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EU Roundtable #4


They said I couldn’t do it, but I showed them! No, I’m not talking about the Roundtable series actually making it to #4 (though that’s been no easy task itself). I’m talking about today’s theme: the many controversies of Dr. Curtis Saxton. For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Saxton has a long-running web page here on TFN called the Star Wars Technical Commentaries. There, he attempts to examine various aspects of the Star Wars universe from a scientific point of view; in other words, extrapolating information from the films (and to a lesser extent, the EU) based on the laws of our own world, as opposed to what’s specifically told to us. I’d say Saxton himself describes it best: “the project intends to rationalize a fantasy”. His essays cover a variety of topics, from ship sizes, functions, and classifications, to an analysis of the injuries known to have been suffered by Darth Vader. While the controversy has existed for quite some time, his site has become a flagship in the debate over the true length and classification of Vader’s ship, the Executor (if you were unaware that this debate existed, consider yourself lucky). The Saxton Wars have only become more heated in recent years as the good doctor, thanks to the extensive scientific expertise evident on his website, has begun serving as an adviser on DK Publishing’s too-big-for-the-freakin’-bookshelf Star Wars reference books, including AOTC Incredible Cross-Sections and the newly-released Inside the Worlds of the Star Wars Trilogy. The debate you’re about to read deals primarily with one of the biggest points of contention arising from the SWTCs: the Endor Holocaust.

Oh, and by the way: given the fierce contention we’re dealing with here, I just want to point out that nothing has been edited in any way. There are a handful of points where unrelated text was removed, as you will see, but every word of this chat has been left perfectly intact. If someone were to misspell, oh, let’s say “evacuation”, in the chat itself, it’s still misspelled now.

Not that I normally correct typos, mind you, I just wanted to take special care to point that out once again. In any event, our volunteer debaters, who wanted their last names excluded because of what I can only assume are severe delusions of grandeur, are:

  • David P, aka dp4m, Manager for the Jedi Council’s Literature & Gaming sections, supporting the anti-Saxton (for lack of a better term) side of the argument.

  • Kyle J, aka Lord_Hydronium, frequent poster (and debater) at the Jedi Council, supporting the pro-Saxton side of the argument.

Attempting to keep things interesting through the insertion of smart-ass comments is me, Mike Cooper, unofficially supporting the “who gives a damn” side of the argument. Here we go…


You have just entered room "EU Roundtable."

Mike Cooper: Here's the way I'd like this to go. I want to make sure we address the two biggest issues at hand here: the Endor Holocaust and the length of the Executor. I don't know for sure how each of you feels about the other issues like class names, shield generators, etc. but if you want to discuss them, you're free to. Ideally, I'd like to see this debate be more about the concepts behind the Saxton controversy than about what frame 79 of scene 6 of RotJ says versus what page 37 paragraph 4 of some sourcebook says. In other words, which interpretation is more valid? We know there are contradictions. What we don't know is why author intent should matter over the laws of physics, or vice versa. Why visual evidence should matter over official reference, or vice versa. That said, my plan is to involve myself in the conversation as little as possible. As long as you're talking about something Saxton-related, I won't get in the way. The same goes for the maturity level, too; it's up to you guys how serious you want to be. My main concern is that this chat is fun to read, and silly bickering is just as fun as poignant debate. :)

Mike Cooper: Beyond that, I just want to point out that this is sort of an experiment for the Roundtable series, and I'm not really sure what to expect. Here's hoping it's a worthwhile experience for everyone.

Mike Cooper: Let's start things off: the Endor Holocaust. To summarize, Saxton has made the assertion that the laws of physics dictate that Endor's environment would have been completely ruined by debris from the Death Star. The new book Inside the Worlds of the Star Wars Trilogy, in whose development Saxton played a role, acknowledges the debris issue and claims that the Rebels used shields and tractor beams to protect the area around the strike team, but doesn't say anything either way about the damage sustained by the rest of Endor. Pablo Hidalgo has, however, stated point-blank in Star Wars Insider that the Holocaust definitely did not happen. Yea or nay, guys?

