2014-08-09

Flak

I've never understood why most inflationists have always sought to reject the existence of flak bursts in Star Wars.   Whenever I've brought it up they've flamed me, called me names, et cetera.  Perhaps the nicest thing they've said is that it is a "hasty generalization" on my part.  It was so rare that seeing it mentioned by an inflationist was itself cause for a thread at StarfleetJedi.

It's strange because some folks accepted them and rolled on.  Michael January, for instance, whose pages are contained in the Obsidian Order section of ST-v-SW.Net, notes that a turbolaser bolt is not a laser beam, because it "travels slower than light, is visible in a vacuum, even from the side, and can detonate in spectacular flak-bursts."

But for many, even getting them to accept the word "flak" was like pulling teeth.

I hadn't seen the topic come up much in a long while, but recently I've seen the topic come up again from inflationists like "Captain Seafort", along with implicit rejections of flak bursts by Brian Young in his Star Wars shield videos where no flak bursts are ever acknowledged . . . every flash is a shield interaction or hull strike.

It's always been strange to me because, other than the fact that it gives them the option of claiming shield interaction, invisible asteroid hits, and so on, rejecting flak bursts does so little for the inflationist cause that I just don't see why it's worth the embarrassment.

What embarrassment, you ask?   Well, it's the embarrassment of rejecting so many flak references from the canon.  Let's start with the scripts:

 A New Hope - Script 

(7)
INTERIOR: LUKE'S X-WING FIGHTER -- COCKPIT.
        Luke adjusts his controls and breathes a sigh of relief. Flak
        bursts outside the cockpit window.
LUKE: I got a little cooked, but I'm okay.

INTERIOR: READ LEADER'S X-WING FIGHTER -- COCKPIT -- TRAVELING.
        Red Leader flies through a heavy hail of flak.
RED LEADER: Luke, let me know when you're going in.

INTERIOR: LUKE'S X-WING -- COCKPIT -- TRAVELING.
        The blurry Death Star surface races past the cockpit window as
        a big smile sweeps across Luke's face at the success of his
        run. Flak thunders on all sides of him. 

INTERIOR: RED LEADER'S X-WING -- COCKPIT -- TRAVELING.
        The Death Star's surface sweeps past as Red Leader searches
        the sky for the Imperial fighters. Flak pounds at his ship.
RED LEADER: Keep up your visual scanning. With all this jamming,
they'll be on top of you before your scope can pick them up.

INTERIOR: GOLD FIVE'S Y-WING -- COCKPIT -- TRAVELING.
        Gold Five is a pilot in his early fifties with a very battered
        helmet that looks like it's been through many battles. He
        looks around to see if enemy ships are near. His fighter is
        buffeted by Imperial flak.

INTERIOR: LUKE'S COCKPIT.
        Flak and laserbolts flash outside Luke's cockpit window.
WEDGE: (over headset) My scope shows the tower, but I can't see the
exhaust port! Are you sure the computer can hit it?

LUKE: Artoo, try and increase the power!
EXTERIOR: LUKE'S X-WING FIGHTER.
        Ignoring the bumpy ride, flak, and lasers, a beeping
        Artoo-Detoo struggles to increase the power, his dome turning
        from side to side. 

The Empire Strikes Back - Script

(13)
DACK: Luke, we've got a malfunction in fire control. I'll have to cut
in the auxiliary.
LUKE: Just hang on. Hang on, Dack. Get ready to fire that tow cable.
           Barely keeping his seat in the tumbling ship, Dack struggles
        to set up his harpoon gun.
           Luke swings his speeder around and heads toward an oncoming
        walker. Laser bolts and flak fill the air, creating a deadly
        obstacle course for the tiny craft.

EXTERIOR: HOTH -- BATTLEFIELD
           Luke's speeder and Rogue Two fly in formation, banking from
        right to left and flying above the erupting battlefield. Flak
        bursts all around them.
INTERIOR: LUKE'S SNOWSPEEDER, ROGUE LEADER -- COCKPIT
           Luke, glancing over, sees Rogue Two on his left. His ship
        shudders as flak bursts nearby.

INTERIOR: LUKE'S SNOWSPEEDER, ROUGE LEADER -- COCKPIT
           Desperately, Luke works the controls of his flak-buffeted
        ship. Suddenly, the speeder is rocked by a huge explosion.
        Luke struggles with the controls with a look of terror on his
        face. The speeder fills with smoke, and electrical sparks jump
        about the cockpit.
LUKE: (into comlink) Hobbie, I've been hit!

INTERIOR: MILLENNIUM FALCON -- COCKPIT
           Inside the cockpit, Chewie lets out a loud howl. Han checks
        as the ship is buffeted by exploding flak. He appears to be
        doing six things at once.
HAN: (harried) I saw them! I saw them!

