Hello all, it’s Andrew here again with another post of The Star Wars Dissection.
First, I’d like to apologize for the delay. It is usually my intention to release these every second Monday, which meant this should have been released on April 25th. But many factors conspired against me, including a long business trip, my wife and I both being sick, and the holidays. I hope to still have the next release on schedule for May 23th.
This week, I’ve decided to go in a slightly different direction. Instead of using numbers to prove a point, I’ll be doing something more akin to a lit research paper. In science, this type of research involves reviewing many different scientific journal articles and drawing your conclusions from information published by others. This can be done in conjunction with direct experimentation, or in place of it. My own undergrad thesis was like this; I read dozens of journal articles and performed a four-day experiment.
The topic of this lit paper: Are Weapons of Mass Destruction accurately portrayed in Star Wars?
First, I’d like to note my own background in this field. My job is nonproliferation policy for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canada (equivalent to US State Department). I’ll grant that, beyond chemical and biological weapons, the weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Star Wars are completely alien to us, but I just wanted to explain where I’m coming from on this.
This research began a long time ago, with my first letter to The EU Review. After their review of the novel Clone Wars Gambit: Siege, I wrote them a letter indicating one fault I found in the novel: that the biological weapon developed by the CIS was nothing of the sort. This idea made me think if other such weapons existed in Star Wars, and if they were accurately portrayed (or at least consistently portrayed).
The definition of WMD in the real world is not consistent. Wikipedia notes that it refers to any weapon that can bring significant harm to humans or other lifeforms, man-made buildings, natural structures (e.g. mountains), or the biosphere in general. This definition has several weaknesses. What do we consider “significant”? What do we mean by ”harm” in terms of mountains or the biosphere? By this definition, it looks like a huge amount of simple explosives might be considered a WMD. As a result, I’m going to specify exactly what I’m analyzing.
For this article, I will be looking at what Wookieepedia calls “Superweapons”, including devices capable of destroying stars or planets, or devastating fleets. I will also look at Chemical and Biological Weapons, as well as Force-based weapons that cause severe planetary damage.
Before going into detail about each weapon, I’m going to perform a few statistical analyses on superweapons.
Superweapons Historically and through Publishing Time
A criticism of the Bantam era of Star Wars novels (1991 to 1999) was that it seemed like every story featured a major superweapon that our Heroes were required to destroy. However, a look at Figure 1 shows that there were four distinct clusters of superweapon use in Star Wars media, the Bantam Era being the largest, but not by much. First, from 1977 to 1989, we see a total of 10 superweapons featured in what I’ll call the Pre-EU era (orange circle). From 1991 to 1997 (Bantam era ending in 1999; red circle), we see 19 superweapons used, with a peak in 1994 (the Jedi Academy trilogy). From 1999 to 2006, we see another resurgence of superweapons proliferation with 19, peaking in 2002, at the release of Episode II (Early Del Rey era, blue circle). Last, from 2008 onwards, we have the last peak (modern Del Rey era, pink circle), which had 14. So the Bantam did not have any more superweapons than the later eras. Therefore, the apparent overuse of superweapons in Bantam books is not correct.
As described above, I’ve separated all Star Wars superweapons into seven distinct categories: anything capable of destroying a star, ships or stations capable of destroying planets, bombs capable of destroying planets, fleet devastating weapons, weapons that are not strictly destructive, chemical/biological weapons, and Force-based weapons. As you can see, the most common weapons were in the chemical and biological weapons category, with 19 entries, over half of which were featured since 2002 (perhaps coincidentally after the Anthrax attacks in 2001, when biological weapons became a commonly perceived terrorist threat in the US). The second most common was the planet-destroyer, with eighteen produced in material from 1977 to 2011, and since two of them were featured in the original movie trilogy, these are the superweapons most associated with Star Wars.
In Figure 3, I’ve noted which Galactic power developed and/or used superweapons throughout history. It is noteworthy that 50 superweapons were used by groups typically identified as “evil” in Star Wars (the Empire, the Sith, the Confederacy of Independent Systems, the Yuuzhan Vong, and criminal organizations). However, it is also interesting that 5 such weapons were used by traditionally “good” entities (Republic, Rebellion/New Republic/Galactic Alliance), two of which were biological or toxin agents (Bafforr pollen and Alpha Red). The remaining seven were used by either ancient civilizations of unknown intent, or evil entities that did not fit in with the other categories. But this graph shows that, while indeed superweapons were devices used predominantly by the wicked, there were indeed uses of them by those with good intentions.
A Short History of WMDs and Superweapons:
Below, I’ve described the superweapons and discussed some interesting trends in their operation. I’ve attached images, where applicable, of some of these, especially those that fans might be least familiar with. All of these images come from Wookieepedia, and are either scans or screenshots of the original source.
Star-Destroying Ships and Stations:
There were certain devices in the Star Wars universe that had such tremendous power, that they were capable of destroying entire star systems or more. I’ve discovered four examples, two of which were purely offensive, whereas the other two may have also had other uses.
The first offensive one was the Sun Crusher. As its name suggests, it was capable of destroying stars, causing a subsequent explosion which could destroy most of the planets of a solar system. It was also incredibly heavily armored, able to withstand the force of the supernova it caused. It was very small, about the same dimensions as a starfighter. The Empire developed the Sun Crusher at the Maw Installation. It was used by the Jedi apprentice Kyp Durron (under the influence of Dark Lord Exar Kun) to destroy the Carida System, killing billions. It was ultimately destroyed when Durron flew it into a black hole. This weapon is one of the deadliest ever seen in Star Wars, and nothing similar has been created since. The Sun Crusher was featured in the Jedi Academy Trilogy of novels (Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice, Champions of the Force).
