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Entries in Star Wars (12)


Why Lightsabers are a Bad Weapon

I know they look cool and are fun to imagine but the truth is that the Lightsaber is a terrible weapon. It has a number of problems any one of which would make it far less useful than an average weapon. To examine it fairly I am willing to accept the advantages that using it in combination with the force gives, such as the ability to throw and return the weapon and of course reflecting weapons fire. On the other hand advantages of the force are advantages whether you have a Lightsaber or not so are irrelevant to the conversation.


Let's start with the most obvious problem of the lightsaber. There is a reason that people don't use swords as their primary weapon in modern combat. You can kill someone with a sword but you have to get near them to do that. Even assuming that you can get there safely you have still given the enemy the time it took you to travel that distance to do whatever they wanted, including shooting the clone troopers that weren't within swords length of you. It also has little or no value when fighting anything that you can't get within swords distance of such as planes or any reasonably mobile land vehicle.


The argument against this is that you could deflect the enemy weapons and use that to augment your range. This helps some but it doesn't solve the problem. First, you can only deflect weapons which are aimed at you. If the enemy simply doesn't shoot at you it's of no value. Secondly it is only useful against weapons which you can deflect in this manner. That is to say blaster shots. If you were to fight an enemy that used something as advanced as rocks it would be unable to give you any range advantage. On the other end if they were to use torpedoes or other anything that simply exploded when struck it would be useless.


Of course the primary advantage of the lightsaber isn't offensive. It is defensive. The Jedi aren't really supposed to kill people. And in that case it makes some sense. And to be fair there is little evidence that any other defense in the star wars universe is particularly effective at doing this though since the empire puts its troops in armor it stands to reason that armor should have value. In addition we have seen shields that are small enough to fit on a droid so it should be possible to outfit people with at least reasonably good armor or shields in the numbers that the Jedi need.


But the real problem is that the Lightsaber isn't all that good at defense in any universe where people are putting effort into actually defeating it. The problem is very basic. The Lightsaber can only be in one place at a time. No matter how good your Jedi reflexes are you're at best limited to blocking blaster shots in a single line. So in order to kill a Jedi you simply need a weapon that should be very easy to build. You simply make a shotgun. As previously discussed the range of the lightsaber means they have to get into your range in order to attack at which point the shotgun completely negates any defensive ability of the lightsaber.


Want something with a bit more range, or that uses more typical star wars technology you could simply make a weapon that shot three blaster shots in a triangle a bit wider than a lightsaber. A Jedi could block two of them but the third one would get through. And while you might argue that a Jedi could simply avoid that weapon that attack with use of the force that has nothing to do with the Lightsaber.


The final weakness of the Lightsaber is far less important but it is worth pointing out. That is that Lightsabers are very difficult to make. You need crystals that are very rare and the force in order to use them. If it was an effective weapon this might be worth the effort but for a weapon that has significant disadvantages the amount of effort to make it simply doesn't make much sense as a weapon.


Of course there is a final point that the point of the lightsaber isn't to be an effective weapon it never has been. The Lightsaber is a symbol and as a symbol of a group that is supposed to enforce peace and not war having a weapon that isn't good at offense, is only defensive against small groups of reasonably unprepared enemies and that requires a lot of skill and effort to makes far more sense than a weapon that is actually a good weapon.  


JB-007 Theory

I haven't written much about Star Wars: The Force Awakens because the truth is that I haven't had all that much to add. I like Star Wars but I'm not the type of super-fan that has much new to add, but there was one part in The Force Awakens that bothers me and I came up with an explanation that not only largely fixes the problem but makes one of the side characters far more interesting.


Everyone knows by now knows that Daniel Craig had a cameo in The Force Awakens as JB-007 a Stormtrooper that gets the Jedi Mind trick used on him by Rey. There has been a lot of talk about Rey being too strong in the movies. I tend to discount this in most cases because most of what she did in the movie could be explained away by her being a fairly good fighter and pilot which are both skills anyone could learn.


But the Jedi Mind trick is a bit more problematic for me. They have established in other sources (primarily the Clone Wars cartoon) that it isn't easy to do and takes practice for people who are training under Jedi and while I know there are other theories, but the movie doesn't show that Rey has any Jedi training and that makes the Mind Trick a step to far.


So how do you fix that? Simple enough. She didn't actually use the Jedi Mind trick on him. She didn't have to because JB-007 is a spy for the republic. (Not the rebel alliance which is why the rebels didn't know he was there.) He simply pretended to let the Jedi Mind trick work because it gave him cover for helping Rey to escape. He likely even helped more by dealing with some of the other guards that would have certainly be left to guard the incredibly important prisoner but we didn't see in the movie.


This would also be a great way to set up a spin off spy thriller in the Star Wars universe that could create an interesting way to explain and explore the politics in the new Star Wars universe. Basically Daniel Craig would be a spy infiltrating the organization of the evil mastermind Supreme Leader Snoke and stop him from using his master weapon.


