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Near the end of the Battle of Yavin, one of the X-wing pilots screamed something that sounded like "Yes!". At about the same time, Luke checked his six and saw an explosion on the surface of the Death Star. It looked similar to the earlier incident in which Luke strafed the Death Star and "got a little cooked". There's also a change in the music.

What was the significance of this explosion, in which a character shouted for joy and the music changed?


Note: the idea for this question came from http://www.moviemistakes.com/film1226/questions/page2.

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    Without knowing the scene, is it possible the character was actually just screaming in pain and dying? – DaaaahWhoosh May 12 '16 at 18:05
  • Yeah you'll have to be more clear. My best theory is that you're talking about when Biggs dies, which the movie makes seem more important than it feels, mostly because Biggs and Luke's relationship was mostly deleted from the theatrical cut. – Plutor May 12 '16 at 18:06
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    It's clearly Red Leader's death. He screams "YAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH" or "YEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHH" as his X-Wing plummets into the Death Star. Then there's a musical moment (I wish I could hum tunes in comments) and we see Luke looking kinda scared - similar to the "just got a little cooked" moment. Biggs dies later in the last trench run. – Todd Wilcox May 12 '16 at 19:16
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    The x wing asked if he wanted to eject, and he got overzealous and screamed his answer instead of pressing the "accept" button. – Cone_of_Silence May 12 '16 at 20:19
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    Because shouting "KHHHHAAAAANNNNNNN!!!!!" would have been a continuity error. – davidbak May 12 '16 at 22:06
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You are, of course referring to the death of Red Leader. He's not yelling "yeah!" so much as just screaming because he's about to die.

[Laserbolts are flung from Vader's TIE fighter, connecting with Red Leader's Rebel X-wing fighter. Red Leader buys it, creating a tremendous explosion far below. He screams and is destroyed.]

Star Wars: Script

Interestingly, in the novelisation he yells something different:

Something screeched in Red Leader’s helmet, and fire started to consume his instrumentation. “It’s no good,” he yelled into his pickup, “I’m hit. I’m hit …!”

In the new (canon) junior novel it's just described as a scream.

There was a horrible scream as Red Leader crashed into a nearby tower, his ship taken down by the fire from the strange TIE fighter. Luke saw it all happen through his window and felt some of his hope shrivel up.


I originally thought that in the 2006 Manga version (Perfect Evil, Part I) it was Red Leader shouting

"Gahh!"

but further investigation has revealed that the shouter shown below was most likely "Pops" (Gold-Five).

enter image description here

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    That manga image doesn't seem to be Red Leader's death because it's a Y-Wing, and Red Leader flew an X-Wing, of course. Gold squadron flew the Y-Wings (in the film at least). – Todd Wilcox May 12 '16 at 19:13
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    @ToddWilcox - That's far from the only canon inconsistency in the comic :-) In context, though, it's pretty clear that it's supposed to be Red Leader. You see him earlier in the book and it's the same guy. – Valorum May 12 '16 at 19:14
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    RIP Red Leader. – maguirenumber6 May 13 '16 at 9:03
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    @ToddWilcox - It seems that you were right all along. Mea culpa. – Valorum May 13 '16 at 17:51
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    Happens to everyone. Most don't handle it with such grace. Tip o' the hat. – Todd Wilcox May 13 '16 at 17:54
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Why is this explosion so important that it warrants a change of music?

The strategy for the attack on The Death Star in this battle was that the fighters would break into groups of three. The lead fighter would perform the trench run and attempt to score a direct hit on the thermal exhaust port with proton torpedoes to cause a chain reaction and destroy The Death Star. The other two fighters in the group would fly behind the lead fighter and attempt to draw the fire of the turbolasers and TIE fighters away from the lead fighter. Other fighters not currently in a trench run would attempt to destroy turbolaser batteries and TIE fighters to make the trench runs easier.

As the battle progressed, groups of three fighters would enter trench and most of the time, not all three would make it out, or the whole group would be destroyed. Darth Vader and his escorts were quite effective at taking out rebel fighters in the trenches - so much so that leading up to the moment in question no trench run actually made it to the point of even launching torpedoes. Also, fighters not currently in the trenches were being destroyed by turbolasers and TIE fighters.

Right before Red Leader (the pilot who screamed before his X-Wing crashed as referenced in the question) died, he completed the second to last trench run of the entire battle, and the first run that actually made it to the end of the trench where Red Leader launched torpedoes. Unfortunately, Red Leader's torpedoes did not score a direct hit:

RADIO VOICE: Did it hit?
RED LEADER: Negative. Negative. It didn't go in. Just impacted on the surface.

So the run was a failure, Red Leader was the only member of the three-fighter group who survived the run, and immediately after that Darth Vader scored a hit on Red Leader's starboard engine, which is what led to his screaming crash into the surface of the Death Star.

It is significant because the only rebel fighters left in the battle right before this death are Red Leader, Luke, Wedge, Biggs, and the mysterious Y-wing pilot. With Red Leader dead:

  1. The rebels have only one more chance to try to destroy the Death Star.
  2. Luke, in his first space battle of his life, will lead the final trench run in an all-or-nothing attempt to save the entire rebel alliance.

It's Luke, his childhood friend, and a new friend versus the entire Empire alone in the trench with Vader and two TIE fighters on their backs.

