How KCET Helped Destroy Alderaan




KCET is celebrating its 50th anniversary year with a series of stories, reflections, and flashbacks, like this throwback below. For more and to participate in our next 50 years, join us at kcet.org/50.


I am here to set the record straight on piece of "Star Wars" trivia: If you want to destroy Alderaan, Princess Leia's home planet, the person you would want to call was our longtime KCET engineer, the late Cal Slater.

Cal was one of two technical directors that we had in the 70s, 80s and 90s, so he worked on many KCET productions over the years, including "Hollywood Television Theater," "Visions," "Cosmos," "The Merry Widow," and even "Penn and Teller Go Public." (Of course, countless pledge drives and news shows were shot throughout the decades, too.) Not a single one of those shows ended up being the thing he was most famous for, however. As much as he worked all those productions, his biggest claim to fame came from the fact that he was in the right place at the right time.

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George Lucas needed to shoot footage of someone destroying Alderaan, in the original "Star Wars" film. Lucas came to the KCET lot to shoot some footage, and he asked our technical director, who happened to be Cal, to move the fader bar on our Grass Valley Switcher back and forth. Cal had no idea what they were making him do this for, but he complied and they got their footage that day. George went back to the studio and put that little shot in "Star Wars." It is one of the more dramatic scenes in the film, too. (Skip ahead to the 57-second mark to see the precise scene.)



When the staff at KCET saw the movie, they knew immediately what the shot was and whose hand had destroyed the planet.

It became a part of KCET lore that we passed on between us.

As the decades passed and computers became more prevalent, new generations of tech types would post notices up on computer bulletin boards and places where people hang out, mentioning that it was a Grass Valley Switcher in that shot. Knowing the answer to these people's questions, I could proudly post that I knew the man who had destroyed Alderaan.

It's an obscure trivia question, but now you know the answer.

This is another in a series of posts where Cathy Bower, KCET's Broadcast Operations Coordinator, looks back at some interesting moments and events during the station's 50 years on the air. Read more here.

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