Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (a 15-Minute Force production): Chapter Three: Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Asteroid Field (Or: Never Loan Luke Your Car)



00:30:01 – 00:45:00

Those of us here at the 15-Minute Force studios are happy to rejoin Empire with a snowy battle already in progress.

The firmly entrenched rebel force is facing off against several Imperial Walkers, also known as AT-ATs, protecting the generators that power the rebel base’s energy shield until the last of the transports can get away. Snowspeeders are harrying the walkers as well, but the rebels seem to be slowly losing the fight. Incidentally, there are also AT-STs (All Terrain Scout Transports) involved in what will become known as the Battle of Hoth. These are the two-legged kin of the Imperial Walkers, sometimes called Chicken Walkers (by me, at least).

Since Luke Skywalker’s gunner is unconscious or dead in the seat behind him, Luke—in his snowspeeder—pairs up with Rogue Two to execute another tow cable run like the one Wedge Antilles just successfully pulled off. Their plan is to trip the walkers one at a time, it seems. These two aren’t Wedge Antilles, however. Rogue Two is shot down first, and then Luke crashes into the snow directly in the path of the on-coming walkers.

At first, I thought Luke was trying to get his gunner out of the snow speeder before the walkers stepped on them. But, it seems he was just trying to get the handheld harpoon gun out. The question of whether the gunner is already dead is now moot, since a walker stomps him flat in the speeder wreckage moments later. Luke has his harpoon gun, though.

The scene cuts back to Han Solo inside the rebel base. The base is crumbling under the constant bombardment by Imperial forces. Han makes his way to the command center, making sure that Leia Organa will escape before it’s too late. Someone on the comms says that Imperial troops have entered the base, and then Leia reluctantly gives the evacuation code signal.

As the rebel forces are falling back from the front line, Luke uses the handheld harpoon gun to pull himself up to the belly of one of the walkers. He uses his lightsaber to open up a hole in the armor, then tosses an explosive device inside the walker. Whatever was in his grenade has an extremely high yield, because the walker blows up big.

The Imperial Walker commanded by Sting from The Police manages to complete its mission of destroying the generators powering the energy shield. While this isn’t good news for the rebels, I found it oddly satisfying. I guess I just like it when people achieve their goals.

Han attempts to escort Leia to the final transport, but the corridor they need to take is suddenly blocked by a cave-in. Leia has to leave Hoth in the Millennium Falcon with Han and Chewie. We get a quick shot of Darth Vader stalking through the rebel base, his cool theme music playing while he’s accompanied by KKK stormtroopers with their weird hood-helmets. Cut back to our heroes, and Han is having a difficult time getting the Falcon to start.

Always a wise-ass, Leia asks if it will help if she gets out and pushes. Han says it might.

C-3PO, who was usually our source of comic relief in the days before we suffered the unique comedy stylings of Jar Jar Binks, keeps trying to tell Han something important, but no one wants to listen to the protocol droid. Han uses the Arthur Fonzerelli fist-bump to turn the lights in the cockpit back on. As the Klan-troopers approach the Falcon, a gun pops out from the ship’s belly and begins to eliminate stormtroopers left and right. Since no one is apparently operating the gun, I deduce that the weapon is either controlled by the computer or else is firing in an automated pattern. The Falcon manages to escape from the rebel base before Darth Vader has a chance to board it. Luke watches his friends leave from outside.

Luke then approaches his X-wing, telling R2-D2 to get the ship ready for takeoff. Someone tells Luke good luck and says he’ll see him at the rendezvous. Luke and R2 also manage to escape from Hoth. But, Luke doesn’t plan to join the others at the rendezvous point. He’s altered their flight plan to take them to Dagobah.

I’m not sure how Luke managed to get away scotfree. The Millennium Falcon is running from several TIE fighters and Star Destroyers. It seems the end is near when two additional Star Destroyers are approaching them from the front. C-3PO is still trying to tell everyone something important, and still no one is listening to him. Han does some fancy flying that causes two of the destroyers to ram into each other. Someone needs to get Force-choked over this.

