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The Masked Man Reviews the Star Wars Movies
The Masked Man Reviews the Star Wars Movies
The Lone Ranger
Published by The Lone Ranger
01-07-2007
Default The Return of the Jedi: Planetary Ecology


Planetary Ecology:
What was that toad-like creature outside Jabba’s palace that snagged some small furry creature with its tongue, gulped it down, and then burped? Was it supposed to be an actual amphibian? That seems unlikely, given Tatooine’s desert climate. Earthly amphibians lack waterproof skin, and die very quickly in a hot and arid climate unless they’re in or very near water. This is no real nitpick, since Tatooine “amphibians” may well have evolved waterproof skin – it just bugs me that it looked so much like a terrestrial amphibian.

Why did the Rancor eat so much? We saw it scarf down an unfortunate dancer just a few hours before Luke arrived, then it gobbled down a Gamorrean before turning on Luke. An animal that size would probably be sated by the first meal, and almost certainly by the second, so it had no particular reason to go after Luke – certainly not hunger, anyway. This would be especially true since the creature appeared to be an ectotherm, given how slowly it moved. So it would have a slow metabolism and very low food requirements compared to an endotherm of the same size. In other words, when presented with Luke and the Gamorrean, it probably would have shown little or no interest. Perhaps it was territorial and disliked intruders in its lair, but that doesn’t explain why it tried to eat them.

Jabba claimed that Luke and his companions would know a new definition of pain and suffering as they were slowly digested in the Sarlaac’s belly over 1,000 years. What?? First of all, it’s hardly likely that the Sarlaac would have breathable air in its stomach, so its victims would be dead within minutes even if swallowed whole – at which point their pain and suffering would be over. Second, it’s beyond ludicrous to suggest that the Sarlaac’s digestive processes take 1,000 years to complete! Even 1,000 hours is ridiculous, since the victims’ bodies would have mostly rotted by then anyway!

As Luke and his companions were being taken to the Sarlaac Pit, they passed by a herd of banthas. How could Tatooine support so many large animals, given that it seemed to have almost no water, and didn’t appear to have any plants at all? What did those banthas eat? While we’re on the subject, what did the Sarlaac eat? An animal that size would require a considerable amount of food – did Jabba really provide it with enough victims to keep it going? What about “wild” sarlaacs? Were the populations of banthas and other such creatures in this waterless, plant-less environment actually dense-enough to provide sufficient numbers of victims for a creature the size of the Sarlaac to survive? It doesn’t seem even remotely possible!

Dagobah’s ecosystem was at least plausible, so I won’t worry about it further.

The Forest Moon’s ecosystem seemed fairly plausible, too, particularly if the moon had little or no axial tilt, and so didn’t have any seasons. From space, we could see that the Forest Moon had large bodies of water and extensive cloud formations, so it’s not surprising that it supported forests. It didn’t appear to have any polar icecaps, however, which seems a bit strange.

The graphics at the Rebel briefing showed that the Death Star “orbited” at or near the Forest Moon’s equator. Therefore, Luke and his companions were at or near the equator. Yet the climate did not appear to be tropical. If the moon had much of an axial tilt, it would have had marked seasons and we’d expect to have seen icecaps at one or both poles, whether it was tropical at the equator or not. Since it wasn’t all that warm even at the equator, the Forest Moon was apparently receiving a bit less solar radiation than the Earth does; this makes it all the more strange that it didn’t seem to have polar icecaps.

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