A Fan’s Guide to Picking Favorites: Episode 56, The Force Awakens


By Shannon Fox, @shannonfox


You can find this week’s episode on iTunes and Soundcloud.


So… here’s the deal, guys.


There was no real way to recap this episode.  I mean, not only was there no guest, but no real set topics, and the sheer lack of The Force Awakens clips on YouTube (with the exception of the trailers, of course) doesn’t help either.


So I decided to change things up a bit this week.  Instead of a recap, I’ve decided that this will be a response.  Because as much as I love and respect our dear Kentucky (although, I may need to refer to him as Kentucko Ren from now on), I had to defend The Force Awakens, because I loved that movie.  Not liked, LOVED.  While I agree that audience standards have slightly declined (I’ll use Jurassic World as an example there- like, let’s all just admit that we were all just there for dinosaurs and Chris Pratt), I don’t think that it applies to The Force Awakens.  I do also agree with Razzle’s point that expecting an Oscar-worthy film from the Star Wars franchise is not really realistic.  Could it happen? Sure! But it’s sort of like expecting an Oscar-worthy Marvel film, you know?


So, FIRST… I will agree with Kentucky that The Force Awakens DOES mirror A New Hope quite a bit.  I didn’t find this a problem, personally- I considered it more of an homage or call back to the original films AND sort of giving us what the prequels should’ve been (at least in Kylo Ren, who is a better Anakin Skywalker than the ACTUAL Anakin Skywalker in the prequels, in my opinion).  But I’ll also point everyone to this EXCEEDINGLY interesting website, that talks about the repeated themes and plot points in the Star Wars films.


Second, from what I took from the episode, it seems like Kentucky’s MAIN issue with the movie is that it’s not a standalone film, which is true: many, MANY things are not explained or discussed because it’s public knowledge, both by the audience and the filmmakers, that there are multiple films yet to come.  If nobody knew that there were sequels in the making, then yes, all of these unanswered questions would be frustrating.  But that’s not the case- for a lot of stuff, specifically in Rey’s case, the answers are going to come in later films.


Apart from that, I figured I’d go through Kentucky’s list of issues with the movie and I’ll do two things: 1) give an example where there was a similar circumstance in the original films, and 2) give an example of where a similar circumstance happened in either real life or other fictional works that have not been seen as problematic.  Now, keep in mind that I’ve both gotten Kentucky’s permission to do this AND I want to point out that though I disagree with him, I still think he’s awesome.  And, y’know, NOT a Nazi.




Issue #1:

The First Order is a large and powerful force, able to build a weapon far larger than the Deathstar, only thirty years after the Rebels crushed the Empire in Return of the Jedi.


Original Trilogy Similarity:  I’ll agree with Razzle here- it is shown multiple times in the Star Wars films that there are pockets of Empire soldiers/leaders scattered throughout the galaxy.  It’s totally not beyond the realm of possibility that, while maybe not the Emperor and Darth Vader, other leaders were not at the site of the battle in Return of the Jedi and those were the ones who continued on.  True, they might’ve lost their Sith lords, but the existence of Snoke makes me think that maybe they had some underlings in training at the same time.  But that leads me to another point: I think we’re going to get a better explanation about this in later films.


Why It Actually Makes Sense:  A perfect example is the Death Eaters in the the Harry Potter universe.  When Voldemort was defeated the first time, the Death Eaters didn’t cease to exist.  They mainly went into hiding and continued on in secret, but here’s the more important part: a LOT of the followers of Voldemort held positions of high power and respect, and had money.  That’s pretty much all you need to to recreate a defeated power, and there’s enough real-life examples of that to back me up.  I mean, you can literally look at the Taliban as the Empire (with Osama bin Laden as the Emperor) and then make ISIS the First Order, and ISIS gained power in FAR less than thirty years.  If they’ve got money and power, that’s all they need to survive.  The Ministry of Magic was STILL fighting and seeking out Death Eaters long after Voldemort’s demise, just like there’s still the KKK after the Civil Rights moments and there’s still Nazis/neo-Nazis after Hitler died in WWII.  So yeah, maybe there were a few years where the Empire/First Order seemed down and out, but most likely they were rebuilding in secret.  I can go further about this, but let’s go on to the next issue.


