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Was the Death Star more of an inside job than you can possibly imagine…?
Since Star Wars first came out in 1977, we were all perplexed as to how the Empire could make an omission allowing direct access to the Death Star’s main reactor via a 2-meter wide thermal exhaust port.
Now that Rogue One has been released, the suspicions of conspiracy theorists like myself have been confirmed; the Death Star was an inside job. Reluctant Imperial scientist Galen Erso purposefully built this flaw into the blueprints to allow the Rebel Alliance a chance — infinitesimal as it may be — to destroy this planet killer.
But could the traitorous plot to destroy the Empire’s premier battle station go much, much higher than we previously thought? Could it might go nearly straight to the top: Darth Vader.
After a test fire of the super laser destroys the Holy City of Jedha, Darth Vader makes his feelings known in a conversation with Director Orson Krennic while in his private palace on the planet Mustafar. When Director Krennic pleads for a face-to-face with the Emperor to discuss the Death Star’s “remarkable potential,” Vader quickly responds with, “It’s power to create problems has certainly been confirmed.” He would rather make the false claim that Jedha was destroyed in a mining disaster rather than taking credit for having a Death Star.
Following Princess Leia’s daring escape with the secret plans, Vader is “unable” to recover them, his weapons officer foolishly refusing to shoot down an escape pod from her ship on the flimsy reasoning that there were no life forms onboard (knowing their mission was to recover the stolen Death Star plans). Shortly thereafter, Darth Vader reveals more of his feelings in a meeting with all of the high-ranking military officials of the Empire in a conference room onboard the space station. “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed,” he says to Admiral Motti. The Dark Lord continues, “The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.”
These may be all strong opinions against the Death Star, but are they strong enough to call them a motive? Probably not. What other reasons would Darth Vader have to allow the Death Star to be destroyed?
Remember the nature of the Sith master/apprentice relationship. Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the Dark Side was based on a lie. Darth Sidious had told the powerful Jedi Knight that he held the knowledge to save his wife, Padmé, from certain death if he would become the Dark Lord’s apprentice. After helping to kill Jedi Master Mace Windu, Anakin ultimately became Darth Vader and learned an unfortunate truth: Sidious apparently did not hold that knowledge.
Sidious was then able to convince his apprentice that he would have to hunt down and kill all the Jedi to have enough dark side energy to save Padmé. All of this culminates with Vader nearly being destroyed by his former master on Mustafar, becoming “more machine than man” and being told by Sidious that he was responsible for his wife’s death. He would never even learn that his wife had given birth to their children until years later (see the in-canon Marvel comics coverage of this revelation).
In the Sith master/apprentice relationship, it is the master’s responsibility to give the apprentice knowledge, but never enough to use that knowledge against the master and keep them yearning for more. It is the master’s responsibility to make the apprentice stronger and more powerful, but not to the extent where the apprentice could possibly destroy them and take their place. Conversely, the apprentice must relentlessly try to become stronger, smarter and more powerful to one day destroy their master and take on their own apprentice. The Rule of Two.
In short, Darth Vader knew the destruction of the Death Star would weaken his master and the Empire, and it would embolden the Rebel Alliance. Why would he want this? As always, to overthrow the Emperor. Before he even made his infamous offer to Luke Skywalker, he made his intentions clear to Padme shortly before her death. “I have brought peace to the Republic. I am more powerful than the Chancellor. I can overthrow him, and together you and I can rule the galaxy.” Just think about how much the next few years would make him want this even more.
So, that is motive — how about opportunity? Darth Vader already knew full well that the Rebels had the plans to the Death Star and would know how to blow it up. When he sensed how strong the Force was in the X-Wing pilot ahead of him while he flew in his TIE Advanced, he had his opportunity. All he had to do was not kill him.
If you watch that scene again, you can see how easily he takes out the other ships. He has plenty of time to kill Luke. He takes shots at Luke though, right? Notice how they are all non-critical hits (well, unless you ask Artoo). Never forget how talented of a pilot Darth Vader is. Did he do this on purpose? Sure Luke may have been strong in the Force, but at this point, he still was nowhere near as powerful as Vader. Did he let Luke live, and let his son do the rest?
