In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn is trying to get the parts he needs in order to repair Queen Amidala's ship. But despite the fact that he had plenty of money, it wasn't in a currency that Watto would accept:

Qui-Gon Jinn: I have twenty thousand Republic dataries.

Watto: Republic credits? Republic credits are no good out here.

After watching A New Hope, a similar scene involving credits caught my attention:

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Let's just say we'd like to avoid any Imperial entanglements.

Han Solo: Well, that's the real trick isn't it? And it's gonna cost you something extra. Ten thousand, all in advance.

Luke: Ten thousand?! We could almost buy our own ship for that! […]

Obi-Wan: We can pay you two thousand now, plus fifteen when we reach Alderaan.

Han: Seventeen? Okay, you guys got yourselves a ship.

It seems to me that Qui-Gon could have done a similar thing and just found a pilot that was willing to take them to Coruscant, where Republic credits would most certainly be something they would want. Repairing the ship would of course be better, but at that point there was no obvious way to do so and getting Queen Amidala to Coruscant was still a priority.

If 17,000 credits is a very generous offer for two passengers and two droids to avoid "Imperial entanglements", then it seems to me that 20,000 credits would be more than adequate for a handful of passengers (the "queen", Padmé the handmaiden, the two Jedi, and Captain Panaka, maybe a few more). And what's more, they aren't trying to avoid any "Imperial entanglements" because the planet is not under any sort of blockade, so they won't have to pay "something extra" for dealing with it. And even if that wasn't enough, Qui-Gon could certainly get more money once they reach Coruscant.

So why didn't Qui-Gon just hire a ship to take Queen Amidala from Tatooine to Coruscant?

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    Qui-Gon had 20,000 Republic credits but didn't Obi-Wan have the cash from selling the speeder? I'd assume Luke would be smart enough to get a currency he could actually use. I don't have any sources though – James Khoury Jul 20 '15 at 3:53
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    @JamesKhoury Wookieepedia's article on credits states that that's the currency Han and Obi-Wan are talking about, which makes sense since it's the currency he would be getting when they reach Alderaan. It's not clear whether or not the 2,000 is from Luke's speeder or if Obi-Wan has credits in reserve. – Thunderforge Jul 20 '15 at 3:59
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    @Thunderforge I'd never read that wiki article but it seems amazing to me that after a regime change they are still using the same currency and and also that inflation/deflation wouldn't come into play. I'd suggest there probably isn't an answer and its all hand-wavy. I'm suddenly more curious. – James Khoury Jul 20 '15 at 4:24
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    @JamesKhoury That would be a great additional question for the site. I imagine there might be a definitive answer in Legends continuity, but I don't think there's enough stuff in the new continuity yet to explain it. Personally, I assume that Republic credits were renamed "Imperial credits" after the reorganization as the Empire and were valued the same. – Thunderforge Jul 20 '15 at 4:28
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    The answer is simple, we don't speak of Phantom Menace, it's the Voldemort of Star Wars movies. – Ryguy Jul 20 '15 at 14:52
up vote 20 down vote accepted

Qui-Gon seems to be very concerned about avoiding the spaceports and the dangerous people there. He orders the pilot to land the ship on the outskirts rather than at the spaceport:

Qui-Gon: Land near the outskirts. We don't want to attract any attention.

Later, he specifically says that the people in the Tatooine spaceports are the type of people who do not wish to be found (perhaps because they are wanted by law enforcement), and the script suggests that it's because they are dangerous:

The little GROUP walks down the main street of Mos Espa. They pass dangerous looking citizens of all types. PADME looks around in awe at this exotic environment.

QUI-GON: ...moisture farms for the most part, but also a few indigenous tribes and scavengers. The few spaceports like this one are havens for those who do not wish to be found...

Qui-Gon's statement is an extremely nice version of Obi-Wan's famous quote from Episode IV:

Mos Eisley Spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.