Even more destructive than the Sun Crusher was the Shawken Device. Built by an ancient scientist on the planet Shawken, it would first destroy its home planet, and then send the fragments through hyperspace, each of which would collide into another star or planet, destroying it too. This would cause a chain reaction that would eventually destroy the entire universe. The man who developed the Device had no visions of power in his head. Instead, he hoped that, with the destruction of the universe, a new Big Bang would renew the universe. The Device was accidentally activated in 4 ABY by Corellian con man Rik Duel, but was shut down by Luke Skywalker. One interesting note is that the Shawken Device worked much in the same way as nuclear fission. Unstable elements break apart, and some of their neutrons fly freely, impacting other atoms and causing them to break apart, propagating a chain reaction. The Shawken Device was featured in issue 87 of the old Star Wars series by Marvel.
Another two such weapons were originally designed for other purposes. Centerpoint Stationwas a powerful device built by the ancient Celestials. Using repulsor technology, the station could transport planets or stars through hyperspace. The Celestials, with possible assistance from the Killiks, used it to build the Corellian System, as well as the Maw cluster. However, in 18 ABY, the Corellians discovered that it had the ability to destroy stars. Thracken Sal-Solo, who claimed title of ruler of an independent Corellian System, used Centerpoint Station to hold the New Republic hostage. They used it to destroy uninhabited systems and threatened to attack inhabited ones. They also used it to create an interdiction field around the system, preventing New Republic military action. Young Anakin Solo discovered a way to disable the station before serious loss of life. It was temporarily reactivated during the Yuuzhan Vong War, accidentally destroying a Hapan fleet. Corellian insurrectionists tried to reactivate it again shortly before the Second Galactic Civil War, forcing the Jedi to destroy it. This weapon, while incredibly destructive, did have constructive purposes, though they were not used in recent history. Centerpoint Station was first featured in the Corellian Trilogy (Ambush at Corellia, Assault at Selonia, Showdown at Centerpoint) and was prominently featured in Agents of Chaos I, Betrayal, and Fury.
The last device on this list is the Corsair. The Corsair was a Derriphan-class battleship used by the ancient Sith Empire around 5,000 BBY. It was one of the flagships of Dark Lord of the Sith Naga Sadow. During the Great Hyperspace War, Sadow used the ship and the Force to cause the star Primus Goluud to go supernova, forcing the fleets of Ludo Kressh and Empress Teta to retreat from battle. While escaping Tetan pursuit, Sadow also destroyed the Denarii stars. Sadow hid the Corsair with him on Yavin 4. The ship was uncovered by Exar Kun before the Great Sith War, where he put Krath leader Aleema Keto in command. She used it to attack the Republic space station Kemplex IX, using the ship to destroy the ten stars of the Cron Cluster. The resulting supernova destroyed Aleema Keto and the Corsair, both the Sith and Republic fleets, and devastated the Jedi Academy on Ossus. The Corsair was featured in the Tales of the Jedi comic series, most notably The Fall of the Sith Empire, Dark Lords of the Sith, and The Sith War.
Weapons like these are so destructive that they lie entirely in the realm of science fiction. However, it is notable that they are always treated as weapons so devastating that their destruction or deactivation becomes a top priority, to prevent further destruction. The instant Corellia had command over a functional Centerpoint Station, the New Republic/Galactic Alliance’s immediate goal was to disarm them, and the fledgling New Jedi Order used every possible resource to wrest the Sun Crusher from the corrupted Kyp Durron. Granted the scale of a star-destroying weapon is beyond the scale of reality, and granted that the original logic behind the US’s 2003 invasion of Iraq was to secure WMDs, but other countries demonstrating their development of such weapons, such as the 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests of North Korea, has generated only diplomatic and financial repercussions. As a result, it is difficult to imagine that the possession of such a powerful weapon would immediately generate a military response as was done in these cases. But again, a nuclear bomb is different from a Sun Crusher, so nothing can be assumed.
Planet-Destroying Ships and Stations:
A large number of superweapons in Star Wars are ships or space stations capable of destroying planets or moons. While I have identified eighteen separate weapons that fit this category, eight of them are based on the same technology: the superlaser. Designed for the first Death Star, this one laser cannon, which usually operated by converging tributary beams into one powerful blast, could destroy capital ships, cities, moons, or even entire planets. This technology was similar to smaller-scale weapons such as the turrets aboard LAAT/i gunships. The first Superlasers were part of the Death Star, built over the prison world of Despayre, and its Prototype, built at the Maw Installation. The Death Star’s superlaser was responsible for the destruction of the Rebel carrier Fortressa, the planet Despayre, and the planet Alderaan. It was destroyed in the famous Battle of Yavin by Luke Skywalker. This was featured in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, and was expanded upon in the novel Death Star. The prototype, which remained in the Maw, was activated in 11 ABY by Admiral Daala. It destroyed the moon of Kessel, but was destroyed when it flew too close to one of the Maw’s black holes. This occurred in the Jedi Academy Trilogy of novels.
