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Episode 105: Burning Bridges


That helmet Anakin is wearing somehow manages to be simultaneously incredibly dorky, and amazingly cool, in totally different ways.

The pod race in the film suffers from a common trope, in which characters needing to go somewhere really fast head off in their vehicle. At some point they realise they're not going to make it in time, so they open the throttle all the way and go even faster. The question of course being why weren't they going as fast as they possibly could already?

Star Trek provides many prime examples:

Medical Officer: These medical supplies are needed on the plague planet, urgently!
Captain: Warp 4!
Science Officer: Because of various complications, we might be Too Late.
Captain: Warp 9!

(In fact the writers recognised this problem during The Next Generation era and imposed a speed limit of Warp 5 on routine operations, with the justification that higher speeds damaged the very fabric of space-time. A classic example of plot-driven technology failure.)

Anakin's pod is demonstrably faster than any other pod in the race, as seen by the fact that it overtakes and/or catches up with them all with ease. Yet there are also scenes in which we see Anakin and some other racer zooming along side by side for several seconds, with neither gaining significant ground. If Anakin's pod is so much faster, why is he restricting himself to the same speed as his competitors for large chunks of the race?

A potential reason is that he has a limited reserve of "overdrive", capable of giving him short spurts of acceleration, but not enough to allow him to simply go faster all the time. You could handwave that this is what happens in the film, but that's a bit unsatisfying as the reasons for seemingly illogical behaviour should at least be hinted at in fiction, rather than relying on the audience to make post-hoc excuses for the writers.


GM: You overtake Sebulba.
[SFX]: {Sebulba's pod} wubwubwubwub
[SFX]: {Anakin's pod} VEEOOOOOWW!!
GM: But then, suddenly...
[SFX]: klang clunk ktang
{the part that Sebulba sabotaged before the race begins rattling, then shakes loose with a spark}
[SFX]: fzzzt!
{the part snaps free with a shower of sparks}
[SFX]: kzzzt!
{the left engine catches fire}
GM: You're losing power. Sebulba overtakes you.
[SFX]: WUBWUBwubwub
Anakin: Wait, wait... okay, how much overdrive do I have left?
GM: Two seconds' worth. But your engine is actually on fire.
Anakin: If I blow the lot, it might put out the fire from the sudden burst of acceleration, right?
GM: Yeah... I guess. But you wouldn't have enough fuel left to reach the finish line.
Anakin: I do it.
GM: What?
Anakin: I roll an 18.
[SFX]: {Anakin flips a switch on the dashboard} clik
{the pod accelerates and the rush of wind puts the fire out}
[SFX]: FFFFFFFFffffffftt...
GM: Well.
GM: That's it then.
GM: And you were going so well...
R2-D2: Really learning from Jim here, aren't we?

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Published: Sunday, 02 January, 2011; 14:36:51 PST.
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