Now, I have provided you with motive and opportunity.
Maybe — just maybe — you’ll join me in pondering Darth Vader’s complicity in the first Death Star, Grand Moff Tarkin and 300,000 of its most loyal service men and women.
It leaves us asking the question, which Skywalker really played a bigger part in the destruction of the first Death Star?
I’ll leave you to ponder that one for yourselves.
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Violence erupts in the Holy City of Jedha. Stormtroopers representing the Imperial War Machine have been ambushed by rebel forces in a coordinated attack masterminded by the extremist Saw Gerrera. Explosions rock the city streets, but the debris, shrapnel and laser fire caused by the conflict do not discriminate in terms of whom they kill.
All around innocent civilians of all races and species are wounded, and many perish. In the middle of it all, a small girl frozen by fear cries for a mother she can’t find. Laser bolts zip by just inches away from her face. Just as it seems she will be another nameless casualty of this endless violence, a young boy watching the fighting from far away points and happily exclaims, “Jyn Erso is going to save her!”
That young boy is three years old, and he is my son.
His name is Dylan, and I am confident that in about two years, his knowledge of Star Wars will exceed my own (and I’ve been immersed in the SWU since 1983). His favorite movies in the saga are Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and Return of the Jedi. He is also a huge fan of the Star Wars Rebels franchise and has seen every episode. What I am most interested in, is the fact that some of his favorite characters are Rey, Princess Leia, Sabine Wren, and the aforementioned Jyn Erso.
As a father, you have many proud moments. Your daughter gets on the honor roll in school. Your son gets his first hit in little league baseball. Oddly enough, one of my proudest moments came a few months ago when I took Dylan shopping for toys. Obviously our first stop — and usually our only stop — was to the Star Wars aisle. Searching for another action figure (because a few hundred just isn’t enough), I always let my kids choose their own toys.
My proud moment came when Dylan passed up no less than five male characters to pick Jyn Erso, and the sheer look of joy when I placed the package in his hands. I looked at him and thought, “My God, that is amazing”, and in writing this I get the same goosebumps as I had that day.
I began to do some introspection as to why I found that simple act so powerful. The fact of the matter I believe is: it shouldn’t be. A little boy choosing a female action figure over her male counterparts because he admires her more should be the norm. Sadly, however, even in 2017 it is not the norm.
In a previous article I wrote entitled “A Hero’s Journey” I discussed how George Lucas gained much of his writing inspiration from famed mythologist Joseph Campbell. Campbell was a major proponent of matriarchal societies. On numerous occasions he talked about the significance of powerful goddesses such as Hera, Athena and Aphrodite.
Moreover Campbell explained the significance of the philosophy of Gaea, or “Mother Earth.” Whereas Man destroys life, Woman creates life. As all life starts in the womb, the woman was therefore put on a pedestal. Ideas were also seen to start this way, and hence why ancient authors would plead to the muses (also female characters) for inspiration. It should be noted as well that although both Athena and Ares were gods of war, the soldiers and generals chose to worship and plead to Athena because she was the goddess of war and wisdom. Ares on the other hand was not well respected by gods or man because of his arrogance and immaturity.
George Lucas took Campbell’s teachings to heart. They influenced how he created the iconic character of our now beloved Princess Leia. 40 years later Lucasfilm continue to put women at the front and center of the franchise.
The job, however, is far from finished. As I write this, Disney has just announced a new Star Wars project called “Forces of Destiny,” focusing on characters such as Rey, Leia, Jyn and Ahsoka have had on their universe. That is certainly encouraging, but considering some of the anti-feminist backlash that has already occurred because of this announcement, it looks like we still “have a long ride ahead of us.”
Oh great, another feminist article, some may think, and what’s worse from a dude.
