The YT-1300f class freighter may not be a designation that rings any bells to you, but you’re definitely familiar with its most famous example: Han Solo and Chewbacca’s smuggling ship, The Millennium Falcon. A ship that has basically been rebuilt from the ground up in the last 40 years, the Falcon only looks unimpressive to the other people in the galaxy who have never seen it in action. With its souped up cannons, designed to be able to shoot down a TIE fighter with a single shot, or its ultra-customized hyperdrive, able to evade pursuit from even the fastest of Imperial ships, the Falcon is a major force to be reckoned with.
As the release date approaches for Solo: A Star Wars Story, the Falcon seems poised to stand alongside Lando as one of the major secondary characters — it wouldn’t be surprising if the film depicts the Falcon changing hands, a plot point that is often discussed in the Star Wars universe, if rarely depicted. But what kind of new things could there be to find out about the Falcon, the ship that statistically 2.2 out of every 300 Stormtroopers has heard of (and presumably hates)? We dug up 15 of the most surprising facts about the Falcon and its legacy.
15. DOESN’T ALWAYS STAY IN THE GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY
The Falcon has inspired spaceships crewed by rogues in several different franchises, from Firefly to Berzerk, but the ship itself hasn’t stayed in the galaxy far, far away. Its “biggest” cameo was in one of its distinguished competitor’s movies, Star Trek: First Contact: during the Battle of Sector 001, when the Federation was challenging its first Borg cube, the Falcon streaks by in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo. It has also appeared in several movies that wear their Star Wars inspiration on their sleeve, from Blade Runner to Starship Troopers to Mel Brooks’ send-up, Spaceballs.
Its most obscure cameo came by way of a 1995 LucasArts game, The Dig — in the game, consoles have been carved by aliens with crude symbols, and the eagle-eyed will spot a Star Destroyer and the Falcon right next to each other.
14. MAKES AN APPEARANCE IN THE PREQUELS
One of the unlikeliest “characters” to make a cameo in the sequel, the Falcon shows up in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot in Revenge of the Sith. During the Battle of Coruscant, a YT-1300f freighter that looks suspiciously like the Falcon with a blue paint job on the back end of its dorsal plating docks for a split-second — that freighter, the Stellar Envoy, would go on to become the Falcon that we know and love.
The Expanded Universe brought James Luceno’s 2008 novel Millennium Falcon, which filled in even more about the Stellar Envoy and its pilots; apparently the pilots of that freighter have always had a flair for opposition in the face of unjust authority, so it makes sense that it ended up with Han Solo so many times.
13. WHERE DID THOSE GOLDEN DICE COME FROM?
In The Last Jedi, Luke finds a pair of golden dice hanging from the…rearview mirror?… in the Millennium Falcon, as he explores the ship, trying to find some remnants of his friend Han. The dice seem to have some significance to him and Leia, beyond them being a Star-Wars-ified version of fuzzy dice in a sick old car, and that’s because they do — according to The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, they’re the dice Han was using when he won the Falcon.
Lando Calrissian was one of the Falcon’s earlier owners and continued the proud tradition of customizing it as much as possible, but he got too cocky; while playing a game of “Corellian Spike” sabacc (using two dice instead of the regular deck of cards to play), he lost the fastest ship in the galaxy to Han Solo.
12. ITS DESCENDANTS ARE GOING TO SPACE
Elon Musk’s SpaceX company seems — especially since the essential shuttering of NASA’s manned space exploration programs during the Obama administration — to be our best hope for sending a human to another planet, not just the moon. The program has expanded in the wake of Musk’s success with Tesla, leading to rocket tests at the end of 2017 in California.
Part of the enduring magic of Star Wars is its ability to inspire people — the magic and the wonder of a galaxy far, far away have inspired generations of engineers and physicists, and SpaceX is no exception. Their next generation of rockets is going to be called Falcons, and they’re of course named after everyone’s favorite freighter. One can only hope the next generation will be called the Tantives.
