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The Problem With ‘The Gambit’ in Last Jedi

Let’s talk about the massive plot hole The Last Jedi introduced.

The Problem With 'The Gambit' in Last Jedi

This post will reveal a real big spoiler for The Last Jedi. If you haven’t seen the movie and wish to avoid spoilers, click here.

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Still with me?  Alrighty, here we go.

At the close of the second act, as the remnants of the Resistance personnel flee their cruiser that is Bingo fuel, the First Order ships spot the small transports and begin picking them off one by one.  The Vice Admiral, who remained aboard the cruiser to pilot it away from the fleeing ships and keep the First Order focused on the cruiser1 turns the cruiser around, warms up the hyper-drive, and demonstrates in destructive detail Han’s admonishment from Episode IV about the wisdom of jumping to hyperspace before the Navigation Computer has finished its calculations.  The big bad ship gets spit in two2, and the squadron of Star Destroyers escorting it are obliterated in an festival of CGI special effects3.  The big guns go silent and the retreating ships make it to the nearby planet, thus kicking off the final act of the movie.

But now we have a problem.  We just saw a massive flagship get skewered and crippled by a much smaller ship that just happened to jump to hyperspace right through it.  If this is possible, one has to wonder why it isn’t done more often?  Why did the Rebellion employ star fighters to take down two Death Stars when they could sacrifice a cruiser and deal catastrophic damage to each of them?  Well, before we can answer that, let’s look at the idea of hyperspace.

Here is the Wookipedia entry regarding hyperspace.  I find that explanation to be weak.  As far as I am concerned, hyperspace is very similar to subspace from the Star Trek universe, in that it is a layer of space where the dimensions are more compact, or where the laws of physics are different, so that distances are much smaller or the speed of light is much greater.  As long as a ship in this layer of space can maintain a ‘reality bubble’ (a warp or hyperspace field), they can make use of the dimension as an interstellar shortcut without everyone and everything falling victim to the altered physics.

Of course, this means that a ship would need to have entry and exit points for this layer of space, and it’s not unreasonable to think that things in our layer of space could have an impact in hyperspace.  Effects like mass or gravity shadows, where very large things (such as stars and planets) with significant gravitational fields could affect things in hyperspace, and would present a hazard to a ship traveling close to or through the gravity well (tidal forces could shear a ship apart).  So you want your entry point and exit point to be outside of the effects of a gravity well, or anything else that can cause the ‘shape’ of space to be curved, and you want your path to not move too close to things that strongly curve space.  Doing otherwise is risky.

Back to the entry and exit points from hyperspace.  If we are to use the visual effects from the movies as a guide, it appears that ships don’t just flip a switch and enter or exit hyperspace.  There is a transition distance that has be crossed, thus one can assume that anything in that transition distance that could not be deflected by your particle shields is going to be a problem.  So you want to make sure that the necessary distance is clear of large obstacles.  Unless, I would think, you want to do very bad things to that large obstacle.  This is what I bet Holdo did.  She did not plot a jump through the dreadnought, she plotted her transition distance so it would pass through the ship.  Obviously, she knew her ship would be reduced to many, many, tiny parts moving at relativistic speeds, but those selfsame tiny parts would probably not have a problem overloading the particle shields of everything downrange and punching big, gaping holes through them all.  It was a safe bet she would cripple the squadron, at the very least.

But, while a brilliant tactical move, this leaves us with a big problem in the Star Wars universe, in that we just demonstrated that hyperspace transition distances are more effective than the biggest damn rail gun you ever saw.  This might not be an issue if only capital (or other large) ships could mount a hyper-drive, but if an A-wing can mount one4, one has to wonder why warships don’t carry a compliment of ‘ship killer’ torpedoes with their own hyper-drives.  Torpedoes that fly really fast toward an enemy capital ship and then jump to hyperspace as soon as the range is correct, tearing through shields and doing terrible damage along their path.  Either it’s insanely easy to defend against this kind of attack such that no one bothers to do it, hence having the easy defense up and operational is a common oversight, or there has to be another reason it could only be pulled off with something the size of a cruiser.

