It’s well established in the Star Wars mythos that the ships and equipment available to the Rebellion were typically of higher quality than that being fielded by the Empire with the possible exception of the star destroyers which were able to hold their own against Alliance equivalents. Though the Tarkin Doctrine can be blamed for part of this, it certainly cannot explain all of the unusual engineering decisions and glaring design flaws present in the Imperial military. Could this be the result of poor oversight practices from upper management or merely the result of engineers upset by the pay cuts and layoffs that no doubt occurred as a result of the ratification and adherence to the Tarkin Doctrine? You decide as we explore some of the more prevalent oversights in standard issue Imperial arms.
Probably the most well-known example of shoddy Imperial engineering is the TIE Fighter. Little more than a cockpit, engines, and a couple lasers these craft are extremely fast, but so fragile and lightly armed that they must be deployed in overwhelming numbers to have any significant effect and casualties are always expected to be high. While their design is a direct result of the afore mentioned Tarkin Doctrine that favors small fast craft in overwhelming numbers as the means to victory it’s difficult to miss the fact that these ships don’t have shields, heavy weapons, or even life support. Pilots must rely on vacuum sealed flight suits with a portable air supply to breath while piloting these craft. The very fact that they have no on board life support systems tells you that these pilots are not expected to survive more than a couple hours. Those that actually survive multiple missions are either extremely good, or extremely lucky. Regardless they get moved up to better equipped units after only a few engagements. One blast from an enemy vessel’s lasers and your TIE Fighter is gone. It doesn’t help that these craft have giant targets on either side that make the easier to hit, obscure pilot vision, and make them unwieldy in an atmosphere and to top it all off they have no Hyperdrive so if they’re accidentally left behind, they’ve got a few hours of air left at best to make it to the nearest habitable rock where they can try to land without the aid of landing gear (as TIE Fighters don’t have that either) and await rescue or try to find some other means of escape. Essentially a TIE Fighter is like the certificate you get at the end of a weekend course in security. It proves you were there, but it doesn’t really get you anywhere and it’s probably going to end up getting you killed.
Have you ever noticed how a stormtrooper’s armor doesn’t actually protect them from anything? Seriously, a blaster rifle I can understand, but a rock? I’ve got all the love for the Ewoks in the world but against the Empire’s most “elite” stormtrooper regiment those furry little freedom fighters should have been slaughtered. But the armor doesn’t seem to protect against blaster pistols, arrows, primitive stone axes, or small rocks. I wouldn’t wear that armor into a construction zone, let alone into battle. One friend has put forth that the stormtrooper’s defeat on Endor is a result of faulty filtration on the suits unable to filter out allergens in the Ewok’s dander. Typically this would only affect a few troops, but as the 501st is the last all-clone regiment they all had the same reaction and what we saw wasn’t so much the Ewoks defeating them as it was them dying at different rates due to anaphylactic shock and other allergy associated complications. It’s an interesting theory and I’m happy to accept it as gospel truth to explain a glaring plot hole, but what about on the Death Star? These troops couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn which speaks poorly about the armor’s targeting assistance features and they were killed nearly as easily. The only thing I’ve ever witnessed the armor protect against was a door! Thus if the Empire’s ever attacked by an army of angry doors, they should be able to march through the ranks of their enemies with near impunity, but they’re poorly equipped to handle any other threat.
What the heck do the Imperial engineers have against railings? Given the sheer volume of deaths by falling down a bottomless pit you’d think they’d be a standard feature by now, but time and again we see command walkways on bridges of ships without railings, retracting walkways over bottomless pits without railings, and giant superlaser tunnel maintenance stations perched precariously close to the beam with no railings. Even sections of the Emperor’s observation tower on the second death star are conspicuously railing free, and interestingly those bottomless pits end in the main reactor, which just seems like the worst safety violation of all. I’m uncertain as to what form OSHA takes in the Star Wars universe, but they’ve clearly not been doing their jobs.
Despite a desperate “don’t look behind the curtain” attempt by Lucas Arts to explain away the artificial gravity on ships and space stations as “a generator creating a gravity field” we all know that the gravity on these artificial constructs is a result of the implementation of deck-plating that controls the level and orientation of gravity in each section of the ship. We can know this because A. any gravity generator would generate a field centered on itself thus requiring all ships to be spherical in nature to make maximum effect of the generator and B. in the description of Corran Horn’s escape from the super star destroyer made prison ship (and what a waste of a super star destroyer) Lusankya the prison level is clearly described as being upside down as compared to the rest of the ship and in order to move to another section Corran must pass through a cylindrical corridor with a red line that runs up the side and on to the ceiling indicating the location of the gravity plating and thus where it’s exerting its force. This kind of gravity manipulation wouldn’t be possible without the use of gravity plating. With that fact established it begs the question, what jerk of an engineer decided it would be funny to install gravity plating at the bottom of the bottomless pits in the Death Stars and other various ships in the Star Wars universe. Without it the storm troopers who fell off the bridge in A New Hope would have merely floated gently down until they could reach a side and push off toward the nearest access area. Instead we see stormtroopers falling to their deaths for the amusement of the mad engineers employed by the Empire. I know that in the grand scheme their lives are considered meaningless, but what a waste of resources.
Though there are many more examples like useless droids being purchased in mass quantities and TIE Fighter upgrades consisting of merely adding more lasers and making them faster, I feel the point has been made. The Emperor may be an evil mastermind, but the engineers in his employ are the true evil behind the Empire and as such must have a place in my N3rd C0rn3r.