The Escape from Cloud City took place during the Galactic Civil War. As part of a plot to capture Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader led the Imperial Military to Cloud City, a tibanna gas mine in the atmosphere of Bespin. The Dark Lord of the Sith laid a trap for Skywalker and dueled the fledgling Jedi in an attempt to capture him. At the same time, members of the Rebel Alliance fought to rescue Han Solo from the bounty hunter Boba Fett, who was working for the Hutt Clan, and escape from Cloud City. They were unable to rescue Solo, who had been frozen in carbonite as part of Vader's plot, but they were able to fight their way past stormtroopers to escape from the city aboard the Millennium Falcon. The Rebels, along with the city's Baron Administrator, Lando Calrissian, briefly returned in order to rescue Skywalker, who was injured in his duel with the Dark Lord, before evading the Imperial Navy and making the jump to hyperspace to rejoin the Alliance Fleet.
- "I had no choice. They arrived right before you did. I'm sorry."
- ―Baron Administrator Lando Calrissian, to Han Solo and the other rebels
Hoping to turn Luke Skywalker to the dark side, Darth Vader sent part of the Imperial Navy to Cloud City, after it was discovered by the bounty hunter Boba Fett to be their destination, in order to capture Luke's friends Han Solo, Leia Organa and Chewbacca and use them as bait to lure Skywalker out of hiding and turn him. Having landed just before the Millennium Falcon, Vader made a deal with the city's Baron Administrator, Lando Calrissian, to capture Skywalker's friends in exchange for his city's autonomy from the Empire.
When the Millennium Falcon eventually arrived at Cloud City, its crew was warmly welcomed by Calrissian, who gave them rooms to stay in and arranged for their ship to be repaired. Unbeknownst to him, however, the Falcon's hyperdrive was secretly deactivated by a team of Imperial technicians in the event of their escape. On the way to their apartment, C-3PO was separated from the group after being distracted by another protocol droid, finding and being shot by a stormtrooper, dismembering him. C-3PO's parts were later sent to the garbage incinerator of Cloud City, but they were found by Chewbacca before they were destroyed. On their last day, Calrissian invited them to dinner, but it turned out to be a trap set by Darth Vader. Solo, upon seeing Vader, tried to shoot the Sith Lord, only for Vader to block the shots with one gauntleted hand, and pull the smuggler's blaster away from him with the other. Stormtroopers surrounded the rebels, ensuring that they could not escape.
While Vader decided to torture Solo in order to draw Skywalker's attention, Calrissian began to feel uneasy as Vader altered the agreement. When he protested the idea of keeping Organa and Chewbacca in the city as prisoners, and giving Solo to Fett, Vader reminded him that disobedience would result in the end of his colony's freedom. Now seen as a traitor to his friends, Calrissian was forced to comply with Vader.
- "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further."
- ―Darth Vader, to Lando Calrissian
Vader had planned to put Skywalker in carbonite, in order to be delivered to the Emperor personally. Hoping to avoid his son's death, Vader chose Solo as a test subject for the modified freezing chamber. Solo, Organa, Chewbacca, and C-3PO (partially reassembled by Chewbacca in prison) were brought to the carbon-freezing facility, where Solo learned of his fate. Despite Chewbacca's attempt to set him free, Solo insisted that there would be another time to rescue him. Before he was frozen, Organa told Solo how she felt about him, to which he responded "I know." Solo was then frozen, and found to have survived. Afterwards, Vader was informed that Skywalker's X-wing had just landed. Vader then ordered Calrissian to bring Organa and Chewbacca to his ship. When he protested, Vader simply stated that he was altering the deal.
- "Well done. Hold them in the security tower. And keep it quiet."
- ―Lando Calrissian, upon Lobot's execution of Code Force Seven
Realizing that the "deal" had gone too far, Calrissian arranged for the Bespin Wing Guard to ambush the Imperial team escorting himself, Organa, Chewbacca, and C-3PO (still strapped to the Wookiee's back) to Vader's ship. Chewbacca and Organa, however, did not trust him due to his prior betrayal, with Chewbacca nearly strangling him until he revealed that there was still a chance to save Solo from Fett. Deciding it was worth the risk, the foursome rushed to intercept Fett, reaching his landing platform just in time to see the Slave I take off.
Realizing that—for now, at least—Solo was gone, they redirected their efforts into escaping. After reaching the Falcon's hangar door, they discovered that the access codes had been changed, preventing Calrissian from unlocking the doors. C-3PO then realized that R2-D2 could override the security systems, but accidentally directed the astromech into plugging into a power socket. Before leading the group to another door with a computer terminal, Calrissian informed the citizens of Cloud City of the Imperial occupation, and advised them to leave as soon as possible. The ensuing chaos worked to their advantage, helping them get to another door mostly unhindered by Imperial forces, though they encountered several stormtroopers upon reaching another door. After R2-D2 plugged in, he learned from the city's central computer that the Falcon's hyperdrive had been deactivated after its repairs. However, when he tried to inform the group about this, C-3PO interrupted him, saying that the hyperdrive had been fixed, and telling him to open the door. After Artoo did so, and covered their retreat with a smokescreen, the group boarded the Falcon and took off, barely escaping the Imperial troops.
Skywalker, having just been defeated by Vader in a lightsaber duel, was clinging for his life at a vane on the bottom of Cloud City. First calling to Ben Kenobi for help and receiving no response, he called to someone else: Leia. Organa, on board the Millennium Falcon on her way out of the city, heard Skywalker's plea and ordered the ship around. Finding Skywalker dangling from the vane, they pulled up beneath it, and Calrissian pulled the young Jedi to safety. As the Falcon's hatch closed, three TIE fighters showed up and pursued the rebels into space while firing at the freighter.
Having left the planet's gravity well, the Falcon, upon sighting the Executor, attempted to jump to hyperspace, only to find the "repaired" hyperdrive nonfunctional. As the crew desperately attempted to fix the hyperdrive while R2-D2 was reassembling C-3PO, the astromech realized what the problem was, having been told earlier by Cloud City's central computer, and managed to reactivate the drive, allowing the rebels to escape into hyperspace.
After the Falcon jumped to hyperspace, the team of Imperial technicians that had deactivated its hyperdrive expected to be executed. To their surprise, Vader did nothing, simply striding out of the bridge of his flagship. The Falcon's crew, meanwhile, rendezvoused with the Alliance Fleet, where Skywalker received a prosthetic arm to replace the one he had lost, with it being completed as Calrissian and Chewbacca set off on a mission to rescue Solo from Jabba the Hutt.
Cloud City was taken into Imperial control, with several trades, such as cybernetic implants, being suppressed, and a skeleton garrison stationed there. In the aftermath of the Battle of Endor, however, the garrison was relocated to a more strategic location, setting the stage for the city's eventual liberation.
Behind the scenes
The Escape from Cloud City first appeared in the 1980 film Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, the second installment of the Star Wars original trilogy. The novel Lost Stars also featured the escape from the viewpoint of Ciena Ree, who was one of the Imperial technicians tasked with deactivating the Falcon's hyperdrive.
- Star Wars Epic Yarns: The Empire Strikes Back
- LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – "The Lost Treasure of Cloud City"
- LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales – "Flight of the Falcon" (In flashback(s))
- Star Wars Blips – "Fan Droids" (Appears in hologram)
Notes and references