Darth Vader tested carbonite-freezing technology on Han Solo because he didn't want to kill Luke who was precious to the emperor. But, why was it necessary? Wasn't it already a tested and proven technology? Even Darth Vader (when he was Anakin) himself used it along with others decades ago (Star Wars: The Clone Wars S03E18).

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    How else was Lucas going to get Leia to admit that she loved Han? And how else could he let her know that he knew?
    – Chad
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 22:26

6 Answers 6


In the scene referred to in the question, the commander, Obi-Wan and Anakin himself all talk about this idea as though it is unproven and being completely improvised.

Anakin (and the Ugnaught operators) and the Krath were the only ones to have been known to use carbon freezing chambers to freeze living beings.

So while Vader knew it could be done, the chamber device and chamber probably still had to be calibrated and adjusted to the correct settings so that it would be done correctly.

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    Also, Vader probably wanted to play with the carbon freezing chamber.
    – phantom42
    Commented May 20, 2013 at 11:09
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    @SachinShekhar IIRC the SW canon policy is that the films over-ride everything else, so if that episode of The Clone Wars contradict the film in some way, then the episode was wrong.
    – evilsoup
    Commented May 20, 2013 at 12:23
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    @SachinShekhar - generally it takes more than 1 experiment to greenlight a dangerous human-use technology :) Commented May 22, 2013 at 15:08
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    Even if the process and technique had been proven, this equipment hadn't been proven. It's the difference between knowing that Crysis 3 will run on a computer, versus knowing that it will run on this computer.
    – Matt
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 22:26
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    They seem to be treating it like drinking from an industrial water hose--it's not that the idea of humans drinking water is untested or inherently unsafe, it's that equipment used for manufacturing/processing may be bad for humans to use (trace chemicals, harsh pressures/temperatures, etc.)
    – Milo P
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 22:08

No one says that it hasn't been done before. Vader's only uncertainty is in how powerful the freezing unit is.

Lando cautiously asserts,

"We only use this facility for carbon freezing. If you put him [Luke] in there, it might kill him."

Vader responds with,

"I don't wish for the Emperor's prize to be damaged. We'll test it first."

I am using the dialogue as it appears in the official Empire Strikes Back novelization.

The novelization gives an insight into Vader's thinking:

He knew a way to find out just how powerful this freezing unit was.

This test, of course, involves Han:

"Bring in Captain Solo."

The fact that Vader wants this done (freezing Luke in carbon as a means of transportation) could be inspired by his experiences in the Clone Wars. The novelization suggests that, as far as Vader is concerned, the only uncertainty is in how powerful the unit is, which is why Han is subjected to the procedure.

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    Oh, so the answer is not "because The Clone Wars hadn't been written yet"? Neat.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 10:06

During the actual scene where Vader talks about freezing Luke, Lando expresses concern:

Lando: Lord Vader, we only use this facility for carbon freezing. If you put him in there it might kill him.

Darth Vader: I do not want the Emperor's prize damaged. We will test it on Captain Solo.

This leads one to believe that this is still a fairly experimental technology when it comes to freezing humanoids. But, in answer to your question, the reason for testing it on Han was to make sure he lived. In theory, if he lived, so would Luke.

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    I think this quote doesn't necessarily imply that the technology is experimental. Perhaps Cloud City, as a mining outpost, regularly carbon-froze inanimate objects. Lando's concern could be that his facility is industrial rather than medical grade.
    – Simon
    Commented May 20, 2013 at 14:57
  • @Simon: I put that line in there, because when we first saw it, my friends and I all thought that meant it was experimental and unproven.
    – PiousVenom
    Commented May 20, 2013 at 15:00
  • @Simon If answerer has rejected your suggestion, add your answer with the movie quote. You've got point.
    – user931
    Commented May 21, 2013 at 0:49
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    Lando's quote is pretty imprecise. Technically what Vader is asking is carbon freezing. But inference is that Vader's request is not what they typically use it for and so the outcome is uncertain. IE, they don't use this on organics. And why would they? They aren't slavers.
    – joshbirk
    Commented Feb 18, 2014 at 19:52

There are many ways of storing and transporting cargo that are not necessarily suited for living beings. Would you like to be stuck in an airplane's baggage hold instead of its cabin?

The freezing process was most likely NEVER used for living beings, even though technically it was possible. It was only used for preserving perishable items for shipping. Naturally, using it on living beings would cause some trepidation.

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    Why is everyone ignoring last sentence of my question?
    – user931
    Commented May 21, 2013 at 22:55
  • Was it a different model? That might explain it, as I haven't watched the Clone War episode you're referring to, Sachin. Perhaps it was the type, the process, or even the ingredient that was unproven, not the concept.
    – Jersey
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 14:44
  • @SachinShekhar because you seem to think that just because he did it ONE time, 20 years ago, he knows the exact right settings and calibrations on another device to make sure this goes off without a hitch. He may also just want to prove to Fett that the concept works.
    – phantom42
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 15:37

I also felt there was some conflict between the tension in episode V (about whether or not Solo would survive the freezing process) and the generous use of carbon freezing in some of the newer productions.

But this isn't an outright contradiction if you look closely at this conversation between Darth Vader and Lando:

Vader: "This FACILITY IS CRUDE but it should be enough to freeze Skywalker." Lando: "We only use this for carbon freezing. You put him in there it could kill him!" Vader: "I do not want the Emperor's prize damaged. We will test it on Captain Solo."

So Vader's concern is the "crudeness" of the facility. But one could argue that the ease of carbon freezing in other productions undermines the suspense of episode V. We are supposed to be worried that Han Solo might die, right? In a universe where people are being frozen all the time, we are not so worried about Han (but that's just my opinion).

*Alternate/ additional interpretation: Lando is trying to thwart Vader's efforts by coming up with excuses, but he knows the freezing will probably work... and Vader also knows the freezing will probably work but he is being overprotective toward his son, because subconsciously he cares about him.

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    You posted this as an answer, but it doesn't seem to address the actual question: "What was the point of testing carbonite-freezing technology on Han Solo?" I believe you were instead responding to another user's comment, regarding a possible contradiction between The Empire Strikes Back and The Clone Wars series, but the answer box is meant for posting answers to the question, not responding to comments. Commented Apr 17, 2021 at 6:17
  • @LogicDictates - Yes it does! I said, "Vader's concern is the crudeness of the facility". I even put it in all caps! There is arguably a contradiction in star wars which is the basis for the users question. You have to read beyond my first paragraph which is simply an acknowledgement of the validity of the question. My alternate answer in the final paragraph also addresses the question. Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 15:14

The real answer is the movie came out 30 years before the cartoon. The people writing the cartoon didn't remember/care why Solo was frozen.

Many times when you have several writers working on a work of fiction there are inconsistencies.

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    Actually They wanted to use the chamber because it was such a powerful scene in ESB. They were borrowing off of that for the cartoon.
    – Chad
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 22:28
  • I think you need to back up that statement. How do you know that they didn't care?
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 23:07

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