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At the end of Rogue One, the Rebel flagship is disabled. From an exterior shot, we can see that it is heavily damaged in several locations. Vader then decides to board the ship.

Why didn't he order his Star Destroyer (or the nearby Death Star) to blow it up? Knowing that the plans were beamed aboard the ship, wouldn't it have been more prudent to just destroy it?

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    Ask risk the plans ending up in the debris field? I think not! – Valorum Aug 14 '17 at 7:21
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    Seems like a pretty big chance to take... – Valorum Aug 14 '17 at 9:30
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    Maybe, they want the plans too? Tarkin did blow up the base. If they had no backup elsewhere, then the only plans left are the ones the Rebels stole. – zack_falcon Aug 14 '17 at 10:04
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    This line of thinking breaks verisimilitude for me. I can buy giant planet killing lasers, but there is no way there's only one copy of plans for a project to create a space station the size of a small moon. – Paul Aug 14 '17 at 10:47
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    @vikingsteve we have external hard drives that are military rated to survive high impact and high temperatures... You can even drop them while writing and not lose data - the GFFA probably has similar tech – HorusKol Aug 14 '17 at 11:07
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According to the film's official novelisation, some murmur in the Force warned Vader not to simply order its destruction. The implication is that he unconsciously shied away from murdering his daughter.

Vader stared at the burning ship. There was death at play, suffering and fear, yes—and something entirely different. Something that repelled his withered, agonized flesh.

“Prepare a boarding party,” he said.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Official Novelisation


I would assume that from a purely logistical point of view, Vader also wanted to double-check that additional copies hadn't been made or transmitted. This is the same reason that he boards Leia's ship at the start of New Hope.

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    Just laughing at, "the same reason." – BlackThorn Aug 14 '17 at 15:15
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    I really need to read some of these novelisations. Seems like they clear up a lot of stuff. – Devsman Aug 14 '17 at 15:23
  • @Devsman - They're a good read and well-recommended. – Valorum Aug 14 '17 at 15:35
  • Uhm did he already know that they had something aboard that ship at that time? (I mean he just arrived to a general alert that an attack was underway) – Thomas Aug 14 '17 at 17:05
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    @Thomas - "The rebel flagship is disabled, my lord,” the Devastator’s captain reported crisply at Vader’s side. Darth Vader did not turn to him as he spoke. “But it has received transmissions from the surface.”" - It doesn't take a genius to work out what the rebels stole – Valorum Aug 14 '17 at 17:32
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Why rely on deductions and assumptions when there's hard evidence to be gained, and an imbalance of power that minimizes risk?

Taking the ship and its occupants mostly intact preserves multiple avenues for gleaning hard evidence:

  • Interrogating personnel
  • Analyzing ships logs/system auditing trails, notably any transmissions
  • Recovering and cataloging the actual data acquired (potentially a subset of the data transmitted even if that information is already known)

Exercising these options can more clearly establish the scope of the leak and thus narrow focus of any hardening/counterintelligence operations required to identify and secure any vulnerabilities that were exposed, as well as assess Rebel awareness and capacity to capitalize on those vulnerabilities.

There's also potential to gather additional, unrelated inteligence in the process such as: fleet movement, base locations, security codes, operational procedures, and overall enemy strength.

  • Yes, this -- taking rebel prisoners, torturing and interrogating rebels and gaining and understanding of the structure of the rebellion, who's involved, what systems have allied with the rebellion, etc. etc. A treasure trove of intelligence on the rebellion. Why just blow it up? – user151841 Aug 15 '17 at 14:57
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    There's even an argument to be made that the rebel ship should have initiated a self-destruct to protect any secrets it might reveal. I believe that angle has come up at least once in the Star Trek universe, though specific examples elude my recall. – HonoredMule Aug 15 '17 at 18:01
  • In addition, I'm guessing that Vader wasn't too happy about being bested by a handful of Rebels who were able to pass the plans through the crack in the doorway even as he slaughtered their shipmates. I imagine he wanted to inflict some pain on those aboard. And he DID choke that guy to death once aboard (as opposed to taking him prisoner). – Jack Aug 16 '17 at 6:53
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Short answer: Chopping up Rebels with your lightsaber is more fun than watching their ship be destroyed by turbolasers.

Long answer: Vader is consistently shown to react emotionally and place a high priority on his own agenda. He often does what he wants to do, rather than always doing what is most strategically sensible. For one thing, he's the second highest ranking person in the largest military in the galaxy and yet chooses to fly a starfighter in the Battle of Yavin. Can you imagine the Vice President of the U.S. flying a fighter plane into battle during his term in office? Perhaps he's the best pilot on the Death Star, but that implies that he pilots regularly, which isn't something you'd expect from such a high-ranking figure.

Likewise, Vader participates directly in the ground invasion of Hoth. I don't think he's on the front lines, but he is among the troopers that storm the rebel base. He also boards the Tantive IV at the beginning of ANH. He personally confronts Han and Leia at Cloud City, giving Han an opportunity to take a shot at him. Vader isn't just a commander, he's a fighter. He clearly enjoys combat and personally takes part in every operation we see under his command. He is not the type to sit back and watch the gunners cut apart the enemy ship.

You could also ask why he boards Leia's disabled ship at the beginning of A New Hope. The answer is the same.

  • @Möoz Seriously? Q: Why did Vader board the disabled Rebel flagship at the end of Rogue One? A: Chopping up rebels with your lightsaber is fun. – user45623 Aug 30 '17 at 5:44
  • You could have at least mentioned the cinematic angle and the chance to have a dark moment right at the end of the movie... – vikingsteve Aug 30 '17 at 5:48
  • @Möoz Just because my answer is humorous doesn't mean it is invalid. In fact, I think my answer is more realistic than answers based on military strategy. Vader is consistently shown to react emotionally and place a high priority on his own agenda. For one thing, he's the second highest ranking person in the largest military in the galaxy and yet chooses to fly a starfighter in the Battle of Yavin. Can you imagine the Vice President of the U.S. flying a fighter plan into battle during his term in office? – user45623 Aug 30 '17 at 5:51
  • @vikingsteve I was going for short and sweet since this question already has an accepted answer – user45623 Aug 30 '17 at 5:53
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    We love jokes on Stack Exchange! :) However, they're better as comments, they're not accepted as answers. – Bellatrix Aug 30 '17 at 6:02
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Vader is a professional. He doesn't leave things to chance, he sees things to the end, himself. When he becomes involved, it will he his hand force-choking the information out of the captured enemies. He doesn't delegate, he doesn't trust blasters, or cannons. He's learned through experience the likelihood of a small thing escaping huge destruction.

C'mon, how many near death experiences had Anakin had as a jedi? How many exploding capital ships should have been the end of all things for him? He probably felt someone with the power of the force somewhere on board. Why else was he on his way to the Tantive IV? There wasn't even proof the plans were on there. But he felt something. And by this point, Vader trusts his feelings for these things, aged Sith he be.

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