In the following years, the superlaser concept was applied to many other ships and stations. A superlaser was installed on the Imperial Star Destroyer Conqueror, though the only thing it destroyed was a small planetoid in the Mustafar System. It was subsequently taken out by the Rebellion’s Renegade Squadron. This was featured in the Star Wars Galaxies Trading Card Game. Another superlaser-equipped ship in this era was the Tarkin. A massive vessel, it destroyed the planet Aeten II, facilitating the mining of stygium crystals in its core. Fearing it could be used against Rebel worlds, Luke Skywalker sabotaged its targeting computer, making the ship fire upon itself. The Tarkin was featured in issues 51 and 52 of the Marvel Star Wars series, though the destruction of Aeten II was described in Who’s Who: Imperial Grand Admirals from the 66th issue of Insider magazine.
By 4 ABY, the Emperor had commissioned the construction of other superlaser-equipped ships. First, the second Death Star. Significantly larger than the first one, the Death Star II had a much faster recharge rate, allowing it to target capital ships more effectively. It was destroyed by Wedge Antilles and Lando Calrissian before it could be used against planets. The Death Star II was featured in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Other ships built around this time were the Eclipse and the Sovereign. The Eclipse-class was built over Kuat in 4 ABY. Its incomplete chassis was temporarily stolen by crimelord Tyber Zann, where he used its computer to steal from the Imperial vault. Once it was completed, it became the flagship of the cloned Emperor in 10 ABY. It was also equipped with a superlaser, which was used to destroy a number of starships, but no planets. The first Eclipse was consumed by a Force Storm, and the second collided with the Galaxy Gun. These were depicted in the comics Dark Empire, Dark Empire II, and Empire’s End. The Sovereign-class Super Star Destroyer began its construction in 4 ABY, but was not finished by the time of Warlord Zsinj in 8 ABY. While they were equipped with superlasers, none were ever completed. The last ship equipped with a superlaser was the Darksaber. The only superlaser-equipped weapon that was not controlled by the Empire, it was built by Durga the Hutt in the asteroid field in the Hoth System. The ship was simply a superlaser surrounded by cylindrical hull and engines. It was destroyed by Wedge Antilles’s battle fleet, made easier by sloppy construction and infiltration by General Crix Madine. This was featured in the novel Darksaber.
It is interesting to note that so many superweapons are based on the same superlaser technology. This is in some ways consistent with reality. There is a distinction between a WMD and its means of delivery (such as missiles or sprayers). Treaties designed to ban WMDs also ban their delivery mechanisms, and international efforts are made to counter the proliferation of missile technologies as well as WMDs. And it is significantly easier to build a weapon whose designs have already been developed, tested, and approved, then to try and develop something from scratch.
The superlaser is not the only technology around for planetary destruction. The Galaxy Gun was a massive cannon in orbit of Byss that could fire hyperspace-capable missiles. Those missiles were tipped with particle-disintegrator warheads, which could destroy entire planets. The cloned Emperor used the Galaxy Gun to destroy the moon Da Soocha V, the planets Krinemonen and Hirsi, the massive New Republic troopship Pelagia, and Space City, in orbit of Nespis VIII. Fortunately, the Galaxy Gun was destroyed when R2-D2 commandeered the Super Star Destroyer Eclipse II, intentionally crashing into the Gun. In its final seconds, the Galaxy Gun fired one last round, but it misfired, and the round destroyed Byss. The Galaxy Gun was featured in the comics Dark Empire IIand Empire’s End.
Another important weapon of the cloned Emperor was the World Devastator. Unlike other weapons, which destroyed planets in one attack, the World Devastator used a slower process. Tractor beams and intense furnaces slowly broke up a planet’s surface into consumable pieces, which onboard factories could transform into starfighters, landing craft, or small capital ships. They were controlled by a central droid brain, but often had human crew for monitoring onboard functions. World Devastators were deployed against many New Republic worlds, most notably the Mon Calamari homeworld of Dac. They appeared unstoppable until Luke Skywalker deactivated them from Byss. He used R2-D2 to smuggle computer codes back to the New Republic, who used it to create a virus that caused the World Devastators to consume each other. The World Devastators were featured in the comic Dark Empire and in the game Rogue Squadron.
The Interplanetary Ion Cannon was a theoretical weapon that could have been deployed aboard a Death Star. Similar in scope to a superlaser, this powerful ion cannon could rip the atmosphere off of a planet, theoretically leaving infrastructure intact. No Interplanetary Ion Cannons were built, though they were featured in the game Death Star Designer.
An ancient civilization on the planet Tahlboor built the powerful Sky Cannon. Powered by the planet’s core, the Sky Cannon was designed to alter the orbit of Tahlboor’s moons, stabilizing tidal effects. However, a direct hit accidentally destroyed one of the moons, and the falling debris caused the extinction of the Tahlboorean civilization. In 5 BBY, a criminal named Jake Harthan tried to trick the Tahlbooreans’ descendants, the Troobs and Hobors, into destroying each other through genocidal war, thus giving him the opportunity to sell the weapon to the Tion Hegemony. This attempt was foiled by R2-D2 and C-3PO in the comic Droids: The Protocol Offensive.
Another planet-destroying weapon was the Trigon One. It was developed by the Fromm Gang to force other criminal and resistance groups to submit under Fromm’s rule. It boasted the ability to destroy planets, but it was completely untested. Kea, a member of a resistance cell fighting the Fromm Gang, destroyed the Trigon One with the help of R2-D2 and C-3PO. Trigon One was featured in two episodes of the Droids cartoon series: Escape Into Terror and The Trigon Unleashed.
