My favorite stop this year at Dragon Con was the Game of Thrones panel, not because of anything Westeros-related, but because it included Julian Glover.
Glover has had a magnificent career—he also talked about his role as the villain in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade—but I am most jealous of his role as general Maximillian Veers, commanding the ground invasion of the Hoth rebel base in The Empire Strikes Back. And bless the man, he spent time going off-panel topic to give us a story about it.
Glover described the difficulty he had—going through something like seventeen takes—of getting out the line “target the main generator.” The story got me particularly charged up, because it hits right at a lifelong dream of mine.
I have always wanted to target a generator, especially a main one, from the cockpit of an AT-AT.
Yes, even more than firing from an X-Wing or a TIE Fighter or a modified T-47 Snowspeeder. I have occasional vertigo, and I just don’t think the loops, spins, and G-forces would agree with my delicate constitution. Surely some of those X-Wing cup-holders have vomit residue in the bottom.
So yes, the AT-AT is much more my speed. They are slow, steady, lumbering, and practically invulnerable (except tow-cables). Absolutely fantastic visibility from a cockpit that sits, what, sixty feet above the ground? Sure, they can explode, but what doesn’t explode in the Star Wars universe?
No risk, no reward.
It’s a great story, and Glover gets lots of laughs and cheers from the massive ballroom audience, partly because he’s a great storyteller and partly because “target the main generator” seems like an improbable line for an eloquent British actor to trip up on.
But there is another implied joke in his story; does the ranking ground commander, sitting in an AT-AT himself, really have to instruct his fellow captains/gunners on what to target? Isn’t the main generator the logical choice? Knock that out and whole base freezes to death in short order, and likely disables a lot/all of their energy weapons.
But I believe that it’s just good policy to reiterate the best target to your other captains. You have no idea what kind of day they’ve had; hell, one of them could have downed a few beers before getting into the cockpit and needs to focus up a little.
Veers could even be pumping himself up, speaking out loud to make sure he’s on the same page as everyone else. There’s blinding snow, uncomfortable headgear, and very few bathroom breaks. He’s also bringing a whole spectrum of life experiences and emotions to the invasion, any one of them could influence his strategy.
For example, maybe his wife has just left him for cocky T-65 pilot:
“Target the crotches of all rebel ground troops. Inflict maximum humility, pain, and damage to rebel reproductive capacity.”
Or maybe he’s just not a super aggressive type, and takes more of a long-game perspective:
“Target the windows of the base. Destroying access to sunlight will cause the rebel forces to suffer from seasonal affective disorder.”
Or who knows, maybe he’s even got a thimbleful of the force in him:
“Everyone target that one really good pilot that seems to be kicking our asses. I’ve got a feeling that in the grand scheme of things, blowing that guy up is going to pay big dividends.”
Things actually turn out pretty well for Veers in the short-term. Not only does he get to give the order to target the main generator, it’s his AT-AT that actually gets to destroy it! Even though Veers and the Empire don’t exactly have rosy futures, he gets to keep that one in his pocket forever. It’s his last-minute game-winning touchdown pass in high-school, the story he can trot out every ten years at reunions.
I don’t know whether or not the new films are going to feature any AT-ATs, rebel bases, or ground invasions (safe bet we get at least one of them). But I know—I know—that somewhere, even if sitting unmentioned in the background, there will be main generators powering bases, blasters, HVAC units, cloud cities, heated swimming pools, hyperdrives, and coffeepots.
Which means that just like when I was ten years old, I can still dream about targeting them.