The Star Wars - Wayne Gretzky Connection
by Matthew Pedone
Wayne Gretzky was the greatest goal-scorer the NHL has ever seen, and probably ever will see. While he wasn't the best at doling out wisdom as a coach, he did once say. "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." This quote resonated beyond hockey, into other sports and walks of life. You hear it in board rooms and from motivational speakers. What many don't know is that the rest of that quote is, "...and it leads to the destruction of your super-weapon and the eventual downfall of your empire, moron!" Okay, not really, but he should have, as it is true. Let's examine.
It’s a scene that everyone who’s seen Star Wars remembers. Feisty little R2-D2 has shoved fussy ol’ C-3PO into the escape capsule. R2’s got the plans and a message from Leia, and needs to get them to Obi-Wan. For some reason, he really wants his whiny buddy with him, for some reason, even though when they get to the planet’s surface, instead of being grateful to be safely away from the battle, 3PO will berate his fellow droid and force them to go their separate ways.
Before they get to Tatooine, though, there’s a moment where their escape pod is spotted by an Imperial, who alerts his superior, and asks if he should fire. No life signs are detected, so they assume it was a malfunction, and let it go…for some reason. Neither of them thinks it could be a droid, because droids aren’t allowed in the escape pods. I guess…they go down with the ship? "It’s okay, humans, the ship is exploding, and, should we survive, we'll be set adrift in the black loneliness of space, to float along until we crash into a planet or get roasted by a sun. We’ll be fine. What’s important is that you get yourselves to safety. Ignore the fact that we have personalities and apparently feel pain!" I'd say this is yet another reason to root for the Rebels, but these droids are in the Rebellion, serving on a Rebel ship (there's a good Cracked post about some of this, located here).
Okay, so droids aren't allowed in escape pods in this society, so if you see an escape pod zipping through space, you can reasonably assume there are no droids in it, especially if there are no life signs. However, in the middle of a battle, it should be assumed that your opponent would do things that might be slightly out of the ordinary. Maybe they jammed the signal. Or maybe, they put the plans you’re searching for on the escape pod and jettisoned it, hoping one of their agents on the planet below would recover it.
Whatever the reasoning, the decision to just let it go baffles me. Star destroyers have tractor beams. Use that! Capture the pod, secure the plans, party like it’s whatever year it is, which I don’t know because the only reference to the year in official media is 0 BBY, as this is the year the Battle of Yavin takes place, and what exactly is a year when travel through intergalactic space, anyway?
With no mention of the tractor beam, we’re left to assume "hold your fire" meant, "don’t destroy the pod", which still doesn’t make sense. Sure, you can’t know for certain the plans are on there, but I’m sure Vader could question Leia later and ascertain the truth. So, let’s assume the Imperial Commander makes the smart decision and fired, destroying the pod, R2-D2, C-3PO, and the plans.
Basically, what if this had happened?
"Rogue One" becomes kind of pointless
Well, maybe not. More on this at the end.
No R2-D2 and C-3PO
The most obvious result is that the lovable droids… Well, the lovable R2-D2 would be gone from whatever happens in the rest of the film (in all honesty, I didn’t mind 3PO in the original trilogy; I get why some people get sick of him, but his antics here are dignified compared with the stuff he says/does in Episiode II). They can’t deliver the plans to Obi-Wan, can’t accidentally end up owned by Luke. In light of the prequels, this actually avoids some of the stickier things, like 3PO ending up back on the planet on which he was built, owned by the son of his maker. Worse, he’d lived with Owen and Beru back before Anakin came back to see his mom and slaughter sandpeople (and he’s all out of mom! …sorry, that was terrible). Not to mention R2 meeting up with Obi-Wan again, after travelling around with him and Anakin for something like 20 years.
3PO does little over the course of the trilogy other than acting as a translator, particularly for R2, and then pretending to be the Ewok’s god so that the little cannibals don’t eat our heroes. Honestly, not a huge loss.
R2, on the other hand, interfaces with computers, helps fix the Falcon, opens doors, shuts down trash compactors, and lots of other things that make him indispensable. That could be a big loss, especially as the only other astromech droid we see in this film has a bad motivator.
No message from Leia
Which keeps her brother from falling in love with her, so that’s probably good. It also means that no one knows she’s in trouble, so that’s probably bad.
As this is the moment that really kicks off the plot of the movie, it has the most implications, the first being that Luke has no impetus for seeking out old Ben. More to the point, whatever R2 unit Owen buys from the Jawas has no impetus for seeking out Ben, and thus doesn’t lead Luke out into the Jundland Wastes, where he’d be attacked by sandpeople and rescued by Ben. Luke wouldn’t get his father’s lightsaber, or learn that Vader betrayed and murdered Anakin (at least, not yet).
