(Don’t get on my ass about spoilers. You can read the title.)
I’ve got a bit of a mouse problem. When the weather turns cold in the Midwest, the vermin look to make their way out of the fields and in toward warmer surroundings. Foolishly, I keep my house above freezing and have yet to figure out a way to keep the sunflower seeds and peanuts that I put out for birds (yes, I like to watch my backyard birds and have a list of 37 species so far) sealed up so there is a warmer place to make a nest and a ready supply of food for the mice. Now, to get rid of these pests, I could:
a. Wait for the weather to warm and just deal with it through the winter
b. Get more than the 3+ cats I currently have and set traps
c. Call an exterminator
d. Burn the house down
Now, take a look at those options and realize that, when confronted with an initial Rebel attack on the planet of Scarif in Rogue One, Grand Moff Tarkin chose option d.
To refresh your memory, Scarif was a tropical planet (because all planets in Star Wars have a single climate) that was surrounded by a defensive shield with a single, guarded entry point. The rebel ship, the titular Rogue One, entered via this passage with an old Imperial freighter, a pass code and made its way into the heavily armed Imperial garrison where the rag tag underdogs set out to steal the plans for the Death Star.
You see, Scarif is like the Empire’s Library of Congress with its massive archive where, apparently, its most valuable secrets and plans are stored. On hard disks. OK, I can accept that this wouldn’t be a place that is wired up to some sort of internet that can be hacked. Even the US’s nuclear codes are on floppies to prevent this type of access. Hell, there doesn’t seem to be any type of internet in a galaxy far, far away, but that’s a complaint that has been made by people far more eloquent than myself.
Back on track.
So, this base holds the Empire’s records. It is a massive repository of the history and future plans for the Empire, which makes it all the more insane for what happens at the end of Rogue One. When the base is attacked… not overrun mind you, but just attacked, Grand Moff Tarkin makes the decision to blow up the entire base with the Death Star.
Let’s line up some thoughts here to fully grasp the lunacy of this choice.
- The rebels had a small landing force and light air cover that certainly did some damage to the personnel stationed there as well as destroyed the deflector shield and some sweet AT-ACT’s, but that force had been nearly wiped out by the time the Death Star unleashed its single reactor blast. There was no lasting damage to the base or main facility. The rebel orbital fleet had fled and Darth Vader was already wiping out space marines single-handedly like the monster that we all knew he could be. Seriously, that was badass… But the threat was neutralized by this point. All that was left was to unleash a portion of the forces inside the Death Star to mop up what was left of the rebels and extract information from the captured.
- Speaking of the captured, the Empire could have determined what the purpose of the assault was as well as what had been transmitted from the planet’s surface to the fleet and taken precautions to protect themselves against the designed weakness built into their “indestructible” base if ONLY they had captured the rebels on the surface. Did the Empire even know that a transmission took place? Surely they could have reviewed the transmissions sent from the station, determined that a full review of the Death Star was required to reinforce it against attack and the rebel plans would have been ruined. Or, they could have extracted the weakness from the captured rebels. Let’s face it, they were beaten, bloodied and basically unarmed at the end. There was so little action happening that Jyn and Capt. Sexygrumpypants had time to embrace as the wall of fire and ocean enveloped them. The fight was over.
- This wasn’t some Jedah out in the middle of nowhere. This was not only the Empire’s archiving station, but according to starwars.com, “The planet Scarif would be a beautiful tropical paradise if not for the presence of a major Imperial military installation. Scarif is the principal construction facility for the vast Imperial war machine. The world is enveloped in impenetrable deflector shields and is heavily defended.” This was a massive armory and “the principal” construction site. Imagine if Churchill had decided that there were enemy elements in Birkenhead and decided to just have the RAF bomb it till the whole city was burned to the ground. Good idea? No, I think not! And don’t think that there weren’t a lot of troops stationed here as well as, one would suppose, massive amounts of capital and labor for the building of the Imperial war machine. All gone.
So, Grand Moff Tarkin has essentially followed up a defensive battle that they’ve won at some expense by doing something that the rebels couldn’t have dreamed of doing: eliminating ALL of the Empire’s assets on the planet including but not limited to their main archive, principal military construction facility and a garrison of troops as well as destroying any chance they had for intelligence gathering. Hell, not even the bodies of the enemy could be searched since they’ve been vaporized.
Seriously, for the indiscretions that we see Lord Vader force-choke Imperial officers in these films, there is absolutely no excuse for Tarkin to have ever made it to A New Hope for this terrible act of treason.