Star Wars Minute 104: Look at the Size of That Thing!

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The technical readouts of that battle station.


October 24th, 2013


As the fighters move closer to the Death Star, the awesome size of the gargantuan Imperial fortress is revealed.


Tony Thaxton



  • Starts with the X-wing and Y-wing pilots switching their shields to 'double front' as they pass through the magnetic field to start their assault on the Death Star; ends after the assault has begun - with Luke a little bit cooked but ok.


  • The location of the small thermal exhaust port. Alex thinks it is in the equatorial trench on the Death Star based on camera shots in this minute. Pete will assume that it is in the equatorial trench but is not 100% convinced. Tony can't totally wrap his head around where the fighters are and where they going.
  • How big is the Death Star and how long would it take to circumnavigate it using the equatorial trench (i.e. if you dropped your proton torpedo and missed your target on the first pass, how long would it take to come back around for a second pass?). See below for further information.
  • Some X-wing pilots may have decided to go all the way around (i.e. "doing a lap") during the attack and either a) were only halfway around when the Death Star blew up or b) got back and wondered where everyone had gone (because most of the other X-wings had been shot down in the attack).
  • Meanwhile, inside the Death Star, Stormtroopers are running around aimlessly with their guns drawn. They should realize that they have no role in this assault (given that they are ground troops). Perhaps they're just excited to see any kind of action.
  • We also see the inside of the Imperial Turrets on the Death Star (these turrets were included in the Death Star playset).
  • The use of miniature models is very obvious in this minute and may not completely hold up (e.g. the exterior of the Death Star). The use of physical miniatures versus CGI is discussed and it is agreed that both have their own appeal (charm / nostalgia versus realism).
  • Referenced: Ray Harryhausen stop-motion.
  • Two actors are playing Wedge in this scene - the on-screen actor and the voice actor. Both are reacting to nothing real however both do a good job of reacting to the imagined size of the Death Star. Alex would probably not recognize the real voice of the actor that plays Wedge in the other movies as he is so used to the 'dubbed Wedge' from this movie / scene (see SWM 98 for more information).
  • Behind the scenes footage of filming the scenes in the cockpits during the attack on the Death Star reveals that the pilots were actually wearing shorts. Apparently it became very hot during filming due to the weather and the fact that they were constantly being jostled around. However it has already been revealed in minute 97 that the Jedi do not wear any underwear, so maybe this is true of the pilots as well.
  • In one attack run, Luke appears to simply shoot at the surface of the Death Star (when he gets a 'little cooked' in the subsequent explosion). This definitely has an impact on the Death Star so why aren't the X-wing pilots simply shooting at the surface the whole time? It probably doesn't do enough damage to disable the Death Star.
  • Actually, what is Luke doing in this attack run? Is he still getting used to the controls; classic newbie mistake? Alex coins the term "Rookie cooking" which is when a new pilot gets burned by the explosions their own weapons generate.
  • Referenced: Star Trek characters falling from side-to-side.
  • The Rebel pilot voices sound different depending on the context of the camera shot. Credit to Ben Burtt.
  • Stormtroopers are still getting bounced around inside the Death Star.
  • Hutch (not Dutch) starts off the bold Gold Squadron attack run. He doesn't survive unfortunately.

Meta Minute

  • 19:54 podcast episode length.
  • Cold-open - Tony commenting specifically on the music. "Yeah, the music's cool."
  • A behind the scenes photo of the Death Star turrets showed how elaborate the turret set is for a very short scene in the movie. Pete indicates that the battle scene was basically constructed in the editing room so there probably would have been a lot of film taken of each set, most of which wasn't used.
  • In regards to stop-motion, Alex recalls Roger Ebert saying that movies were better in black and white as they were closer to dreams. The same thought can be applied to stop-motion. Its weirdness is what makes it compelling - as opposed to very realistic CGI scenes.
  • Tony admits to not having heard all of the episodes of the podcast up until this point and Pete and Alex are shocked.
  • Why are so many actor voices dubbed in Star Wars? British accents; technical limitations of sound recording at the time.
Tony shares his Star Wars memories
  • Toys were the big thing for Tony. He certainly liked the movies and the toys went hand-in-hand with this.
  • Tony had a lot of the later figurines; there were actually only a few that he didn't have.
  • He was born a year after Star Wars and ROTJ is the movie that he remembers seeing in the theater.
  • Tony remembers having all of the toys from ROTJ including <eventually> the small skiff that our heroes use to escape from Jabba.
  • He had a sandbox in his backyard and got some shark teeth from his grandparents in Florida.
  • He then dug a little pit in the sandbox and put the shark teeth into it to make the Sarlacc.
  • Before he got the skiff toy, his Dad gave him a 2x4 <piece of wood> with a ruler attached to it and he used this, along with the Sarlacc pit mentioned above, to recreate the whole scene over and over again.
  • Also, the Slave I toy had a 'Han in carbonite' figurine but before he got that he wanted the figurine really badly.
  • His Mum gave him a small bowl to use. Tony would fill the bowl with water, place his normal Han Solo figure into the bowl and then freeze it to recreate the carbonite figurine. Pete points out that he probably only played with it for 10 or 15 mins until it melted and the process had to start again.
  • Basically, Tony was big on the toys and was always figuring out how to make the toys that he didn't already have. Alex related to this and said that he once made Dengar by wrapping adhesive tape around a similar figure that he already had.

Circumnavigating the Death Star

  • The Death Star is 120 kilometers in diameter 1 and therefore approximately 375 kilometers in circumference.
  • X-wings have a maximum atmospheric speed of 1,050 kilometers per hour 2.
  • Using this as the slowest speed for the X-wing attack on the Death Star, circumnavigating the Death Star would take 20 minutes at the most, so Pete and Alex's theories are definitely feasible.
  • However, the exhaust port is actually close to the north pole of the Death Star (see the above diagram) and not in the equatorial trench.


  • Pete: It was the best day of their lives and also the last day of their lives.
  • Tony: My grandparents lived in Florida, as grandparents do.


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