Certain weapons were capable of destroying a planet, or destroying its biosphere, over a slow process. The first is the Orbital Nightcloak. A network of satellites, the Nightcloak would reflect all light from a planet’s sun back into space, blanketing the planet’s surface in darkness. This would reduce the planet’s temperature, killing the biosphere and eventually turning into an iceball. Imperial Warlord Zsinj attempted to destroy Dathomir with an Orbital Nightcloak, but was stopped by Han Solo, the New Republic, and the Hapans. This was featured in the novel The Courtship of Princess Leia. In direct counterpoint to the Nightcloak was the Visual Electromagnetic Intensifier (VEI). Instead of reflecting light, the VEI would concentrate it towards the planet’s surface, effectively cooking it to death. However, the VEI was never actually deployed in combat; its only appearance was in the Imperial Sourcebook. Both of these weapons relied on a network of satellites, which had to be deployed by starship. That delivery vehicle was vulnerable to attack, making the Orbital Nightcloak and the VEI less effective against heavily defended worlds.
Housed within Imperial Torpedo Spheres, the Two-Wave Gravshock Device was a siege weapon capable of destroying worlds. On lower settings, the Gravshock Device could be used to determine the metallic composition of a planet’s core for mining purposes. As field strength intensified, it could provoke earthquakes capable of ravaging cities. In theory, if hooked up to the power core of a Super Star Destroyer, the earthquakes produced could rip a planet apart. However, Imperial scientists determined that the turbolasers and warhead launchers of a Super Star Destroyer were more than enough to destroy all life on a planet, and so no such devices were ever used for planetary destruction. Two-Wave Gravshock Devices were described in the Imperial Sourcebook.
The most recent addition to this list in canon is the Kinetic Corruptor. Built and deployed by Sith Lord Odion in 1,032 BBY, it could extract energy from Baradium deposits within a planet. The crust above the Baradium would explode as a result, making it perfect for use against planets with heavy Baradium deposits. Lord Odion used the Kinetic Corruptor to attack Chelloa, held by his brother Lord Daiman. A significant area of Chelloa was destroyed by the weapon, including all members of a Jedi Strike Team except one. The weapon was depicted in the first arc of the comic Knight Errant (Aflame); its ultimate fate is unknown.
In conclusion, despite the proliferation of superlaser technology in the Empire, many other technniques for destroying planets have been observed through galactic history. These technologies ranged significantly in style and technique, but always had the capacity for planetary destruction.
Rather than using starships or space stations to destroy planets, certain smaller weapons were capable of the same massive destruction of the Death Star. The first of which is the Baradium Fission Device. Though they have yet to be described in detail, Baradium Fission Devices were bombs powerful enough to destroy planets. They were banned within the Empire, after a campaign led by Alderaan. It is possible that Alderaan once had a large stockpile of these weapons, which were sent away on the ship Another Chance during their unilateral disarmament (note: the weapons described as being aboard the Another Chance were never described, but fans have linked the two ideas). In 9 BBY, rebels acquired a Baradium Fission Device and planned to deploy it against the Imperial Shipyards of Bilbringi. However, this plan was scrubbed at the last minute, after the pilot refused to sacrifice his ship, the Millennium Falcon, for the rebel cause. The Baradium Fission Device was briefly featured in the novel Millennium Falcon.
A similar weapon was simply named the Planet Killer. A bomb only twice the height of a Super Battle Droid, it was capable of destroying whatever planet it was on. A prototype Planet Killer was scheduled to destroy an unidentified planet in 22 BBY, as a demonstration for Count Dooku. However, the device was deactivated by Mace Windu before it could detonate. This event was described in the comic Run Mace Run, featured in the second volume of Clone Wars Adventures.
The only weapon on this list from the Yuuzhan Vong, Yo’Gand’s Core was a device capable of affecting gravity. A massive Dovin Basal, Yo’Gand’s Core was capable of creating a gravity field so strong that it could cause the orbit of a moon to decay. In 25 ABY, this weapon was deployed against the planet Sernpidal, where it pulled the planet’s moon Dobido toward the surface. The resulting explosion destroyed the moon and much of the planet. Among the casualties of Yo’Gand’s Core was Chewbacca, who stayed on Sernpidal to ensure the survival of Han Solo, Anakin Solo, and a large number of Sernpidalian refugees aboard the Millennium Falcon. This was described in detail in the novel Vector Prime, the first book of the New Jedi Order series.
The last weapon in this category is the Infant of Shaa. Though based on Force energy, I’ve placed this weapon here, as it is acts more as a bomb when used. The Infant of Shaa was a statue imbued with the Force on the planet Seylott, built to honour the God Shaa. The statue was revered by the Seylott people, and in its protective housing, a structure called the Mother, it was perfectly safe. When removed by Jango Fett, it became unstable; a terrorist General hoped to use its power to destroy Coruscant. Fett, with the help of Zam Wesell and Jedi Master Yarael Poof, prevented the device from unleashing its power, at the cost of Poof’s life. Fett and Wesell returned it to the Mother, and where it remains. These events were described in the graphic novels Jango Fett and Zam Wesell.
It should be noted that these weapons represent a different form of delivery for planet-destroying technology. Not all weapons need to be aboard starships to be effective, just as all explosives needn’t be on missiles to be deployed. In World War I, chemical weapons were deployed not by bombs or sprayers, but with artillery shells or even just by opening canisters and letting the wind do its work. The novel and movie The Sum of All Fears depicted a nuclear weapon deployed on the ground, concealed within a vending machine. As a result, the use of bombs to destroy planets is consistent with multiple methods of delivery for destroying a planet.