Hiring a pilot would require going to the spaceport with all those dangerous individuals (including possibly the pilot they would hire), so Qui-Gon wishes to avoid that course of action.

Also, Qui-Gon senses something about Anakin in the Force and wishes to explore Anakin's abilities:

Obi-Wan: What if this plan fails, Master? We could be stuck here for a long time.

Qui-Gon (V.O.): A ship without a power supply will not get us anywhere, and there is something about this boy...

The highest-rated answer to a very similar question cites the novelization, and that answer notes that the novelization also states that Qui-Gon chose his course of action due to the Force.

  • So Qui-Gon wanted to avoid spaceports? – James Khoury Jul 20 '15 at 4:44
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    "chose his course of action due to the Force" -- Good grief. Plotting doesn't get any lazier than that. – Royal Canadian Bandit Jul 20 '15 at 8:27
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    @royalcanadianbandit - In fairness to Lucas, it's quite hard, in a fictional universe where the Force exists, to not have the characters use it continuously. – Valorum Jul 20 '15 at 10:51
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    @Richard: Meh. Jedi precognition is pretty vague and unreliable, except when Lucas wishes otherwise. Nobody forced Lucas to give Qui-Gon a hunch that his ridiculous plan was The Right Thing To Do, instead he could have gone to the effort of constructing a plot that actually made sense. Then again, Lucas is a multi-billionaire so I suppose his regrets are few. ;-) – Royal Canadian Bandit Jul 20 '15 at 11:07
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    @RoyalCanadianBandit Well, duh. The Force is what actually governs every single event that happens in the universe. The Emperor was trying to save the universe from the pervasive influence, through his exceptional ability at resisting and hiding from the Force! Stop Force Slavery! Hail Emperor Palpatine! – Luaan Jul 20 '15 at 11:47

The implication of the scene with Watto is that Republic credits were basically a fiat currency, i.e., with no inherent value except where Republic law holds sway. Basically, they're worthless to anyone on the Outer Rim - not even worth what it would cost to travel somewhere they could be exchanged for trade goods.

Their presumed replacement, Imperial credits, might still be a fiat currency in Luke's day ... but Tatooine is now part of the empire, or at best a satellite nation. It seems reasonable to suppose that Imperial currency, if not exactly welcomed, would at least be accepted.

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    I think you're misunderstanding the nature of currency. US law doesn't "hold sway" in a lot of places where people are quite happy to accept US dollars. The crucial thing is whether the recipient of currency believes other people will accept it, so that he can exchange his US dollars or Republic credits for goods and services. – Royal Canadian Bandit Jul 20 '15 at 11:18
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    @RoyalCanadianBandit But in a lot of countries merchants are forced by law to accept the national currency, so the result is the same. The Republic may have let systems choose to keep financial autonomy, with independent currencies, while the Empire would likely force all planets to use the imperial currency. And even if republican credits were also legally valuable on Tatooine, the lack of law-enforcement still allows alikes of Watto to do whatever they want, especially for clients who wish to keep a low profile. In the imperial Tatooine, law is enforced. – T. Verron Jul 20 '15 at 11:41
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    The author of this answer implies an elegant and likely solution: In the time Qui-Gon Jinn's visit Republic credits held nearly no value compared to ~40-50 years later when the Republic has expanded tremendously and eliminated all credible threats to its reign. Similarly, Solo was not native to Tatooine and may have simply come from a place where Republic credits held value. – Captain P Jul 20 '15 at 12:01
  • Kind of dumb for Qui-Gon to be carrying money that will not be accepted in the region he was travelling to. It is also pretty unlikely that he would have that at all, since he was out having a tea party when his ship and all his stuff was blown up by the bad guys. Should have carried American Express Traveller's Checks. – Oldcat Jul 20 '15 at 19:37
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    @Oldcat: it would have been accepted on Naboo, and by the Trade Federation. Tatooine wasn't actually in his travel plans, remember. :-) – Harry Johnston Jul 20 '15 at 20:50

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