The speeders are back!
42 years after The Empire Strikes Back was released, an iconic Star Wars ship has reappeared in live-action for the first time. This isn’t a starship but an airspeeder, which we tend to call a snowspeeder. Here’s how Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 4 retroactively gives us more information on the most underrated Star Wars vehicle ever. Spoilers ahead.
What is the T-47 in Star Wars canon?
Although nearly every toy and model kit made from 1980 through today calls the T-47 a snowspeeder, the actual dialogue of The Empire Strikes Back says the Rebel Alliance was “having trouble adapting the speeders to the cold.” At the beginning of Empire, Han and Luke are using Tauntauns because they can’t yet fly T-47s in the harsh climate of Hoth. The Rebellion lugged all their T-47s from base to base with them, and they weren’t really designed for the ice planet.
In canon, the T-47 airspeeders were designed and built by Incom, the same corporation that created the X-wing. Before Obi-Wan, the only ones we’ve ever seen weren’t standard T-47s. In Obi-Wan, that’s changed.
Why the Obi-Wan T-47s are different
While Leia, Ben, and Tala are waiting to be rescued in Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 4, the T-47s that swoop in are, in theory, ones we’ve never actually seen. These are unmodified T-47s that presumably lack the harpoons and cables used against the AT-ATs in Empire.
Notably, they seem to have more room for passengers. When the trio is rescued, they all manage to cram into the back of the cockpit. In Empire, it seems clear that only one person can fit in the “gunner” position behind the pilot, but now it seems like there’s a little more room.
Again, existing Star Wars canon makes it clear that the T-47s were transformed by the Rebellion. But even though this wedge-shaped vehicle is iconic, there’s not a lot of canonical background information on it.
In non-canon appearances, like the 1998 N64 game Rogue Squadron, the altitude you could fly a T-47 at was much higher than they reached in Empire. Obi-Wan Kenobi takes this further, as the T-47s we see are so agile they’re almost like X-wings re-imagined as small airplanes.
Either way, now that Obi-Wan and Leia are fully ensconced in this proto-version of the Rebellion, it seems possible these ships could reappear before the series is over. In Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan says “flying is for droids,” but now it seems like relying on ace pilots is all that’s keeping him and Princess Leia alive.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is streaming now on Disney+