Just ahead of San Diego Comic Con 2019 Lucasfilm and The Star Wars Show dropped one heck of a surprise on the interwebs, seemingly out of nowhere, and the reverberations of that announcement are still being felt.
And for good reason. Trooper designs have come and gone over the length of the franchise, starting in 1977 with the original in Star Wars: A New Hope, and each entry has introduced a new and unique visual addition to the ever-expanding roster. Part eye-candy and part story/environmentally-relevant plot device, the new model hits the screens, hits the pegs and is gone fairly quickly. The Sith Trooper however….
With a name like that the importance must run deep to throw it in a finale to a trilogy that has prided itself on shirking off the shackles of the past. Letting concepts like the Jedi and Sith die in order to forge something new. This latest addition to the lore deepens the mystery of the entire saga and offers up endless possibilities as to how this will all go down this December in The Rise of Skywalker.
First and foremost the design of Episode IX’s Sith Trooper is stunning. Incorporating elements from the standard First Order Trooper, modified and upgraded, this new edition sports a more robust looking armor in striking red. With ridges, or grooves, visible from head to toe, these look almost tribal or ceremonial in addition to giving the Sith Trooper a sinister and aggressive demeanor. While almost certainly purely aesthetic it’s possible they do serve some in-universe function that makes them an elite threat. Possibly a feature to absorb or dissipate energy from blasters or maybe an internal benefit to the wearer.
In multiple interviews director J.J. Abrams has stated that not only does The Rise of Skywalker need to wrap up this sequel trilogy but it also puts a cap on the entire nine film saga now known as “The Skywalker Saga”. While easier to see the connections to the original trilogy certain visual cues displayed on the Sith Trooper hearken back to the prequel era.
Retaining the First Order’s now iconic evolution of the original Stormtrooper the visor of the Sith Trooper’s helmet shows off a distinct “T” similar to the Clone Troopers first seen in 2002’s Attack of the Clones. This look has been seen before multiple times in the universe but its similarity with the Clones is deliberate. As is the red and black color palate. Red clad troopers have also been seen before many times, from red Stormtroopers to the illustrious Royal Guard, down the line to the more recent Praetorian Guard. Adding relevance is the dual colors history with the Sith. Ever since Darth Maul graced the screen in 1999’s The Phantom Menace this color combination has been linked with their Order. Both Sith and Empire. Sith Trooper by definition must be linked to the Sith Order somehow even if as of now listed as an extension of the First Order.
The question then is this: Are the First Order and the Sith one and the same? Or will there be some factional shift, an insurrection, that will polarize both on opposite ends?
Throwing the name “Sith” in Sith Trooper means something. These troopers will not just be another Executioner Trooper or Flame Trooper. Advertised before release and then barely noticed on-screen.
No, this is different.
Why else include the baggage that comes with the legend of the Sith? Especially with one of the Sith’s greatest minds, greatest warriors returning to the saga in an undisclosed capacity in The Rise of Skywalker.
Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious, former Emperor and architect of the Clone Wars will return in the upcoming film making the inclusion of a Sith Trooper more than just a coincidence. In what context is all that remains to be seen. History shows the pure evil genius that Palpatine possesses, evident in his rise to power in the Old Republic, to his orchestration of a galactic war that saw him manipulating both sides into, and his solidification of control as he swept the former government away and established the Galactic Empire. Up until his demise (?) in Return of the Jedi, everything had transpired according to his design. Perhaps this was all forseen already and plans were made to further his mysterious agenda. After all that he had accomplished it is not far-fetched at all to believe everything that has happened since the Battle of Endor has been his doing. In fact, hints dropped by Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm’s president, have confirmed that this has been in the cards for a long time:
This has been in the blueprint for a long time, yeah. We had not landed on exactly how we might do that, but yes, it was always [to be in Episode IX]
The Maker himself, George Lucas, was even consulted by both Kennedy and Abrams on the inclusion of Palpatine to complete this grand story. The Sith are returning in a big way in this final installment, the Skywalker Saga’s closing chapter, and what better way to wrap up this story built upon a prophecy of the Sith’s destruction!
Designs of the Sith
Speculation is something that Star Wars fans do like no other franchise in existence. It’s where a lot of the joy comes from and it keeps the hype alive even during quieter times. Not that there’s many of those anymore thankfully.
Playing along with the idea that the return of the Sith via Palpatine has been planned since the very beginning of the Disney era of Star Wars, have there been hints all along the way?
In 2015, just before the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first novel in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy debuted and gave readers their first glimpse of life post-Return of the Jedi. Through those novels and other media some of Palpatine’s machinations were explored. An operation was carried out after his death, The Contingency, that saw the weaker elements of the Empire purged while sending a chosen few to flee to the Unknown Regions to rebuild. A secret facility called The Observatory was revealed beneath Jakku that housed relics and hidden technology and others were thought to be spread across the known galaxy. Another being a storehouse on the planet Pilio that was featured in Star Wars Battlefront II. Could these Observatories have housed soldiers that would go on to become Sith Troopers? A secret stash of Clones saved from the war to aid Palpatine at a future time? Their design is First Order but if that very Order was also created and manipulated into existence by the Emperor then it still fits.
Both Supreme Leader Snoke and his apprentice, Kylo Ren, have never been identified as true Sith, in fact it has been outright denounced, therefore it stands to reason that the Sith returning does not refer to either one of them. The Sith Troopers more than likely serve…you guessed it, the Sith so it won’t be a total surprise if this new contingent answers only to Palpatine or possibly another Sith that could be featured in The Rise of Skywalker.
There is a line in the novel Tarkin, by James Luceno, that has stood out over the years and could come into play here in the story. It is in a conversation between the Emperor and Darth Vader:
The Empire? Since when do you put the needs of the Empire before OUR needs? Of course you will do as I command and of course Moff Tarkin needs to resume his duties on the sentinel moon. The sooner the battle station is completed, the sooner you and I can devote ourselves to more pressing matters, matters ONLY you and I can investigate and that have little to do with the EMPIRE…
Did Palpatine see or need a reason to leave the galaxy and its affairs to tend to something else? Something he has been aware of for many years in the Unknown Regions and watched closely through his outposts? Taking himself out of the picture and returning decades later making the First Order only a front for something far more dangerous?
It could make for an amazing curtain close to the most epic space opera ever told. The next few months are going to be a blast during this lead-up, so make sure you enjoy the ride!
Mike Harris hails from the suburbs of Chicago and has been a fan for most of his life. Working as an industrial radiographer and raising a family with his wife take up most of his time, but there’s always room for Star Wars books and podcasts! Just looking to give back to Star Wars and the fan community, it’s been a source of fun and learning for him for so long.