Death Star

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

A Death Star is a fictional space station and superweapon appearing in the Star Wars science-fiction franchise created by George Lucas. It is capable of destroying an entire planet with its powerful superlaser.

Origin and design[edit]

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.[1] The Death Star was created by the dean of special effects, John Stears.[2][3] The buzzing sound counting down to the Death Star firing its superlaser comes from the Flash Gordon serials.[4] 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.[5] Only the front side of the 137-centimeter model was completed, and the image was flipped horizontally for the final film.[5] Both Death Stars were depicted by a combination of complete and sectional models and matte paintings.[1][5]

Depiction[edit]

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

Films[edit]

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 home world of Alderaan in an attempt to pressure her into giving him the location of the secret Rebel base; she gives them the false location of Dantooine, but Tarkin has Alderaan destroyed anyway, as a demonstration of the Death Star's firepower and the Empire's resolve. Later, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Droids are pulled aboard the station by a tractor beam and rescue the Princess under harrowing circumstances. Darth Vader senses Obi-Wan's presence once the Millennium Falcon lands on the Death Star, and he seeks him out, setting up the iconic light saber duel between the two, but not before Obi-Wan deactivates the tractor beam controls to allow the others to escape. Later, Luke returns with a fighter squad to attack its weak point and manages to destroy it using his newfound powers of the force before it annihilates the rebel base on Yavin IV.

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi feature a second Death Star still under construction at the orbit of the second moon of Endor. 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 Luke on board to turn him to the dark side of the Force. In the film's climax, a reformed 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 destroy the core, causing a chain reaction that brings it down with a massive explosion.

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]

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.[6] Its hangars contain assault shuttles, blastboats, Strike cruisers, land vehicles, support ships, and 7,293 TIE fighters.[7] It is also protected by 10,000 turbolaser batteries, 2,600 ion cannons, and at least 768 tractor beam projectors.[7] Various sources state the first Death Star has a diameter of between 140 and 160 kilometers.[6][8][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]

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] Competitor T-Mobile mocked AT&T's "Death Star" logo and "Empire-like reputation" in a press release.[15]

Enron labeled one of the false companies used in its fraudulent manipulation of the California power grid "Death Star".[16]

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.[17][18]

Cultural impact[edit]

The Death Star placed ninth in a 2008 20th Century Fox poll of the most popular movie weapons.[19]

It is also recognizable outside of the Star Wars context.

Television[edit]

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.[20][21]

Nickname[edit]

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.[22]

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

In February 2012, students from Lehigh University 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]

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]

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]

In 2012, a proposal on the White House's web site 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 $850 quadrillion, while the International Business Times cited a Centives economics blog calculation that at current rates of steel production, the Death Star would not be ready for more than 833,000 years.[37] The White House response also stated "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]

