Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In Defense of George Lucas and Thermal Exhaust Ports

Reading this article inspired a special pang of sympathy for me. Say what you will about him, but he made Chewbacca, so he deserves my respect.

On that note, there's, over the years, been a heap of criticism about one plot device in the original Star Wars; that being the Death Star's fateful thermal exhaust port. If you're among the tiny percentage of my readers who hasn't actually seen the original film, perhaps this is a good post to skip.

The most common parody or spoof of the exhaust port in popular fiction is as a convenient "destroy button" the canny Rebels can exploit on the inefficient, arrogant Empire's gigantic war machine. That silly Emperor, too avaricious to rivet down that gaping hole in the side of his space station!

What most of its critics don't realize is that the exhaust port represents perhaps the one piece of verisimilitude in a space opera full of hand-waving and plot excuses. Hyperdrive, lightsabers, the spaceships-as-airplanes motif, all of this is obviously far more fiction than science, but the idea that a space station the size of a goddamn moon would need to, you know, vent exhaust, is perfectly sound.

It's not a design flaw, in all actuality. The Death Star, the size of a fucking moon, should, in theory, be riddled with exhaust ports, to service its billions of moving parts, not least of all the gargantuan superweapon that's powerful enough to destroy Alde-fucking-raan, and it's totally logical they might have a few issues with overheating. You shouldn't be able to stand on the surface of the Death Star and piss without it going down an exhaust port.

The thing is two meters across, nondescript, positioned at the ass end of a dramatically long trench that bristles with turbolaser emplacements and is even ray fucking shielded, for Chrissakes, rendering it immune to blaster fire. Literally the only way to penetrate these defenses are via the method the Rebel Alliance used; piloting a snubfighter past hundreds of enemy fighters and thousands of gun turrets, before launching a proton torpedo directly into the single semi-vulnerable exposure.

For scale, that would be like attempting to shoot an unguided cruise missile into the tailpipe of a moving SVU. From fucking space or underwater or some shit.

In short, leave Lucas alone. He made the things I love and he tries hard.

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