The first Death Star in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

A Death Star is a fictional moon-sized[1] space station and superweapon appearing in the Star Wars movies and expanded universe created by George Lucas. It is capable of destroying an entire planet with its powerful superlaser.

Origin and design[edit | edit source]

Although particular details, such as the superlaser's location, shifted between different concept models during production of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the notion of the Death Star being a large, spherical space station was consistent in all of them.[2] The Death Star was created by the dean of special effects, John Stears.[3][4] The buzzing sound counting down to the Death Star firing its superlaser comes from the Flash Gordon serials.[5] Portraying an incomplete yet powerful space station posed a problem for Industrial Light & Magic's modelmakers for Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.[6] Only the front side of the 137-centimeter model was completed, and the image was flipped horizontally for the final film.[6] Both Death Stars were depicted by a combination of complete and sectional models and matte paintings.[2][6]

Superlaser[edit | edit source]

On both Death Stars, there was a super laser, each formed by multiple separate lasers meeting. Below, it shows how many separate lasers joined to form the main superlaser:

Death Star I : 7 separate lasers = main superlaser

Death Star II : 8 separate lasers = main superlaser

Depiction[edit | edit source]

The second Death Star under construction in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Films[edit | edit source]

The original Death Star's completed form appears in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Commanded by Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing), it is the Galactic Empire's "ultimate weapon", a space station capable of destroying a planet with one shot of its superlaser. The film opens with Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) transporting the station's schematics to the Rebel Alliance to aid them in destroying the Death Star. Tarkin orders the Death Star to destroy Leia's homeworld of Alderaan in an attempt to pressure her into giving him the location of the secret Rebel base; she gives them a (false) location, but Tarkin has Alderaan destroyed anyway. Later, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) boards the station with his friends and rescues her. Later, Luke uses his power in the Force to help him destroy the station.

In Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, the Empire is building a second Death Star; it is half-finished throughout the film. Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones) send the Rebels false information that the station's weapons systems are not operational in order to lure them into a trap, and bring Skywalker on board to turn him to the dark side of the Force. In the film's climax, Vader throws Palpatine down the station's reactor core, killing him, and is mortally wounded in the process. Skywalker escapes with Vader's body moments before the Rebels cause a massive explosion which destroys the second Death Star.

Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader watch the first Death Star's construction in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

The first Death Star's schematics are visible in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and is shown early in construction at the end of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

The Death Star explosions featured in the special edition of A New Hope and in Return of the Jedi are rendered with a Praxis effect, wherein a flat ring of matter erupts from the explosion.

Expanded Universe[edit | edit source]

Both Death Stars appear throughout the Star Wars Expanded Universe. The first Death Star's construction is the subject of Michael Reaves and Steve Perry's novel Death Star. In LucasArts' Star Wars: Battlefront II, the player participates in a mission to secure crystals used in the Death Star's superlaser. The first Death Star under construction acts as the final stage in the video game, The Force Unleashed. Kevin J. Anderson's Jedi Academy trilogy introduces the Maw Cluster of black holes that protect a laboratory where the Death Star prototype was built (consisting of the super structure, power core, and Super Laser.) National Public Radio's A New Hope adaptation portrays Leia (Ann Sachs) and Bail Organa's (Stephen Elliott) discovery of the Death Star's existence and Leia's mission to steal the space station's schematics. The first level of LucasArts' Dark Forces gives the player a supporting role in Leia's mission, while a mission in Battlefront II tasks the player with acting as a stormtrooper or Darth Vader in an attempt to recover the plans and capture Leia. Steve Perry's novel Shadows of the Empire describes a mission that leads to the Rebels learning of the second Death Star's existence, and that mission is playable in LucasArts' X-Wing Alliance combat flight simulator. Numerous LucasArts titles recreate the movies' attacks on the Death Stars, and the Death Star itself is a controllable weapon in the Rebellion and Empire at War strategy game. A Death Star variation appears in Kevin J. Anderson's novel Darksaber.

The first Death Star is depicted in various sources of having a crew of 265,675, as well as 52,276 gunners, 607,360 troops, 30,984 stormtroopers, 42,782 ship support staff, and 180,216 pilots and support crew.[7] Its hangars contain assault shuttles, blastboats, Strike cruisers, land vehicles, support ships, and 7,293 TIE fighters.[8] It is also protected by 10,000 turbolaser batteries, 2,600 ion cannons, and at least 768 tractor beam projectors.[8] Various sources state the first Death Star has a diameter of approximately 161 kilometers.[7][9] There is a broader range of figures for the second Death Star's diameter, ranging from 160 to 900 kilometers.[10][11]

In the Disney attraction, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, guests can travel inside an uncompleted Death Star during one of the randomized ride sequences.

