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Did Darth Vader actually kill or just stun Captain Lorth Needa?

My question comes from when I read could I fake death to stop being Force-choked? or more specifically this comment by onewho which in turn leads to this video:

The highest voted comment there says:

Just a side note, Admiral [sic] Needa gets force choked by Darth Vader, but as you see the two officers hauling him off in the movie, he moves his legs to make it easier for the officers to pick him up while Vader's back is turned.

This is actually cannon [sic].

What does this mean, "this is actually canon"? According to Wookieepedia:

Needa decided to travel to the Super Star Destroyer Executor to personally apologize to the Sith Lord for losing track of his quarry. Needa did just that, whereupon the Sith Lord telekinetically strangled the captain to death as penalty for his failure. Vader mockingly accepted Needa's apology before a pair of Imperial Navy Troopers dragged his lifeless body away.

So that implies it (Needa surviving) is not canon. However, that YouTube comment is correct that Needa's legs do move:

I'm guessing this was (out-of-universe) a mistake that was not edited out. But in-universe (eg in the Star Wars Expanded Universe canon), is there any reference to Needa surviving?

  • 4
    My God, HE SUCCEEDED! – Petersaber Feb 5 '17 at 17:30
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    Sorry: that information is on a Needa know basis 🏀 [swish] – Paul D. Waite Feb 5 '17 at 17:50
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    🏀 <deep robotic voice> Admiral Piett, your captain is not Needa anymore... (possible deleted in-character scene) – xDaizu Feb 6 '17 at 16:58
  • 2
    Are we certain Captain Needa didn't pretend to die dramatically so Vader would release the force choke prematurely? Oldest trick in the book. :) – RobertF Feb 6 '17 at 18:48
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    Did he Needa die, or was that unnecessary? – Petersaber Feb 6 '17 at 20:06
53

He's dead, Jim.

The script confirms his death.

Clutching desperately at his throat, Captain Needa slumps down, then falls over on his back, at the feet of Darth Vader. Two stormtroopers pick up the lifeless body and carry it quickly away as Admiral Piett and two of his captains hurry up to the Dark Lord.

Additionally, the 25th anniversary novelization confirms it.

A pair of white-armored stormtroopers lifted Captain Needa’s lifeless form from the floor of Darth Vader’s Imperial Star Destroyer. 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.

Lucas, George; Kahn, James (2011-06-28). Star Wars: Trilogy (25th Anniversary Collector's Edition) (p. 402). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

As an explanation of his legs moving after death, the real explanation is that the actor probably just wasn't very good at playing dead. In-universe, his body may have just been spasming a bit.

Unlike some of the other characters who were killed during the OT, but who actually survived in the EU (looking at you, Boba Fett), the EU never referred to Needa having actually survived, or being somehow revived after his death in Empire.

  • 15
    The sources lie! He isn't carried out by two stormtroopers! If they got that wrong, maybe he lives! It's one big conspiracy. – Petersaber Feb 5 '17 at 18:24
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    @Petersaber - Well, these are Legends sources. – Adamant Feb 5 '17 at 18:32
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    "lifeless" is defined as "dead or apparently dead." He could have been faking his death or merely unconscious. – CaM Feb 6 '17 at 19:52
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    Signaled for his death? Really? – Wildcard Feb 7 '17 at 9:04
26

He ded

The (Disney Canon) factbook Ultimate Star Wars confirms his demise.

Lorth Needa is a ruthless officer who serves the Republic in the Clone Wars when Chancellor Palpatine is kidnapped by General Grievous during tne Battle of Coruscant. As commanding officer of the Imperial Star Destroyer Avenger, he takes part in the search for the rebels' secret base. After losing the Millennium Falcon while pursuing it through an asteroid field, Darth Vader Force-chokes him to death.

As does the new (again, Disney Canon) junior novelisation

The grip on his throat is no less painful for being invisible. The air stops flowing to his lungs. Blood ceases circulating in his brain. His eyesight fades to white….

"Apology accepted,” Vader murmurs, and turns back to the bounty hunters. Stormtroopers swoop in to dispose of Captain Needa’s body.

