Darth Vader is one of the greatest villains in modern history. Feared and loved, the dark lord of the Sith has been an icon of evil since his first appearance in 1977’s Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. With his skull-like mask, powerful black armor and deep booming voice, Darth Vader is one of the most recognizable characters in the Star Wars franchise. Over the course of six movies, we’ve seen how Anakin Skywalker went from a small boy on a distant planet to a corrupted Jedi master, all the way to becoming the greatest force of the Empire, leading to his final redemption, saving his son and helping to destroy the Death Star and the Emperor.
You might love how Darth Vader has been portrayed on the big screen and may have seen all the movies, but unless you’ve read all the books and comics and TV shows, you might not know all about Darth Vader. There are some things that make him even scarier than he appears, but there are also some things about him that make Vader more tragic. With Star Wars: The Last Jedi coming in December, let’s find out 15 dark secrets about Lord Vader.
15. DARTH VADER’S LIGHTSABER IS BLEEDING
The Jedi have lightsabers in a variety of colors from blue to red to purple, but Sith lightsabers have only one: red. For years, fans speculated as to why that was, but only recently did we find the horrifying truth. In the 2016 novel Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston, it was first given the canon explanation that kyber crystals powering lightsabers are alive and sensitive to the Light side of the Force.
The only way a Sith can create a lightsaber is to steal a Jedi’s lightsaber and literally torture its crystal. That’s how Darth Vader got his own lightsaber, by hunting down and killing a Jedi. Afterwards, he poured all his hate and anger into the Jedi’s kyber crystal until it broke to his will. In the process, the crystal bleeds, turning its energy color to red.
14. PALPATINE IS ANAKIN’S FATHER
In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the birth of Anakin Skywalker was a mystery. The mother Shmi claimed Anakin had no father, and it seemed like it was a virgin birth meant to make him seem like a Christ-like figure. The reality is much more straightforward but much darker.
In Revenge of the Sith, Chancellor Palpatine told a story about Darth Plagueis, a Sith Lord who could allegedly create life. While the story might have seemed like a fairy tale told to influence Anakin to join him, an early draft of the script would have made its meaning clear when Palpatine told Anakin he was the one who caused the midi-chlorians to create the boy. That would have led to the horrifying conclusion that Palpatine was Anakin’s real father.
13. VADER WASN’T ALWAYS LUKE’S FATHER
If there’s one thing that defines Darth Vader other than his powers and mechanical suit, it’s his relationship with Luke Skywalker as the Jedi’s father. That’s why it probably would surprise you how long it took for him to get that way. In Star Wars: A New Hope, Ben Kenobi and Uncle Owen all talked about Luke’s father as being dead. Obi-Wan specifically told Luke that Darth Vader killed the boy’s father.
Later on, Obi-Wan and the rest of the movies played with the idea that Vader metaphorically killed Anakin Skywalker, but that was more of a retcon. That’s because the idea of Vader as Luke’s father wasn’t in any of the drafts of A New Hope and it wasn’t until the second draft of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back that Lucas introduced the plot twist.
12. DARTH VADER’S WEAKNESS
One conspiracy theory that Darth Vader and others believed was that the Emperor put him in the restrictive armor to keep him from rebelling. When Anakin was turned to the Dark Side, he was a young man, more vital and strong in the Force. Yet Vader’s reconstruction was based on old technology developed in rebuilding General Grievous, already outdated, which kept Vader from moving at the speed and strength that he had before his injuries. His Force powers were also reduced by the surgery, leaving him weaker and in no shape to stand up to the Emperor.
Another problem was the suit’s vulnerability to Force Lightning. The suit wasn’t properly shielded and the delicate circuits in the suit were vulnerable to electricity, something that the Emperor was well-aware of and threatened Vader with on at least one occasion. In the end, it was Force lightning that took Vader down.
