Torture in Star Wars

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This week's entry included torture, and a sadistic character who revelled in administering it. While no doubt this darkened our story, torture is not foreign to the Original Trilogy. It is meted out to humans and droids, such as those tortured within Jabba's palace.

Interestingly, during each episode in the Original Trilogy, a different protagonist is subjected to  torture.

In A New Hope, a torture droid hovers into Princess Leia's cell. It is equipped with a needle meant to deliver drugs, and other tools that can grab, crush, cut, and perhaps shock its target.

In Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo endures torture prior to the carbonite freeze. Strapped down and lowered on to a wicked electronic rack, ornamented with cruel looking tools, we hear his screams. We get a sense that the device burns and shocks Han, and perhaps stabs him while he's lowered on it. Unlike Princess Leia's torture, which was designed to discover the location of the Death Star's technical readouts, Han's lacks any purpose to uncover information. After the experience, Han observed, "They didn't even ask me any questions."

In Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker disposes of his lightsaber before the Emperor, declaring himself a Jedi like his father. For refusing to join him, the Emperor zaps Luke with his "force lightning," a form of electric shock torture. This is the most prolonged on screen torture of the Original Trilogy, with Emperor zapping Luke continuously as he crushes his spirit with belittling comments. The steam rising off Luke's body, the lightning channeling through his teeth, the begging to his father for help, all add to the scene's intensity.

Interesting enough, in all cases, Darth Vader witnesses the torture. In the first two cases, he likely instigates it. We tend to forget that in A New Hope, Vader unknowingly tortures his own daughter.

Clearly, most torture is handled off stage in the Original Trilogy, while Herald of Fury explores it in greater detail, but in a less technologically advanced manner. By having it inflicted chiefly upon the future Vader, it allows us to think of how the man grew accustomed to torture, initially as its recipient and later as its perpetrator.

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