The other day I was listening to an interview with Todd Vaziri, a visual effects artist from ILM. During the interview, Mr. Vaziri talked about working on Rogue One. He brought up an anecdote about how, one day when going over the visual effects being worked on, one of the story’s writers suggested that the Death Star model needed more detail around a north-south meridian line near the base’s north pole. The writer casually explained that this was where the final “trench run” in the original Star Wars movie happened, which was a revelation to most of the visual effects crew.
For most of my life since seeing the original Star Wars it never occurred to me that the Death Star trench run does not occur along the equatorial trench we see in long shots of the station.
The equatorial trench on the Death Star is lined with hangar bays and is the ingress/egress area for the station. This trench is far too large to be the trench which leads to the Death Star’s thermal exhaust port:
The actual trench in question is far narrower and has no room for hangar bays:
Adding to the confusion caused by the strongly visible equatorial trench is the use of horizontal shots of the actual trench in question. In this image, the north pole is to the right of the screen, not to the top which is natural for us to assume:
Oddly enough, the movie itself explains that the exhaust port is at the north pole and that the trench runs north-south during General Dodonna’s mission briefing:
I probably dismissed this in the past because of the fact that the computer animation was based on an earlier model of the Death Star which had the laser dish situated on the equator.
Because the dish was in the wrong place, I guess I subconsciously figured the location of the trench was wrong, too. But, no, the historic “Death Star trench” runs north-south and ends at (or near) the north pole.
It’s neat to learn something new about a thing with which one is already very familiar.