11. HOW VADER FOUND HIS SON
In A New Hope, Darth Vader didn’t seem to know who Luke Skywalker was. That made sense since it was explained in the prequel trilogy that Anakin was told Padme died before she gave birth, and Luke and Leia were hidden from Vader so he wouldn’t turn them to the Dark Side. Yet in The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader knew Luke was his son. How did he find out?
In 2015’s Star Wars: Darth Vader #6 (Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca), it was finally explained in canon. He had enlisted the help of Boba Fett, who wasn’t able to capture Luke. As an aside, he mentioned that he had found the name of “the boy” as Skywalker. In a wordless scene, we saw Darth Vader flashing back to the death of Padme as the glass window cracked in front of him.
10. DARTH VADER’S MASK
Darth Vader’s skeletal black mask has come to be the first thing people think of when they think of the villain. In fact, the mask alone or even the outline of the mask can be enough to symbolize Darth Vader in merchandising, but he didn’t have it at first. In George Lucas’ original concept, Vader had no mask.
In the opening scene, Darth Vader was supposed to walk through the vacuum of space, so he needed a breathing mask. Concept artist Ralph McQuarrie designed the mask to look like a skull and Lucas liked it so much that he made it a permanent part of Vader’s costume. Unfortunately, no one told actor David Prowse about the change until filming started. He wasn’t happy about a role where no one could see his face, but he went ahead, anyway.
9. THE BREATHING IS TRADEMARKED
More than the look of Darth Vader, his breathing is one of the most iconic sounds in movie history. In the movies and even the trailers, just the breathing sound effect is enough to convey that he will appear and strike terror in audiences. Originally, sound effects creator Brian Burtt tried using clicks and beeps, but thought they were too distracting. Instead, Burtt used the regulator of scuba diving gear to make the breathing effect.
The sound is supposed to be of Darth Vader breathing through his mask, although it also plays while he’s talking. If you’re thinking of using that sound effect in your movies or TV shows, you should know that Vader’s breathing sound effect is trademarked in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office under Trademark #77419252.
8. THE VOICE AWAKENS
When Lucas first conceived of Darth Vader, his first choice to perform the voice was the actor David Prowse, but Prowse’s natural voice had a very unthreatening West Country English accent that got him nicknamed “Darth Farmer” on the set. Lucas’ second choice was Orson Welles, but decided Welles’ accent was too familiar to audiences. That’s why he cast relatively unknown James Earl Jones.
It took Jones just two-and-a-half hours to record his dialogue, but sound engineer Burtt thought it didn’t sound like it came from behind a mask. He gave Jones a muffled, echoing effect by playing the voice out loud in open rooms and recording the results. Jones thought the role was so insignificant that he asked for his name to be left off the credits of A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, only getting credit for Return of the Jedi onwards.
7. DARTH VADER’S REPLACEMENTS
In 2015, a new series Star Wars: Darth Vader (Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca) was set between the first movie Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. It introduced the mad scientist Cylo who designed his armor and revealed a sinister plot that threatened Darth Vader.
Darth Vader discovered the Emperor and Cylo had worked together on a secret program for 20 years to build and train the Sith Lord’s replacements. After Darth Vader’s failure to stop the destruction of the Death Star, Cylo’s creations were sent out on their first mission to compete to replace Vader, and Vader went on a campaign to stop them. He managed to set up Cylo and his creations as traitors so they had to flee, but Darth Vader never forgot the Emperor’s attempt to replace him.
6. DARTH VADER IS CLAUSTROPHOBIC
Darth Vader’s armor is both a blessing and a curse. It allowed him to survive his horrific injuries on Mustafar and keeps him alive despite his damaged body, but it’s become a prison that he’s trapped inside. Without it, he wouldn’t live for more than a few minutes unless he was in a special environment. Besides the physical problems of being inside the armor, the worst part about being inside the mask for him is that he’s claustrophobic.
It’s torture for Darth Vader to be encased entirely in black armor for most of his life. The only time he ever gets any relief is when he can remove his mask inside his specially prepared meditation chamber. Those brief moments are treasured by him, which is why he gets annoyed when someone interrupts him.