Actually, some kind of mass effect could be a reasonable explanation, such that the potential damage a small torpedo or star fighter could do wouldn’t be worth the cost, but a floundering capital ship, that can hurt like hell.  Although then I have to wonder why the other ships in the Resistance ‘fleet’ didn’t try something similar before they ran out of fuel and got into gun range.  Sure, they were smaller, but any damage you can do to the big baddie or the Star Destroyer squadron is better than just letting the ship turn into expanding plasma.5

But I have to admit, the mass explanation only really holds when it comes to big ships like Snoke’s ship.  Smaller Star Destroyers should still be dangerously vulnerable to Transition Torpedoes, and even obscenely large ships or battle stations, if I have even a wee bit of clue as to where reactors or magazines are located, could be in trouble if I have a torpedo that can punch through shields and armor and destroy everything along a path.  Hell, even a hit or two across the beam where the engines are could serve to put the ship out of the fight.

So, what kinds of explanations do you folks have?

 

Image by marvelousRoland The Problem With 'The Gambit' in Last Jedi

 

  1. Because modern interstellar warships don’t have intelligent autopilots? []
  2. But not destroyed, solid naval engineering on the part of the First Order []
  3. Really, it was beautiful, as one would expect of ILM []
  4. And an A-wing is little more than a cockpit with two guns and two big damn engines strapped to it []
  5. Also, Star Wars naval commanders are all idiots, no one maintains that kind of ship spacing during a naval engagement, yet everyone has their ships close enough to wave at each other through the windows.  Even wet navies keep the members of a fleet well-spaced, so as to avoid friendly fire, to not offer the enemy easily grouped targets, or narrow directions to defend against, and to allow each ship room to maneuver freely.  The fact that any of those ships can maintain visual contact with each other is purely because it’s a movie. []

Contributor

A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget. ...more →

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60 thoughts on “The Problem With ‘The Gambit’ in Last Jedi

  1. I don’t have any good answers here beyond that unlike Star Trek, which is scifi and uses at worst treknobabble hand-waving, Star Wars is half fantasy, more invested in the ‘magic’ of the Force, so you shouldn’t expect attempts at scientific consistency. It’s sort of like asking why Harry Potter didn’t bring a gun as a back up in case his wand was broken or knocked from his hand.

    That said, my biggest problem with the move was tactical. If this was an option, why did Holdo wait so long to do it? Once the Empire started firing on the escaping shuttles, it was obvious their gambit of using the cruiser as a distraction to let them slip away had failed. There was literally no reason for her to stand there helplessly on the empty bridge watching shuttle after shuttle being destroyed when she could have done this as soon as the escaping troops were being targeted.

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  2. I pointed out another problem the other day, then wrote it up as a note that I handed a co-worker who was seeing the movie that night.

    It regards the impossibility of the long pursuit of the Rebel cruiser.

    If I recall correctly, we are told the Rebel cruiser is lighter and more maneuverable than the Imperial ships. That implies that it has a higher thrust to weight ratio, which translates into a higher acceleration.

    Suppose the Imperials need to close the distance to the Rebel ship by 5 kilometers (I’m picking a rather large distance based on the visuals), and suppose the pursuit lasts 24 hours (It could have been days). The cruiser neither left the Imperial ships behind, nor could the Imperial ships close the distance.

    For neither group to be able to vary the distance by 5 km over 24 hours under constant acceleration, their thrust to weight ratios would all have to match to an extremely close degree.

    The formula s=1/2*a*t^2, where t = 86400 seconds and s=10,000 meters, gives a difference in relative accelerations of 1.336E-6 m/sec^2, or 0.0000001367 G. That’s like having the mass of an Arleigh Burke class destroyer powered by an engine with one pound of thrust, or powering a Nimitz class aircraft carrier with engines from a toy quadcopter.

    If either side had added a person pedaling an exercise bike to their engine’s thrust, the pursuit couldn’t have gone on that long because the gap would have opened or closed in short order.

    Secondly, when a heavy bomber makes it over the enemy ship and drops its bombs, why do the bombs fall instead of just floating around in the bomb bay? They’re in space. As we saw when the cruiser’s bridge crew was blown out, the debris just floated around the ship. Yet bombs somehow are supposed to fall toward a ship. The writers couldn’t even be consistent within a single movie.

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    • The long pursuit is modeled on Age of the Fighting Sail stern chases, familiar to anyone who has read the Hornblower books. In the classic stern chase, the more powerful but ever-so-slightly slower ship chases its prey, with the chase possibly lasting for days. This makes sense because which ship is slower or faster depends on the specific conditions. If the wind rises or drops or shifts direction, the equation can be changed. This is why it is worthwhile for the slower ship to make chase.