Another important category which I would consider a superweapon would be fleet devastators. These are starships, space stations, or technology which can almost instantly destroy or disable many enemy vehicles, immediately turning the tide in any battle. The first of these weapons described here is the Subjugator-class Heavy Cruiser, which itself is divided into two main ships: the Malevolence and the Devastation. The Malevolence was a CIS warship deployed by Count Dooku and General Grievous early in the Clone Wars. At almost five kilometers long, it was an incredibly powerful vessel. Its main weapon was an ion pulse cannon which could instantly disable Republic vessels, allowing the Malevolence to destroy the disabled craft with its turbolasers easily. This weapon destroyed no less than six Venator-class Star Destroyers (possibly more), and was poised to destroy the Republic medical station at Kaliida Shoals when its main weapon was disabled by Anakin Skywalker’s Shadow Squadron. The ship was destroyed when Skywalker reprogrammed its hyperdrive, causing it to crash into the moon of Antar. The Devastation was Malevolence’s sister ship. It was also equipped with massive ion cannons, though these were powered by Force crystals and capable of destroying planets, presumably in addition to fleets. Dathomiri Nightsisters planned to use the Devastation to destroy Coruscant, but were thwarted by a Jedi strike team, which destroyed the ship. Both Subjugator-class ships were capable of incredible firepower and could turn the tide of any battle, but were destroyed within days or weeks of their deployment. Malevolence was featured in the Malevolence Trilogy of the first season of The Clone Wars (Rising Malevolence, Shadow of Malevolence, and Destroy Malevolence) and the Devastation was the main threat of the game The Clone Wars: Jedi Alliance for the Nintendo DS.
Another important weapon for this category was the Mass Shadow Generator. Designed by the Republic military under Revan, it could manipulate the natural gravity fields of a star system to wreak havoc on any fleet close enough to the weapon. In 3,960 BBY, the Mass Shadow Generator was deployed at Malachor V, where it was believed that the weapon could use the mass shadows of the Malachor System to devastating effect. Revan lured the Mandalorians to Malachor, where the weapon was activated. The blast broke Malachor V into large pieces and crippled the Mandalorian fleet, effectively ending the Mandalorian Wars. The weapon would later fall into the hands of the Sith Triumvirate, but was destroyed when the Jedi Exile activated it again, completely destroying Malachor V along with the Generator. The Mass Shadow Generator was featured in the game Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords.
The Gravity Gun was a weapon used by the Empire at the Battle of Mindor. Though only minimally described in the book, it seemingly manipulates gravity in some way, either by manipulating gravity waves or by firing shells like a mass driver. At Mindor, Imperial forces under Lord Shadowspawn used the Gravity Gun to destroy numerous New Republic and Mandalorian vessels. When Mindor was destroyed, the gun was apparently destroyed as well. The Gravity Gun was featured in the novel Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor.
The Starkiller (an oft-used name in Star Wars) was another weapon of mass destruction for use against starships. Equipped aboard a vessel, the Starkiller was a hyperspace-point destabilizer. Though never fully explained, it is assumed that it could redirect starships within hyperspace, stranding them in empty space or even causing them to crash into celestial bodies. This weapon was to be used by the CIS during the Clone Wars, but was destroyed by the Republic at the Battle of Kromus, to ensure that it would never be used in battle. Unfortunately, the shockwave from the destroyed weapon did significant damage to Kromus’s atmosphere and tectonic system, eventually causing the death of over a billion sentients. The Starkiller was featured in Dark Soul, a short story part of the Living Force Campaign for Wizards of the Coast.
The last fleet devastator featured here is the Omega Frost. Designed by the House of Tagge in the months following the Battle of Yavin, the Omega Frost could flash-freeze any object containing moisture that crossed between two conductor towers. If placed strategically, this could be used to ambush Rebel fleets. After a test run on Tatooine, conductor towers were placed along a corridor in an asteroid field, but it was engaged prematurely. The weapon, as well as the designs aboard Baron Tagge’s starship, was destroyed. This was featured in issues 31 to 34 of Marvel’s monthly Star Wars line.
Despite the name, there were certain Superweapons which did not actually destroy, but rather increased the military capabilities of the weapon’s user. The most well-known such weapon was the Star Forge. Created by the Rakata in the millennia before the Republic, the Star Forge could draw material from a star and convert it into almost anything the operators wanted, including starships. It is arguably the least destructive and most useful weapon on this list. However, what makes the Star Forge a WMD is that it allowed its users, specifically the Sith Lords Darth Revan and Darth Malak, to build massive fleets of warships and starfighters on a whim. It single-handedly tipped the balance of power in favour of the Sith Empire during the Jedi Civil War. It’s destruction crippled the Sith, and allowed the Republic to defeat them a few years later. The Star Forge was featured in the game Knights of the Old Republic.
A second such example was the Eye of Palpatine. The Eye was originally conceived as a massive dreadnought, with sufficient firepower to devastate a planet by orbital bombardment. However, its actual application was less destructive, though just as evil. Controlled by an artificial intelligence, the Eye was programmed to retrieve stormtroopers from specific bases to build up its strength before an attack. However, its deployment had been delayed by years, and those bases had been abandoned. Instead, the Eye sought out any sentient species available and brainwashed them until they believed they were stormtroopers. As a result, the Eye of Palpatine was essentially a massive stormtrooper development ship, which could create an army from any random collection of sentients, regardless of their species or past military training. Fortunately, the Eye of Palpatine was destroyed by the Jedi Cray Mingla and Nichos Marr over Belsavis. The Eye of Palpatine was featured in the novel Children of the Jedi.
