The Mystery of the Yellow "V's"

luke

Image Used Courtesy of Lucasfilm, Ltd.

On October 15th, 2016, Entertainment Weekly published an article titled “New ‘Rogue One’ Images Revealed By Topps’ ‘Star Wars: Card Trader’” that featured new pictures of many smaller characters from Rogue One. One particular picture of a female X-Wing pilot caught many fan’s eyes. In unison, the internet seemed to ask, “Is that Evaan Verlaine, hot-shot Alderaanian pilot from the Princess Leia comic mini-series?” While the image popped that query into my head as well, the caption beneath it preoccupied my mind. You see, the text read, “The ‘V’ symbols inside the array of yellow dots on her helmet stand for kill counts, each one tallying 20 enemy fighters. Whoever she is, she’s flown around the block a few times.” As a lover of Star Wars pilots, especially those who fly X-Wings, I’d always wondered what those little "V’s" meant, and with this statement, it seemed I had an answer.

As is often the case with Star Wars, the answer only brought more questions. My first question will not be surprising to those who know me well: “How many kills does my Legends man-crush, Wedge Antilles, have on his helmet?” The answer is six on each side, which implies that Wedge had between 120 to 240 kills depending on whether each “V” is a set since the yellow "V’s" are mirrored on all the pilots helmets I checked. A quick comparison showed that this was drastically more than other fan-favorite pilots Biggs Darklighter and Jek Porkins who had four marks and two marks respectively. Wedge is the boogie man TIE fighter pilots warn each other about by the time of the Battle of Yavin. With that confirmed, I turned to my second question. At the Battle of Yavin, Luke Skywalker is wearing a helmet that has two yellow "V's" on each side and three red "V’s" on each side. While we don’t know what the red "V’s" mean, we can assume it is also related to a kill count. Either way, the yellow "V’s" on Luke’s helmet signify that he has at least forty combat kills when clearly there was no time for him to get them. This naturally lead me to the question “Where did Luke’s helmet come from?”

As the Death Star approached, the Rebels found themselves short on time and resources. They needed as many pilots as they could get their hands on, and Luke had both Princess Leia and Biggs Darklighter vouching for him, but they still needed to outfit him. With death in the form of an immense Imperial battle station approaching, the Rebels would not have the time or resources to mold a brand new helmet for this surprising new recruit from Tatooine. They would need to repurpose one. Whose was it originally though? In my mind, it seemed that there are two options: the helmet must have originally belonged to a Rebel who had been injured and wouldn’t be able to fly, or it belonged to one who died but whose body the Rebels were able to recover.

“Where did Luke Skywalker get his helmet?” This question had suddenly turned Rogue One into the most macabre game of Star Wars “Where’s Waldo?” as I searched all the released photos of pilots in the film to see if any of them had helmets similar to Luke’s. Now, I invite all of you to play along.

general-merrick

Image Used Courtesy of Lucasfilm, Ltd. and Topps

Here’s General Merrick or as he used to be known based on the behind-the-scenes sizzle reel, “Laughing X-Wing Pilot.” His helmet has a many similarities to Luke’s. Much of its design is the same: Rebel Starbirds on either side of the center, a stripe of paint going down the center, and a row of diagonal lines as the helmet meets the visor. Could Merrick be the winner of the dead pilot lottery? Not really. Besides the superficial differences in color, the sides of Luke’s helmet bulge out to form a ridge before receding while Merrick’s helmet lacks the side ridge and just slopes in. The structure of the helmet itself is different. While Merrick may not be safe, Luke’s not sporting his helmet.

not-evaan

Image Used Courtesy of Lucasfilm, Ltd. and Topps

The infamous Zal Dinnes (who broke many hearts when she was confirmed to not be Evaan Verlaine) has a helmet similar in shape to Luke’s, but it’s paint scheme is once again different. It’s predominantly red and features Starbirds on the side rather than on the front. Personally, I hope she’s not the helmet contributor because there are too few female pilots on screen as it is. Let’s keep the ones we have.

running-rebels

Image Used Courtesy of Lucasfilm, Ltd. and Topps

One of these unlucky few could unknowingly be running to their deaths and the helmet donation pile. In fact, the pilot second in from the right is wearing a helmet pretty similar to Luke’s, but the glare makes it too hard to tell.

fabio-pilot-and-friends

Image Used Courtesy of Lucasfilm, Ltd. and Topps

That leaves us with these three: the trio I like to call Mufasa, the Dread Pilot Roberts, and Piloting Mr. Banks. Mufasa’s helmet has more in common with Biggs’ helmet than Luke’s. Mr. Banks’ helmet is too hidden in the shadows to discern much. It’s only the Dread Pilot Roberts' helmet which is similar to Luke’s. It has the Starbirds on the front, and a close look even shows a yellow “V” poking out from the side. Could he be the one who posthumously gifts his helmet to Luke?  

We may never receive an answer to the question, “Whose helmet is Luke wearing?” It may be just one more unsolved mystery that the saga creates. That’s okay. It’s a small diversion, something that catches our curiosity and niggles at our brain, but it’s not essential knowledge. It’s not something anyone will spend too long thinking about during his or her initial viewing of Rogue One. We won’t dismiss Jyn, Cassian, and their friends’ plight as they run up the beaches of Scarif in favor of playing Pilot Bingo, but on successive viewings when the film becomes more familiar, we may find ourselves looking for one more excuse to watch this new cinematic addition to the saga we all love. It’s then that we can sit down with our popcorn and stills of Luke and begin our search.

Have you found Luke’s Rogue One helmet donor? Any thoughts on this topic? If so, please share with me on Twitter at @mapplebee7567.