There's a sudden slew of 'why didn't X recognise Y at point Z' questions at the moment:

I can't help but feel that they are in some way fundamentally unanswerable as they're all plot inconsistencies due to the filming order of the movies and any 'in universe' explanation is going to be highly debatable thus making them 'non-constructive'.

What are the guidelines for questions like these? Are they borderline okay or should they be voted for closure?

  • 2
    ... for example, the 3 questions you so intensely dislike, 2 have clear single answers based on canon, and one has an answer that, while a guess, is a reasonable guess, though I have a feeling there's an actual retcon answer somewhere had I truly wanted to dig. Feb 17, 2013 at 15:27

4 Answers 4


On one hand, I agree with you that they're mostly just plot inconsistencies, but sometimes there are retconned explanations. It can be interesting to find such retconned stories.

For example, Lucas has said that Han's "12 Parsecs" boast was actually thanks to the Falcon's navicomputer. Or Jaster Mereel was a name used by Boba Fett as an alias.

I have my own question about retcons just like those.

  • Well at least your helmet question deals with the problem. To me most of the questions like the ones above seem to be simply about garnering reputation by asking about each and every conceivable combination of characters and backstory
    – user11295
    Feb 16, 2013 at 20:43
  • s/sometimes/almost-always/ :) Feb 17, 2013 at 5:20
  • +1. IIRC, it was a question similar to these that led me to a reference to a fascinating theory that R2D2 was actually one of the secret leaders of the rebellion.
    – Beofett
    Feb 18, 2013 at 17:42
  • 1
    A questioner doesn't always know if it's a plot-inconsistency, or if it's only a minor point. That's why the voting system exists, no? If one person thought to ask it, someone else surely will. If it's not a dupe, let it be. Vote it down, you may.
    – Solemnity
    Feb 19, 2013 at 6:46

First of all, your assumptions about "they are in some way fundamentally unanswerable" and "any 'in universe' explanation is going to be highly debatable" are completely wrong. Pretty much every single question about a large and complicated universe like Star Wars is more likely to contain a (possibly ret-conned) in-universe answer from EU than be unanswerable, from my experience. Those specific questions might or might not have an answer, but fundamentally, questions like that ARE quite answerable as a class. (on a tangent - same for Harry Potter, where I saw many questions dissed, DVed and VTCed as unanswerable speculations, only to see myself or Slytherin come up with canonical straight-from-JKR-interview answer immediately).

I could may be, possibly, consider your argument for a small SFF work with no other material to draw upon as worth thinking about. But for Star Wars, this is a silly assumption to have been made.

Second, if you have issues with a type of "What is an in-universe explanation for this seeming plot hole" questions, I would recommend reading excellent answers to a related Meta question here:

Movie Magic (or how do we answer stupid questions)

(spoiler: most people's consensus was that such questions aren't "stupid" and perfectly on-topic). While the question itself differs slightly from yours, the answers are just as applicable in their logic.


I don't believe questions that are assumed to be plot holes (or canon inconsistencies) should be closed. Sometimes there are indeed plot holes where the author has been a bit lax with their canon, but there's a difference between a plot hole and canon information that is simply not known, or the author directly contradicts their own canon between what is written or scripted and what they say. But sometimes an author or screenwriter, etc, will clarify their canon information, or a user digs up information, more than 1-2 days after a perfectly good question is asked. For example, it only took me about 20 minutes to find the following:

Could the Sorting Hat have told Dumbledore that Harry was a Horcrux?
What plot points are missing in the Harry Potter movies that are in the novels?¹
Is Ginny Weasley considered a temporary Horcrux?
Why couldn't Harry destroy the Horcruxes with his bare hands?
Why didn't the Basilisk bite in book two destroy the Horcrux?
How would the Elixir of Life have given Voldemort a body?
In the Harry Potter universe, is there mention of just how many pureblood families there are?
Was Salazar Slytherin a dark wizard?
Were students ever Sorted to houses other than what their family is in?
Did Harry Potter ever get food for his birthday?

All of the above questions have examples of answers where a user either came back to the question after much time had elapsed with a canon-based answer, or an answer was posted quite a while after the question was originally asked. I really think it would be a shame if we were to preclude good information from coming onto the site simply because the question isn't answered in 1-2 days.

Downvote if you feel the question is inappropriate for whatever reason. It's for reasons like this that we have a voting system at SE to begin with.

¹SFF.se, the site, was around (SFF.se opened on 1-11-11) before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Parts I and II were released -- should this question have been closed because these two movies had not yet been released? If it had, it would have kept users from comparing the plot points in the book to the plot points in the movies, and further answering the question. I would say that the question should not have been closed.


I decided, after asking the question, that I thought they should be closed. It's probably not necessary to add an additional 'don't ask this type of question' item to the FAQ as they can easily be covered by the 'not constructive' reason and then 'the community' can simply decide on a course.

That said I do think that people should vote to close on questions like these that simply cannot be answered 'in universe' without making something up. Answers are meant to be based on fact not surmise.


I think that @MarkBeadles answer to this question is perfect, in particular this line:

'Otherwise our answers become less answers and more something like fanfic. Fanfic is great! But it shouldn't be an answer to a question on SE.'

If a factual answer is possible that's fine but if an answer has to be invented then that is not good and these questions need to be closed.

Further Edit:

Personally I'm going to try to give new questions like this a day or two to try and get a factual answer before I flag for closing but I'm still of the opinion that they are not good questions.

  • 4
    The fact that nobody posted an answer in 1 or 2 days is not an evidence that an answer doesn't exist. I personally found canon answers for months-old questions and posted them (including my own questions). Feb 18, 2013 at 16:43

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