How to blow up the Death Star and/or other doomsday weapons but mainly the Death Star

I don’t always sleep well but when I do suffer from stress induced insomnia it’s never at the initial falling asleep stage. One excellent talent I have is falling asleep. I’m very good at it but it’s not a skill much celebrated.

If I do wake up in the middle of the night (and some claim that’s a normal sleep pattern) the trick I’ve found for getting back to sleep is finding something that is both complex enough to be distracting from more stressful thoughts but so inconsequential as to not be stressful itself. Anyway, I woke up last night worried about multiple things that the long-suffering meat robot has to deal with when Monday comes around. So many things in fact that I spent the darkest hours plotting how to blow up the Death Star in some detail.

The canonical method for blowing up the Death Star was determined by two factors. The first was George Lucas wanting to fit in a sequence based on WW2 movies, in particular Dambusters and 633 Squadron. The second was to give Luke a specific heroic feat to conclude the story of the first film. I’m not going to gainsay those aesthetic choices.

However, as a piece of problem solving the whole strategy is less than perfect.

  1. Huge numbers of people are killed. Sure, it’s war and self-defence but the people killed are also people enslaved by an evil empire run by a mind controlling space wizard. Fewer deaths would be inherently good.
  2. A large proportion of the Rebellion’s pilots are killed in the attempt. There are deaths on both sides and while the bulk of the casualties are on the Imperial side, the proportional cost to the Rebellion is huge. We know they are short of pilots because they happily let Luke Skywalker fly an X-Wing.
  3. The plan can’t actually work. To be fair, the Rebellion doesn’t know this and they also have very little choice. In the end though, the plan ONLY works because Luke has hitherto untapped force powers and because he gets in-flight advice from a Jedi space-ghost.
  4. The plan is last ditch in terms of timing. The Death Star is destroyed just at the point at which it could destroy the Rebel base. Some margin of error in the timing would have been better as a plan (although less good dramatically).
  5. The Rebels have no idea what a safe distance for blowing up a Death Star is. For all they knew, the explosion could have destroyed them or at least what remains of their fleet. The Death Star has enough power to blow up a planet, turning it into a bomb is less than wise.

Point 3

I’d like to deal with point 3 first mainly because the plot manoeuvrers the Rebellion into the position where it apparently has no choice other than a last-ditch attack using small fighters. The issue is that they can’t actually land a bomb into the magic vent despite it’s resemblance to a womp-rat.

Is there a better option? Instead of firing a bomb into the vent, wouldn’t it be better to place the bomb manually? In terms of war films, think The Guns of Navarone instead of 633 Squadron. No time to infiltrate the Death Star, I hear you say? We’ll get back to that but for the moment we don’t need anybody to get into the Death Star as the vent is on the outside. Drop off some commandos into the trench and they can plant the bomb.

Too hard? Too much of a suicide mission? Well, it is even easier than that. Astromech droids are designed to crawl about on the surface of space vessels and interact with devices on the surface. Drop an R2 unit equipped with a bomb into the trench and let them beep-boop its way to the vent. The tie-fighters will try and blow it up but now they will be the ones trying to hit a small target in a trench while the x-wings attack them.

It would be a noble sacrifice by droid but the Rebellion doesn’t otherwise show much respect for the lives and autonomy of droids. This plan doesn’t address the huge number of casualties but arguably it would lead to marginally fewer x-wing pilot deaths.

Obi-Wan’s commandos

I couldn’t think of a better solution than R2-commandos without there being a bit more space in the plot. Infiltrating the Death Star with demolition experts is a safe plan all round but the story gives no time for that to happen. We do know that it is possible to infiltrate the Death Star as the crew of the Millennium Falcon manage it somewhat unwittingly, earlier in the film (to what extent Darth Vader lets them is another matter).

To fit a commando raid into the story would require Obi-Wan to access the plans to the Death Star in R2D2, make sense of them, understand the weakness and assemble a team to do the job. None of which happens or has time to happen.

