Conscription or forced service in the Kilrathi War?

Discussion in 'General Wing Commander Chat' started by Anxiety, Mar 2, 2017.

  1. Anxiety

    Anxiety Rear Admiral

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    I've recently gotten back into Wing Commander and thought occurred to me I was hoping someone could clarify for me.

    Do you think that during the 30 (?) years of the Kilrathi War that there was ever a conscription or Israeli-style forced service in Confed?

    It takes a lot to fight a war and this is war lasted decades over several star systems. I know the population was exponentially greater than current Earth, but were volunteers enough? We know in Freedom Flight, I believe, the Confed navy had eight carriers, which would include a crew of several hundred people each. I don't have the books in front of me at the moment, but I believe Bear described the Vukar Tag attack fleet included at least a hundred more capital ships, several thousand more people and I doubt that was the full fleet.

    We know Confed has marines, stationed over several star systems would need several thousand more people, and those would probably just be the ground pounders, not including all the support staff. The navy needs a lot of support staff, too, and then there's the command staff at Sol.

    Then if they had an army and something akin to the National Guard, there's probably an armed forces of several hundred thousand people if not millions.

    If there wasn't forced service or some sort of draft, what do you think kept up the influx of volunteers? Do you think the idea of survival of the species was enough to fuel the war machine? We know from Freedom Flight there were people opposed to the war, who wanted peace with the Kilrathi, and then the Mandarins also took up arms against Confed, there was dissent.

    There were points that would have undoubtedly fueled patriotism and a desire to serve, including the initial attack on McAuliffe at the start of the war, for instance, and false armistice (and the nuclear attacks on Earth) probably helped fill recruitment centers, too.

    But what about outside of all that? There were several points where Confed was not doing too well, the assault on Vukar Tag (from my recollection from rereading it last year) appeared to be an all-or-nothing assault that if failed, would have spelled doom for Confed, though correct me if I am wrong on that. The false armistice also dealt a blow to Confed, destroying several worlds and ships and hurting production facilities on Earth. By Wing Commander III, Tolwyn said they were losing.

    So, if not forced service or conscription, what do you think helped the Confed war machine run?
     
  2. Bandit LOAF

    Bandit LOAF Long Live the Confederation!

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    Yes! We tend to see the war from an unusual vantage point by following a particular type of officer, elite academy graduates entrusted with flying fighters so we do not see so much of it... but it is mentioned occasionally. Fleet Action, specifically, says that "reservists and draftees" were strongly in support of the 2668 armistice.


    The numbers are very interesting. End Run claims that the Confederation has eight remaining "fleet carriers" as of Vukar Tag (down from sixteen the year before)... but it also defines a fleet carrier as being a bit more than we see in any of the games, carrying 500 fighters, 600 pilots and 10,000 crew.

    Destroyers, cruisers, frigates, escort carriers, light carriers and so on seem to count separately, and they number in the hundreds or the thousands. There's no good single picture of what makes up the fleet, but there is a bartender conversation in Prviateer where it's mentioned that the Confederation is losing hundreds of ships a day... and we get some more solid numbers for Kilrathi warships in the Confed Handbook (2,000 Fralthi, "several thousand" Ralari, 51 known Snakeir.)

    Tolwyn's interview in the Confed Handbook says that there are 40 million soldiers, marines and spaceman on the frontier (in 2654.) That's likely just those on the front line and not reserves, units stationed elsewhere or the massive support apparatus that would be needed to keep such a military working. (40 million is certainly high compared to the military today, but that's covering anywhere from dozens to hundreds of planets in a war where the casualties are measured in the trillions... I think it's actually pretty low!)

    There is a Terran Confederation Army, but we only ever get minor references to it (the insigna is described at one point in Fleet Action, they get included in lists of services... but we never really see them fight or be featured in a story.)
     
  3. Anxiety

    Anxiety Rear Admiral

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    Huh... I have been thinking about this since last year when I was re-reading the books (if not before), I'm surprised that little reference skipped by me. Thanks!



