Star Wars Canon Catch-Up: What is the Death Star?

Star Wars is going through a state of transition. For twenty years, an Expanded Universe of novels, comics, and games have supplemented the films and TV shows to create an incredibly deep and detailed Star Wars universe. Soon after Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, however, they wiped the canon slate clean, saying they would no longer adhere to the stories of the Expanded Universe in order to have the greatest creative freedom with their new Star Wars films starting with The Force Awakens.

But with the new films, so comes new books, comics, and games in a new continuity to replace the old one. So, what is canon and what isn’t anymore? After twenty years, are these the same characters and planets we’ve always known and loved? Is it even the same universe? Well, in our new column Canon Catch-Up, we’re here to answer those questions and set the record straight.

Today, we’re discussing The Death Star.

So, what’s the deal with The Death Star in the current continuity?


A battle station with enough firepower to destroy an entire planet, the Death Star was originally designed by the Geonosians for the Separatist army, with construction beginning during the Clone Wars. By the time the war had ended, a partially completed framework and super laser already existed above Geonosis. When the Galactic Empire took control of the galaxy, they continued the project under the supervision of Moff Tarkin. The Imperial outposts Sentinel Base and Desolation Station supported the main construction under Tarkin’s coordination.

ANH Death Star

When the Death Star became operational, it became a weapon of terror used by the Empire to break the rising threat of the Rebellion. Tarkin had the Death Star destroy Alderaan and positioned it to destroy a secret Rebel base in the Yavin system. However a Rebel flight group managed to destroy the station using a weakness found in its stolen technical schematics: a thermal exhaust port.

What about The Death Star in the Expanded Universe?

Originally conceived in concept by Raith Sienar of the major conglomerate Sienar Systems (who would later go on to design the TIE Fighter), the Death Star was thought to be an impractical endeavor from a resource standpoint. However, when Sienar brought the idea to Wilhuff Tarkin, then just a Commander in the Republic Security Force, Tarkin found it intriguing. Sometime later, Tarkin relayed Sienar’s pitch to Chancellor Palpatine, who used his alter ego of Darth Sidious to supply the designs to the Separatists who were capable of embarking on such a project without political blow back.


After the end of the Clone Wars, Emperor Palpatine ordered the newly organized Empire to continue construction of the Death Star to consolidate his hold on the galaxy. Palpatine appointed Tarkin overseer of the project, who conscripted Wookie slaves and Mrlssi scientists to work on the station’s construction and technological research respectively. Certain elements, namely the super laser, proved difficult to implement. Tarkin brought in even more scientists including the brilliant Qwi Xux to work on a prototype super laser for testing before integrating the technology into the main framework. The Death Star’s construction site was relocated several times to several different locations, including Geonosis, Seswenna, Patriim, and Horuz.

Just before completion, the plans for the Death Star found their way into the hands of Leia Organa through various avenues. When Leia raced on her ship, the Tantive IV, to get the plans back to the Rebellion, she was captured by the Empire. She, however, hid the plans inside an R2 unit, which was bought by Luke Skywalker. Together with Han Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Skywalker rescued Leia from Imperial captivity aboard the Death Star and assisted the Rebellion in destroying the station, thanks to a weakness found in the stolen plans.

DS exploding

What does the Expanded Universe tell us about the new continuity?

Both continuities are actually fairly similar. Really, the only big difference the new canon is more streamlined due to being new… but hopefully will stay that way. After all, it’s incredibly impractical for a construction project of the Death Star’s magnitude to switch locations once… let alone several times. So when Rogue One rolls around, expect a definitive place, scientist, and Imperial team in charge of the construction rather than the several in the EU.

Aside from extra particulars on the construction, both are pretty much the same. Unless more stories add to the complexity of the Death Star’s inception it’s unlikely we’ll see the same level of intricacy as before.

Check out our previous entry of Canon Catch-Up about Admiral Ackbar.

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