A third ship of this type was the Arc Hammer. Designed and built by Imperial General Rom Mohc, it was designed as a means to construct and deploy Dark Troopers, an Imperial heavy battle droid. While it did have conventional arms, the Arc Hammer’s main weapon was its ability to deploy dropships carrying dozens – if not hundreds – of Dark Troopers. Dark Trooper manufacturing facilities were on board the Arc Hammer, allowing it to replenish its own army as needed. The Arc Hammer attacked one Rebel facility, Tak Base on Talay, which provoked an intense investigation by the Rebellion. It was destroyed by Rebel mercenary Kyle Katarn after he placed demolitions charges throughout the ship. No such ship was ever built again, but the Empire continued using Dark Troopers (some droids, some men in armor) for several years. The Arc Hammer was the main threat of the game Dark Forces.
There are also Superweapons that were actually designed for peaceful purposes, though were repurposed as weapons of mass destruction. The first such example is the Ion Ring. Developed by Professor Renn Volz, the Ion Ring was a terraforming tool. It had the ability to influence planetary weather systems, to the extent that worlds uninhabitable due to extreme weather might be made viable. However, the ship on which the Ion Ring was housed fell into the hands of the Empire, where it was used to cause devastating storms on Rebel-sympathetic worlds. Luke, Han, and Chewbacca helped Professor Volz retake the Ion Ring, and destroyed it to prevent the Empire from further mis-using the technology. The Ion Ring was featured in The Second Kessel Run, an Archie Goodwin newstrip comic from 1980.
Another example of this situation is the Drill Ship. Built by an unknown ancient civilization, the Drill Ship was a mining vessel. Nothing is known about it except that it had a drill-like appendage powered by numerous reactors. It was originally designed for mining large asteroids, moons, or planets. When the Drill Ship appeared in orbit of Ord Dycoll, the Imperial base there sent a team to investigate. Unfortunately, the Imperials accidentally activated the ship’s drilling systems, whose computer controls were damaged. The ship fired upon Ord Dycoll, destroying it completely. It then proceeded automatically to Bothawui, where the Imperials were forced to overload the ship’s reactors, to prevent further devastation. The Drill Ship has never been featured in a novel or comic, but the Ord Dycoll incident was described in the Rebellion Era Campaign Guide.
The Gravitic Polarization Beam was a weapon capable of ripping apart material at the atomic level. Recent additions to canon have established that this device was first developed by the CIS during the Clone Wars, but was destroyed by the Jedi before it would be used to destroy the sun of Naboo. In its first appearance, the Gravitic Polarization Beam was developed by scientists at the Mrlsst Academy to be able to move land across a planet. The Empire saw its military application and hoped to arm ships with it. Upon activating the weapon, the Gravitic Polarization Beam created a hyperspace wormhole that consumed the Imperials, destroying all traces of the device. This weapon was first featured in the first arc of X-Wing Rogue Squadron (The Phantom Affair), and was later expanded upon in the game The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes.
The Infinity Gate was a device used by the ancient reptilian Kwa civilization. Similar to a Stargate from other sci-fi media, the Infinity Gate was used for transporting people between planets. Gates were housed in Star Temples throughout Kwa Space. However, the Infinity Gate could also be used to project something called the Infinity Wave, a massive energy pulse which could absorb entire planets and make hyperspace travel impossible. An Infinity Gate was loctaed on Dathomir, and in 31 BBY, the Nightsisters discovered the potential of creating Infinity Waves. They attempted to use a Wave to destroy Coruscant, but Jedi Quinlan Vos, with the help of the Kwi (devolved descendants of the Kwa), redirected the Wave back to Dathomir, completely destroying the Infinity Gate. This story was featured in Star Wars: Republic 23-26: Infinity’s End.
The last peaceful tool converted into a weapon was the Cosmic Turbine. This was an ancient power core so vast that many people mistakenly believed it was a planet. Following the Third Great Schism in 4,250 BBY, a team of Dark Jedi left Coruscant for the Vultar System, where they found the Cosmic Turbine. They attempted to harness the power of the Turbine, but accidentally destroyed the entire star system, themselves included. While it is possible that these Dark Jedi were hoping to use the Cosmic Turbine for industrial purposes, the end result is that the device was capable of destroying entire systems and could have threatened billions of lives. These events, called the Vultar Cataclysm, were described in the New Essential Chronology.
The last kind of non- or minimally-destructive superweapon is the Electro-Proton Bomb. It was developed by the Republic for use against massive armies of CIS Battle Droids. When deployed, it would disrupt the electronic systems of any droid, vehicle, or other device within its wide range. It was used only once, against an invading CIS army on Malastare during the Clone Wars. The Electro-Proton Bomb worked, but it also disrupted the planet’s ecosystem, provoking the awakening of a Zillo Beast, long thought extinct. This was featured in The Clone Wars Season 2: The Zillo Beast.
In conclusion, a number of superweapons used in Star Wars did not have strictly destructive uses. Some could be used for construction, while others had legitimate uses in mining or terraforming or power generation. But these technologies were mis-used to cause death. This is surprisingly realistic. While there are no Aircraft Carriers that can also manufacture airplanes, or brainwashing and training centres, there is the concept of dual-use technology. Many tools that have peaceful purposes can and are misused for harmful purposes. Explosives for mining are not that different from explosives for killing. Nuclear power can be misused into nuclear weapons. The same equipment for peaceful biological research or industrial chemical manufacturing can be used for biological or chemical weapons development. There are any number of possibilities in the mis-use of technology, and as a result this type of weapon is perfectly plausible.