    500? Dang, even the Vesuvius didn't have that many fighters! Even the Midway megacarrier had fewer. I wonder what he was thinking when he wrote that, especially as later he specifically mentions the Bengal Class Trafalgar (even identifying it as the Tiger's Claw sister ship), which we know has 104 fighters and the Concordia (technically not a carrier but a battleship, at least would be so now considering it is a dreadnought) which has 120. Were those numbers confirmed when Forstchen was writing the novels?

    I haven't played Privateer, yet, does the scene provide context as to whether that means capital ships, fighters or a combination? Either way that is a lot, no matter how you cut it.



    I agree, 40 million seems pretty low considering the overall context, such as 2.1 trillion total KIA from Confed, (would that still include billions from the planets they obliterated during the false armistice? Killed in Action could imply it is just soldiers who died fighting, not civilians who were stuck planetside when their atmosphere was wiped away) and at one point losing 100 ships a day.

    This is the second time you mentioned the Confed Handbook. That was timed with release to the movie, no? Is that considered canon? Even though I actually enjoy the movie overall, there are a lot of discrepancies to the story, such as Knight's and Bossman's death, the Pilgrim subplot that appeared to big/important (Gerald said something about Pilgrim saboteurs being a big part of their losses in the war) and is never brought up again. I believe I read on here the remaining Pilgrims were annihilated, but you think it would come up after Blair was blamed for the destruction of the Tiger's Claw, aside, of course, from the obvious fact that it was created for the movie after Wing Commander II (and III and IV, for that matter).
     
  4. Quarto

    Quarto Unknown Enemy

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    From what little I recall of the context of the death counts, that did include civilian casualties. Presumably, a good portion of those were people killed during various instances of planetary bombardment.

    About the number of troops... if 40 million is just the troops stationed on the frontline, then, making a guess based on today's standards, we're probably looking at around 250 million or more altogether. After all, at at any one time, you'll have many new soldiers still in training, many in transit from one posting to another, many recovering from wounds or on leave - and then you've got all the support units, the reserves stationed in backwaters, and so on. But ultimately, compared to the casualties in the trillions (even if they do include civilians), these numbers will always seem remarkably low. I just did a quick check, and 2.1 trillion divided over the course of the 35 year war gives an average daily casualty rate of 164.38 million. It goes without saying, this is a very, very, very large number, and it does not compute with the 40 million frontline troops.

    I suppose this is one of those things. All these numbers that we're talking about were made up at different times by different people, for different purposes. When we hear about 2.1 trillion casualties, this is supposed to convey the enormous scale of the war. When we hear about 40 million troops, that's another author trying to convey the same thing, but also trying to moderate things so that Blair doesn't get reduced to a tiny insignificance in the process. And when we read about eight fleet carriers... well, that's Forstchen playing WWII in space, and reducing the numbers to that effect :).

    Incidentally, even the idea that mankind could grow sufficiently numerous by this point to be able to sustain 2.1 trillion casualties and still carry on, is remarkable. This would surely suggest at least 10 trillion people altogether, if not something like 50 trillion. Humanity's past growth history doesn't support these sorts of numbers, and the number of worlds needed is mind-boggling, too. Even if you assume eight billion people per world, you need more than 300 worlds just to reach one trillion. Now, I'm sure in the future individual worlds can support a far higher population than that (even now, as we're pushing 8 billion on Earth, the entire population could live in individual family houses and take up an area the size of... Texas), but imagine what this means for the speed at which humans had to spread throughout the universe.

    I think, at the end of the day, it's just something not worth worrying too much over, because it's just too crazy to really deal with :).
     
  5. Anxiety

    Anxiety Rear Admiral

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    Crazy, but fascinating at the same time, Quarto!
     
  6. Bandit LOAF

    Bandit LOAF Long Live the Confederation!