Kyle J: I'll do a summary of my position: I think that despite the unrealistic elements added in to make a good story, Star Wars in fundamentally realistic, that is, with different technology it could take place in our own universe (and that, given its place in the GFFA, it does). Given that, if an object explodes just outside the atmosphere of a planet, I'd say it's required that there be some effect.

David P: But, if that were so, wouldn't there have been a noticable effect for an object that size within the (astronomically speaking) short distance to the planet?

Kyle J: You mean gravitational?

David P: We'd seen an Endor planetary habitat from years before within the canonical structure of the movies (e.g. Ewok movies); shouldn't the Death Star have changed the climate much more than it did?

Kyle J: If it was outside the atmosphere, there should be no effect

Kyle J: It would be like a small moon in relatively low orbit

David P: Doesn't the moon affect our tides at its distance?

Kyle J: Yes, and there might be some tidal forces, but we don't see any bodies of water near the are ain the movies (so we can't say whether those have been changed), there hasn't been enough time for the stresses on the land to have any appreciable effect, and perhaps a small bulge in the atmosphere would be the worst that took place.

Kyle J: Major climatic change wouldn't take place that quickly; local weather patterns might be altered, but we only spend one or two days on Endor in the movie

David P: True, but how long would you suspect that the Death Star takes to build (I think we can assume 3.5 years from ANH to ROTJ without resorting to EU)?

David P: Wouldn't a sustained increase in low-orbit mass of that nature affect weather patterns more than we saw?

Kyle J: But how much of the weather patterns did we really see? Two sunny days in ROTJ, which isn't enough to really judge in entire pattern

David P: True.

David P: Clarifying question: which explosion do we wish to cover -- SE or Original flavor?

Kyle J: SE's the most recent, so that one

Mike Cooper: is there a difference? it's been a while

Kyle J: That ring of fire/energy

David P: Yeah, Praxis effect explosion vs. standard.

Kyle J: Heh, nice ST reference

David P: Hey, it's where it comes from. ;-)

Mike Cooper: oh, yeah; that'll win him fans :-)

David P: (Kirk loses to Han in a barfight easy... O:-)

Mike Cooper: *coughbackontopiccough*

David P: Anyways, let's assume for the moment that the DS2 is 170 km (you can think it's larger, but it's irrelevant for this part).

David P: If it's 170 km, at what speed would you imagine that the debris would be travelling and thus impact Endor?

David P: (given forces, mass, acceleration, etc.)

Kyle J: I don't know how powerful the explosion of the DSII was; that would give its initial velocity (and judging by the speed of the ring compared with the Falcon, it's pretty darn fast), then there's the gravitational acceleration on top of that

David P: So we can safely assume that, at the very least, none of the "very large" chunks remaining (of inteterminate size) impacted from the initial explosion velocity.

David P: It was day near the Ewoks when it happened and at night there was clear sky at night.

Mike Cooper: well, there was still some debris

David P: We'll get to that Coop. ;-)

Mike Cooper: :-)

David P: I'm just seeking concordance on none of the "large debris" impacted from the initial explosion velocity.

Kyle J: There are several chunks of debris visible in the explosion going faster than the main fireball

Kyle J: So they would be pushed with the full force of the explosion into the planet

David P: But none of them could have been large enough to cause lasting damage, as there was no dust cloud hours later.

Kyle J: Depends on how far away they landed

David P: Then you're assuming that Luke, Han, Leia, etc. are all sociopaths?

Kyle J: Explain

David P: Clearly the behavior of folks who know that a sentient species is about to be wiped out is to party with them.

Mike Cooper: heheh

David P: If they had told the Ewoks about the disaster and tried to evacuate them, wouldn't we be seeing an evacuation rather than a party?

David P: Remember, we're talking Luke "And Sacrifice Han and Leia?" Skywalker. ;-)

Kyle J: First, let me point out that Luke's been in the wilderness this entire time

David P: And poses for pics when he returns.

Kyle J: I concede the point, and suggest that the huge chunks were caught (the ones that, if they hit, would cause instant annihilation). This would stop any immediate threat. Long term effects would beprevented by a long term solution, and any evacuation could wait a short time

Kyle J: Basically, an instant evacuation was not necessary, giving them time to celebrate what they had done; afterwards, however, the hard work would begin

David P: Okay.

