Exploring Force Lightning, Part I: Surge Protection

One of the coolest powers revealed in Star Wars, at least for a time, was what’s been dubbed Force Lightning. Summoning power from the darkest depths of the Force, a Dark Side user could conjure a literal lightning storm of fury and direct it through their fingertips.

As this series progresses I’m going to look at several questions left unanswered by its onscreen use. I’ll also share some thoughts on its continued appearance in the series.

Let’s face it, you didn’t come here for the latest social media debate to score cheap endorphins from people with whom you agree.

Above please see your complete list of options during online debate.
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The Extension Cord of Pondering

I was running an extension cord outdoors to do some yard work one day, and I pondered on the implications of electrical contact. Here I was, handling a conduit for certain death while shielded by a certain thickness of rubber insulation designed to be marvelously flexible yet strong enough to save my life.

If there was a flaw in the insulation it would undoubtedly be bad for me, but it would also blow a circuit. It could potentially render inoperable something not shielded properly that was on the same line. This happens with lightning ground strikes; a home’s electrical systems can be damaged by the surge of a close hit, or a strike on the home itself.

Being me, this naturally led to pondering about Force Lightning. If it is, in fact, some form of mystical electrical energy, what are the implications on electrical systems around it when it is unleashed?

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These guys could be in a lot of trouble.

Wielding the Unwieldy

Most times we’ve seen Force Lightning unleashed, it’s been incredibly focused. But there is also demonstrable “bleed” wherein it hits additional spots other than its intended target. The very first time we saw it onscreen in Return of the Jedi (1983), the lightning hit more than just the writhing Luke.

This isn’t much of a concern to Darth Tyranus (Count Dooku) on Geonosis, who is able to deliver focused blasts within the confines of a lair carved from rock. Rock isn’t the greatest conductor, and energy searches for the easiest path, so I can see why it isn’t the greatest concern, especially as he never directs a blast toward his solar sailer.

(As a side note, Dooku’s solar sailer remains one of the coolest ship designs in all of Star Wars. Thus have I proclaimed.)

However, the question at hand is insulation and protection. We’ve seen Force Lightning unleashed within the confines of an artificial environment built from metal, wiring, and complex circuitry. Is there any reason to believe that surge protection and insulation were a concern for those systems?

Please accept this example of how evil clouds are.
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When Darth Sidious (Sheev Palpatine) unleashes Force Lightning in the Chancellor’s Office in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (the best Star Wars film to date, and a true work of art), and subsequently in the Senate Chambers as he fights Minch Yoda (look it up), we don’t observe any specific effects.

We’d have reason to believe that surge protection and insulation would be part and parcel of these areas’ construction. However, you can argue that it’s inconclusive what effect it has.

The Chancellor’s office has systems and power working after his attack on Mace Windu, and the Senate is essentially running on low power. To be argumentative I can can construct that some systems were damaged, but the ones still operational only suffered incidental contact that wasn’t enough to cause an issue.

I could argue that the Senate had to undergo some renovations before it was opened fully again. While there are functional systems after the fight with (Minch) Yoda &emdash; Sidious is in a pod, and the shock troopers are also using at least one &emdash; I could say that thanks to volume of pods those were the ones left functional while others were damaged. If they each had closed systems, the damage would have been limited.

He had an excuse to keep the Senate chambers shut down anyway as they cleaned up the pods destroyed by Sidious’ wanton attempts to crush Yoda.

That feels more like being argumentative for the sake of it, however. It leads me into the second topic for the series, though, and the one truly spurred by the extension cord.

What insulation does an individual require in order to wield Force Lightning in the first place?

That’s next time!