Further, this means that Obi-Wan wouldn’t have been in a rush to get off the planet, and wouldn’t have hired Han and Chewie. It’s after this meeting that Han runs into Greedo (and then Jabba, in some versions). Without getting the job from Kenobi, Han would have to talk his way out of trouble with Jabba, but with no real job backing up his words. Given how well he does in the movie, I think it’s safe to assume he gets out of it in this scenario, but the real question is, what then? Does he leave Tatooine? With nothing to smuggle, what would be the point? Maybe he takes another job from Jabba to pay off his debt? Or, maybe someone else in the cantina needs something smuggled.
What we can be sure he doesn’t do is fly out to Alderaan just after its destruction and get caught in the Death Star’s tractor beam, which means he and the others don’t have to wait in a command post for Obi-Wan to shut down the tractor beam. Which means…
Leia is not saved
Even if something happened to get Luke to the Death Star, it would be with a different R2 unit. So, even if this R2 unit accessed the station’s detention records, it would have little to no idea who Princess Leia was, let alone that he should alert Luke that she’s slated for execution. Tarkin issues this order just before the Falcon arrives, and urges it be done immediately.
Does anyone in the Rebellion even know that she’s been captured? It’s plausible that someone at least got a message off the Tantive IV, and given the events at the end of "Rogue One", I think that when no word came of her or the ship, all involved would assume that Vader got to them. Would the assumption be that she was captured? Maybe. Would they even know where to find her? Probably not. Also, is she important enough to the Rebellion for them to risk launching a mission just to save her? Probably not.
Interestingly, in the official novelization of the movie, Vader orders the ship destroyed under the guise of meteor collisions, with a distress call being sent out to Tatooine, and for Bail Organa to be informed of his daughter’s death. Not sure any of the survivors of Scarif would buy this, though I am sure Vader doesn’t care (nor did he leave that many survivors).
It’s sad, but in this scenario, Princess Leia would most likely be executed.
Any time now, Luke. Hell, I'd even settle for Lone Star.
Obi-Wan would be on Tatooine when the Empire destroys Alderaan
This doesn’t change much. He’d still feel the vast disturbance in the Force, but he wouldn’t be about to fall out of hyperspace into its remnants. Instead, he’d be puttering around his hut, making the Star Wars equivalent of tea. It would cause him to realize that something very bad is going down. At this point, he probably seeks out Luke’s help. This could be when he reveals Anakin’s lightsaber to Luke, and tells him about Vader, imploring Luke to come help him fight the Empire. Luke wants to go, but he has obligations to his uncle. In the movie, the Empire slaughtered his aunt and uncle, but with R2-D2 and C-3PO gone, there’s nothing to lead the Empire to the Lars homestead. Owen is safe and sound and unwilling to let the son of the most powerfully evil person in the galaxy out of his sight.
Obi-Wan has to decide between staying to watch over Luke and helping the Rebellio
Kenobi is on Tatooine to watch over Luke. Running off to the stars and leaving him behind would be a rather gross dereliction of his duties. Granted, Owen is clearly on board the "never letting Luke off this planet" train, but I think that Obi-Wan is a little too dedicated to trust that. However, I also think that Luke is foolhardy enough to thumb his nose at his uncle and sneak away from the farm, following Obi-Wan on his "damn fool adventure".
Now, the real question is how they get off Tatooine. They head to Mos Eisley, where Obi-Wan meets up with Chewie and thus Han. Most people had always assumed this was random, and it may well be, but after the prequels (and I am loath to use them as canon), where we see Chewbacca fighting alongside Yoda, and even helping him escape the clone troops, there is a fan theory that Chewie is not just a random smuggler hanging out in the Cantina, but that he might actually know Obi-Wan, and be there in case Kenobi needs assistance. This, of course, assumes that Chewie knew that anything was going down right then. What is more likely is that Chewie was just one of several Rebel agents who spent time on Tatooine.
The most likely scenario is that this is just a huge coincidence. Chewie never meets Obi-Wan in the prequels (though, him meeting Obi-Wan would have made this work amazingly well; we never see them acknowledge each other, but Ben pretty much makes a bee-line right for Chewbacca), just Yoda, so it’s unlikely he would be on Tatooine waiting for Obi-Wan to need a ride.
So, Obi-Wan gets to the Cantina, and Chewie is nowhere to be found. The belligerent alien dudes get their arms lopped off, and Obi-Wan finds some other space pirate to smuggle them to Alderaan.
No Han and Luke friendship
This is getting into the farther-reaching consequences of the change. While Han and Luke have the beginnings of a friendship in the original movie, it’s the progression of said friendship in later movies that would be sorely missed. Even if Obi-Wan does meet up with Chewbacca, and Han and Luke meet, they are unlikely to end up on the Death Star together, as they’ll arrive at the remains of Alderaan well after the Death Star has moved on. When they finally get to Yavin IV (more on this in a moment), Han would take the money, head back to Tatooine, pay off Jabba, and move on with his smuggling.
Somewhere off screen, Chewbacca is grumbling, "Man, no one EVER hugs me!"
