Jedi Justifications Special - The Tears of a Rancor Keeper

As a bonus justification to the recently released edition of Jedi Justifications, I determined to address a little something that always bothered me in Return of the Jedi, but never enough to have considered it for this feature – the maudlin reaction of the Rancor Keeper to the untimely demise of his charge at the hands of Luke Skywalker.  However a  recent appearance of The Rantcor Pit at G33K3 Con.  It was during a live recording of the show at this convention that someone from the audience posed the question, “Why do you never see a Rancor in the wild?” 

He was speaking of course of the Rancor Monster from Jabba’s Palace which was, out of necessity, a captive beast.  While a playful illustration that makes the rounds online depicts the Rancor Keeper adopting the creature as a juvenile and raising it into Jabba’s favorite means of dispatch for those who slighted him and its presence in one of my favorite books, The Wildlife of Star Wars, this justification duly ignores both as Expanded Universe.  In each case there is express or implicit indication that the monster was indigenous to Tattooine.  In that context the answer to the question of finding such an animal in the wild is answered with ease.  However, Jedi Justifications is solely about what might be suggested by what is presented on screen.

In this case there is little to go on, really.  It would be a simple leap of logic to join others in declaring that the Rancor is another denizen of Tattooine and therefore something one might find in its natural habitat somewhere on that planet.  This was not the approach I took with my off the cuff answer to the question presented.  I suggested instead that the reason they are not found outside of captivity is that Jabba the Hutt possesses the sole remaining specimen known in the universe.  I extrapolated further saying that on its native world, the Rancor was hunted to near extinction.  Ultimately only the one Jabba owns remained and found itself in his possession due in no small part to his wealth and standing.

To take this further I would posit that disregard for this dangerous species led to its extinction in the wild and was coupled with a failure at any viable captive breeding program until the animals numbers dwindled to a single-sex population.  Over time all captive Rancors would succumb to disease or old age leaving only one in existence.  A prized possession, Jabba’s specimen was put in the care of a trusted team of handlers headed up by the man who would come to be known as Malakili for the purposes of EU writings and a later action figure release.  The Rancor’s keeper would have known only too well the unique nature of the creature in his care and would have diligently seen to its well being for a great many years before the arrival of Luke Skywalker. 

The portly keeper, along with a trusted staff, would have come to look upon the maintenance of  the troublesome beast as a welcome relief from duties “topside” in the palace proper.  Court politics in the Hutt’s palace affected nearly everyone from the most well placed sycophants and popinjays to the most wretched of Jabba’s captives.  That is, except those who held positions that no one else wanted.  One such was the care and feeding of the gangster’s dangerous pet.  Such a massive and belligerent creature would be impossible to control and difficult at best to train toward simple concepts like moving back into the holding pen when not devouring poor unfortunates that Jabba had sent down into the chamber below his throne room.  Those who feed and, worse yet, cleaned up after, the Rancor were largely ignored by the rest of the court.  Absolutely no one was vying for their place in the hierarchy, so the job provided a welcome repast for Malakili and his staff. 

Then came the fateful day when a self-styled Jedi Knight came down the tube with one of the Hutt’s loyal guards.  The Gamorrean suffered the same fate as all who had previously taken the deadly plunge and the intended victim looked to be providing a bit of sport before his inevitable death.  Then the impossible happened.  The intended victim managed to escape the Rancor’s maw and its grip and flee into the holding pen.  While the staff dutifully harassed the captive, it was a dangerous proposition to have the beast seek prey in the section of its pit where live food was never offered.  It had taken considerable effort to train it to distinguish the two sections of its habitat and taking a live meal in the wrong section could undermine the routine.  But this was of little consequence ultimately in the life of the Keeper. 

The potential for havoc aside, the Jedi’s next action once he found no means of escape at his disposal led to the undoing of Malakili.  A stray skull proved an ideal missile for the intended victim to use to trip the manual control of the massive overhead door that separated the holding pen from the arena pen.  This naturally led to the demise of the titanic monster and the end of its species for all time.  Yet the overwhelming shock of the death of an animal that represented the last of its kind paled in comparison to the realization that the relatively soft duty and freedom from palace politics so long cherished my Malakili and his staff was instantly a thing of the past.  It is little wonder that the otherwise stoic Rancor Keeper was reduced to a blubbering mass of raw emotions.

There is a silver lining to the cloud of grief exhibited on the silver screen, however.  Given his position in the palace hierarchy, Malakili was not an invited guest or even on staff when his employer embarked on a pleasure cruise into the Dune Sea to dispatch his enemies, including the author of the Rancor caregivers abrupt unemployment, with a little help from one of Tatooine’s deadliest indigenous species.  While his exclusion from the journey was in this case, as always, a relief, the resulting destruction of the Hutt’s sail barge and all on board relieved the former caretaker of any servitude to Jabba.  Ultimately he would likely have secured a civilian position clearing dianogas from the trash compactors of the second Death Star where he could live out his remaining days in something akin to comfort.

Jedi Justifications - Hanging in the Air Exactly the Same Way Bricks Don't

Welcome to a new edition of Jedi Justifications.  After another lengthy hiatus, the series returns with a promised exploration of something that may have been logically troubling about the Star Wars universe! 

