Headscratchers / The Thrawn Trilogy

Whatever happened with that crystal gravfield trap thingy?
You know, the MacGuffin they fought a gigantic battle over in The Last Command, and it turned out they never needed it cause they already shot down all of Thrawn's cloaked asteroids? Why did they even have the battle at Bilbringi, anyways?
  • Mainly Thrawn's genius at work. He'd figured out that the Tangrene preparations were fake and Bilbringi was the real thing, and moved his fleet to crush the New Republic forces. Though Karrde had provided evidence that all twenty-two asteroids were down, most of the political figures on Coruscant wouldn't be convinced by just a smuggler's word - hence the Bilbringi assault was as much giving a sop to them so they'd shut up. Of course, Thrawn never counted on the smugglers being present, and he certainly didn't see Rukh until it was too late. As for the CGT...it's never mentioned again.
    • Also, OP, your idea of the timing is off. Karrde told them about the asteroids either not long before the raid had launched, or after. While Star Wars has never been concerned with how its Subspace Ansible works, nor whether you can receive or transmit messages while in hyperspace, it wouldn't be unrealistic to assume that, by the time High Command got word, it was too late to call everyone home.
      • Ah, ok. Thanks, guys!
      • Actually, I'm pretty sure it's your timing that's off, not the OP's. Karrde gives the New Republic the evidence that there were only twenty two asteroids when he's on Coruscant. After having done so, he and Leia fly from Coruscant to Wayland; from what I recall at least a week's flight. They arrive on Wayland during the raid on Mt. Tantiss. Pellaeon receives word of this raid during the Battle of Bilbringi; depending on how you think the interstellar communication works, either concurrent to, or after, the events on Wayland, but obviously not before. Therefore, there was at very minimum the span of time it takes to fly from Coruscant to Wayland between when the New Republic was told that they'd taken care of all the asteroids and the start of the Battle of Bilbringi in which they could have called off the attack, had they been willing to trust the evidence given to them by Karrde.
  • There were other, not-inconsiderable tactical goals. Primarily, proving Grand Admiral Thrawn is capable of being outsmarted (though that one was dead a-borning, since he anticipated their real attack and saw through their fake preparations), and cripple one of the Empire's major remaining shipyards.

Thrawn, Noghri, and Skywalkers
Thrawn knew from the start that Leia is Luke Skywalker's sister. He knew that the Noghri had a near-religious awe of Darth Vader. But he still sent them after Vader's kids. That seems a little unwise, doesn't it? Shadows of the Empire has a villain not nearly as brilliant as Thrawn realizing that Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker. Tattooine Ghost has that being common knowledge on Tattooine. If a Smug Snake could figure it out, if random people on the street knew, Thrawn would have known.
  • Canon Discontinuity strikes again. Or perhaps Armed with Canon. There's never been any real consensus about how many people knew that Vader was Anakin Skywalker, especially in 1991 when Zahn was writing. (Remember—Tatooine Ghost and Shadows of the Empire were written years later.) At the time, the assumption (and Fanon) was that no one knew, and the records were spotty at best (easy enough, with the Emperor centralizing power and eliminating "dissidents")—so Luke and Leia ran with it, and the official line was that Anakin Skywalker was a Jedi, but Darth Vader killed him in the purge along with all the others, and Luke and Leia were his children, who were hidden away by Obi-Wan (at the time, Owen Lars was believed to be Obi-Wan's brother) and Bail Organa respectively.
    • Also keep in mind that Vader gave the Noghri to Thrawn before he died. Thrawn knew that the Noghri had a serious honor-fixation, and didn't believe they'd go against their rightful lord even on the behalf of the children of their previous lord. Of course, he was wrong, and it was one of many relatively minor miscalculations that ended up adding up and bringing him down.
  • To add to what's said above, it's made clear that as far as Zahn thought at the time, it wasn't widely known what Vader's fate was and what happened on the Death Star: Mara was certain that her false vision that Vader and Luke both turned on the Emperor and violently killed him was true until Luke corrected her (and did not know that Vader was Luke's father until the Noghri told her on Wayland), while Karrde believed that Darth Vader was still alive and that the Empire might find and recover him one day.
  • It seems clear that in Zahn's tales, the events aboard the Death Star II were never made public. And in honesty, keeping it quiet seems to make more sense. I can't imagine Luke publicly announcing, "BTW, Leia and I are Vader's next of kin, so if he ever blew up your grandpa/Gundark/planet, killing us is really the only remaining way for you to take vengeance on him."
  • Thrawn had several weaknesses, despite his brilliance. One of those weaknesses was a tendency to underestimate or look down on things he could not fully understand nor personally experience - such as the Force, or the Noghri's traditions of honor. Another was his arrogance and pride - note the flashes of anger, even rage, when his orders are defied. Third, these traits lead him to leave the unexpected out of his planning, and he rarely anticipates that any changes will occur which he does not expect. Ultimately, Thrawn didn't string together the ideas that a) the apparently docile Noghri would ever defy one of his commands, b) the fact that they might identify Vader's family by scent, c) that Vader's child would have enough standing to warrant some measure of protection from him, and d) that his deception of the Noghri would be discovered, and backfire in such an explosive way.