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    The fighter complement for the Tiger's Claw was confirmed at the time, the Concordia wasn't published until Kilrathi Saga several years later. I would say that the general sense of what constitutes 'a carrier' in Wing Commander hadn't solidified in 1992... and that it's more a case of later stories not using this reference than it is this reference contradicting anything at the time. (That is to say if we were having this conversation in 1992, we'd probably be talking about how of course the Confederation has these massive fleet carriers because it says so in End Run! :))

    (Most problematic from End Run is the idea that the /Gettysburg/ is one of these four carriers... as it ended up being a Waterloo cruiser in the game. I think that's much more a case of his working from only a broad description of the game's story.)


    It's not too specific, but it feels more like they mean fighters than capital ships. Here's the whole rumor text: "Just flew in, did you? Let me ask you a question. Did you notice the increased militia and Confed patrols on your approach? The Confed is losing hundreds of ships a day to the war. That means they need more metal for replacement ships, and they’re stepping up protection of mining bases to keep raw material out of Kilrathi hands. I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot safer because of it..."


    I believe the 2.1 trillion does include civilians, and probably most of it is from entire worlds being wiped out. It is an absurdly high number, though! (And the Kilrathi death toll was said to be much higher... though mass suicides after the surrender have been mentioned.)

    Short answer yes, we usually treat the material from the movie as canon (and Electronic Arts did in the few times it mattered, like the Wing Commander Arena lore.) There are certainly problems fitting it in... but they're not really any more significant than problems fitting a game novelization or an out-of-date hint book in. Wing Commander makes for an especially interest multimedia canon because of who was responsible for the film material... the same person behind the games directed the movie and the same people behind the games' lore wrote the Handbook (which is essentially the movie's equivalent of Claw Marks.)

    I don't personally like where they ended up going with the Pilgrims (especially in the two followup novels, though Truth ends with a nice reset button) but I think it adds more to the world than it takes away in terms of lore. I like the idea of a smaller war that the older characters went through, I like the idea of the Pilgrim religion... I just don't love the powers (however well detailed the fake science behind them is.)

    Interestingly, the 2.1 trillion was Chris McCubbin edited by David Ladyman in 1997... and the 40 million was Chris McCubbin edited by David Ladyman in 1998! When you really stack up the development history, there actually *weren't* that many voices contributing to the lore. (Similarly, Mr. Ladyman did the lore pass on the novels... he recently sent me his notes for False Colors and it's interesting seeing how much detail he actually went into trying to get things right. Like a great QA team, he catches pretty much everything fans went on to complain about... the only problem is that Baen's editor just ignored his feedback. :)
     
  7. Anxiety

    Anxiety Rear Admiral

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    I also like the idea of another war some of the characters went through, I like the idea of them being the people who explored much of the galaxy and I don't mind their intuitive ability to navigate jumps, either. The idea of the Pilgrim saboteurs working with the Kilrathi was a neat idea as was the prejudice against them. One of my main concerns was making Blair a Pilgrim and the continuity issues of arguable size. Sure, by the end of the movie Blair had earned the respect of the Tiger's Claw, but do you think they would have forgotten his Pilgrim status after the destruction of the Claw? Plenty of suspicion around him on the Concordia in the second game because of the Claw, but not because he was ALSO a Pilgrim? Minor, probably, but still a continuity issue that some might call surprising considering Chris was behind the games AND the movie.

    I also wish the Pilgrim storyline wasn't dropped in the final cut, though I understand it was technical issues with MERLIN and the Kilrathi puppets being unsatisfactory, I read through those parts of the script and liked it. It was still in the book, right? Two books for the movie, with a third hosted on the CIC, right? May need to look into those, at some point.

    False Colors was an aborted trilogy, right? I haven't read the book, yet (just bought it on Amazon, just want to finish the Foundation Trilogy, first). How well does it stand alone? Do we have an idea of what the trilogy was going to look like? I know you guys have worked hard/been really good about getting all these inside documents, Prophecy outlines, bible, scripts, etc, and am just curious.
     
