This is my first time wading into the sequel trilogy with my “unanswered questions” line of blogs, and so I wanted to put a question out there that I’ve honestly not encountered during my many debates about Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
I have to be honest, it might spur a whole string of these question blogs. It’s one of many questions I have about my least favorite element of The Force Awakens…Starkiller Base.
What Powered the First Firing of Its Prime Weapon?
When we encounter Starkiller Base for the first time, it’s primed to fire and destroy Hosnian Prime, the quasi-Coruscant that gets a few brief moments in the film before being incinerated. Hosnian, we hardly knew ye.
General Hux gives a fun little psychopathic speech that’s an ode to maniacal dictators of Earth history, and then they fire for all the troops to see. It’s a neat sequence, even if the scene on Takodana (Takeout Diner?) with people witnessing Hosnian Prime’s destruction is a bit too reminiscent of Spock Prime’s witnessing of Vulcan’s destruction in Star Trek (Insert obligatory “2009”) which isn’t in the Star Trek Prime Timeline.
(Honestly, at this point, I feel stuck in a feedback loop where I have to keep using the word Prime at any opportunity. Thanks, Abrams.)
It also creates its own set of questions about witnessing the event from a distance unless Hosnian Prime is in a very close/neighboring system to Takodana. It’s dramatic onscreen, so it’s fine. It’s fine.
Back to the question at hand, later in the film we see Starkiller Base prime for firing. It sucks a nearby star of its energy, plunging all into darkness. It’s a neat sequence, even if I prefer the book’s version of things where the base collects dark energy from the space around it. I think it’s neater and more thematically meaningful if this weapon is drawing literal darkness to power it for its dark deeds. It would also have alleviate the question I have.
If It Needs a Star to Power Its Prime Weapon, How Did Starkiller Base Get the Power to Destroy Hosnian Prime?
This is tougher to answer than I’d like. The “jazzier” visual choice to drain a star onscreen later in the film is what creates the issue.
That’s because obviously, Starkiller Base is lit by a star. There is a light source. It’s close enough that they can siphon its energy quickly and without destabilizing it enough to go nova. I know that Star Wars stretches physical laws – I’m not an idiot – but there is a baseline question about how it all works here, that I’m trying to answer.
It’s tempting to say that one solution is, Starkiller Base moved. It was at Point A, charged up its weapon, and moved. Even though Snoke specifically says in the film, “Prepare the weapon for firing,” he could simply be indicating that the weapon’s been charged and they’re ready to fire off when the command is given.
However, Starkiller Base moving carries its own complications. If it can, and it can hold a charge for an indeterminate amount of time, then it removes their reason not to travel to the general system area of their intended target and fire.
The advantage of Starkiller Base is supposed to be that it can fire through Hyperspace. I’m tabling the question why you’d even be able to see the beam then, but whatever.
Heck, I’m being generous and not asking, if it can target through hyperspace, why not target the star where your desired planet it, and hit that, causing it to go nova and destroy the whole system?
However, if it’s locked into a stationary position, it still opens it to attack. A hyperspace beam is truly advantageous if it can be fired from an indeterminate location; if you’re locked in one place then you can fire the weapon once and you’re done.
Back to the Question of a Second Charging Source
Which brings us back to the question at hand. We have no indication that Starkiller Base moved. Given the consistency of lighting and position, it decidedly looks like it didn’t.
The star it drains at the climax of the movie is possibly the second of a binary system. If that’s the case, the First Order planned to fire the weapon all of twice. That seems like an awful lot of effort for two shots.
Perhaps that was enough. Given the fact that The Last Jedi establishes they conquered the entire galaxy about 48 hours after the destruction of Hosnian Prime, I guess maybe that was all they cared about. It still seems like effort disproportionate to the result, and doesn’t account for the idea that any piece of the armed forces were deployed…anywhere…but there you go.
The final option is they were in a star cluster, but nothing visually indicates that as a possibility.
None of these answers are particularly satisfying. But if I’m honest, just about nothing having to do with the Starkiller Base, outside of the design, is.
I have plenty of other questions about Starkiller Base that I can answer as authoritatively as any YouTuber. I’ll get to those in enough time.