They Can’t Have Disappeared. No Ship That Small Has a Cloaking Device!

The small ship is being pursued from the rebel base, and has emerged from the asteroid field. The larger ship is pursuing it. The small ship, in defiance of all known tactics, suddenly turns and engages the large ship, charging directly at the bridge, flying within feet of the viewing window and causing the bridge officers to flinch for fear that they will crash!

And then, the ship is gone.

“They can’t have disappeared,” the Captain says. “No ship that small has a cloaking device!”

And, of course, the smaller ship doesn’t. They’ve simply attached themselves to the larger ship, and plan on floating away with the waste dump before the larger ship makes its jump into hyperspace.

One brief line of dialogue in The Empire Strikes Back, and it becomes canon that cloaking devices are incredibly difficult and clunky things in the Star Wars universe. We are to take Captain Needa as an authority on the subject because there are no other mentions of cloaking devices in the films.

The idea that Needa could be wrong, might not have time to read all the trade magazines, might not be an expert… These thoughts do not cross a certain type of person’s mind.

The team is working on a game about Darth Maul. They have been having problems making their game jive with the movies — Maul loses his legs in the upcoming film, it turns out, and they don’t want him to becomes a robot spider. They are asked to sum up the game in a few simple statements, rather than an a bunch of jargon and plotlines. Finally, they are granted an audience with George Lucas.

There are rules for talking to George Lucas about Star Wars. Number one: don’t tell him “No.” Number two: don’t mention the name “Starkiller”. And number three, the most important, the one that will end you: “Don’t tell George how the Force works.”

Lucas is excited about the new game — he wants Maul to team up with Maul’s distaff counterpart, Darth Talon, and have the two of them crashing about the galaxy like the characters from a buddy cop movie. He cites Burn Notice and The Godfather as possible inspirations. He pushes together two statues of the characters. “They’re friends!” he says.

But Maul and Talon are separated by 170 years of fiction. They never lived in the same time period.

Clearly, in a science fantasy world with faster than light space travel, cloning, and an order of magical knights fighting their evil counter parts with laser swords, there is no possible way for these two characters to meet. A direct descant, for example, A cryostasis tube. A cloning tank.

We must stick to the canon[1].

Later, in the comics (which are, for reasons, less true than the films), we will discover that Darth Maul’s ship does, in fact, possess a cloaking device. His ship is small, around the same size or smaller than the Millennium Falcon.

Darth Maul #1, by Cullen Bunn and Luke Ross

Is this a problem? Of course not. It can be easily written off as the decline in technical ability between Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) and Star Wars (1977), much in the same way that pottery quality declined as the Roman Empire did. The story comes first, and if Maul’s ship needs a cloaking device for the story to move forward, then it has one.

Shakespeare is writing a new play to impress the Queen. She has seen his latest plays about the fellows who used to hold her position, Henry IV and V and adores the buffoonish knight Sir John Falstaff. She asks him to write play in which Falstaff falls in love. This sort of side story is not uncommon [2]. Knowing which side his bread is buttered on, Shakespeare does just this.

The Merry Wives of Windsor makes very little effort to fit into the world of Henry IV. Aside from a single offhanded reference to Prince Hal and Poins, which would set the play in the early 15th century, everything else about it places the play in the late 16th-early 17th Elizabethan period.

This time traveling doesn’t matter, because Falstaff is a fictional character[3]. It matters no more how he is still alive 200 years later than it does how many children Lady Macbeth has. The point is to entertain the Queen. 

[1] The game is cancelled. Lucas is blamed, for some reason. The Clone Wars TV show has no problem introducing both Maul and his brother, the wonderfully named Savage Oppress, into the program.

[2] For example, the 12th century Book of the Dun Cow contains a bit of fan fiction entitled Serglige Con Culainn, wherein our hero Cu Cuchulain travels to a different universe, has adventures, and then returns home and drinks a magic potion that causes him to forget all the events that just happened in the story, including sleeping with the author’s OC. We can tell it’s fan fiction because the author’s handwriting is different from those of the Cu Culainn stories earlier in the book, and, based on the orthography and word choices, it was composed a hundred or more years after the original writings.

[3] See also, clocks ringing in Julius Caesar, Cleopatra inviting Charmain to play billiards in Antony and Cleopatra, Trojan champion Hector talking about Aristotle in Troilus and Cressida, Puck talking about guns in A Midsummer Night’s Dream