      There isn’t, absent truly spectacular hand-waving, any good analogue for a potential wind shift. The fuel shortage is substituted in its place. But as you point out, they botched it. They should have simply had the Resistance fleet out of range, and all the ships going the same speed.

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      • The Expanse does long pursuits quite well, in its case the variable that makes it work is the effects of high acceleration on the human body – a long pursuit in The Expanse is mostly a question of which crew starts to suffer from being under 5+G of acceleration first.

        Of course that doesn’t work with Star Wars because they don’t have to worry about the effects of acceleration.

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      • For fish sake, send one of your star destroyer consorts ahead via a short jump to intercept. Also, fon the same note, umm rebels, you had four capital ships to start. Maybe light jump in four different directions? Especially when you realize they’re only tracking you from the lead ship?

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        • It’s like, in order to avoid the effort of having to write themselves out of one plot hole, they do something that just kicks out half a dozen other plot holes.

          I mean, they know where the tracking system is on the big ship, so take one of those Bingo fuel ship and have it jump through that spot on the big ship. Even if it doesn’t cripple the big ship, the tracking problem is taken care of for a while.

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      • They shouldn’t send currently pursuing ships ahead, that would make it clear what is going on and risk course changes.

        The smart thing to do would be to, you know, just call up their damn navy on the telephone and said ‘Hey, go here, lie in wait’.

        I mean, this entire thing took days. Does the First Order not have _any other_ ships in their navy?

        And, honestly, in some actual war or something, that could be justified with ‘The First Order didn’t want to spread their ships too thin’, but this appeared to literally be the entire Resistance fleet, and the First Order seemed to know that.

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        • The only way sending them ahead is an issue is if the Resistance can suss out destinations from the exit vector (easy enough to hide by making two short jumps instead of one).

          And now that I think about it, sending them ahead would have made the story way more exciting. More along the lines of that early BSG episode (33 I think it was called). The whole running out of fuel schtick was kinda lame.

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    • That implies that it has a higher thrust to weight ratio, which translates into a higher acceleration.

      What if there is some sort of absolute speed beyond which a vessel may not go? At that point, acceleration becomes not a significant problem, because maximum velocity is reached. Let’s peg that at the point at which time dilation occurs to a noticeable degree — it does the war effort little good if your warship thinks it only takes one day to go from Tatooine to Hoth if the war was lost ten years ago from Hoth’s frame of reference by the time you get there. So in non-“lightspeed” mode, a ship simply will not accelerate faster than this. That’s how the Resistance cruiser gets out of firing range of the First Order fleet, and that’s how the First Order fleet can eventually match speeds with it, because they’re both at the threshold of time dilation.

      Which wouldn’t explain why, in the frictionless vacuum of space, they’d need to continue to burn fuel at all once they were at the time dilation threshold — when you get going as fast as you want to go in such an environment, you’d simply switch your engines off until you needed to change attitude, change direction, or to decelerate in order to match velocities with some other object like the planet you’re going to.

      …Oh, wait. I’m doing it. I’m trying to rationalize the physics of a Star Wars space battle. Using Einsteinian special relativity, no less. I must realize that from my own frame of reference, this is an inherently silly undertaking and I shall cease it at once.

      But y’all have fun with it.

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    • The weird thing is, it’s entirely possible to come up with some sort of rational for this. Set it in some sort of Star Wars equivalent to Star Trek’s Badlands or Briar Patch, where FTL doesn’t work and even sublight is a mess.

      Or, hey, Star Wars already has a place sorta like that: The Maw, which for those of you who don’t do the EU, is a horribly complicated shifting nexus of black holes that it is completely horrible to navigate inside. And it’s through which ‘The Kessel Run’ happens, which is why it is measured in distance instead of time. (And, yes, I know the EU isn’t canon, but they have shown themselves perfectly willing to steal from it.)

      Put the damn chase in the Maw. The First Order has faster ships, but the Resistance has (Thanks to Han Solo) better maps. And navigating near black holes has to, I assume, burn fuel like no one’s business.

      And also, you have explained why the First Order cannot just jump in front of them. And you get some amazing visuals of black holes you can put on screen if you want. And it makes perfect sense for a secret Rebel base to be hidden there.

      And, hell, it also makes sense as to why someone has to stay on the ship to manually pilot it. The autopilot is smart, but not ‘navigate though a field of black holes’ smart.