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

And the original junior novelisation

As Vader choked him from afar, he clutched desperately at his throat. But it was no use. He dropped to his knees, lifted his head, and tried to rise, then collapsed at the feet of Darth Vader.

Vader said, “Apology accepted, Captain Needa.”

As two black-uniformed Imperial soldiers lifted Needa’s lifeless body and carried it from the bridge, the Sith Lord walked to the nearby command console, where Admiral Piett and his aides were examining data. Seeing Vader approach, Piett stepped away from his console and stood at attention.

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (junior novelization)

12

He died

To the best of my knowledge, there are no further appearances by Captain Needa in the EU (now Legends) postdating his apparent death. The Wookieepedia article on Needa, generally a fairly comprehensive reference for a character’s appearances, seem to concur, insofar as it does not mention anything (Canon or Legends) that would suggest that Needa survives. He does, however, have a cousin, who appears in works set after his death.

It’s probably worth noting that the canon position seems to be that Needa is very much dead:

The grip on his throat is no less painful for being invisible. The air stops flowing to his lungs. Blood ceases circulating in his brain. His eyesight fades to white….

“Apology accepted,” Vader murmurs, and turns back to the bounty hunters. Stormtroopers swoop in to dispose of Captain Needa’s body.

So You Want to Be a Jedi?

3

You're getting a lot of answers that blatantly contradict the canon.

Two stormtroopers pick up the lifeless body

and

A pair of white-armored stormtroopers lifted Captain Needa’s lifeless form

and

Stormtroopers swoop in to dispose of Captain Needa’s body.

and

The air stops flowing to his lungs. Blood ceases circulating in his brain. His eyesight fades to white

But let's consider the canon. The canon is what was fixed forever in celluloid in 1980. And that canon tells a different story.

Firstly, Needa doesn't suffocate to death. Suffocating takes four or five minutes of oxygen deprivation and that deprivation must continue after the point of unconsciousness for a considerable time. Even blocked circulation to the head won't kill a person in just seconds. A crushed windpipe would leave a man struggling on the floor for minutes as the life drained out of him while his lungs struggled to draw enough oxygen.

If Vader killed him with force choking, it would have to have been by breaking open his carotid arteries or rather implausibly by snapping his spinal column. No evidence of massive internal bleeding is obvious on screen as major artery breech would quickly reveal, but we can't rule it out completely.

So all the sources that emphasize difficult breathing, fading to white, and wheezing to death are not to be taken seriously. They contradict what we saw on screen. They directly rewrite the clear and definitive canon of Empire.

Let's also consider the idea that stormtroopers dragged Needa away. White armored stormtroopers is certainly a memorable image that might be conjured up by someone familiar with the Empire but totally ignorant of Needa and Vader's interaction. In fact, it was black-clad Imperial Marines that picked Needa up.

That should tell you all you need to know about the credibility of those non-canon sources.

In canon, we simply don't know if Vader killed Needa. It's likely that Vader and Needa themselves didn't know until a thorough examination of Needa's neck injuries by the Imperial Navy Medical Corps could be completed.

So let's remember that a lot of people, some of them writing for Disney and Lucasfilm, write a lot of things. None of them are Star Wars canon unless they're fixed in celluloid. Novelizations and preliminary script leaks are the galaxy's fake news. Don't be taken in.

  • 5
    While there's a certain simplistic elegance to saying "what happened in the theatrical release is the only thing that matters", it ignores decades of discussion and thinking over what constitutes canon within the Star Wars universe, not least the fact that those films have been re-released with changes from the same guy who made them in the first place. – Valorum Feb 6 '17 at 20:05
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    Do you perhaps think that the script that was written before 1980 might be a good source? ;) – Adamant Feb 6 '17 at 20:08
  • The Force Choke could well have continued after Needa fell unconscious, as we see happen several times in other sources. – Adamant Feb 6 '17 at 20:12
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    I’m also not entirely sure why “fixed in celluloid” should matter more than “fixed in paper” or “fixed on audiotape.” – Adamant Feb 6 '17 at 20:18
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    There's two typos: "oxygen deprivation", as in absence and removal of oxygen, and not "oxigen depravation", as in moral perversion of the oxygen. – ANeves Feb 6 '17 at 21:01

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