One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, and in honor of the upcoming release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (which promises to add many more great Rebel moments), two StarWars.com writers discuss which moment is the Rebellion’s finest (pre-December 16…).
The Battle of Yavin briefing is the Rebellion’s greatest moment, says Kristin.
The tension is palpable inside the briefing room on Yavin 4, where the finest pilots dedicated to the Rebel cause have gathered for General Jan Dodonna’s tactical briefing. After studying the schematics of the seemingly impenetrable Death Star, Dodonna has detected a weakness, a chink in the armor of the Empire’s ultimate weapon.
“The target area is only two meters wide,” Dodonna relates, eliciting murmured disbelief among the gathered troops. “It’s a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. A precise hit will start a chain reaction which should destroy the station.”
If they succeed in their mission, the Rebellion lands a staggering blow to the Empire’s stranglehold on the galaxy, a swift and decisive victory in the struggle against Imperial persecution.
But what if they fail? An abortive strike means certain death for the Rebel cause as we know it. Not only are they risking their best fighters in the skirmish, but the space station is headed for their base tucked away inside the ruins of the Massassi Temples. If it remains fully operational, the Death Star will undoubtedly obliterate the base — and pulverize the entire moon and probably some its sisters in the process — eradicating the Rebel leaders, their amassed supplies, and effectively snuffing out any remaining hope of battling the dreaded weapon of mass destruction and the fearsome Imperials at the controls.
“The approach will not be easy,” Dodonna warns, but a small fleet of snub fighters has a chance. “The battle station is heavily shielded and carries a firepower greater than half the star fleet. Its defenses are designed around a direct large-scale assault. A small one-man fighter should be able to penetrate the outer defense.”
Still, two meters?! And there’s no room for error because only a direct blow with proton torpedoes will bring down the massive weapon.
Han Solo rolls his eyes at what is surely a suicide mission. Even the most dedicated soldiers to the cause can’t help but voice their skepticism in a plan that is, as it were, their only hope.
“That’s impossible, even for a computer,” scoffs Wedge Antilles.
But there is one among them who believes. “It’s not impossible,” says Luke Skywalker, a recruit so new to the fight he hasn’t yet traded his desert tunic for the standard orange flight suit. “I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home. They’re not much bigger than two meters.”
Luke’s trust in the Rebellion, the Force, and even his own abilities belie the dismally low odds of this battle, and in doing so perfectly exemplifies what has united this group of Rebel fighters in the briefing room to begin with.
Here they sit, on the cusp of a pinnacle moment in their protracted fight. They have amassed all the manpower, data, and supplies they can get; the time for preparations has run out. It’s do or die. Defeat the Empire’s Death Star and continue the slow march toward victory for the future Republic or sacrifice themselves trying.
They don’t know it yet, but most of the pilots in that room will perish in the Battle of Yavin ahead, causalities of a daring but foolhardy mission that pit miniscule fighters against a moon-sized behemoth.
Friends, like Luke’s longtime pal Biggs Starlighter and Jek Porkins, will be picked off one by one — not by the moon-sized space station but by the laser fire of Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced leading other small craft to defend the Death Star. Among the X-wing’s Red Squadron, only Luke and Wedge will escape with their lives.
But the sacrifice, even if they fail, is worth it and you can see that determination even in the face of near futility inside that war room briefing. The Rebels are young and imprudent in some ways, but they do not come to this decision lightly. And that belief, that desire to end up on the right side of history and stand up and fight for the greater good is what rallies the troops, unites them, bonds them. There is still time to flee but even the most cynical among them will eventually make their way back to the fold to fight for freedom and back their friends. (I’m looking at you, Han.)
And win or lose, the Rebels are valiant in the eyes of the innocents they fight to free. Succeed or fail, their decision to even attempt the destruction of the Death Star is a victory unto itself. They are dauntless in the face of an adversity so overpowering, even the Imperial elite now aware of their Achilles’ heel are loath to catch an escape pod in their audacious surety of their victory. The Rebel fighters are but flies irritating a giant, as far as Grand Moff Tarkin is concerned.
