X-Wing

Forgotten Faith: Doubting the Sacred

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Crashing into a Swamp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haikuesday: Poe Dameron

Star Wars Trivia:
Poe’s parents fought for Rebs at
Battle of Endor


Mission to Jakku.
Poe handed crucial info.
First Order arrives.


A battle ensues,
Dameron sprints to his ride.
“Come on BB-8!!!”


His X-Wing damaged,
Poe passes the mission off
to his trusted droid.


Taking aim, Poe shoots.
A trooper is hit, goes down.
Blood. Pain. Death. Panic.


Lor San Tekka killed.
Dameron reacts, fires.
Frozen by the Force.


Interrogation.
Torture. Pain. Resilience. Grit.
Kylo will break Poe.


“The right thing to do.”
“You need a pilot,” Poe says.
“I need a pilot.”


TIE Fighter stolen.
Dameron heads to Jakku.
Finn isn’t happy.


TIE Fighter crashes.
Poe is no where to be found.
His jacket remains.


I have to be frank:
I never understood how
Poe just disappears.


Fast-forward the film:
Now we’re on Takodana
and Poe reappears.


“Fighters incoming!”
“It’s the Resistance,” Han says.
Poe leads Black Squadron.


Star Wars Trivia:
Poe flies a T-70
known as the Black One.


Dameron blasts TIEs.
“That’s one hell of a pilot!!!”
Ace in a dogfight.


Poe and BB-8,
pilot and droid reunite
at Resistance base.


Finn looks on, sees Poe.
Dameron looks up, sees Finn.
The two friends embrace.


Scrubs: Turk and J.D.
“It’s guy love between two guys.”
Star Wars: Finn and Poe


I have to be frank:
Oscar Isaac, who plays Poe,
is one handsome dude.


Star Wars Trivia:
Poe flew with the Republic’s
Rapier Squadron


“Disable the shields.”
“Take out the oscillator.”
“Blow up their big gun.”


 Preparing to fight,
the Resistance springs to life.
Poe readies his ship.


Base to Black Leader:
“…go to sub-lights on your call.”
Poe gives his orders.


Leading the X-Wings.
“Hit the target dead center.”
TIE Fighters inbound.


Hole in the target,
Dameron creates a plan.
He just needs cover.


Into a long trench,
Poe is pursued by TIEs and
targeted by guns.


“I need some help here.”
Ello Asty is destroyed.
Black Leader persists.


Threading the needle.
Poe blasts the oscillator.
Proton torpedoes.


Thermal Exhaust Port
and Thermal Oscillator.
Thermal Bros – Luke, Poe.


“Starkiller” destroyed.
“Our jobs done here, let’s go home.”
Hard fought victory.


I’m of the belief
that Poe should be given the
nickname “Starkiller”


Leia: Huttslayer
Poe Dameron: Starkiller
You know you want this.


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)

Millennium Falcon (November 2017)

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.