Most superheroes may owe their origins to individual writers, ancient mythology, or even universal truths about the human experience. But when you step into the realm of science fiction, time travel, and otherworldly space adventurers, modern creators have George Lucas to thank. Or, in the case of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, you have George Lucas to protect. That’s right, the latest dose of timestream meddling led to some serious mishaps surrounding the mind behind Star Wars and Indiana Jones – and the team suffered as a result.
The showrunners made it clear not long after word of a young George Lucas plotline broke that they were diving in head first, filling the episode “Raiders of the Lost Art” with nods to Lucas’s career, his imagination, and essentially crediting the writer and director with two of the team’s heroic careers. The finished episode didn’t disappoint, either. We’re breaking down each and every easter egg, reference, and dose of fan service to guarantee no fans misses a single one.
“Angels and Ministers of Grace…”
With a mission to rescue George Lucas and make sure he lives to create the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, you would expect the cosmic references to stick to his own films, not the ideological competition. Strangely enough, the first easter egg of the show isn’t just a nod to the Star Trek universe, but delivered in the form of Shakespeare. As Rip sets his plan into motion, he retrieves a then-unknown item from beneath the floor of his ship, speaks the phrase “shogun ballistic” to trigger Gideon’s shutdown, and heads to the heart of the ship’s time travel technology. As he prepares to outstretch his hand, he pauses, and utters a phrase of affirmation: “Angels and ministers of grace, defend us.”
It may sound like a prayer, but it’s pulled right out of Hamlet, Act I Scene IV. The title hero exclaims the line as he’s confronted with a ghost, but the real reference is almost certainly to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – the famed entry in the film series that subjected the crew of the Enterprise to time travel, all the way back to 1986. When Spock promised to set the crew right since he had programmed time travel equations from memory, McCoy was less than confident, uttering the same line.
The Legion of Doom
When Ray and Amaya are woken by Nate’s loud choice of music – “Ante Up” by M.O.P. – he explains that he’s burning the midnight oil in order to put together the plan concocted by the ‘Legion of Doom.’ It’s not the kind of name you drop in polite conversation, so the two are obviously stunned. Nate responds quickly, clarifying that the title is one he’s given them himself, naming them after characters from “a Hanna-Barbera cartoon I liked when I was a kid.” The reference may fly by younger fans, but older viewers will be sure to catch Legends‘ most meta moment to date.
The cartoon in question is The Challenge of the SuperFriends, an animated spinoff of the original SuperFriends TV show adapting the heroes of the DC Comics universe to television. The show aired in 1978, focusing on the titular Legion of Doom, comprised of the best known villains of the Justice League, including Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, Lex Luthor, and others. It’s widely considered the best version of the SuperFriends property, which means Nate has as impeccable taste in cartoons as he does hip hop.
Is it too soon to start making jokes about the terrible critical fate of Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Apparently not for the crew of Legends of Tomorrow, since eagle-eyed fans can spot one of the massive alien gems sitting on Nate’s desk while he’s explaining his research and findings to Ray and Amaya. You get a look from the front when the trio return later in the episode, but the shape and complexion – not to mention the fact that the episode is calling heavily on George Lucas’ filmography – make it impossible to miss.
Unfortunately for the larger fiction, nearly every such crystal skull on record has been proven to be a hoax by scientific experts, which isn’t likely to make sci-fi/fantasy fans feel any better or worse about the fourth Indiana Jones film. But hey, look on the bright side: Rip Hunter didn’t survive a nuclear explosion hiding inside a refrigerator, right?
This one is almost too easy. When you’re dealing with a George Lucas origin story, and easter eggs are on the line, it’s guaranteed that at some point, the letters ‘THX’ will find themselves next to the numbers ‘1138’ – the famous combination used as the title of Lucas’ student film project. The sequence made their way into the Star Wars series numerous times. Chewbacca was a prisoner transferred from “cell block 1138,” a general sends probe droids “10 and 11 to station 3-8,” and in Return of the Jedi, Leia has the number stenciled onto the side of her helmet when infiltrating Jabba’s Palace in disguise. Not to mention him using the code for his own audio company, THX.
