For Science!
4 Science Mistakes Star Wars: Episode VII Needs to Fix

CJ Miozzi | 23 Jul 2014 19:00
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Mistake 1. Poorly Mixing Science with Fantasy

"His cells have the highest concentration of midi-chlorians I have seen in a life-form."

Most people blame the terrible prequels for introducing midi-chlorians to Star Wars. In fact, Lucas conceived them as early as 1977 when creating guidelines for the Expanded Universe.

Midi-chlorians are sentient, microscopic life forms that live inside the cells of all living beings and allow their hosts to detect and manipulate the Force. But this is only if they are present in sufficient numbers, and a blood test can measure midi-chlorian count, allowing you to know whether your child is Jedi material or fit for the remedial class. There actually is some scientific basis for midi-chlorians. There are little organs in our cells called mitochondria that are believed to have originated as bacteria that were engulfed by our cells and evolved to exist symbiotically within them.

Here's my issue with midi-chlorians - they serve no purpose. At all. The impression The Phantom Menace may leave with its audience is that midi-chlorians explain the Force somehow. They either are the Force, or create it, but the Expanded Universe clarifies that this isn't the case. We have two things at play here: the Force, which is still a mystical power that pervades the universe, and midi-chlorians, which are organisms that allow people to use the Force.

So what do midi-chlorians add to the picture, here? They don't explain the Force. They don't have any appreciable impact upon the narrative other than serving as a convenient, quantifiable measure of Force potential. They just raise more questions while making the Force seem a little less fantastical.

The Force either needs to be explained with science, or it doesn't. The original trilogy didn't explain the Force, which firmly grounded Star Wars in the realm of fantasy. How does it work? What is it? Can I get Force powers? Not knowing the answers to these questions is what sparked our imagination. Retroactively implementing some quasi-scientific, partial explanation kills part of the mysticism. What we're left with is something that neither holds up to the rigors of science nor feels quite as supernatural - in other words, bad sci-fi and bad fantasy.

Episode VII should neither mention midi-chlorians nor try to add any more scientific explanations to the Force. In fact, I would applaud J.J. Abrams if he had the audacity to retcon midi-chlorians out of the universe entirely.

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