James Strachan built this Death Star model that is 42-feet in circumference. The replica is on display at Toy Traders.

Langley, embrace the dark side and check out the Death Star

Star Wars fans take note: an enormous hand-built Death Star exists inside a local business.

Cue the Imperial March orchestral music and the resonance of Darth Vader’s tinny, laboured breathing: James Strachan and Matthew Purdy have embraced the dark side.

Well, sort of.

The pals and admitted Star Wars fanatics are the men behind a mammoth model of a Death Star that has a permanent home in Langley.

Purdy, owner of Toy Traders, has the model on display in the Star Wars section of his sweeping, warehouse-sized toys and collectibles store.

“Its a huge draw for the store. When we moved to a store three times the size [of the original], I knew we needed a Death Star that was three times the size,” said Purdy, who added, “We’re fanatical Star Wars fans, both of us.”

Strachan, a 41-year-old married father of two young children, ages seven and one, built the model, complete with intricate details such as two platforms including a landing bay, and roughly 170 action figures.

“I gotta tell you, those platforms in there were not easy to mount, because they are also attached to the wall on a 45 [degree] angle,” Strachan said.

So why do it?

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CUTLINE: James Strachan entered a glass display that includes two of his hand-built models, including an R5D4 android, that can be seen at Toy Traders 19880 Langley Bypass. (Troy Landreville/Langley Advance)

The reasoning is simple. Strachan loves everything about the Star Wars saga and wanted to share his passion with others. He figures he’s seen Star Wars 150 times and its sequel, the Empire Strikes Back on more than 200 occasions.

“I’m an enormous fan of Star Wars,” he said. “I actually have my own Star Wars man cave. It’s all stars and life-sized busts. I built the bottom of the room as the carbon freezing room. It’s a black room with illuminated orange flooring.”

His model of the Death Star – which according to Wookieepedia, the Star Wars Wiki, is a “moon-sized Imperial military battlestation armed with a planet-destroying superlaser” – looks as though it’s been pushed into a wall a few feet above the store.

Measuring 42 feet in circumference, the model was built from styrene, 3,000 rivets, and wood, and is illuminated with 900 LED’s.

It also has a 100-foot “laser” and Strachan is currently working on space ships from other Sci-Fi movies and TV shows that will be “hit” by the laser.

It took Strachan eight months to build the Death Star replica. All the work was done inside Toy Traders because otherwise, the Death Star would have been too gigantic to fit through a bay door.

“It had to built on site,” Strachan said. “I started building it while the store was still under construction.”

Strachan wanted to be a comic book artist 20 years ago but said he wasn’t on a level playing field with others with similar aspirations because “there were too many people with parents who would take care of them until they were in their 30s, so I had to go get a day job, and I kinda gave it all up.”

Enter Purdy, who gave Strachan an outlet to explore his inner artist, and at the same time share his devotion to Star Wars.

“He [Purdy] paid me something but mostly I did it because he asked me to, and he knew that I wanted to be part of the displays around here,” Strachan shared. “Had it not been Matthew I would not have built this thing.”

The Death Star is the largest of the Star Wars models Strachan has built for display at Toy Traders, including a life-sized R5-D4 droid, an Imperial probe, interrogation droid, mouse droid, and a BB-8, which is a droid from the upcoming new Star Wars movie to be released in December.

Strachan enjoys seeing customers’ reactions when they see the Death Star replica, and the “awe on their faces.”

With so much TLC put into the model, it begs the obvious question.

“Am I a fan of the dark side?” Strachan said, repeating the query.

“I collect more dark side character but I had a spiritual epiphany watching Yoda when I was younger, when he transfers to the other side,” Strachan continued. “For a lot of young people, that’s their spiritual view; once your body leaves here, you go to this other place and your spirit is still alive.”

Strachan’s wife Christie also has a love for Star Wars. “She’s also a big fan of the Yoda moment. She actually cried when Yoda died.”

With Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens set for release on Dec. 18, Strachan is among the many counting down the seconds to catch the J.J. Abrams-directed movie.

“When it came to the prequels I was really unsure with what they were going to present, and they seemed to have disappointed a lot of Star Wars fans,” Strachan said. “But I think that Disney is smart enough with their $2 billion investment to realize that in order to maintain the integrity of the series and the $500 million intake per movie, the only way they’re going to maintain that is if they maintain some of the practical effects.”

Strachan plans on going to the premiere.

“We’re probably going to have front and centre seats,” he said.

CUTLINE: Toy Traders owner Matthew Purdy stood near the large death star model, built by his friend James Strachan, that is on display at Purdy’s toys and collectibles store at 19880 Langley Bypass. (Troy Landreville/Langley Advance)

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