2014-02-19

Steelcrete Trade Federation Bridge Doors

Qui-Gon's lightsaber has always puzzled me, and it seems I'm not the only one.

Estimates of the power of the lightsaber against the Trade Federation bridge doors and additional blast doors in The Phantom Menace range from around 30 kilowatts to over one gigawatt . . . a mere difference of 34,000 times or so.

I've never really messed with that example because, well, it confused the hell out of me.  The problem was that Qui-Gon has his hand all up in that door's personal space like it was a hot date, and indeed, it was hot . . . glowing hot, in fact.   And until droidekas show up and ruin the quality time, Qui-Gon is doing his best smooth, chill, Barry White play, totally unaffected.

See, that's just how pimp Qui-Gon is, because most people with their hands a couple of inches or less from a big giant thing of molten metal would be snatching their hand back like they'd been bit.  Or, more accurately, burned.   Because they would have.  A lot.

However, methinks now the whole problem is that everyone has just sort of rolled with the idea that what they're seeing is some dense metal because, well, okay, it sorta looks that way, and the idea of a "blast door" implies a big honking heavy solid metal immovable object, to our modern thinking.

But, short of imagining lightsaber hilt shields or some sort of mysterious Force SPF 5000 Suntan Lotion, there just hasn't been any way to really reconcile the non-smoldering, non-blistering, non-why-can-I-see-my-bones-now hand problem.

Except, maybe there is.   The assumption of metal might be wrong.  The material might be something more like the tiles of a space shuttle, which can be glowing red hot but still be held in the hand.

And the fun part is that you can actually have it both ways, here.  See, the door that was glowing right next to Qui-Gon was the normal bridge door.  There's no great reason I can think of why this door need be metallic, at least (or especially) on its outer layers.  If anything, a mere security door need only be blaster-proof . . . which would, presumably, mostly involve being heat-shielded.

So let's check our reasoning against the script and novel . . .

QUI-GON makes his way to the bridge door and begins to cut through it.
INT. FEDERATION BATTLESHIP - BRIDGE
The CREW is very nervous as sparks start flying around the bridge door.
QUI-GON and OBI-WAN are on the view screen.
NUTE : Close the blast doors!!!
The huge, very thick blast door slams shut, followed by a second door, then
a third. There is a hissing sound as the huge doors seal shut. QUI-GON tabs
the door with his sword. The screen goes black as a red spot appears in the
center of the blast door.
RUNE : ...They're still coming through!
On the door, chunks of molten metal begin to drop away.
NUTE : Impossible!! This is impossible!!
So far, so good.   We have definite confirmation of the blast doors (which are on the bridge side of the normal bridge door) being metal.

Now let's check the novelization:
"I want destroyer droids up here at once!" Nute Gunray screamed, watching as one of the Jedi began cutting through the bridge door with his lightsaber. He felt his throat tighten and his skin begin to crawl. "Close the blast doors! Now!" One after another, the blast doors began to shut and seal with hissing sounds. The crew stood transfixed as on the viewscreen the Jedi continued their attack, lightsabers cutting at the massive doors, melting away the steelcrete like soft butter. Mutters of disbelief were heard, and Nute screamed at them to be silent. Sparks showered off the blast door under attack by the Jedi, and a red spot appeared at its center where the larger man plunged his lightsaber into the metal almost up to its hilt. The viewscreen suddenly went blank. At the center of the door, the metal began to turn molten and drop away. "They're still coming," Rune Haako whispered, gathering his robes as he backed away further.
Viceroy Nute Gunray said nothing in response. Impossible! he was thinking. Impossible!
Aha!   Steelcrete. It's not the air-filled ceramic we were looking for, necessarily, but at least we weren't told the bridge door was metal.   The doors being observed on the viewscreen as being under attack were steelcrete . . . the metal doors were the blast doors which they didn't need the viewscreen to observe dropping molten chunks.

The steelcrete could still have the properties we were hoping for, especially if it is akin to the "hydrofoamed permacrete" inasmuch as solidity is concerned.   But as a precaution, I've searched for steelcrete elsewhere in the scripts and novels and it is nowhere to be found . . . Wookieepedia seems to agree that it doesn't appear in any other canon source.   So, not only have we solved the Qui-Gon mystery, but in the process we have learned something about steelcrete which was otherwise just a big giant question mark.

And really, this is the perfect end to the story, because we get to have our kilo/mega/gigawatt lightsaber without the mess and fuss of trying to rationalize how Qui-Gon could still be a magic-fingered pimp when by all previously-held rights the notion of him still having fingers ought to have been doubtful.

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