Here's a script excerpt that makes it a little clearer than watching the movie:

LUKE: (over headset) Red Leader, we're right above you. Turn to point...

INTERIOR: LUKE'S X-WING FIGHTER -- COCKPIT.

Luke tries to spot Red Leader. He looks down at the Death Star surface.

LUKE: ...oh-five; we'll cover for you.

RED LEADER: (over headset) Stay there...

INTERIOR: RED LEADER'S COCKPIT.

A wary Red Leader looks about nervously.

RED LEADER: ...I just lost my starboard engine.

INTERIOR: LUKE'S X-WING FIGHTER -- COCKPIT.

Luke looks excitedly toward Red Leader's X-wing.

RED LEADER: (over headset) Get set to make your attack run.

INTERIOR: DARTH VADER'S COCKPIT.

Vader's gloved hands make contact with the control sticks, and he presses their firing buttons.

INTERIOR: RED LEADER'S COCKPIT.

Red Leader fights to gain control of his ship.

EXTERIOR: SPACE AROUND THE DEATH STAR.

Laserbolts are flung from Vader's TIE fighter, connecting with Red Leader's Rebel X-wing fighter. Red Leader buys it, creating a tremendous explosion far below. He screams and is destroyed.

INTERIOR: LUKE'S X-WING FIGHTER -- COCKPIT.

Luke looks out the window of his X-wing at the explosion far below. For the first time, he feels the helplessness of his situation. [This is where the musical moment happens]

The actual scene in the movie isn't exactly like the script or the novelization, and it's not clear exactly what is going on when Red Leader dies. One interpretation is that his starboard engine is out and he doesn't have enough engine power to avoid crashing into the Death Star, but his ship is otherwise intact. So he could have been deliberately diving into a turbolaser battery and issuing a kind of battle cry as he did so. Or it could have been a cry of fear and rage as he helplessly careered into the space station.

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    > "the only rebel fighters left are Luke, Wedge, and Biggs" < don't forget that mysterious surviving Y-Wing pilot. – pkamb May 12 '16 at 20:59
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    Upvoted for adequately explaining why. This is a good answer. – lunchmeat317 May 13 '16 at 0:00
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    @pkamb Confirmed and edited in. The screen shot in the linked question is from the special edition, but I reviewed the theatrical release and there is a random Y-wing flying away from the Death Star just before the explosion, and then in the next cut we see all four ships approach the moon of Yavin. – Todd Wilcox May 13 '16 at 13:24
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    Also, I got the impression it was supposed to be the (Gold squadron) Y-wing's job to do the bombing and the X-Wings (including Luke) were just there for fighter escort. So by it being Red Leader's job, they'd already fallen to the emergency backup plan, and his death made it suddenly all up to our protagonist. That's why the music change. – T.E.D. May 13 '16 at 14:55
  • @T.E.D. Agreed. Again, Luke, Wedge, and Biggs are essentially all that's left at this point. And of course the Death Star had almost cleared the planet (it's not clear whether the pilots knew this, but those at the rebel base sure did). – Todd Wilcox May 13 '16 at 15:04
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You seem to be referring to the moment where Biggs dies.

From the script:

INT. BIGGS' COCKPIT

Biggs looks around at the TIE fighters.

INT. LUKE'S X-WING FIGHTER

Luke looks into his targeting device. He moves it away for a moment and ponders its use. He looks back into the computer targeter.

BIGGS (over headset) Hurry up, Luke!

EXT. SPACE AROUND THE DEATH STAR

Vader and his wingmen race through the Death Star trench. Biggs moves in to cover for Luke, but Vader gains on him.

INT. BIGGS' COCKPIT

Biggs sees the TIE fighter aiming at him.

BIGGS Wait!

INT. DARTH VADER'S COCKPIT

Vader squeezes the fire button on his controls.

INT. BIGGS' COCKPIT

Biggs' cockpit explodes around him, lighting him in red.

EXT. SURFACE OF THE DEATH STAR

Biggs' ship bursts into a million flaming bits and scatters across the surface.

INT. MASSASSI OUTPOST - WAR ROOM

Leia and the others stare at the computer board.

INT. LUKE'S X-WING COCKPIT

Luke is stunned by Biggs' death. His eyes are watering, but his anger is also growing.

Biggs isn't cheering, he's yelling in fear as Vader is about to destroy him.

The scene briefly shifts to a somber tone, as you note, as Biggs is one of Luke's oldest friends, and Luke is momentarily stunned by the loss of his friend.

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    The death in question is not Biggs', it's Red Leader's. – Todd Wilcox May 12 '16 at 18:50
  • @ToddWilcox i had a 50/50 shot based on the vague description in the question. – phantom42 May 12 '16 at 19:11
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    Congrats. You get a medal or something. – phantom42 May 12 '16 at 19:55
  • Thanks! Looks like what I got is a "Nice Answer" badge. Seriously, I was just explaining my downvote, perhaps a bit rudely, and for that I apologize. – Todd Wilcox May 13 '16 at 15:09
  • Honest mistake though. That's precisely what I thought until I read the other answers here. All those fighter pilots look alike to me (except for Porkins, the Kevin Smith look-alike). – T.E.D. May 13 '16 at 16:32

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