Thrawn's armor, and lack thereof

  • On his first visit to Wayland, Thrawn is shot with an arrow, that penetrates his uniform but bounces harmlessly off the body armor underneath. OK...but what if they'd aimed for his unprotected head? His grand plan to rule the galaxy goes right down the tubes. Surely a helmet or something couldn't have hurt.
    • He might've had a helmet. Zahn's writing is infamous for being sparse on details... He doesn't in the comic book adaptation, but then again, that's the same comic where Noghri are seven feet tall and built like the Hulk.
    • Another issue is that nearly all training with projectile weapons is to aim for center mass. The head is a smaller target and thus harder to hit, plus has those little things like solid bone structure which would have deflected any shot that did not have a significant angle of attack on the bones, resulting in a painful, possibly even debilitating, but survivable wound. Also, Annoying Arrows to the contrary, if he had not had armor on, even a wound from an arrow in a less vital spot in the body would have been debilitating and required immediate medical attention. As for body armor and his death, Zahn pointed out that the body armor wasn't all that comfy and he didn't wear it if he didn't see a need for it. The bridge of your flagship is usually safe from personal attacks (especially by your own bodyguard). Usually...
Killing C'baoth.

  • After C'baoth takes over the Chimaera, right after they hit Coruscant (or don't hit it), why didn't Thrawn kill C'baoth? He easily could have snuck some ysalamri to an area around the mad Jedi, killed him, and cloned a more stable version (which was his plan).
    • If memory serves, Thrawn was planning to do just that, AFTER the battle at Bilbringi, which is why it never came to pass. Thrawn believed he had more pressing concerns, like smashing the New Republic fleet, and waiting didn't really impact his plans (though it might have if he'd lived, but Luke and the others would have destroyed Mount Tantiss whether C'baoth had been there or not).
    • Also, C'baoth left for Wayland almost immediately after that incident, which put him safely out of Thrawn's hair for the time being; Thrawn seems to have intended to crush the New Republic first, then turn his all his attention towards his unstable ex-partner. (C'baoth, it should be noted, also seems to have been scheming to turn the clone armies against Thrawn.) Basically, Thrawn had two enemies (C'baoth and New Republic), but felt that the former could wait a bit while he dealt with the latter, while C'baoth himself probably wasn't operating on any sort of timetable that would make sense to anyone but him.

Thrawn's death.
  • Thrawn's death, specifically the attribution of the line, "But it was so artistically done," to the Grand Admiral. Why do so many readers, indeed even the comic adaption, attribute the line to Thrawn? As the paragraph reads:
    "Thrawn caught his eye; and to Pellaeon's astonishment, the Grand Admiral smiled. 'But,' he whispered, 'it was so artistically done.'
    The smile faded. The glow in his eyes did likewise... and Thrawn, the last Grand Admiral, was gone."
    • It seems clear that it's Pellaeon, not Thrawn, that says the line. Pellaeon is in shock that Thrawn was just killed by Rukh and that Thrawn just calmly dies with a smile...
    • It still seems a bit ambiguous to me. It's not entirely improbable that it could have been Thrawn saying the line.
    • I always took it as Thrawn, myself. I'd honestly never even considered, or heard it said, that it could have been Pellaeon before reading this entry. Besides, it just seems more like a Thrawn thing to say, IMO.
    • The statement is completely out of character for Pellaeon, but perfectly in-character for Thrawn. Not to mention that the pronoun generally describes the noun closest to it in a paragraph, which means that the "he" was describing Thrawn.
    • The subject of the paragraph is Thrawn. Omit the prepositional phrase 'to Pellaeon's astonishment' and no doubt of the speaker's identity remains.
    • In general, when using a pronoun, its use is supposed to take the place of the subject that was last mentioned. In this case the last subject is not Pellaeon in the phrase "Pellaeon's astonishment" but Thrawn in "the Grand Admiral smiled." The pronoun follows that statement and would therefore refer to the Grand Admiral.