The movie would happen largely in parallel to the events of The Force Awakens. It would explain what the Republic is doing and explore The First Order. You could also have some entertaining and funny moments like him turning off the shields to Starkiller Base at the same time that Captain Phasma meant to lock them out of the system.


I understand that there are likely to be people who question the need to have a movie length back story for small side characters that were never meant to be the center of a story. I would tend to agree, but it seems clear that isn't going to stop Disney for long and taking advantage of an actor who is clearly fond of the source material and is able to play the part that would be required.  


Recommendations for reading you first science fiction book

Science Fiction is not the easiest genre to begin reading. There is a huge variety of books many of which aren't all that good and many more than assume some knowledge of the genre. So as a first time science fiction reader it can be tricky to know where to begin.

So, recommending a novel for the friend who is willing to give science fiction a chance or the kid who is just getting old enough to become interested in the genre can be difficult. Here are a few ideas of books that might hook someone.

1> Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card


Tops many lists as the best science fiction novel of all time. This is a character driven story in a world that is advanced from ours but close enough to not overwhelm the reader.

Who's it for?

Anyone who has avoided science fiction because it's all about science. People who want to see interesting characters.

Who isn't it for?

The snob who thinks that science fiction is for kids. He'll see that the main character is a kid and never  get over it.

What Next?

Assuming they love Ender's Game there are several good sequels that explore the character and the ramification of his actions further. Then you can let them try "Stranger in a Strange Land" it's far different from Ender's Game but its still good and still about characters.

2> I, Robot by Isaac Asimov


As a collection of short stories the first time reader can sit down and enjoy a complete story all at once.  This lowers the chance of them getting distracted.

Who's it for?

The busy person you know who is constantly starting books but never finishing them or the person with a plane ride who wants to be done when he lands

Who isn't it for?

The guy who thought that I, Robot was the best movie ever. The three laws and a few names are the main connection between this story and the movie. Someone reading this because they loved the action of the movie will be disappointed.

What next?

"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". Sticking with the robot theme this book initiates readers into the paranoid world of P.K. Dicks without quite the level of weirdness in his other books. This will show them the variety of possibilites even on the same subject.

3> Contact By Carl Sagan


This is a science fiction story that feels like a real story based on real technology and discussing themes and ideas that would change the world and could really happen.

Who is it for?

People who look into the sky and wonder who's looking back.

Who isn't it for?

People who would never watch the science channel. There is

a lot of science in this book and if you don't care about it at all you'll get bored.

What Next?

"2001: A Space Odyssey" Some of the same ideas are explored in 2001 as in contact and someone who liked Contact would

almost certainly enjoy 2001.

4> "Star Wars: Heir to the Empire" by Timothy Zahn


They know the characters and universe already

Who is it for?

People who love Star Wars

Who isn't it for

Star Trek fans. (If they prefer Star Trek try Q Squared by Peter David)

What Next?

There are a huge number of Star Wars expanded universe books but  getting them out of the Star Wars books you can try "Starship Troopers", it has enough action to keep them entertained.


Star Wars: Dark Empire Review

"Star Wars: Dark Empire" Is a graphic novel that takes place a few years after the events of the Star Wars movies. The alliance gained considerable power, but the empire is still fighting back. Leia and Hans Solo have twins and Luke is a full Jedi Master.


The story really takes off when shortly into it you discover that while the Emperor technically died in the events of the movies he has clones across the galaxy and he is able to use the power of the Dark Side to transfer into these bodies making him practically immortal.


With the force of the Emperor behind them the Empire again begins to grow quickly using a new super weapon they have created. These include ships with built in droid factories able to create unmanned fighters during combat and devastators that, while weaker than the Death Star are easier to mass produce.


Convinced that he will be unable to beat the empire Luke agrees to become his apprentice in order to learn his secrets and while for a short while he leads the armies of the Emperor he is never truly on the side of the empire and he becomes powerful enough to destroy the emperor's clones and defeat him again.


Made by Dark Horse comics Dark Empire was published in the early nineties and was remarkable both because it was the first comic books in the Star Wars universe made by Dark Horse as well as because they followed the events of Timothy Zahn's "Grand Admiral Thrawn" trilogy.


There is a great deal here that the fans of Star Wars will love. From seeing what happens to the characters to the visual representations of so many great ideas and inventions of the Star Wars movies. This is, in my opinion, the stories that the Star Wars fans wanted instead of the prequels.


That said there are some problems. Though in many places the art is great it is often difficult to truly see which character is which by the art. Luke and Hans often appear in monochrome and it is difficult to tell which is which. Luckily most of the characters are very easy to tell apart as they are seven foot tall Wookies or droids. In addition to this the story sometimes moves a bit to quickly. The choice of Luke to work with the emperor happens within panels.


