Sunday, February 23, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 2: Han Shot First

Han Solo shot first.

What I mean is, he's the one who started the series of events that led to the destruction of the first Death Star.  It began, actually, despite popular belief, with his theft of the technical plans for the superweapon. You might have heard differently.

The truth is, that's why he was being pursued by the Imperial fleet when he dumped his cargo load, the smuggled goods that were meant to continue his cover as an operative of Jabba the Hutt, the job that landed him in such hot water, that led to the bounty on his head, his encasement in carbon freeze at Cloud City by Boba Fett, and eventual rescue by the same allies he'd been assigned from the start, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker.

I know the stories you've heard.  It was Leia who stole the plans, downloaded them into a droid and jettisoned it in orbit of the desert world Tatooine.  Han himself randomly enters the picture when Skywalker comes into possession of the droid, which insists on the meeting with Obi-Wan Kenobi and the need for a ride to rescue Leia, who just so happens to be a prisoner aboard the Death Star.

Really.  Stop and think about that for a moment.

The truth is, none of what resulted would have happened if Han hadn't been an agent of the Rebellion all along.  Random chance doesn't put together such crucial alliances like that.

Han's ship, the heavily modified Millennium Falcon, was a ship he'd won from a bet with Cloud City administrator Lando Calrissian, a man who at the time of Han's capture there was in known collusion with the Empire, and who had also authorized Fett to operate in the open.  Don't these coincidences strike you as a little forced?  Why do I have to explain any of this to you?

The real sequence of events:

Han steals the technical schematics.  He brings them with him to Tatooine, where he knows an old hermit living there is really one of the last Jedi, Kenobi.  He also knows, as does the whole Rebellion, that Darth Vader is really Anakin Skywalker, the father of young Luke, who at this point is being raised by his uncle Owen.  He implants the plans into a droid, ensures Uncle Owen purchases the droid, and as Skywalker is cleaning the droid for service he stumbles into the recording of Leia asking for the assistance of Kenobi.  Skywalker is intrigued.  He seeks out Kenobi, heads to Mos Eisley spaceport, and runs into the only available pilot, Han himself, willing to take the job of transporting them to Alderaan.

Except, Han knows they'll never reach there.  He knows all about the Death Star.  He's headed there now because it's the one place the bounty hunters Jabba contracted against him won't go.  With Vader focused on his old enemy Kenobi and his son Luke, he'll prevent Han's dangerous position from being exposed, make sure everyone is focused on the wrong targets.  To the Imperial forces, Han is no longer the man who stole the crucial schematics but rather just another ally of the men who must be eliminated at all cost.

After rescuing Leia, they manage to escape, because someone, namely the clever Governor Tarkin, is smart enough to realize what's really going on, a tracking device safely hidden aboard the Falcon.  Maybe Han knows this.  Maybe he's planned this all along to force the crisis that will draw the Death Star into direct conflict with the Rebels.

He stays away from the actual assault, of course.  To Skywalker and Leia, he's exactly the random ally history remembers him as, certainly no one who would be looking to actively fight on the side of the Rebellion.  Except he returns at exactly the right moment, when Skywalker needs that last little bit of assistance to deliver the volley that destroys the Death Star.

Han begins to work openly with the Rebels.  The bounty hunters are still after him.  The Empire, which usually has nothing to do with such scum, begins working directly with them, and the convergence at Cloud City occurs.  Except this is another con job, Calrissian another plant.  Who better to ensure Han's safety, make the recommendation for carbon freeze rather than anything else Fett might have had in mind?

Later, in the operation that destroys the second Death Star and ends the Empire, both Han and Calrissian are actively working as top level soldiers of the Rebellion.

None of this ever caused you to wonder?  Well, now you know.  The only man capable of sabotaging his efforts, Tarkin, is lost in the destruction of the first Death Star, and Vader is sidetracked immediately by his obsession with Skywalker, a necessary conflict that allows the destruction of the second Death Star to end the Empire.  It all makes sense, doesn't it?

