From TVTropes "The Force Is Strong With This One": (usual TVTropes link alert)

Star Wars. Vader names the trope when he's chasing Luke down the Death Star's trench, and finding himself unable to get a solid lock.

The way this is phrased sounds like the writer thinks that Luke's Force strength was causing Vader's target lock acquisition problems - presumably, unconsciously (as opposed to Vader's detection of Luke's sensitivity simply happening at the same time, independently of not being able to shoot straight).

Personally, the whole "super duper star pilot Lord of the bloody Sith Vader unable to shoot a straight flying X Wing in the back" always bothered me, so this sounds like a plausible theory to consider.

Is there canon (G to C) information to confirm or reject this causation theory?


4 Answers 4


Force sensitivity brings a certain level of precognition. You see this represented many, MANY times throughout the universe. In that trench, you have two vastly powerful forces going against each other. Vader/Anakin, most powerful force user in a long, long time is using the force to help him lock on to Luke. Luke, more powerful than his father, if less refined in his abilities and not yet experienced enough to actively project.

However, Luke's latent, passive precognition is still more than enough to influence his actions. Swerve to the left, not duck down, roll right and back left, etc etc. Luke most likely doesn't know why he's flying this pattern, or even that someone is behind him. He is exclusively focused on the task at hand. Vader, likewise, is focused on shooting Luke down, and likewise can't predict Han coming in out of nowhere (one could argue that Han returning was so completely out of character that even force-augmented precog couldn't have predicted it).

tl;dr, yes Luke's force ability was causing the difficulty, BUT not actively. It was influencing his subconcious to maneuver the x-wing in a pattern that Vader had trouble locking onto.

  • Luke is not more powerful than his father. They had the same midi-chlorian count, and at the time, he had basically no training. Other than that, good answer
    – The Fallen
    Commented Jul 26, 2013 at 14:15
  • 2
    I like the idea, but would love some canon level confirmation before I can upvote/accept. Commented Jul 26, 2013 at 16:18
  • All 4 RPG's can support this answer with their mechanics (WEG d6, WotC d20, WotC Saga, and FFG Edge of the Empire).
    – aramis
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 19:54
  • 2
    It's implied that Vader did make a target lock though. Just before the Millennium Falcon swoops in to help save the day we hear Vader state "I have you now!" Which means that he was able to lock onto Luke's ship, even if it wasn't until that point, he was able to make a target lock. Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 15:25

Yes and no.

The film's novelisation doesn't give any indication that Luke's Force powers were directly interfering with Vader's ability to get a lock, however, the fact that Luke had such strong force powers enabled him to evade the lock by allowing him to perform "crazy" maneuvers:

The three ships dropped toward the station, then abruptly raced off in three different directions. All three TIE fighters turned and followed Luke. Vader fired on the crazily dodging ship, missed, and frowned to himself. “The force is strong with this one. Strange. I’ll take him myself.” - SW: A New Hope - Novelisation


Suddenly, time seemed to slow down. Luke felt not as if he were racing through the Death Star’s trench at full throttle, but rather that the trench was flowing past and around him. He was aware of the pursuing TIE fighters and the weapon-laden trench walls, but he no longer felt threatened by them. He was in control, and he was not afraid.

Darth Vader sensed the change that swept over the pilot in the remaining X-wing. As Vader tried to lock onto the Rebel starfighter with his targeting computer, he said, “The Force is strong in this one!” - SW: A New Hope - Junior Novelisation


It doesn't prevent lock - Vader gets lock on Luke twice, though it takes longer to get lock, and he takes a LOT of time before he can even start to attempt lock each time. Even with lock, he fails to hit anything but R2D2. It's clearly implied that this is caused by the Force, and I know of no alternative theory.

The time data clearly shows that there is a vast difference in attempting to shoot down Luke, compared to the other Rebel pilots in the same situation. I timed the engagement times of all of the attacks by Vader and his wingmen on fighters in the trench. They don't always depict the use of a targeting computer, but we do always hear the firing times and see the results, which indicate that Luke, right after Obi-Wan tells him to use the Force and Vader acknowledges it, is the only one to avoid destruction, and he survives far longer than all of the rest combined. The numbers seem very convincing to me:

(All times approximate but seem accurate within one second.)

