This one technically could also go into the “Unanswered Questions from Star Wars” category like another recent entry, but maybe that series of titles just needs to be relegated a tag/category from here on out. I’m becoming more fond of making the theme of the entry more clear from the start.
Recently, during a discussion on Twitter about Grand Moff Tarkin (played by the legendary Peter Cushing in 1977 and Deepfake technology in 2016), I realized that the Star Wars galaxy was lucky there never was a Grand Moff kesseljunkie.
Let me explain.
Why Didn’t Tarkin Blow Up Dantooine?
Princess Leia made the bold decision to sacrifice Dantooine in the hopes it would buy Alderaan some time while she was being interrogated by Tarkin and Vader. Sure, we can presume there was no advanced culture on the planet at the time and so she was throwing a lifeless orb up for sacrifice. It’s a big presumption to make, especially since Rogue One establishes that there’s no question that Leia had not just heard about the Death Star, she knew its capabilities firsthand.
It might not have blown up all of Scarif, but I promise you the environmental devastation of that shot was something to behold. That planet suffered the equivalent of an extinction-level asteroid hitting it. Leia knew that even if the Death Star was capable of “only” that level of destruction, it was a civilization-ending calamity machine.
Let’s get back to the question at hand, though.
After Tarkin destroys Alderaan, why doesn’t he simply fly to Dantooine and blow it away? There’s no risk. Even if there’s “no trace” of the Rebellion left there, one of the tactics of an authoritarian impulse is to create examples of people. The Death Star works, the Empire consists of “a thousand thousand worlds” and why not show the galaxy that even thinking of letting the Rebellion use a tract of land leads to irrevocable destruction?
That’s precisely what I’d have done. Alderaan’s destruction proved the Death Star worked at maximum power and no one could stand against the Empire’s power now.
Failures of Vision
In fact, one of my biggest arguments about Vader’s great failures is he should have made himself Emperor and had Tarkin be his right-hand man. Since the Death Star was designed around a direct, large-scale assault, the Emperor had handed Vader the keys to the kingdom. Blow up Dantooine, and send a message to Sidious that there’s a new sherriff in town.
Had I been in Tarkin’s position, that’s precisely what I would have argued. I believe I could have gotten Vader to go along with me, too!
Additionally, flying off immediately to Dantooine to destroy it prevents the Rebels from getting their hands on the Death Star plans. The heroes were flying to Alderaan to deliver those plans to them! Without Alderaan, and without being captured by the Death Star…best of luck to them finding the Rebel base.
Further, even if they have the plans, the technical team on the Death Star can examine the systems to see if any power surges or other weaknesses have been built into the system. Remember, it’s not the exhaust port that’s the weakness — it’s ray shielded, and the shot is impossible. (We just take it for granted that it’s a cinch because we’ve all watched Luke make it hundreds of times.) Galen Erso says he’s built a flaw into the reactor itself and structures his comments around an infiltration concept.
Flying to Dantooine and blowing it up gives them time to analyze and correct any flaws the plans might expose!
And That’s How I Realized…
The citizens of the Star Wars galaxy should be thankful Grand Moff kesseljunkie wasn’t in charge of things. It would have all gone very, very differently.
Some might argue, “better,” but that depends on your certain point of view.