Crystal gravfield trap strategy.
  • There are a lot of things I don't understand about the final battle for the CGT. I know what it is and why the New Republic wants it, but why exactly does the Empire have them? If Thrawn knows they're the target, why wouldn't they simply be moved? Or replaced with a decoy? Or rigged with explosives to ensure the NR doesn't obtain one? Or modified to provide false positives and ignore some (but not all) cloaked objects, adding another layer of paranoia and confusion, something we all know is right up Thrawn's alley?
    • By the time the attack was launched, the Republic doesn't need it anymore and are really attacking to seize some initiative from Thrawn's relentless advance. Any defenses the CGT had are irrelevant, we never see it and the Republic never tries to take it.
    • CGTs clearly have more uses than just detecting cloaked masses, since there wouldn't be a need for them since a practical cloaking shield hadn't been in use until Thrawn's offensive. So the Empire had them because they were useful for something. Thrawn didn't move them because he needed bait to draw the New Republic fleet into an engagement of his choosing.
    • If the CGT were moved, there would be the risk of New Republic Intelligence catching on. Which might change the timetable of the Bilbringi attack or even cause it to be called off entirely. Now moving the Tangrene CGT, that would've fit quite well with Thrawn's plan because if discovered it would've given the impression he'd been fooled by the New Republic's plan. But for all we know, a CGT might be something that's not particularly easy to move on short notice. As for sabotaging the Bilbringi CGT as a contingency plan in case the New Republic managed to take the shipyard... well who says he didn't? But if he did, it wouldn't have mattered. Rigging to show false positives wouldn't have worked since filling the area of detection with turbolaser fire and hitting nothing would rapidly expose the deception. And if the CGT was rigged to ignore some cloaked objects, that would've been ineffective because the New Republic really had destroyed all of the cloaked asteroids.
    • You're assuming that the CGT is easily replaced. It clearly isn't, when there are less than a half a dozen in the GALAXY, according to the New Republic's Intelligence Service. It's described as "semi-rare," probably indicating that it's a well understood technology, but one that isn't manufactured often. Why? I suspect that it may have relatively few uses (that can't also be done by other types of sensors), be too large or delicate for common installation in starships, and perhaps most likely, is REALLY EXPENSIVE to manufacture! The Empire is strapped for resources and manufacturing capacity, enough so that conquering one major agriworld makes the difference between being able to adequately feed the crews of 150 or so new cruisers; and that the loss of one Star Destroyer is not merely an embarrassment, but a potentially serious blow to the Navy's ability to fight. Thrawn often errs on the side of not disposing of people when you might expect him to - Ferrier, Mara, C'Baoth - so he is certainly not likely to sabotage an expensive piece of equipment unless he has a desperate or VERY strategically useful reason. He probably doesn't expect the asteroid blockade to last indefinitely anyway...

What happened to the Katana fleet?
  • It was seized by Thrawn, and used by the various cloned troops at his disposal. After his death, it and them were likely folded into the other remnants of Imperial forces throughout the galaxy.

Why did Thrawn send C'Baoth off alone with one of his best generals in The Last Command?
  • Okay, so Thrawn and Pellaeon clearly know C'Boath is an insane control freak who can control people's minds. He does it repeatedly. So why does Thrawn send him off General Covell and his best, handpicked troops, onto a ship with no ysalamiri on it? He clearly didn't plan on what happened, and yet it seemed blindingly obvious; a skill C'Baoth even uses in front of Thrawn and threatens to use again. What the hell?
    • He's shown as mind-nudging Pellaeon earlier, remember? When he sends that message to set up the ysalamiri sabotage at Mount Tantiss? It's not impossible that he set up a similar sabotage for ysalamiri that were supposed to be on his transport.
    • It was simply a matter of him having a power that Thrawn knew nothing about. C'Baoth had never before demonstrated the ability to permanently alter a person's brain like that. The idea that he might seize control of Covell and his troops on the trip to Wayland was probably considered unimportant, because as soon as he entered Mount Tantiss that control would be broken by the ysalamiri.