11. IT REALLY IS THE FASTEST HUNK OF JUNK IN THE GALAXY
Han Solo lies through his teeth about a lot of things, but when it comes to the Falcon, he’s rarely whistling dixie. The only thing that’s still original about the Millennium Falcon is the chassis, with each successive owner customizing it more and more, and one area that Han and Chewie have really focused is on the speed.
When you’re smuggling goods through the galaxy under the thumb of the Empire, it helps to be faster than the other guys, and the Falcon delivers — it tops out at 6.13 quadrillion miles per hour (that’s 15 zeroes), which is twice as fast as most given Star Destroyers and Imperial cruisers. If the heat truly becomes too much, that speed can take the Han, Chewie, and the Falcon to another galaxy within the span of 100 days.
10. WHERE DID IT LEARN TO COMMUNICATE?
At one point, C-3P0 tries to interface with the Falcon’s computer and comes away shocked at its communication, asking where it learned to talk — it is unclear if he is shocked by the vulgarity of the onboard computer or just confused by its babble. The ship could actually have been babbling at Threepio, after all; with all the customization the ship has undergone, Han and Chewie had to redo the entire onboard computer system, so they networked together three droid brains.
This increases the processing speed and accuracy exponentially, but it means that the computer has not one, not two, but three personalities. Sometimes, those three brains sometimes get into arguments with each other, leading to unreliability in practice. Luckily, they all tend to work together during emergencies.
9. WHAT IS THAT HOLOGRAM CHESS GAME?
When Luke, Obi-Wan, R2-D2 and Threepio all end up on the Falcon at the beginning of A New Hope, R2 and Threepio get involved in a game with Chewbacca that looks like a holographic chess set, with moving monster pieces. When R2 makes a move Chewie doesn’t like, Han implies that Wookiees like to rip arms out of sockets when they lose, prompting Threepio (the only droid with arms) to support letting the Wookiee win.
The game goes untouched from the time the droids and Chewie turn it off until the Falcon is restarted at the beginning of The Force Awakens (even though it changed hands several times, presumably to people who started the ship up). The game is called dejarik, and it’s a variant of an ancient board game called Shah-tzeh; LucasFilm developed rules and gameplay for dejarik, but they have yet to be officially released.
8. MASTER OF THE HOUSE
The Millennium Falcon has been modified and customized to the point that the only thing recognizable about it from when it came off the assembly line is its shape; as a smuggling ship, it’s been retrofitted with myriad hidden compartments and hyper-sensitive scanning equipment to detect pursuit before it’s too late. One thing that Han has changed about the Falcon on a base level is the control system — all the piloting systems for the ship are located in the cockpit, but they are also cloned to a console in the cargo bay.
The gun systems are also cloned, and you can either sit at the cannons themselves, or you can fire them from the cockpit. This is part of the reason Han and Chewie had to replace the computer with networked droid brains, and probably part of the reason those brains are fighting all the time.
7. THAT’S SOME HYPERDRIVE
When Obi-Wan and Luke are trying to hire a freighter to get them off of Tatooine, Han goes into full-on boast mode. He mentions his famous Kessel Run time, as well as the lightspeed capacity of the Falcon. The hyperdrive on the Falcon gets up to 0.5 above lightspeed (although that begs that question, “0.5 what?”), and it’s fully twice the size of the base model of the YT-1300.
According to the Legends canon, the Falcon required a modification by a famous tech named “Doc” Vandangante to increase its “streamlining” so that it wouldn’t be torn apart by the extreme pressures of space and time literally stretching to their breaking point in around the ship at lightspeed; this modification gave the Falcon the extra speed for which it is famous.
6. IT REALLY IS AN OLD CLUNKER
The first exposure anyone got to the Millennium Falcon, through the eyes of Luke Skywalker, was the analysis that it was a piece of junk. Oh boy, is that an understatement. In the galaxy far, far away, the ship line from which the Falcon came, the YT-1300 models, is at least a few generations old.
