Right after the Millennium Falcon shoots over the top of the Star Destroyer's bridge and then affixes to the back of the superstructure, there is understandably some serious consternation going on since that panel is not in view of any of the scanners. (Seriously, why didn't they have 100% coverage of the surface of their own ship?!) The crew immediately apprise Captain Needa of the situation and tell him they will continue searching, so why does the captain immediately announce that he will take full responsibility for the loss and then go to voluntarily apologize to Vader and submit himself to his mercy (or lack thereof)? Couldn't he have waited at least a little longer, especially since he almost certainly could have foreseen how Vader would react?

Remember, all this happened probably fewer than 12 hours after the Battle of Hoth and Vader's choking of Admiral Ozzel (from another part of the ship via tele-conference, no less!). I'm pretty sure that event was still quite fresh in officers' memory. Needa himself may even have watched it happen!

  • 30
    So that Vader wouldn't punish one of Needa's soldiers.
    – Valorum
    Dec 14, 2016 at 16:45
  • 11
    They thought the Falcon had jumped to lightspeed and thus would never find it. Needa obviously saw no point in prolonging the inevitable Dec 14, 2016 at 16:50
  • 38
    @Bob - Needa's a stand-up guy. Rather than risk any of his men catching flak from Vader, he takes the bullet himself.
    – Valorum
    Dec 14, 2016 at 16:51
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    "(Seriously, why didn't they have 100% coverage of the surface of their own ship?!)" Although I am sure there is an engineering solution to this, it is not likely going to be needed in roles a Star Destroyer would find itself, and thus wouldn't be part of a design. In the real world, nothing is designed 100%, but merely good enough to meet the design goals. This detail is actually one in the series that rings quite true. I think you would be hard pressed to find any security system, or sensor package that had 100% coverage.
    – Mike Vonn
    Dec 14, 2016 at 18:15
  • 8
    @Bob If you were Needa and genuinely cared about the troops under your command (fairly common in military circles), would you want to even risk the possibility that Vader will be particularly extra murderous and take it out on others in your crew, if he found out after you delayed telling him? Bear in mind, you're in a situation where you've seen him murder people when they fail, your initial interpretation is that you've definitely lost track of the Falcon, and any more time you spend thinking the matter through increases the odds that Vader finds out and takes it out on someone else.
    – mtraceur
    Dec 15, 2016 at 6:16

5 Answers 5


There are a few probable reasons:

  • He wanted to save his soldiers from punishment

If Vader had found out this information before Needa had come to him, he might have blamed not only Needa for the failure, but also some of the people working under him.

Note he says he will take full responsibility, suggesting the alternative is that several people could have been blamed. If he didn't immediately absolve others of the blame, then some of his soldiers and possibly people he was friendly with could have been needlessly executed by Vader.

  • He thought the Falcon was long gone

Needa understands that there are many ways that the Falcon could have escaped, he immediately dismisses some of them. However a war commander would not necessarily be wise to the tactics of a common smuggler; that would be more within the experience of local constabulary, therefore he genuinely would have believed that the Falcon was gone for good.

If he had thought that the Falcon was hiding, he would have ordered the search to continue, but if he thought there was no way of locating it he would have accepted defeat and whatever punishment Vader had for him, which is what he did.

  • It was genuinely his fault

It was he who thought that the Falcon was attempting an attack run, and ordered the shields raised. The blame falls squarely on him for the Falcon escaping, so it is rightly he who should be punished.

  • He thought he may be given mercy by being up front

If I remember correctly Admiral Ozzel attempts to offer excuses to Vader and absolve himself of the blame, and is killed for it. It's possible he thought that the opposite approach would prove more successful in him keeping his life. Trying to hide his failure and it being discovered would have been a certain way to be executed, he had seen that first hand.

So perhaps he thought by showing loyalty and initiative by coming clean, Vader may decide to let him live. Note that Vader does actually accept his apology, he just kills him anyway.