How does it make any sense that the Imperial remnant has a shortage of manpower?
The plot of the trilogy is that Thrawn solves the Imperial remnant's manpower shortage with the cloning cylinders and then gets control of the Dark Force so that the clones will have ships to fly. How does this make any sense? The Katana fleet consisted of 200 dreadnaughts, which would typically have required a crew of 16,000 men, although that number had been cut to 2,200 in the case of the Katana fleet. But let's take the larger number: 16,000 x 200 = 3,200,000 men. To put that in perspective, the United States put approximately 16,000,000 men under arms in World War Two, at a time when the total American population was about 130,000,000. At the end of the Cold War, when the US had an all-volunteer force, the US Armed Services still had more than 3.2 million men under arms, at a time when the American population was about 240 million. Are we seriously to believe that the Imperial remnant at that time did not control at least one planet with a population in the billions that they could have recruited from? Was the Imperial remnant's problem really a lack of personnel? Besides which, the Katana fleet was lost for almost sixty years. Are we seriously to believe that after sixty years of micrometeorite strikes, those ships had any use except as scrap?
  • 1) Thrawn was cloning ground troops and vehicle crews, not just ship crew, so the figures of needed personnel were much higher. 2) It's established early on that most of the current Imperial military is made up of "young men and women, most conscripted from their homeworlds by force or threat of force." The Empire doesn't enjoy the "support" (if that's the right word) it had when Palpatine was alive, most Imperial planets don't want to be Imperial anymore, and you can only get so far with conscription before it's more trouble than it's worth. Conscripted soldiers are also not the most loyal. 3) The Empire still had functional shipyards, and were still churning out Imperial Star Destroyers, which would also need crew. Thrawn's cloning breakthrough just meant that they were churning out troops faster than they were ships, so he needed an infusion of warships to get the ball rolling. 4) The 150+ Katana fleet Dreadnoughts couldn't turn the tide by themselves, but did make enough of an immediate difference that Thrawn could make more daring and more effective attacks, and the first thing he did was take Ukio, an agricultural planet, to obtain the food supplies he'd need to sustain his ever-growing military. 5) The Katana fleet was stranded in deep space, not much out there to impact them just standing still. Besides, Karrde mentions that the ships were active when he ran into them, so they may have still had their low-grade particle shields (the kind designed to protect against micrometorite impacts) up.
    • Plus, y'know, armor.

Why did the Republic destroy Delta Source?
Once they figure out that Delta Source is the plants in the Grand Corridor, why didn't they use that knowledge to give Thrawn misinformation? That could have been very useful in the lead-up to the Battle of Bilbringi. Instead, by destroying, all they did was let him know that they had discovered it.
  • Delta Source was located in a very public place, eavesdropping on everything said there. Getting every single being who passed through on board with the disinformation campaign, without one single person accidentally spilling the beans, would have been ridiculously complex. Besides, by destroying it and rendering the Imperial Palace safe again, they scored a major morale victory.

