Let Us Speak of Star Wars

In which the author shares of his childhood love of Star Wars.

Let Us Speak of Star Wars

“Through the Force, things you will see. Other places. The future. The past. Old friends long gone.”
- Yoda

Dear Reader,

It’s May the Fourth, and thus fitting and right and good that we should speak of Star Wars. And so we shall talk of it a little here.

My journey with Star Wars began as a child. I couldn’t tell you how old I was exactly, but it had to be young. We had the movies on VHS, so you can tell what parts got rewatched the most by the wear on the tape.

Now, we watched the movies a lot as a family and I watched them all on my my own, but the movie I spent the most time with was The Empire Strikes Back.

And the scene I watched the most was the Battle of Hoth.

“Imperial Walkers on the North Ridge”

You sense them coming, looking out toward the empty horizon. The music is subtle, anxious – it warns you of the approaching storm. The Rebels scramble, readying their cannons and their snow speeders.

Then you glimpse them. Off in the distance, shadowy smudges at the edge of your vision, lumbering forward with their awkward mechanical stride. Slow, massive, unstoppable. The AT-AT Walkers. Magnificent and terrible war machines.

And they completely fascinated me.

Sometime in Middle School I had a case of the flu that took me out of school for a week or so. And so I watched The Empire Strikes Back over and over and over again.

But it wasn’t the whole movie. Not every time. Not even most of the time. No, I rewatched the Battle of Hoth dozens of times.

Because those Imperial Walkers coming over the North Ridge were the most interesting part of the movie. Watching them advance, swatting the Rebels down with scornful contempt, General Veers ordering, “Target, maximum firepower!” to blow away the shield generator, asserting with definitive authority that the Empire was the power in the galaxy.

And as the Rebel Base falls, I hit rewind to witness the glorious onslaught again.

When I was poring over Star Wars art books or RPGs, you know what I was looking for, right? Technical diagrams. Statistics for the AT-AT walkers. I played with the little micro-machine versions of the lumbering titans. They were the metal dragons of another world.

But they weren't the only part of Empire that I consumed again and again.

A Majestic Martial Soundtrack on Repeat

Over the course of my early years there were plenty of songs from movies that I just wanted to listen to over and over. In the case of “The Imperial March” I had the option of listening to it on our record player.

The only problem – for my parents – was that I never learned how to safely lift the needle to play the song over again. That meant I needed adult supervision whenever I wanted to listen to the horns and drums sounding forth in stately menace.

So my dad decided to save himself, and the record, from getting worn out. He made an audio cassette with the march on it – repeated from beginning to end in a continuous loop.

And I listened to it. A lot.

How do you get bored listening to that song? I stuck it in my boom box and leapt about, imagining battles and explosions and fleets of Star Destroyers. Or I laid upon the ground next to music machine, mesmerized by the epic repetition.

“The Imperial March” is quintessential Star Wars. When it starts, you know what you’re listening to and you know where it’s going. It conjures visions of the Super Star Destroyer overshadowing its lesser brethren, you see again the assembled might of the imperial fleet, tie fighters in parade formation, rank upon rank of storm troopers.

And I long to see them in battle.

The Battle of Endor

“Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.”
- Palpatine

Whether you like Ewoks or not, I believe that the final battle of The Return of the Jedi has yet to be surpassed, for it is a perfection of the interweaving of land, space, and spiritual battle.

The legion of the Emperor’s best troops is clearly no match for the assembled might of the Ewok horde. Yes, at first, it appears that the Imperial Army will handily prevail, but they have yet to witness the full power of the cuddly teddy bear warriors.

As a kid, I didn’t mind the Ewoks at all and I still don’t. Would I have preferred Wookiees? Sure. But I love it all the same.

Then there’s the space battle. Finally! We get to see more than a dogfight between star fighters. Finally those fearsome Imperial capital ships come to blows with the Rebel Fleet. Oh, and you knew this was coming:

But, as a child, the space battle didn’t hold the greatest power for me.

The Power of the Dark Side

"Everything that has transpired has done so according to my design."
- Palpatine

The battle in the throne room. The spiritual battle.

First, it’s the Emperor. The Emperor has fascinated me for decades. Here at last, the shadowy figure behind all this suffering, all this struggle. We met him for the first time earlier in the film, appearing with that sinister music, descending down the ramp of the shuttle.

And Vader bowed before him.

