X-Wing

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. 

Driving (Flying) into a Tunnel (the Second Death Star)

“I’m going in.” – Wedge Antilles

“Here goes nothing.” – Lando Calrissian

It has been a hella crazy week for Star Wars fans. A Han Solo film was announced, the novel Dark Disciple was published, the first issue in the Lando comic series was released, and San Diego Comic Con is giving us even more Star Wars insanity like the release of the First Order Stormtrooper action figure from The Force Awakens! Plus, yours truly announced the upcoming Ewok Week I will be doing later this summer. Yahtzee, the awesome just keeps rolling on and on!

For today’s post, though, I wanted to keep things on the lighter side. I did a lot of pretty heavy mental lifting with my series on The Rule of Two and my brain has not fully recovered. Well, that and I just moved to Alexandria, VA from Pittsburgh, PA and I am exhausted. Needless to say, sitting here writing something that isn’t too dense is a nice reprieve from the shenanigans of moving.

In a fun twist, though, my idea for today’s post is a result of the move, or rather, the drive from Pittsburgh to Alexandria.

View looking out of the Falcon's cockpit - Wedge Antilles (X-Wing) and Jake Farrell (A-Wing)  Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

View looking out of the Falcon’s cockpit – Wedge Antilles (X-Wing) and Jake Farrell (A-Wing)
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

You see, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, there is a pretty lengthy tunnel called the Allegheny Tunnel which cuts through a mountain in the Appalachians. As I sped 70mph towards the tunnel, I instinctively flipped a switch in my brain and, entering the tunnel, belted out The Battle of Endor III – Medley from the Return of the Jedi soundtrack. Can’t recall what the Third Medley is? I got ya covered: click HERE and listen for a second. I will wait for you to get back…

…alright, welcome back.

Alright, so, that is the music that plays when Wedge Antilles (in his X-Wing) and Lando Calrissian (in the Millennium Falcon) fly into the super structure of the Second Death Star. Chances are you already knew that, and chances are that if you have watched Return of the Jedi enough times, when you have driven into a tunnel, you have also belted out this particular Medley.

Or, maybe, you have actually turned on the Return of the Jedi soundtrack and listened to the Medley as you drove through a tunnel. If my RotJ soundtrack had been in the car with me, I would have done that too (I only had The Empire Strikes Back with me on this particular trip).

Now, it is one thing to just hum the tune, or belt it out, or put on the soundtrack. I mean, I am sitting here humming along to the Medley which is playing in the background as I type. However, it is entirely different to hum it, or belt it out, or put on the soundtrack to RotJ when you drive into a tunnel because it essentially means you are pretending to participate in the Battle of Endor.

Yeah, I am not ashamed to say that I imagine that I am flying into the superstructure of the Second Death Star when I drive into tunnels. But the thing is I do it entirely on instinct. It is built into my psyche at this point. If I ever drive into a tunnel and I don’t hum the tune, or belt it out, or put the RotJ soundtrack on I feel like something is wrong.

Oh, and to make tunnel driving even more awesome, I typically quote Wedge and Lando as I drive into and through a tunnel, all of which culminates with the “YEEEEEHAAAAW” as I fly, whoops, I mean drive out the other side.

Nien Nunb Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

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

Really, what would make the tunnel driving even more epic is if I had someone sitting next to me willing to play the part of Nien Nunb. But they will have to learn Sullustese. I mean, it would be pretty ridiculous for someone to pretend to be Nien and for them not to learn Sullustese!!! Hahaha how silly, Nien Nunb speaking Basic!

Anywho, I have some pretty awesome stuff planned for the coming weeks (including my take on what a Yoda film AND a Kenobi film, respectively, could/should look like), but until then, let me know if A) if you have ever had a similar tunnel-driving experience(s) as the one I have described and B) if you find yourself in other situations belting out a Star Wars tune or quoting Star Wars. Leave a comment and share the love!

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.