May the 4th Be With You – Engineering Fails from the Dark Side

Let me get this out there immediately. I love Star Wars. I’m an engineer, so it’s basically in my DNA to think Star Wars is one of the greatest tales ever told. That being said, I’m an engineer, so it’s basically in my DNA to tear apart movies for things that are just too unrealistic. Even when it happens a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… With that, to celebrate May the 4th day, here are some of my engineering pet peeves in Star Wars.

Have some of your own? Let me hear them at

I know you think that I’m going to spend this post talking about the low hanging fruit that is the Death Star, but let’s get serious. That thing is amazing!! It houses 265,675 crew members, 57, 276 gunners, 400,000 droids, 5,000 heavy turbolasers, 5,000 turbolaser batteries, 2,500 laser cannons, 2,500 ion cannons, 768 tractor beam emplacements and one crazy planet destroying superlaser! And it’s only weak point is a tiny exhaust port that only a Jedi (all of which were thought to be dead) can hit? Well done! In fact, if you haven’t heard the architect of the Death Star defend his design, do yourself a favor and leave my post and watch this video right now.

Unfortunately not everything in the Star Wars universe had the top engineers on the design team. The first design I just can’t wrap my head around is the staple of the Galactic Empire’s fighter force, the Twin Ion Engine, or TIE Fighter. Who signed off on two giant vertical panels on either side of the cockpit? They certainly don’t seem to serve as wings or propulsion, so what do they do? Provide a great target for the Rebel fighters. That’s it! Even worse, wouldn’t they completely restrict the vision of anyone flying them? You’re literally flying through space at unfathomable speeds, yet you can’t see more than 75 degrees or so in front of you? Good luck with those asteroid fields, not to mention the X-Wings coming your way.

Speaking of X-Wings, the Empire isn’t the only one with some questionable designs. Sure they look cool, and at least they have something that resembles a wing (or wings?) to help them control flight, but how exactly do they stop? There isn’t gravity for them to slowly glide to a stop, especially at the speeds they’re moving. Does it have revers thrusters? Nope. Can it reverse itself and fire the engines the opposite direction? Double nope. Going a step further, how do these things turn so quickly? Maybe they shut off some of a few of the 4 engines to make it happen. Yeah, let’s go with that…

Enough picking with flight. Let’s move on to the ground, and one of my personal favorite Star Wars creations, the All Terrain All Transport vehicle, or AT-AT for short. This one is a combination of problems, ranging from engineering to poor naming and potentially using the wrong tool for the wrong job. What are AT-ATs good at? Being giant, menacing, laser wielding death machines that will stomp through anything in their path. What are they not so good at? Transporting troops safely and quickly from point A to point B. Setting all that aside, you’re telling me that the designers of these crazy camel looking things didn’t account for the legs being strong enough to snap a little cable wrapped around them?! And what’s the deal with the harpoons being able to pierce this metal? Was this a cost saving measure by Darth? Something just doesn’t add up with this design.

My last complaint for this rant (and yes, there are many more) will be the laser blasters. Or is it a beam accelerator blaster? Or something else altogether? Let’s just stick with blaster. So whatever is being shot is moving extremely quickly, like the speed of light fast, yet we can all see them moving. Not only can they be seen but they can be reacted to quickly to deflect. Deflect BACK AT THE SHOOTER! You know, if the shot actually finds its mark. And why did you decide to color these things? It might be just a bit harder to deflect if you can’t see it. At least don’t always use the same color and give away what team you’re playing for.

If you’re an engineer I’m sure you’ve already thought about this stuff, or had similar issues of your own. If you have lucked out and aren’t an engineer, actually being able to enjoy the simple things in life like a fictional movie, maybe you’ll give this some thought next time you see a TIE Fighter on the screen. Please don’t think of this as having ruined anything in the series, think of it as making you a more enlightened, more difficult person to tolerate. Happy May the Fourth Day!!!

Disclaimer: The opinions here reflect what Unprofessional Engineering thinks, so yeah, there’s that.

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