I feel I needed to write this short post though; after all, it is because of characters like Ahsoka, Jyn, Sabine, and Hera that my daughters — ages 13 and 10 — have no inhibitions about jumping right into “Jedi versus Sith” in the backyard and not feel weird about it, or not go to school wearing their “I Rebel” t-shirt and be ashamed of it.
It allows my son to feel comfortable opting for the female character in the toy isle.
More importantly it teaches all children that there is nothing in this galaxy that they cannot accomplish if they have the heart and determination to do so.
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Author’s Note: If you are looking for writing tips from a professional writer — STOP! You have come to the wrong place. Alexander Freed, author of Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company has an informative and immensely helpful website if you’d like tips from a true professional. I am writing this article simply as a man who has spent the last fifteen years in the Navy, and who therefore cringes when he watches Battleship and can no longer bring himself to watch Crimson Tide.
Recently a friend on Twitter messaged me saying that he loved to write science fiction and wanted to make his military scenes as realistic as possible. Noticing that I was in the armed forces, he kindly requested to probe my mind on this topic. As you may have guessed, I am highly passionate about military writing so I agreed. I answered his questions but realized there is so much more that can be written about this, so here we are. I realize that science fiction is about escapism, but the more realistic the dialogue and the action sequences are, the more the reader can immerse himself or herself into the story. That’s my goal here.
A couple more quick notes first. When I give examples on how to apply these principles, I will reference Star Wars. Why? Well, just click on my profile for that answer. Secondly and lastly, while my experience comes directly from the Navy, most of these principles can be applied to any branch of the military. Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let’s go!
#1 — DO YOUR RESEARCH.
Remember how I said I can no longer watch Crimson Tide? That’s because there are no dogs on submarines! (Among a plethora of other inaccuracies, of course.) Never write about a sailor on a vessel and say, “He went downstairs to go to bed.” That is something we do not say. Instead, write something along the lines of, “He had to go down two levels in order to find his bunkroom.”
Whether it be an aircraft carrier or an Imperial Star Destroyer, directional and geographical words remain the same. For example, “left and right” do not exist, but rather “port and starboard.” Learn how to use words like “amidships” and “dorsal.” For speeds, don’t settle for, “They went as fast as they could go to catch them.” Instead, thrill the reader by saying, “In order to prevent the escaping pirate ship from making the jump to hyperspace, the Gozanti’s captain ordered it to flank speed in order to intercept.” Please note that flank and “full speed ahead” are not the same thing.
How do you this research then? NOT by watching films like the aforementioned. If you find a writer you enjoy (like Alexander Freed, whom I mentioned earlier), feel free to incorporate their style into your writing approach. For actual information on vessels, tactics, etc. however, I would recommend military history books, the internet (trust but verify), museums, or just converse with someone that has firsthand experience like I was. Bottom line: the more realism you bring to your military scenes, the more the reader will be able to understand the deeper meaning of your story.
#2 — So what do we talk about anyway?
I cannot count how many times I have seen or read such forced dialogue between members of the military in movies or books. Truly cringe-worthy. Do you want to know the most realistic dialogue in all of Star Wars? It’s the stormtroopers discussing new or outdated speeder models, or responding to a creeping Jedi by saying, “Probably just another drill.” (Note to reader: we hate all the drills.)
When we are in the middle of operations, communications must be entirely formal. Orders are given and they are acknowledged. Once completed, they are reported back as such.
But in our downtime? Oh, man. We talk about anything and everything. We talk about the new movies (holos) coming out that we are regrettably missing because we’re out on this stinking patrol. We talk about relationship fails and also the ones that went really, really well (if you catch my drift). Most importantly though, don’t forget that all of this conversation is to help us cope with the fact that we miss home greatly. Naval warships are routinely out for months at a time, sometimes with little to no communicate back home. Babies are born two weeks after you leave and are eight months old when you get back. You can rest assured that if you live on Coruscant and you are patrolling the Outer Rim, this would be the exact same case.
#3 — Ships require A LOT of work. And things break all the time.