Y-Wing 1 - Vader takes 3 seconds to lock, fires for 3 seconds, destroyed.

Y-Wing 2 - Vader fires for 1 second, destroyed.

Gold Leader - breaks away. Vader fires for 1 second, destroyed.

Red Leader's group:

X-Wing 1 - Vader takes 2 seconds to lock, fires for 2 seconds, destroyed.

X-Wing 2 - Wingman fires for 1 second, destroyed.

Red Leader - outside trench, Vader fires once for vital damage, then finishes him in a second burst. Total time firing 6 seconds. Total attack time outside the trench, about 15 seconds.

Luke's group:

Wedge - Wingman fires for 3 seconds, Wedge is out of action but escapes.

X-Wing - Vader fires for 2 seconds, destroyed.

Luke - Vader spends a total of about 10 seconds locking on and fires for about 5 seconds total, hitting only R2D2. Vader takes a total of 60 seconds from when he's on Luke's tail and says "The Force is strong with this one!" till his final shot, including a 23-second delay between when he hits R2, and when he's able to start locking in the second time (which takes about 7 seconds, more than twice as long as any other lock-on attempt). Vader also wastes a second after getting the second lock to say, "I've got you now!" before he fires, and then fires for about two seconds but all his shots miss, and then Han hits one of his wingmen and he stops firing. (So maybe that last remark prevented him killing Luke, but as we see in later films, the Force seems to have a perfect sense of timing, allowing parrying and intentionally aimed deflection of blaster bolts, so I'd say this timing is not coincidence, whether we attribute it to the Force or to Lucas.)

So, Luke required at least between 10 to 60 times as much time for Vader to take out, compared to everyone else in the same situation, and we don't even know Vader would've hit even then - he fired maybe 7 blasts on the last 2-second attack before there was anything to interrupt him, and missed. Luke and Wedge were the only ones to survive being shot at in the trench, and Luke only got hit in the droid.

The sequence of events clearly implied to me even when I saw this the first time when I was a kid, that this was all about using the Force:

11:54   "Use the Force, Luke"
12:04   "The Force is strong with this one!"
12:26   Vader aims
12:29   Vader fires
12:31   R2 hit: Vader stops firing
12:54   Vader starts locking in
13:01   Vader gets lock
13:02   "I have you now!"
13:03   Vader fires
13:04   Han hits wingman: Vader stops firing
13:05   Vader says "What?"
13:07   Han says "Ya-hoo!"
13:09   wingman says "Look out"
13:10   collision
13:20   Luke fires

Yes, it did.

Vader was using a specific dark side technique to confuse the pilots. That is why, if you watch the pilots during the Star Wars trench run scene, many, for almost no reason, seem to be looking around and confused. That is Vader using the force to confuse them so he can more easily destroy them.

When Vader had Wedge in his sights, it didn't work 100% because, even though Wedge didn't have enough force potential to be a Jedi, he did have the force with him enough to give him some protection from Vaders powers.

Luke of course, being Vaders son and naturally having the same force potential as Vader and because of Obi-wans basic force training on the Millennium Falcon, was basically immune to Vaders techniques. That is why Vader said "The Force is strong with this one".. because he was trying to mess up his mind, but it didn't work.

As Obi-wan also told luke "The force has a strong influence on the weak minded". which Luke surely was not weak minded by any stretch.

Luke also used this technique during the book "Heir to the Empire".. if memory serves. When he tried it, he instantly felt stranger and realized that this was simply a dark side technique and one that he should no longer try to use. I believe that he mentioned something about Vader also using this technique on him during the trench run of the first Death Star. That is when it made sense as to why Vader said that the force was strong with him and why the other pilots all seemed to get so confused for no apparent reason. It was really not obvious at all from the movies that this is what Vader was doing, until it was mentioned in this later book that is.

  • 3
    Do you have quotes to support the last paragraph? Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 13:22
  • Yes, but I will have to look them up from the books. I'l get back on it as soon as I can. Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 8:57
  • 1
    It's been 9 years, have you had a chance yet?
    – FreeMan
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 17:56
  • Lol.. Actually no since I was unable to find my Heir to the Empire book and then got distracted and haven't been on this site much since then.. Sorry. But I do know that it was in the Heir to the Empire book where Luke tried to use the same dark side technique that Vader tried to use on him in the trench run Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 16:49

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