In case you were baffled by the title of this particular article, it is a quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy specific to the nature of the ships of the Vogon Constructor Fleet upon their arrival within Earth’s atmosphere.  Douglas Adams brilliantly applies his sarcastic wit to describing the nature of alien super science when it comes to allowing the ungainly spacecraft to hover in the air in defiance of gravity and aerodynamics.  While this quip does a remarkable job of conveying an image of titanic machines laying effortlessly on nothing but thin air, it struck me as being ideally suited to the justification at hand.  Specifically, how do the intergalactic vessels, large and small, of the Star Wars universe manage to routinely make planetfall or dart freely from solid ground into local airspace and ultimately into the stratosphere of any given planet and beyond in abject defiance of the laws of physics?

From the Rebellion’s fleet of X-Wing and Y-Wing fighters deployed from pyramids-turned-hangars on a moon of Yavin to the laterally symmetrical but decidedly awkward Imperial TIE Fighters, the martial spacecraft depicted in the Saga are ill-equipped against the forces of gravity and atmosphere.  Don’t even get me started on George Lucas’ “flying hamburger” when it comes to the aerodynamic challenges presented by that freighter’s design!  Simply put, these things have about as much chance of gliding lithely through air space as a cinder block.  So how exactly do these technological marvels achieve the opposite effect? 

If you have followed this series then you know that the number one rule of Jedi Justifications is that there has to be an on-screen (original trilogy and prequels) cue to refer (or defer) to in making my case.  Naturally since no one seems to question the particulars of planetary flight and aerodynamics during the course of the movies, this particular installment is going to rely on a tremendous amount of speculative physical engineering that draws from certain aspects of what is shown.  The foundation of all of this is something suggested by a line in A New Hope that provides a basis for all that will follow.  I am speaking of Han Solo’s command to “angle the deflector shields” when under attack by Imperial starships.  The ability to manipulate the specific configuration of countermeasures to laser attack is further underscored when Rebel X-Wing fighters approach the Death Star and the are admonished to utilize a “double front” arrangement.

So with this in mind one is given a hint at the versatility of the deflector shield itself.  In addition to being a lifesaver when your spacefaring vessel is under attack or suffering an inadvertent collision with debris out in the vacuum of the cosmos, the deflector shield is a vital piece of technology when planet-hopping as well.  A long standing staple of science fiction spacecraft, the implicit nature of the deflector shield is an invisible blanket of energy that is impenetrable by lasers or other forms of bombardment both natural and technological.  Furthermore, the way in which such a force field surrounds the vessel it is protecting can be altered in concentration and placement as suggested by the previous quotes.  Therefore it makes perfect sense that the deflector shield also serves a vital purpose when entering or exiting planetary atmospheres or traversing the sky once within the atmosphere itself.  How this is achieved is all about projection.

Imagine that the force field’s energy blanket is projected by generators located over the entire surface of a ship and configured to provide a uniform covering of protection.  Each generation point saturates a specific surface area above the actual hull and the effective range of each would overlap that of the next at its edges, creating a kind of quilted field of resistant energy.  Furthermore, the energy levels could be selectively boosted by redirecting the power from one array or set of arrays to another (hence the “double front” configuration).  Such malleability of practical application would allow for the force field to be reshaped as well as reconfigured.  By amplifying the power levels in specific ways, the form-fitting blanket that protects the ship in outer space could become aerodynamic in shape when making planet fall. 

For example take the Millennium Falcon and a TIE Fighter and surround each in a teardrop shaped bubble, the point of the drop face forward and the bulbous end to the rear of each.  This would be one configuration of a force field that would allow each to enter an atmosphere in much the same way a rocket or missile might.  Once the outer atmosphere is breached, the deflector array would alter the energy output  and “redraw” the bubble in a shape more akin to an airplane’s wings with a forward shape that allows the air to flow over the field in a way that it could not over the shape of the ship itself.  Such blanket of energy could be arranged in any necessary shape to allow for the best possible aerodynamics for any given situation.

An additional benefit of such technology is that the “shape” of the energy field has the potential to adapt to any situation.  Should a starship within a planet’s atmosphere encounter turbulence, the energy could be configured to adjust for changes in airflow in the way a genuinely aerodynamic vessel like an airplane cannot.  Lacking a static form, the energy field can be any shape or form necessary to maintain a smooth flight.  This allows for everything from the X-Wing Fighter (with wings open or closed), Cloud City’s trademark Twin-Pod Cloud Cars, the asymmetrical Millennium Falcon, and even the decidedly back-heavy Tantive IV to glide through the air like the most perfectly designed aircraft we know in our reality. 

I realize that this edition of Jedi Justifications reads a bit like the kind of post-Star Trek: The Next Generation necessity for scientific explanation of everything.  In a sense this was inspired by that imperative that applied to Rodenberry’s creation and, thankfully, is not as commonly applied to Lucas’.  The biggest inspiration came from the compliment of TIE Fighters that pursued the Millennium Falcon as Luke was being rescued.  While the vacuum of space allows one to “fly” anything from a jet fighter to a brick wall, it is a lot harder to achieve proper flight in a spherical pod flanked by two rigid walls!  The best part is that the principles outlined in this justification also allow you to make planetfall in the USS Enterprise and park her in an ocean!  

Jedi Justifications #6 - Imperial Amblin'

I was never really all that bothered by the AT-ATs that made their debut in The Empire Strikes Back.  This was due in no small part to their coolness factor.  On the big screen these ponderous juggernauts could not have been more exciting to behold.  Despite their tenuous gait they epitomized the might of the Galactic Empire.  Trudging through snow, picking off Snowspeeders and Rebel soldiers alike, and generally wreaking havoc on the icebound Hoth base, the seemingly indestructible AT-AT was the ground assault version of the Star Destroyer.  So why should these technological terrors find their way, if one slow step at a time, into the latest Jedi Justifications?  Because, simply put, a friend of mine was bothered by another form of vehicular combat showcased in Revenge of the Sith.