Biological and Chemical Weapons:
Chemical and Biological Weapons became prevalent in Star Wars in the past few years, starting in around 2002. Of the 19 that have appeared in Star Wars, 11 of them were introduced since 2002, and two of the remaining seven were heavily expanded upon post-2002. This may be in response to the Anthrax letters following 9/11 and the greater risk/threat of bio-terrorism perceived by the US, or it could be entirely coincidental.
Before exploring each weapon, I’d like to clarify the definitions of and differences between biological and chemical weapons. A bio-weapon is a living thing (though broad definitions include toxic proteins produced by living things). It is usually a microorganism that can grow and spread by itself. A person attacked by a bio-weapon may theoretically pass it to others. Essentially, it is the intentional infliction of disease. In real-life, there were examples of terrorist uses of bio-weapons, with minimal loss of life but significant panic and fear. Chemical weapons, on the other hand, are chemical agents that cause debilitating pain or death when a person is exposed to them. They are not living, and so must be spread manually and in vast quantities by some kind of disseminator, like a sprayer or artillery shell. Unlike bio-weapons, chemical weapons were used in war, most famously in World War I.
First, there were a number of biological weapons used in Star Wars that were portrayed with a reasonable amount of accuracy (taking into account that Star Wars is science fiction/fantasy). Alpha Red was a bioweapon developed by a clandestine group of the same name within the Galactic Alliance. It was designed to cause illness and death among Yuuzhan Vong and their biotechnology. Unfortunately, it mutated on the planet Caluula, becoming virulent to other species as well (featured in the novels Destiny’s Wayand The Unifying Force). Alpha Red was the basis for Darth Maladi’s Omega Red, which could kill any lifeform (first mentioned in the second issue of Legacy: War).
The CIS developed a number of biological weapons during the Clone Wars. This included the Octuptarra Virus, which was deployed by Octuptarra Droids (described in The New Essential Guide to Droids) and the Nanovirus, which could be programmed to kill specific individuals, such as Clone Troopers (developed for use against Republic in the Republic Commando books; later used against the Fett family in the novel Invincible, to prevent them from going back to Mandalore). The cartoon Star Wars: The Clone Wars introduced more, such as the Blue Shadow Virus, which was once exterminated but revived artificially during the Clone Wars by a mad scientist on Naboo (from The Clone Wars Season One episodes Blue Shadow Virus and Mystery of a Thousand Moons) and the Brain Worm, a species of parasite used by the Queen of Geonosis to control dead Geonosians or Clone Troopers (from The Clone Wars Season Two: Legacy of Terror and Brain Invaders).
The Empire too developed a series of bio-weapons that were fairly consistent with reality. Nano-Destroyers were a type of artificial virus that were used by the Imperial Caridans to kill Mon Mothma, though she was healed by Jedi apprentice Cilghal (as featured in the Jedi Academy Trilogy). The Hive Virus, the pathogen that accidentally killed off the crew of the Katana Fleet, was weaponized and deployed by Darth Vader against the population of Firrere, making the planet uninhabitable (described in The Crystal Star). The Krytos Virus was a bio-weapon developed by Imperial Evir Derricote, which affected all species except Humans. Its development and use by the Empire caused the deaths of countless aliens, contributed to anti-Human sentiment across the Galaxy, and provoked the Bacta War (as featured in the novels X-Wing: The Krytos Trap and X-Wing: The Bacta War). Derricote also developed an opposite, the Emperor’s Plague, which killed only Humans. The stocks of this virus were stored in secret, until they were found by the Diversity Alliance, an alien group who hated Humans. The plague canisters were destroyed before they could be used (featured in the Young Jedi Knights’ books Delusions of Grandeur and The Emperor’s Plague). The Empire also attempted to weaponize a virus codenamed Blackwing, which was created by the old Sith Empire in 3,645 BBY through Sith Alchemy. This virus not only killed, but also re-animated the victim’s corpse (as featured in the novel Death Troopersand its prequel Red Harvest.) The Death Seed, a disease caused by the parasitic Drochs, was briefly weaponized by Seti Ashgad, working with the Empire. He spread the long-extinct disease by hiding Drochs in droids that were covered by flesh. The only cure was with the assistance of sentient Spook Crystals, who could emit light that affected the Drochs’ ability to drain life energy (as covered in the novel Planet of Twilight). Last, the Empire led by the One Sith developed a viral spore weapon which could kill all live on a planetary scale. These viral spores were developed by Vul Isen and deployed on Dac and Da Soocha via canisters dropped from bombers, killing billions (seen in Legacy issues 47 and 48.)
However, a number of weapons of this category were misrepresented. Several weapons of mass destruction were described as biological, although in reality fit the definition of a chemical weapon. The first such example I have is Damotite, a chemical agent which could effectively dissolve the flesh of the living. CIS General Lok Durd took a Republic scientist hostage and forced her to weaponize the damotite against her will. She was rescued by Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, but not before the weapon would kill thousands on Chandrila. This was portrayed in the books Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth and Gambit: Siege, but they were incorrectly referred to as biological weapons. Damotite was based on a mineral and was entirely chemical in nature. The author incorrectly assumed that a bio-weapon affected biology. Technically all weapons affect your biology (by killing you), but what makes a weapon biological is that it’s alive or was produced by something living. Damotite is neither, and so must be classified as a chemical weapon.
Another misrepresented weapon was bafforr pollen. This weapon was essentially the collected and released pollen of the Bafforr Tree of Ithor. In the Vonduum crab (the organism used by the Yuuzhan Vong for armour), it caused an allergic reaction, killing the crab and the Vong within it. The New Republic used it during the Battle of Ithor. To prevent further use of the Bafforr pollen, the Vong exterminated all life on Ithor. Since the reaction it caused was allergic and not illness, I feel that bafforr pollen would more accurately be a chemical weapon, though derived from something living. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the New Republic normally has qualms about weapons of mass destruction (such as Alpha Red, above), but had no problem using Bafforr pollen. This weapon was featured in the New Jedi Order novel Dark Tide II: Ruin.