Even with its few flaws this is a fantastic story with a true Star Wars feel and a considerable amount of extra materials and anyone who considers himself a fan of the Star Wars movies should pick up this graphic novel and give it a chance.


Star Wars and the Public Domain

Having stayed up until 4 last night playing Star Wars: The Force Unleashed my question returns to one I have often had in the past. Why is it that Star Wars so often does better in other formats than it movies.
The original movies are great and I don't even hate the new ones but still, having played Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2 and read numerous books I have to say that I like the stories better there.
Part of that has to do with the iconic stature that the movies have archived. People know these universes and so there are many good authors who can write in it.
Second is that in the movies you have to try to reach a broader audience. A video game is a success with far fewer customers than a movie and a book even less so because of this you can add in the more difficult to understand points. In the force unleashed you begin as a Sith hunting down Jedi, it's fun but it would upset people if you had a movie like that.
Third is of course George Lucas. The man is a fantastic writer, but he should stick to that and industrial light and magic. Let other people deal with the individual Star Wars.
The other thing that it makes me think about is our current system of public domain, or more accurately the lack of it. I'm not saying that Star Wars should be part of the public domain, yet, but I am saying that movies the movies should be public domain at some point.
The argument of course is that he developed it so why wouldn't he make the money? That is fine but I think we should be encoring our creative people to have more than one good idea in a lifetime.


Grocery Wars

This is an interesting video. I don't know that I completely agree with the message but they did a good enough job with the production and humor to get me to watch the whole thing. And if you're not aware of the stuff they are talking about it's well worth considering even if you ultimately disagree.


Star Trek/Star Wars meet


Science Fiction examines Religion 

One of the most important aspects of Science Fiction is its ability to present us with ideas that are typically difficult for people to discuss or to help break us away from our preconceived ideas and think about things in a new way. The most difficult and important of these ideas are religion and the different ways that the science fiction franchises deal with religion are an excellent way of examining some of the different ways that people look at religion.

The Agnostic/Atheist

Humans in Star Trek almost never have a religion yet that general ignoring of religion among the humans of the show never stopped them from exploring religious ideas. The Agnostic humans are almost always meeting with "gods" from the original series with Greek gods and a god trapped in the center of the galaxy through the next generation where they met the devil, aliens from alternate dimensions who claimed to be god, and Q.

But most of the discussion of God was in Deep Space 9. It was here that the agnostic had to deal directly with something that he couldn't fully understand, and at the same time deal with being a religious leader. The final battle even came down to a battle between gods.

In the end the agnostic is still an agnostic, or possibly even an atheist but he has learned to accept and even embrace the beliefs of others and more than anything that is the message of Star Trek.

The Unknowable God

The god of Battlestar Galactica is not an agnostic god. He interferes directly with the characters but the idea of worshiping him is difficult. Even the name of god evidently bothers it. Yet the ideas of destiny and belief are examined well in Battlestar Galactica.

And the question of destiny is one that is unavoidable when talking about God. If God is all knowing then how can we have free will? Battlestar Galactica falls on the side of free will, implying that God has been working to bring about solutions but allowing humans to fail.

Sadly the more important point that the God in Battlestar Galactica brought out is the danger of having an active God in any plot. Deus Ex Machinca(god from the machine) is one of the worst ways to end a story. Having the solution to everything be God did it, isn't satisfying or good writing.

The Mystic

There is no real hint that anyone in the Star Wars movies really believes in god, yet these six movies are about a religious order and this disconnect from God allows us to look at the ideas without the debate.

The chief religious idea of Star Wars is that there is a force outside of us. Something that connects all living things and allows for a priesthood who can perform miracles.  One of the important aspects of this mysticism is that it is unexplained. This is something that just is.

This idea that there is something greater than us is the universal center of all religion. We may disagree on what that force is or what it wants of us but the core of religion is its existance and Star Wars has that core.

The Enlightenment

Star Gate, though it is almost exclusively about religion, deals with it very little. The Egyptian gods are safe because very few people on earth belive in Ra and they don't watch science fiction TV series. but it does examine one aspect of religion very carefully in later episodes through the character Daniel Jackson.

That idea is that of enlightenment. The idea of ascendancy through some type of moral or physical purity is as idea of great importance to religion and yet even through this enlightenment we soon find that they are imperfect. Even those with true godlike power can make mistakes and be corrupted like the Ori.

Another important concept in the idea of ascendancy in Star Gate is the idea that people are unable to archive it on their own. Humans, at least in their current form, are not ready to become truly enlightened beings.

The Inclusion

There is an episode of Babylon 5 where every alien race is showing off their religion. This puts the commander of Babylon 5 in a tight spot because the idea of choosing a single religion from Earth is basically offensive.