The specific vehicle in question is known as the A6 Juggernaut or “Turbo Tank”.  For this fellow Star Wars fan the inclusion in that universe of a wheeled vehicle was unworkable.  The nagging question was why would a culture with the technology for hovercrafts like the ATT and Landspeeder need any form of conveyance requiring something as relatively primitive as the wheel?  The tripedal AT-AP and individual-sized AT-RT walkers utilized on Kashyyyk and the massive AT-TE from the battle of Geonosis, all of them relying on two or more mechanical legs and precursors to the AT-AT, did not seem at all troublesome to him despite being far less efficient than the wheeled ordinance.    As a result I have been inspired to seek justification for two modes of transport that might seem out of place to the overly analytical in the context of a universe where anti-gravity technology appears to be the universal standard.

Roll Out

With the inspiration for this justification being the Juggernaut employed by the Republic in defense of the Wookies I will address the issue of wheels in a galaxy of repulorlifts.  At first pass wheels can seem wildly out of place, even decades before the events in the original Star Wars Trilogy.  Why would anyone deploy a mobile weapon that did not avail itself of the pinnacle of available technology?  The answer is rather simple, though only implicit in what is conveyed on screen.  With Episode I the structure of the Republic, a cooperative of dozens of sovereign worlds, is expressed through glimpses at the inner workings of the Senate.  Furthermore, the Jedi Order is established as the principle peace keeping and law enforcement organization within said government.  While the Jedi play a role in maintaining peace, they are not a standing army.  In fact it is suggested that on a whole there is no such force at the disposal of the Republic. 

Prior to the advent of a grossly misappropriated legion of Clone Troopers the Republic would have had to call on the martial resources of member planets to field any appreciable combat force against threats internal and external.  When Darth Sideous’ shrewdly selective Separatist Movement arose, its member systems were major players in business and industry and posed a challenge to an under-supplied Republic.  As a result, any and all available weaponry was brought to bear, regardless of its vintage or source.  While some worlds could offer hovering vehicles, others might only have wheeled or treaded, tank-like ordinance.  And, of course, there were ambulatory weapons platforms that moved about on mechanical legs of varied numbers.

The Need For Speed

In the  case of the so-called Turbo Tanks utilized on Kashyyyk, rapid deployment of Republic forces was of the upmost importance.  The Wookies were fighting a losing battle pitting bowcasters and blasters against an implacable droid army.  The massive, and many, wheels of the A6 Juggernaught would have made it an ideal choice to convey Clone troops to the battlefield from whatever landing site may have been available to transport ships.  The broad footprint of the vehicle’s wheels also made it ideal for any terrain.  Kicking up clouds of sand on the beachhead would have been a tremendous detriment to the brave Wookie forces were hovercraft type vehicles involved.

Furthermore, with timing quite literally being everything, the snail’s pace of larger armored transports which have lift technology would have turned the mission from one of reinforcement to one of avenging a massacre.  The Droid Army’s slow-moving ATTs illustrate the trade off between the ability to hover above the ground and move quickly over space.  In the end it becomes a terribly inefficient system.  While Landspeeders and Speeder Bikes can race from Point A to Point B with alarming speed, this rapidity of movement is relative to their size and weight.  Magnifying the mass of Luke Skywalker’s speeder exponentially to match that bulk of an ATT results in a tremendous loss of efficiency in forward movement.  Given a choice, good old fashioned wheels are the order of the day, hence their unlikely appearance in one of the final battles of the Clone Wars.

No Need For Speed

But what of the plodding AT-ATs deployed against the Rebel base at Hoth?  How does this techno tortoise beat the hare that is the Juggernaut when a well established Galactic Empire goes into battle against its enemies?  Can speed be a justification in one instance and lethargy in another?  When it comes to Star Wars, yes it can!  And the Death Star makes it all possible.

So how does “the ultimate power in the universe” serve to explain away one of the most inefficient war machines ever to do service in battle?  It really comes down to a single line from Darth Vader that has a much deeper meaning that underscores one of the tenents of Imperial philosophy.  Cautioning Admiral Motti not to be, “too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed”, Vader capture the essence of how Emperor Palpatine rules – through terror.  After inexplicably selling the entire Senate on the concept that the Jedi were in rebellion despite all evidence to the contrary, the Emperor ruled with an iron first with a doctrine of force and fear.  The Death Stars played into this quite well, as do the AT-ATs. 

Essentially the AT-AT is the ultimate terror weapon.  Impervious to blaster fire it sends a chilling message to anyone against whom it is deployed – “We don’t have to be in a rush to destroy you!”  A combination of ridiculous scale, relaxed pace, and powerful laser weaponry, the AT-AT is an ideal morale destroyer.  Alone or in groups, these ponderous colossi ply their slow way toward enemy emplacements with a determination that conveys the intractable nature of the ruling Empire.  Beyond the fear-invoking presence of these terror machines, their massive size affords them the ability to wreak further havoc once they have reached their destination.  What structures may remain after their laser cannon have rained down long distance destruction would be as nothing under the crushing feet of the AT-AT. 

While a viable means of transporting troops for the ultimate ground assault, their primary purpose is to soften up enemy resistance, mentally as well as physically, before engaging on a more intimate basis.  The frightful scale of these decidedly non-stealthy walking tanks further make them an ideal choice for deployment on occupied worlds.  This is illustrated by the presence of one of these in the vicinity of the Empire’s shield generator station on the Endor moon.  While the Ewoks posed a minimal threat to operations (see the very first Jedi Justifications here), stationing an AT-AT near the base would be an advisable way to insure that the pesky indigenous population kept its distance.  The compliment of supporting AT-ST walkers provided more direct assault capability as their larger counterpart was merely a constant reminder that might makes right.

