December 21, 2015

Horse 2046 - Star Wars Episode X: The Whole Sort of General Mish Mash #WSOGMM

I like many movie goers across the world, saw "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force¹ Awakens" this weekend. Unlike a lot of people, I saw this movie at a drive-in theatre and what I thought was interesting was that I'd made it to the age of 37 years old and had never been to the drive-in before, even though I've owned cars for not quite half of that period.
Warning: There are spoilers in this post.

As I tap away on my tablet computer like the sort that Frank Poole and Dave Bowman had in Stanley Kubrick's movie adaptation of "2001: A Space Odyssey", I am wearing a pair of headphones that would not be out of place in Ray Bradbury's book "Fahrenheit 451"; all watched over by ever loving machines who would have scared George Orwell because of the pervasiveness of the surveillance state in which we find ourselves and Issac Asimov because of the danger that all of the automation that pervades our lives poses.

It would be foolish to view Episode VII and it too, draws from the language of sci-fi films. Of course it fits into its own continuity with minuscule details, such as Finn's Stormtrooper number being FN-2187 which is itself the number of the holding cell which Princess Leia was held in on board the Death Star in Episode IV in 1977 but intriguingly, Finn's own story seems to suggest a device from Aldous Huxley's novel A Brave New World in which batches of babies are decanted and cloned. Finn's story is also a bit like Kryten's in Red Dwarf in that he has decided to break his programming.
Mind you, if I was Grand Poohbah and Lord High Everything Else, I would have placed William Shatner, Tom Baker and Matt Smith as unexplained extras in the tavern. The fandom's collective heads would have exploded.

Episode VII is set circa thirty years in the future from the end of Episode VI. In the mean time, the principal actors have conveniently aged thirty years and also time travelled at the rate of one second per second during that time as well. This means that Han Solo, Leia Organa and Luke Skywalker are helpfully thirty years older.
Logically, R2-D2 and C3-PO are also thirty years older. Because R2-D2 appeared in Episode I and is possibly the only character to appear in all seven movies if you follow his timeline (I have no idea how robot gender works but R2-D2 has been previously classified as a male), then it means that he is somewhere in the region of seventy years old by the time of Episode VII.
How many electronic devices have that sort of lifespan? Granted, there are simple devices like lightbulbs in very stable and special conditions that still work and I have a microwave oven that was my Gran's and dates from 1979 but generally, no device lasts that long. Even for something like a radio which only picks up AM could still theoretically work, the likelihood of finding a radio which was built in 1945 and is still in fully working order is small. Also, a radio which is seventy years old is likely to have valves and pentodes inside of it, which even if the radio was still working, would have probably needed to have been replaced by now.
R2-D2 is obviously a more complex machine that a radio though. Throughout the course of seven movies, he's been shot at, gone into space on multiple occasions and ended up in various junkyards. If a radio can't survive the rigours of sitting in one place in a parlour and then being moved occasionally, what chance does a seventy year old electrical device of that sort of complexity stand? Already this plot device has got more holes in it than a Star Destroyer following a skirmish with a squadron of X-Wings.
On that note, both X-Wings and TIE Fighters look identical to how they did thirty years ago. During the midst of the Cold War, the Russians and Americans were constantly tinkering and upgrading their hardware. It's only been in the last twenty or so years; where there's been a period of relative peace that air technology hasn't been replaced that quickly. At very least, we should have expected to see cross pollination of ideas as the two sides borrowed and reverse engineered each other's stuff.

Something else that bothered me about the film is probably not even noticeable by the majority of the movie going public. When BB-8 projects its map piece that fits into the larger map that R2-D2 has, did anyone else think how strange it was that the graphics were still basically the same as what would have appeared in Episode I? I totally understand that for continuity purposes that having things consistent makes sense but anyone who has worked on any platform or OS for longer than five years knows that the look of every computer program will change wildly. I can not possibly believe that in the Star Wars universe, that the design language of computer programs would have or even could have remained static for thirty years.

There's something else that I really didn't understand. In Episode IV when Obi-Wan Kenobe is training Luke, it takes Luke forever to learn how to do anything. In Episode VII, Rei who doesn't really know that much about the force is already perfectly capable of resisting Kylo Ren and in a scene in a forest later, can move a light saber; all with zero training whatsoever.
Kylo Ren: Dude, you've got some serious anger management issues going on. Maybe you should take a training course in the First Order's Management School. We know that it must exist. Maybe you could go and see a psychotherapist.

This brings me to the very point of this post. There is a perennial argument among the various tribes of nerddom over who would win in a fight - Stormtroopers or Red Shirts from Star Trek. This answer is obvious: the Stormtroopers would shoot and miss but the Red Shirts would die anyway. By default, Stormtroopers would win.
Moving up the scale though, who could beat a fleet of Stormtroopers? Again, the answer is simple - Daleks.

When asked by a Cyberman leader, if four Daleks could beat an army of five million Cybermen, a Dalek replied that one Dalek could beat an army of Cybermen². Taking this to its logical conclusion, if a bunch of pilots in X-Wing fighters can blow up a DS-1 Orbital Defence Sphere (don't believe the Rebel scum propaganda) and a Starkiller, then how would they fare against a single Dalek armed with an egg whisk? Probably pretty well because apart from the fact that the Daleks aren't that maneuverable, they're also not all that modest either. Nevertheless, the Doctor has been trying to kill this legion of pedal bins for fifty years and he's not yet succeeded.
I suspect that a properly organised Dalek invasion force would easily overpower the Old Republic, the Empire and the First Order. If a Stormtrooper can show remorse or even hesitate in the face of killing innocent people, then they stand little chance in the face of an army of Daleks.
Unlike Kylo Ren, Daleks would have just shot Rei, Han Solo and Finn. There would have been none of this bouncing around rubbish. Daleks know that they can win from a distance of fifty feet. By their own admission they have no sense of elegance.
I bet that someone in charge of a Dalek army could easily wipe the floor with whatever was thrown at it. If you wanted some sweeping overture and scary theme music, then "Mars, the Bringer of War³" from Gustav Holst's The Planets will easily suffice.

Of course the greatest army that has ever existed in all of sci-fi is not found either under a white helmet of a Stormtrooper or the silver shell of a Dalek battle tank. It is microscopic. It is the unorganised army of germs which is found in The War of The Worlds.
I bet that not even an army of Daleks could defeat an army of germs.

¹Force = Mass x Acceleration. This means very fast Catholic Priests?

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