David P: How long are we talking here?

Mike Cooper: while the pretty boys hit-footed off to bakura

Mike Cooper: *hot

Kyle J: They could start the next day

David P: No, no... no Bakura. Bad Coop. No EU. ;-)

Mike Cooper: well, it's hardly revelant

Kyle J: Party, sleep, then begin plans for an exacuation or transplant

Kyle J: the next morning

David P: I could have the Rebels have a Star Destroyer if that were the case. ;-)

David P: Okay, but conversely, couldn't they have simply prevented the destruction entirely by destroying the slower moving large chunks?

Kyle J: *evacuation

Kyle J: Yes, that's also possible; by long term, I mean like the radiation or any chemicals or industrial byproducts that might be in debris that slipped through; not immediately hazardous, but you don't want it hanging around in your

Kyle J: ecosystem for too long

Kyle J: Heck, there could be a Rebel hazmat team checking out possible hotspots while the party's going on

David P: Well, since there's no gas giant to speak of to gather most particulate matter... ;-) How high would the levels of radiation need to be to not be absorbed by the moons magnetosphere? I'm not sure how much ours protects us from solar radiation.

Mike Cooper: i thought there was supposed to be a gas giant off-screen

David P: sssshhhh! :-P

David P: And also, the Ewoks probably have no ozone problem to speak of.

Kyle J: Ozone only blocks UV light

Kyle J: And I really don't know too much of stellar phenomena to say what the magnetosphere can block

Mike Cooper: and little enough gravity to allow those stupid glider things to work, but that's neither here nor there...

David P: True, though we could count how long it takes them to fall from the netting... ;-)

David P: I've been led to believe that ozone plays a part in blocking solar radiation, etc. but having no background there I'll concede.

Kyle J: I admit I don't have background there either; I'm just going off what I know

David P: In any case, the point I'm trying to make is that any sort of "background" effects beyond the debris (obviously dangerous) might be stopped by the planet's natural defenses and outer atmospheres/magnetospheres.

Kyle J: But at the levels of radiation that would be created by something that could power the entire DS, with that much of the power output going towards the planet (compared with what percentage of its power a sun provides towards a planet at any appreciable distance)?

(editor’s note – full disclosure; at this point, David was accidentally disconnected from the room. He returned promptly, and we went on)

David P: As I understand it, the types of energy/radiation that's "bad" operate on very, VERY short wavelengths. Therefore they might dissipate naturally over the distance from the DS2 explosion to the planet, no?

David P: "Gamma rays and hard X rays ranging in length from 0.05 to 5.0 Å"

Mike Cooper: let's try to wrap this particular point up, guys; then we'll do a little bit on the executor and call it a day

David P: Sure.

David P: I think we'll need the EU for that though.

David P: Sice we don't have ANY measurements otherwise.

David P: *since

Kyle J: To tell the truth, I don't know enough about propagation of EM radiation to answer that one

Mike Cooper: weeelll, let's just move on then

Mike Cooper: too many fancy science words

Mike Cooper: Another big point of contention most likely predates Saxton's involvement, although he's become a sort of poster child for it nevertheless. To make a long story short, the old Star Wars RPG and most EU material have given sizes (note the plural) for the Executor that, some people say, vastly contradict what is blatantly obvious from watching the movies. I couldn't say what all the different asserted lengths are exactly (because, to be honest, I could care less), but the fact remains, only one of them can be right. Which one, and why?

Kyle J: Mine!

Kyle J: Because I said so!

David P: I agree. I like his best

David P: It's shiny.

Mike Cooper: ..

Mike Cooper: argue, damn it

Mike Cooper: do you have any idea how long it took me to write that sentence? :-)

Kyle J: Short answer: 17.6-19.2 kilometers, because scaling it with the other ships whose lengths are known (ISDs), you can use perspective to find the possible bounds of size.

David P: Hehe. Basically, at this point there are four defensible arguments: 8 km, 12 km, 12.8km and 17.6 km (supposedly).

Kyle J: 12? That's the Lusankya one, right?

David P: I say supposedly, because I do't have the text where it says 17.6 km (ITW) but I assume people aren't lying to me.