Other uses of the term[edit | edit source]

A few astronomers sometimes use the term "Death Star" to describe Nemesis, a hypothetical star postulated in 1984 to be responsible for gravitationally forcing comets and asteroids from the Oort cloud toward Earth.[12]

AT&T Corporation's logo introduced in 1982 is informally referred to as the "Death Star".[13] Ars Technica referred to "the AT&T Death Star" in an article criticizing a company data policy.[14]

Enron labeled one of the false companies used in its fraudulent manipulation of the California power grid "Death Star".[15]

ILM's principal render farm is named Death Star. The effects house is extremely secretive about the computing power the AMD-powered Death Star possesses, but it is estimated that at one time it employed close to 1500 processors in 750 nodes.

IBM's line of Deskstar hard drives (and to a lesser extent Hitachi's) are colloquially referred to as "Deathstars", especially the very unreliable 60GXP and 75GXP models.[16][17]

The headquarters building of the Hungarian police (1139 Budapest, Teve utca 4-6.) is nicknamed "The Death Star" by policemen for its characteristic and somewhat futuristic design.

Cultural impact[edit | edit source]

The Death Star is one of the better-known concepts from the Star Wars universe and is widely recognizable outside of that context.

Television[edit | edit source]

In The Fairly OddParents, Dark Laser (a play on Darth Vader) planned to build a space station, known as the "Death Ball", a space station with Laser's face on it. It is also known as the World's Largest Disco Ball in the series.

In the British science-fiction TV show Doctor Who, in the 4th Series 2-parter finale, the Crucible, base of the Daleks, bears a resemblance to the Death Star.

In the US, networks that compete with Fox refer to American Idol as the Death Star due to its destructive effects on their schedules and ratings.[18][19]

Video Games[edit | edit source]

The video games Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and Sonic & Knuckles contain plotlines centered around the "Death Egg", a space station resembling the Death Star, though altered to feature the face of series villain Doctor Robotnik. The Death Egg is built as a destructive superweapon; the story revolves around destroying this object. A similar superweapon, the Space Colony ARK (with the Eclipse Cannon), appears in Sonic Adventure 2 and Shadow the Hedgehog. Remade versions of the Death Egg are also made in other games, including the "Death Egg mk II" in Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II.

Movies[edit | edit source]

The Death Star placed ninth in a 2008 20th Century Fox poll of the most popular movie weapons.[20]

In Kevin Smith's movie Clerks, characters discuss the fate of independent contractors on Death Star who were not parts of the evil empire yet died when the weapon was destroyed.

Nickname[edit | edit source]

In Canada, the term "death stars" was used to describe U.S. Direct Broadcast Satellites capable of broadcasting signals into Canada that were not regulated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.[21]

The Creative Artists Agency's headquarters has been nicknamed the "Death Star" by the entertainment media.[22]

RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands is nicknamed "Death Star" due to its confusing layout.[23]

KTCK (SportsRadio 1310 The Ticket) in Dallas were the first to use the term "Death Star" to describe the new mammoth Cowboys Stadium, now AT&T Stadium, in Arlington, Texas. The term has since spread to local media and is generally accepted as a proper nickname for the stadium.[24]

Education[edit | edit source]

In February 2012, students from Lehigh University of Pennsylvania published a blog post that priced the Death Star based on the cost of steel to produce it. The students believed that in today's economy, it would cost $852 quadrillion assuming that the diameter of the Death Star was 140 kilometres but that it would take 833,315 years to produce enough steel to begin work.[25]

Science[edit | edit source]

The Saturnian moon Mimas, photographed by the Cassini probe in 2005. The large crater in the center (Herschel) gives it a resemblance to the Death Star.

In 1981, following the Voyager spacecraft's flight past Saturn, scientists noticed a resemblance between one of the planet's moons, Mimas, and the Death Star.[26]

Merchandise[edit | edit source]

Kenner and AMT created a playset and a model, respectively, of the first Death Star.[27][28] In 2005 and 2008, Lego released models of Death Star II and Death Star I, respectively.[29][30] Palitoy created a heavy card version of the Death Star as a playset for the vintage range of action figures in 1979 in the UK, Australia and Canada. Both Death Stars are part of different Micro Machines three-packs.[31][32] The Death Stars and locations in them are cards in Decipher, Inc.'s and Wizards of the Coast's Star Wars Customizable Card Game and Star Wars Trading Card Game, respectively.[33] Hasbro released a Death Star model that transforms into a Darth Vader mech.[34] Estes Industries released a flying model rocket version.[35]

White House petition[edit | edit source]

