I don’t catch a lot of television. I cut out cable several years ago and I really don’t mind not having it. However, when I’m on the road for business, I really don’t have much to do, so I basically drink and watch television.
Finding myself in Harrisburg, PA, a dry county, removed one of those options.
On Spike, a Star Wars marathon was playing; not the new ones, but the classics. Sweet! I was catching the tail end, so I saw the last hour of Return of the Jedi and the first hour of A New Hope before I passed out fell asleep.
Thinking about it later, it started to dawn on me how the rebuilding of the Death Star would have ultimately led to the fall of the Empire even without Palpatine being thrown down a generator shaft that had clearly not been inspected by OSHA. Simply put, the Empire made critically poor business decisions.
Primarily, their problem was a lack of differentiation. Let’s face it, the Emperor had a hard-on for the Death Star. Being able to putter around the galaxy and blow up planets with the push of a button does sound fun, but it seems as though he began pouring all of the Empire’s resources into it. This surely would have meant problems in two ways.
1. Human Resources
Only those who were on the Death Star project would have received any attention or opportunity for advancement. Granted, that probably brought some of the Empire’s best and brightest on-board quickly, but it also brought the bureaucrats who specialize in working the system rather than providing innovative and effective solutions.
With no other form of recognition or advancement beyond their adjusted for inflation yearly merit increases, those who were not on the Death Star Project likely became unmotivated and morale surely dropped. This singular focus on an orbiting moon that shoots lasers probably led to graft on the part of local governing proxies for the Empire who saw no other way for a leg up no matter how well they served, thereby strengthening the Rebel Alliance.
Perhaps if the Emperor had not put all of his eggs in one big gray basket and had instead strengthened the Empire as a whole, it would still be around. Yes, the destruction of the Death Star the first time around was surely a hit to working capital and available resources, but it did not cause the failure of the organization because they had already begun spending in other areas; creating manufacturing jobs building AT-AT’s, and so forth.
Though I’ve never worked on a project of that magnitude, I’m sure that building a galactic moon with the power to destroy planets is quite a drain on the budget, which leads us to the second problem of focusing solely on the Death Star.
2. Extreme Cost Cutting
Though never specifically called out in the films, it seems evident to me that spending on traditional military goods and training were drastically slashed once the Death Star construction began anew. Watching the films in a loop really shows the discrepancy. Watch the last hour of Return of the Jedi and then the first hour of A New Hope.
Check out the deftness of the white army as it storms a starship, defeats battle-hardened space marines who clearly have the storm troopers stuck at a bottleneck (trust me, I’ve played Battlefront II and getting onto the Tantive IV is a pain in the ass) and overtakes them while suffering minimal casualties.
Now, compare that to the clusterfuck that happens on Endor! These same troopers (the Emperor’s “best legion”) are handily defeated by a bunch of muppets. I was shocked as troopers in full battle armor were dropped by an Ewok throwing rocks. ROCKS! Seriously? That’s like getting bitch-smacked by Teddy Ruxpin! Ewoks don’t even have the arm length to get any real momentum. This is all after the storm troopers have already captured the conspirators once. Did they simply hunker down, imprison the rebels and withdraw to the safe confines of the base while leaving a contingent to stand guard and lay down a randomly timed blanket of cover fire into the forest to prevent a full-on Ewok onslaught while the rebel armada is handily destroyed in the intricate trap set by their Commander in Chief, thereby paving the way to peace and order in the galaxy? No. This elite fighting unit gets some sticks and stones thrown at them by fuzzy little bears and immediately drops formation and charges into the woods after them.
There are two explanations as I see it. One, the Empire saw an opportunity to use less material for the armor, lowered the specification and rendering it less protective and pervious to rocks thrown by creatures with short limbs. I can only assume that their blasters suffered from this type of quality reduction as well since they can’t seem to hit anything despite their training. The other possibility is that this was a result of outsourcing armament production to low-cost solar systems where the final product was outside of specification or lower-quality materials were used. The movie, nor George Lucas, ever directly addresses this, but surely this type of manufacturing wouldn’t be done in-house.
As for their leadership and discipline, I have to think that they were rushed through the cloning process in an effort to quickly beef up the military following the initial destruction of the Death Star. Battalion leadership faltered, as a result of this lack of experience and training. The Empire chose to pour resources into the rebuilding of the Death Star rather than on programs that could have helped it defend its shield generator and ultimately, its legacy.
I’m not judging, I’m just saying that they made choices and have to live (or not) with them. In all, despite the resurgence of a single Jedi and loss of top-level leadership, the Empire could still have maintained its hold on the galaxy through better portfolio diversification. The Emperor, instead, chose to create a cult of personality and centralize all power and budgetary discretion onto one pet project rather than spreading his risk over several different opportunities; a choice which ultimately led to the downfall of an entire system of government.
Side Rant: Why was everyone cheering at the end of Return of the Jedi? Sure, the Empire was evil and all and I can understand the celebrations on outworlds like Tatooine and Mos Eisley, but Couresant? Come on. You know that lots of the jobs and the livelihoods of those citizens depended on government contracts. They surely wouldn’t be celebrating in the streets at the loss of their income. As much as their personal views may have differed from that of the current administration, they still have to make a living.