The Kessel Run Explained

I enjoy Star Wars as you all know. I was hardly trampling over people when Rogue One hit the screens nor do I own an ironic T-Shirt with the blue print of an X-Wing on it, but I do consider myself something of a fan. It gets on my nerves, therefore, when non-fans of the series decide to be cool and try and pick the franchise apart, more often than not without having actually seen the films. One of the most trumpeted ‘flaws’ in Star Wars is the Kessel Run quote, when Han Solo tries to big up the Millenium Falcon by citing the fact that it completed said run ‘in less than twelve parsecs’. It’s at this point that the smug, self-satisfied shit-lords of modern society put down their smartphones and announce proudly that “actually a parsec is a measurement of distance not time, and therefore that line doesn’t make any sense”. They aren’t wrong in this regard; a parsec is indeed a measure of distance. Where their fault lies is in a lack of understanding, which is something I will try to correct now, with as little swearing as possible.

The Kessel Run is, as none of these debunkers realise, a hyperspace route leading from the planet Kessel to Coruscant and other core worlds. Kessel is known for its spice mines; spice in this instance being a highly dangerous narcotic rather than a foodstuff, and as such the movement of this substance to the central worlds was a dangerous profession attempted only by criminal freighter pilots and smugglers such as Han Solo. The route itself, used to avoid detection by the authorities (the Empire in Solo’s case), required drastic changes in speed and distance in order to navigate, meaning that pilots were forced to jump in and drop out of lightspeed to initiate tight turns and other manoeuvres, whilst spending as little time as possible out of hyperspace in order to avoid detection. In addition to this, lightspeed jumps were not plotted in straight lines due to the movement of planets, moons and other celestial bodies. As a result, taking into account the course plotted and the changes of direction, making the Kessel Run in the shortest overall distance was something of a boast or brag, as doing so displayed a considerable degree of navigational expertise as well as piloting skill. It also was an indictment of the ship’s technical ability, as the navigational computers on boarded needed to be top of the line in order to calculate the route. This in turn explains why Han Solo states that it is the Millennium Falcon, not himself, that made the Run in under 12 parsecs, as the Falcon sported stolen Imperial hardware in order to achieve its renowned speed and maneuverability.

I am aware that this is, and will probably always be, the single nerdiest article that I will ever commit to writing, and I do so with minimal irony or self-awareness. I know I could be making a ‘Top 10 Films Of 2016’ list like every film journalist and their cat, or putting together a memorial piece for all those the film industry has lost in the last year (I cannot possibly do justice to Alan Rickman or Carrie Fisher in print, let alone both), so I figured I’d have a little rant about something that has bothered me in a very minor way for some time. Star Wars is back in the spotlight now, whether we like it or not, so I may as well clear the atmosphere about this one little niggle while there’s a lull in the release schedule. I’m sorry if you wanted me to review Assassin’s Creed, but there’s no way I’d sit through that when I’ve got minor fan issues to set right.


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