In 2012, a proposal on the White House's website urging the United States government to build a real Death Star as an economic stimulus and job creation measure gained more than 25,000 signatures, enough to qualify for an official response. The official (tongue-in-cheek) response was released in January 2013[36] and noted that the cost of building a real Death Star has been estimated at $852 quadrillion and, at current rates of steel production, would not be ready for more than 833,000 years.[37] The response also noted that "the Administration does not support blowing up planets" and questions about funding a weapon "with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship" as reasons for denying the petition.[36][38][39]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Mack, Eric (19 February 2012). Finally, a cost estimate for building a real Death Star. CNET. Retrieved on August 5, 2013.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Death Star (Behind the Scenes). Star Wars Databank. Lucasfilm. Retrieved on September 8, 2007.
  3. "John Stears, 64, Dies; Film-Effects Wizard". New York Times. Retrieved January 28, 2013
  4. John Stears; Special Effects Genius Behind 007 and R2-D2"". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 28, 2013
  5. Rinzler, J. W. (2010-09-01). The Sounds of Star Wars. Chronicle Books, 82. ISBN 978-0-8118-7546-2. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Death Star II (Behind the Scenes). Star Wars Databank. Lucasfilm. Retrieved on September 8, 2007.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Death Star (Expanded Universe). Star Wars Databank. Lucasfilm. Retrieved on August 9, 2007.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Slavicsek, Bill (1991-06-01). Death Star Technical Companion. West End Games. 
  9. Reynolds, David (1998-10-05). Incredible Cross-Sections of Star Wars, Episodes IV, V & VI: The Ultimate Guide to Star Wars Vehicles and Spacecraft. DK Children. ISBN 0-7894-3480-6. 
  10. Death Star II (Expanded Universe). Star Wars Databank. Lucasfilm. Retrieved on September 8, 2007.
  11. (2004-08-16) Inside the Worlds of Star Wars, Episodes IV, V, & VI: The Complete Guide to the Incredible Locations. DK Children. ISBN 0-7566-0307-2. 
  12. Britt, Robert Roy (2001-04-03). Nemesis: Does the Sun Have a 'Companion'?. Retrieved on August 21, 2008. “Any one of them could be the Death Star, as Nemesis has come to be called by some.”
  13. Bell System Memorial- Bell Logo History. Retrieved on June 7, 2012.
  14. Anderson, Nate (2012-08-23). AT&T, have you no shame?. Ars Technica. Condé Nast Publications. Retrieved on August 23, 2012.
  15. Kranhold, Kathryn; Bryan Lee and Mitchel Benson (2002-05-07). New Documents Show Enron Traders Manipulated California Energy Costs. Free Preview. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on August 21, 2008.
  16. Neel, Dan (2001-08-29). Users Complain About IBM's Crashing Drives. PCWorld. Retrieved on June 7, 2012.
  17. Tynan, Dan (2006-05-26). The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time - Page 5. PCWorld. Retrieved on June 7, 2012.
  18. Script error: No such module "citation/CS1".
  19. Script error: No such module "citation/CS1".
  20. Script error: No such module "citation/CS1".
  21. Hoskins, Colin; Stuart McFadyen and Adam Finn (1994). The Environment in which Cultural Industries Operate and Some Implications. Canadian Journal of Communication. Retrieved on September 9, 2007. “Their strategy has been to paint a doom-and-gloom scenario with respect to the effect of expected U.S. DBS services, dubbing the satellites "death stars."”
  22. Agents: A Big Week for CAA!. Defamer. Gawker Media (2007-03-16). Retrieved on September 9, 2007. “We're told that most of the agency is away on a weekend retreat in Ojai, leaving the Death Star defended solely by some call-rolling drones”
  23. Clench, James (May 17, 2010). Falklands 'Death Star' job for Wills. The Sun. Retrieved on August 31, 2010.
  24. The New Death Star Stadium – Texas Stadium.
  25. How Much Would it Cost to build the Death Star?. Centives (Feb 15, 2012). Retrieved on April 12, 2011.
  26. Young (2005-02-11). Saturn's moon is Death Star's twin. New Scientistfirst=Kelly. Retrieved on August 21, 2008. “Saturn's diminutive moon, Mimas, poses as the Death Star — the planet-destroying space station from the movie Star Wars — in an image recently captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.”
  27. Death Star Space Station. Photo Gallery. Steve Sansweet. Retrieved on September 9, 2007.
  28. Death Star. Photo Gallery. Steve Sansweet. Retrieved on September 9, 2007.
  29. LEGO Death Star. Star Wars Cargo Bay. Lucasfilm. Retrieved on September 9, 2007.
  30. 3,800-Piece Death Star Diorama Is Coolest Star Wars Lego Ever. Gizmodo (2008-06-19). Retrieved on June 20, 2008.
  31. #X: T-16 Skyhopper, Lars Family Landspeeder, Death Star II (1996). Star Wars Cargo Bay. Lucasfilm. Retrieved on September 9, 2007.
  32. #XIV: Landing Craft, Death Star, Speeder Swoop (1998). Star Wars Cargo Bay. Lucasfilm. Retrieved on September 9, 2007.
  33. Star Wars Customizable Card Game Complete Card List (PDF). Decipher, Inc. (2001-08-23). Retrieved on August 23, 2007.
  34. Star Wars TRANSFORMERS Darth Vader Death Star. Hasbro. Archived from the original on December 21, 2007. Retrieved on January 5, 2008.
  35. ESTES INDUSTRIES INC. Model Rockets and Engines. Retrieved on August 21, 2008.
  36. 36.0 36.1 Shawcross, Paul (January 11, 2013). This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For. Wired (magazine). Retrieved on January 13, 2013.
  38. It's a trap! Petition to build Death Star will spark White House response.
  39. US shoots down Death Star superlaser petition.

External links[edit | edit source]

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