The Bridge Tower Asteroid Impact

This page regards a very odd, yet classic tale.   It starts out a simple one . . . in The Empire Strikes Back, a Star Destroyer escorting Vader's Executor quite obviously loses its bridge tower due to asteroid impact.   The canon script and novel suggest that the entire ship exploded, besides.   However, remarkably, the SW camp insists that the ship was neither destroyed, nor even damaged appreciably.   Take a look at the following, and draw your own conclusions:

The scene in question:

BTA2.avi (DivX4, ~180kb)

First, let's take a look at a few general frames from that scene, as I've shown before on my Hull Strength page.  These will give you the gist of what occurs.

The Star Destroyer comes into view

The asteroid comes into view

The two meet

The aftermath

Following the above, we end up on the Executor, as Vader (via holoconference) addresses a few of his captains regarding the Falcon chase.  One of these captains is standing calmly, and then raises his hands as if he's about to be hit by something, and the image begins to distort and fade away.

Most people would've concluded that at least the bridge tower was destroyed.  But, alas, not everyone has drawn that conclusion, and they try to make arguments to support their view.

1.  The "Big Shadow" Claim

The oldest form of the argument was that the Executor's engine glow (as seen in the last frame, above) seems to have a certain shape in it that resembles the rear of the Star Destroyer bridge tower and the rear of the neck region, as marked below:

Alas, this cannot be, for two reasons.   First, the glow area conforms to the underhull of the Executor, the glow having been created by the engines further forward.   Second, the bridge tower could not possibly have been there:

As you can see, the tower was already well-past that region by the time of the last frame . . . this is easily observable in the first images on the page, as well.   Indeed, note how the ISD is already passing the rear corner of the "big shadow" in the second image above, producing a "stair-step" area of glow and darkness (where the darkness is the space beyond and the ISD neck, in different places). 

This becomes even more demonstrable when we overlay the asteroid impact frame and the final frame of the scene.  In the below, I have overlaid the Star Destroyer from the impact frame (leaving a little bit of the glow from behind the neck, to make the neck more apparent) onto the final frame, lining them up based on the remaining Star Destroyer hull details:

Note where the tower should be in the frame.  Now, for comparison, look at just the final frame of the scene, sans overlay:

Nothing there . . . and certainly nothing where they said it should be.

Thus, we see the flaws of their argument . . . a totally wrong idea about where the tower should be, mixed with a wrong idea about what and where the glow is.

2.  The "Little Shadow" Claim

Remarkably, after seeing the above overlay, opponents have indeed moved away from the old claim toward one a bit less silly.  Instead of the entire "big shadow" claim, they're keeping the basic argument form but have reduced the amount of "shadow" in the argument, as illustrated below:

The green line represents the neck of the Star Destroyer, and they believe that it must be this neck obscuring the smaller, dimmer, somewhat-separated forward glow area (seen in the image below as above and to the left of the starboard bridge tower globe):

But of course, that claim is ridiculous.  As seen quite plainly in the overlay, the neck would've already moved beyond the line.  And, as one can readily observe, the dust and debris is almost obscuring the far brighter glow on the right side of the line, further from the main debris area.   The obscuring of a lesser amount of glow with even more dust and debris hardly violates common sense.

(One debater suggested that the discrepancy could simply be that the ship's shields were extending further back from the neck, and managed to obscure the appropriate additional area.   However, we've never seen shields obscure light in such a fashion, nor would it make much sense to assume that the ship still had any shields, given the damage.)

Thus, we see the flaws in their argument . . . a totally wrong idea about where the tower should be, mixed with a peculiar view regarding what would be required to obscure the small, forward glow area.

2a.  The "It's been obscured" Claim

A subset of the "Little Shadow" argument, this claim is an attempt to answer the question of where the starboard part of the tower is.   As seen in my overlay (shown again below for ease of reference), the starboard part of the tower should be visible if it survived:

And yet, it isn't.  