Getting There

The question naturally arises in regard to the torturously slow approach of General Veers’ landing party as to why a linear ground assault was launched in the first place.  Certainly Vader’s fleet was well equipped with fleets of TIE Fighters and other such air/space craft.  That these fighters can traverse the atmospheric barrier of planets effectively would be illustrated later in The Empire Strikes Back when two of them are shown in pursuit of the Millennium Falcon below Cloud City.  Why not simply send a flight of fighters to swoop down on the Rebel base and make short work of their shield generator?  Because it simply can’t be done.

Precedent for the shield generator the Rebels employed would not come until premiere of The Phantom Menace.  Since Senator Amidala’s death could easily have acted as a catalyst for a budding rebellion, it is not a tremendous leap to suggest that Naboo was a contributing system to its efforts.  What better place than the birthplace of the hated Emperor for the Rebel Alliance to find support if not its origins.  As such, the shield generation technologies of the Gungans would have been an ideal resource for the Alliance.  In fact the multi-pod generator unit they utilized at their Hoth System base is not dissimilar to the Fambaa mounted unites employed by Boss Nass’ army.

In Episode I, despite having an aerial assault capability, the Trade Federation fielded a frontal ground assault that, with minimal effort, pushed through the protective barrier of the Gungan shields.  What this suggests is that such a shield can deflect laser blasts and even repel attacks from aircraft, but is easily pierced at its base, the weakest point.  With that in mind, the Imperial forces chose to stroll into direct combat with the Rebels rather than waste time and resources with a pointless attack from above.  Certainly the AT-ATs and their companion AT-STs could breach the base of the shield and convey their compliment of Snowtroopers right to the front door of the Rebel compound unscathed.  The presence of the trenches surrounding the vicinity of their shield generator illustrates that the Rebels anticipated a ground force, they were just surprised by the way in which it arrived.  There is a strong suggestion in this that the AT-AT had not seen practical combat use prior to this operation. 

The Unthinkable

With trademark faith in their technological and martial superiority, the Imperial forces strode comfortably into the Rebels’ territory with impunity.  Armored as they are, the crews and soldiers within the AT-ATs had nothing to fear from the insignificant force pitted against them on the snowy expanse.  They lumbered forward like so many painfully obvious Trojan Horses without a care in the world.  That is until one of their number succumbed to an alternative plan of attack suggested by the ever resourceful Luke Skywalker. 

Whether by his own intuition or his strong connection to the Force, Luke defied conventional wisdom and attacked the Empire at its weakest point, it’s own hubris.  Thinking the AT-AT’s invulnerable, Imperial engineers failed to account for the power of a simple approach to fouling the weapon while focusing on the more obvious larger threats of laser cannon.  Much like the Death Star, the AT-AT is designed to fend off large scale threats and is unmindful of the potential of simple physics.  Tangling the legs of these meandering dreadnaughts is a major determent when stubborn pilots realize only too late  that their vehicle is no longer in their control and find the frigid plains of Hoth racing up at them through the windshield shortly before impact and ultimate destruction. 

Another unexpected variable was a lone soldier assaulting the gigantic machine from below.  Easy access to vital components via maintenance hatches and portals is ideal when servicing the armored titans, but it does lend a tactical vulnerability to the weapon when a thermal detonator is lobbed into the engine platform from below.  Vital components and pivotal connections are instantly damaged and creating a destructive chain reaction that explodes the cockpit from within.  Such an approach to disabling or even destroying the AT-AT would never have been considered as these devices were intended to inspire enemy troops to beat a path in a direction counter to that of its own travel. 

Walking It Off

While the AT-AT may have been a touch out of place in a galaxy full of hovering surface craft and more spacefacing vessels than  you can shake a stick at, ultimately such a machine makes no less sense than maintaining beasts of burden like Taun Tauns.  As a weapon of the Empire the AT-AT need not be so much practical as a manifestation of the might of the Emperor.  The most laggard weapon of the Imperial arsenal is also the most awe-inspiring.  As it makes its sluggish way across the battlefield the enemies initial surprise at facing such a machine quickly turns to thoughts of self-preservation as it proves itself to be impervious to harm and relentless in its approach.  Those not spiritually crushed by its obvious power stand the chance of finding themselves physically so under its titanic foot pods.  Replacing the efficiency of the wheel or the technological advancement of the hover lift with a quartet of slow moving legs is perfectly reasonable when creating a conveyance that is more about raw power than it is about practicality. 

Wheels, legs, and other seemingly primitive forms of locomotion have their place in the Star Wars universe despite a cornucopia of examples of technological superiority to what we enjoy in the real world.  The wheel is no more obsolete in a galaxy that sports Landspeeders than the sail in our own era of combustion and nuclear engines for seafaring vessels.  Someone somewhere will have cause to utilize yesterday’s technology in spite of far superior choices at their disposal.  So I encourage the embracing of the A6 Juggernaught as a viable and sensible aspect of the Saga.  After all, the genesis of this military vehicle dates back to preproduction of The Empire Strikes Back, giving it a kinship to the AT-AT itself!

Jedi Justifications #5 - A Certain Point of View on "A Certain Point of View"

What better way to celebrate Star Wars Day (May the Fourth Be With You) on The JediCole Universe site than with a brand new Jedi Justifications?  By golly it’s been a while!

“What a cop out!”