So, Han shot first.

Monday, February 17, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations: The Kenobi Job

Don't believe everything you hear.

At the end of the Dark Age, for instance, when the Galactic Empire was brought down with the destruction of the Death Star, the man responsible was an old hermit named Ben Kenobi.

Kenobi had lived most of his life on the desert world of Tatooine, on the fringe of Republic territory, best known for being under the control of the Hutts.  It was here where the hermit met the moisture farmer Luke Skywalker and pirate Han Solo, both of whom accompanied him on the fateful voyage to the Death Star.

You may have heard some fanciful things about Kenobi and even Skywalker, whom some legends connect with the Imperial commander known as Darth Vader, who was suspected to be related in some way to a prisoner being held aboard the Death Star at that time, Princess Leia of Alderaan, a world famously obliterated by the superweapon for demonstration purposes.  Vader was sometimes referred to as Lord Vader, which has led to speculation that he was at least some kind of royalty.

Perhaps you were expecting me to talk about his relationship to the Sith cult, which itself was an offshoot of the Jedi cult.  Don't be silly.  No such cult ever existed, at least not until recent times, a fallacy dedicated to a myth, the so-called "Force" that both Vader and Kenobi were said to wield.

Since all of the people I referenced were lost in the destruction of the Death Star, it's easy to believe any of the wild stories that have sprung up about them over the centuries.  No one likes to believe Kenobi was capable of destroying such a great technological terror.  So instead of a hermit, he was a Jedi, who survived a great purge begun by Vader, who betrayed Kenobi in the process.  Kenobi's life on Tatooine becomes a romantic exile story, watching over the young Skywalker.

Except it's not true.  Kenobi was an agent of the old Republic, before the Dark Age, a loyal soldier of the Clone Army, like all of them a clone of Jango Fett, one of the first.  By the fall of the old Republic, he'd been discharged from service, and Tatooine was the place of his retirement.

Except Kenobi never retired.  He'd stolen the plans for the Death Star at some point in the transition process between the old Republic and the Galactic Empire.  If there were any relationships between those aboard the Death Star in its final hours, it's likely that there truly had been one between Kenobi and Vader, and that it had been Kenobi who betrayed Vader, not the other way around.  Vader remained a loyalist, despite obvious flaws in the government even we can see centuries later as a despotism that crushed democracy and consolidated power across countless star systems.  Kenobi would be a classic freedom fighter, then.

But certainly not a Jedi.  Again, there was never any such thing.  Neither he nor Vader nor anyone else ever handled the mystical powers of the Force.  Imagine such a thing!  Although such knights of valor would truly prove useful, whether in those days or ours, although I doubt their overall effectiveness would be anything to note in the grand scheme.  Any knight requires extensive training.  A knight with extraordinary abilities?  Far too rare to count on.  Even if they existed...

It's not worth speculating about, really.

Kenobi became a hermit, waiting for the day the Death Star became a reality.  In all the years he waited, he did indeed become friends with the young moisture farmer Skywalker, and it was Han Solo who flew them off Tatooine.  All three are registered in Mos Eisley flight records that exist to this day, thanks to the diligence of the Hutts.

Using old access codes, Kenobi would have had everything he needed to accomplish the job.  There's no mystery there.  If he had access to the plans at all, it would stand to reason that before his retirement Kenobi had been an important soldier in the Clone Army.  He is in fact listed in the records as a general.

Why, then, do the legends persist that suggest something else happened?  That not only Skywalker, but Han Solo and Princess Leia, not to mention Vader, survived, that it was in fact Skywalker who accomplished the destruction of the Death Star?  Because people like their romantic fables.  If you listen to those legends, their patent lies are so transparent, they're easy to ignore for the enlightened individual.

No, it was only Kenobi, an old soldier, a hermit, a hero, a martyr.  It's this man we should celebrate on Republic Day.