Most recently in Star Wars VII, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, they mention "turbo laser" turrets, but wasn't the idea of turbo lasers in Battlestar Galactica first?

Given that a laser being turbo is far out enough, it would be really odd two fictional universes come up with the same thing, no? So, with an eyebrow already raised, who is the copycat, the one with Lorne Greene..., again?

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    Accepted ryan's and upvoted Yorik's answer, so it's even, more or less. .. Also, a look into the script reveals "large turbo-powered laser gun emplacements" in scene description before, so it might be the turret, or the turret's/laser's power supply which is turbo-powered - which might make scientific sense, actually. And note how Lucas' love for cars and engines found a way into his space opera this way. Interesting nerdy stuff...
    – isync
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 17:48
  • maybe neither - google ngrams has "turbolaser" first used in 1976.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 3:33
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    Both are wronger than wrong. Neither Star Wars or BSG use actual lasers. Both are basically ionized gas/plasma.
    – cde
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 3:52
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    @cde Well, while we're being scientific here, plasmas have an annoying tendency to expand at some hundreds/thousands km/sec in free space, making them prettymuch worthless.
    – geometrian
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 8:46
  • @imallett only if not trapped. Look at light sabers. The plasma is enclosed by a magnetic field.
    – cde
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 8:58

3 Answers 3


From the original movie:

"We count thirty Rebel ships, Lord Vader, but they're so small they're evading our turbolasers." ―Lieutenant Tanbris, to Darth Vader, during the Battle of Yavin

Which came out in 1977, while Battlestar Galactica first aired in 1978 (thanks @CodesInChaos).

So Star Wars had it first.

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    BSG (the original) was a deliberate attempt to cash in on the sudden sci-fi craze created by Star Wars. It's not a coincidence that it came out 1 year later. So it's no surprise that they imitated and in some cases ripped off wholesale many elements of that franchise. Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 15:17
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    So they built the Death Star with a point-defense system that was unable to target X-Wings - which was exactly the type of ship that they'd need a point-defense system for? Was that bit of it's design done by the same bloke that left a tunnel leading directly to the ship's core?
    – Steve Ives
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 16:23
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    @Davor: It was more than a year - Star Wars was released in May of 1977, while BSG came out in September of the following year. Also, the show was done on a relatively low budget (compared to SW anyhow - it was expensive for TV, ultimately TOO expensive, which is why it didn't last), and as for getting a budget, TV studios aren't stupid - they could tell that SW was going to be huge pretty early on, and they wanted in on that. TV also tends to take much less time to film - a week or 2 per episode maybe. Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 18:12
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    @Davor - No, that's what pilot episodes are for. Many times the pilot and the show don't even have all of the same cast. (E.g. Star Trek TOS, Babylon 5) Shows that aren't green-lit, you generally never even get to see the pilot. BSG's pilot broadcast on the east coast was actually interrupted by a news broadcast on a Camp David summit. Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 18:23
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    @SteveIves - shhh...it happens. Somebody bureaucrat decides "We needs us a Death Star" and they get together lots of "procurement specialists" and "weapons suite interaction experts" and such, and by the time they're done they've managed to create something that can do everything except what it was designed to do. I'm sure that somewhere along the line someone said "NOBODY would ever attack our Death Star with little itsy-bitsy fighters! It'd be suicide!". Yeah, Mr. Evil Overlord dude - the problem with that is that nobody mentioned to your opponents that suicide is not an option. Whoops..! Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 22:39

Star Wars had them first .



We count thirty Rebel ships, Lord Vader. But they're so small they're evading our turbo-lasers!


We'll have to destroy them ship to ship. Get the crews to their fighters.


The premise of this question is based on a few faulty assumptions.

Turbo has 2 correct definitions, and one odd tacked on thing that almost counts as a 3rd definition.

Definition 1, meaning "big or fast". Much as you can have turbocapitalism (an accelerated/exaggerated form of capitalism), you can have turbolasers. These would presumably have a higher rate of fire than regular lasers. Or the lasers could travel faster. Or just be bigger.

Definition 2: "Drawing power from a turbine." Power generation in the star wars universe, as in ours, almost all comes from a turbine (for real world universe, that is coal, gas, hydro, wind, some solar thermal, fission and fusion. It excludes the most basic of solar thermal, and all solar photovoltaic, as well as rockets. Batteries are often thought of as being a turbineless form of power production, but ultimately they store energy produced by another source, likely a turbo one. There can be chemical energy stored and released, such as in gunpowder, without the need for a turbine.

Half Definition 3: Related to a turbo charger in a car. This is really just definition 2 again, because a turbocharger in a car uses a turbine, and that is where the name comes from.

So under definition one, a turbolaser is just one that fires faster than the competition.

Under definition 2, if it one that draws its power from a turbine.

So that leads us to the question of where non turbo lasers draw their power from. As it turns out, they are produced from directly igniting tibanna gas, which is a very concentrated energy source analogous to gunpowder.

This would lead me to the conclusion that Turbolasers have to be plugged in to some sort of generator (likely fusion in the SW universe), contrasting them to more portable lasers.

Further evidence for this is provided here, indicating that the Death Star superlasers are indeed powered by the reactors, and that they are essentially a scaled up turbolaser.

Interestingly, the US Navy actually has a turbolaser in operation. We as a society are so far away from having an energy production/storage source good enough to allow for laser weapons that aren't turbolasers.

I just realised I should edit in a point here. I dispute the assumption that we can be certain that one stole from other other, because the physical concept of a turbolaser, as well as the name, are not particularly unusual or weird. This, combined with the other answer showing a very short timeframe between the two (presumably indicating that BSG script writing was undertaken, or at least started before Star Wars was released) implies to me the more likely answer is that both came up with this idea independently.

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    "The lasers could travel faster", I would have loved to see a faster than light light.
    – Lie Ryan
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 9:34
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    "So that leads us to the question of where non turbo lasers draw their power from." On which grounds did you discount the other definition? I always understood turbolasers to mean they have a higher firing rate than the non turbo ones. Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 14:00
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    This is basically the same discussion as for hoverboards. One can read any manner oftextbooks regarding hovering and boards, but the fact remains: it is named a hoverboard. And neither do I need to show that my old Chevy was actually a former star that exploded. And no longer goes. Also, my feet were never in danger of being eaten by my Pumas.
    – Yorik
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 15:33
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    @LieRyan: The "lasers" in the Star Wars universe aren't beams of light, at least not in any traditional sense. They all travel significantly slower than the speed of light, hence why you can see them traveling across the screen in the movie. I'm too lazy to look up whether there's any canon explanation, but they could be plasma or some kind of container that holds light in a condensed form (some of which bleeds out, making the bolts visible as they travel).
    – MichaelS
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 2:13
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    I believe in cannon they are plasma. So yes, technically they are not turbolasers because they are not lasers. Mythbusters did some frame by frame to find out the speed, and it was slow enough that they could sort of nearly get out of the way in time when it was fired from ~ 10-20 m away
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 2:49

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