      You could probably even figure out a self-sacrifice that looked just as impressive but didn’t instantly result in everyone saying ‘Hey, why doesn’t everyone with hyperdrive tech do that?’.

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        • I was actually thinking that what they could do is show why hyperspace ramming doesn’t actually work in general, while at the same time setting up why it would work here.

          Like, maybe it takes several seconds to spin up to hyperspace (Which I think is actually true, it certainly seems to take a while to come up the orig-trig.), and anyone can detect you doing that, and any ship that detects you will go through them will just move.

          Maybe even some sort of sensor-detectable hyperspace corridor gets overlaid on reality and ships detect that and move out of the way really fast. (Think B5 jump points except invisible and non-destructive, you just move because there is probably going to be a ship there!)

          So there’s no point in hyperspace ramming torpedoes. Everyone just dodges.

          But in the Maw, ships have to follow very very exact paths to remained balanced between black holes. Which means they can’t dodge. Oops.

          The movie could even have the computer attempt to dodge, and the crew has to counter that to keep from falling into a black hole, and then we (and them) suddenly realize they’re completely screwed, and bam, cut in half. Giving the audience the same visual impact…and then the crippled ship, which has no working navigation, is now going to fall slowly into a black hole. (Presumably with time for our main characters to escape.)

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          • That’s a good explanation for why ramming is not common for smaller capital ships, but man the empire & the first order do love their LSTs.

            And it still doesn’t deal with the lack of hyperspace torpedoes, which could be fast and nimble enough to avoid point defenses to get close enough to negate dodging.

            LST long slow target, a favorite name for aircraft carriers.

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            • And it still doesn’t deal with the lack of hyperspace torpedoes, which could be fast and nimble enough to avoid point defenses to get close enough to negate dodging.

              I don’t know what you mean that they could be fast and nimble enough to dodge anything…you can’t dodge things in hyperspace (The route is preplanned.), and also there’s not any point because you can’t hit other things in hyperspace, as far as anyone knows. (You might be able to if you all entered together on the same course, but obviously those would be your own ships.)

              If you mean they could go through hyperspace and appear next to the ship…that doesn’t seem that useful with shields. You got it there faster, sure, and the point defenses might not take it out…but you also just turned a good chunk of the torpedo into a hyperdrive instead of the explosives it is supposed to be made up.

              But maybe you mean the could appear _inside_ the target, yeah, that would be awesome. But there are a few easy reasons that doesn’t make much sense.

              For one thing, like I said, the route is preplanned. We’ve never seen anyone change course…we’ve seen them drop out of hyperspace and put in new route, but never ‘turn’ while in hyperspace.

              So assuming there is some minimum hyperspace distance, this automatically this makes them hard to use, especially combined with the fact that plotting a route and/or spinning up the hyperdrive take several seconds. (Fun EU fact: Thousands of years ago, most ships did not have computers that could calculate hyperspace routes, and orbital-based computer systems would do it for them.)

              However, while it is easy to design tactics that hyperspace torpedoes _wouldn’t_ work against, the problem is that capital ships, in Star Wars, like to stand in one place and pound on each other, which seems like the perfect universe in which to have hyperspace torpedoes. But, then again, maybe the fact that no one _does_ use those is what is allowing those tactics, and the second anyone started using them, ships would start moving more.

              Although that would be a really good advantage for a while, as everyone has to learn ‘Hey, don’t let them guess exactly where my ship will be two minutes from now or I might get a droid-piloted stripped-down X-Wing hyperspacing inside me.’

              It is also possible you cannot pick your destination to within any level of certainty, so appearing inside a ship is near impossible…and before anyone goes ‘We have seen ships drop out of hyperspace in formation’, maybe that applies to the hyperspace route as a whole…you don’t know where the route will end in space, but everyone who enters the route in formation come out exactly in place relative to each other.

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              • Oh, wait! Did you mean the hyperspace torpedo could go through ships while in hyperspace? Not drop out in the middle of ships, but actually pass through them and harm them?

                I always assumed that wasn’t possible, that hyperspace did not intersect with real space in that way.

                And we have some evidence for this…Han shows up inside the debris field from Alderaan in A New Hope, and instantly starts hitting things…but if the Falcon had been interacting with debris before that, at FTL, it would surely be totally destroyed.

                This also raises the question of why debris didn’t end up embedded in the ship, but presumably there is some sort of repulsive effect moving it out of the way.