Thus, they claim that it must've been obscured by dust.   However, as is readily apparent in the scene, there is not enough dust in that area to hide a big white bridge tower section:

Note how the dust and debris area does not obscure the rest of the Star Destroyer's upper sections . . . indeed, one can see the forward end of the dust cloud against the blackness of space.  Further, if one lets one's eyes trail along the ISD hull from the forwardmost visible part toward the back, there's a very sudden transition from "clear" to "can't be seen".  Looking above that transition, and even through the rest of the upper sections of the dust and debris cloud, one can quite plainly see the lights of the Executor's side trench through the cloud!    And yet, we're supposed to believe that the dust is just magically obscuring the happy, healthy bridge tower?    That's absurd.

Thus, we see the flaws in that argument . . . attempts to ignore where the bridge tower should be, mixed with absurdities based on ignoring the position and density of the cloud of dust and debris.

3.  The Captain Survival Claim

There's also the argument that, because the captain is not already dead by the time we cut to the Executor bridge and Vader's holoconference, then the bridge of the destroyed ISD must've survived for some amount of time.  

From the perspective of your average movie-goer, the captain's apparent demise was just a rewind of a few seconds.  But, for the purpose of debating (where the films are documentary-style, linear footage), this cannot be.  And so, they claim, his survival for a few more seconds must indicate that the tower was not obliterated.

(Some have suggested the slightly more reasonable position that the tower was destroyed, but that somehow the area around the bridge itself was knocked off but more or less unaffected, with the captain able to transmit and act perfectly normal until the bridge finally started to disintegrate.  However, the notion that the bridge could be knocked off, while still having power, being capable of transmissions, and without even a jostle of the captain makes little sense.  First, the low-speed collision of two ISDs during the Falcon chase involved the crew getting knocked around quite severely . . . the notion that the captain of a ship hit much harder would not get knocked around at all doesn't follow.  Second, the Rebel ion cannon that knocked out an ISD cut the entire ship's power, which suggests that the power systems are not so robust as to be capable of independent operation when the area around the ship has been wiped out.)

Putting this claim of bridge survival to rest is an easy one.  The bridge is in the forwardmost center of the bridge tower.   If the bridge were present, we should be able to see it just as easily as we should be able to see the rest of the tower, and the starboard side.   

Therefore, the captain could not have been on the bridge.   

So where was he transmitting from?  There's no way to tell.  Even in AoTC, Obi-Wan's little Jedi fighter was sufficient to have a holographic communication system aboard, so it isn't like the things have to be monstrously huge.  We even saw a small walking unit in TPM.   He could've been in his quarters, or in the engineering section, or really just about anywhere that had a sending unit (and probably a holoprojector, too, but not necessarily).

And so, we see the flaws in that argument . . . a peculiar belief that the bridge tower simply became invisible but still survived, mixed with an unsupportable assumption regarding the captain's location.

So what did happen?

At barest minimum, the bridge tower of the Star Destroyer was totally annihilated by asteroid impact.   

The captain, in some other location aboard the ship, was killed by some secondary effect (a reactor explosion, continuing hull disintegration, or what-have-you).  This indicates that the destruction did not end with the final frame of the external scene.   If the ship's destruction continued for several seconds after the cut to the holoconference scene, then we have firm support for the lesser-canon screenplay and novel, both of which suggest that the entire ship was destroyed (specifically, "exploded") as a result of the asteroid collision.

Therefore, the only logical, canonical conclusion is that the entire ship was destroyed, as the absolute canon of the films is not contrary to this.

The Challenge

Any opponent who continues to claim that the Star Destroyer bridge tower visibly survives must account for the following:

1.  The absent bridge tower center and starboard section
2.  The visibility of Executor lights through the dust where the bridge port globe should be.
3.  The fact that nowhere is the Executor engine glow obscured by the bridge tower.
4.  The fact that we can't see the thing anywhere.

As I have set forth an impossible task, I feel quite comfortable in concluding that there will be no takers.