Canonically, it was built about 90 years before the Cold War — that is, the period after the establishment of the Republic and before Starkiller Base destroyed Hosnian Prime — which makes the ship about 120 by the time of The Force Awakens. According to the Legends canon, the ship is a little younger; commissioned 60 years before the Battle of Yavin, that would clock it in at a sprightly 90 years old by the time of the new trilogy.
5. ITS ANCESTORS ARE WARPLANES
The Millennium Falcon, like almost every other aspect of Star Wars, reflects the films and serials of George Lucas’s childhood, from the war movie boom post-World War II, to the cowboy serials of the ’30s. As such, the cockpit of the Falcon was aesthetically influenced by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, a bomber plane used primarily during WWII and the Korean War. The famous hyperdrive scream of the Falcon was designed by Ben Burtt to incorporate the slowed down engine noise, another wartime favorite, the P-51 Mustang, during a race in the Mojave desert.
The Falcon’s history even incorporates the cowboy spirit — when it was still on the assembly line, a droid malfunctioned, causing it to go wild before it could be controlled, an apt allegory to the bucking broncos of cowboy movies.
4. LEGO ROYALTY
After the Star Wars toy drought of the late-’80s, LEGO acquired a license to create Star Wars sets, beginning with the Special Edition film tie-ins and continuing right through the prequels into the present day. LEGO stores and malls around the world often have freestanding, life-size LEGO sculptures of favorite Star Wars characters like R2 or Darth Vader to promote the stores in general.
The Millennium Falcon has been released in multiple LEGO sets of varying size, but the mack daddy is the 2007 entry from the “Ultimate Collectors Series.” The original “Ultimate Collectors Series” model featured 5,195 pieces, second only to the 2008 model of the Taj Mahal; it reclaimed the throne with an updated model just before The Last Jedi was released, containing 7, 541 pieces and costing a truly whopping $800.
3. TOOK AWHILE TO GET IT RIGHT
The design process for Star Wars was one of the most intense parts of the filmmaking process, with Ralph McQuarrie’s concepts being brought to the model stage several times, and sometimes being completely scrapped. Such was the case for the Falcon; the original design for the ship, intended to be a freighter, ended up being used as the basis for Princess Leia’s blockade runner, the Tantive IV, at the beginning of A New Hope instead.
After a second try, they had to scrap the designs again because they ended up looking too similar to ships on Space: 1999. Finally, they settled on the disk shape, the mandible, the outrigger cockpilot — all the familiar ingredients necessary to make the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy come to life on screen.
2. PARSECS CAN BE FAST
When Obi-Wan and Luke are looking for transport out of Mos Eisley, Han famously claims to have made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, but one thing has bothered scholars and fans for 40 years: parsecs aren’t a measure of speed, they’re a measure of distance. So if the Kessel Run is a fixed path, how would it be impressive if Han ran it the same way everyone else had? The camera even cuts away to a somewhat disbelieving Obi-Wan during this moment.
The jury is out on whether he’s just throwing out meaningless words to convince some rubes to pay him, or if he’s serious. If he’s serious, as Lucas has stated, the reasoning Lucas gives is that the Falcon’s onboard computer can plot courses with shocking precision, allowing it to skirt the black holes in the Maw cluster and take a shorter Kessel Run, distance-wise.
1. THE RECTANGULAR SATELLITE DISH IS RIGHT
Part of the distinctive silhouette of the Millennium Falcon when it appeared in Star Wars was the circular satellite dish on top. Lando promises Han in Return of the Jedi that he will return the ship from the Death Star run with not a scratch on it, a promise we all know he couldn’t keep–on their final escape from inside the Death Star superstructure, the Falcon grazes some scaffolding and loses the dish.
For 30 years, we all assumed they just replaced that circular dish, but not so: when The Force Awakens was released, the Falcon had a rectangular dish on top! How dare they! The explanation is actually not so nefarious — apparently, the rectangular dish is part of the base model of the YT-1300 freighter, meaning that for once, the Falcon had to go backwards instead of forward into the unknown.
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