Monday, September 27, 2010

Top Ten Star Wars Fighters

Yet another in my blatant attempts to give the public what it wants. No. Not more 'Star Wars Babes', rather, more top ten lists! So here we are. Admittedly this (like all other top ten lists) is highly subjective, but I will give reasons for my decisions on each. So here we go:

10. TIE Bomber
It may not be pretty. It may not be glamorous. But it gets the job done. You only really see any of these in the Empire Strike's back. And there, we see them randomly bombing asteroids to try and flush out the hidden Millennium Falcon. But this fighter earns points with me for feeling as though it is part of a 'family' of vehicles. So often in movies, every vehicle you see is completely unique in design. While this can be cool, I find that a group of vehicles that all share a common 'look' helps to make the Empire feel more unified and 'real'- and monolithic. They go for homogenous legions of troopers. Why not the same thing in space.

9. Vulture

The droid starfighter. I never understood the point of this fighter being able to transform into a 'walker'. Seriously. Why did it have to do that? It was made all the more stupid by the fact that when in 'walk mode' it was essentially walking on its weapons- i.e. they were pointing down and not usable. Meh. That having been said, I liked the compact and aggressive look of the fighters. And in space at least they looked like they could get the job done.

8. Naboo N-1
They were elegant. They had chrome finish. They had a droid socket. All plusses in my book. They were also grossly overmatched in a standup fight, both in terms of numbers and seemingly firepower. But then, that was part of the story that they helped to reinforce. These were patrol craft and interceptors, designed to provide security for a peaceful planet. They weren't designed to attack capital starship fleets-and it showed. They very neatly symbolized the 'more civilized' time of the Old Republic that was coming to an end.

7. TIE Fighter
The Symbol of the Empire and one of the most original and distinctive starfighter designs ever. These weren't just rockets with fins or airplanes in space. They were something completely different and something that set the tone for many designs to come. So they weren't entirely effective against Rebel ships on a one-on-one basis. So what? They Empire had a lot of them- once again reinforcing the faceless legion aspect of that philosophy. It was the obedient collective that would triumph over the individual.

6. Delta-7
The Jedi Starfighter as presented in Episode II. Tiny flying triangles. They looked fast and aggressive, but at the same time fragile. Again, I think there was symbolism at work here. Like the lightsaber, these were an elegant and precise weapon to be wielded by the Jedi. And like the Jedi themselves, they were a peacetime design, intended for peacekeeping duties, not the front-line rigors of all out war.

5. ARC-170
A beast of a starfighter seen only briefly in Episode III. I LOVE the look of the ARC. It alludes to the X-Wing design that would evolve from it, but at the same time has an antique World War II bomber vibe to it, what with the big bubble cockpits, multiple crew and a tail gunner! Sweet. Not surprisingly, there is more symbolism here. This is a craft built for war. Big and brutal. It shows how far the Republic has come (how far it has fallen?) from its peaceful pre-war days to the increasingly desperate fighting at the end of the Clone Wars. Unfortunately, in the movies we see that even something as badass looking as this can be taken out by hordes of droid fighters.

4. Y-Wing
I have a soft spot for the underdog. And the Y-Wing qualifies as that. In the movies, these craft just look... old. Old and beat up. And yet they fly out to do battle. You also have to give some respect that these bombers were the first given the task of blowing up the Death Star. That shows quite a bit of trust put in them by the Alliance tacticians. To me, these craft just look the part. A warhorse- albeit a warhorse that is past its prime.

3. TIE Interceptor
You really only get a few glimpses of these in Return of the Jedi, in the final space battle at Endor. I love them for the same reasons I love the TIE Fighter and Bomber. The Interceptor looks like part of a family. In this case, its an evolution of the family. The dagger-point wings give it a distinctly more aggressive look than the standard TIE. Even so, in action we see quite a few of these get toasted by the Rebels. Wedge in particular doesn't seem to have much problem with them. But then, Wedge rules.

2. A-Wing
Another design introduced in Return of the Jedi, the A-Wing hearkens back to the look of the Jedi Delta-7 in my mind, though instead of a triangle, its more of a wedge shape with fins. It just looks fast and maneuverable, and it is shown to be so in the movies. I like compact fighter designs like this and the A-Wing feels 'just big enough' to do what it is shown doing (unlike some other fighters I will mention later). The fighter also has the distinction of being the design that took down a Super Star Destroyer by ramming the bridge. Very David and Goliath.

1. X-Wing
The classic that I will forever be in love with. The X-Wing looks tough and elegant at the same time. It has a droid socket (which I love). It can 'transform' from cruising mode to fighting mode. In the movies it is shown to be (with a skilled pilot at the controls) the match for anything else in space (except perhaps a Dark Lord of the Sith). It is just awesome. I guess that's why I get irrationally ticked off when folks try to 'replace' it with things like the E-Wing. But then they designed a better version of it (the XJ) and now I am happy again.

So there you have it. My top ten fighter. But before I go, I want to talk about a couple that were at the bottom of my list, and why they wound up there.

This was the Jedi Starfighter shown in Episode III. In appearance, it was kind of the midway point between the old Delta-7 starfighter and the TIE design to come in the future. For these reasons I respect the design overall. Unfortunately, to me the Eta-2 just seemed WAY too small to be as 'awesome' as they showed it in the movies. The engines were so freaking tiny.. hell, everything about it was. To me, this strained the credulity of the design. Star Wars has always felt 'functional' to me, and this seemed out of line with the rest of what we have been shown.

You only glimpse this fighter in Return of the Jedi, and even then I don't recall seeing it actually do anything. This somewhat lackluster 'first impression' wasn't helped at all by the stats the craft was given in the roleplaying game. Slow. Unmaneuverable. Lightly armored. But.. oh, it had slightly more powerful weapons than similar craft. Oh, and it was supposed to attack Capital ships directly. Well, if you played by the game rules, that was just suicide. As designs go, I guess you have to give it SOME points for creativity. I mean, it is asymmetrical and does have that whole 'body rotates around cockpit' thing going. Even so, I'm not sure this design can ever overcome the stigma attached to it in my mind. Pity really.

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