By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues
Of all the questions Star Wars fans have asked over the years the one I have never heard is ‘Why was there a hole in the Death Star?’
I’ve heard ‘Why didn’t Obi Wan Kenobi change Luke’s surname to keep his dad from finding him?’ ‘Why didn’t Obi Wan change his own surname to keep his identity secret from being found by Vader?’ ‘Did George know that Luke and Leia were brother and sister when they kissed?’ ‘Why couldn’t R2 fly in the original trilogy?’ ‘And did Han really shoot first?’
Yet Disney decided that it was the one burning issue in the Star Wars galaxy that needed addressed in a movie.
So was born Rogue One.
Despite the fact I personally think it’s a car wreck of a movie, it did very well financially and critically world wide. How is beyond me given most of the trailer was not in the actual movie including the centre piece where Jyn Erso is trapped by a TIE fighter atop the transmission platform. It turned out the director Gareth allegedly advised the marketing guys that these scenes were not going to be included but they went ahead and fired them out anyway. False advertising anyone? Yes, I’m looking at you too Predators.
While the world fell in love with Rogue One, I had a serious problem with it as I said. It wasn’t the fact it was badly cut and put together. It wasn’t the fact cameos were shoe horned into the movie like Walrus Man and the droids. I didn’t even mind they resurrected Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin but I do have an issue they didn’t make his voice more like the man himself. Guy Henry did a great job though.
It is the fact that they needed to explain the weakness in the Death Star that allowed Luke to fire the shot that saved the Rebel Alliance from obliteration. But in their desire to justify something that never needed justifying in the first place not one Star Wars fan lost in their bliss at new Star Wars action realised that the very fabric of A New Hope was being ripped away right in front of them.
So let’s look at it from Rogue One’s perspective.
Kidnapped by the Empire and forced to work on the new weapon of mass destruction the Death Star, Galen Erso designed a flaw into the station. He put a vent into the design that would allow a shot to penetrate the interior of the energy core resulting in a massive cascade that would destroy the station from within as we saw in the original and in the special edition and in the following special edition. Damn, that’s a lot of explosions for one Death Star.
In revenge for being taken from his daughter and murder of his wife, Galen laid his trap in the reactor module.
According to him any pressurised explosion to the reactor module would set off a chain reaction that would totally destroy the Death Star. Luke does exactly this but while the fans were swallowed up this, they failed to see that Galen’s plan was a bit shit.
Of course, it all ended well as Luke fires the magic shot using the Force destroying Tarkin and his weapon seconds before the Death Star fires and takes out everything.
So caught up in the drama, Star Wars fans freaked out, thankful that Rogue One and A New Hope join together to make a pair of great movies that leave us breathless that the hole mystery has finally been explained.
While it is exciting and good action that has encapsulated me and millions of others for years, a crucial fact escaped most of the teary eyed fans that swamped the Disney store and Smyths toy stores looking for Rogue One merchandise for their already bulging shelves.
That hole explanation had just undermined the entire Star Wars trilogy faster than a Darth Vader choke hold on a mouthy Imperial.
Hang on a minute!!
The original trilogy was all about this vast Empire that had the galaxy under its heel. Everyone was under the domination of the Emperor and his lackeys with no sign of hope for the future. So confident was the Emperor in his own dark Sith abilities that he was confident right through to Return of the Jedi that he would triumph. The Rebel Alliance was a mere inconvenience that irritated like a wasp’s nest but something that would not be wiped out one day. There is no hope for anyone until a farmboy emerges from the sands of Tattoine to become the greatest threat to the Empire ever.
This boy, Luke Skywalker, will uncover dark secrets that the Emperor thought Vader would never learn making the need to bring Luke to the Dark Side imperative.
It is the old story of David and Goliath. The Empire is an unstoppable giant that represses the galaxy yet Luke is a light that can stand against them and put a crack in that evil façade to show the galaxy that the Empire was not all powerful. They are not the unstoppable force they once seemed. A simple boy blows up their piece de resistance, the Death Star, a weapon designed to put the Empire’s stamp on the galaxy to crush any final resistance following the fall of the senate.
Grand Moff Tarkin is so coldly confident in the power of the Death Star he does not even conceive the Empire will fail. It simply isn’t a question. Even moments from his death Tarkin scowls at an underling seeking to escape the Death Star.