                So I assume the gambit in TLJ was due to the fact she was still entering hyperspace, and wasn’t fully in it. That was the ramp up to FTL, not actual FTL.

                If you can just destroy things by piloting through them at hyperspace, absolutely nothing in Star Wars makes any sense at all.

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              • Sorry, typing on my phone before, so my explanation was probably too short.

                As I discuss in the OP, my impression of how Holdo did the damage she did is because Snoke’s ship was in the transition distance she had to cover to get to hyperspace. It’s the transition distance where things are very dangerous.

                If I’m right, and it’s the transition distance that is dangerous for anything along the path, then I can program a torpedo to fly fast and furious toward a capital ship until it’s within the transition distance and too close to dodge.

                Alternatively, (and this just occurred to me) the possible reason this is not normally done is, as you say, things in hyperspace don’t react to things in normal space, unless things in normal space are very massive.

                Like Snoke’s ship.

                It’s possible Snoke’s ship was just massive enough to cross that threshold where something passing through hyperspace could react badly with it. It’s mass shadow pulled the cruiser out of hyperspace, and since it was an uncontrolled exit into the massive ship, the cruiser turned into a mass of relativistic flotsam that split the hull and shotgunned the squadron flying behind it (in a dangerously close formation).

                So this trick only works for insanely big ships and/or battle stations.

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  3. Oh, Star Wars has never had a writer with even an inkling of how naval engagements are supposed to play out, wet or vacuum. And yeah, gravity seems to get turned on and off all across the universe at the whim of the plot device.

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    • And yeah, gravity seems to get turned on and off all across the universe at the whim of the plot device.

      Plus apparently free changes in velocity and momentum. Every ship that drops out of “lightspeed” seems to have perfectly matched the velocity of the nearby planet, regardless of what their relative velocity might have been when they jumped. I am always somewhat concerned by science fiction stories that have both free energy and poverty.

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    • I think you can save some typing by simply saying: “Star Wars has never had even an inkling of how…” No need to elaborate. something about SW just kills any logic. They rarely even play by their own rules, much less anything that springs from reality.

      From the first (Episode 4) on, not much has made much sense on any level. I was a huge fan of E 4, thought E 5 was a decent 2nd chapter of a trilogy (and dependent upon E 6 to make it worthwhile — and then, well, we got E 6). But I always buy a ticket, and always enjoy certain parts, and then always leave the theater with no fewer than 143 “yeah…but…” moments on the drive home.

      Sigh.

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        • As I noted previously, they were doing a sailing ship stern chase… IN SPACE! Starting from that premise, the handwavium applied to transfer the scene from sailing ships to space is pretty much irrelevant. Yes, they used low quality handwavium, but had they sprung for higher grade material, it wouldn’t really have made much difference to me.

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          • Yeah. I think that’s part of what’s going on.

            I’m pretty damn nerdy here, and a not-that-casual fan of Star Wars, and I was pretty happy with the scene because it looked amazing and pushed the right emotional buttons.

            Also, so much of that chase was just completely deranged from a plotting perspective that I don’t even know.

            “We’re in a protracted stern chase so we’re sneaking to the Casino Planet from the original Battlestar Galactica pilot to find Space James Bond amid some really heavy-handed social commentary!”

            Don’t get me wrong, I loved almost every minute of the movie, but that was a questionable narrative decision.

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            • There’s not a single planet in the galaxy where you can just park on a public beach. Your vehicle will be impounded. Everybody knows this except, apparently, the Rebels. Perhaps that’s why almost every single one of them has spent time in jail. Perhaps their long rap sheets have something to do with why everyone keeps calling them a band of criminals. They’re so criminal that they don’t even think twice about giving a critical assignment to some random criminal who just happened to share a cell with them, one who offered his help in carrying out the crime they were plotting – because they’re all criminals.

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              • There’s not a single planet in the galaxy where you can just park on a public beach. Your vehicle will be impounded.

                Considering that is a rich person planet, it’s not entirely outside the bounds of possibility that was a private beach. We’re used to people not being able to own ocean beaches in America, but I doubt it works in the same way in Star Wars, where no one blinks an eye at criminal syndicates owning planets.

                I mean, I think it was mentioned it was a public beach at some point, but I don’t know they knew that when landing.

                I’m not saying that as justification…if anything, landing without permission on a private beach is even stupider. Public beach might (and did) have security people…private beaches certainly do.