  • 18
    +1 Good point about Needa taking a long shot that Vader might choose to be merciful for some uncharacteristic reason.
    – Bob
    Dec 14, 2016 at 17:05
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    Now about accepting the apology, Vader says that after he finishes choking Needa. I've always seen that line as primarily sarcasm. Why would Vader accept an apology from a subordinate who failed?
    – Bob
    Dec 14, 2016 at 17:07
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    @Bob I always saw it simply as the film showing that Vader had no mercy. With the two of them attempting opposite approaches at coping with their failures, and Vader killing them both, it didn't matter what they did, simply the fact that they failed was enough to receive a death sentence. As for the accepting the apology after killing him, perhaps Vader respected Needa more by being up front with admitting it, so whilst his death was the punishment for his failure, Vader decides to forgive him post posthumously, but at that point it doesn't really matter to Needa. Dec 14, 2016 at 17:13
  • 54
    @Bob Ultimately, accpeting an apology means I believe you are sincere in your regrets, not necessarily that you’re also going to forgive whatever was apologized for.
    – KRyan
    Dec 14, 2016 at 17:55
  • 2
    @Bob Right, so how is that "genuinely his fault"? Attack run or not, the sensor techs still should have been doing their jobs and tracking the ship whatever it did. If it HAD been an attack run...well, we know what happens to Star Destroyers that get rammed when they don't have their bridge deflectors up, don't we?
    – Werrf
    Dec 14, 2016 at 21:08

Needa was well aware he was going to his death. You can see that on his face.

He went and accepted responsibility to protect his crew from Vader's reprisals. Ozzel was killed because his personal decisions turned out to be wrong; in the case of the loss of the Falcon, many people could have been considered wholly or partially responsible. Needa himself of course, his XO (who was likely responsible for the training of the techs), the sensor techs, the maintenance crews who repaired the sensors, the crew of the other Star Destroyer visible nearby, etc.

Needa chose to protect all those people by taking it all on himself.

Oh, and as for having "100% coverage of the surface of their own ship", why would they? The idea of an enemy ship getting that close to the surface of a Star Destroyer and not simply attacking the bare hull is just unimaginable. This is another case of "Why did the Death Star have a huge gaping flaw that nobody noticed?". We know, because we have perfect hindsight. The Death Star's exhaust port was not a gaping weakness, and neither was the lack of surface sensors across every inch of a Star Destroyer's massive hull.

  • 1
    Relevant: youtube.com/watch?v=agcRwGDKulw
    – Tim B
    Dec 15, 2016 at 21:32
  • 2
    Yeah, that 100% coverage is a pet peeve of mine. There's probably ten thousand "obvious design problems" in the Star Destroyer design, but they're only really obvious in hindsight, and it's not necessarily good economy to try and fix every single one of them. Perfection is a myth, and absurd ignorance.
    – Luaan
    Dec 16, 2016 at 13:10
  • 1
    Large vessels such as Star Destroyers are intended to cause fear rather than be the ultimate in capital ship technology. While they are devastating weapons, the sight of a Star Destroyer in orbit can do more to achieve the Empire's goals than the firepower. It's very difficult, if not impossible to fully protect a ship that large from much smaller vessels such as the Falcon or fighters. That's why Star Destroyers rely on TIE Fighter screens so heavily.
    – kettch
    Dec 16, 2016 at 17:25

He knew that he'd have to face the music. He hoped for mercy.

Needa had known that death was the likely consequence of his failure to capture the Millennium Falcon. He had known, too, that he had to report the situation to Vader and make his formal apology. But there was no mercy for failure among the Imperial military. And Vader, in disgust, had signaled for the captain’s death

The Empire Strikes Back - Official Novelisation.

He was hopeful that promptly reporting his failure would earn him some brownie-points with Vader (it didn't).

An hour later, brave Captain Needa boards a shuttle that takes him from his Star Destroyer to the flagship of the fleet. As he disembarks, his stomach twists into a knot. He listens to his own footsteps echo along the glossy floors of the Imperial ship. He’s been a good captain, he tells himself. Everything will be fine.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: So You Want to Be a Jedi?

