In 2008, the Star Wars world was taken by storm by a conflicted Sith Apprentice. He wore his mastery of the Force like a mixture of a billboard and a battering ram in the way he acted as a mobile Hurricane Katrina in his missions throughout the Star Wars galaxy. Most shocking of all, he did this in an era that was restricted for so long- a time period whose stories so far had been restricted to smugglers, gamblers, and spies and mostly published over twenty years ago. In The Force Unleashed, Starkiller defined events fans had only dreamed about, while at the same time displaying public acts of Force prowess that would have made Obi-Wan Kenobi second guess his decision to leave an untrained Luke alone with Starkiller’s master. And, in the end, Starkiller too, renamed Galen Marek after the child he had once been, made the ultimate sacrifice, becoming the inspiration not for the Rebellion itself, but for its leaders and its symbolism. But there’s more to the story…
“He flexed his fingers, feeling stronger and different somehow. Bacta tanks performed miracles, but they weren’t that good.”
First off, if anybody’s checking in for the first time thanks to the latest opening plot reveals of The Force Unleashed II, this is the sixth non-linear installment of this column, which means you can start here and check out any of the others without missing anything important.
As The Force Unleashed approached its midway point, Starkiller was brutally murdered by his master Darth Vader: he was disemboweled and exposed to vacuum, two of the most excruciating deaths known to man- and two that each carry their own forms of completely irreversible damage that would make the remains useless except as an example as to why these fates are to be avoided.
Yet after this, not only is Starkiller alive, but he’s in better condition than before. Yes, it’s mentioned several times in the novel- and only in the novel- that old injuries are healed, some of his muscles feel stronger, and that he altogether does not feel the same.
In other words, despite the similarities that Starkiller mentions in internal monologues about how his body moves, it’s clear that this is not the same body “rebuilt”. Rather, this is a different body- perhaps a better one molded around the old one, or perhaps an identical one but without having experienced the same hardships as the original.
The first option is the more fascinating- the second, of course, being more likely. If the body is designed to be better, yet still usable by the deceased Starkiller, that points almost exclusively to Sith alchemy, such as the sort used by Palpatine in the rip-off “you wanted a Dark Side ending but you got to be an undead slave” ending of (the PS2 version of) the video game. Why is this so interesting?
Darth Vader is an extremely powerful Force user, but he has his limits. While he was born of the raw Force (possibly manipulated, but still) and capable of performing any extremely rare Force techniques that he puts his mind to, his true Force potential has been limited by the grievous injuries he received on Mustafar and the manner in which he copes with them. Every rare and arcane Force technique that one can speculate on Vader’s performing is like the toss of a dice- must he roll a natural 20- a perfect success- in order to overcome his limitations and perform the technique? Is it completely off limits to him, or worse, will it overload his life support suit and kill him, such as the case if he attempted to use Force Lightning? Is it merely weakened by his loss, like his ability to sense the past and future, or is it completely unfazed, like his telekinetic aptitude?
Sith sorcery, and its more material form of alchemy- a specialty of both Vader’s master Darth Sidious and his colleague Lord Cronal- fit into this mysterious realm of rare techniques that Vader may or may not be able to perform. What exactly is required has always been a mystery, save that it requires heavy sacrifices- sacrifices that Vader may not be able to make, or conversely they could be sacrifices that he paid above and beyond when Anakin Skywalker took his near fatal plunge. If it were to be proven that Darth Vader could create alchemical servants and enhance his followers and weapons in that way, the repercussions would be manifold. Dozens of story ideas would be open for Vader, especially considering the many opportunities he’s had to learn the secrets of alchemy. Not only that, but it would restore Vader’s image in the eyes of gamers that picture him as the broken Sith with daddy issues that The Force Unleashed inadvertently (I assume) makes him seem, while making Vader’s power the true reason why Starkiller had such an extreme connection to the Force.
For those of you that may be in the dark, what I’m suggesting is this: using scant pieces of the original Starkiller almost as a mold, Vader used the Dark Side to create a new body, one which would likely be harder to damage, as well as having enhanced muscles and endurance. Likely there would be hidden strengths and weaknesses in such a body, tied to its origin in the Dark Side of the Force, as well as the manner in which Starkiller’s soul was trapped there. Between the extreme, but not unreasonable increase in perceived power that would give Lord Vader, and the complexities which would surround Starkiller and his newest body, this would facilitate if not necessitate (read: Inevitable) a story about Vader’s second attempt, and why he doesn’t keep creating more powerful minions to destroy the Rebels later on.
Now that you’ve humored the Sith fanboy in me, let’s take a look at the more reasonable option. The Sith and their followers of this era have a proud tradition of using clones to extend one’s life. I bring you to two primary examples: Grand Admiral Thrawn and Emperor Palpatine.
Grand Admiral Thrawn prepared a clone of himself to emerge ten years after his own death. This clone was flash taught with all of the real Thrawn’s memories, to the point that he was intended to believe he was the original Grand Admiral, returned from a particularly long voyage. Any number of clones “programmed” in this way could be prepared for the circumstance of the original’s death, and none of the clones would be any wiser unless they happened to stumble across the Spaarti cylinder they were grown in. In this way Vader could have dozens of attempts to train his apprentice- each time one was killed, he would activate another, and give him the same well-rehearsed speech about how only by following his latest scheme could he get revenge on the Emperor.
The Emperor, on the other hand, prepared a room full of blank clones. Apparently, these clones were altered to have no personality of their own; once the Emperor possessed one of them, it took him no effort to free himself from the chamber the body was created in, despite the fact that none of the clones chose to roam about on their own. The memories and skills of the clones relied entirely on the fact that the more experienced consciousness would be inhabiting the empty clone mind. Any clone awakened in this way would literally be a respawn of the original Force user- Starkiller would be reborn after dying at the Emperor’s hands, face to face with an angry Vader who held all the cards. It would be like business as usual in the training of a future Sith Lord.
Whatever happened, one clone would not be enough- and if it was, a new clone would emerge and prove that there should only have been one. The evolution of Starkiller and Galen Marek to this point indicates that he would not be reconditioned to return to the Sith lightly, and it’s probably to be assumed that an infinite number of clones would probably have similar difficulties in maintaining the Sith way. Therefore, the very existence of the hypothetical cloning facility indicates that Galen Marek would once again rise to challenge Vader and the Emperor. It is inevitable…