When Han makes an attempt to jump to lightspeed, nothing happens. The important info that C-3PO wanted to share was that he noticed that the hyperspace motivator had been damaged. As with many problems, insufficient motivation is once again the culprit.

As Han attempts to make repairs on the fly, yelling for alluvial dampers and hydrospanners (I’m sensing a water theme here), the Falcon runs into an asteroid field. Han makes the decision to fly into the field to shake their pursuers. C-3PO announces that the probability of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1. Which leads to another of my favorite Star Wars quotes from Han: “Never tell me the odds!”

The asteroids and Han’s deft maneuvering shake off the TIE fighters, all of which explode spectacularly. Han decides to move in closer to one of the bigger asteroids. Flying through surface canyons in a scene reminiscent of the Death Star trench run from the first movie, Han’s quick thinking ends in the destruction of the final two TIEs. Then, Han decides to take temporary refuge inside a giant cavern in the asteroid.

We cut to Luke, who has already made it to Dagobah. Those X-wings must really be fast. Luke crash lands in the Dagobah swamps, of course. If you’re keeping score, that’s the second vehicle Luke has crashed in this chapter. Add the dead tauntaun from the first chapter and you can come to only one reasonable conclusion: Luke is Hell on transportation. You should never loan your car out to Luke Skywalker.

More droid comedy ensues as R2 falls into the swamp, then begins to maneuver towards the swamp bank through the use of a periscope. A huge water beast attempts to eat R2, but then spits him out when it finds the droid unpalatable. It’s a heck of a spit take. The astromech droid flies through the air (without the aid of the jets he once had a couple of decades ago) and crashes through the jungle. When Luke locates R2, he is one disgusting looking droid who is belching up dirty swamp water.

Luke is beginning to question his decision to travel to Dagobah based on a message from the grave sent by a weird desert wizard he once knew for about thirty minutes. He’s not going to be much help to the rebellion while he’s stranded on Swamp World.

In the next scene, the recently promoted Admiral Piett comes to talk to Darth Vader, who is once again sitting in his black egg. This time we see the back of Vader’s head with his helmet off. It’s maggot-white except for the angry-looking scars that crisscross his skull like the seams on a baseball. Machinery places Vader’s shiny helmet on his head before he turns to face Piett. The admiral doesn’t want to take their ships into the asteroid field after the Millennium Falcon. Of course, Vader doesn’t care what he wants and orders the admiral to get the freighter, no matter what.

Back to the Falcon, which has parked inside the asteroid cavern. Han tells C-3PO to communicate with the hyperdrive to find out what the problem is. Meanwhile, there seems to be some seismic activity inside the asteroid. Unless the shaking is being caused by something else. Something we won’t get to find out in this chapter, which is now drawing to a close.

This has been an exciting fifteen minutes. We finally left Hoth behind after spending most of our first thirty minutes there. Our heroes split up into two groups, and we got two new settings. Luke and R2 are now stranded on Dagobah, and Han, Leia, Chewie and C-3PO are hiding out inside an asteroid cavern. As far as our current story goals: Han and his squad are still in escape mode, and I assume they will make their way to the rendezvous point from there; Luke is looking for the Jedi Master known as Yoda, who will help Luke continue his studies in the ways of the Force. Darth Vader is, of course, obsessed with tracking down Luke Skywalker, the young hero of the Battle of Yavin who blew up the Death Star, but he must first track down the Millennium Falcon.

The action has been unflagging so far. It feels like it might be time for a quiet scene or two. We’ll see what happens when we return next week for another chapter of the Empire Edition of 15-Minute Force.

Until then . . . Be Careful Not to Flood Your Star-Freighter Engines When Adjusting Your Alluvial Dampers with Your Hydrospanners . . . And May The 15-Minute Force Be With You.

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