In this question about Obi-Wan crossing all the laser gates during the duel with Darth Maul, there's this good screen shot of the laser gates:

Obi-Wan looking through the gates

Which raises a question I've wondered about over and over. What is the purpose of these gates? If they were for security, they would not be opening and closing regularly, allowing people to go through. Anything else that might be effected by the gates opening and closing (such as air circulation) could be controlled with physical doors and wouldn't pose the threat to life or safety that lasers would.

So what purpose do dangerous laser gates like this actually serve?

  • 19
    We all know the real reason. I am really curious if anyone has a in-universe reason. :-)
    – Zan Lynx
    Feb 28 '12 at 16:25
  • 14
    The answer can be found in Galaxy Quest: youtube.com/watch?v=ZODzdqVptUs
    – jfrankcarr
    Feb 29 '12 at 2:21
  • 3
    @ZanLynx: the real reason being that it can be made into a level in a computer game? Feb 29 '12 at 13:30
  • 2
    @HNL: That's a very interesting idea. There's nothing in G-level canon to contradict that. The Wookiepedia says differently, but that isn't always accurate and the tech details there could be made up -- yet another example of what I call a Lucasism: Something that looks cool and takes tons or explanation to justify.
    – Tango
    Mar 27 '12 at 14:14
  • 2
    @Tango: I think the Lucasism you stated is Lucas's implementation of the Rule of Drama. (Just my 0.02 Republic Credits.) Jun 23 '14 at 15:59

The script is not explicit on their purpose :

The SITH LORD, followed by QUI-GON, enters a long hallway filled with a series of deadly rays that go on and off in a pulsing pattern that shoots down the corridor every minute or so. DARTH MAUL makes it down several walls of deadly rays before they close. QUI-GON is one wall away from the DARK LORD. OBI-WAN is just starting into it and is five walls way from DARTH MAUL.

But, according to the Wookieepedia Qui-Gon Jinn article, it's a security system.

While his Padawan rushed to catch up, Jinn and Maul moved on, passing through an impenetrable laser shield security system to one of the cooling pits.


I finally found a well buried article on Wookieepedia: Laser gate. It also explain the reason why they are cycling on and off.

Laser gates, also known as electron walls, were designed to protect high-security or dangerous areas by sealing them off with a wall of energy. Laser gates were installed in the Theed Generator Complex on Naboo. The barriers were strong enough to easily block a lightsaber strike and would vaporize any matter that touched them. These gates were crucial to the death of Qui-Gon Jinn at the hands of Darth Maul as the laser gates prevented Jinn's Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi, from coming to his aid against the Sith. However, the generators were unable to keep up the immense energy needed to power the gates, and so they would cycle on and off approximately every five minutes. Each gate remained open for only around ten seconds before cycling on again.

  • 33
    Hmmm.... Security system. Yep, that explains why it keeps opening and closing and why they were able to get through it! Makes as much sense as midichlorians!
    – Tango
    Feb 28 '12 at 20:46
  • 12
    Why keep 5+ of them?! Only 1 would do! And they wouldn't need to cycle! (They simply cannot be a security system. That must be propaganda.)
    – n611x007
    Jun 26 '12 at 19:30
  • 19
    So... the gates that protected a generator for an entire city needed to cycle on and off because they needed too much power? Did they draw 90% of the generator's power output or what? :D Seems like the SW universe might want to reinvent the useful invention of "physical door"...
    – Luaan
    Sep 30 '14 at 7:58
  • 3
    passing through an impenetrable laser shield - ummm
    – kylieCatt
    Sep 24 '15 at 5:46
  • 6
    So, the power plant had walkways over deep pits without handrails, a security system anyone could walk through provided they weren't in a hurry, and deadly disintegration lasers specifically capable of stopping jedi in their tracks and which require so much power they they cause localised rolling brownouts. One question: Is this due to Naboo's or the Trade Federation's safety standards?
    – user867
    Jan 25 '16 at 6:39

I think the real reason may be hinted at in DavRob60 quote of Wookieepedia. If they lead to a cooling pit it could be one of two things.

1) Prevent people from accentually wondering into a pit of death. Although beams of death isn't much better.

2) The fields may also interrupt venting and so periodically need to be opened in sequence in order to allow for proper venting.

  • 3
    That's a good explanation of why they'd open periodically.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Feb 28 '12 at 18:08
  • 2
    But why do they need lasers to interrupt the venting instead of physical gates?
    – Tango
    Feb 28 '12 at 18:16
  • That sounds like a whole new question :D
    – Ashterothi
    Feb 28 '12 at 18:18
  • 1
    @Tango its a passive safety system. In the event of a power loss your vent opens. As opposed to a physical door which could become stuck. Nov 17 '14 at 8:39
  • 1
    I know we don't get a good look at the ceiling, but shouldn't the venting go upwards instead of through the gates horizontally and into the power generator room? Also if the gates weren't there, how does one accidentally wander down a 100ft hallway and fall into a hole? Mar 12 '17 at 14:57

The "laser walls" are mentioned in the film's official novelisation:

The service corridor was armed with lasers against unauthorized intrusion. There would be a shutoff switch somewhere at both ends of the passage, but it was too late to look for it now.

The film's junior novelisation backs this up and offers a little extra info:

As he reached the door, a series of laser walls went up all along the hallway on the other side — deadly force fields designed to keep unauthorized people and droids out of the area. Obi-Wan peered down the corridor. There were four laser walls between him and Qui-Gon, and five between Obi-Wan and the Sith Lord.

  • 2
    But I could just take my time and walk through as the gates turned off an on. Mar 12 '17 at 14:58
  • 2
    @KimberlyW - Indeed. And the guards would have plenty of time to see you sauntering through.
    – Valorum
    Mar 12 '17 at 14:59

This Wookieepedia article suggests that the laser gates were inspired by a Naboo legend about chaos.

  • 2
    Welcome to the site! Maybe include a summary of the main point(s) you're making, rather than just provide a link.
    – RedCaio
    Jan 25 '16 at 6:36

Honestly, those gates just make no sense. And their periodic alternation defies all but the most convoluted and contrived explanation. If George Lucas were a little more creative he would have found a less artificial way of accomplishing this plot point, but, you know, he isn't... It's always bothered me a lot in this scene, because I'm distracted from the drama of the duel by the absurdity environment.

  • 2
    More of a comment than an answer. Mar 12 '17 at 14:59

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