Author Jason Fry traces his love affair with Han Solo’s bucket of bolts over more than 40 years of fandom.
I would have been the worst rebel ever.
Watching the end of the original Star Wars as an eight-year-old kid in 1977, I cheered for Luke Skywalker, the Alliance’s new hero. But I also thought he was making the wrong choice.
If Luke stayed with the rebels, he’d become a soldier. He’d be agreeing to do what other people told him to do, and that sounded a lot like the boring life Luke had just escaped on Tatooine. Instead, I declared, Luke should run off with Han Solo and become a space pirate, which seemed a lot more fun.
Besides, Han had Chewbacca, a furry best friend who could rip bad guys limb from limb. He got to hang around in bars until someone paid him to go someplace interesting. And best of all he lived aboard the Millennium Falcon. As a newly lovestruck Star Wars fan, I wanted a lightsaber and robot pals and even Luke’s groovy new gold jacket. But most of all I wanted my own Millennium Falcon.
The closest I could get was Kenner’s toy Falcon, which disappointed me in some ways (the proportions weren’t quite right and there was no way to get from the hold to the cockpit) but mostly thrilled me. I spent endless days and nights with the Falcon and my Han and Chewie figures, flying over planets made of couch cushions and LEGO, and if my imagination faltered I’d watch TV and rework any story I could into a Han and Chewie adventure.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back took a fun Flash Gordon-like serial and transformed it into a galactic epic, but I loved it because it gave the Falcon the star billing she deserved. We saw her move like never before, dodging TIE fighters and Star Destroyers and pinwheeling through asteroids. We learned about her intriguing past, complete with a previous owner and a hint that Han had won her in ways that might not have been entirely fair. We learned she had a voice, talking with C-3PO in a dialect he found peculiar. (Snobby as always, that droid.) We saw new nooks and crannies of her interior, from holds and hatches to equipment bays and medical stations. And we saw her work spectacularly, snatching our heroes out of danger -- except for all the times that she didn’t. She was the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, but so much more than just a vehicle. She was also Han and Chewie’s home, the coolest kids’ clubhouse imaginable, and a character in her own right, cranky and demanding but ultimately brave and loyal.
I became obsessed with all things Falcon. I was amazed to learn they’d built a massive Falcon at Elstree Studios for Empire, and horrified that she’d wound up on the scrap heap once no longer needed for filming. (To quote a different Harrison Ford character, she belonged in a museum!) I learned of her difficult road from concept art to on-screen “reality,” complete with a last-minute crisis over her resemblance to a lander from the TV show Space 1999, which led to a redesign and the original Falcon becoming Princess Leia’s blockade runner.
I also quickly learned that little about the Falcon makes sense once you unsuspend your disbelief. (Which is a good reason not to.) For example, Han and Luke climb a long way up and down the gunwells, pretty obviously farther than the ship would allow them to, and while they duel TIE fighters Luke’s upside down but doesn’t seem to mind. Falcon aficionados like me can come up with scads of similar head-scratchers, all symptoms of the same malady: The ship’s interior sets are too big, in any number of dimensions, for her exterior.
Over the years, enterprising mapmakers created many different blueprints for Falcon’s interior and I studied each one. Where were the crew cabins? The engines? The refresher? The smuggling compartments? If the famous “ring” corridor wasn’t a full circle, I’d scoff and toss the latest entrant aside.
Eventually I was lucky enough to get to write Star Wars books, but adding to the lore around the Falcon stayed stubbornly on my bucket list for years. I made do by tormenting my friends Ryder Windham, Chris Trevas, and Chris Reiff, collaborators on several superb Falcon books; eventually they’d see me coming at conventions and sigh, because they knew that within minutes I’d be razzing them about how their Falcon blueprints lacked a galley.
I finally got my chance when I was tapped as the author of Star Wars: The Force Awakens Incredible Cross-Sections and took full advantage, gleefully geeking out about what went wrong with the Falcon’s propulsion system malfunctioned after Jakku, and detailing modifications made by Gannis Ducain and the Irving Boys. I included the best theory I’d ever heard for the ship’s original purpose, one invented and illustrated by my friend Jeff Carlisle: She’d started life as a space tug, pushing shipping containers sandwiched between her forward mandibles. Finally that sidecar cockpit made sense!
Oh, and you better believe I restored the galley.
In recent years, Hasbro took care of another bucket-list item by releasing a massive new and largely screen-accurate Falcon toy, which I convinced my wife was cool enough to repeal her rule against collecting vehicles as well as action figures. (Hey, Brooklyn apartments are small.) After picking up my Falcon at Toys ‘R’ Us, I stopped off for lunch and ate a burger with the huge box at my feet. Over the next 20 minutes, nearly a dozen Star Wars fans of a certain age approached me to ask if they could look at the Falcon, stammering that they’d had one as a kid. I happily showed off everything that Hasbro had upgraded, and they left glassy-eyed and amazed. They loved it. I know.
But the apogee of my love affair with the Falcon -- so far -- came at the end of 2019, when I finally got to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. I knew the park had been built around a full-scale mockup of the freighter, sitting on her landing gear in a docking bay on Batuu. I’d seen photos and videos of what Walt Disney Imagineering had created. But nothing prepared me for coming around a corner and seeing the Falcon right in front of me. I stopped and stared at her, mouth hanging open, then circled her in awe, trying to peer up the ramp and inventorying her scrapes and dents. She was perfect, from the lines of that saucer-shaped hull to the gouts of steam hissing out of her belly.
The Star Wars: Millennium Falcon -- Smuggler’s Run attraction brings you into the hold and that iconic cockpit, and while you know you’re not actually in the Falcon parked outside, the illusion is so convincing that you’d swear otherwise. I toured the hold in disbelief, trying to take it all in, from porgs’ nests built in snarls of wiring to Han’s hydrospanners and the dejarik board. I’d never been there before, and yet I’d spent countless hours in those surroundings. In the cockpit, I giddily flipped every switch I could reach, riding over and over until I got my lucky break -- an assignment as pilot. Settling into Han’s seat and surveying that familiar console felt like home. And did I tear up pulling the switch that sent the Falcon into the blue-streaked infinity of hyperspace? I’ll never tell, but I think you know already.