Darth Vader (41 BBY – 4 ABY; born Anakin Skywalker, renamed in 19 BBY) was a Sith Lord in the service of Emperor Palpatine.
Darth Vader was the Sith title given to Anakin Skywalker by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine after he embraced the dark side in 19 BBY after struggling against its grip for several years. Palpatine lured Anakin to the dark side when he promised to protect his wife, Padmé Amidala, from the death Skywalker had foreseen for her in his dreams. Skywalker buried all good in himself and, at the command of his new master, led the 501st Legion to the Jedi Temple, killing every single Jedi inside, including the younglings. The personalities became further distinct when Anakin suffered great physical and emotional damage that completely changed his appearance and character. As Darth Vader, Anakin became a powerful asset to the fledgling Empire, serving as an enforcer, Jedi hunter, Supreme Commander of the Imperial Fleet, and general Executor of Palpatine's will.
Serving the Emperor
Many of Vader's early missions were ordered by the Emperor himself, who did so not only to test the limits of his crippled apprentice's abilities, but to keep him from wallowing in self pity over his wife's death. These early missions included slaying a group of Jedi Knights and a trip to the planet Kashyyyk to oversee the enslavement of the Wookiees. A notable mission was to the planet Honoghr, devastated by the Separatist toxin Trihexalophine1138 during the Clone Wars. He promised the native Noghri the Empire would restore Honoghr's ecosystem under the condition that they serve the Emperor as assassins. Vader also piloted a black-hued Eta-2 Actis-class light interceptor during some of his early missions for Emperor Palpatine as the Great Jedi Purge continued, sometimes flanked by Alpha-3 Nimbus-class starfighters.
Vader's most personal tasks were to find and eliminate survivors of Order 66. Among them were Empatojayos Brand, who was forced to live out the remainder of his life inside a pressure suit, and Halagad Ventor, from whom Vader learned the location of other Jedi survivors, including Qu Rahn. However, the object of his most intense wrath, Obi Wan Kenobi, managed to elude him.
Although in possession of great wealth and power, Vader allowed himself few comforts. Among those was a personal retreat on Coruscant and Bast Castle on Vjun. The 501st Legion, the stormtrooper squad he led in the extermination of the Jedi Order, became his personal guard, the actions they undertook in Vader's name over the course of the Civil War earning them the nickname of "Vader's Fist".
In 1 BBY, Vader and Palpatine were the targets of a group of treacherous Imperial officers led by Grand Moff Trachta. Trachta saw the Sith as foolish and archaic, and believed that the Empire should not be ruled by a two-man cult. They planned to use a batch of altered stormtroopers loyal only to them to destroy the two Sith Lords. However, their plot failed in part because of internal fighting between the co-conspirators.
Shortly before the Battle of Yavin, Vader was charged with retrieving the stolen plans for the Death Star and finding the hidden base of the Rebel Alliance. With an interrogation droid, he tortured Leia Organa and oversaw the deaths of billions during the destruction of the planet Alderaan ordered by Grand Moff Tarkin. Vader also battled the elderly Obi-Wan Kenobi, his former mentor, in their second lightsaber duel. Despite Obi-Wan's vague warning that killing him would make him "more powerful than you can possibly imagine", Vader struck him down, and Obi-Wan became a spirit in the Force who continued to guide Luke Skywalker. To determine the location of the Rebel base, Vader allowed Luke and Han Solo to rescue Princess Leia and escape with the technical readouts of the Death Star.
During the Battle of Yavin, he piloted a distinctive TIE Advanced x1 fighter and almost prevented Luke's successful attack on the Death Star. Vader sensed that the young pilot in his sights was Force-sensitive, putting into motion a series of events that culminated in the death of the Empire. When the Millennium Falcon shot down one of his two support craft, the other panicked and veered into Vader's fighter, sending him spinning away from the battle station. Vader soon regained control and escaped to Coruscant, where he was formally reprimanded by the Emperor for failing to stop the Rebels. He then continued his mission to find the Rebel base. His search took him to such worlds as Ultaar and Centares. He tortured a Rebel pilot that led him to discover the identity of the Death Star's destroyer, Luke Skywalker—the son he thought he had lost.
