As we celebrate Father’s Day and take time to remember our fathers it’s easy to start thinking about the fathers seen in the two great sci-fi live-action franchises: Star Wars and Star Trek.
In pop culture Star Wars is more readily connected with fatherhood issues because of Darth Vader and his twin children Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa. Right now, Vader’s fatherhood is commemorated with cute merchandising that is everywhere, but seriously, Vader is a terrible father figure. Not too surprising since he is the galaxy’s most infamous villain who terrorized the Star Wars universe as Emperor Palpatine’s right hand man.
But his dastardly nature was cemented with the way he treated his children. In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope he tortured his daughter for information, though he may not have known Leia was his daughter. On the other hand, this implies that his command of the Force was not as great as he thought or that Leia’s connection to the Force was strong enough to shield her identity from him.
Now with Luke, Vader showed that for most of the Star Wars films, he was a terrible father. He knew who Luke was yet he was obsessed with trying to seduce his son to the dark side of the Force, going so far as to chop off Luke’s hand during their epic lightsaber duel in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Yet, Luke still wanted to save his father. In Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Luke felt a glimmer of goodness within Vader and he believed he could help redeem Vader. This was why he was hesitant to confront Vader, which he had to do in order to become a Jedi. By the film’s end, Vader’s resolve weakened and his burgeoning love for son was enough to turn him away from the dark side. Darth Vader found some redemption when he killed the Emperor to save Luke’s life even though it ultimately cost him his own life. Whether or not this final act absolved him of his past crimes is open to debate, but clearly, his love for his son drove him to defeat the Emperor.
Father and son relationships didn’t end with the sixth Star Wars film. In Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, we learn that Han Solo’s son, Ben, was actually Kylo Ren, a new follower of the dark side. In this situation, the father is much more sympathetic and our scorn is directed at the son. But we have to wonder what kind of father Han was to Ben. It couldn’t have been a great relationship; he implied during conversation that Ben had too much of Vader in him. But Han hoped he could save his son’s soul when the two finally reunited. Sadly, Ren’s actions at that point set him down a darker path.