May 292013

In Star Wars, Han Solo brags about the Millenium Falcon being fast. By way of explanation, he claims that  “it’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.” Of course, since a parsec is a unit of distance not time, this doesn’t make any sense at all. I’ve read a number of explanations that try to make this not sound as dumb as it sounds. The most convoluted explanation goes like this:

1) Every ship in hyperdrive travels at exactly the same speed.

2) Everything from giant stars down to asteroids are navigational hazards while in hyperspace. They must be avoided.

3) Travel in hyperspace in in straight lines only.

4) Long distance travel is not a straight line, but a series of line segments at slight angles as the ships computer adjusts the course to avoid navigational hazards

5) The Kessel Run is a mess of black holes in tight orbit around each other. Travel through requires a lot of course corrections to avoid hazards.

Thus, the Falcon is fast not because it travels faster than other ships, but because it has a snazzier navigational computer. It can project better courses with fewer turns; thus, a shorter total distance. This, however, seems a very unsatisfying explanation.

There is a better one. One that fits in well with Han Solos personality and business model.


 Posted by at 3:29 pm
  • LordJim

    So why didn’t Obi-Wan call him out?

    • Anonymous

      A (real answer): Because Lucas didn’t know jack about parsecs, just thought it sounded cool
      B (speculative answer): because he was more interested in hiring a ship than arguing about things. Solo’s goal here would be to soak the rubes, but Kennobi probably never intended to pay Solo at the other end anyway. Just wave his hand and make Solo forget. Problem solved.

      • Anonymous

        I’m all over answer A.

      • Peter Hanely

        I very much doubt the jedi mind trick would work well on Han Solo. Or getting any smuggler to forget that a bill was unpaid.

        But I agree that Lucas not knowing what a parsec was is likely how that line got in.

      • Rick C

        I read recently that Alec Guiness was supposed to indicate surprise/disbelief at Solo’s “obviously lying” claim, but that he flubbed his reaction. So C (speculative answer) goes back to “the rubes failed a test.”

        The later trilogy demonstrates, based on Obi-Wan’s extensive piloting skills should’ve meant that he shouldn’t have failed said test.

  • Adam Holtz

    Hyperdrives have “classes” that characterize their speed, so I’m siding with the notion that they didn’t know jack about what parsecs really were.

  • allen

    In the revised fourth draft of A New Hope in 1976, the description for “Kessel Run” is put as follows:

    It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs! Ben reacts to Solo’s stupid attempt to impress them with obvious misinformation.

    So it implies that the puzzling speech of Han Solo is “misinformation” and not truth, and it has nothing to do with the nature of the Kessel Run in any respect. Han means nothing other than
    impressing Obi-Wan and Luke with pure boasting. Indeed, even in the final version of the script, the parentheses attached to Han’s line state that he is “obviously lying.”

  • publiusr

    I actually don’t mind the black hole in-universe explanation. Anyone that care free about jumping near event horizons is clearly fearless–or stupid–and Han has both in spades.

  • Rick

    Occam’s Razor here. Hollywood scriptwriter f**ked up. millions of fans can’t accept less than perfection from their Silver Screen gods. So they try waay too hard to make geniuses out of c*ckups.