In the novel Dark Force Rising, we learned that the planet Honoghr was devastating by a biological weapon, which prevented almost all forms of plant life from growing on the planet. No details were given until the 68th issue of Star Wars: Republic (Armor), which featured the original attack withTrihexalophine-1138 (obviously derived from the name THX-1138). A CIS warship carrying the weapon crashed on Honoghr, releasing the weapon that was intended for use on Naboo. From both the description and the imagery, Trihexalophine-1138 is clearly a chemical agent and not living. This is another example of a chemical weapon mis-titled as biological. The same cannot be said of the Swamp Gas, which accurately portrayed the devastation of the Gungan colony on Ohma-D’un early in the Clone Wars. This was correctly identified as a chemical weapon, and caused injuries similar to those caused by Mustard Gas or other blistering agents. This chemical agent was featured in Republic 51 and 52: The New Face of War.
Similar in name to the aforementioned THX-1138 agent, Trihexalon was a “biological weapon” that caused “biomass conversion”, effectively causing an explosion capable of disintegrating a person. Just like Damotite, this is not a bioweapon, but rather a strange fusion of chemical and explosive weapons. It was used the Sabaoth Squadron terrorists to attack the planet Maramere, but Jedi Adi Gallia and the Lok Revenants prevented the release of the trihexalon-tipped missiles before they could impact. This was featured in the game Jedi Starfighter.
The Electromagnetic Torpedo was another bomb of unknown design capable of ravaging a world. These torpedoes, sometimes even microscopic in size, released a substance informally known as Green Fire, Green Flames, or Green Death to consume not only lifeforms, but all organic substrate, preventing life from ever returning. Sorcerer of Tund Rokur Gepta used an Electromagnetic Torpedo to destroy all life on the planet Tund. He later used similar weapons to attack the Oswaft in the ThonBoka Nebula. These events were featured or described in the novel Lando Calrissian and the StarCave of ThonBoka. The effect of this weapon appears consistent with chemical weapons, and I do not recall the exact nature of the Green Fire ever being described.
So, from a technical standpoint, certain biological weapons were portrayed correctly, whereas others were actually chemical in nature. Additionally, it is interesting to note the political ramifications of the use of biological and chemical weapons. 17 of the 19 biological or chemical weapons were used by traditionally “evil” organizations (Sith Empire, Sorcerers of Tund, CIS, Empire). These organizations would have no qualms about making such despicable weapons. The remaining two were made by the New Republic or the Galactic Alliance, traditionally “good” organizations. Alpha Red was developed in secret by a spy ring, without the knowledge of the government. Bafforr pollen seemed to cause no moral dilemma among the Jedi, but granted it was a weapon of convenience used against a seemingly unstoppable enemy. In the real world, these types of weapons are considered to be “repugnant to the conscience of mankind” (literally quoted from the Biological Weapons Convention). Even many of the countries considered in opposition to the US are members of the Biological Weapons Convention and Chemical Weapons Convention, considering these weapons to be morally offensive. This either speaks to the extreme evilness of the Empire and the Sith and their ilk, or is a tad unrealistic.
The last category of weapons on this list are the Force-based weapons. Unlike the other weapons, these are completely impossible in the real-world, fitting in the parts of Star Wars considered Fantasy instead of Science Fiction. Nevertheless, they were extremely destructive, and should be considered on the WMD list.
The most famous Force-based weapon in the EU is the Thought Bomb. It was developed by the ancient Sith and was eventually learned by Darth Revan. He recorded it on his holocron, which was hidden away in a temple on Lehon, until it was discovered in 1,000 BBY by Darth Bane. He used in during the Seventh Battle of Ruusan, where it killed every single Sith Lord in the Brotherhood of Darkness and one hundred Jedi Knights and Masters. This allowed Bane to start his Sith Order under the Rule of Two, as described in the comic miniseries Jedi vs. Sith and the novel Darth Bane: Path of Destruction.
The remaining two Force weapons were also weapons of the ancient Sith, ultimately deployed by the CIS. The Force Harvester was an ancient weapon that collected the Force energies from beings across a massive swath of land. Dooku brought it to Alaris Prime to test on the Wookiee population there, causing many deaths. It was also deployed on Dac, Agamar, and Bakura. But the Force Harvester was merely the power core for a greater weapon: the Dark Reaper, which evidently was significantly more powerful and worked on a much larger scale. Anakin Skywalker was able to destroy the Dark Reaper before it could be used, using knowledge learned from the tomb of Ulic Qel-Droma. These were featured in the game Star Wars: The Clone Wars for GameCube, PlayStation 2, and X-Box.
Of the numerous weapons of mass destruction and superweapons, many of them are portrayed with a fair amount of realism. Many obviously seem farfetched in terms of scale, with the capability of destroying star systems or even the entire universe, but they are usually portrayed consistently. Most biological weapons were extremely realistic, whereas others were mis-named accurately-portrayed chemical weapons. Many real-world WMD concepts have been shown, including variable means of delivery and dual-use technology. In terms of publication, the myth of too many superweapons in the Bantam era seems to be inconsistent with facts, whereas instead the modern era has more variation in its superweapon style (chem/bio weapons, Force weapons, etc., instead of planet-destroyers.)
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