David P: Yes. Lusankya is 12 km.

David P: Easily explainable as it was also modified for atmospheric capabilty.

David P: *capability

Kyle J: ITW doesn't actually say "17.6 km", but it does say it's nearly 12 times the length of an ISD

Kyle J: which fits within the movie bounds (19.2 being exactly 12 times as long)

Mike Cooper: ITW also calls the executor an "ultimate star dreadnaught", so i'm less than inclined to lend it much credence :-)

Kyle J: The quote from From Star Wars to Indiana Jones also shows that 11 times is the original intent as well

David P: Now you're talking CRAZY talk. Isn't the ISD 1.6 km?

Kyle J: yeah

Kyle J: You could argue that "Star Dreadnaught" is just a description, or you could take it as a literal ship type; the second one helps beat the old "Why is every KDY ship a destroyer?" question.

Mike Cooper: i try not to think about that kinda stuff too much one way or another; after all, han calls then bulk cruisers in ANH, right?

Mike Cooper: *them

David P: Didn't he used to say 11 times the length? Now it's 12?!? *sigh*

Kyle J: No, it's 17.6-19.2 km

David P: Do you have the exact quote from the book (anyone)?

Kyle J: Oh, from the book

Kyle J: I was referring to Saxton's measurements

Mike Cooper: i had it a second ago...

David P: Right. I thought it was originally 11 times the length (as a rough measurement)

(editor’s note – at this point, David was disconnected and quickly reconnected. Again. Man, I love AIM)

Kyle J: "Over one hundred times more massive than a common Star Destroyer and almost 12 times as long, the Executor bristles with more than 5000 turbolasers and ion cannons, and carries wings of star fighters and two pre assembled garrison bases"

David P: Aha! So it *could* be nearly twelve times as long as a Vic.

Mike Cooper: heh

Kyle J: "Common Star Destroyer" can only be an ISD, especially since this is a movie-based book.

David P: Not so. The ITW is EU, and as such "common Star Destroyer" could be anything.

Mike Cooper: didn't the implementation of vics actually predate the "star destroyer" concept?

Kyle J: It's "Inside the Worlds of the Star Wars Trilogy". It may be EU, but the movies are the clear focus of the book.

David P: Perhaps, though they were certainly the ship first monikered with the designation. As such, most likely the VICTORY were the ships the average person on the planet thought of as a "common Star Destroyer"

David P: Doesn't matter; The Movie Trilogy Sourcebook is also EU though the movies are the clear focus of the book.

Mike Cooper: let's call it a night. we're starting to get tangled up in details

David P: As are the Galaxy Guides 1, 2 and 5 (A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi)

Mike Cooper: kyle, last word?

(editor’s note – at this point, we were ALL shortly disconnected from the room. Luckily, I’d been backing it up fairly often)

Kyle J: I know of no better source than the movies themselves to look at I'm wondering whether the obscure language in ITW was designed to not directly go against the sourcebooks (which even change amongst themselves, so one extra figure wouldn't hurt anything). But I think that the movies show clearly that anything smaller than 11 times is impossible.

Mike Cooper: and that'll do it

Mike Cooper: just to show how much more we could potentially be arguing about, we'll leave with another quote from inside the worlds...

Mike Cooper: Eventually designated the Executor-class after the vessel assigned to Vader's personal use and commanded by Admiral Ozzel, it is usually referred to in rebel slang as a "Super Star Destroyer"-- a term that covers many warship classes bigger than a Star Destroyer, from Star Cruisers to ultimate Star Dreadnaughts like Executor.

Mike Cooper: (say goodbye now)

David P: Goodnight gracie!

Kyle J: See y'all!


I’d say it went fairly well, even if it wasn’t quite as long as the others. We actually took the same amount of time as the others, but naturally, responses were being written much more carefully than normal; in hindsight, maybe I should have encouraged them to insult each other a bit. =) Thanks to David and Kyle for stepping up and proving that it’s possible to have a friendly debate about this without a mile-long list of caveats and conditions. I’m planning another slight variation on form for next week; here’s hoping it pans out as well as this one. If you have an idea for a future topic, or any feedback for that matter, send it in.

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