EXTERIOR: SPACE -- MILLENNIUM FALCON -- TIE FIGHTERS -- STAR DESTROYER
           The Falcon races into the starry vastness, followed by the
        four Imperial TIE fighters and an Imperial Star Destroyer.
INTERIOR: MILLENNIUM FALCON -- COCKPIT
           Stars race by as flak bursts outside the Falcon's window.

INTERIOR: MILLENNIUM FALCON -- COCKPIT
           The ship shudders as flak explodes near the cockpit window.
        Threepio checks a tracking scope an the side control panel
        while Leia watches tensely out the window.
THREEPIO: Oh, thank goodness we're coming out of the asteroid field.

INTERIOR: MILLENNIUM FALCON -- COCKPIT
           Han corrects the angle of his ship.
HAN: Let's get out of here. Ready for light-speed? One...two...three!
           Han pulls back on the hyperspace throttle and -- nothing
        happens. Flak bursts continue to rock the ship.

EXTERIOR: SPACE -- MILLENNIUM FALCON -- ASTEROID FIELD
           The Falcon banks, makes a steep, twisting turn. In the
        next moment it is racing toward the Star Destroyer, looking
        very small against the massive surface of the Imperial ship.
        As it moves across the surface of the Star Destroyer, the
        Falcon bobs and weaves to avoid the numerous flak bursts.
INTERIOR: STAR DESTROYER, AVENGER -- BRIDGE
           The tiny Falcon heads directly for the Avenger's bridge.
        The Imperials stationed there are stunned to see the small
        spaceship racing low across the hull, headed directly at the
        huge windows of the bridge area. Alarms go off everywhere. The
        Destroyer's commander, Captain Needa, can scarcely believe his
        eyes.

INTERIOR: MILLENNIUM FALCON -- COCKPIT
           One of the cloud cars opens fire on the Falcon, its flak
        rocking the ship. Chewie barks his concern.
HAN: (into transmitter) No, I don't have a landing permit. I'm trying
to reach Lando Calrissian.
           More flak bursts outside the cockpit window and rattles the
        ship's interior. Leia looks worried.
HAN: (into transmitter) Whoa! Wait a minute! Let me explain.

INTERIOR: MILLENNIUM FALCON -- HATCH
           The hatch pops open with a hiss of pressure. Lando reaches
        out to help the battered warrior inside the ship.
INTERIOR: MILLENNIUM FALCON -- COCKPIT
           Flak bursts all around it as the Falcon banks away from the
        city. Leia and Chewie struggle with the controls.

LANDO: Punch it!
           The Wookiee shrugs and pulls back on the light-speed
        throttle. The sound of the ion engine changes...it is winding
        up. Faces are tense, expectant. But nothing happens, and the
        engine goes off. Chewie lets out a frustrated howl. The flak
        still violently rocks the ship.
LANDO: They told me they fixed it. I trusted them to fix it. It's not
my fault!

Revenge of the Sith - Script

(4)
PAN DOWN to reveal a REPUBLIC ATTACK CRUISER. Continue to PAN with the Cruiser as TWO JEDI STARFIGHTERS enter and head toward an enemy Battle Cruiser. TRUCK with the Jedi Fighters as they maneuver in unison, dodging flack and enemy laser fire. R2-D2 is on Anakin's ship. R4-P17 is on Obi-Wan's ship. A giant space battle is revealed as the tiny Jedi ships continue their assault in a synchronous ballet.
2 INT. OBI-WAN'S STARFIGHTER COCKPIT-SPACE
OBI-WAN bounces through the flack with a frown. His ship rocks violently.

OBI-WAN dives toward the surface of one of the larger TRADE FEDERATION BATTLESHIPS and is forced to fly through a maelstrom of laser flack. He skims the surface, followed by the DROID DROP FIGHTER, which is followed by ANAKIN.

ANAKIN swoops low and skims across a TRADE FEDERATION BATTLESHIP, dodging flack as ARTOO bounces along, trying to get out a sentence.

That's just the scripts, but they're also ignoring references in the novelizations . . . 

A New Hope - Novelization

(1)
Ch. 12:  "Blue Leader, this is Red Leader," he announced into his mike.  "We're starting our attack run. The exhaust port is located and marked. No flak, no enemy fighters up here-yet. Looks like we'll get at least one smooth run at it."

