Friday, March 09, 2012

The Best Of Everything 100-day 100-question Star Wars Blogathon, Question 18

New to this? Official rules here.

Holy CRAP does Andrew Leon ever know his fake sci-fi and fantasy holidays! He's in danger of running away with this blogathon... but there's over 80 questions left and it's still anyone's game, especially if we unleash a secret computer virus on to the Internet for the sole purpose of slowing down Andrew's response time. Stuxnet creators, you know what you've got to do.

Unless... Andrew Leon created Stuxnet.

We're all doomed.

There was also a new participant in the Blogathon -- everyone, give a big Star Wars 100-day, 100-question Blogathon shout out to Maurice, blogger at The Geek Twins, who managed to get in 10 points by knowing that Xmas is a Futurama holiday.

Today, let's consider Star Wars vehicles, and in particular, the AT-AT.

There are two things that I think about the AT-AT:

1. It is possibly one of the coolest vehicles in any space opera I have ever read and I'm including Lazarus Long's ship Dora in that, and

2. There's no real reason for such a completely impractical, slow-moving, stupid vehicle to exist.

Those two ideas are irreconcilable in my mind.

This is, after all, Star Wars -- a galactic civilization where ships can move faster than the speed of light and where hovercraft technology is so cheap that poor farm kids on Tatooine whose families have to buy used droids from a rolling Goodwill store can own landspeeders.

Which is to say: Why would the Empire build an AT-AT?

They have Imperial Star Destroyers and the wherewithal to make a Death Star in a few years and the snowspeeders the Rebels use are obviously cheap and plentiful -- I don't imagine the Rebels are amazingly well-heeled.

(In light of my recent discussion of the long-term effects of Star Wars on hippie kids camping in New York City parks, it might interest all you to know that the Rebellion is funded by the 1%, or even the 0.000001%: According to this person on this site, Senator Bail Organa more or less entirely funded the Rebellion.)

The AT-AT is supposed to be a fearsome instrument of war:
"We had the Battle of Gormen won, until the AT-ATs arrived. They came out of the fog and ripped apart the front lines. The locals ran in terror, but the experienced soldiers surrendered. We knew that you can't outrun an AT-AT." ―Major Bren Derlin, Rebel Alliance field commander
Begins the AT-AT page on Wookiepedia, before going on to say:

The All Terrain Armored Transport (AT-AT) walker, also known as the Imperial Walker, was a major part of the Galactic Empire's army. It was one of the most heavily armored land vehicles in the Imperial Army, but was also known for its relatively slow speed.

Which, I mean, yeah, right? "You can't outrun an AT-AT?" Okay, maybe if you're a single person, on foot, but you can step a little to the left and avoid it, can't you?

Also: All Terrain?

I doubt those things could climb mountains. Properly named, I expect they would be Fairly Flat Terrain Armored Transports. But FFTATs aren't as fearsome.

Keep in mind, I love AT-ATs. But keep in mind too that they were being used on Hoth, some 20 years or so after the Battle of Naboo showed that there were airliftable armored transports available for those robot creatures -- so I thought for a second there that maybe the AT-AT served as a sort of lumbering-but-heavily-armored command post but, no, that's not it: They had the same concept on Naboo, only it could fly.

I mean, I see the idea behind those little two-legged walkers on planets like Endor, where the trees make it difficult for larger aircraft to get in and maneuver, but on Hoth? Whose idea was it to use them there, instead of just... I don't know... thinking off the top of my head here, just spitballing ideas... maybe raining death down from the Imperial Star Destroyers that were in the system?

Keep in mind: they knew the Rebel Base was on Hoth. The Empire was not above blowing whole planets to smithereens if it meant getting the Rebels. So they send in, what, four AT-ATs?

Yes, yes, I know: "The shield." The shield that had to be taken down to rain death from above. The shield that had a generator that could be targeted from AT-ATs on the ground but not from a flying space ship.

Then, consider this tidbit of information:

The AT-AT also lacked armor covering on its underbelly, leaving the spot vulnerable to mounted guns or portable missile launchers.


What would be the justification for that?

About the only thing I can think the AT-ATs were good for is the stated purpose of demoralizing the Rebels -- as a show of force on the Empire's part, they're pretty impressive, a sheer "Look what we can do: we've got so much money and men and materials that we're willing to essentially tie one arm behind our back just to LOOK DAMN TOUGH on the battlefield."

Here's a final thought on that: Seemingly every single thing the Empire did was built with a deliberate weak spot. The AT-AT's soft underbelly, that Death Star exhaust vent or whatever

that led to it's demise.

Those things exist likely for the same reason Sauron put all his power into the ring and all wizards have limits on their power: If someone has ultimate power, they can't be defeated. So authors (and George Lucas) create something like the Death Star, or an AT-AT, and then have to build in an improbable weakness (It's got a hole! If you burn his ring Sauron dies!) to let the good guys win.

Here's today's question, worth 46 points:

What model of landspeeder did Luke Skywalker drive? (Fly?)

Commenter number 3 gets 10 extra points!

Other ways to get extra points, and the standings, right here


Grumpy Bulldog, March Madman said...


Grumpy Bulldog, March Madman said...

I can't really argue with your logic. I mean a 6-story robot is really only useful if you're fighting Decepticons. Maybe at some point the Trade Federation built Decepticons?

Andrew Leon said...

Well, I do think the main purpose of the AT-AT was to inspire terror. It's hard to fight when you're crapping your pants.

Then there is that part where most conventional weapons just couldn't hurt them.

And, yeah, they could do things like climb mountains. And they're feet could grip things. That's what those flappy things that stick off of them are for.

Andrew Leon said...

Flappy things is a technical term, by the way.

Rusty Webb said...

Well, I was thinking the Wookie design, but X-34 probably would work too.

When I was a kid we were pretty poor, and toys like the AT-AT just weren't in the cards for me. But, I wanted one more than I had ever wanted anything in my entire life, ever.

So I started laying down the groundwork way in advance and got my grandparents, my parents, my neighbors and whoever else might be around and begged for about 6 months consecutively leading up to that magical Christmas when I finally got it. It was such a surreal moment, I still recall my grandmother pulling that gift out of thin air as an afterthought - you know, 'oh yeah, I forgot, there was this one little thing I forgot to put out.'

It changed my life.

After I got used to having it around I was struck by how much it reminded me of a robotic camel, its hump is barely visible, but the shape of it's body, and the way it's neck and head are positioned is very camel like.

Then I kept thinking bout people living in the camel's belly, sitting in it's camel head. I got a bit freaked out by it.

I kept that with me through a dozen or so moves until I was around 20 or so, and was making that space opera TV show for public access and I decided to build a spaceship model to film.

I cannibalized my AT-AT, my Millenium Falcon, and some circuit boards and glued them all together, painted them, and whalah - I had a decapitated camel's head glued to an early CPU motherboard.

That model was quickly tossed out and never used in said show.

But, to actually touch on something close to topic. I think all military's choose to build in weaknesses to their equipment. It seems like IED's were particularly brutal to US armed forces early in the Iraq war due mostly because even the armored vehicles were designed with a soft underbelly.

I think it has to do with having equipment designed to fight a different foe. In the case of the U.S. Military, it was cold war era vehicles meant for battlefield situations, mean to protect against frontal assaults from comparably equipped foes. In the case of the AT-AT's, the engineers that designed the thing were probably thinking along the same lines.

Instead, fighting the rebellion with their equipment was probably more like swatting flies with a shotgun. Terrible weapons of mighty wrath that were ineffective against the Luke and the gang.

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