When you witness the Rebel armada and the massive Imperial fleet clash above the forest moon of Endor, what you are seeing is the culmination of months of tedious work. The ships amassing near Sullust needed to have carefully calibrated navigational systems to make an accurate jump that landed them right at the doorstep of the unfinished Death Star. Dozens or even hundreds of crewmembers worked on those systems to make that happen.
Those turbolasers that hit with pinpoint accuracy probably have all kinds of maintenance issues. In numerous scenes they are furiously venting, so perhaps they experience overheating. Their targeting systems undoubtedly have failed diodes and capacitors, so the gunners would have to aim manually until that is fixed.
Well you might be saying, “No one wants to hear about a technician replacing a turbolaser circuit card.” Think about some of the most memorable lines said in space, though. “Bring me the hydrospanner!” Don’t forget Rey gleefully saying, “I bypassed the compressor.” Not only does equipment breaking lead to stressful situations and exciting dialogue, but you can also make powerful use of the mundane tasks. If two technicians are tirelessly and seemingly endlessly working on the hyperdrive, think about how much you can reveal about those characters over the course of their conversation. This is gold in character development. (We all want to be Han Solo evading Star Destroyers, but that is only made possible by Chewbacca thanklessly maintaining the ship back on Hoth.)
So these were just a few tips on how to bring more realism to your science fiction military scenes. If this helped you in any way or would like to read more tips on writing action scenes, please drop me a comment and let me know. As always, thank you for reading and may the Force be with you.
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Unravelling the mystery of Snoke’s identity within the new Star Wars canon
“The dark side of the Force is the pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” Chancellor Palpatine: Revenge of the Sith
*The Future of the Force team enjoy fan theories on the saga, particularly discussions on the mystery left by the aftermath of The Force Awakens. Join regular contributor Chief, ISD Avenger as he unravels his theory on the identity of Supreme Leader Snoke*
Nowadays theories on the true identity of Supreme Leader Snoke are about as numerous as fleas on a bantha. He’s Anakin Skywalker one day and Wilhuff Tarkin the next. Some fans are even so cruel as to propose he is Jar Jar Binks turned Sith. My personal theory is not a new one, nor do I believe I was the first one to seriously consider this theory. What’s my belief? Snoke is Darth Plagueis, and that makes him the Father of the Skywalker family.
The evidence I will present to you today is 100% canon; in fact all evidence presented here is from the Star Wars movies themselves. Much of the original supporting information for this theory came from the book Darth Plagueis, written by James Luceno and published in 2012. As we all know however, that book is regrettably no longer considered canon, so the stories contained therein cannot be used to make the claim that Plagueis is indeed Snoke. If you’ve read it though, I’m sure you know what I’m referring to, and if you haven’t, you should certainly give this book a read at your earliest opportunity. It should be noted that James Luceno also penned Tarkin, in which Tarkin considers the possibility of Palpatine being a Sith, and the book also makes mention of Plagueis himself. I do not believe it is a coincidence that Luceno was responsible for both these masterful works.
So let’s take it from the top, chronologically speaking. In Revenge of the Sith, Chancellor Palpatine tells Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker “The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise.” Palpatine explains to Anakin that “the dark side of the Force is the pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” Knowing full well that Anakin was worried about losing Padme in childbirth (I also believe the Sith Lord may have been responsible for Anakin’s nightmares, but that’s a separate article I suppose), Palpatine tells the young Jedi that Darth Plagueis could influence the midichlorians to keep people from dying. Midichlorians were first introduced in The Phantom Menace as microscopic organisms that allowed living beings to interact with the Force. More importantly to my theory however is when Palpatine states Plagueis “became so powerful he could even influence the midichlorians to create life.”
That takes us to The Phantom Menace. When Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn first met young Anakin Skywalker, he immediately noticed how strong Anakin was with the Force. Thinking possibly that he may have descended from a Jedi, Qui-Gon asks Shmi Skywalker, Anakin’s mother, “Who was the father?” The key to my theory rests in Shmi’s simple answer.
“There was no father.”