                Also…the parking is only a tiny faction of the problem. Spaceships, at least spaceships on planets with actual governments in control of them, like that one, presumably have to follow some sort of space traffic control system. Which will tell them where to park, or the ship tells them what lot they are parking in, or something.

                You can’t just, like, fly in from space and land somewhere without permission, even if it’s _not_ a public beach.

                However, blaming it all on the Resistance isn’t fair. That ship didn’t just have a Resistance pilot, it had a former First Order guy too…who also probably isn’t used to following parking regulations either. Because if you don’t let the First Order park wherever they want, they shot you.

                Perhaps that’s why almost every single one of them has spent time in jail.

                If we count up the spaceship parking and moving violations in Star Wars, that number is probably startlingly high.

                For one example: It is almost certainly a moving violation to fly a spaceship inside a space station, even one under construction, without permission, LANDO. (And I bet he’s just going to leave the ticket for Han to pay.)

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  4. The Mass explanation is the only one that makes sense to me.

    That said, they could have put a lampshade on this by having the Rebel Fleet ships self-destruct instead of be blown up by the empire.

    Have Admiral Edelweiss say something about “Don’t destroy them! Those ships are worth a *FORTUNE*! Disable them and we will modify them and add them to the First Order! A fitting metaphor for what we wish to do to the Rebellion, don’t you think… They’re much more useful to us in our custody than in pieces.”

    And, tah-dah, now you’ve got a reason that this sort of thing hasn’t been done before. The hope that you could get away and keep using this thing always outweighed the option of saying “You want to talk to The Force? Let’s go see The Force together.”

    UNTIL THIS VERY MOVIE.

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  5. I agree Oscar and frankly the Holdo Maneuver presents a massive narrative, strategic and economic problem for the Star Wars universe.

    Narratively, of course, the First Orders reaction to the prelude to the maneuver makes no sense. “Oh she’s trying to distract us” followed by “oh shit! Blow her up!” suggests that they recognized what she was up to in very short order and determined that it was a massive threat- which begs the question of why this hasn’t been done before and why they were so indifferent initially.

    Strategically this maneuver begs the question of the very existence of capital ship hulls. Your point regarding hyperspace mounted star fighters is a good one but one could at least try and hand wave it away by pointing to relative amounts of mass and claiming that a hyperspace jumping fighter would simply splat on the windshield so to speak rather than doing mass damage. That doesn’t work with cruisers or other medium to large hull ships. If we look at the Resistance cruiser I’m eyeballing it as being around maybe half the size of a Star Destroyer and around a tenth the size of Snokes flag ship. If we (ignoring physics and how much energy is involved if even a golf ball moving at the speed of light hits something solid) dismiss fighters as too “small” for this maneuver that still leaves capital ships deeply vulnerable to lighter capital ships or even small frigates pulling this stunt. The only obvious counter I can see is simply not being in the line of transition when the maneuvering ship jumps to light speed. Agility of movement ain’t exactly what capital ships and super capital ships are built for.

    Which leaves us with the economics question. Even making the generous assumption that small fighters and ships would “splat” on a heavy ships hull at light speed the literal existence of capital ships is seriously in question where larger ships can Holdo Maneuver to produce such a return of destruction on capital investment. What would it take to exploit this strategy? Not much. A Capital ship hull mounting a reliable hyperdrive, maybe armored for more mass and protection and mounting a couple droid navigators in redundant bridge compartments? A shipyard could crank out “Hyperspace Bullet Cruisers” at a fraction of the cost of a fully functional, armed and equipped capital ship of the same mass let along a larger one. We’re talking about the complete economic obsolescence of the capital ship hull. Additionally necessity cannot even be called upon to defend the capital ship. We see, in the Star Wars Universe, an obvious answer to the Holdo Maneuver- light maneuverable ships like the Millenium Falcon which is a light freighter frame. It carries enough shields and armoring to hang in a fire fight with a Star Destroyer for brief times; it packs enough weapon punch to shoo off up to a dozen fighter attackers, can jump to light speed, haul cargo and dodge around like a cricket. Just what you’d need to dodge a hyperspace kamikaze attack and also get what you need to get done in space done (haul cargo, haul personnel, shoot up shit).