Why was the Republic trying to recruit smugglers?
What I mean is, the Republic had a shortage of cargo ships, so they sent Han to try to persuade smugglers to do legitimate cargo hauling. That makes no economic sense. Smugglers are already cargo shippers; they just don't pay customs duties. If you want them to go legit, all you have to do is lower customs duties to the point where it makes more sense to pay customs than to run the risks of smuggling. Hasn't anyone in the Republic ever heard of the Laffer curve, or whatever the long-time-ago, galaxy-far-away equivalent is?
  • The Rebellion's need isn't just to get the smugglers to start hauling legitimate cargo, it's to get the smugglers to haul their cargo. The main reason they wanted to recruit smugglers isn't because they wanted to reduce their crime rate but because they were having a fleet logistics problem and needed more hulls to move military supplies to the front and needed them in a hurry. And thus they need smugglers; if you're going to ask people to fly cargo ships into and out of a war zone, then they'd need to either be your own naval transports (which are already running at max capacity and then some), or else experienced freelance blockade runners... i.e., smugglers.
    • I'm not sure where you're getting that from; I don't recall the novel saying that. I seem to recall in the novel that the smuggler Han spoke to at the beginning said something about smugglers not giving up smuggling because they liked the thrill and because the Republic would levy large tariffs. But leaving that aside, if that's all they wanted, why not just pay them to do it? Or, if they can't afford to, why not just conscript them, or requisition their ships? They are in the middle of a war, after all, so if there really is a critical shortage of cargo vessels for military purposes, that's a sufficiently exigent circumstance to justify taking the ships.
      • As I recall, the smugglers weren't worried about tariffs (for one thing, the Republic would not be charging tariffs on their own government shipments, and for another, tariffs are something paid by the owner of the cargo being imported into the jurisdiction, not by the freight handler), they were worried that it was a police sting operation to get the smugglers to come in willingly at which point the Republic Navy would just arrest them and seize their ships. As for 'just seize the ships'... in addition to the fact that smugglers don't stay in business very long if the authorities know where they're stashing their stuff, it's not just the ships that the Republic needs (as you point out, there's any # of commercial hulls that they can requisition), it's also their crews. The Republic Navy is already overstretched, so even if you gave the New Republic a bunch of shiny new spaceships, they'd lack experienced people to fly them. And to get smuggler crews, you need willing cooperation from smugglers.
      • Another supporting bit is the frigate captain griping right before Sluis Van kicks off about his warship having been temporarily demilitarized and forced to serve as a glorified transport. If you're pulling Nebulon-B's off the firing line during a war and using them to move stuff around, then you are seriously hurting for military freight transport capacity.
  • Han specifically points out that the smugglers' potential customers won't be paying the kinds of tarrifs and taxes that make smuggling worthwhile, probably because the New Republic did exactly what you're suggesting, and didn't apply those taxes because they wanted the smugglers' assistance. Whether they wanted the smugglers to provide specifically military transport or not is a separate question, all Han says is that they need them to "get interstellar trade going again." Which still means that they need the smugglers on the payroll, mind you — it does the NR no good if Planet X needs Planet Y's yearly MacGuffin crop, but the smugglers only want to ship Plotonium because it has higher margins.

How can the clone of Jorus C'Baoth refer to HIMSELF as "Joruus C'Baoth" and not realise he's a clone?
Do clones have some kind of automatic mental tick that makes them automatically pronounce the name of any clone, themselves included, with an extended "uu" sound? Joruus can pronounce Luke's name perfectly normally, but then introduces Luke's clone at the end as "Luuke Skywalker", so clearly he's aware of the difference. But he reacts with first surprise, then incredulity when Luke tells him that he's a clone, clearly not believing it.
  • Hate to reach for the copout answer but, well, the guy is insane. And insanity by definition can ignore the bleedingly obvious. In his mind he simultaneously thinks The correct name was always Joruus while saying Jorus. Or his mind is simply incapable of conceiving he is a clone of someone else. He could have even created memories to fit his own delusion of changing his name and ending up on Wayland. In the end, yeah it's not a problem when the insane guy's logic makes no sense.
  • Possibly his name was actually pronounced 'Jaw-roose' (instead of Jaw-russ) in which case the extra 'u' wouldn't have altered the pronunciation much. Everytime he heard the name he heard it pronounced the same way it always had been.

For that matter, who thought it'd be a good idea to grow an accelerated clone of an Old Republic-loyalist Jedi master with the Emperor's Spaaarti Cylinders anyway?
  • Well SOMEONE had to have ordered C'Baoth's creation from the cell sample that Thrawn theorised had been taken before Outbound Flight. The most likely candidate is that the Guardian created C'Baoth (since he was in charge of protecting the safehouse) but the question remains... why? Especially since the C'Baoth clone would eventually kill the Guardian.
    • It's stated in this very trilogy that the original Jorus C'Baoth worked closely with Palpatine before being sent off with the Outbound Flight Project. It wouldn't be difficult for Palpatine to have gained the sample...and Palpatine might have done the cloning job himself, seeing potential for a new partner. Heck, Outbound Flight suggests that Joruus C'Baoth's insanity might not have been Spaarti clone madness after all, since the original exhibited similar tendencies.
    • Above spoiler kind of opens up a plot hole as Thrawn should KNOW that there's a very good chance C'baoth isn't just clone madness and not be thinking that maybe growing a replacement was a good idea. He met the original, he knows said original was crazy, and while he wasn't really infallible that seems like a bad enough idea he wouldn't even need anyone to explain why it's a bad idea.
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