Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode 1 confirms that the Empire made a terrible decision at the beginning of A New Hope.
Star Wars, Clone Wars bridge the gap between Attack of the clones Y Revenge of the Sith and chronicles the events of the titular Clone Wars where the Jedi and the Republic clash with the Separatists. Season 1, Episode 1, “Ambush” follows Jedi Master Yoda on a diplomatic mission that is derailed by the sinister Count Dooku and his Sith apprentice, the assassin Ventress.
During Dooku’s attack on Yoda’s fleet, the Jedi Master escapes, along with three clone troopers, through an escape pod. He is warned that the Separatists will shoot any escape pod coming out of a ship, so he deploys all escape pods as a distraction. His plan succeeds despite the Separatists firing at the escape pods. This scenario demonstrates how fundamental the Empire’s decision was not to destroy C-3PO and R2-D2’s escape pod in A new hope I was.
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At the beginning of A new hopePrincess Leia and her band of rebels flee Darth Vader after successfully stealing the plans for the Empire’s Death Star base. She places the plans inside R2-D2 along with a message for Obi-Wan Kenobi, pleading with him to help the rebellion. Ultimately, she is captured by Darth Vader, but C-3PO and R2-D2 successfully escape through an escape pod. When his capsule shoots out of the ship, an Imperial officer wants to shoot him; however, he is stopped by another clearly superior officer who says not to bother as the pod shows no signs of organic life.
This decision to allow the capsule to escape is foolish for a number of reasons. The first is that droids are very common in the Star Wars universe and not a novelty from Rebellion. Those two officers not only know that droids exist, but they understand that they can function as spies and rebels just like organic life. Even if they don’t assign intelligence or understand that droids have personality, they would know that the Rebels could program them to collect and return information regardless of any semblance of free will. Also, what if the rebels had just put the plans in the capsule?
Also, blasters and cannons don’t seem to have limited ammo. It costs the Empire nothing in terms of supplies to destroy the escape pod with a cannon. It wouldn’t be a waste of resources to destroy the little vehicle even if it doesn’t carry the Death Star plans. This fact is the reason why it is better to destroy all escape pods as demonstrated in The Clone Wars. As mentioned above, Yoda barely escapes capture or death thanks to this same strategy, but the Empire apparently does not continue it beyond the end of the war for an unclear reason.
The scene in The Clone Wars only highlights how ridiculous it is that C-3PO and R2-D2 escaped from Darth Vader in A new hope. Failure to destroy that escape pod not only leads directly to the destruction of the Death Star, but the Empire as a whole, making the decision even more ridiculous.
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