Tuesday, July 07, 2009

What Nobody Seems to Have Realized About Star Wars (Episode IV, A New Hope)...

OK, so a few weeks back, I rewatched the first three Star Wars movies with son (and future geek) Tristan...

...and in the intervening time, my subconscious has worked overtime, and suddenly, it occurred to me the biggest tactical error the Empire made with the Death Star.

I'm sure you remember what happened in the movie... the Death Star arrives from Hyperspace on the other side of Yavin from Yavin IV (the moon the rebels are using for their base), and it takes half an hour for the Death Star to clear Yavin before destroying Yavin IV.

Now, remember, this movie's been out for well over 30 years, and I've seen it probably two dozen times or more. Yet this is the first time this has occurred to me.

Why the heck didn't they just fire the Death Star at Yavin itself?

I mean, surely the explosion of Yavin would've destroyed all its moons, including the fourth one, thereby ridding themselves of the rebels once and for all (or at least their greatest concentration).

Even if Yavin's explosion didn't immediately destroy Yavin IV, remember, the rebels' base was on a moon. The only thing holding it in place was the gravity of Yavin, which it orbited around. So let's say they blow up Yavin. Without anything to hold it into orbit, the absolute best-case scenario would be Yavin IV going into some kind of different orbit... but there's no way it would achieve the same orbit around Yavin's sun that Yavin did... it would likely either go into a new orbit closer to the sun (thus increasing the surface temp of the planet, probably beyond habitable levels) or it would be further from the sun (decreasing the surface temp, possibly even below Hoth's temperatures!).

Plus you can't entirely dismiss how the proximity of Yavin must've affected the tides and other ecological effects.

Of course, there's also a chance it wouldn't have achieved a new orbit... it could've just gone out of Yavin's system entirely and become lost in space.

Has this ever occurred to anyone else? I understand why it happened the way it did (Lucas did have his duly-issued Dramatic License, although it should've probably been expired after some of the stuff in the prequels)... has there ever been any explanation as to why it had to be this way in context of the movies?

Well, here's my own theory as to why it had to be that way...

The Death Star's destruction beam operates on the same power grid as its hyperspace drive. Therefore, when the Death Star emerges from Hyperspace, it takes time to recharge that power grid enough to fire their planetary destroyer beam (or whatever it might've been called). Since they had that half hour of time to recharge, then Grand Moff Tarkin probably figured they might as well use sublight drive to get a direct shot at the rebels (possibly there were resources on Yavin or one of its other moons the Empire wanted to acquire as well).

Any thoughts?

Update: houseofduck pointed me to this YouTube video:

I love it!


  1. Check out this little video. It illustrates your thoughts on The Ending perfectly.


    I like your reasoning though. That would make sense.

  2. Definitely a good point. I too had myself a Star Wars marathon a couple of weeks ago and I plan on writing about my thoughts. The basic idea of the Empire re-building the Death Star that the rebels (fairly easily) blew up is pretty ridiculous to begin with.

  3. Great point, Jon K!

    I once had a lengthy conversation about why the Empire didn't just blow up Tatooine.

    "Hey, some droids took the plans for the Death Star and landed on Tatooine, a planet that isn't even a member of the Imperial Senate and mostly houses smugglers and gangsters."

    "Oh, well, heck... let's just blow that up, then."

    "Brilliant idea!"

  4. Me thinks Yavin was a Gas Giant that couldn't be blown up. But if that were true, a laser could fire through the planet to the Yavin moon. Unless the planet's gas would effect the laser to bounce back to the Death Star?

  5. houseofduck -- That was hilarious! I'm going to add that to the post!

    Jay -- I dunno, I think in Return of the Jedi, it was made clear that the idea was that the Emperor figured they'd have the element of surprise going for them (since it was actually fully operational). Although the Emperor (for all his posturing about having foreseen everything) apparently didn't realize Vader would turn against him... or that maybe they shouldn't have built their shield generators on the planet of the most bad-ass teddy bears in the galaxy (seriously, how did they keep the Ewoks away if they're so tough during the construction of the generator?).

    Reis -- Well, I suppose that the Death Star was en route to Alderaan by the time it was realized that the plans were being delivered by droids. Doesn't explain why they weren't able to get any useful information out of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru before they were killed, though... seems to me that it wouldn't have taken much to convince Owen to tell them that Luke was probably off to find Obi-Wan Kenobi...

    Dan -- Well, if it was a gas giant, I think the laser would either fire through, or if it was too dense for that, wouldn't the gas ignite and then explode anyway, being even more spectacular?

  6. "What? blow up Yavin instead of wasting all this time to get into position to destroy Yavin IV?, now you tell m...." BOOM
    Last words of Grand Moff Tarkin

  7. whoa.. alot of commenters ^_^
    well.. one thing we need to remember is Lucas is an idiot.. anyway, i liked the video.. the animation reminds me of soo many old UK cartoons back when no more then 10 people worked on a show..

  8. Drake -- "Evacuate?!? In our moment of triumph?!? I think you overestimate their chances." Tarkin didn't seem to really take the advise of his advisors, did he?

    Manic Man -- If I had any idea I'd get this many comments from a Star Wars post, I'd have done a lot more by now (at least, if I had something to say about them)!

    I don't think Lucas is an idiot... I'd imagine he knew there were some logic leaps in the first movie, and the fact is that we all went with it for years and years, didn't we?

    Now, whether or not he got a bit overindulgent, especially with the prequels, is another matter entirely!

  9. maybe... but then his ideas for the 12 part Star wars? (which was cut down to 9, and so far, 6 have now been done) was a bit stupid, and well, just watch eps 1-2-3 and tell me that's not stupid?

    anyway.. i was never a big star wars fan.. it wasn't the first film of it's type, nothing very new about it to me.. Meant to be a Space-age fairy tale.. well, i didn't get that feeling at all.. (dispite Lucas explaining a number of times how it works as a fairy tale with sword fights and stuff)..

    Give me Dark Star over star wars any day ^_^ Rebels blowing up the death star, or a guy surfing down to a planet on a block of ice.. mmm.. I think the latter ^_^;


Please keep your comments relevant, I delete all spam! Thanks.