‘Evacuate?! In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances!’
This beautiful line perfectly demonstrate’s the Empire’s own over confidence but also the Emperor’s mind set from Return of the Jedi. Having learned from the weakness in the Death Star, he is so sure he can turn Luke and destroy the Rebel Alliance in one fell swoop that he sets his trap with an unfinished Death Star that rebels can fly right in and blow up.
Defeat is not an option.
The Empire is so ingrained by the Emperor’s own confidence that again he does not see that a father’s love for his son can be the one thing that can bring down the Empire and Palpatine’s own death.
Again we have an echo of another age old theme; that there is good in everyone if it can be reached. It is Vader’s realisation that the Emperor is about to murder his own son that burns the darkness from the galaxy to give hope on a scale never imagined.
The original trilogy echoes the age old story that one person can make a difference; that the darkness can be stopped no matter how scary it seems. Seeing the Death Star bear down from the skies of Jedha unleashing its powerful weapons to boil alive the populace below as enough to secure the spread of terror Tarkin wanted. Luke’s destruction of the Death Star echoes another age old theme; that pride comes before a fall.
But looking at the trilogy outside of Rogue One’s introduction is a story of good versus evil that hope and light will always win. Darkness will fall and that the ties of family can overcome the deadliest of situations. In the end for Vader, blood was truly thicker than water. It inspired us and thrilled us for generations. That final scene with the cast gathered celebrating with the Ewoks encapsulates the spirit of not only Star Wars but classic story telling throughout the ages.
Now put Rogue One into the spin and it all falls apart.
Luke succeeded not because he was a new hope but because Galen put a weakness in the Death Star. Without Rogue One, it is Luke’s own self belief in his abilities that destroyed the Death Star not technology which is the path of a hero and a classic theme.
By adding a hole in a shaft, Galen also shows that the Empire was never going to be defeated by a simple farmboy. Luke would have died along with the entire Rebel Alliance at Yavin if it hadn’t been for Galen’s convenient hole. Vader would never have known about his children and turned against the Emperor. The galaxy would have choked under the Empire’s grip for all eternity. It undermines the classic story telling tool that no threat is too big and that there will always be an underdog champion to lead the way for others to freedom.
Even at that it wasn’t exactly the best plan Galen came up with. Look at the scene in A New Hope where the Alliance is briefing the pilots on their objective as mentioned earlier but with Rogue One eyes.
Now, if I had been there, I’d have been on the first transport out going in the opposite direction because none of the pilots exactly inspire confidence in winning.
‘The Death Star is heavily shielded and carries a fire power greater than half the star fleet,’ announces the wise, old rebel leader. Way to go on inspiring confidence man.
He goes on to say the Death Star is designed for a large scale attack and that a single one manned fighter should be able to penetrate the outer defence.
The General himself states that the Empire does not consider a one manned fighter to be a threat again perfectly demonstrating their hubris and overconfidence without Rogue One. These are the qualities that will bring them down, not a conveniently placed hole.
But I have to change that word as the hole Galen created isn’t convenient at all. It is placed at the end of a heavily defended trench filled with cannons which a ship must fly down, avoid being blown up and fire lasers into a two metre hole.
Way to go Galen. You’d almost think that he knew a farmboy strong in the Force would be the one to blow up the Death Star without using his computers. The confidence in the room isn’t great to be honest with only Luke thinking that the plan may work as he used to shoot womp rats in his T-16 back home because they are two meters long just like the shaft.
Oh, and Galen almost force shielded the shaft to make the job that more difficult for the lucky pilot in whose hands the future of the rebels lay. Again, anyone else get the feeling that Galen didn’t really think it through?
He put a two metre shaft beneath another shaft, made sure it was heavily shielded and could only be accessed by making it alive down a trench brimming with laser cannons firing at you. One bump and you’d miss and that is assuming your entire squadron does not get massacred while they are escorting you down said trench. And thank God for that Corellian ship coming in at the last second to get Vader out of the way so Luke has the time to focus the Force and make the successful shot that allowed more movies. Who said there’s never a Wookie about when you need one?
Maybe Galen was a Force sensitive or a Jedi Knight that could see the future. No, I’m not buying it either.
No, it not only makes no story sense but destroys the thematic beauty of the trilogy.
Are you still really going to tell me we needed Rogue One and Galen’s hole? I don’t think so.