That was the sentiment I had quietly expressed when Obi-Wan Kenobi, in the form of an ethereal spirit, applied a circuitous logic to the outright lie he had foisted on Luke Skywalker shortly after their first encounter on the Judland Wastes.  By his own admission George Lucas did not originally have designs on Darth Vader having been the youthful hero’s sire.  Subsequently the storyline found itself painted into something of a corner following the events in the curiously impractical inner workings of Cloud City.  But was the espousal of “a certain point of view” so much of a conceit?  Or did Ben have his reasons to deceive Luke about his lineage, especially in light of his encounter with the Sith lord that predated the necessity of admitting the truth.  An admission that came in a certain justifiable form.

This particular justification was one that has been a long time in being realized.  Of all of the justifications I have produced it was the hardest to personally rectify.  As stated in the introduction I felt more than a little slighted by what seemed a patch over a glaring hole in the overall history of Luke Skywalker and his family.  But then that is always the problem with retrofitting a plot.  When I first saw The Empire Strikes Back I diligently championed the concept that Vader’s claim of parenthood was simply a  ploy.  Watch the duel between the two as it moves from the carbon freeze chamber to the awkward gantry and you will see the Saga’s chief villain casting about for some way to break down Luke’s resolve.  He tests the hero’s fortitude again and again, abandoning ploy after ploy in an attempt to turn the untrained Jedi to the Dark Side.  Going into Return of the Jedi three years later I fully expected to have my cause vindicated against all who wholeheartedly embraced Vader as Luke’s closest living relative.

Family Ties

Alas I was bemused to discover that the masses were correct in rallying behind Darth Vader’s admission of paternity.  Though I would come to embrace this as canon in time, in the moment of that first screening my disappointment was palatable.  And then insult was heaped upon injury when Luke confronted his late mentor on the subject of his father’s reported demise.  Seemingly dancing around his own deception, Obi-Wan’s excuse for his deceit seemed as transparent as his spirit.  A certain point of view!?  What could be more dismissive of one’s culpability when caught in a lie?  It seemed as if, in death, the slain Jedi was determined to back peddle on his choice of words when called down on reality versus what he chose to share of his past relationship with the ex-Jedi.  And yet as the years went by and this troublesome turn of events continued to nag at the back of my hardcore Star Wars fan brain I eventually found common ground with the approach that “old Obi-Wan” had taken in softening the blow for his would-be apprentice.

In delving into this conundrum it is important to look at what came before, but only in the sense that what did come before was largely implied rather than expressed.  Every fan knows that there was a gap of over a decade that preceded the resolution of both Obi-Wan’s and Darth Vader’s past.  In 1977 we had to derive what we could about the rise of the Empire and the young Jedi known as Darth Vader’s role therein.  And who was our source for this history?  None other than Jedi-in-exile Obi-Wan Kenobi himself!  But that history was imparted, on screen, to only one individual.  And when that individual is the sole reason you have parked yourself for years on a largely ignored Outer Rim world then you would naturally want to choose your words carefully if the issue of your prior relationship with a man who would become the bane of the galaxy.  And this is exactly what Ben does when Luke inquires about his father’s death.

On screen there is a gap in the dialogue through which the Millennium Falcon could fly when the crucial question of the demise of the man we would later know as Anakin was broached by his son.  Kenobi is clearly formulating his reply during this pregnant pause in the conversation, selecting how best to shed light on a mystery that has plagued the orphan before him all of these years.  Certainly he cannot reveal what decades later would be known to audiences, that it was he himself who delivered a newborn Luke into the care of the man who must pose as a blood relative from that moment forward.  Nor would he wish to share the hard truth about the connection between Anakin and Darth Vader to a boy so enamored of the memory of a man he never knew that he interprets Owen Lars’ pronouncement that Obi-Wan Kenobi died around the same tame as Luke’s father to mean that they were somehow familiar with one another.  Luke Skywalker’s psyche was rather fragile at that time, especially in regard to the question at hand.  The next time you watch A New Hope, take a good look at the scene and you will see, perhaps really noticing for the first time, this lapse in the conversation that will seem overlong in retrospect.

Which Way Does Your View Point?

But how does one’s point of view enter into the equation and  how does that become important in the greater scheme of things?  This is where the prequel trilogy becomes a positive boon, at least after a fashion.  I say this simply because the two trilogies are akin to a pair of jigsaw puzzles by the same manufacturer.  All of the pieces in each puzzle are duplicated in the overall pattern so one could easily build half of one and the other half of the other and the corresponding edges would mesh seamlessly while producing an incompatible image.  That is rather what happens when much of Ben’s dialogue in Star Wars appears to have been ignored by Lucas himself when creating the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin.  There is little indication of young Skywalker making the slightest impression upon Kenobi in regard to any piloting skills.  In fact Anakin’s first excursion in a spacecraft of any kind illustrates more luck and droid intervention than piloting acumen.  So when Ben recalls his old apprentice in that context he is drawing more on his overall experiences than the actual first time the two met.  In fact, as illustrated on film, Obi-Wan is none to thrilled with Qui-Gon’s latest “stray” and maintains a level of apparent disdain for the lad throughout their supposed friendship.  It appears that age tends to mellow a Jedi’s perspective, or point of view if you will.

