Jedi Justifications #4 - Hoth Mail Call

This is a first (and hopefully not the last) for Jedi Justifications.  The originally scheduled installment is being postponed so I can address a couple of questions that arrived in a recent email.  The following came to me from Rick Gutierrez, founder and fearless leader of the United States of Geekdom.  <PLUG!>  And do not fear, I have not forgotten what was promised for Jedi Justifications #4, this was just too good a challenge to pass up.

I have a couple of things to get justified by you.

The first is why is Lando wearing Han's clothes at the end of Empire Strikes Back?

The second is why did the Empire not send out TIE Fighters to intercept the escaping Rebels as they were escaping from Hoth?  The Ion Cannon is hardly anything to be sneezed at I know but the TIE Fighters would certainly have been something of use to help out the incapacitated Star Destroyers and take down the escaping transports.

The second one might make a little more sense to me but the Lando one just perplexes and disturbs me just a bit...

I am going to address these in chronological (in the context of events chronicled in  The Empire Strikes Back) rather than inquiry order as the Lando question seems to be the one that had the most impact on Rick.  This will serve the further purpose of putting Lando’s wardrobe choice into perspective.  The overall timing of things within the context of the film has bearing, though events on the moon of Hoth that hosted the Rebel base have little direct relevance to the second question.  So without further ado, the justification of the TIE Fighter issue.

When crossing swords the Imperial and Rebel forces can be analogous to just such weapons.  The Rebellion is a rapier and the Empire a Claymore.  Both are effective weapons in their own right but each has its myriad advantages and disadvantages.  The Imperial martial doctrine is one of size and strength while the Rebellion, largely out of necessity, enjoys a greater sense of agility and maneuverability that comes with being smaller and more versatile.  From the standpoint of military doctrine, the Empire favors coming on strong and putting their largest forces at the forefront.  Intimidation is a powerful tool for a government that is accustomed to having their enemies lose resolve in the face of superior forces.  Hence Admiral Ozzel’s ham-fisted approach to stealth that allowed the Rebellion to shield their base from orbital bombardment.

Overconfident in its own might, the Imperial command tends to underestimate the tenacity and adaptability of the Rebellion.  The presence of the ion cannon certainly underscores that aspect of the Alliance.  While they had a presence in the past on Dantooine and one of Yavin’s moons, a capital weapon of the scale of the ion gun suggests that there was never a single, all-encompassing Rebel base anywhere in the galaxy.  The Hoth moon base was just the latest to be utilized at full. 

What made it an ideal location to escape Imperial notice also made it a treacherous place to maintain.  Its proximity to an asteroid field that could not be navigated by any but the smallest craft also left the entire Hoth system subject to constant impacts by meteors and asteroids.  The solution was a massive laser emplacement that could be utilized to deflect or destroy larger asteroids that might threaten the construction and settlement of the base.

The added strategic advantage of this weapon was the effect of a concentrated ionic pulse on spacecraft of any size.  The devastating effect of that type of blast is illustrated when the first transport makes good its escape right under the nose of a Star Destroyer.  But then there is that burning question of why there was no concentrated Imperial pursuit.  And again it comes down to that sense of empowerment that comes from having the largest and most deadly fleet in the galaxy at your disposal.  While the Destroyer in question undoubtedly maintained a compliment of TIE Fighters, the commanders would have seen no point in fielding them when their gunners could easily pick off any fleeing Rebel craft.  After all, the Star Destroyer is bristling with guns of every imaginable size and range.
What their “might makes right” attitude did not allow them to anticipate was the possibility that a charged ion blast would precede the evacuation craft.  After all, the Probe Droid had discovered the shield generator but not the full range of the Rebel ordinance before its destruction so the presence of such a weapon would not have seemed likely.  Once struck, all operations within the affected Star Destroyer would have been rendered unworkable, including the launching of a wing of TIE Fighters.  Frankly it would be all the pilots could do to keep the vessel from falling into the gravitational pull of the Hoth moon!  And though it is not seen on screen, it is safe to assume that other destroyers suffered the fate of the hapless first on which did not in fact land its first, or indeed any, catch of the day.