5. DARTH VADER’S ARMOR HURTS
Vader’s armor is not just a cause of fear for the Sith Lord, it also taxes him physically, as well. It allows him to survive, but also makes life almost unbearable for the former Jedi. Underneath the armor, he’s in constant pain. For one thing, the mask’s primary interface with his body is a series of sharp needles that pierce his skin at all times to read data and transmit it to the suit.
Having needles jammed in his face and skull made it hard to rest, and whenever he did settle down, his cybernetic limbs would pull at his flesh. Most of his skin had been burned off, replaced by synthskin which constantly itched him. The armor was also very heavy, weighing down his tortured body, and forced him to use the Force to help him move at all.
4. DARTH VADER’S MAGIC
When people talk about Darth Vader, they usually talk about his cybernetic parts but did you know he’s also sustained by magic? Even with the armor and surgery performed on him, Darth Vader was greatly weakened by his injuries. The suit and mechanical implants enhanced his strength, and also had durasteel and plasteel plating that let it withstand gun blasts, but it wasn’t enough.
In building his armor, the Emperor used ancient Sith alchemy to strengthen the metal parts to make it able to withstand direct attacks. We saw that when Darth Vader used the Force and his armor to block Han Solo’s shots in The Empire Strikes Back. His right glove was built around an ancient Sith amulet. The suit also had a life support system, but the system also constantly injected mystical Sith chemicals into his burned muscles and nerves to make Vader stronger.
3. DARTH VADER CAN’T EAT
Even though Vader is a cyborg, he still has a physical body that needs to be sustained. That means he needs to eat and drink, but that’s more difficult for him than it was before he put on the armor. He can’t just pop off his mask and sit down to a hamburger and fries. He can’t even take off his mask without being in a pressurized environment like his meditation chamber. When his mask is off, his burned and ravaged throat can’t handle regular food.
That’s why Vader mainly received nourishment by sipping RepMed vitapaste from straws inside his mask. Unfortunately, the vitapaste gave him all the nutrition he needed but tasted so bad that he preferred to rely on intravenous feeds built into the suit to sustain him.
2. DARTH VADER’S RIGHT HAND
Darth Vader’s right hand was different from the rest of his body, because it was made by Anakin Skywalker instead of the droids that operated on him after Mustafar. Anakin lost his right arm during his fight with Count Dooku, and created a prosthetic arm with armored shielding and enhanced strength. When Darth Vader was reconstructed, his right hand wasn’t replaced. In fact, it was enhanced with a mystical Sith amulet that made it indestructible.
After his hand was cut off by Luke Skywalker, the glove survived, even after the explosion of the Death Star. The Glove of Darth Vader became a highly prized relic that was the focus of the 1992 novel, The Glove of Darth Vader (Paul and Hollis Davids) where a Grand Moff tried to use the glove to make himself the new Emperor, even while the Emperor’s clone wanted the glove for its healing powers.
1. DARTH VADER’S APPRENTICES
In the prequel trilogy, it was explained there can only be two Sith at a time: a master and an apprentice. That meant Darth Vader and Darth Sidious were the only true Sith, but that didn’t mean Vader didn’t have his own plans. In the Expanded Universe and related media, Vader has had 12 apprentices, some hidden even from the Emperor himself.
Darth Vader’s earliest apprentice was a spy named Lumiya, trained and sent to infiltrate the Rebellion in 1982 with issue #56 of the Marvel Star Wars comic series. The comics also introduced Kharys and Flint. In the novels, there were Force-sensitive apprentices Rillao and Hethrir from 1994’s The Crystal Star (Vonda N. McIntyre). Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game introduced Antinnis Tremayne. Three apprentices were introduced in the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed video game series with Galen Marek (codenamed Starkiller) and his two clones.
What’s the darkest secret of Darth Vader? Let us know in the comments!
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