In the end the solution of bringing representatives from all of earths religions could be considered avoiding the problem but only if you don't understand the point he was making.

The religion of the humans in Babylon 5 had at least for that moment moved beyond a petty argument over who was right(not to be confused with enlightened debate which is good and healthy) to the uplifting of the ideas of diversity and love as the true religion of humanity and that idea wasn't lost throughout the series in which humans, who were far from the most advanced or powerful of the races became important more because of their ability to unite people than anything else.


I want more Science Fiction Dramas

There are basically three types of movies. Action, Drama and Comedy and yet one of the most versatile of genres, science fiction, is so heavily skewed towards action that when something comes out that isn't an action packed thriller people are upset. Even those comedies which come out in this genre are action movies with jokes, yet some of the best movies in the science fiction genre are dramas.

Is this simply another example of people assuming that "guy movies" have to have explosions and the assumption that "science fiction" is primarily for guys. I don't think that either of these stereotypes are true, but I also don't think that this is why they make most science fiction movie. I think there are a plethora of reasons which we can take one at a time.

1. The Star Wars Effect

Star Wars was one of the first huge science fiction blockbusters. It is primarily an action movie. (It's also primarily fantasy but that's a different argument). Since movie makers are more interested in emulating success than coming up with new ideas that may or may not work they reinvent Star Wars and typically they make a lot of money.

2. Expectations

The longer we have science fiction be an action movie genre the more people expect that and movie makers have to meet expectations or have a really good reason not to. This is why you can find independent science fiction films such as Donnie Darko and Primer which are excellent movies which are farther on the drama side of the equation than the action side.

3. depressing movie

People tend to want to escape into science fiction. This is where movies like Edward Scissorhands and Bicentennial man break down. These are reasonably good moves, but they also tend to make you want to cut your own wrists which doesn't make you want to watch them over and over again.

4. Action is Scifi is easier than in other genres

Part of this "problem" is that if you're going to make an action packed movie science fiction is a natural place to go. Movies like the matrix and independence day were able to be far bigger in their action because of the science fiction elements so if you want to make a summer blockbuster science fiction seems a natural choice not because you like science fiction but because it allows for you to have giant robots fighting other giant robots in the streets of new york.

5. Science fiction is expensive

Special effects cost money so if you're going to have robots, or spaceships you want to get your value out of them. Action movies draw bigger crowds to the theaters so you put in your big chase sequence and a couple fights to draw in the crowds.

There are certainly other reasons that science fiction falls on the action side rather than the drama side of movies most of the time, and I wouldn't want to cut down on the number of good science fiction action movies because I really like them, I just want to see a few more science fiction movies that don't have explosions and gun fights too.


Top 10 reasons Battlefield Earth is better than Star Wars

10. John Travolta vs. Harrison Ford

Clearly John Travolta is the superior actor, just look at their movie careers. Sure Harrison Ford was in Bladerunner, Indiana Jones, Patriot Games, Presumed Innocent, and American Graffiti... but John Travolta was in Face Off, Michael, Phenomenon and The Punisher.

9. No Jar Jar Binks in Battlefield Earth

'Nuff said.

8. The Scroll

Both have scrolling text before the movie starts, but Star wars text is at an angle making it difficult to read, and Star wars text is yellow while Battlefield’s earth is green. Everyone knows green is 27.3% better than yellow.

7. Uniqueness

Get in on the ground floor now. Start your own fan club, become this movie’s number one fan. Dress up as Trel at the conventions and you’ll be the only one. Dress up as Darth Vader and you’ll end up standing in the six hour line for C3PO’s autograph with three other people in the same costume.

6. Great Scene Transitions

Does Star Wars have great scene transitions… no. But Battlefield Earth does. It says so right on the DVD cover.

5. Time Management

There are six star wars movies, not even counting the star wars Christmas special, and now there is an ongoing cartoon series. That’s a huge time sync. As a Battlefield Earth fan you’ll never have to worry about any of that. Not only that but the 2 hours of Battlefield Earth feels like 10 so if you only have 2 hours before work this is the perfect movie.

4. The Bar Scene
Obi-wan cutting off someone’s hand has nothing on watching John Travolta lovingly hug three tubes filled with green alcohol.

3. Rivalry
There are no rivalries between Battlefield earth fans and any other fans. Say you’re a Star Wars fan to a trekkie and you’re in for an argument, say you’re a Battlefield Earth fan and no one will ever argue with you. Heck, they’ll be so embarrassed they’ll probably never even talk to you again.

2. Trivia
Have you ever tried to match trivia knowledge with a real star wars fan? No need now... become an expert on Battlefield Earth and you can corner the market. I’ll get you started: did you know that Battlefield earth won 7 Razzies? Yes, this is an award winning film.

1. Movie Appreciation
After watching Battlefield Earth Every movie you watch will seem better. You can’t say that about Star Wars.