And on a final note regarding TIE Fighters, the inevitable question would rise as to why none were sent in pursuit of the escaping transport and its escort wing by other Destroyers in the vicinity.  Partly this would be due to the element of surprise being very much in the Rebel’s favor and also due to the specific limitations of Imperial fighter craft.  As one Destroyer is taken out unexpectedly, the commanders of all others would have been more concerned about getting their capital ships clear of the range of the ion gun than in scrambling their fighter crews.  And even if they had, the dynamics of both Imperial and Rebel fighters have been well established.  As is repeatedly illustrated, Imperial military thinking is short sighted and results in effective yet somewhat limited weapons.
The TIE Fighter is designed to be fast and nimble in dogfights, but has no purpose beyond warfare.  Again, largely out of necessity, the X-Wing Fighter is a multi-purpose craft that is both an ideal for combat as well as transport applications.  This is illustrated in The Empire Strikes Back when Luke is reloading the cargo bay in the belly of the craft as he departs the swamps of Dagobah.  This is a product of the X-Wing being designed to make planetary landing.  The standard TIE Fighter is meant to be flown until its mission is completed or it is destroyed.  And then there is the hyperdrive capacity of the X-Wing, a feature sorely lacking in the short range TIE Fighter.  While this aspect of the Rebel craft was not revealed until Return of the Jedi, it is implicit in Luke’s journey to Dagobah which would have taken years absent hyperdrive technology.  Once underway, no TIE could hope to pursue the escaping Rebels once they went into hyperspace.  So in the end there would have seemed to be little point in sending fighters in pursuit of Rebel craft that were never meant to have made it past the blockade of Destroyers.

Now from Hoth System we make our way to the Noad System and Lando (the man, not the system).  To understand Lando’s choice of attire when he, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia depart the Rebel Fleet to set an elaborate rescue operation into motion, Lando has indeed doffed his elegant attire and is clothed in an outfit very much akin to Han Solo’s standard garb.  In fact it is so much a variation on Han’s minimal wardrobe changes as to almost certainly be one of the smuggler’s own outfits.  But is such a fact truly all that troublesome?

Imagine Lando’s life just before his old friend and fellow smuggling rival showed up in the city that he owns and operates.  Life was good.  He had settled down a bit, become legitimate in ways Michael Corleone only dreamt of doing, and the whole gas mining thing was starting to be worthwhile.  Then who should show up but one of the top fugitives on the Empire’s “most wanted” list with two more in tow!  Being the shrewd businessman and scoundrel to the core that he was, an offer for the Empire to turn a blind eye to his formerly unnoticed operations was too good to pass up.  Perhaps he imagined he might even get his old ship back in the bargain.  And undoubtedly use it to disappear himself from the hole he’d dug himself into at Vader’s bequest.

As we all know the deal just kept getting worse as did Lando’s whole life.  So he did the only thing any good gambler would do when backed to the wall, he went all in and cast his lot with the Rebellion.  He had certainly caught on that bargains with the Empire are largely open ended in favor of the Imperial side of things.  In the end this meant beating a hasty retreat with Chewie, Leia, Luke, and the droids without benefit of a stop by his lavish apartments to grab an overnight bag or even so much as a change of clothes!  That is one of the big differences between vacationers and refugees. 

So after a particularly trying day in which he saw his best friend flash-frozen, nearly had his trachea collapsed at the hands of an enraged Wookie, and  had to abandon his life and livelihood the last thing Lando would have wanted to do is rummage through what uniforms the Rebels may have had about on the medical frigate.  And he certainly wasn’t going to wear one of those hospital robes that Luke had for the long trip to some backwater planet in pursuit of a bounty hunter.  The only option left open to him would then be to raid Han’s closet.  Since he and his buddy are roughly the same size they likely shared wardrobe in their past adventures so this would not have seemed all that bizarre to Chewbacca.  Han’s co-pilot was worldly enough that he was not even bothered by the fact that human’s pile on so much cloth when his people go au nautrale!

Bonus Justification!
For the sake of argument let’s just say that Lando doesn’t quite wear the same size as Han.  The shirt may be just a bit too tight or the pants legs a touch too long.  Or worse yet, high waters!  This would be an inexcusable look for someone with Lando’s fashion sense.  Enter Mon Calamari textile technology!  Utilizing special memory fabrics, clothing in the Star Wars universe can be, in fact, one size fits all!  A little tug here, a little tweak there and another man’s attire will fit you as well as were it custom tailored!  But you may be asking why is this technology uniquely Mon Calamari in origin?   One need only look at Admiral Ackbar’s uniform for the answer.  Absent such malleable fabric, there would be no getting the Rebel hero’s Popeye-like forearms through the sleeves of his otherwise fairly snug tunic! 


And with that we set Rick’s concerns regarding The Empire Strikes Back at ease.  Have a burning Star Wars question that comes from scenes in the theatrically released live action Star Wars films?  Drop me a line at and ask me to justify your particular conundrum!