Indeed if anyone’s point of view of Anakin Skywalker leans more to the accurate it is Yoda when arguing the fate of Luke Skywalker with the late Obi-Wan.  References to his the former Jedi’s bellicose nature being evident in his son are certainly borne out more accurately in the prequels than a sense of strong Kirk-Spock level friendship between Obi-Wan and Anakin.  Yet there is method to Ben Kenobi’s madness that is implicit in the overall saga.  In addition to having time to consolidate all of his memories of Anakin Skywalker into a rosier picture while his former colleague’s son is growing up under the most bland of conditions, Obi-Wan was also afforded plenty of time to reflect on the loss of the prophesied “Chosen One” to the Dark Side.  Midchlorians or not (read more on that here), how could the Jedi destined to bring balance to the force fall prey to its more seductive aspect so easily.  Unless of course, as so often happens, the prophesy was misinterpreted.  In his hiding in plain sight exile, Obi-Wan Kenobi could easily have had the epiphany that Anakin would indeed bring balance to the Force as a catalyst rather than as the actual manifestation thereof in physical form.  The answer lay in his offspring, not in the man himself!

Such a change in the point of view on the ancient Jedi prophesy (the future is always in motion after all) would lead the venerable Kenobi to do whatever was necessary to guide Luke to his destiny.  In many ways Ben Kenobi becomes to Luke what Senator Palpatine was to Anakin.  Certainly the statesman from Naboo would be only too aware of the prophesy and its consequences to the Sith and sought to circumvent such a fate by corrupting the long awaited Chosen One.  Secure in his triumph the newly self-appointed Emperor set about destroying any hint of the Jedi Order, oblivious to his role in the fulfillment of the very future he sought to prevent.  And much as Palpatine had done with the Tatooine farm boy’s father, Obi-Wan manipulated the truth to usher Luke on a path to become the first Jedi in a generation.  In such a context even Yoda becomes complicit as he and his old friend’s incorporeal essence squabble over the eligibility of Skywalker to take on the mantle of a Jedi Knight.  While Yoda’s words about Anakin ring truer than Obi-Wan’s, they simply serve as a compelling counterpoint that encourages Luke to almost demand that the Jedi master take him on as an apprentice.  The Bill Cosby-level reverse psychology employed by these sly adepts of the Force insured that the boy who had been in their watchful care since birth would choose the hero’s path.

Why Lie?

By now it has become clear that, as with all Jedi Justifications,  I have imposed my point of view on this subject.  In so doing I have achieved a balance in what, in the 80s, seemed pointless and ridiculous.  And became disjointed in retrospect with all that was presented on screen in the prequels.  Ben Kenobi’s “certain point of view” is more than just a means to cling more favorably to memories that are less than ideal, it also serves a purpose.  While the Force has a tremendous influence on the weak minded, those with more robust mental capacity require something more down to earth, subtle manipulation of facts to achieve an end.  Certainly Obi-Wan was more than wise enough to realize that had Luke known that Darth Vader was in fact his father, the boy’s path would have been considerably different.  Confronted with the knowledge that the cold-blooded right hand of the evil Galactic Emperor was his sire might have sent him into a tailspin of self-loathing or on a far more destructive approach of trying to vindicate the family name by singlehandedly destroying the hated face of the oppressive Empire.  Given Luke’s nature he would have done anything possible to eliminate Darth Vader or die trying.  The result of such an impulsive action would likely have been Luke’s hatred being an ideal vehicle to carry him into Palpatine’s sway.

So given the fortunate turn of events that delivered Luke back into his care, Obi-Wan played every angle at his disposal from half-truths about Anakin Skywalker and his untimely “demise” to passing on his legacy to his son.  What better encouragement for a potential Jedi who dreams constantly of adventures beyond the stars than the signature weapon of the lost order?  While the subterfuge may have been ignoble, it served a higher purpose as a means to an important end.  And in the end the truth that Obi-Wan clings most strongly to is that sometimes a lie can be a vital pave stone to a higher truth. 

And as I conclude this long promised installment of Jedi Justifications it occurs to me that I have managed to open the door to yet another, the whole question of “the Chosen One”.  This certainly bears more in-depth exploration and will be getting its due in time.  That is to say I will delve more deeply into what the on-screen saga suggests to me about the Jedi  prophesy in a later installment of this feature, but not the very next one.  When I again scrutinize the plot holes, burning questions, and other justification-worthy aspects of the cinematic Star Wars universe it will be with a certain vehicle of war popularized on the big screen back in 1980.  

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! 

Jedi Justification #3 - Midichlorians are Magic!

The Tiny Side of the Force
The most difficult subject of justification to be offered up the Star Wars film franchise is the presence of the Midichlorians in Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.  While the opening salvo of Lucas’ war on his fans presented no end of reasons for even the most die-hard follower of the Saga to blanch, there was one little element that outshone a whiney would-be Vader, a Keyop-style Gungan, and a racial undertones that left audience cringing.  That was of course the revelation that the Force was in fact not an energy field that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together but rather a prolific colony of microorganisms that cause the most beneficial infection in movie history.

The prequel trilogy suffers heavily from the huge span of years that separate its release dates from those of the original films.  Like siblings born decades apart they are children of decidedly different eras.  The original trilogy harkens back to rotary phones, tube televisions, and practical filmmaking technique while its little brother is of an age of cell phones, flat screen televisions, and characters, set pieces, and other elements on screen that never existed in the physical world.  

But it also takes its influence from a post-Star Trek The Next Generation era.  When I first encountered the Midichlorians on screen I felt that Michael Okuda had to be listed as one of the screenwriters!  This attempt to provide a scientific explanation to how and why the Force is possible reeked of TNG’s constant espousal of logical explanations for the seemingly impossible.  But with one major difference, Star Trek writers sought to make the technology more real, the Force is mysticism.  To explain away the power of the underpinnings of the religion of the Jedi by simply putting the Force under a microscope successfully took the teeth out of the Force in the way Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christiansen’s lackluster performances as Anakin Skywalker defanged the once menacing Darth Vader.