Shmi explains to the Jedi how she carried and raised the boy, but couldn’t explain his origins. This is precisely why Qui-Gon rushes to tell the Jedi Council that he has found a vergence (or nexus point) in the Force. Anakin’s remarkable ability to use the Force and the fact that he was apparently born out of the Force leads Qui-Gon to believe Anakin is “The Chosen One” from ancient Jedi prophecy, said to bring balance to the Force.
An even stronger connection between The Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith occurs when Qui-Gon runs a simple blood test on Anakin. Obi-Wan Kenobi is astounded when they receive Anakin’s midichlorian count, which is “over 20,000.” Although these numbers are never explained in great detail in the movies, that is a number so high that it even exceeds Master Yoda’s, considered by many Jedi to be the most powerful of them all. So how could Anakin have a midichlorian count that is literally off the charts? By Darth Plagueis influencing the midichlorians within Shmi “to create life.”
Since I know you pay close attention, I’m sure this is the part where you say, “Well, all that may be true, but Palpatine clearly stated Plagueis’s apprentice (Sidious himself) killed the Sith Lord in his sleep.” True. He did. And admittedly this is where I ask you to take a minor leap of faith, but based on a couple of facts. First, Palpatine was a liar. He routinely used falsehoods and half-truths to get exactly what he wanted. So maybe he didn’t even kill Plagueis. Maybe over the years he had told that story so many times he had actually come to believe it. Second, if Plagueis was so powerful with the Force that he could create life, is it so hard to believe that he could have influenced the midichlorians enough to keep himself alive after Sidious believe that he had killed him?
That would surely explain Snoke’s ghastly appearance, as well as the (lightsaber?) wound down his forehead. Lastly, how cool and Sith-like is it to know that Palpatine, who singlehandedly engineered the downfall of the Republic and the destruction of the Jedi Order, was being played the entire time by his former master?
Now, finally we can fast forward to The Force Awakens. If the creators of this film inserted certain clues just to make gullible folks like myself incorrectly believe that Snoke is Plagueis, they went to awfully great lengths to do so. The first subtle clue is the accompanying music that is playing when Kylo Ren initially speaks to Snoke. It is nearly identical to the music that is playing with Sidious tells Anakin about Plagueis. If you don’t believe me, I encourage you to listen to John Williams’s masterpieces “Snoke” and “Palpatine’s Teachings.”
When Han Solo confronts Kylo Ren — also known as Ben, Solo’s son — Ren tells Solo that “the Supreme Leader is wise.” If you recall, in Revenge of the Sith, Sidious refers to his master as “Darth Plagueis the Wise.” Again, this is a long way to go merely in an attempt to throw us off.
Perhaps you’re calling all this evidence “flimsy at best,” and maybe it is, but I would like you to consider why Snoke wants Rey so badly. The obvious answer is: he wants to train her. Think more deeply though. When he finds out how powerful she is, he immediately tells Kylo Ren, “bring her to me.” Why? Because don’t forget he can influence midichlorians to create or sustain life. He can drain the Force from her to keep himself alive. Farfetched? Think about Han Solo telling his son “Snoke is using you for your power. When he gets what he wants, he’ll crush you. You know it’s true.”
After all this, if your response is, “But his name is Snoke, not Plagueis,” I will simply tell you that you can count on one hand how many people in the galaxy actually called Palpatine by his Sith name, Sidious.
In conclusion, Disney and Lucasfilm have made it clear that the core Star Wars movies are about the Skywalker family, and Snoke being Plagueis makes it the ultimate family affair. Plagueis begets Anakin, Anakin begets Leia, Leia begets Ben. That makes Snoke — you guessed it — Kylo Ren’s great-grandfather! (And if Rey does turn out to be related to Kylo Ren, that makes it even more convoluted.)
And you thought the midichlorians would never matter….
May The Force Be With You
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“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Joseph Campbell
When he first began writing the Star Wars saga in the early 1970s, George Lucas already had a tremendous vision for the movies he wanted to create. Influenced strongly by serials like Flash Gordon, Lucas knew he wanted to produce a “soap opera in space” full of lasers, spaceships, aliens, yet true down-to-Earth human interactions as well. What he lacked though was a depth in the story.
