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While I doubt that either Death Star required aluminum siding or roofers, Randal has a fair point in Clerks. While Imperial Stormtroopers are enlisted from all across the galaxy, many of them would come from backgrounds which did not include construction.

Is there any evidence (C-Canon or up) of just who built the Death Star?

From the Clerks script:

RANDAL

A construction job of that magnitude would require a helluva lot more manpower than the Imperial army had to offer. I'll bet there were independent contractors working on that thing: plumbers, aluminum siders, roofers.

DANTE

Not just Imperials, is what you're getting at.

RANDAL

Exactly. In order to get it built quickly and quietly they'd hire anybody who could do the job. Do you think the average storm trooper knows how to install a toilet main? All they know is killing and white uniforms.

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Or what about Droids? Star Wars Wikia says parts were built by slaves on various prison planets: starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Death_Star –  zipquincy Jul 31 at 20:29
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They certainly used contractors for the catering. –  Wikis Jul 31 at 20:36
    
Here's the manual they used to build it. –  Wikis Jul 31 at 20:38
    
every armed force has its engineer troops, with their own training schools. Just because people entering the military have no training in spaceship construction doesn't mean the military can't train them to become spaceship engineers... So that argument is moot. –  jwenting Aug 1 at 7:55
    
@jwenting however very few armed forces build their own equipment or weapons, those are always contracted out. Combat engineers would be more likely to build the facility on Yavin rather than build the Death Star. –  Moo Sep 4 at 17:43

4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

George Lucas actually specifically discusses this Clerks quote in the commentary for Episode II

...I came up with the idea of adding a little schematic of the Death Star in here, because the Geonosians build robots and build things, they're sort of construction workers. They would probably be the ones contracted to build the Death Star, and they were the ones that Jay and Silent Bob worry got killed on the Death Star, but they are after all a bunch of large termites.

So Word of Lucas is that Geonosians were the ones who would have been killed, and we should be okay with that because they're insects. I find that explanation uncharacteristically xenophobic in a universe where we're supposed to care about giant furry Wookies and squidish Mons Calamari, but it is what is.

But I think Lucas misunderstands the scene you quote from Clerks (besides getting the characters wrong). Randall was talking about the second Death Star, which was still under construction when it was destroyed. Presumably the completed Death Star (the one the Geonosians would have worked on) had very few construction workers on it when it was destroyed.

Wookiepedia describes the second Death Star as being primarily constructed by droids:

Methods of faster construction had been developed in the years since the original station's conception, added to the fact that Imperial engineers made sure to allocate enough space on the station for the maximum possible amount of self-replicating construction droids.

Their source for that claim is an official book called Star Wars: Complete Locations.

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The first Death Star, according to the novel Death Star (now of questionable 'canonicity'), and mentioned in many of the other EU novels, references Wookies being used in large numbers to construct the Death Star (presumably doing work Geonosians could not) –  SSumner Jul 31 at 22:46
    
Note that in Earth navies throughout history it has been common for ships to sail with civilian contractors on board to finish installing equipment, etc, during the first leg of a deployment. It makes for really great billable hours, gives the contractors a free trip to somewhere potentially desirable, and it's all at government expense. I know that when I was in the U.S. Navy we always had contractors on board for the first leg from Frisco to Pearl. I doubt that the Imperial Navy would be any different. –  Bob Jarvis Aug 1 at 2:09
    
Nice move by Lucas, using the Clerks dialogue like that –  Suman Roy Aug 1 at 5:28
    
the emperor clearly and explicitly calls the second death star fully operational. This always led me to believe it was complete, or at least as complete as it was intended to be for the trap the empire set for the rebels at Endor. –  jwenting Aug 1 at 7:59
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@jwenting I always interpreted "fully operational" to be referring specifically to its offensive capabilities (the fuller quote being "fully operation battle station"); all exterior shots quite clearly show that construction of the overall station is nowhere near complete -- basically they finished installing the lights and hooking up the electricity and even installed the burglar alarm, but they haven't even erected the studs on the south wall yet, let alone finished installing the drywall! –  Kromey Aug 1 at 15:48

Wookieepedia has a reference to at least some construction of the first Death Star being done in the Geonosis system, presumably by Geonosian Industries (they cite the Essential Atlas) for this fact. It's up to you if you consider them to be a contractor; personally I'd lump them under "slave labour".

