Review 2006

Stephen asks:
Throughout most of The Empire Strikes Back, the Millenium Falcon's hyperdrive is not working (should have gone to Kwik Fit!) so it can't travel faster than light! However, there is a point where they travel from the Anoat System to the Bespin system. Separate Star systems would never be less than a couple of light years apart (I presume!), i.e. at least two years travel even if they could attain just a tiny bit less than light speed! It clearly doesn't take them this long, so is it some sort of 'worm-hole' or curved universe phenomena that they utilise to accomplish their trip? I simply must know! :) Thank you!

"Bespin is pretty far but I think we can make it." - Han Solo

I've seen Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back countless times but for some reason, y'know, this never occurred to me. Perhaps its my artistic background taking things at face value little realizing the implications of science and real world physics. Of course the two star systems have to be at least a few light years away from each other and taking into account Hans' bit of exposition even further than that. So how could they get there without their hyperdrive, something which takes them further than the speed of light?

There some things to consider. Unlike Star Trek, these films never had a science advisor. In making them, George Lucas was more interested in the fantasy aspects than creating something that physically makes sense and what with everything else that's happening with the artificial gravity, light sabers and the presence of aliens (none of which is explained) I'm not sure that something as 'simple' as the distance between planets and worlds was high on the agenda. Additionally, although the opening of each films explains that all of this is happening 'A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...' that seems to be a way of signaling to the audience that what they are about to see is influenced by mythic traditions and that like Middle Earth and Narnia, the world we are about to see has nothing to do with the world that we have in our universe.

So obviously Leia unconsciously used her latent Jedi powers inherited from her Dad to push them there without anyone onboard the Millenium Falcon apparently being aware of it. Or they hitched a lift on the back of a passing delivery ship with just happened to be passing by on its way to Bespin. Or a wormhole opened and dropped them off at the co-ordinates they needed. Or this part of the universe, on the outer rim is more compressed than everywhere else and distances that seem very far to us are much close to them. Or The Doctor and Rose on their way back to the Whoniverse from fighting the Cybermen accidentally stopped off here landing on the Falcon. Chewbacca helped to power the TARDIS back up and in exchange the timelord created a tachyon bubble around both ships and transported them across the vast distance instantaneously. See -- it's all gobbledegook.

Which isn't to say that someone hasn't asked the question before and this discussion at fan site The Galactic Senate knocks it back and forth. I rather like this answer, that the Millenium Falcon:
"was moving at the speed of plot"
although it's revealed elsewhere that the spin-off reference book Star Wars: The Essential Chronology by Daniel Wallace and Kevin J. Anderson, has retconned a solution:
"Han managed to cobble together a hyperdrive to get most of the way to Bespin."
during which time Boba Fett presumably worked out where they are going, let Darth Vader know and set the trap.

All of the Star Wars films have an interesting approach to plot duration - or the amount of screen time used in telling the story. It's implied that Revenge of the Sith takes place over several weeks or months although its never made explicit using captions - with all of the intercutting and crossfaded days could and would have to have passed by between some scenes - otherwise the fall of Anakin is very abrupt indeed. Similarly I've always thought that in Empire there always a kind of Shakespearean double time in play with the Han & Leia story taking place over a much shorter time than Luke's training which would have to have occurred over several weeks. Looking at it again with this question in mind, assuming that there is a time gap between leaving the Anoat System and reaching the Bespin System, both stories could quite happily be running in parallel.

Also, as with all films, we're only ever told the narrative information we need to know. Although watching Han et al throw together and then testing this possible make-shift hyperdrive might have been an exciting moment (will it work? won't it work?) it would have slowed down the plot which needs to be driven forward (a mistake Lucas would make twenty years later with that bloody pod race - exciting? Yes! Relevant to the overall plot? No!). I think on this occasion, journey is less important than what happens when they get there. Which means that my slightly more prosaic or mystical suggestions it seems valid too.

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