However, assuming that Obi-Wan could do all that, then points 2, 3, 4 and 5 can be dealt with. Plant a bomb and blow up the Death Star from a safe distance.

There’s got to be a better way

I know I’m a bit R2 fixated, but the plucky little droid can do an awful lot. Noticeably, when he is aboard the Death Star he manages to gain control over the station’s computer systems. R2 has the whole place hacked. The simplest (but least dramatic) solution to the Death Star problem would be for R2 to introduce a virus or exploit some other IT vulnerability in the Death Star.

Ideally, once compromised, the Death Star could be set to self-destruct (all spacecraft have self-destruct sequences by the fundamental laws of space-opera). With sufficient notice, the Death Star could be safely evacuated thus minimising loss of life except for the weird monster that lives in the trash compactor.

Speaking of which…I don’t know if there is a way of getting that trash compactor monster to destroy the Death Star but it would be worth having a sub-committee look into it.

Using non-Star Wars technology

I guess a computer virus is not really in keeping with Star Wars, even though there is no way they couldn’t exist in that universe. What other SFF technology could dispose of a Death Star more safely?

  • Nanobots. Get some nanobots on that thing and let them feast on all that tasty, tasty technology. The whole thing gets nibbled to death.
  • Trap it in hyperspace somehow. We don’t see it use hyperspace in a New Hope but it must get around somehow. Trapping the Death Star in another dimension sounds plausible but as we don’t know how hyperspace is supposed to work, this isn’t much of a plan.
  • Use the force. When Alderaan is blown up, the loss of life is felt across the universe as disturbance in the force. Maybe, if they all concentrated really hard when the Death Star appeared, they could have rotated it just a bit so that it missed. With the Death Star rendered tactically useless by the sheer force of will of whole planetary populations not wanting to die, the Empire would be forced to retire the whole project.
  • Teleport the Death Star crew off the station. This requires the Rebellion to have Star Trek teleporters but the Empire not to have protection from Star Trek teleporters.
  • Go back in time and not let Palpatine become Emperor. A more elegant solution than a blaster.

Around about this point I drifted back to sleep.

Review: Solo – A Star Wars Story

I admit that from its announcement, I didn’t see much point to this film. The curse of the prequel trilogy was a need to fill in the vague elements of backstory, often forgetting that the original film worked by creating a sense of a deeper history and a bigger galaxy than we actually saw. So a Young Han Solo movie didn’t interest me — it would inevitably be a stringing together elements like winning the Millenium Falcon, completing the Kessel Run in X number of incorrect units, meeting Chewbacca, etc and we’d all expect to go ‘ooh’ when something like that happened.

I once went on a Beatles Tour of Liverpool with a friend who loved the Beatles. It was a weird experience as Liverpool is a city I know quite well. The tour guide treated every stop with a kind of chirpy reverence as if each semi-detached house or park gate was a holy relic. People took excited photographs and I felt really odd. It took me awhile to get over the cynical detachment and enjoy the tour for what it was: something fun.

Oddly, Solo does indulge itself in exactly that way even down to a pause-for-weighty-significance when Solo gets his blaster. It’s no spoiler to say that Solo will play cards with Lando for the Falcon, that he will meet Chewbacca, and that the film is peppered with references to almost every trait and famous line and significant object you can think of for the character of Han Solo.

But I say “oddly”.

The odd part is that this really didn’t become annoying. Instead, Solo manages to be fun, clever and exciting. Not the best Star Wars film but certainly far from the worse and an enjoyable space-opera/heist-movie/western in its own right. Yes, it has a lot of that tour-around-Solo’s-youth elements but it knows it has to be fun and exciting and carry some emotional oomph in places.

Cleverly it picks up elements and themes from other Star Wars films that have taken a secondary role to the main thrust of the dark-v-light side of the force and the saga of the Skywalker family. The Jedi and the Sith don’t get a mention (the Sith get a visual reference near the end with a fun surprise) and the nearest we get to a Skywalker is a reference to Tatooine.

