Saturday, January 27, 2007

Of strings and astromech droids....

What better way to celebrate my blog's "rebirth" onto New Blogger than by geeking out for a bit? So here's a timely descent into some serious Star Wars geekery! A reader e-mailed me a link to this essay a couple of weeks back, and I've been tossing it around in my head ever since. It's a bit of speculation into what goes on between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, as well as an exploration of possible character motivations in the Original Trilogy that we didn't realize at the time. The basic conclusion drawn is that the Rebellion's most important unsung heroes, and de facto special agents from the earliest possible point, are R2-D2 and Chewbacca. It's a really fun essay to read, and you have to love the creativity employed in developing its thesis. So, let's rip it apart in the best geek fashion!

First of all, there is this claim made near the outset:

As we now know, the rebel Alliance was founded by Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bail Organa. What can readily be deduced is that their first recruit, who soon became their top field agent, was R2-D2.

Well, not really. We don't really know that Yoda and Obi Wan were involved in the birth of the Rebel Alliance. They're involved in that, to a small degree, but the prime player here is Bail Organa (along with Mon Mothma and, before her death, Senator Amidala). The genesis of the Rebellion is never shown in the theatrical release of Sith, but there are a number of deleted scenes from that film, available on the DVD, that show the earliest hints of rebellion.

(A side discussion could be had here on whether scenes cut from the films constitute "canon". First of all, we're talking about George Lucas here, and you can never rule out old scenes showing back up in future cuts of the movies. Second of all, the scenes were written and filmed by George Lucas, and in just about every case that I can think of, were eliminated for reasons of story structure or pacing concerns, and not because any of the scenes established story precedent that Lucas later decided went against what he was trying to do. So I think we can assume that events depicted in cut scenes actually happened, and we just didn't get to see them because they made the movies slower.)

Yoda and Obi Wan's approach to what happens after the rise of the Empire is shaped by their experiences as Jedi, and their approach is Jedi-centric. The children are taken into hiding because they represent the Galaxy's last hope, not some rebel faction brewing in the Galactic Senate. Throughout Attack of the Clones and Sith, Obi Wan is always expressing mild disdain to outright distrust of the political body of the Republic, and given how the Senate specifically endorses the formation of the Clone Army, the outlawing and destruction of the Jedi, and the shift from democracy to Empire, I suspect that Obi Wan would just as soon not involve the Rebellion in his efforts against Palpatine and Darth Vader at all. By the time Obi Wan finally meets Luke Skywalker as a young man on Tatooine, he seems to have almost no idea at all of what's going on out there in the Empire. He's been waiting for a Jedi apprentice.

The same can roughly be said of Yoda. In fact, he's even more out of touch than Obi Wan, stuck in exile on the uncharted swamp world of Dagobah. In fact, it seems that he's become bitter and disillusioned in that time, since he initially refuses to train Luke when he arrives, and since when Luke abandons his training, Yoda basically says to Obi Wan, "I told you that kid was gonna screw this up." Yoda tells Luke to eschew his friends in the Rebellion, and that "only a fully-trained Jedi Knight" can hope to stop Vader and the Emperor. The impression is rather strongly conveyed that Yoda doesn't care one whit about the Rebellion; without a newly-minted Jedi to take care of the Sith, the Rebellion's just window dressing. The Rebellion is aimed at taking down the Empire. Yoda and Obi Wan are looking to take down the Sith. That's an important distinction.

Moving on, the article makes a number of other statements that seem to conflict with the films. In order:

Both droids know that Yoda and Obi-Wan are alive and are plotting sedition with the Senator from Alderaan. They know that Amidala survived long enough to have twins and could easily deduce where they went.

Well, is this really the case? At the end of Sith, do both droids know of the birth of the twins? I don't remember seeing them present during the birth scene, nor do I recall them present during the discussion between Bail Organa, Yoda, and Obi Wan about what to do with them. Here's a point where the film could have clarified things, perhaps with a simple line of dialogue such as having Yoda instruct Bail Organa to report to the Senate that Senator Amidala is dead and that her baby was lost as well. (Remember, Anakin never knew that Padme was going to have twins, and he doesn't realize Leia is his daughter until Return of the Jedi.) But anyway, I'm not sure we can assume that the droids know about the twins, or where they have been taken.

(As an aside, I never had a problem with Obi Wan hiding Luke on Tatooine with his aunt and uncle. If Vader believes that his child was never born, why would he ever go back to the Lars Homestead? This never struck me as the obvious plot hole that many other think it is. Here too, though, a simple dialogue exchange would have cleared it up:

OBI WAN: I will take the boy to his family on Tatooine.

YODA: Is that wise?

OBI WAN: Anakin is dead and only Vader remains. He will never go back there.

But even so, I was never bothered by this.)

As Star Wars opens, R2 is rushing the Death Star plans to the Rebellion. R2, not Leia. The plans are always in R2. What Leia puts into him in the early scene is only her own holographic message to Kenobi. Leia's own mission, as she says in the holographic message, is to pick up Obi-Wan and take him to Alderaan - or so she thinks.

This is somewhat belied by the text of Leia's message to Obi Wan: "I have placed information vital to the survival of the Rebellion into the memory systems of this R2 unit." She wouldn't say that if she hadn't put the plans there. The film's implied course of events makes much more sense: Leia is about to be captured before she can recruit Obi Wan, and she has to get him the plans, so she puts them in R2 and sends him to find Obi Wan on his own.

Later on, the writer turns to Chewbacca and his own status as a Rebel agent from the very rise of the Empire. This is all entertaining, although here's one item that clashes a bit in my eye:

When R2's urgent message came through only days before, the only way for Chewie to get back to Tattoine in time was to make the "mistake" that forced Han to dump his cargo to avoid capture. As a down side, this led to Solo's getting a death mark out on him from Jabba the Hutt. Chewie was a bit upset about the need for that but figured they weren't going to be dealing with Tattoine for much longer.

I honestly don't know about this. Something about it seems wrong. Maybe it's the idea that R2 is just beaming messages all over space, to Chewie and who knows who else.

(Oddly, in the fanfic "Star Wars remix" thing I wrote years ago, I literally made my analogue of the Han Solo and Chewbacca characters agents for the Good Guys [who weren't a Rebellion, actually, but were in a war against an evil Empire].)

Those are the only things in the article that ring highly false to me; everything else is rough speculation. Geeky retconning is always fun!


Anonymous said...

I may be wrong, but I thought that at the end of Sith, Bail Organa orders someone to wipe the memory of C3PO and R2D2. Thereby, the droids would not have known about the twins or the surviving Jedi.


Anonymous said...

C3P0's memories were wiped. R2D2 had retained his memories.