Lost in Space, starring Obi-Wan Kenobi, with special guest, Luke Skywalker
Without Leia and the droids, how does Obi-Wan know where to go? The Rebellion didn’t have a base on Yavin IV, and there’s nothing to indicate that Bail Organa had been in recent contact with Obi-Wan. The answer might come from "The Empire Strikes Back", where we see Luke use the Force and see Han being tortured in the Cloud City of Bespin. Perhaps Obi-Wan uses his considerably stronger powers to do the same, and locates the Rebel base in this fashion. "Wait," I can hear you say. "Why doesn’t Vader just do that to locate the Rebels?"
Well, that’s easy. See, it’s just… LOOK OVER THERE!
Okay, I’ll see if I can defend this. In Empire, Luke sees his friends because they are suffering. Vader knows Luke is being trained, and thus tortures his friends to create a sort of homing beacon via the Force. Luke has an emotional connection to Han and Leia. So, maybe this ability requires a similar connection, even with highly-skilled Force users? That still doesn’t really explain why Vader doesn’t try (that we see; him doing so and failing would be pretty boring, visually), as he must have had some sort of relationship with some of the Rebels, as they were all Imperials at one point. Would Obi-Wan have that kind of connection?
Well, he might. Surely, there must be some people in the Rebellion he knew from the Republic. If nothing else, he should be more attuned to their grief over the loss of Leia and Alderaan, as well as their fear that they have lost. Being a Jedi, perhaps Obi-Wan, having more empathy than the dark lord, can sense that suffering more keenly than Vader.
Here’s the thing, though: there’s nothing to say that Vader doesn’t sense the Rebels, and one could make a case that he does get a bead on them after the destruction of Alderaan. Sure, he and Tarkin find the Rebel base by following the tracking device on the Falcon. Any nerf-herder not blinded by his own scruffy arrogance would have landed as soon as possible and checked his ship for trackers, and finding one, attached it to the nearest garbage scow. For all Tarkin knows, Yavin IV could be covered by radioactive waste. Or worse, Gungans. shudder
That’s not to say that the Empire wouldn’t mind blowing the moon up anyway, but with no confirmation the Rebels are there, what’s the point. So, Vader may have actually sensed the fear and sadness emanating from the Rebel base. If that’s the case, no reason to think Obi-Wan couldn’t also.
All of this means a couple of things.
First: the final battle still could happen
Vader and Obi-Wan use the Force to find the Rebels, with Obi-Wan getting there a little ahead of the Death Star, and his ship being captured by the Imperials. Instead of disabling the tractor beam, he gets a message out to the Rebels who launch a mission to attack the planet-killer while the rest of the Rebels flee.
Second: the movie could culminate with Obi-Wan vs Vader
Instead of it happening mid-way through, it becomes the center piece of the final act, complete with Obi-Wan sacrificing himself to give Luke a chance to get away. Luke does, even though he’s distraught, and flees with the Rebels. The final scene is Luke grieving the loss while gazing at his father’s lightsaber. He’s about to chuck it away when he hears Ben’s voice. "Luke, I will be with you, in the Force, and the Force will be with you, always."
Wait, you mean I'd have to be in MORE of this thing?
Third: yeah, the Rebels lose… Hard
Before the release of "Rogue One", I’d say definitely. The Rebels have stolen the plans, but they haven’t analyzed them yet. They might know there’s a weakness in some abstract way, but nothing concrete. They could attack, and do some damage, but they’d really just be hoping to get lucky, or, at the very least rescue Obi-Wan. Instead, they get some mopey, whiny farmboy, and jump out of there as the superlaser fires up and torches Yavin IV.
Still, they escape, and live to fight another day. Just how much fight is left in them would be anyone’s guess. After what’s happened to Tatooine and Princess Leia, I would imagine the Rebels would be quite angry, leading to the sequel, "The Rebels Strike Back".
Then, maybe, "Return of the Empire"?
After the release of "Rogue One", things might not be so bad. Galen tells Jyn about the reactor, and she passes this information on to the Rebels. They don’t yet know about the external exhaust port, but I think that would just shift their plan. Instead of attacking outside, they might try to attack inside. Now, granted, while the Empire left the exhaust port more or less unguarded, the reactor would probably be guarded even before it came to their attention that there was a weakness. This would most likely be a suicide mission, though, so I doubt Luke would be the one to destroy the Death Star.
Of course, most of what I’ve written is just speculation. Obi-Wan could sense the destruction of Alderaan, and stay on Tatooine. Luke could stay behind. Some copy of the plans might have been transmitted to some other ship. Maybe Chewbacca really is a Rebel agent, and gets orders to bring Obi-Wan to Yavin, and Obi-Wan drags Luke along. Maybe everything plays out pretty much the same, except that Vader and Obi-Wan don’t fight, and there’s no Luke-Leia-Han love triangle (and no gross out moment in Episiode VI).
Whatever might happen, one thing we know for certain: Chewie still wouldn't get the gorram medal he deserves!