Instead, we get to see life under the Empire from the perspective of its criminal underclass and network of gangsters. Life under the Empire is one of war and criminality often working hand-in-hand. Han has been living for years as a part of the gang of child thieves on a shipbuilding world and as a young man is ready to escape. The first part of the film follows him off the planet and (briefly) into military service with the Empire before he falls in with a different group of criminals. Here the main story takes hold as quest to steal starship fuel entangles Han into a series of events that involve a sinister criminal conspiracy and a rival gang of mauraders led by the mysterious Enfys Nest.

The cast is excellent. Alden Ehrenreich as Solo isn’t the strongest actor in the group but he is more than good enough and it’s a tough job to follow Harrison Ford. He manages to give the character enough street smarts and attitude to feel like Han Solo but also enough naivety and vulnerability to be more than a impression. Donald Glover as Lando is dripping in charisma. Woody Harrelson and Paul Bettany play cynical criminality in quite different but effective ways. Thandie Newton is under utilised. Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Lando’s revolutionary robot pilot steals most of the scenes she is in from the rest of the cast. Emelia Clarke manages to plausibly convey both a hardened cynicism about the world she is in with an equivalent vulnerability to Solo as a character.

Lots of big, great looking set pieces. Some space battles and utter space nonsense that is gloriously stupidly fun. Some genuine suprises and twists. Betrayals, counter-betrayals, stand-offs and robot uprisings.

Take it for what it is and have fun.

Today’s Important Charts

Star Wars movies title lengths by year:

starwarslengthname

The long period of consensus on proper Star Wars movie title length has ended with a sharp decline.

Neither Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure nor Ewoks: The Battle for Endor were included in the first graph as they were TV movies. However, including them implies the recent decline is a natural correction to mid-1980’s excesses.

withewoks

Most importantly (save the strongest results till last) including all the movies and comparing title length to running time produces this important result:

runningtimevlength

That’s an R-squared that’s not to be sneezed at!* 40% of the variance is explained by title length. According to the Felapton Towers research scientists the mathematical model is:

running time = 151.42 – 1.2979×title length

This is excellent news for when they produce the film entitled “R2”, chronicle his life and career as a Sith Lord. the model predicts a running time of 148.8242 minutes, which is shorter than The Last Jedi (a bit of an outlier). Whereas The Life, Loves and Wacky Adventures of Galactic Senator Jar-Jar Binks and All His Fun Friends will mercifully be only half an hour long.

*[Moral: be careful looking at correlations]

A Cat Watches The Last Jedi

Courtesy of Timothy the Talking Cat.

Opening music. These are the lyrics I made up but halfway through I had to sing them in my head because of the shush-shush noises. They go like this:

Snoke, Snoke, Snokity,
Snoke, Snoke
Snokity, Snoke, Snoke,
Snokity, Snooooke

Snoke, Snoke, Snokity,
Snoke, Snoke
Snokity, Snoke, Snoke,
Snokity, Snooooke

Banaaaanas, banaaaaanas,
Banaa-nanananas,
(doooo-doodley, doodley)

[Repeat]

And wham! We are back into the action. Oh boy! Supreme Leader Snoke has got that darned Resistance cornered. Will he manage to wipe them out this time? You’d think so but this is a middle movie in a trilogy and that means SET BACKS for our hero.

[CF: if you can make sense of this there may be spoilers below. So not recommended if you haven’t watched the film]

Continue reading “A Cat Watches The Last Jedi”

Rian Johnson Murders the Prequels – A Spoiler Soaked Review of the Last Jedi

So, so many spoilers but they are all after the fold. Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the film because it really focuses on the bits that will spoil. Also, this is longggg.

I straight-forwardly enjoyed The Last Jedi: it was fun sci-fi action with good acting, good effects and interesting characters. It isn’t a flawless film but if you after flawless films then why are you watching episode 8 of a serial space-opera?

