By Pranks Paul
[Spoilers for Star Wars Rebels and Rogue One.]
My roommate loves military sci-fi. One criticism he often levels at Star Wars is that it’s ridiculous that Han and Lando are given generalships after their short stints with the Alliance. I don’t agree with him because I think he’s missing some fundamental points about Star Wars:
- In Star Wars, heroes are often created by accident or coincidence.
- Star Wars heroes are combat monsters.
- The Rebel Alliance literally cannot survive without relying on outside recruits.
- Star Wars is making a point about trust.
“They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally, they became heroes.”
– Princess Leia Organa
Many Star Wars heroes are unintentionally heroic. The Galactic Civil War era is full of accidents, and they surround the protagonists. Luke’s farm was blown up. Han was badly in debt. Jyn didn’t want to go back to prison. Without any of these motivating factors, none of these individuals would have joined up with the Alliance.
To make a broader point, any observant person who has spent more than five minutes in the Star wars galaxy will note that it is a place of coincidences – some good, some bad, and some very strange and implausible. Succeeding in the Star Wars means knowing when to take advantage of these random coincidences. (Your cargo tow cables are strong enough to trip the enemy tanks! A squad of murderbears has taken a shine to your Princess! The garbage squid that was strangling you stops because you’re about to be crushed to death!)
If one of these walking coincidences – a Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, or Jyn Erso – crosses your path, this a very good thing. You do everything you can to keep them in your organization, which could mean promoting them, distracting them with beautiful princesses, or bribing them with a clean criminal record, as applicable.
“That’s impossible, even for a computer!”
– Wedge Antilles
Why keep these lucky idiots happy? Watch what happens when your enemies try shooting at them. Sure, Luke is a whiner who won’t shut up about his joyriding habits, Han Solo’s ego could power a Death Star, and Jyn is a weirdo whose personality appears to be mostly based on violence.
And yet Luke makes the most impossible shot in history, Han evades an entire Imperial fleet in the equivalent of a rickety pick-up truck, and Jyn pulls off the most daring heist in Galactic history. These people can do the impossible. So what if you’ve only known them for five minutes?
“Make ten men feel like a hundred.”
– Cassian Andor
The Rebel Alliance is fighting a war for the liberation of a hundred million worlds. It is underequipped, underfunded, and most importantly – undermanned. The Empire can afford to commission thousands of top-of-the-line TIEs without shielding or life support. To the Alliance, pilots are even more rare and valuable than planes.
The novel Battlefront: Twilight Company depicts an Alliance that is forced to replenish its ranks after each planetary engagement from the population it just liberated. This leads to the potential for infiltration and operational security issues, but it’s important to remember that the Alliance has no choice. They’re up against such overwhelming odds that they can’t afford to turn down external help.
Imagine an Alliance without former Imperials in it. That means in new canon alone, you lose Jan Dodonna, Crix Madine, Hobbie Klivian, Wedge Antilles, Sinjir Rath Velus, Aleksandr Kallus, Zare Leonis, Thane Kyrell, Bodhi Rook, and Galen Erso.
Now picture the Alliance that turned smugglers, criminals, and mercenaries away. In new canon, that eliminates Han Solo, Chewbacca, Lando Calrissian, Jas Emari, Ezra Bridger, Sabine Wren, and Sana Starros.
Of the main characters in the original trilogy, only Leia and the droids started the Galactic Civil War working for the Rebellion. Han, Chewie, Luke and Lando were thrust into the war by circumstance, and the Alliance is all the better for it.
“Trust your instincts.”
– Obi-Wan Kenobi
One of Star Wars’ major themes is trust – namely, who to trust and when. Trust the wrong person, and you end up like the Jedi. Trust no one, and you become Saw Gerrera.
Ezra Bridger is burned when he trusts Darth Maul, but the crew of the Ghost finds a surprising ally in Agent Kallus. Han’s trust of his son may have gotten the elder Solo killed, but Luke chose to trust Anakin and saved the galaxy in the process. The High Council refuses to approve Jyn’s mission to Scarif, but Cassian manages to scrape a team together (and Admiral Raddus later chooses to go Rogue).
In many Star Wars stories, if you trust the wrong person, you may die. On the flip side, if you don’t trust the right person, you might end up losing everything you’re fighting for. Rebellions are built on hope, but they win because of trust.
“What chance do we have? The question is, what choice?”
– Jyn Erso
Any responsible, rational leader in the Star Wars galaxy would put a newly-joined Star Wars protagonist in command. First, happenstance and accidents often turn the tide in military engagements, and Star Wars protagonists are surrounded by improbable coincidence. Second, despite their lack of military training, these individuals are often superlative in combat missions. Third, the Alliance is underhanded, so swelling its ranks with these exceptional recruits is its only chance for survival. Finally, Star Wars is making a point about trust and acceptance with these promotions – the Rebellion places its fate in the hands of these talented individuals, and is ultimately rewarded for it.
Pranks is the host of Never Tell Me the Pods, a weekly Corran Horn and Bigger Luke discussion podcast. Readers should be aware that like all Arcona, he is addicted to salt.