We all know that the Galactic Empire has perpetrated some of the galaxy’s most heinous atrocities. The annihilation of Alderaan. The genocide on Geonosis. The abolition of OSHA.
Oh, that last one doesn’t seem as bad? Have you ever considered how many deaths and injuries could have been prevented by the simple addition of handrails? The poor stormtroopers fighting Luke and Leia in the Death Star shaft. Darth Maul and his better half fading away in The Phantom Menace. Han Solo plummeting after reuniting with his son Ben. Sure, extenuating circumstances played into these events, but the lack of guardrails surely made things worse.
Like the lightsaber itself, handrails are elegant tools for a more civilized age, but they are largely missing from the Star Wars universe. Fans have long speculated on reasons for the design choice, but few ever expected a proper explanation for the missing handrails. Some reader might recall production designer Doug Chiang’s revelation that George Lucas intentionally designed the Star Wars universe without handrails because he “wanted to establish in the Star Wars vocabulary: There’s no health and safety.” However, we might finally get a full in-canon reason soon, too.
In an interview with Romper, The Book of Boba Fett and The Mandalorian director Bryce Dallas Howard is asked why there are no handrails in Star Wars. Rather than brush off the question or even give a joke answer, Howard responds with excitement:
“Oh my gosh I’m so glad you asked me that,” she cheers, before dropping a real bombshell. “I can’t tell you anything specific but all I can say is keep watching.”
Does that mean we’ll see the New Republic taking worker safety seriously in one of the post-Return of the Jedi shows? Sadly, the rest of the interview doesn’t feature any further revelations, outside of a nugget about the upcoming Ahsoka series (“…what I can say is that you being a fan of The Clone Wars will be greatly rewarded”). However, Howard does discuss her connection to Star Wars, which came not initially from the movies, but from her family’s friendship with George Lucas and the franchise’s famous toy line. “Before I was even old enough to know who the characters were and what the stories were, I was getting these little figurines, and I was very curious about it, and I was really into it,” Howard explained.
Howard’s experience of making her own stories about the Star Wars characters before watching the movies may account for her interest in revealing details that others would ignore. One of the most interesting examples occurs during the Boba Fett episode Howard directed. The Mandalorian guest stars in the episode but is wounded by an attack from the Dark Saber. More than a plot point, Howard focused on the attack to show an often-unseen side of the Star Wars universe. “I was super excited to have that because I wanted to show he gets hurt and then heals from bacta spray,” Howard says.
As this quote demonstrates, Howard not only has a special ability to reveal the hidden parts of the galaxy far, far away, but she also takes a keen interest in health and safety. If anyone can uncover the phantom guardrail menace, it’s her.