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Star Wars | Treat Yourself to a Bacta Tank Spa Day

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There are many big unanswerable questions about the Star Wars universe.

For one thing, why is Luke called Luke? In a universe peopled with characters called Han, Leia, Jar Jar, Lando, Moff, Palpatine, and Anakin, Luke is almost unique in having a firmly Judeo-Christian name. The only other exception to the rule seems to be ‘old Ben Kenobi’ and even then ‘Ben’ isn’t his real name. Obi-Wan Kenobi obviously adopted ‘Ben’ to help conceal his true identity. As ruses go, it’s about as effective as Darth reinventing himself as ‘Steve Vader.’

And while we’re on the subject of names, what about Mace falling through the ‘Windu’ in Revenge of the Sith (2005)? His surname is ‘Windu’ and he ends up being killed by falling through a window? Is that supposed to be a joke or not? 

Finally, why does Yoda speak in the way he does? Answer to that question, I have no answer, it seems! Although I do know, having just attempted it, it’s not as easy as it looks.

It’s all enough to make you want to take a nice long soak in the bacta tank.

But before we start, what exactly are they?

This article is here to support Databank Dive Episode 10, in which ForceCenter’s Joseph Scrimshaw and Ken Napzok explore the on-screen history of the the galaxy’s greatest goop.

Give it a listen here 🎙️

Bacta: The Future?

“Welcome back, Santo. I have to confess I thought you were gone. I owe you a nice long soak in the bacta tank when this is done.”

Boba Fett, The Book of Boba Fett, ‘Chapter 7: In the Name of Honor’ (S1, Ep7).

Bacta tanks take the form of a large container or pod, big enough for a person (or, indeed, Wookie) to reside temporarily in, particularly if they are recovering from physical injuries. They are, in fact, not massively different from the sort of physical immersion tanks which exist on our own planet and epoch (assuming you are reading this on Earth in the 2020s). They are also sometimes referred to as ‘rejuvenation tanks’ or if you wish to save time ‘rejuve tanks’ because of their revitalizing and restorative properties.

Also, for some reason, I always thought of bacta as having quite a lot of aloe vera in it.

The key ingredient in the tank is ‘bacta,’ essentially a powerful healing agent in the form of a gel created by the Vratix, an advanced insectoid species. The idea is that the patient should be fully submerged in the bacta tank while breathing through a mask inside to help ensure they stay alive throughout the procedure (the patient remaining alive throughout is usually considered essential to the process’s success). When used in this way, the healing properties of the bacta can prove very effective in restoring the health of the patient.

The main stumbling blocks to everyday private use of bacta tanks for the ordinary inhabitant of the Galactic Empire or the subsequent New Republic would simply be that they are physically large, difficult, and impractical to move and both the tanks themselves and the bacta itself are very expensive. Some of the Star Wars novels, notably X-Wing: The Bacta War (1997) by Michael A. Stackpole illustrate the wider political consequences of the New Republic’s efforts to free up bacta supplies for wider distribution amongst the populace.

Time for a Deep Dive

Fennec Shand: You should take a nice soak in the bacta tank. 
Boba Fett: It’s being used.

Boba Fett, The Book of Boba Fett, ‘Chapter 7: In the Name of Honor’ (S1, Ep7).

Examples of a bacta tank in use, are not hard to find. Luke received his first healing dunk following the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back (1981), and more recently we get to see rather a lot of Boba Fett (some might argue, a bit too much) in his pants recuperating in one such tank just after he’s been partly digested by the Sarlacc in the series, The Book of Boba Fett having been wolfed down at the end of Return of the Jedi (1983).

In truth, we should be grateful for the existence of the bacta tank. With such myriad alien physiologies, diseases, and dangers in the cosmos, they’re a universal cureall. In the first-person shooter Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (1997), they even came in plus-sized cans like an energy drink and could be gulped down to bring you back from the brink of death. This does leave you with a disquieting thought that if The Bacta War is to be believed, then Force-powered gunslinger Kyle Katarn is guzzling thousands of credits worth of the stuff every time he goes into battle.

TBH he’d have done the galaxy more good just staying at home.

There we go, the cool refreshing taste of bacta! | LucasArts, 1997.

With such a dizzying range of different species, no wonder most of the doctors we encounter are the cool blue medical droids with a brain the size of a planet (to quote a different epic). How could a human doctor possibly be expected to treat injuries as diverse as a Rancor afflicted by tennis elbow or an Ewok struck down by gout?

Many characters we see being wounded in the saga seem to be killed outright. Serious injuries might result in one of their hands being replaced as in the case of Luke in The Empire Strikes (1981) or like poor old Anakin in Revenge of the Sith undergoing such extensive surgery that they become more machine than man. And then there’s whatever was going on with Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) in Rogue One (2016) – the man was clearly not well.

Given these alternatives, the prospect of a nice long soak in a bacta tank does seem like a very tempting option.

So, what are you waiting for? Book your session today!

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Chris Hallam is a published author and freelance writer based in Exeter. In the past, he has written for magazines such as DVD Monthly and Geeky Monkey. He provided all the written content for the Star Wars Clone Wars and Smurfs annuals for 2014, and the Transformers annual 2015. He continues to write for Yours RetroBest of British, and The History of Comics, 1930-2030.

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