Now You See Them, Now You Don’t

With all of that established, how could I possibly find a way to reconcile myself with these pointless little microbes?  So pointless in fact that I have dubbed them “The Amazing Appearing/Disappearing Midichlorians”!  After such a heavy-handed introduction in Episode 1, with both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan marveling at the levels of the little Force-bugs in Anakin’s bloodstream, they exited the ongoing narrative as quickly and more effectively than the Japoor snippet gifted to Padme.  At least that found its way out of the vastly LucasFilm Archives long enough to make a cameo at Amidalla’s funeral in Episode 3! 

 The rather abrupt removal of so much as a passing mention of Midicholrians in two thirds of the prequels trilogy, while clearly a conceit to fans, becomes rather troublesome when it comes to justifying their existence in the first place.  While seemingly vital to the discovery of “the Chosen One”, they were remanded to a veritable oubliette of the Saga thereafter.  But fear not!  The Ever-Ticking Brain of JediCole has found the answer to this puzzling Star Wars conundrum – the late Qui-Gon Jinn.

As with all of the justifications I have made over the years, the answers always seem to present themselves within the body of the films themselves.  While I am often at odds with those steeped in the Expanded Universe, I do not need to cite disparate sources to make my case.  And in this particular instance I need look no further than Obi-Wan’s master.  It is really Qui-Gon who is at the forefront of the entire Midichlorian issue.  He is the one who explains the entire connection between the one-celled sentients and the Force.  He is the one who orders the blood test to check his hunch and the character who most often reminds us of their presence in the Star Wars universe.  But then of course Obi-Wan is seemingly complicit in all of this at first glance.  He does remark with some surprise that Anakin’s Midichorian count is higher event than that of Yoda after all.  But watch closely during Qui-Gon’s explanation of the Midichlorians and you will see a kind of dismissive expression cross his Padawan’s face.  Is Obi-Wan doubting his own master’s view of the Force?

I would suggest that yes, indeed he is subtly expressing a personal distaste for this particular view of the Jedi beliefs.  This, coupled with the fact that after Qui-Gon’s demise all mention of the Midichlorians seems to be excised from the Saga,  speaks volumes in justification of both their presence in, and abrupt disappearance from, this trilogy.  I would suggest that an order as large and venerable as the Jedi would easily have dissenting schools of thought emerge throughout its ranks.  According to Obi-Wan in his twilight years the Jedi had been a vital part of the life and times of the galaxy for thousands of years.  In that time a scholarly and thoughtful religious organization as the Jedi would have seen many factions emerge and disappear.  As they certainly embrace technology as well as the mysteries of the Force, there is no doubt that a great many Jedi devote their time and their brains to the study of all things.  In the course of such studies a remarkable corollary between the natural and mystical realms would have been identified. 

A Certain Point of View

It seems natural to assume that there could be a microorganism that occurs naturally in all sentient beings galaxy-wide.  The existence of such a phenomenon would have been fairly common knowledge, but it would take a concerted survey to reveal that those adept in the Force, and thereby ideal candidates for the Jedi order, have a greater concentration of these  microbes, dubbed Midichlorians, in their bloodstream.  It then becomes more a step than a leap of logic to connect these microscopic entities directly to the energy field that not only exists in the galaxy but which can be tapped by those adept at its control.  In time a faction of the more scientifically inclined Jedi would spearhead a movement that embraced the Midichlorians as the source of the Jedi’s power and as the messengers of the Force itself. 

This would be a view not shared by most of the Jedi.  Indeed there would be other factions who had their own approach to understanding the nature and power of the Force.  While there would be an overall belief system in common, each sub-faction of the Jedi would hold fast to their unique beliefs as well and likely share them at will with their brothers whether they cared to hear such views or not.  Such was the case with Qui-Gon, a Jedi already often at odds with the governing Council for his radical thoughts and deeds.  As a Jedi steeped in the belief that the Midichlorians were the key to understanding the Force, Anakin Skywalker’s alleged immaculate birth and scale-busting Midichlorian count would undoubtedly appear to him, and indeed any other Jedi who shared his beliefs, the very picture of the prophesied Chosen One.  And while his particular take on the Force may not have been in keeping with that of many on the Jedi Council, they were all no less impressed with the possibilities presented by the boy.

Gone Like Qui-Gon

As we know, Qui-Gon Jinn met his end at the hands (and double-bladed lightsaber) of Darth Maul in the curious power generator of Theed Castle.  While Obi-Wan Kenobi lost a friend and mentor, the Star Wars saga lost its most vocal proponent of Midichlorians.  While undoubtedly Qui-Gon was not alone in this belief, he was the only one of his faction to appear in the tales chronicled on screen.  So with his death, so died the open dialogue on the Midichlorians themselves.  Simply put, they did not disappear from the saga, they were simply never spoken of again.  This is supported further by Obi-Wan’s explanation of the Force to Anakin’s adult son many years after the death of his former master.  Clearly Obi-Wan always held fast to the more prevailing view that the Force is something beyond the understanding of man, yet within the reach of those who know how to tap into its power.  The elder Kenobi, like Vader himself during the battle of the first Death Star, could sense Luke’s connection to that energy field without the necessity of any lab work.

Qui-Gon Jinn’s comfortable folding of science and religion into his personal belief system may well have contributed to a previously undeveloped use of the Force as mentioned in passing by Yoda a the end of Episode 3, but that is the stuff of another Jedi Justification.  For now I will content myself with laying to rest the compelling issue of the arrival and equally inexplicable departure of the Midichlorians from the prequel saga.  While their presence in the Star Wars universe seemed a bit contrived, I have made peace with the little critters and can now welcome them as a part of the Saga. 

