The frequent use of bacta tanks is becoming a joke among long-time Star Wars viewers. But the problems with the technology run deeper than that.
Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Obi-Wan Kenobi
After playing a prominent role in both The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars‘ multifaceted bacta tank is becoming something of a punch line. The device, which ostensibly aids healing from even the most serious of injuries, has featured extensively across the Star Wars franchise, including the original trilogy. Yet recent Disney series’ over-reliance on the device is transforming it from a useful narrative device to a meaningless joke.
In Star Wars canon, bacta tanks have been used as far back as the Clone Wars, in which they were used to treat injured soldiers. Over the course of the series, they have appeared everywhere from The Empire Strikes Back (when Luke is recovering from his ordeal on the Hoth ice fields) to The Book of Boba Fett, where both Fett himself and Cobb Vance used the technology to recover from injuries. However, it is since the tanks have cropped up twice in Obi-Wan Kenobi that some viewers have started to take umbrage with their ubiquity.
Not only does the Disney+ series reveal Darth Vader lounging in his own personal bacta tank, outside of his life-supporting armor suit, but it also shows Obi-Wan himself using a different tank to heal from his Vader-inflicted injuries. As a utilitarian MacGuffin, the frequency with which bacta tanks are appearing across almost all Star Wars media is almost becoming a distraction. In fact, it’s reached the point where any character injury that isn’t followed by a cursory bacta healing shot is actively surprising. By making bacta tanks so central to the aftermath of almost every Star Wars conflict, the franchise is inadvertently making them an object of ridicule, rather than another ingenious aspect of Star Wars‘ world-building.
Beyond undermining what was once perceived as an incredibly cool piece of healing kit, however, there are practical reasons why bacta tanks’ omnipresence is such a bad thing. Perhaps the most important negative development is in their lack of realism. In Obi-Wan Kenobi, for instance, the Jedi Master’s supposedly serious injuries are completely healed after just minutes in the bacta fluid. Compared to the length of immersion needed for other characters, like Fett and Vader, Obi-Wan’s speedy recovery can be viewed as an unnecessary and distracting plot hole. Should bacta tanks continue to play a prominent role, it’s perhaps inevitable that there will be more inconsistencies in their application, further riling up audiences.
In the grand scheme of Star Wars problems, the new bacta tank obsession may not rank as highly as recurring fan service or unnecessary origin stories. Yet the disregard for what was once a beloved – if admittedly understated – aspect of Star Wars lore is indicative of many of the issues in the new Disney era. Star Wars fans are notorious for their attention to detail, and discrepancies with bacta tanks are no exception. The casual way in which the gadget is used in Obi-Wan Kenobi may not be the be-all and end-all, but it could be a contributing factor in the series’ increasingly mixed reception among viewers.
More: Obi-Wan’s Anakin Hallucination Makes Vader’s Entrance So Much Scarier
Episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi air Wednesdays on Disney+
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