9

Depending on which source you use, such as this one compiled from the video games and appearing in Behind the Magic: enter image description here (source: theforce.net)

a Corellian Corvette class ship (aka Rebel Blockade Runner class or CR90 corvette), including Princess Leia's Tantive IV, is as fast or faster than an Imperator (or Imperial I) class star destroyer (Vader's ship at the beginning of A New Hope). The Tantive IV should have been able to easily escape by keeping out of range until they were able to jump to hyperspace.

We also see no use of TIE fighters, bombers or interceptors, and that no interdictor ship appears. Given all that, how did Vader's ship get close enough to open fire and disable the princess' ship?

  • We do however see only the final moments of the chase, we therefore do not know how heavily damaged the Tantive IV already was... the flight from Toprawa might have depleted her fuel supply or she overheated her engines or any other technical problem.... – BMWurm Dec 26 '14 at 13:59
  • I could be conflating the flight of the Tantive IV with the capture of the Millennium Falcon, but I think in the radio play there's mention of a tractor beam. – PhilPursglove Dec 26 '14 at 14:15
  • @PhilPursglove - The radio play just says that her ship was "intercepted on her approach and forced to land under escort"; youtu.be/bEPba_tdFbk?t=30m49s – Valorum Dec 26 '14 at 14:56
  • 1
    @bmwurm - That entire storyline is now considered non-canon – Valorum Dec 26 '14 at 15:50
  • In actual fact none of this material is canon any more, so the question doesn't even need asking. – user8719 Dec 26 '14 at 20:48
8

The new Rogue One novelisation indicates that the Tantive IV was in terrible shape even before the Imperials got to it in the Tatooine system. It suffered some sort of explosive impact (presumably a blast from the Executor) before it managed to escape from Scarif.

The Tantive IV wasn’t ready to fly, let alone fight. It had been the subject of frantic repairs during the lightspeed voyage from Yavin to Scarif, secure in the hangar of the Profundity where it had lain, stubbornly malingering, since its last mission. Even after its host vessel had arrived in-system and joined the battle against the Imperial armada, Captain Raymus Antilles and his engineers and droids had worked desperately to make the corvette spaceworthy—to seal the leak in its hyperdrive motivator and clean the buildup in its exhaust ports. Admiral Raddus had made the situation clear: Every ship in the fleet had a part to play.

...

The Tantive IV wasn’t ready to fly, but it flew. It emerged from the burning wreck of the cruiser and sped away from Scarif. For a blessed few seconds it moved swiftly, confidently through space. Then the ship rocked again and echoed with thunder and sparks. From his station on the bridge, Raymus could smell circuits melting.

“Star Destroyer closing!” called the officer at the tactical console. Raymus didn’t recognize the face—one of Raddus’s men.

He erased the fear from his own expression. “Get us into hyperspace,” he said. “Make sure you secure the air lock. And prepare the escape pods.”

The Tantive IV might jump out of the system, but it was hurt and it would be pursued. Best not to take chances.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Official Novelisation


According to the Alan Dean Foster George Lucas novelisation of A New Hope, the ship had its "principal solar sail" destroyed in the first few seconds of tangling with the Executor in Tatooine orbit (which explains why they didn't attempt to land). Artoo tells C-3P0 that shutting down the main reactor and hyperdrive was necessary, presumably to prevent the ship from exploding, which explains why the ship didn't attempt to outrun the Star Destroyer or enter hyperspace.

“Did you hear that?” he [C3P0] inquired rhetorically of his patient companion, referring to the throbbing sound. “They’ve shut down the main reactor and the drive.”

...

Artoo did not comment immediately. Barrel torso tilted backward, powerful legs gripping the deck, the meter-high robot was engrossed in studying the roof overhead. Though he did not have a head to cock in a listening posture like his friend, Artoo still somehow managed to convey that impression. A series of short beeps and chirps issued from his speaker. To even a sensitive human ear they would have been just so much static, but to Threepio they formed words as clear and pure as direct current. “Yes, I suppose they did have to shut the drive down,” Threepio admitted, “but what are we going to do now? We can’t enter atmosphere with our main stabilizer fin destroyed. I can’t believe we’re simply going to surrender.”


As a matter of interest, the (now thoroughly non-canon) Star Wars Radio play mentions that her ship was...

"...intercepted on approach and forced to land under escort".

Which obviously departs from the accepted film canon. The landing was in the original draft script but not in the final screenplay.

0

It was faster but it didn't matter

From the opening shot of Episode IV we can clearly see the Tantive IV outrunning the Star Destroyer before it gets damaged, which probably means that the Star Destroyer popped out of hyperspace close to them and proceeded to shoot.

In fact, in Rogue One:

We see the very same Star Destroyer jump from hyperspace into the final space battle, blocking ships that are attempting to escape, some of which do crash into its shields.

As for why the Tantive IV did not jump into hyperspace immediately, I'd guess that, since their mission was to locate Obi Wan Kenobi on Tatooine, they were either distracted trying to locate him from orbit, or unwilling to run and have the Empire wonder why they were there and summon reinforcements.

Alternatively, they might've known that the Star Destroyer would've tracked them anywhere they jumped to, and it stands to reason that a massive warship such as an SD would have enough fuel stores to outlast the Tantive IV at a game of cat and mouse.

-1

At the time of the attack, neither Princess Leia nor the Tantive IV were wanted by the Empire. Just the opposite, it was the personal ship of an Imperial Senator (the Princess).

"This is a consular ship… we're on a diplomatic mission" -- Captain Antillies

Fleeing an Imperial Star Destroyer would blow their cover. Flying at maximum speed would also blow their cover (I'm assuming doing so puts strain on the engines and is not fuel efficient, so it's not a normal procedure). If the Imperials approached, they would have no choice but to "fly casual" and try to bluff their way through to keep their cover. They certainly wouldn't expect the Imperials to open fire on a Senator's ship. Only as a last resort would they try to flee.

To put an analogy in real life, if you were driving along with contraband in your trunk, you wouldn't speed away if you saw a police car headed your way.

  • They were wanted by the Empire, their cover story (that they were on a peaceful diplomatic mission) was their last throw of the dice to try to convince the Imperial troops not to search the ship. – Valorum Dec 26 '14 at 19:16
  • @Richard Did they know they were wanted? And did they believe the Imperials would fire upon and board a consular ship? – Schwern Dec 26 '14 at 19:44
  • they were certainly hoping they wouldn't. To continue the analogy, if you were carrying the entire Allied war plans in 1944 would you rely on the Nazis respecting your fake Swiss passport? – Valorum Dec 26 '14 at 19:53
  • @Richard It wasn't fake, she was an actual Senator and it was an actual consular ship. Diplomats smuggle all sorts of things in wartime. Wookipedia claims there was an Imperial cover up of the affair implying their attack was not entirely legal. "Afterward, the corvette was destroyed and the entire crew was killed. Imperial propaganda, including a falsified report by the survey vessel Wide-Eyed, would later proclaim that an asteroid storm caused the destruction of the Tantive IV." – Schwern Dec 26 '14 at 23:34
  • This is based on non-canon EU novels. In the film (and novelisation) all we know is that they claim to be a diplomatic mission. In reality, their possession of stolen military secrets probably negates this normal protection. – Valorum Dec 26 '14 at 23:45

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