Look for the next Jedi Justifications in about a month when I tackle the tricky issue of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s seeming cop-out about his deceit regarding the secret of Darth Vader as Luke’s father.  And if you are troubled by any seeming inconsistencies within the on-screen Star Wars universe, please feel free to drop me a line here and I will apply my own “certain point of view” to bring you a reasonable justification.  

Jedi Justifications #2 - Lightsaber Enlightenment

For this installment of Jedi Justifications (formerly Justification Revisited) I thought it would be nice to revisit the “lost episode” of Justify That (from VaderCast) and expand upon it with a related justification that came to me only recently.  I realize that there is undoubtedly no shortage of Expanded Universe reference to lightsabers, their origins, manufacture, significance of color, and indeed all minutia. So I will again remind readers that the purpose of this series of articles is to revisit my personal justifications and explanations of all things Star Wars.  Look at what follows with an eye unguided by anyone else’s work.  This is simply my take on things which you may embrace or reject as you see fit.

Not Your Father’s Lightsaber

As the introduction suggested, this edition of Jedi Justifications will explore a lightsaber theme.  But not just any lightsaber.  The most unique model in the entire Star Wars saga, that of Mace Windu.  Mace carried the only lightsaber seen in the pair of trilogies that has a purple blade.  Both Ben and Luke (and his father before him) had blue blades on their sabers and Darth Vader carried the red-bladed variety in Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.  With the necessity of replacing his lost saber, Luke introduced audiences to the green blade option. 

While yellow and other colors would appear manifest in toys and comic books, on screen there were never more than these three colors, colors that were cemented into the canon of the Star Wars universe with Episode 1.  Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan showcased green and blue blades, those associated previously with Jedi while Darth Maul favored the traditional Sith red.  Then came Attack of the Clones and with it a fourth color of lightsaber blade, purple!

Look at Me!

It is easy to imagine that George Lucas planned every aspect of the saga decades in advance of actual production of any given chapter.  That is until you begin to read more and more about how each film went from core concept and rough screenplay to the final edited film.  Han Solo was once to have been a hideous bipedal amphibian, Darth Vader was to have a holiday home on a lava planet where he would forlornly feed wild gargoyles like he was an old man tossing crumbs to pigeons in the park, and Yoda looked suspiciously like the Travelocity Roaming Gnome! 

And in that same vein, Mace Windu was not originally intended to have a purple lightsaber.  The clearest indication of this is the "Sneak Preview" action figure of Mace that was produced before the release of The Phantom Menace, as well as the one produced after the film hit theatres.  In both cases the Jedi Master's lightsaber accessory had a blue blade.  After Episode 2, the more familiar purple blade began to appear in toys because the color of his saber's blade had been revealed at last. 

From a production design standpoint the new color was introduced at Samuel L. Jackson's bequest.  Knowing he would appear in crowded scenes filled with lightsaber wielding Jedi Knights, Jackson wanted to stand out on screen.  To that end he requested the unique blade type which certainly makes it obvious where Mace is should he be in any given shot.  While this explains the origins of the blade from a behind the scenes standpoint, it does not do so within the context of the storyline itself.   

There Can be Only One

To explain the presence of the purple lightsaber I found my answers within what was presented on screen.  While at first glance the venerable Yoda would seem to sit at the had of the Jedi Council.  However, if you watch closely there is strong evidence that despite his stature in the Jedi Order, he is not in fact their leader.  That honor goes to none other than Mace Windu (rather appropriate since he was the first character named by Lucas, then as Mace Windy, when he began to develop what would become Star Wars).

When I have shared this observation with Star Wars fans I have been met with raised eyebrows or confused looks.  But upon closer examination it is easy to see how I arrived at this conclusion.  In Episode 1 for example, Mace dominates the Jedi Council meeting on the fate of Anakin Skywalker.  Even the great Yoda defers to Windu as if he is a subordinate.  Prior to Episode 1 it would have been an easy thing to imagine that Yoda was the most powerful and respected member of the Jedi Order.  He was, after all, one of two survivors who still eluded Vader and the Empire.  For that reason I believe it is difficult for most to look upon Mace Windu as the head of the council, but the evidence is certainly there.  Windu has a commanding presence in the Council chambers in all of the prequels, usually having the last word in all decisions.

So, establishing Windu’s station it is then a short leap of logic to explain his unique lightsaber.  The purple-bladed saber is one of a kind, and not just on screen.  Mace Windu carries the saber of his office as head of the Jedi Council.  It was carried by his predecessor and would have been handed off to whoever took his place had the demise of the Jedi not transpired.  Only one such saber was ever produced and solely for the purpose of being wielded by the Jedi who leads their Council.

Mace likely carried either a blue or green saber before rising to the level of Head of the Jedi Council and retired that model during his tenure.  Even in battle the ceremonial saber is put into action as it is practical as well as ornamental. 

This is my justification for Mace Windu’s lightsaber. Again, I am not steeped in the non-film history of the lightsaber or the crystals involved in their production.  I have not researched what others have written on the significance of purple versus red, blue, or green blades.  Nor do I care to.  The lightsaber justification is the one that tends to be the most hotly debated by those who have read a tremendous amount of the Expanded Universe material.  And so I reiterate that this, like all of my justifications, is based solely on what is presented on screen. 

Star Wars: Return of the Justifications

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 Teddy bears 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.