  1. ^ a b "Death Star (Behind the Scenes)". Star Wars Databank. Lucasfilm. Retrieved 2007-09-08. 
  2. ^ "John Stears, 64, Dies; Film-Effects Wizard". New York Times. Retrieved January 28, 2013
  3. ^ John Stears; Special Effects Genius Behind 007 and R2-D2"". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 28, 2013
  4. ^ Rinzler, J. W. (2010-09-01). The Sounds of Star Wars. Chronicle Books. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-8118-7546-2. 
  5. ^ a b c "Death Star II (Behind the Scenes)". Star Wars Databank. Lucasfilm. Retrieved 2007-09-08. 
  6. ^ a b "Death Star (Expanded Universe)". Star Wars Databank. Lucasfilm. Retrieved 2007-08-09. 
  7. ^ a b Slavicsek, Bill (1991-06-01). Death Star Technical Companion. West End Games. 
  8. ^ Mack, Eric (19 February 2012). "Finally, a cost estimate for building a real Death Star". CNET. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  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 2007-09-08. 
  11. ^ Inside the Worlds of Star Wars, Episodes IV, V, & VI: The Complete Guide to the Incredible Locations. DK Children. 2004-08-16. ISBN 0-7566-0307-2. 
  12. ^ Britt, Robert Roy (2001-04-03). "Nemesis: Does the Sun Have a 'Companion'?". Space.com. Retrieved 2008-08-21. "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". Porticus.org. Retrieved 2012-06-07. 
  14. ^ Anderson, Nate (2012-08-23). "AT&T, have you no shame?". Ars Technica. Condé Nast Publications. p. 2. Retrieved 2012-08-23. 
  15. ^ Morran, Chris (January 29, 2014). "T-Mobile Claims "AT&T Dismantles Death Star" In Mocking Press Release". The Consumerist. Consumer Reports. Retrieved January 29, 2014. 
  16. ^ 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 2008-08-21. 
  17. ^ Neel, Dan (2001-08-29). "Users Complain About IBM's Crashing Drives". PCWorld. Retrieved 2012-06-07. 
  18. ^ Tynan, Dan (2006-05-26). "The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time - Page 5". PCWorld. Retrieved 2012-06-07. 
  19. ^ Sophie Borland (2008-01-21). "Lightsabre wins the battle of movie weapons". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-01-26. [dead link]
  20. ^ Carter, Bill (2007-02-20). "For Fox’s Rivals, ‘American Idol’ Remains a ‘Schoolyard Bully’". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-13. "If any of Fox’s rivals had hopes that this year might signal some hint that the monster — NBC favors the term Death Star — would finally betray some sign of weakness, those hopes were dispelled in just a week." 
  21. ^ Bauder, David (2007-01-30). "'Idol' Attracts More Than 32M Viewers". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-03-13. "Rival television executives not-so-fondly refer to Fox's American Idol as the "death star."" 
  22. ^ Hoskins, Colin; Stuart McFadyen and Adam Finn (1994). "The Environment in which Cultural Industries Operate and Some Implications". Canadian Journal of Communication. Retrieved 2007-09-09. "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."" 
  23. ^ "Agents: A Big Week for CAA!". Defamer. Gawker Media. 2007-03-16. Retrieved 2007-09-09. "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" 
  24. ^ "The New Death Star Stadium – Texas Stadium". theunticket.com. 
  25. ^ "How Much Would it Cost to build the Death Star?". Centives. Feb 15, 2012. Retrieved 2011-04-12. 
  26. ^ Young (2005-02-11). "Saturn's moon is Death Star's twin". New Scientistfirst=Kelly. Retrieved 2008-08-21. "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". SirStevesGuide.com Photo Gallery. Steve Sansweet. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  28. ^ "Death Star". SirStevesGuide.com Photo Gallery. Steve Sansweet. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  29. ^ "LEGO Death Star". Star Wars Cargo Bay. Lucasfilm. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  30. ^ "3,800-Piece Death Star Diorama Is Coolest Star Wars Lego Ever". Gizmodo. 2008-06-19. Retrieved 2008-06-20. [dead link]
  31. ^ "#X: T-16 Skyhopper, Lars Family Landspeeder, Death Star II (1996)". Star Wars Cargo Bay. Lucasfilm. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  32. ^ "#XIV: Landing Craft, Death Star, Speeder Swoop (1998)". Star Wars Cargo Bay. Lucasfilm. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  33. ^ "Star Wars Customizable Card Game Complete Card List" (PDF). Decipher, Inc. 2001-08-23. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  34. ^ "Star Wars TRANSFORMERS Darth Vader Death Star". Hasbro. Archived from the original on 2007-12-21. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  35. ^ "ESTES INDUSTRIES INC. Model Rockets and Engines". Retrieved 2008-08-21. 
  36. ^ a b Shawcross, Paul (January 11, 2013). "This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For". Wired (magazine). Retrieved January 13, 2013. 
  37. ^ http://www.ibtimes.com/white-house-rejects-death-star-petition-doomsday-devices-us-could-build-instead-1014682
  38. ^ "It's a trap! Petition to build Death Star will spark White House response". 
  39. ^ "US shoots down Death Star superlaser petition". BBC News. 2013-01-12. 

External links[edit]