    As an obligatory Trekkie I’d like to note that Trek mostly can answer the Holdo question by pointing at their shield technology. Star Trek shields are enormously powerful barriers. Frankly a lot of Star Trek narrative revolves around how one goes about wiggling around the barrier of a raised Star Trek shield. In a number of movies the shields have deflected masses up to and including roughly a quarter of another ship slamming into it. The shields weren’t pleased but they bounced that mass off. Navigation deflectors, indeed, are specifically identified in their cannon as being used to deflect space debris and particles to prevent light speed collisions when the ship is moving at warp speed. Star Trek ships are smaller, more maneuverable and equipped with extremely powerful shields so the Holdo Maneuver wouldn’t narratively present quite the same difficulties.

    Artistically Holdo’s sacrifice was an incredible moment of cinema. The entire theater I was in audibly gasped in unison. It may have well been the first moment of genuine film artistry I’ve seen in the Star Wars movie (and never in a Trek movie). It was absolutely incredible but I think it blows the Star Wars cannon to shit.

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  6. The real answer is that it was silly but led to an amazing visual and really, nothing in the universe of Space Fights makes a lot of sense when it comes to how capital ships fight with each other.

    My fanwank-y answer is that ordinarily large ships are too vulnerable when they get ready to make the jump to hyperspace, and will either be splattered by the opposing fleet or the opposing fleet will have time to maneuver out of the way. The First Order has.a dubiously competent set of ship commanders who are loath to take any sort of initiative at all lest they get rewarded with a good Force-choking for screwing up, so even if they knew they should be keeping on eye on Holdo’s cruiser, they didn’t do anything about it lest it mean some letting Rebel transports escape.

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    • As for fighters, sure, plowing them into larger vessels at “light speed” may be devastating, but plowing them into larger vessels at ordinary speed also works pretty damn well. So does just flying them near the larger vessel and crippling its point defense turrets, or hitting it in the right place with a torpedo. It might be that most of the time the same window of vulnerability means that you’re better off not using the trick and, you know, dying as your constituent hadrons are smeared over a few cubic AU of space.

      So that leaves specialized vessels, which seems very much like the kind of trick that might work if you get lucky but why do it if you have actual fighters and bombers?

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  7. I agree that this is a real problem. I don’t expect Star Wars to be especially scientifically consistent, but if you come up with such an effective attack you also need to come up with a reason it isn’t used all the time.

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  8. One other thing, which I don’t think is particularly science-nerdy.

    Did the audience cheer when this event happened? It did at the screening I went to.

    Did anyone think about the USS Cole? About the fact that they just cheered for a political fanatic suicide bomber taking out a capital ship of the prevailing government?

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  9. I would argue that it is not an especially cost effective manuever given that Snoke’s ship is only disabled and not destroyed by the attack. Consider that the payload of a single bomber was sufficient to completely annihilate a dreadnought earlier in the film. Furthermore recall that a single a-wing successfully crippled a super star destroyer by ramming its bridge in ROTJ. ( Which reminds me that the bigger plot hole is probably the serious vulnerability of battle cruiser command structures to attack by smaller ships. Put your leadership behind some armor!)
    If we assume that lightspeed ramming is only effective with cruiser-sized ships, there would seem to be better options available in most cases.

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    • Seriously, has the empire no concept of a CIC, a battle bridge, or allowing engineering to take control? Taking out the main bridge should be annoying, not fatal.

      ETA Snokes ship may not have been destroyed, but that is Depot level repairs. That ship is out of the fight until it can be towed to a shipyard.

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  10. Star Wars, despite the presence of human-level AIs, has never had guided missiles or smart munitions or many projectile weapons at all, just beam weapons and energetic gravitational bombs.
    I wonder sometimes if this isn’t some sort of stealth Jedi mind trick where anyone who develops such a thing gets “these aren’t the droids”-ed so that the tech never materializes.
    The handwavium probably has something to do with mass and gravitational effects of shielding and hyperspace engines making beam weapons more efficient in space battles.

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  11. “The big bad ship gets spit in two2, and the squadron of Star Destroyers escorting it are obliterated in an festival of CGI special effects.”

    Escorts? When they are obliterated in a festival of CGI special effects, they are just hookers, Cyril!

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  12. One possibilty is that it’s a one in a million shot – much like Luke’s on the Death Star 1.0. Perhaps, you generally can’t aim the hyperspace jump with that much precision, and Admiral Laura Dern used the Force to make it work.

    I mean, some access to the Force and thus the big picture is the only way I can explain her not throwing Poe out an airlock.

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