Issue #2:

Star Killer Base doesn’t hold up, scientifically.


Original Trilogy Similarities: Lightsabers, lasers in space, TIE fighters, the fact that a parsec is a unit of distance and not time, the size of the original Death Star and its ability to destroy Alderaan (which is my favorite, because there is no possible way that the original Death Star would’ve been able to generate enough energy and/or matter to destroy Alderaan), etc. etc.


Why It Actually Makes Sense: Because you CANNOT pick and choose which scientific improbability in the Star Wars universe you have a problem with.  Sorry, you can’t.  If you have an issue with the science behind the Star Killer Base, you have a problem with the fact that TIE fighters make the same sound (or sound at ALL) in space as they do in atmosphere, or the fact that you can see laser shots in the space battles, or Han’s claims about the Millennium Falcon, or that lightsabers cast shadows only SOMETIMES, or the fact that the original Death Star was able to destroy a planet at all.  This is science fiction, you HAVE to overlook a lot of the science.  Same goes for technology, since Kentucky also had an issue with the tech of Star Killer Base.


Issue #3:

Too many coincidences: Rey being outside the window on Star Killer Base, etc.


Original Trilogy Similarities:  R2D2 being bought by Luke Skywalker who then happens to know where Obi Wan Kenobi is.  In The Empire Strikes Back, the Empire launches probes to find Luke/the Rebels and one just HAPPENS to land on Hoth just a few feet from Luke.  The list could go on.


Why It Actually Makes Sense:  Movies are BUILT on coincidences.  I’m tempted to go into a conversation about The Force and how it mirrors some of our actual religions here in the real world (i.e. coincidences are NOT coincidences but acts of god/predetermined), but I’ll leave that alone for now.  But this is another thing where I’m like, you can’t pick and choose which coincidence is okay and which isn’t.  Also, we’re essentially slapped in the face the entire movie that Rey is special, which means that her actions may be heavily guided by the Force, as Razzle said.


Issue #4:

No doors on hangar bays.


Original Trilogy Similarities:  Literally, look at pretty much EVERY OTHER ONE in the films.  They didn’t close the doors when Darth Vader and Obi Wan were fighting (and there were KNOWN rebels onboard, for awhile), and the Millennium Falcon escaped.


Why It Actually Makes Sense:  It might not even be that it didn’t have doors, but even in real life, military hangars, the doors are open and/or they usually close too slowly to be able to stop rogue vessels from escaping. There’s also the fact that they weren’t exactly expecting a rogue TIE fighter- they’re not even sure what’s going on when Poe and Finn first try to escape.  Again, it’s another plot device that’s happened in multiple movies- the daring escape, you know?


Issue #5:

Not seeing Captain Phasma’s face.


Original Trilogy Similarities:  Boba Fett.


Why It Actually Makes Sense:  Yeah, she’s a total callback to Boba Fett, I don’t even have to give other examples here.  AND we may see her face in future films, who knows?


Issue #6:

Poe was useless.


Original Trilogy Similarities: If Poe was useless, then Han Solo was useless in A New Hope (which I definitely don’t agree with, but I think my point is valid).


Why It Actually Makes Sense:  This is another case of “we’re going to learn more in future movies”.  I’ll fully admit that Poe’s luck seems EXTRAORDINARY in The Force Awakens, but it just makes me more interested in him.  Like, what’s his deal?  I want to know.  Also, I honestly don’t understand Kentucky calling him “useless”- he moved the story along quite a bit, I think.  Was he the main character? No, but he assisted the heroes of the film AND helped destroy the Star Killer Base at the end (similar to Han in A New Hope).  


Issue #7:

Finn’s character isn’t plausible.


Original Trilogy Similarities:  Lando.  Darth Vader’s turnaround at the end of Return of the Jedi.


