My Favorite Scene: The Death Star Trench Run

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There is a wealth of incredible scenes and fantastic imagery that come to mind when you say the words Star Wars.  My first thought is the exciting space battles and dogfights.  Nothing says Star Wars to me more than an X-wing fighter whizzing by, and there is no better dogfight than the finale of the original Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope with the battle of Yavin and the Death Star trench run.

My earliest memory of Star Wars is watching A New Hope by myself when I was probably 6 or 7 years old, home sick from school one day.  I remember being riveted by the film, literally on the edge of my seat during those climatic moments as Luke approaches the infamous exhaust port with Darth Vader fast approaching.  I remember being both anxious as to whether or not Luke would make it and save the day and reminding myself it’s a movie, of course he’s going to make it.  Even back then I was over-analyzing Star Wars.

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After it’s release, A New Hope changed the landscape of science fiction and pop culture.  It birthed and revitalized many franchises.

In 1979 the first Star Trek movie was released, and there is absolutely nothing in that film that comes anywhere close to the fast-paced excitement of those X-wings and TIE fighters.  One area I’ve always felt Star Trek lacking was they never had a moment that matched the level of excitement and speed of the trench run.  I love to watch The Enterprise slug it out with Khan in his stolen ship or go toe to toe with a Borg cube, but it’s just not the same as watching Luke, Biggs, and Wedge fly down that trench.

Battlestar Galactica was birthed from Star Wars.  In fact, there were so many similarities that it resulted in a lawsuit after the show’s initial release.  The Colonial Viper is pretty high on the list of coolest sci-fi ships, but it’s really nothing more than a poor man’s X-wing.

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The famous trench run scene is one that has been copied, parodied, and imitated countless times in all manner of movies and shows.  Even Star Wars itself has paid homage to the climatic original scene.  The Clone Wars animated show referenced it with the bombing of General Grievous’ ship The Malevolence.  The show even took direct lines of dialogue as a callback.  It’s hard not to see the influence of the battle of Yavin in the newer Star Wars films either.  The Force Awakens and Rogue One both called back to the Death Star scene in their finales.  But nothing can hold a candle to that original film.

Why do I love this scene so much?  I’m not sure.  Yes, there is the connection to my childhood and that first memorable viewing, but it’s more than simple nostalgia.  What George Lucas did in 1977 was something magical.  There is drama, action, tension, and most importantly, speed.  Before then science fiction ships moved slowly across the screen.  The X-wings were a perfect blend of World War II fighters and classic street hot rods.  It’s something that had never been seen before.  Even now, almost 40 years later, it still feels as fresh and exciting as it did in 1977.

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