In this article:
- Starkiller Base is a superweapon made out of the hollowed planet of Ilum, a planet where the Jedi get their sacred kyber crystals.
- The First Order constructed the Death Star 2.0 in the shadowy reaches of the Unknown Regions.
- Starkiller Base was named after an earlier draft of Luke Skywalker and Galen Marek, an apprentice of Darth Vader.
- We can’t build a real Starkiller Base but if we could, it’d cost us a pretty penny. Er, credit.
Unless you’ve been paying really close attention to the Star Wars sequel trilogy, the name “Starkiller” isn’t going to ring a lot of bells. It’s not like the superweapon doesn’t show up in the movies, but it’s nowhere near as memorable as the Death Star, its Imperial predecessor, even though the Starkiller is larger.
If you need a quick refresher though, Starkiller Base was the new Death Star-looking weapon in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. It first appeared in The Force Awakens where it was used to destroy Hosnian Prime, a Core World planet that served as the capital of the New Republic.
The devastating attack would be like if someone dropped a nuclear bomb on Washington, DC except on a planetary scale. Also, like nuclear bombs, it took a lot of energy, manpower, and credits to make Starkiller Base possible.
So how does Starkiller Base work? And how exactly do you hide a superweapon the size of an entire planet?
What Is Starkiller?
Starkiller Base was a superweapon that doubled as a military base for the First Order, the big bad of the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Obviously, its design draws from the earlier Death Star, except Starkiller Base was roughly 410 miles in diameter, making it 5.5 times larger than the Death Star.
Other than their resemblance, there’s little that Starkiller Base shares with its predecessor because the two weapons worked differently. The Death Star relied on a hyper matter reactor and eight giant kyber crystals to produce the massive green laser beam we saw in the films.
Starkiller Base makes the Death Star’s energy source look like a AAA battery. The planet-sized weapon is planet-sized because it actually is the hollowed remains of a planet. Before Starkiller Base became Starkiller Base, it was Ilum.
Ilum, as most avid Star Wars fans might recall, is a planet in the Unknown Regions. It was once sacred to the Jedi for being one of the only places in the galaxy where kyber crystals, a key component in making lightsabers, could be mined.
It’s not like there weren’t other planets to get your kyber from. Jedha, a moon in the Mid Rim, was known for being a source of kyber crystals. But the sacred stones were especially abundant in Ilum, motivating the Jedi Order to keep the entire planet secret from the rest of the galaxy. Meanwhile, the Jedi Order moved in to secure the planet for themselves.
It became a tradition for Jedi Initiates to come to Ilum to find their own kyber crystal and construct a lightsaber.
But everything changed when the Empire attacked. Following Order 66, clone troopers were sent to Ilum to exterminate the Jedi, bringing the planet under the control of the Empire. When the Empire was defeated, a successor organization that called itself the First Order returned to Ilum and turned it into Starkiller Base.
TLDR: The entire superweapon is built into a rich supply of kyber crystal compared to the Death Star’s measly eight. Starkiller didn’t need a reactor either. It used quintessence, a type of dark energy discovered by scientists working on the first Death Star.
This gave the weapon a virtually limitless source of energy since the process of charging Starkiller Base’s laser used quintessence to absorb the energy of nearby stars. Oh, and it fired its red beam of death in the Unknown Regions, lightyears away from the Core Worlds region that Hosnian Prime was in.
So it’s a planet-sized weapon that eats stars for breakfast. How did the First Order hide their activities on the planet?
How Did the First Order Hide That Thing?
Though it might feel like the First Order came out of nowhere as an Empire 2.0, only the first half of that is true. When the Empire was defeated by the New Republic, its remaining members fled to the Unknown Regions and began to plot their return.
Thanks to Supreme Leader Snoke, the tall golem-looking guy who sits ominously on an oversized throne, former Imperial officers were able to make it safely through the Unknown Regions using hidden hyperspace lanes.
That answers how the Empire survived and made the First Order. But how about the part where no one thought to take a peep at the Unknown Regions just in case there was a growing military junta that wanted to destroy the New Republic?
It turns out, the First Order had a lot of friends in high places. Not only did they collaborate with crime lords to make money for their Starkiller project, but the First Order also shook hands with New Republic senators. A growing political group known as the Centrists were First Order sympathizers within the New Republic.
Leia Organa, who was also a senator at the time, had started to look into the shadowy activities of Rinnrivin Di, a Nikto crime lord. But a coverup that destroyed all evidence that led back to the First Order and a scandal that revealed Darth Vader was Leia’s real father forced the princess out of power.
But yeah, the sequel trilogy depicted the First Order as incompetent.
While the rest of the New Republic thought they were safe, the First Order kept on building their forces and Starkiller Base. The New Republic’s lack of interest and the danger of traveling to the Unknown Regions made them practically invisible to the rest of the galaxy. During their thirty years or so of hiding, the First Order was able to build Starkiller Base with virtually no interruption.