The son of Skywalker
Equipped with this information, Lord Vader engineered a number of plans to capture the young Jedi. He involved the House of Tagge family of nobles in a plan to capture Skywalker on the world of Monastery. He also formed an actor posing as Obi-Wan Kenobi to lure Luke to the planet Aridus. When Governor Bin Essada learned that Skywalker and Princess Leia were on Circarpous V, he contacted the Dark Lord. Vader traveled to the jungle world, and faced the Jedi in the abandoned Temple of Pomojema. Guided by the Sprint of Obi-Wan, Luke severed Vader's prosthetic right arm in combat. Vader survived the wound and was ready to continue. The Sith Lord toppled into a sacrificial well as the fights resumed, and the Rebels escaped.
Although a subterfuge perpetrated by Obi-Wan Kenobi had caused Vader to believe that his unborn child had perished with his wife, Padmé Amidala, Vader eventually deduced that Luke was in fact this child. Vader became obsessed with hunting down Luke, an objective which neatly coincided with his task of destroying the Rebellion. Vader dispatched probe droids to remote regions of the Galaxy and eventually detected the Rebel Echo Base on Hoth. Admiral Ozzel incurred Vader’s wrath when he ruined Death Squadron's stealth attack by exiting hyperspace too close to the planet, allowing the Rebels to detect the attack and project shields against planetary bombardment. Vader was forced to wage a terrestrial campaign; its deployment gave some of the Rebel forces time to flee. Vader himself entered Echo Base and reached a hangar in time to see the Millennium Falcon escape. When the Falcon hyperdrive failed, Vader ordered pursuit and followed the Falcon and her apparently unstable pilot into an equally unstable asteroid field.
While his fighters searched the asteroids for the Falcon, Vader received a new mission from the Emperor—to capture Luke Skywalker, his own son and the pilot who had destroyed the Death Star. Vader suggested that he could be turned to the dark side of the Force, and the Emperor agreed, noting that he would be a "great asset." Meanwhile, as was the pattern with Sith Lords, and particularly with the Emperor, each secretly began planning to eliminate the other and take Luke as his apprentice.
Vader continued pursuing the Falcon and resorted to hiring bounty hunters for the task. Ultimately, the Falcon appeared and then quickly disappeared by hiding in a blind spot on the back of the bridge tower of Captain Needa's Star Destroyer Avenger. Captain Needa took responsibility for losing them, and apologized to Vader. The Sith Lord accepted his apology—but only after Force-choking him to his death. Death Squadron dispersed into hyperspace, each ship dumping its garbage before jumping. The Falcon, released from its perch, floated away amid the debris and then set a sub-light course to Cloud City, a mining colony administered by Han Solo's old friend Lando Calrissian. Boba Fett, one of the bounty hunters hired by Vader, deduced Solo's strategy, followed the Falcon to Cloud City, and alerted Vader.
Vader landed on Cloud City and threatened Calrissian into an agreement while waiting for the Falcon's arrival. When the Falcon arrived, Vader captured and tortured Han Solo. Luke, training under Yoda on Dagobah, saw a vision of his friend's torture and rushed to Cloud City to save his friends, despite the sternest warnings from Yoda that by doing so, he would risk falling to the dark side. Meanwhile, Vader froze Solo in carbonite as a test subject to see if the method would be viable for the younger Skywalker, much to the chagrin of Boba Fett, who was already seeking Solo for Jabba the Hutt. Luke arrived at Cloud City, but Leia warned him of the trap within the corridors of Cloud City. Lando, Chewbacca, and Leia engineered an escape from Cloud City as Boba Fett took the frozen Han Solo to Tatooine to collect his bounty from Jabba the Hutt.
Luke found Vader, and they dueled, Luke not knowing his opponent's true identity. As Yoda and Obi-Wan had warned, the inadequately trained Luke was no match for the powerful and experienced Vader, who ultimately defeated him and cut off his right hand.
Vader: "Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father."