The Empire Strikes Back - Novelization

(9)
Ch. 5:   Luke saw the explosion of his squadron's first casualty as he looked from his cockpit window. Angrily, Luke fired his ship's guns at a walker, only to receive a hail of Imperial fire power that shook his speeder in a barrage of flak.
Ch. 5:  Explosions rocked Luke's ship, tossing it about violently in the enveloping flak. Through the window he could see another walker that appeared to be unaffected by the full fire power of the Rebel attack speeders. This lumbering machine now became Luke's target as he flew, moving in a descending arc. The walker was firing directly at him, creating a wall of laser bolts and flak.
Ch. 5:   Luke and Zev could see the destruction of the walker as they flew overhead, banking from right to left to avoid the flak bursting around them.
Ch. 6:   Chewbacca howled over the roar of the Falcon's engines. The ship was beginning to lurch with the buffeting flak blasted at it by the fighters.
 'I know, I know, I see them,' Han shouted. It was taking everything he had to maintain control of the ship.
Ch. 7:  Solo raced down to the ship's hold and began to work frantically on repairing the malfunctioning hyperdrive unit. It was all but impossible to carry out the delicate repair work necessary while the Falcon shook with each blast of flak from the fighters.
Ch. 10:  Solo concentrated intently on his flying. It was all he could do to avoid the barrage of flak bursts rocketing toward the Falcon from the Imperial ship. The freighter bobbed and weaved as Han, still heading directly for the Star Destroyer, steered to avoid the bolts.
No one on his tiny ship had the slightest idea what his plan might be.
Ch. 13:  The Millennium Falcon veered away from Cloud City and soared through the thick billowing cloud cover. Swerving to avoid the blinding flak from the TIE fighters, Princess Leia and the Wookiee pilot struggled to keep their ship skyborne.
Ch. 13:  'Ben,' he whispered in utter despair, 'why didn't you tell me?' Lando tried to adjust some controls, and Chewbacca leaped from his chair to race to the hold. Leia took Chewbacca's seat and helped Lando as they flew the Falcon through the exploding flak.

Return of the Jedi - Novelization

(2)
Ch. 8:  'You won't get a second chance at this, Admiral. Han will have that shield down - we've got to give him more time. Head for those Star Destroyers.'
Ackbar looked around him. A huge charge of flak rumbled the ship, painting a brief, waxen light over the window. Calrissian was right: there would be no second chance. It was now, or it was the end.
Ch. 8:  In the Millennium Falcon, Lando steered like a maniac through an obstacle course of the giant, floating Imperial Star Destroyers -trading laser bolts with them, dodging flak, outracing TIE fighters.

Revenge of the Sith - Novelization

(5)
Ch. 1:   Antifighter flak flashed on all sides. Even louder than the clatter  of shrapnel and the snarl of his sublight drives, his cockpit hummed  and  rang with near hits from the turbolaser fire of the capital ships crowding  space around him. Sometimes his whirling spinning dive through the cloud of battle skimmed bursts so closely that the energy-scatter would slam his starfighter hard enough to bounce his head off the supports of his pilot's chair.
Right now Obi-Wan Kenobi envied the clones: at least they had helmets.
"Arfour," he said on internal comm, "can't you do something with the inertials?"
The droid ganged into the socket  on his starflghter's left wing whistled something that sounded suspiciously like a human apology. Obi-Wan's frown deepened. R4-P17  had  been spending too much time with Anakin's eccentric astromech; it was picking up R2-D2's bad habits.
New bursts of flak bracketed his path.  He reached into the Force, feeling for a safe channel through the swarms of shrapnel and sizzling  nets of particle beams.
Ch. 1:  Obi-Wan's starfighter streaked along the curve of the Separatist cruiser's dorsal hull. Antifighter flak burst on all sides as the cruiser's guns tried to pick him up.
Ch. 1:  They flashed through the battle, dodging flak and turbolaser bolts, slipping around cruisers to eclipse themselves from the sensors of droid fighters. They were only a few dozen kilometers from the command cruiser when a pair of tri-fighters whipped across their path, firing on the deflection.
Ch. 3:  Anakin slid along the bank of chairs on one side of the immense situation table that dominated the center of the General's Quarters' main room; Obi-Wan mirrored him on the opposite side.  Silent lightning flashed and flared: the room's sole illumination came from the huge curving view wall at its far end, a storm of turbolaser blasts and flak bursts and the miniature supernovae that were the deaths of entire ships.
Now, you might've noticed those little numbers after the headings.   Those are counters for my ease.   From the scripts we have 24 examples.   From the novelizations we have 17.

That's 41 descriptions of flak in the canon (or flack from cannons, whatever).   Now, not all of these are from space battles, but the vast majority are.

And that's not even talking about the flak in The Clone Wars, such as in "Landing at Point Rain" where a Jedi notes that the flak during their landing attempt is too heavy.   Even if it was an inflationist who couldn't read, at least having flak described audibly should've been a wake-up call.

