Penkava: May the Death Star be with you

I remember well the year 1977. Back then, gasoline was 65 cents a gallon, and the first Apple computers went on sale. Jimmy Carter was elected president, and Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown. ABBA was singing about a Dancing Queen and the whole country spent Thursday evenings with a family named the Waltons. Goodnight, Elizabeth … Goodnight, John-Boy … Goodnight, Jim-Bob.

But there was something even more special about 1977 than low gas prices and snappy tunes. I’m talking about the release of the first “Star Wars” movie in May of that year.

Beginning with the opening crawl that explained the back story of the film, audiences sat mesmerized by a realm filled with droids and tractor beams and ionization blasters. Suddenly we began our anecdotes with, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” and sent our farewells to friends with the encouragement, “May the Force be with you.”

Back in that year, we entered the fantasy world of Rebel Alliances and Galactic Empires. We wielded light-sabers and fought Stormtroopers. We fell for a princess named Leia and piloted a spaceship named the Millennium Falcon.

But perhaps the most chilling scene of that movie was when the heroes first caught sight of the huge, moonlike Death Star. As Obi-Wan Kenobi observed, “That’s no moon … it’s a space station.” Luke’s reaction summed up what all of us were thinking: “I have a very bad feeling about this.”

Yep, we all had a bad feeling until Luke flew his T-65 X-wing Starfighter to the Death Star and fired his proton torpedoes into an exhaust vent to destroy the Empire’s DS-1 Orbital Battle Station. As Han Solo remarked, “Great shot kid, that was one in a million.” Sorry for the disturbance in the Force, Darth.

But that was back in 1977. Fast-forward to 2013. Sure, there have been more “Star Wars” episodes. But recently the Death Star has again raised its ugly head.

No, it’s not back on the silver screen. But apparently it has been found in a petition signed by 34,000 humanoids demanding that the government immediately construct its own fully operational Death Star. The White House denied the request, citing among reasons, the extreme cost ($850 quadrillion), as well as its obvious vulnerability to a rogue flying apprentice Jedi Knight.

Be that as it may, the idea of implementing movie technology into real life offers some very interesting possibilities. Take, for example, the DeLorean DMC-12 time machine car from the “Back to the Future” movies. Imagine the possibilities of experiencing history firsthand and gaining futuristic knowledge by means of this vehicle.

Envision traveling centuries into the future to watch the Cubs finally play in a World Series! Or how about the possibility of going into the past to the time when there used to be snacks called “Twinkies”? We could even put to rest the ridiculous claim that Elvis is dead and finally prove that he is alive and well in Canton, Ohio.

Sure, we’d have to develop a Flux Capacitor that could generate 1.21 gigawatts of electricity to access the Space-Time Continuum. Plus, without a “Mr. Fusion” energy reactor, we’re kinda stuck back in the present. But, hey, I would rather invest in time travel and a near-Elvis experience than take a chance on total planetary annihilation by the Death Star.

I suppose there are other cinema technology petition possibilities out there, too. Who of us wouldn’t love to be beamed around like in “Star Trek”? And give me a Tricorder health scan rather than a colonoscopy any day.

So keep on coming up with those petitions, folks. It’s nix on the Death Star plans, but bringing back that 65 cents a gallon gasoline doesn’t sound like a bad idea. May the Force be with that petition.

• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. He thinks Princess Leia makes Kim Kardashian look like a Wookiee. He can be reached at

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