Flippin', Switchin', and Pressin' the Millenium Falcon's Buttons

First off, yes, it’s actually spelled “Millenium” (don’t you even THINK about auto-correcting, MacPro).

Second, yes, there are a ton of buttons, dials, switches, and doo-dads (and yes, that’s an actual engineering term LOOK IT UP). Not all of them were used across the arc of Star Wars movies, but many were.

How many? Well, you can check out the video below, but you’re going to want to stay for the end because…I don’t want to spoil it if you haven’t figured it out. It’s worth it.

Still with me? Cool. Here’s why I mentioned this.

My love of Star Wars goes back to 1977 and has survived the prequels and even Solo (while not as awful as the prequels, it definitely threw Lucasfilm/Disney a wake-up call in terms of how much blue milk we’d like in a SW diet).

At the center of it all wasn’t Luke, Jedi Knights, lightsabers, or a plucky rebellion taking down an evil empire (well, maybe more like “we’ll be a massive speed bump on their way to galaxy-wide domination,” because in just a few short years, the empire resurfaced as the First Order and upped the ante from a moon-sized station to an ENTIRE PLANET THAT COULD PEW PEW LASERS ACROSS SOLAR SYSTEMS…).

No, my fascination was and still is the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, the Millenium Falcon.

The video above shows how much fun actors can have on sets. They’re flipping, pressing, and switching stuff all over the cockpit, and while none of really adds up (how, exactly, is the pitch and yaw of the Falcon controlled?), it doesn’t matter. It just works, like a lot of our favorite things in Star Wars.

It also looks great. It looks like a lot of fun and is very different from the controls we see in the X-Wing and TIE Fighter cockpits, which are piloted with traditional yokes/sticks. The logic-defying dashboard of the Falcon adds to its mystery, allure, and, yeah, its distinctive coolness.

I will go to my grave believing the Falcon is, hands-down, without question or reservation, the coolest looking spaceship ever designed.

<squints eyes, stares hard, dares you to disagree>

Right. Now that we’ve settled that, here’s my question: does anyone really know what each little knob, switch, and button does in the Falcon’s cockpit?

I don’t. I have the Owner’s Manual. Heck, I have two, and I still don’t know.


But I kind of want to. When I was a kid, I bought a book about the Space Shuttle, and my favorite picture was the cockpit and accompanying notes about what each item on the massive control panel did (air speed indicator, temperature readings, comms, etc.).

I may be stretching the definition of the phrase “world building,” but wouldn’t the complete and thoughtful documentation of how all the controls work and what they did be an exercise in world building? I’d argue yes.

What does this switch connect to? What effect does it have on the ship? It is critical or a nice-to-have? What happens if the switch is NOT used?

You need to understand the larger world around that switch in order to define its purpose. You have to connect that switch to the world it inhabits.

I wrote a few hundred words on how this is like the exercise writers go through with characters, vehicles, locations, etc. when they’re crafting narratives. The author is trying to figure out how they all fit together and how they relate to their shared world.

But I scraped it. Maybe for another day. Today, I simply propose the following: flipping switches in a make-believe spaceship cockpit isn’t that far from world building.

SIDE NOTE: A friend of mine recently experienced the new Falcon ride at Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge. Said friend declared it a mixed bag. He loved getting inside the ship and sitting at the cockpit, but the mechanics of having all six riders working the controls during the ride (say, to steer the ship or “fix” some damage sustained from an blaster) took his eyes off the cockpit windows, which is where all the action is happening. He kept feeling like he was missing out on something whenever he had to turn his attention to the dashboard.

It was interactive, to be sure, but it wasn’t necessarily an additive experience. It counter-intuitively pulled him out of the ride rather than immersing him deeper into it.

So, yeah, sometimes you just want to sit back and enjoy the ride. And that’s okay, too.