Most of the other references refer to individual scientists working on designing particular components (the superlaser, for instance), not to the general construction.

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Yes, they did. There is the obvious Geonosian reference, already mentioned in the other answers, from Attack of the Clones. In the novella Shadows of the Empire, the crime-lord Prince Xizor has several discussions with both Palpatine and Vader regarding the use of his front business, Xizor Transport Systems, to assist in logistical issues related to the construction project. Specifically, XTS helped tranport some computer systems.

In addition to the above, the short story Therefore I am, by Kevin J. Anderson, features Imperial assassin droids (the IG series, including IG-88) being constructed by a private contractor, Holowan Laboratories, at the Empire's request. The same Imperial who headed that program also headed up some of the transport and logistics for the second Death Star project, which again implies some sort of outside contractors.

A likely theory is that the Empire had different contractors performing different duties, with none of them - except Xizor, who may have known more due to his friendship with Palpatine than anything official - knowing exactly what the various components they produced or transported were going to be used for.

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There is no sensible way everything could have been done in-house. Government by its very nature becomes more and more inefficient with size; logistics are difficult if not impossible to manage at scale. In this day and age we're still sending soldiers into combat without basic, functional gear.

Once you've attained intergalactic jurisdiction, it's hard enough to get basic paperwork done, much less the creation of two Death Stars plus replenishment of the endless amounts of personnel and materials the rebels kept destroying. But it's a hell of a lot easier to sign those procurement papers than to manage these sorts of projects internally.

Governments hire contractors. That's just what they do; it's expensive, and quality control is suspect, but if you actually want things to ever get done, it's what you do.

I realize this probably violates some EU explanation or another, but here's my take on what likely happened, coming from someone who works with government purchasers:

  • The Empire has a pool of purchasing agents who operate under the guise of shell corporations. They go around to the different planets and vendors, securing requisite materials from whoever's selling without alerting anybody as to who's asking. Thus, construction of the Death Star can begin without anybody even knowing about it until someone up high either leaks or someone else literally stumbles across it.
  • The Empire isn't going to outright employ slaves on chain-gangs to work assembly lines or weld girders on the Death Star. It doesn't make logistical sense (too many opportunities for sabotage/escape), and while they do take prisoners, they're not in the slavery industry. The Empire purchaser would have contracted with a manufacturing firm on Geonosis who in turn used Geonosian labor to crank out widgets and droids that nobody would have questioned the ultimate purpose of, lest Oskar Schindler-types deliberately sabotage the product.
  • The fatal design flaw on the first Death Star? One man may have had the idea for the concept and presented it, but this is basic technical sales-- promise the concept first and figure out how to deliver it after the fact. No way did he sit down and draw the schematics himself. He would have had a team of people collaborating on the final presentation, and nobody saw the glaring "bug" in the design because everybody assumed someone else would notice such a thing. It's how glaring security holes find their way into collaborative, complicated software projects without being caught.
  • The concept of self-replicating droids seems like a retconned explanation conceived in recent history and doesn't make any sense. If self-replicating droids were a thing, just build an exponentially self-replicating army instead of the Death Star, and use that to remove the sentient element altogether. Or just have the DS design drafted by a droid. Everybody knows machines don't make mistakes.
  • The second Death Star was built faster, yes, but it's more likely because they already had established their supply chain and had a better idea of what to expect the second time around. If you build a Lego tower and someone crushes it, once you stop crying you'd rebuild it faster, even without technological advances.
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