Continue reading “Rian Johnson Murders the Prequels – A Spoiler Soaked Review of the Last Jedi”

Nobody Strikes Back

Continued from this post.

Star Not Wars Because They Aren’t Having a War With Anybody: Nobody Strikes Back

Luke, Han, Leia et al are having a winter sports holiday. That should be fun but the great outdoors can be dangerous! Luke, unfortunately, encounters a wild animal. He escapes but is badly injured. Back at the not so luxurious ski lodge, everybody is worried that Luke hasn’t come back. Han heads out to look for Luke who is hallucinating visions of Ben. Ben must still be having a nap.

Later, after Luke has been rescued and had some medical care, they all decide to head off to different resorts. Luke goes to a martial arts training camp in a swamp. Han and Leia have a very uneventful trip to Cloud City.

Luke has fun training with his instructor Yoda who teaches him about the force which only has a light side. Which is nice. Later Luke decides it is time to catch up with his friends.

Luke arrives at Cloud City. He accidentally leaves his hand somewhere.

Han must be having a nap.

While Han is sleeping Lando decides to fly the ship. Luke goes looking for his hand down a chute and then on the outside surface of Cloud City. He can’t find his hand anywhere.

Lando and Leia come and pick Luke up. Luke gets a blanket.

Luke has a nap also.

The End.

Star Wars Without the Empire

This Tweet from Paul Weimer really intrigued me:

In post-war Germany, a version of Casablanca was produced, re-edited and with a new script for the dubbing, that had no Nazis in it. As you can imagine, given the role Nazis play in the plot, they had to do a lot of work.

I was wondering if you could do the same to Star Wars Episode 4 – remove the Empire…

Star Not Wars Because They Aren’t Having a War With Anybody: A New Hope

A spaceship has broken down. Princess Leia finds a robot on the ship and gives it something. The robot (R2D2) finds an escape pod with its friend (C3PO). They leave the ship. We don’t see the ship again. It probably had engine trouble or something. Maybe the robots have gone off to get some fuel from a service station.

The robots land in a desert. After an argument, they split up. Later they each get caught by tiny people.

Meanwhile, young Luke Skywalker is unhappy being a farmer and living with his uncle. He’d rather be…doing something else I suppose.

Luke and his uncle go off to by robots and end up buying the two robots. When Luke checks the robots later, he discovers that R2 has a secret message with Princess Leia in it. Later R2 attempts to escape. Luke doesn’t have any sort of conversation with his uncle about anything.

Luke sets off after R2 but is attacked by Sand People. He is rescued by Old Ben Kenobi, who isn’t anybody in particular. They don’t really chat about anything but Ben sees the message from the princess. She needs help – probably her spaceship has broken down.

Luke and Ben don’t do anything then, certainly they don’t check on the Jawa’s and Luke definitely doesn’t check on his Uncle and Aunt’s home. No, they just head to Mos Eisely, for a nice day out.

They head to a bar, I guess they are thirsty. Not much happens but they have a very fragmented conversation with Han Solo. For laughs, they hire him to take them on a quick space trip. He agrees.

On the ship, Ben tells Luke about the force and using a light sabre. For no reason. I guess the space trip was less fun than they expected.

They head to Alderaan but it isn’t there. I guess it was closed that day.

Everybody has a nap.

Ben has a really long nap. He must have been quite tired from the trip because we don’t see him again.

Luke, Han, Chewbacca and the robots all find themselves on another planet. Princess Leia is with them now. This is probably where her spaceship is getting fixed.

Luke decides to have a go flying a small spaceship. Han also decides to fly his spaceship. Princess Leia looks worried. Probably she’d like to fly her spaceship as well but I guess it is still broken.

Luke and Han and Chewy come back. R2 got broken! Leia was right to be worried! Luckily they are on a planet where stuff gets fixed.

Once R2 is fixed Leia has a huge party and everybody gets a medal.

The End