According to the Star Wars Encyclopedia, he was driven by a sense of honour

When Han Solo's ship escaped, Lorth Needa decided it would be most honorable if he apologized personally to Darth Vader. The apology was accepted in a way, as Needa was executed on the spot by Vader's Force choke.

  • 19
    Ooh. "Face the music" gets a lot scarier when it's the Imperial March.
    – Bob
    Dec 14, 2016 at 20:35
  • 1
    You thought to throw yourself on my mercy...unfortunately, I have none!
    – Valorum
    Dec 14, 2016 at 20:41
  • "apology accepted" means "I took note of your apology" in this case. There is an ambiguity here
    – cleaner
    Jan 22, 2018 at 22:16

The crew immediately apprise Captain Needa of the situation and tell him they will continue searching.

Well, the crew tells him that there is no trace and that Vader demands an update on the pursuit.


They can't have disappeared. No ship that small has a cloaking device.


Well, there's no trace of them, sir.


Captain, Lord Vader demands an update on the pursuit.


(drawing a breath) Get a shuttle ready. I shall assume full responsibility for losing them, and apologize to Lord Vader. Meanwhile, continue to scan the area.

So it's Needa himself who instructs the crew to keep searching. He's just been told that there's no trace of them. He could stay there and drag it out, hoping to find the ship. However, Darth Vader has demanded an update. I have a feeling that Lord Vader is not the kind of guy you let wait. When he calls you, you respond instantly. Needa may feel that if he goes like a man and admits his mistake, he might have a chance, but if he makes Vader wait, he's sure to be killed. He may fear that the Falcon is lost, so if he makes Vader wait and then gives the exact same news, it will mean certain death for him. So he might as well go immediately.

  • 6
    Killing your own people whenever things go wrong is foolish. When Lou Gerstner was chairman of IBM there was a manager of a certain project had been reporting problems, and after a few such reports he was summoned to Armonk for "discussions". Upon arrival he was ushered into the meeting where he was asked, "Do you know why you're here today?". "I suppose I'm to be fired", he replied. "Fired?", chuckled Gerstner. "We just spent ten million dollars teaching you your job!". He was then assured of the board's support and sent back to work. And that is what's called "developing subordinates". Dec 16, 2016 at 1:43
  • 2
    @BobJarvis Yeah, it makes me wonder why anyone would want a career working for Lord Vader.
    – Fiksdal
    Dec 16, 2016 at 2:32
  • 5
    Recruiter: "Join The Imperial Legions! See The Galaxy! Rapid Advancement For Qualified Candidates!" Suspicious Recruit: "Why's advancement so quick?" R: "Errr...the galaxy is expanding!" S: "Bullshit". R: "Eh, how about...new construction program..? Great opportunity..?" S: "I don't believe you". R: "Would you believe some jerk in a black outfit with breathing problems keep killing the guys at the top..?!?" S: "Yes, that I would believe...". Dec 16, 2016 at 12:16
  • @BobJarvis LOL. Related.
    – Fiksdal
    Dec 16, 2016 at 12:19

The reason why he went to Vader's ship to take the blame for losing the Falcon was due to writer's fiat. The character did this for no other reason than the writer's of the screenplay wanted him to. When all other organic reasons for an event occurring fail and a choice of action takes place which makes no other reasonable sense, the only logical way to understand the event is to realize that the writer's simply wanted it to happen that way.

The screenwriters on Empire were very talented people. If they had wanted to, they could have written a more satisfyingly organic reason for his actions. Perhaps his duty roster included someone who Needa knew was incompetent, but Needa allowed them to undertake the scan. An answer like that would have been more likely to have occurred (never ascribe to malice what can more easily be blamed on incompetence) and it would have felt more organically honest. However, it would also have taken too much time to lay out as a sequence, time that the producers evidently did not have. So in the end, the reason why Captain Needa did what he did was all because of timing.

  • 3
    This doesn't make sense. Needa knows what the consequences of failure are, so why would he place an incompetent soldier in such an important position? Dec 16, 2016 at 10:56

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