Now here he is, in his chair, tempting Luke to despair and hate with quotable lines that you can deploy anywhere you go. In line at the supermarket, playing at the park, around the table for dinner when someone’s asking for the salt:

“You want this, don’t you? The hate is swelling in you now. Take your Jedi weapon. Use it. I am unarmed. Strike me down with it. Give in to your anger. With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant.”
“Good. I can feel your anger. I am defenseless. Take your weapon. Strike me down with all your hatred, and your journey towards the dark side will be complete.”

Alright. So, yes, the Emperor – we’ll hear him speak more in a moment. But also, yes also, and equally compelling to me, is the struggle between Luke and Vader. Especially the final beats.

The Greatest Lightsaber Duel Ever Fought

“Good! Use your aggressive feelings, boy. Let the hate flow through you!”
- Palpatine

Vader is stalking Luke in the dark. His son is hiding, his lightsaber off because he doesn’t want to fight. As Vader is searching Luke out, he learns through the Force that Luke has a sister ("Learns?’’ Come now, let us not lose the magic: “Your feelings have now betrayed her, too”! That's how it's done.)

Yes, a sister, who could yet serve the Dark Side:

“If you will not turn to the Dark Side, then perhaps she will.”
- Vader

“Never!” Luke’s battlecry sounds in the dark.

And the mournful epic music rises, sending a shiver down my spine. Luke lunges forward, attacking with wide, savage strikes, hammering against Vader’s defenses, driving him back, step by brutal step. It is an echo of Vader’s relentless pursuit in Empire, only this time the roles are reversed – and the Dark Side’s power swells.

All the way to the catwalk Luke drives his father until Vader stumbles, leaning against the rail, unable to fend off his son’s assault. Luke never relents, he attacks again and again and again – the sham elegance of ritualized violence ripped away to reveal its cruelest and most horrifying core – until he cuts Vader’s mechanical arm away.

Luke’s face, warped by battle lust, gives way to an expression of disbelief or bewilderment as he looks upon his father, whose arm is feebly held up to ward against his son's blows – and Palpatine’s dry laugh sounds from behind.

I am a Jedi, like my father before me.

Palpatine now makes his final bid to turn Luke:

“Good! Your hate has made you powerful. Now, fulfill your destiny and take your father’s place at my side.”

It’s a close thing really. Luke looks in terrible fascination to his own mechanical hand, he then looks to the stump of Vader’s arm, his face contorted, his breath ragged – and he decisively turns off his lightsaber.

Palpatine has lost. And Luke uses the very word that he shouted in response to Vader’s threat to Leia:

“Never. I’ll never turn to the Dark Side. You’ve failed, Your Highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”

The triumph! The nobility of spirit! Here Luke overcomes the temptation of the Dark Side and stays faithful to the Jedi Way.

Yet, we still have the Dark Lord to deal with:

“So be it, Jedi.”

Now we find out that that feeble looking old man is not all talk and temptation (and his sinister music is perfect!):

“If you will not be turned, you will be destroyed!”

And we get the first blast of force lightning. Vader rises to his feet and moves to his master’s side. More lighting cascades into Luke.

“Young fool… Only now, at the end, do you understand…”

Oh...I've meditated on and repeated that line so many times over the years. Then more lightning, Palpatine edges closer, reveling in his triumph.

“Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side.”

Vader looks from his master to his son.

“You have paid the price for your lack of vision!”

Luke cries out to his father for help, but no aid is forthcoming. This is the end and Palpatine announces it:

“Now, young Skywalker… you will die.”

And as the lighting crackles and burns and Luke writhes, Vader seizes Palpatine and hurls him into the abyss. Anakin is free. Luke is saved.

It is finished.

Dear Reader, I watched the duel and Vader’s redemption, many, many times growing up. And I gladly watch it still, again and again. These are stories that have shaped me deeply. But for now we will let the matter rest. We will speak of Star Wars in the future, that much is certain.

I hope you enjoyed this letter. Do you have a childhood Star Wars story? Moments that have stuck with you? Deeply moved you? Please let me know with a reply to this newsletter.

May the Fourth be with you!

Best regards,


P.S. There is another great lightsaber duel, my third favorite after Empire. It's perfect for its simplicity and how it echoes its predecessor in The Phantom Menace. It's in the Rebels Cartoon, near the end of the series. Here's a link.

Want more words, Traveller? Come visit my website at bryanerye.com, or take the direct route to the blog.

Want to throw me some coin to support me financially? I have a Busker's Hat to help buy coffee and used books.

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