Welcome to the first installment of Star Wars: Return of the Justifications! So what exactly is this series all about? Well several years ago I had the good fortune to be a part of a Star Wars-themed podcast called VaderCast. It was my first experience in podcasting and in many ways influenced me to keep at it until I was even producing podcasts of my own. Tim Kennedy, who founded VaderCast, thought highly enough of a peculiar habit of mine to justify elements of the Star Wars saga that were not adequately explored on screen to ask me to share some of them on episodes of the show. Many were aired during teh show's run but some were recorded in "lost episodes" while still others had yet to be thought up by me. In this series I will share all of the justifications I have come up with over the years. Future articles will not have this much background information of course, so they will be more to the point.
A Long Time Ago...
Back in the summer of 1977 I was going on 12 years old and had one of those life-defining moments. I saw Star Wars for the first time! From that moment forward I was fairly constantly thinking about the movie, its characters, and all that was presented in that fertile universe of George Lucas’ creation which had only just begun to be explored. The depth of possibilities presented within each of the first three films gave my mind plenty to mull over during the years that followed each installment and preceded the prequels.
When you think too much about the content of each film as I had done from the outset, you find yourself seeking to reconcile some of the questions, problems, and little inconsistencies that can be found. With three years between the original trilogy films there were bound to be aspects of the later plotlines that did not seem to jibe with what had come before. Or things that did not, on the surface, make sense. Without realizing it I had spent years trying to work out these cinematic puzzles but without ever seeking any answers. That is until the day I expressed my thoughts on one sequence from Return of the Jedi to my friend Steve.
I am speaking of the ground battle in Return of the Jedi (which had been described to us by a comic shop employee in 1983 as, “the battle of the vs. the Stermtroopers”) and specifically the Ewok war machine. I have often referred to this as the “Swiss Family Robinson –style” ordinance that the fuzzy little denizens of Endor’s moon brought to bear when they joined the Rebel assault. Perhaps because the Scout Walker fouling log roll reminded me so much of the similar use of felled trees in the aforementioned Walt Disney picture, the primitive heavy weaponry of the Ewoks always struck me as a bit silly. To reconcile this in my mind I had always imagined that perhaps the Rebels helped the Ewoks in the construction of their various log traps. Steve, however, had a better justification which would in turn set me on the path of justifying all such curiosities within the Star Wars Saga.
Before I share his justification, the only one in this series for which I cannot take personal credit, I want to say that every one that follows this one as the series progresses was inspired by the first. Prior to this I had never considered trying to work out a logical explanation for some aspects of the films that beg for such explanations. Steve, inadvertently, challenged me to explore the minutia of the Star Wars saga and provide fill in any blanks I found. And now, the one that started it all (with a little further extrapolation on my part)…
Short Help is Better Than No Help at All
The various log traps, catapults, and other simple technologies that the Ewok tribe brought to bear when aiding the Rebellion were not something new to them, or indeed the Imperial occupation force. By the time Luke, Leia, Han, and company arrived on the moon’s surface the Empire had established a growing presence in the forest. It is not much of a stretch to imagine that an initial landing team had broken ground on the shield generator and landing platform some years earlier. During those years the presence of Stormtroopers, engineers, technicians, and heavy equipment would not have escaped the attention of the nearby village of Ewoks. Nor would it have failed to raise their collective ire!
Prior to the arrival of the Rebel detachment the Ewoks would have waged a fruitless guerilla war against the superior forces of the Empire. At first an annoyance, the conflict would undoubtedly have escalated over time. Initially the primitive Ewoks would have served to monkey wrench the construction phase of the operation by stealing or destroying equipment and supplies. When troops were brought in to guard the facilities the occasional soldier would have fallen to an Ewok assault, though the impact would be minimal.
Swiss Family Romba
To stave off such attacks it would become necessary for the Imperial garrison to dispatch Biker Scouts to patrol their territorial holdings. An AT-AT and several AT-ST walkers were also deployed to illustrate the technological superiority of the invaders. Such actions would have been interpreted by the local villagers as a prelude to a further encroachment into their lands and the potential destruction of their arboreal homesteads. Traps and destructive weaponry was then quietly built and amassed in the perimeters of their remaining territory. This would have been a defensive move on the part of the Ewoks as the Empire would have long since shown them the futility of offensive measures. Should the enemy forces threaten the village itself, at least their advance could be slowed considerably buying time for evacuation.
Once the Ewoks began to keep to themselves the Imperial Forces would have been content to let the savages remain undisturbed. The moon of Endor served but one strategic purpose, a remote location to house the shield generator protecting the building and deployment of Death Stars. There was no need to wrest control of the balance of the hemisphere, all that was needed for the business at hand had been achieved. The indigenous population, posing no real threat to operations, could then simply be ignored. There were certainly more pressing matters to attend to above the moon. This would have left the garrison commander a bit confused when troops began to be massed at the base, but this action was likely dismissed at a precursor to the completion of the Death Star. Like its predecessor it would be home to thousands of troops, officers, technicians, and other personnel once operational.
Humans Ain't So Bad
Then came the Rebel assault team! Their intelligence of the Imperial base extended only as far as its location and purpose. No one would have thought to explore the contingency of an indigenous population or the possibility of recruiting them to the cause of eliminating the latest terror weapon in the Imperial arsenal. The command team’s unexpected capture by the Ewoks was a happy accident for both parties. The Rebels gained native guides to aid their attack strategy as well as bolster their forces when they were confronted with a larger troop presence than expected. The disadvantages of the Ewoks’ defensive measures were greatly offset by the laser weaponry and tactical expertise of their new allies. And undoubtedly their resolve to join the conflict was enhanced by the presence of a manifestation of their deity.
So the wood-based weaponry that was instrumental in the downfall of the Galactic Empire had long been in place long before it was utilized to its full effect. What seemed to the Imperial commanders as little more than the posturing of primitives would usher in their doom. Albeit with considerable assistance from human allies and not without losses of their own.
With all of that in mind the more curious aspect of the Battle of Endor makes considerably more sense to me. Check back soon for the next installment of Return of the Justifications in which I take an in-depth look at a particular lightsaber.