And there's also the new canon's first entry "Blade Squadron" in which, in issue 150 on p. 34,  the Devastator is said to have a defensive "flak envelope", which sounds very much like what we saw at times on the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica in the form of a veritable shaped shield of explosion and debris surrounding a ship at a standoff distance from its hull.

Put simply, I don't think the existence of flak is even a debatable topic in regards to Star Wars.

=== Flak: Bolt Detonation ===

So, flak exists one way or another.   But, the nature of the flak is often disputed.  Even when I've successfully twisted proverbial arms before to get folks to acknowledge that flak exists in Star Wars, they'll usually try to evade with a claim of special flak guns or something rather than accepting that the bolts can detonate, as obviated by the "laser flack" above and a number of visual references.  I'll never understand that  . . . we can watch it happen throughout the films and TCW, but they insist there are invisible things being hit.

Of course, these invisible things are also being vaporized, they claim, which is why they're invisible after being hit.  Their invisibility beforehand?  Oh, um, well, that's simply to be ignored, or else they'll flame you.

 Note that bolt detonation is a very specific thing . . . this is actually where we see a bolt explode without apparent contact.

Only some of the references above point specifically to bolts exploding into flak.  Others could be construed (or misconstrued) as suggesting flak is a separate weapon altogether.

But, when we actually see bolts blow up . . . why even act like there's a separate flak gun?  Where are these special flak guns?    I don't think there's any evidence of them.  Be it the cruiser's guns trying to track Obi-Wan's fighter or the TIE fighter guns causing flak bursts around the Falcon, there is no indication, and certainly not in that latter case, of additional weaponry.   Good lord, where would you even hide a worthwhile flak cannon on a TIE?

Put simply, I don't think we need them.  Regarding the visual media, we have instances of turbolaser/blaster bolts exploding in mid-flight, usually creating a big flash or other explosion-y effect.  Similarly, the high-atmosphere combat in RotS and most battles in TCW feature a number of smoky-looking explosions, so smoke is no indicator.

===Flak: Dude, Where's My Bolt?===

Now, it is notable that there are a number of occasions where there is no visible bolt to associate to an explosion.   For instance, the flak bursts used against the escape pods in "Ambush"[TCW1] don't always seem to relate to bolts, though they are generally near them.   However, when the battlecruisers are firing on the Republic frigate, almost every space explosion observed (save for some very distant flashes) is tied to a bolt in some way.


(I have a lot more detail on this on the NoLettersHome wiki, but since it's not public yet we'll save all that for later.)

Even when we don't see a bolt, however, that simply does not mean one was not there.   Even in TCW, which being a CGI series really doesn't have any need to skimp on the bolts flying about, we have instances where smaller shots are simply invisible at even minor ranges of a handful of kilometers or less.   Take, for instance, "Downfall of a Droid"[TCW1] in which the battle between the fleets only seems to feature the two biggest forward-facing guns of the Separatist battlecruisers being fired.  And yet, when we zoom in on the Republic fighters, the sky is lousy with small fighter-killing bolts . . . one even hits Anakin's fighter and bounces off.

Surely we are not expected to believe that Anakin's fighter miniaturized and shrugged off the massive bolts of a battlecruiser!   So where are these bolts in the even-slightly-wider shots?   Well, we can't see them.

Still, this concept of a separate origin for at least some flak explosions (other than the "laser flack" variety) seems to also have some basis in the text references above, and even with the text referring to "shrapnel".   While we can presume this term could be re-applied to energy effects (a la the "energy scatter" note), that's a bit messy without more proof.

This is not to suggest that it is always separate, as some have, but that sometimes, seemingly especially in reference to anti-fighter flak, there is a separate explosion-producing thing in use.  Indeed, just watching "Ambush"[TCW1], there are no flak bursts when the Separatist battlecruisers are firing on the Republic frigate or vice versa . . . the only flak bursts occur when the escape pods are being targeted, suggesting that it is the "anti-fighter flak" effect in use.

One tantalizing possibility comes from that episode, however . . . if one watches carefully, the close-ups of the turrets during the firing on the escape pods shows that the two-gun turrets generally fire in unison.   However, when we then observe Yoda's escape pod with bolts and explosions around it, the bolts are invariably alone.  

It is not inconceivable that the same guns could be used to fire bolts that detonate, like normal flak-bursting bolts, but that for whatever reason the bolts themselves lose their luminosity in transit . . . not a misfire, per se, but just a normal effect of some kind . . . perhaps a leak in the galvening or some other such phrasing.

This, I think, would be the best union of both arguments, one that could at least theoretically satisfy the anti-flak crowd.   In concert (if needed) with the fact of smaller bolts simply not being visible at even short ranges, I think the situation should be satisfactory to all.

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