  8. Bandit LOAF

    Bandit LOAF Long Live the Confederation!

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    I think the biggest reason for this is that 'who' Blair is matters much more to veteran players than it did to anyone else. Looking back to just Wing Commander I, there's nothing there... not even a name. Blair is a face and a couple lines of dialogue... he's a placeholder for you, and you imagine yourself there. That's not much to build a movie on--and even when Blair gets a name and a little bit of in-game history, there still isn't much. The 'characteristics' of Blair in Wing Commander II and III are mostly just that the events of Wing Commander II and III happened to him.

    (As for the universe as a whole, I think there's a broad variance in what being a Pilgrim means. Hunter and company are furious because he has his mom's cross, which they see as meaning he's identifying with a fanatical enemy. But it becomes clear that isn't the case quick--he's a Pilgrim in the slightest sense: he carries a gene, but he doesn't identify as one politically or even religiously. You already have established in the movie that Tolwyn trusts him because he knew Blair's parents--Pilgrim mom included--so he probably wouldn't be the one having an issue with it in WC2... and of course the Tiger's Claw pilots know him... heck, it would actually be a pretty good explanation of why the general population WAS so quick to turn on him despite absolutely no evidence that he sank the Tiger's Claw!)

    It is indeed still in the novel! And there's a rough cut floating around out there... not that I'd know anything about that. :)

    There was a lot cut from the movie for a variety of reasons, but the biggest hit to the Pilgrim traitor storyline is that test audiences were confused. The 'reveal' late in the film was that the mysterious space suited Pilgrim traitor was Admiral Wilson... but Wilson was never established as much of a character, he's simply someone you see briefly at the start of the film. (The fact that it reduced the screen time for the Kilrathi was certainly seen as a bonus!)

    (AD will be able to better tell us what was cut when, but Merlin was more of a budget issue. They shot the movie with a stand-in and the money to create a digital character never materialized... so they ended up cutting around him. Which was unfortunate because he existed to provide natural exposition and so in the finished movie you have things like Blair's fighter suddenly talking to him at the end.)


    It stands alone pretty well! I don't think it was planned as a trilogy so much as that Andrew Keith, the co-author, had sketched out two possible followups he intended to pitch. But Baen's package ran out and then Andrew passed away. (Dr. Forstchen, who did the False Colors outline, likely saw it as more of a standalone prequel to Wing Commander IV... something to better explain what happened to Admiral Tolwyn.) The updated timeline in Star Soldier includes entries for the other two books, based on Andrew's rough descriptions. Someday maybe we'll get to go back and write them!
     
  9. AD

    AD Finder of things, Doer of stuff

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    Yes! There's a whole layer of story that kind of got neutered when the traitor stuff was cut. The traitor subplot ultimately was the payoff to a number of sub-threads in the story regarding Blair's internal struggles in the film with his identity. He's a man disconnected from his past (Merlin, who's been reprogrammed it seems, is a relic from his father, and his cross is from his mother). He's loyal to confed though, so when made to feel like an outsider on the claw for his past, and finding out that he has more connection to his Pilgrim genes than just a cross, he has a bit of a crisis. Does his heritage bind him to the past and the things that made Pilgrims hated by others. When the traitors show up, it doesn't really matter who they are so much as it matters that Blair has to make a choice regarding which part he's going to choose to play.
    I'm still unclear about which exact version of the movie they screened for the test audiences. If it's the one I was told was it, then I can understand why they were confused. Merlin was cut from the movie relatively early on, much earlier than the traitor plot. They shot the movie to include all the merlin scenes but fairly early in the editing process they decided that they just didn't have the money to pay an actor, shoot the green-screen, and do the compositing and hologram effects. Merlin was thus relegated to Blair's fighter computer instead. It almost works but what becomes increasingly clear in each edit done of the movie is that what they couldn't solve was making any sense of why Blair disobeys orders and leaves the Diligent turret to go investigate the Pilgrim signal. They tried (using ADR) haveing Paladin tell Blair about the signal, and they tried using a few other characters (including Angel) to message Blair for various reasons. None of the solutions worked because there were too many missing pieces.

