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Friday, April 29, 2011

10 Disturbing Questions Raised by the Original Star Tours

By Ethan Kaye

Star Tours is dead. Long Live Star Tours.

Last year, the ride Star Tours in Disneyland and Walt Disney World shut down in preparation for a much-needed revamp. It was a bittersweet moment for geeks everywhere who had flocked to its hallowed halls in a chance to live some of the Star Wars magic. On one hand, the ride was nearly 25 years old and felt it. On the other, we knew we'd have to suffer through pod race footage.

Here's the brief plot, if you haven't been on the ride. You're part of a tour group going to Endor. Your pilot droid, Rex (voiced by Paul Reubens), is new, so when you zip out of hyperspace you end up in a battle between a star destroyer and some X-wings. After zipping through the trenches of the Death Star, a la A New Hope, you fly away and back to the home star port. Just watch the video so you know what I'm talking about:

But after review, there was just a lot... wrong with the original Star Tours. Things that just didn't make sense. Keep in mind, I'm not the biggest Star Wars fan, but I've watched the original trilogy about as much as an average guy my age. Here are 10 tough questions Star Tours can't -- or won't -- answer.

10) Who the Hell Wants to Take a Tour to Endor?

I know why Endor was chosen to be the Star Tours destination: it's one
of the few places that's mentioned by name in the original trilogy (keep
in mind, of course, that this ride opened in 1987, which means plans for
the ride were probably in place right after Return of the Jedi came out
-- and four years before Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire was published). But who the
fuck would want to vacation on Endor? It's portrayed in Jedi as a
backwoods waste of a planet with little in the ways of settlement. It's
so off the radar that the natives speak a language that even the hyper-fluent C-3PO doesn't
immediately recognize. The Empire decided to build the Death Star there
because no one cares about Endor and no one visits. So why would a tour
company make that a prime vacation destination?

9) Why Don't We Ever Get to Endor?

Straight up, we never got to Endor. It's like booking a flight from Philadelphia to Dallas, except you notice halfway that you're flying over Seattle and then you land back in Philadelphia. Star Tours is the worst tour company ever. Everyone should be demanding their money back immediately after landing.

8) Why Is the Droid Pilot an Idiot?

One of the big things that sticks out to me is that Rex, the pilot droid (above), messes things up by first going out the wrong door, then overshoots Endor, and then ends up lost in a combat zone. Shouldn't he have been programmed to do things correctly? I mean, he's a robot. When we program our robots on Earth to make cars in a factory, they do nothing but make cars. They don't suddenly start making donuts or filling the room with bees. Robots are programmed for certain tasks, and even with a little autonomy, Rex should be able to do his fucking job well enough that he doesn't potentially kill his passengers.

7) Why Doesn't Rex Know How to Leave the Building?
Admittedly, this is mentioned above, but I think it deserves its own question. Star Tours would seem to be a pretty well-run operation, given the size
of the massive hanger you exit from. So when one of your tour ships goes
down a maintenance tunnel and ends up flying around, lost in the depths
of your building, you don't laugh it off. If you're a professional, you
recall the vehicle immediately, get everyone off it, and replace the
fucking driver.
Then send the driver to robot jail. If a Greyhound bus
driver accidentally made a wrong turn and drove through the shops at
Port Authority for five minutes, the driver would be in prison, no matter
if no one got hurt or not.

6) Actually, Why Does Rex Have Passengers on His First Day on the Job?

Apparently, even robots have a learning curve. So the first day that Rex is piloting this ship he's... got passengers? That doesn't seem right. A responsible company would send him out on his own once or twice to see how he does, given the complexities of piloting a starship. Sure, there might be a few goofs on day one, but Rex's mistakes are less like, "Ooops! Left my wipers on!" and more like, "I have no idea what I'm doing here. You may all die in a fire shortly."

5) Who Tractor Beams an Unknown Ship in the Middle of a Battle?
If you're an Imperial soldier on the Star Destroyer, and you're in the middle of a firefight with rebels, and a strange ship flies out of a comet, what would you do? Keep in mind, that there are a bunch of other ships currently shooting at you with lasers -- and you're supposed to protect the Death Star. If you thought the ship was friendly, you'd send out a hailing signal saying, "What the FUCK are you doing here?" Otherwise, you'd blast it just like you're blasting the X-Wings. In the middle of combat the last thing you'd want to do is pull the mystery ship closer.

4) Why Can the X-Wing Pilots Talk to Star Tours... But Not the Imperials?
I'm going to skip over the big elephant in the room of when this takes place in Star Wars continuity, because I just can't figure it out (the way they go after the Death Star is purely New Hope, but the proximity to the Endor moon suggests it's somewhere around Jedi -- a failed attack perhaps? We don't see it blow up). I'll move on to something kind of minor: Why can the X-Wing pilotz communicate with Star Tours but the Imperials can't? These guys are rebels, the equivalent to guerilla fighters with good tech, but they can reach out to a tour ship within a few seconds of spying it. Is everyone working on the same frequency?

3) Whose Side Is Star Tours On?
We're supposed to be rooting for the Rebellion, of course, but as Star Tours is a licensed business (presumably licensed by the Empire), its professional loyalties should remain with the governing body. You show your passport to the government official, not the rebel in the jeep who's been running sorties on your bases. Obviously, the Death Star didn't blow up, so this was probably just a failed attack on it by some rebel fighters. But since Star Tours helped out in the attack (they shot lasers! from the space bus!), wouldn't this make them traitors? What you don't see after Rex lands is a squadron of Stormtroopers executing the entire staff of Star Tours for treason.

2) Whose Side Are You On?
Tour groups bring in a diverse group of people, so the odds that some of the passengers on Star Tours are pro-Empire are very good. Having different political views is one thing; actively taking part in an attack on the largest government battleship in the universe is another. Remember, the Rebellion is in hiding. The whole beginning of Empire is them trying not be found out while they're on Hoth, otherwise they'll be massacred by AT-ATs. If anyone on the tour to Endor wasn't allied with the Rebellion, they'd be calling the authorities ASAP once they touched down. "Those rebels you've been searching for? Would you believe it, they're running a goddam tour company."

1) What Kind of Tour Company Murders People?
At timestamp 3:38 in the video in the intro, a TIE Fighter is coming at your vehicle. Lasers shoot out the front of your tour ship. The TIE Fighter blows up. Congratulations, you're now accessory to murder. Thanks to your little trip to Endor, some family is without its father. Let me reiterate how fucking insane that is: you were on a guided tour and your tour guide, on his own volition, killed a sentient being. Not like he sideswiped it into a ditch or ran him over when he darted out in front of the bus, no, your tour guide consciously murdered someone in a place he wasn't supposed to be at in the first place. Holy shit, that would get your business shut down in a heartbeat.