5 Ways Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer Confused Me at Christmas 1980

One of the most spectacular moments of Christmas 1980 was when I tore open a package and found Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer waiting for me.

The box looked awesome, what with Luke Skywalker’s father standing there holding court, light saber drawn and pointing skyward. He was surrounded by storm troopers and bounty hunters, and a dude hung by his feet behind Mr. Nasty.


Only … I didn’t really know what the thing was about.

My mom had taken me to see The Empire Strikes Back that summer, and it instantly became my favorite movie of all time. Still is.

Darth Vader's Star Destroyer

But I had seen it once, and this toy didn’t really look like anything particular that I remembered from the movie.

Not like the simple Land Speeder, for example.

So, while I couldn’t wait to play with it, Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer confused me.

And it left me with plenty of questions.

Like …

What’s a Star Destroyer?

So here’s the thing.

I watched Empire once (like I said), in the summer of 1980, before that fateful Christmas.

I knew Vader rode around in a bad-ass ship that looked like a city folded into a deadly wedge of, well, death.

And I knew that sometimes he rode around in a big globe-shaped thing that looked like a billion cities folded into a big old ball of death. I vaguely knew the name “Death Star.”

And … and … I knew he sometimes spun around ass-over-teakettle in one of those TIE Fighter things.

But “Star Destroyer”?

Never heard of it.

OK, I probably did hear of it, like the four or five times it was actually spoken in the movie. The script is jam-packed with references to the Star Destroyer, but the vast majority of those are in the filler between dialogue.

We never hear them.

And the few times we do hear them, our minds are already reeling at the dazzle that’s come before and the wonder about what might lie ahead.

Even if I had known the correct terminology — and even though I didn’t — I also still had to wonder …

Where’s The Rest of It?

So, not really knowing what this thing was, I had to try to figure out … well, what this thing was.

I cast my memory back to that sweet day in the theater, when I first saw Han slice open that tauntaun, and came up with a couple of possibilities …

Either my “Star Destroyer” toy was meant to be that top part of the Death Star, where Darth laid some fatherly advice on Luke … or … it was meant to be a spaceship of some sort.

Turns out it was the second one, but I didn’t know that for sure at the time.

Either way, I needed to know where the rest of the toy was.

As in, where was the chute that sucked Luke (nearly) into outer space? Where was the rest of the globe? Where was the rest of the Death Star, dammit?

(I had yet to put together the truth about the Death Star Space Station to.)

Or, on the ship side, where were the freaking walls? Still not sure on that one.

What’s With the Orange Tongue?

Darth Vader's Star Destroyer orange tongue

This toy came complete with … well … um … it’s this orange plastic strip. Sort of band-aid shaped, and it hangs from the ceiling.

Did I mention it’s orange? Like traffic cone orange?

Well, it is.

But what is it?

Given that it’s sort of screen-shaped and hangs there in front of the potbelly stove, I reckon it’s supposed to be the screen where Vader talks to his Imperial dudes when they report in as he’s flitting about the galaxy.

Still not 100% on this one, even all these years later.

That strip of caution tape helped me ponder another question, though …

Why Is There a Potbelly Stove in the Back?

Darth Vader's Star Destroyer pot belly

Look … I knew even in December 1980 that Darth Vader spends a lot of his off time just chilling in his little Tupperware pod.

Didn’t know it was a “meditation chamber” until more recently, though.

And, in the movie, the chamber was big and steamy, like it was architected to give the man in black plenty of room to degauss after a plateful of bean burritos.

The toy version is much cozier.

It also sits at the back of the cabin, has a little orange rectangular window, and a chimney that disappears through the roof.

You know what else sits at the back of the cabin, has a little orange rectangular window, and a chimney that disappears through the roof?


A potbelly stove, like you might find in a real cabin.

So, I figured either Darth was out there camping among the stars, or someone was fixing to use him for kindling.

Thoughts like those are the consequence of a country upbringing, I suppose.

When Does the Band Play?

My little-kid mind really wanted to make this toy into something recognizable, so it took one more tour through the available evidence …

Open-air design with unfettered views into the interior from either side …

A narrow stage leading out from the potbelly stove …

A central, rotating platform on that stage, like for a focal point …

This thing was a band shell, for sure. Maybe even part of the Cantina … an outdoor extension, perhaps.

So … when does the show start?

I mean, let’s get those 70s summer tunes rolling.

Still waiting for the answer, but I’ll let you know when I know.

Until then, I’ll be over here, dreaming about my old Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer.

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