But aside from looking like the Death Star, did you know that Starkiller Base references early drafts for Luke Skywalker and that it shares a name with an apprentice of Darth Vader? No, not Ashoka Tano. She was Anakin‘s apprentice. Darth Vader’s apprentice was Galen Marek a.k.a Starkiller.
Starkiller Shares a Name With Luke Skywalker and Galen Marek, Darth Vader’s Apprentice
The name “Death Star” is, frankly, a little cheesy. Starkiller, though? Straight up metal. That’s probably why they scrapped the idea of naming Luke Skywalker that.
On Feb 18, 2016, Peter Mayhew posted a Tweet that included photos of the original 1976 Star Wars script. Mayhew isn’t just a Star Wars scriptwriter — he’s played the role of Chewbacca up until The Force Awakens.
The original script was titled “The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as taken from the Journal of the Whills.” Whills are immortal Force beings that kept a record of galactic history meaning that Star Wars was initially conceived as a story within a story tale.
But the Whills became the Force and Luke Starkiller became Luke Skywalker. A good decision because it would have been hard to think of someone as a good guy when his name is literally Starkiller. Um, hello? The name screams Dark Sider.
There is one Dark Sider Starkiller in the Star Wars universe, though, and his real name is Galen Marek. If you’ve never heard of Galen Marek, that’s because Darth Vader didn’t want you to find out. The Sith Lord kept Marek as a secret apprentice following the death of his parents, both of whom were Jedi Knights, during the Imperial invasion of Kashyyk.
So not only is Anakin a youngling killer, but he’s also a youngling napper. It was Darth Vader’s idea to name him Starkiller so props to him for coming up with it. Unfortunately, Starkiller the Guy is no longer canon following Disney’s acquisition of Lucas Films.
Truly, we lost so much of the Star Wars universe after the Disney invasion. Only time will tell whether we ever see Galen Marek again. In the meantime, the only canon Starkiller is Starkiller the Military Base. If you want to see Marek in action though, for now, you’re going to have to buy Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
Speaking of buying, the construction of Starkiller Base would have taken quintillions. With an S. For comparison, there’s only around $40 trillion currently in circulation on the entire Earth.
The Economics and Science Behind Starkiller Base
Creating a Starkiller Base in real life isn’t strictly impossible, but it will take a long time.
According to Zachary Feinstein, an Assistant Professor at Washington University in St. Louis who specializes in financial modeling, building a real Starkiller would set the entire human race back by about $9.315 quintillion minimum.
Feinstein, who writes a delightfully geeky column called “Fictionomics,” based the estimated cost of Starkiller on an earlier study of his about the cost of the Death Star. Yes, the guy wrote an actual economics paper on the costs of the Death Star. Now that’s living your best life.
Anyway, in the original paper, the Death Star would have cost Emperor Palpatine $193 quintillion. For perspective, a quintillion is a thousand trillion. Starkiller Base, which is 5.5 times larger, would cost $360 quintillion to build assuming that our only expenditure is the costs of the structure wrapped around the planet. Still pricier than the Death Star.
But Feinstein says that the excavation of Ilum could earn the First Order a nice profit, bringing the actual costs down to $9.315 quintillion assuming that you don’t need to pay for other pesky features like oxygen.
The calculation does not include the costs of maintenance, the salaries that the First Order would need to pay, and the expense of feeding thousands of officers and Stormtroopers.
Assuming that Jeff Bezos perfects FTL travel and creates an interstellar megacorporation that has the money to build a Starkiller Base, the next question is: Is it actually scientifically possible?
Hate to break it to you, aspiring space fascists, but building a real Starkiller Base isn’t scientifically possible unless you want to build a black hole. Jillian Scudder, an Assistant Professor in Physics & Astronomy at Oberlin College, says that the only known object in the universe capable of drawing energy from a star is a black hole and Starkiller Base is anything but.
Even if Starkiller Base could sustainably store a star’s energy, that would also mean taking on a star’s mass which would make all of the other planets in its solar system orbit the base. If Starkiller ever had to be moved elsewhere in the Star Wars galaxy, it would leave planets spinning out of orbit in its wake, destroying them as well.
But let’s say Starkiller Base could do all that and more. It still has to solve the problem of whether quintessence, the dark energy used by the superweapon to draw power from a star, can interact with matter.
Of course, the sequel trilogy acknowledges how hard it would be to feasibly contain the energy of a star inside a planet which is why we see it get destroyed by Poe Dameron when he wrecks the thermal oscillator, a component that keeps the entire base from imploding.
Rest in peace, Starkiller Base. You could have blown up Coruscant and more if not for those meddling Resistance pilots.