    I'm not sure it really matters if the Audience remembers who Admiral Wilson is though. The traitor that really matters is the one on the Tiger Claw. The ADR on Wilson's traitor scenes was generally awful and hammy though. Still, in the cuts that were what I am told were the test audience cuts, there's still significant amounts of material cut from the movie that would have helped flesh out Blair's character arcs. Without this material we focus on the wrong things. The movie doesn't really work as a mystery very well either. I have a hard time being objective about this, though, because I know every single clue in the earlier scenes that give away who the traitor on the Claw is. Anyway, back on point, Blair's encounter with the Pilgrim traitor is there mostly to force him to make a choice. This is the whole point of the knife fight with Gerald. Blair has to prove his loyalty to either Confed or the pilgrim cause. Blair has to come to the realization that his accepting his being par Pilgrim doesn't condemn him to follow their extremist ideology. The traitor on the Claw has faced the same dilemma, and made the opposite choice to Blair. Sansky is by all accounts, per Gerald *and* Tolwyn, a good captain, but his duty, when it called, was to the Pilgrim way, one that viewed Terrans as lesser and unfit for the stars. This also makes the jump to earth that much more significant to Blair because Blair needs to trust his abilities as a Pilgrim to save earth.

    Whether you remember who Wilson is doesn't matter that much, except that in some of the cuts, he seems to come out of nowhere and shows up on the Concom. It's a really easy fix too. Flashbacks are pretty terrible IMO but a quick shot of the intro scene on Pegasus station would refresh people's memories in a hurry. However some other lines of Wilson's got axed in the editing process that also would contribute to people's confusion. Wilson's betrayal of Confed lacks motivation. The idea that the Pilgrims feel they own the stars comes off a bit confusing. But the line where Wilson says his wife and kids burned at Peron would have more than sold it had it stayed in the movie. It's one of the few lines I haven't recovered though so it's possible the original delivery was too awful to use. It's also easy to miss the short scene where the Kilrathi Admiral orders him to go the concom and broadcast the jump coordinates for earth to the Kilrathi fleet.

    Still, the traitor plot stayed in the movie for a considerable amount of the editing process. The loss of Merlin earlier on pretty much made it impossible to make the plot work though. They tried, and tried hard, but when they tested the version without the plot, it rated higher with test audiences. They really didn't have the money to fix the issues to make them work so we ended up with what we have as the Theatrical cut.

    How much of the Kilrathi were shot and not included I'm not totally clear on. There's some short scenes in the script of the Kilrathi that don't show up even in those early scenes presumably because the shots just didn't work. However, the majority of the Kilrathi scenes remain mostly intact through every edit right up to the removal of the traitor plot. Even though nobody was happy with the Kilrathi effects, I'm fairly certain dropping the traitor plot *was not* done - as many have assumed - to minimize the on-screen time of the Kilrathi. It was just a happy byproduct of it.

    Removing the plot did mean that probably 70 percent of their screen time was lost. I think what you see when you hear old interviews with the crew or Chris that may have mentioned that removing the traitor allowed them to show the Kilrathi less, they are simply trying to look for the few positives in the scenario rather than cite it as a cause. As it is, they spent money and time using CG to retouch the Kilrath in those scenes to make their eyes glow and to make their mouths move at least a little more naturally/smoothly.
     
  10. Anxiety

    Anxiety Rear Admiral

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    Shame they couldn't have gotten the extra money to add add Merlin and keep the traitor subplot going. As is, I actually do enjoy the movie fairly well, but it would have been nice to have those scenes in and make a better, more complete movie with a better arc and development for Blair.
     

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