Science has conclusively proven that the “concentric explosion ring” emanating from the revised detonation of the Death Star is slightly less idiotic than the one caused by the destruction of the Klingon moon of Praxis.
If there’s a greater rivalry in the sci-fi milieu than the one between the Lucasian geeks and the Roddenberrite nerds, I’ve never heard of it. It’s been a fairly balanced battle over the years; Star Trek has transporters, Star Wars has a guy who can throttle you by pointing. But thanks to the miracle of modern science, we can now say for certain that Star Wars is indisputably out in front in at least one vital area: cheesy CGI explosion effects.
The original destruction of the Death Star in 1977 is a moment etched into the memories of all who witnessed it, a grand denouement to the most epic cinematic experience of all time. But that wasn’t good enough for ol’ George, so in 1997 he added the “ring effect,” a hoop of fire that emanated awkwardly from the immolated space station. The effect was more than a little reminiscent than the one used by its Star-faring rival several years earlier, in the 1991 flick Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Score one for the Trekkies, right?
Yes and no. Star Trek may have done it first but Star Wars actually did it right – sort of. As astronomer Phil Plait noted in his 2002 book Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, From Astrology to the Moon Landing “Hoax,” “explosions in space tend toward spherical shape unless impeded.” In other words, instead of a flat, Saturn-like ring rolling out from the focal point of the explosion, what you’d really end up with is a fairly uniform, expanding ball of burning gases and dead space goons.
But a very familiar feature of the Death Star, as we should all know, is that ill-conceived trench that runs entirely around it. This is a “point of interrupted stress,” which would provide considerably less resistance to the explosion and thus make the fiery ring “far more plausible.” Compared to some of the ridiculously convoluted explanations for various awkward twists and bumps in the Star Wars saga, this one actually makes a lot of sense.
Unfortunately, it’s not a clean victory for Team Star Wars; the Death Star trench circles the station horizontally while Lucas, for some reason, decided to make his explosion ring effect vertical. Oops.