Even if they had failed in their mission and all been lost, it is probable that the ambitions of this particular group of young Rebel fighters, huddled around their commander in the moments before battle, trusting in the cause, the plan, and themselves, would have lived on as a ripple across the galaxy inspiring the continued fight against the arrogant elite of the Empire.
Win or lose, the fight is worth it.
The destruction of the first Death Star is the Rebellion’s greatest moment, says Jamie.
Talking about the “greatest” anything automatically means we’re going to get subjective. I think something is the greatest; you think something else is the greatest. We disagree. And if we’re being honest, there isn’t a single “greatest” anything. It’s all a matter of opinion. And when it comes to Star Wars, everyone has an opinion. As passionate fans, we’re seasoned vets at making our thoughts, ideas, and theories known.
All that being said, I have to admit that it was no easy task to come up with the Rebellion’s greatest moment. Sure, there are plenty of great moments, great decisions, and great achievements. But a greatest single moment? That’s tough.
I gave this one a lot of thought, but in the end, I came down to what is probably the most obvious choice: the destruction of the first Death Star.
Up until that point, the Rebellion was more an idea than anything else. It was a struggling rebellion built on hope by a ragtag group of devoted idealists. It was born out of tyranny and watered by oppression. In other words, it was a natural development to the Empire that Vader and Palpatine had built.
The Rebels had no tactical advantage. They had no political power. They had no obvious source of wealth. They didn’t even have many friends (at least willing to go public about it). They operated in secret and recruited pilots and freedom fighters willing to risk it all for The Cause.
They were small, relatively unorganized, and largely inexperienced. And they were ostensibly fighting the largest, most well-equipped, and most resourceful power in the galaxy. Palpatine’s Empire wasn’t just a ferocious military machine testing its might on countless planets (it was); it wasn’t just a well-oiled political machine with roots that went deep in the government (it was). It was an enormous tyrannical machine that ruled thousands of planets and hundreds of billions of people. There was no greater power.
So in short, nobody gave the Rebellion a chance. They were fighting impossible odds, and nobody much believed they’d even be successful at figuratively cracking the Empire’s mighty armor.
Yet, despite the astronomical odds and dizzying chain of events that had to occur for them to even have a hint of success, the Rebellion somehow pulled up their bootstraps, charged on, and stayed true to their word—they risked everything for The Cause.
The military assault on the first Death Star should not have worked. Nothing about that campaign suggests it should’ve been remotely successful. It would be all too easy to chalk up the final blow — Luke’s bullseye shot down the thermal exhaust port — to the Force. But that would just be unfair. That would be ignoring the contributions of countless pilots, soldiers, tacticians, and strategists who identified the weakness, planned the attack, commanded fleets of X-wing fighters, died in the assault, and helped position Luke, Wedge, and Han to be in the right place at the right time.
Luke could never have destroyed the Death Star by himself. He couldn’t have done it without Han at his side. He needed the entire Rebellion. He needed their grit, their devotion, their hope, and their sacrifice.
Before Yavin 4 was threatened by the Death Star, the Rebellion was little more than an idea. Once the “ultimate power in the universe” came within range and they all pulled together for that against-all-odds military assault, they were a galactic force to be reckoned with. They had done the impossible. Not only had they destroyed the greatest weapon ever made, but they also forced Emperor Palpatine to sit up and pay attention. They became a real and legitimate threat to his rule.
And in that moment, together, they showed their greatest strength.
Do you agree with Kristin or Jaime? What do you think was the Rebellion’s greatest moment? Let us know in the comments below!
Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Follow her on Twitter @KristinBaver.
Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He’s also a contributor to GeekDad and runs The Roarbots, where he focuses on awesome geeky stuff that happens to be kid-friendly. On top of that, he cohosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates geek culture by talking to people who create it. With two little ones and a vast Star Wars collection at home, he’s done the unthinkable: allowed them full access to most of his treasure from the past 30 years, opening and playing with whatever they want (pre-1983 items excluded).