On The Road With A Sith Lord, a Star Wars Story (Or, How I Made It Plausible For Darth Vader To Own A Motorhome)
Guest Post by Neil Wright
About a month ago, during a moment of procrastination, I had a seemingly irrelevant thought: What if Darth Vader owned a motorhome; what would it look like?
This thought never went away, and would resurface if only for fleeting moments as I got out of the car for work, or sat down to eat dinner. It was always there, bubbling up from out of the subconscious workings of the brain as if to say, “don’t forget about me”.
What was it about the silly little motorhome idea that made it stick around? With the benefit of hindsight, I can offer four reasons:
- The idea of something as primitive as a motorhome in the technologically Star Wars universe makes for a bit of an oxymoronic thought.
- There’s just no way Darth Vader would ever go on a “road trip” in a motorhome. End of story.
- The previous two points jarred with me and made me feel like a failure of the imagination.
- I had inadvertently opened myself up to a plot ladder exercise, one that wouldn’t go away until I had ‘completed’ it.
Working with a plot ladder
A plot ladder is a writing technique designed to get the creative juices rolling. Anybody can do it: Just draw a 10-rung ladder on a piece of paper and come up with a point A for your character at the bottom of the ladder and a wildly different point B at the top.
One example would be, at the bottom of the ladder (point A) “Billy went to stay with his father-in-law, in a bungalow in the Scottish Highlands”. Then, at the top of the ladder (point B), “Billy defeated the last of the Zodiac monsters, on the edge of the supermassive blackhole at the galactic centre”.
The two points are wildly different from each other — and that’s the point. The art of trying to make the implausible, plausible (from a storytelling point of view) is the whole point of the exercise. Even if nothing too clever comes of it, it still ‘exercises’ the mind and can spark other great ideas by proxy.
So that was my plot ladder. At point A is Darth Vader, mulling about doing his business at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, with point B being the start of an epic road trip involving the Sith Lord behind the driving wheel. All that remains is to make the story plausible.
Justifying motorhome travel in a galaxy far, far away…
As I mentioned briefly above, the idea of a motorhome trudging around in the Star Wars universe seemed like a massive contradiction — after all, the galaxy is filled with anti-gravity tech, faster-than-light travel, and magical force-like powers.
But then I had a thought: throughout the entire Star Wars saga, we have only ever been on a journey with the most influential and powerful heroes and villains. We’ve never seen the ‘real’ universe, so to speak. Poverty is rife in Star Wars, and anti-gravity technology is probably too expensive for billions of people.
And besides, in A New Hope we saw the Jawas traversing the dunes of Tatooine in Sandcrawlers, which are kind of the closest thing that resembles anything like a motorhome in the franchise.
The Sandcrawler gave me an important rung on which to hinge my motorhome idea. If ‘crawling’ technology does exist (and it does, as we have just discussed) then they are likely pretty commonly used methods of transport; especially in impoverished communities that rarely venture offworld. Suddenly it was plausible to me that motorhomes exist all over the Star Wars galaxy and by the millions, even if they are — most likely — little more than pieces of scrap metal with engines inside.
Now for the main event: a plausible reason for getting Darth Vader into a motorhome
I had solved one part of the problem; the first of the reasons that kept this motorhome idea coming back to me. All that remained was the second (and most difficult): a plausible reason to get Darth Vader himself inside one.
It is important to remember that Darth Vader is one of the most well-travelled characters in the entire Star Wars universe. He has the entire resources of the Empire behind him; and a legion of TIE Fighters, star destroyers, and imperial shuttles capable of transporting him to any location at almost any speed. It would take something extraordinary to contrive a plot requiring him to sit in a motorhome and effectively crawl to a destination. Let’s not forget that, even as a slave boy, young Anakin whizzed around in pod races. He’s hardly one for slow travel.
But there has been times where the plot has forced Vader into slowpoke forms of travel. At the beginning of Empire, for example, he trudges along for the ride in the rickety but powerful AT-ATs in order to attack the Rebel Alliance.
This last thought was the embryo for my entire plot contrivance. With it, I was able to come up with something that not only is plausible, but (I hope) even a story that’s worth telling.
To do it I had to invent a planet. I Googled some cool Latin words, and came up with the name Ventus (meaning ‘wind’ — you’ll see why in a moment). Ventus is a remote planet in the Outer Rim. It is sparsely populated, unimportant, and poor in natural resources (hence why it has largely been ignored or neglected by the Empire). It also hides a rumoured secret: a Jedi Knight — a remnant of the days of the Republic — is thought to be hiding somewhere on its vast surface.
This is an immediate pull factor for Darth Vader, who has made it his mission to hunt down and exterminate the last of the Jedi ever since he turned to the dark side. But there’s a problem, a unique circumstance of Ventus: it has permanent hurricane-force winds blowing across its upper atmosphere — a result of the coriolis effect gone wrong — and the only way down is through a shield gate. (If you’ve seen Rogue One, then you will know what a shield gate is.) The shield gate is directly over Ventus’s only major settlement, a dusty, left-behind port city.
On the plus side, Ventus’s surface is calm, even if the sky is almost always overcast. The hurricane winds are a crucial plot element that rule out Vader’s conventional methods of travel. In order to kill the Jedi Knight, Vader has no choice but to go through the shield gate, where he will have to take a motorhome of some description, and travel across the planet’s massive, forgotten plains to the source of the rumours.
Enter Darth Vader’s motorhome:
Of course, Darth Vader wouldn’t settle for the rusty scrap-buckets that the (Ventanese?) use. He undoubtedly would call on the resources of the Empire to put something together just for the job. This lead me to this:
Darth Vader seems like a pretty routine-bound man. (After all, he’s worn the same mask for the past 15 years.) So I would imagine the manufacturers of his favourite imperial shuttle would also have a hand in the design of his motorhome. Hence this beast bares a lot of resemblance to the Lambda-class T-4a model (for all you geeks), manufactured by Sienar Fleet Systems and Cygnus Spaceworks, with its imperial grey lick of paint and polygon appearance. The navigation fin and the cockpit would probably even be the same parts made for its interstellar equivalent, repurposed.
In the Star Wars universe, Sienar and Cygnus manufacture all kinds of multi-transport vehicles, so it’s not implausible that this motorhome wouldn’t already exist. And besides, even if it didn’t exist… I’m sure if orders came down from the Sith Lord himself such a model could be built pretty quickly.
As for the rest of the story, I’ll let your imagination do the rest. I have already accomplished what I set out to achieve: we have arrived at point B. Darth Vader is in a badass, custom-made motorhome, on a legitimate road trip across an Outer Rim world. As for the interior, I took some creative license and goofed around a bit. If there was ever a plot contrivance of this stature, I doubt there would be a scene that would feature much of the inside of the thing:
To be honest, how Vader eats and stores food is beyond my imagination, hence the comic relief. I don’t even think a plot ladder could help with that. As for the rest, it’s all perfectly plausible: the meditation chamber we saw in Empire, that famous scene with the Emperor himself; and the conference and chess tables look in place to me.
So, readers, what do you think? Is this a believable storyline? Is it something you would want to see? Is it still better than The Last Jedi? Or is it beyond the pale — even for a fantasy series?
Let me know your thoughts below.
Neil Wright is an (amateur) graphic designer and writer, and someone who perhaps has too much time on his hands. In the past he has designed motorhomes for Harry Potter and The Joker, as well as for some other heroes and villains that you might recognise (including Daenerys from Game of Thrones).