That is when he turned to the most popular mythologist of the 20th century (if not all-time), Joseph Campbell. Joseph Campbell, born in 1904, had been studying and writing about mythology since the 1920s, and taught on the same subject until his death in 1987. He first fell in love with the symbolism of Native American mythology, but would later delve into many of the world’s ancient myths, especially that of Greek mythology. Campbell would also become enamored with the story of Buddha’s enlightenment, a source for a plethora of his writings.
Possibly the most famous book ever written by Campbell was The Hero with a Thousand Faces, first published in 1949. It was from this book that George Lucas gained his true inspiration for Star Wars. One could argue this work acted as a muse for Lucas, and this is evident when Campbell once said that the filmmaker was “his finest student.”
The most popular theme from this book was “the hero’s journey,” and when watching Star Wars, it is easy to see Luke Skywalker transform through this process. In the hero’s journey, an unlikely hero begins his or her life as an ordinary individual — someone whose finest joy is going to the Tosche Station to pick up some power converters. Seemingly out of the blue, they receive a call to adventure — a feisty little less-than-honest droid who is carrying a message from a beautiful woman saying “help me!”
Two of most important elements of the hero’s journey are meeting a mentor, and refusing the call to adventure. Many mythological stories feature a wise hermit (“Hello there!”) who sometimes even comes bearing gifts — Excalibur, a lightsaber, etc. This mentor, this teacher, will show the hero that there is something larger in this world than their own existence, such as the Force. Overwhelmed, the would-be hero will often refuse the mentor’s suggestion to step into the larger world, saying “I have to stay here.” Something however, such as gazing at your crispy aunt and uncle, will make the hero cross the threshold and truly begin the heroic adventure.
From there the hero will make friends and allies to help him or her on the journey. They can come in many forms such as scoundrels, Wookiees, and even droids. One may even find a “damsel in distress,” who is hardly in distress, and would probably slap you if you called her a damsel. Together the group will go through numerous trials all while collectively and individually develop into higher beings.
The hero will then usually find themselves in a foreboding cave — sometimes this is also called “the belly of the whale.” This cave can take many forms, including a large trash compactor that is home to a not-so-friendly Dianoga. From this cave the hero will shed their old skin and emerge more confident and focused.
The pinnacle of the hero’s journey happens when the protagonist must apply everything he or she has learned and overcome a great ordeal. In Star Wars, this obviously happens when Luke Skywalker takes his X-Wing into the Death Star trench in an attempt to blow up the space station (with a special shoutout to Galen and Jyn Erso). Whereas other flying aces relied on technology to try and make the kill shot, Luke instead turned off his targeting computer and used the Force to make the shot. And boom goes the dynamite, or, in this case, the Death Star.
At the end of the journey the hero will earn a reward (unless your name is Chewbacca) and return home. The reward will come in different forms, but will usually mean a higher state of being, a state of enlightenment. Rarely do truly mythological heroes triumph in order to gain physical rewards.
There are some key things to remember about the hero’s journey. First, generally a hero does not go through this process just once. Luke can be seen going through this in every movie of the original trilogy. Second, sometimes these journeys can be part of an even larger adventure, as is the case with Anakin Skywalker. His particular story spans all six movies, and he does not receive redemption until the last ten minutes of Return of the Jedi. Lastly, the hero’s journey can happen in anybody’s life. If you watch closely, you can even see Han Solo go through his own journey who some find even more interesting than Luke’s.
With all that being said, I encourage you to study the works of Joseph Campbell (jcf.org) and apply this theme to all characters in the Star Wars universe. Jyn Erso and Rey (Skywalker? Solo? Kenobi?) are powerful female characters who go through their own unique journeys. But most importantly, I encourage you to apply the hero’s journey to your own life. Yes, every single one of us has the potential and the capacity to be a hero — just look at the work of the 501st Legion. Where are you in your personal journey? Many of us have received the call but have spent years refusing it. I strongly suggest you take the first steps into a larger world — you never know what’s waiting for you out there.