Why It Actually Makes Sense:  I think what’s important to remember is that Finn’s FIRST “battle” was at the beginning of The Force Awakens.  That’s the first time that he’s ever been in the field and seen what the First Order was capable of.  So his reaction makes sense in that respect.  Also, bad guys have been switching sides FOREVER: Snape and Narcissa Malfoy in Harry Potter, Phoebus in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Nux from Mad Max: Fury Road is another good example, and maybe the most similar to Finn’s situation.


Issue #8:

Rey being able to fly anything, even though she grew up on a desert.


Original Trilogy Similarities:  Luke Skywalker.  An Ewok learning a speeder bike in Return of the Jedi.


Why It Actually Makes Sense:  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Rey is special.  We don’t know ANYTHING about her past, really, at this point.  She’s already proved that she has a ridiculously impressive hold on the Force, possibly even more so than Luke himself.  There’s also the fact that yes, while she grew up in the desert, she’s also been scavenging through multiple vessels and learning their insides and what mechanical parts get her food to get by her whole life, so it DOES make sense that she knows more than the average desert-dweller.  So yet again, I think this will be explained further in later movies, but I also think that this is another trope that’s used fairly often: Harry Potter mastered abilities faster than normal, ANYONE who seems to get into one of Tony Stark’s suits in the Iron Man movies, James Bond, Spider-Man.


Issue #9:

Maz having Anakin’s/Luke’s lightsaber.


Original Trilogy Similarities:  All right, well, I’ll admit that I can’t think of any for this one.  But it doesn’t matter, because…


Why It Actually Makes Sense:  … this is TOTALLY going to be explained later.  But this is a fairly common story device, like the One Ring, in Lord of the Rings.  Harry Potter ending up with the Elder Wand AND being the true “owner” of it during his last battle with Voldemort (or quite a few of the Horcruxes, for that matter) is another example.  Hang in there, if this bothers you- we’ll find out how she got it eventually!


So what do you think, Picking Favorites fans?  Do you agree with Kentucky?  Do you agree with Razzle and me?  Do you have separate opinions that you’d like to POLITELY AND RESPECTFULLY discuss below? Well then, go for it! And let the debate continue!


(And I mean, here’s hoping that eventually we DO get a “Favorites” part of The Force Awakens discussion, because Kentucky definitely covered the “Least Favorites” portion in this episode, know what I mean?)


For more The Force Awakens debate, I highly suggest reading the following posts:

  • Against The Force Awakens (or, at least arguing that there are many, many plot holes)
  • Pro The Force Awakens (be forewarned, this guy tears the previous article APART. It’s pretty awesome.  And it’s how I found that “ring theory” website, so kudos to this guy.)


That’s it for this week’s not-really-recap! Remember to subscribe to and rate the podcast on iTunes, and send YOUR favorites to @thenerdmachine on Twitter with the hashtag “#PickingFavorites”!

You can find our hosts all over social media:

Kentucky/Dave: Twitter

Razzle: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

Zac: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

Tyler: Twitter, Facebook

Thanks for reading! See you next week!


  1. DeeZeeJanuary 13th, 2016 at 11:18 am

    Thanks for putting up a spirited defense of the movie. Great job.

    I have to say I don’t intend to listen to this episode of Picking Favorites. It doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy.

  2. C-DiddyJanuary 15th, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Thank you for pointing out the scientific issues – I agree you have to give some poetic license but when the science is so glaringly bad it’s hard to ignore. I thought the “drain the star energy to destroy the planet” idea makes no sense. If the star is in the same system as the planet you’re destroying, you don’t need to shoot the laser once the star is gone, the planet will be done. if the star is in a different system, then the time it would take for the laser to reach the star wouldn’t fit within the movie timeline unless the laser was many times faster than speed of light, however they depicted the movement of the laser in real time (and they made no attempt to establish that the planets may have been in different system. Plus the idea has basically already been down twice in new hope and return of the jedi makes it doubly unoriginal.

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