In this episode of Legends, the sequence can be seen on George’s license plate shortly after deciding to quit film school and pursuer a career in insurance. The number used for a license plate makes particular sense, since that exact reference was once used in voiceover for Disney’s “Star Tours” experience, warning the owner of the vehicle with the same plates to move it or lose it. At least now we have one answer as to how the numbers and letters wormed their way into Lucas’s head.
It’s a Small Galaxy
While Ray and Nate base their persuasive arguments on emotion, reducing themselves to (harmless) threats and intimidation to urge George Lucas to stay with film, it falls to Amaya to actually convince him. She does it by appealing to the dreams his projects will some day make true… a unique thought, coming from an actress who actually got the chance to live the dream of so many Star Wars fans by appearing in The Force Awakens. Unfortunately, audiences will only have gotten a tiny glimpse of Maisie Richardson-Sellers’s role before she, and the planets around her, were completely destroyed.
The scene in question involves Starkiller Base unleashing its attack upon the new Galactic Senate, including Sellers’s ‘Korr Sella.’ A deleted scene and some production materials explained the significance of her role, as the young envoy who speaks on behalf of Leia in hopes of launching an offensives against the First Order before they can do the same. Her warning, however, is not heeded. Still, a chance for Korr to meet her maker – in any way, no matter how strange – is a treat for fans.
You’re Our Only Hope
Amaya gives an empassioned speech, but knows that sticking the landing is everything. By appealing to George’s imagination, and how he might inspire the imagination of entire generations to come, he finally returns – thanks to her big finish. Well, it’s actually a subtle finish, simply stating the facts: he is “their only hope.” Amaya hasn’t had the opportunity to even see the first Star Wars film, so it’s not an attempt at buttering up the artist by using his own words against him.
No, Amaya just knows how powerful and important a phrase like that can be, as did Princess Leia so many years ago. Amaya may deliver it matter-of-factly, oblivious to the larger movie context, but it’s not lost on Lucas. He reacts as if he’s just heard the most profound combination of words in the history of the English language. No complaints here, though – it convinced him to get back behind the camera. And for that, we all owe the easter egg a debt of gratitude.
The Trash Compactor
It’s likely the most obvious homage to the work of George Lucas, since few will be able to miss the obvious parallels between this episode and the original Star Wars when our heroes are trapped inside a trash compactor – and it begins to squeeze. Obviously determined to show their affection in the most overt ways, there is even a line of dialogue inserted with Amaya instructing the men to not “just stand there, try and brace it with something” – the exact line spoken by Princess Leia to Han and Luke when their own compactor began to crush.
At least now we know where Lucas got the idea for the scene, making Amaya the unknowing inspiration for everyone’s favorite space princess. He added in the disgusting water and the tentacle out to kill them, but his imagination is what they’re looking to protect. So we’ll let him have his indulgences, and not hold the departure from reality against him.
Before George Lucas became the household name he is today, the major studios had little faith in such a young, independent director – especially when his biggest story idea involved laser swords and space battles with telekinetic wizards. To prove he could bring a film in on time, on budget, and that audiences would respond to, Lucas spearheaded American Graffiti, a film highlighting the teenage nights spent driving in cars, street racing, and hopelessly pursuing love that he, himself enjoyed.
Mixing his passion with car culture and his knack for storytelling, American Graffiti went on to become one of the biggest hits of the year, and launching Lucas to the next phase of his filmmaking career. While a car torn right out of Graffiti and sporting some rust might blend into any garbage dump, the fact the crew took the time to insert the one seen above shows they have affection for every stage of the director’s journey from indie to blockbuster.
Legends of Tomorrow continues Tuesday, January 31 with ‘The Legion of Doom’ at 9pm on The CW.