her Master, Anakin Skywalker, after the Battle of Christophsis. 
Photo Credit – Star Wars: The Clone Wars (movie)

For starters, when I see fans ranking the films, I can’t help but ask: why aren’t they including The Clone Wars movie? Sure, it isn’t a live-action  film, but it did premier in theaters in 2008. Plus, it  introduced Star Wars fans to Ahsoka Tano, THE most popular character in the Star Wars canon who has never appeared in live-action form. All I’m saying is that if one is going to rank Star Wars films, don’t leave this one off the list just because it’s animated.

In turn, this opens the door to a larger question: why not just rank The Force Awakens with ALL of the Star Wars canon? I’m talking movies, books, comics, video games, etc. Since the Expanded Universe was disbanded by Disney/Lucasfilm, everything going forward is on equal footing as being canonical and relevant. So I have to ask: Is The Force Awakens better than Christie Golden’s novel Dark Disciple, Claudia Gray’s young adult novel Lost Stars, or the Shattered Empire comic series? Perhaps one would rank Ryder Wyndham’s junior novel, Ezra’s Gamble, above The Force Awakens but below the Season 3 episode of The Clone Wars entitled  “Witches of the Mist.” Or maybe someone enjoys The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary MORE than the movie itself and have decided to place it above the film in their list. That might seem counterintuitive to some but to that particular person the decision would make perfect sense.

Realistically, of course, it is difficult to rank the entire Star Wars canon, even for someone like me who is, more often than not, submerged in the Star Wars universe in some way, shape, or form. While everything added to the canon has equal authority, how does one even begin to compare junior novels to the films, or comics to video  games, and so on? There are certainly some stories that I have enjoyed more than others, and there are others that I am more critical of, feeling they fall flat for various reasons. And even if I were to rank the entire canon what would that accomplish? My canonical ranking would look different than someone else’s ranking, and I really have no interest in sitting here trying to argue that mine is the right one.

Theatrical Trailer

Photo Credit – Disney/Lucasfilm

But like I said, the vast majority of people aren’t like me or other die-hard Star Wars fans. For the average moviegoer, The Force Awaken is the newest installment of Star Wars, period. My uncle, for example, has seen all six previous live-action films in the theater, but he certainly didn’t go and see The Clone Wars movie, nor does he read any of the books, comics, etc. AND this takes me back to what I said earlier: I’m not surprised that The Force Awakens is being compared to/ranked with the other live-action Star Wars films. Most people only have the original six films as their points of reference, so I can’t really expect them to include The Clone Wars movie (among other things) in their rank  list.

So, seeing as I’m back where I started,  where do I go from here? Well, the original question is still relevant: where should one rank The Force Awakens in relation to the other six live-action films? I already noted that I don’t have my own rank list and I’m not interested in starting one. However, if you’re planning on creating/updating a rank list, or have already done so, I would suggest you take the following question into consideration:

Is it fair to place The Force Awakens (or Rogue One) higher in a rank list than any of the original Star Wars films?

Attack
Photo Credit – Disney/Lucasfilm

Now, I am purposefully using the word “original” here to refer to both trilogies for a very specific reason: Episodes I-VI are the films that Star Wars creator George Lucas wrote, the comprehensive story he wanted to tell. Those six films are, in every sense of the word, the original Star Wars stories. So, we can reframe the above question in a different way, coming at it from a slightly different angle: Can a new  Star Wars movie like “The Force Awakens” (or Rogue One), a movie NOT written by George Lucas, be a better Star Wars story than Lucas told in the original films?

Don’t presume, though, that I’m suggesting The Force Awakens is not worthy of carrying the banner of Star Wars. On the contrary, I personally enjoyed the film and believe it’s as much a part of Star Wars as Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, Attack of the Clones, etc. Rather, what I’m asking is whether its possible that The Force Awakens – or Rogue One – is, a more compelling, a more complete, an all-around better Star Wars story than anything Lucas gave us?

Really, I can’t decide this for you. Whether you’re a “rank list” kind of person or not, you’ll just have to figure it out and articulate the answer for yourself.