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In the beginning scene of A New Hope we see Princess Leia's blockade runner being captured in the hangar of a Star Destroyer:

It looks to me that this situation is hopeless for the Rebels. I'm assuming some sort of tractor beam is stopping them from flying back out and there's surely no way they could take over the entire star destroyer in ground combat.

Yet, the Rebels make a stand at the door:

What are they hoping to accomplish? Wouldn't a surrender be better for both sides? Then the Rebels might be allowed to live and the Empire would have fewer casualties to report to a potentially sympathetic Galactic Senate (that had not yet been disbanded).

  • I've always wondered why Leia even tried to convince Vader she did nothing wrong when she ordered her men to fire at the imperials. – Rogue Jedi Sep 13 '15 at 0:53
  • Hopeless? – Null Sep 13 '15 at 1:00
  • @RogueJedi it was an illegal act of space piracy (in the eyes of the senate) to intercept a diplomatic ship with a senator on board. They were well within their legal rights to fight back. – user46509 Sep 13 '15 at 8:17
  • @RogueJedi Where did Leia order the troops to fire are the Imperials? I'm not aware of that occuring. – BBlake Sep 13 '15 at 13:09
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    The evil empress Leia used the Force to influence the weak minds of her troops and force them to fight to the death for her. Luckily Lord Vader's loyal army was willing to lay down their lives to stop Leia from conquering the galaxy. – Xantec Sep 14 '15 at 18:06
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The Rebels were stalling for time while Leia attempted to get the plans off the blockade runner.

The stormtroopers boarded the ship and started the firefight with the Rebel soldiers before Leia gave the Death Star plans to R2-D2:

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(You can confirm the timing with the script).

The Rebels were unable to transmit the Death Star plans so they had to physically transport the data in R2-D2. If the Rebels hadn't resisted the stormtroopers, Leia wouldn't have had time to give the plans to R2-D2 and R2-D2 wouldn't have had time to escape the ship; in other words, the Rebels would have lost the Death Star plans.

Furthermore, the Rebels must have known that the Empire would execute them as traitors if they were caught with the Death Star plans. But if they managed to get the plans off the ship, the Empire wouldn't have proof that they had the plans and they might be able to avoid execution using Leia's claim that she was a "member of the Imperial Senate on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan".

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What are they hoping to accomplish? Wouldn't a surrender be better for both sides? Then the Rebels might be allowed to live and the Empire would have fewer casualties to report to a potentially sympathetic Galactic Senate (that had not yet been disbanded).

This falsely assumes the Imperials won't just kill (and potentially torture) them immediately.

After capturing them, Vader tells the Imperial commander:

Leave that to me. Send a distress signal and then inform the senate that all aboard were killed!

It's pretty clear that at this point, whether they fought or simply surrendered the outcome is the same: death (or disappearing, which is probably worse) at the hand of the Imperials.

And this is ignoring the potential of Vader finding the Death Star plans on board. From a plot perspective, obviously he does not (and cannot). But Leia can't know what Lucas has in store for her, and if you had that information on board, would you have tried to surrender? It'd be suicide.


Also, note that Vader is very convinced they had the plans in how he interrogates the rebel officer:

                    Where are those transmissions you 
                     intercepted?

It's likely that the Rebels understood why the Imperials were pursuing them and trying to capture the ship intact (since they did in fact intercept plans).

Keep in mind an Imperial class star destroyer could very easily have destroyed the blockade runner they were on board. The rebels could have surrendered there, too, instead of fighting.

Which makes the whole thing pretty understandable, they knew they had information that they could not destroy since it was vital to their cause. They knew that information would doom their entire crew to a painful death. They knew the imperials wanted it. The might as well continue the fight as best they can, even if it's hopeless.

  • The rebels wouldn't know for sure what the Imperials would do with them or that they would be reported as dead. Maybe it's noble to keep fighting but it's not very rational. – Calvin's Hobbies Sep 13 '15 at 3:09
  • Also they could have just tried to buy some time to retransmit or otherwise get the plans off board (because of the pov during the film we dont know what orders were exactly given and why) – Thomas Sep 13 '15 at 16:29
  • @Calvin'sHobbies you mean the Imperials attacking a ship carrying a senator wouldn't have thrown them off? – enderland Sep 14 '15 at 16:55

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