In the following months, Lord Vader found himself in a complex game of strategy against the scheming crime lord of Black Sun, Prince Xizor. The Falleen, who had long hated Vader due to a planetary bombardment ordered by the Dark Lord on his homeworld of Falleen, was attempting to discredit Vader in eyes of the Emperor. Xizor had long been a rival for the Emperor's attentions. He sought to foil Vader's plan to capture Luke Skywalker for the Emperor by having Luke assassinated first. Vader discovered Xizor's plot and killed him in an assault high over Imperial Center.
Shortly thereafter, on 4 ABY, the Death Star II was being built under the command of Moff Jerjerrod as an elaborate trap for the Rebellion. Vader was sent to oversee the later stages of the construction. Vader soon sensed Luke Skywalker on board a shuttle heading for the forest moon of Endor, while the Emperor, present during the final stages of construction, did not. On Endor, Vader once again attempted to persuade Luke to join the dark side, but this time Vader's interests were tinged by a desire to protect his son. When this failed, Vader took him to Emperor Palpatine himself on the incomplete Death Star II. Luke reluctantly fought a lightsaber battle with Vader, all the while attempting to persuade Vader to renounce the dark side of the Force.
During a lull in the fighting, Vader telepathically examined Luke's mind and realized that Leia was Luke's sister (and thus Vader’s daughter). Vader threatened to turn her to the dark side if he should fail to do so with Luke. Hearing this threat to his sister, Luke's rage was finally unleashed, and he attacked Lord Vader using the dark side of the Force, driving him back with a whirlwind of blows. Severing Vader's right hand, Luke's fury was suddenly cut short—as he stared at his own cybernetic hand, he realized with a visceral horror that he had already begun transforming into Vader's successor. As the Emperor approached, Luke threw down his lightsaber and refused to join the dark side. Palpatine, his hate for the Jedi resurging, struck Luke down with Force lightning.
Luke writhed in agony as the Emperor slowly tortured him. He begged his father for help; Vader turned and, with his remaining hand, lifted the Emperor and threw him down a shaft into the Death Star's reactor core, where he exploded in a storm of dark energies. Vader was fatally wounded in the process. In his final moments, he pleaded with Luke to remove his mask so that he could look on him with his own eyes. Vader found redemption in the light side of the Force. Darth Vader was no more; Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One, had returned and brought balance to the Force.
Luke escaped the dying Death Star with Anakin's body, which he cremated that night on the forest moon of Endor.
It is not clear what happened to Anakin's body on his death. As a redeemed Jedi, it is possible that his organic body was dematerialized and became one with the Force, as happened with Obi-Wan and Yoda, and that what Luke cremated was just his suit. On the other hand, Anakin did not know about Qui-Gon Jinn's secret of joining the Force, and was surprised when Obi-Wan's body vanished right before he killed him. However, it could again be argued that Anakin, potentially the most powerful Jedi, had discovered the secret of becoming a spirit by himself after his physical death just as Qui-Gon Jinn did.
Later that night, during the celebration on Endor, Luke was able to see the spirit of the redeemed Anakin Skywalker, once again standing alongside his old friends, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda.
After his death, the Empire refused to believe Vader murdered Palpatine, claiming that Luke killed both Palpatine and Vader, who died defending his master. After Emperor Palpatine's resurrection, when the details became clear, the Imperials saw him as a symbol of ultimate treachery. Sometimes they didn't dare even pronouncing the traitor's name, and when they did, they did so in disgust. In the Bast Castle of Vjun once stood a statue of Vader which was vandalized and desecrated by the Imperials and Sith who used his old fortress, indicative of Vader's reputation after his death.
Darth Vader's talents
Darth Vader's talentsDarth Vader was a brilliant strategist and one of the greatest pilots in the galaxy. Vader still possessed his former persona's amazing engineering skills, having overseen the design of the TIE/Advanced fighter, and his skill with the lightsaber was legendary. All of these abilities, however, were secondary to his incredible mastery of the Force. As Anakin, he had the greatest known midi-chlorian count (a measure of Force-aptitude) in the galaxy, surpassing both Yoda and the Emperor's count. However, after all of his limbs were severed and he was severely burned on Mustafar he lost much of his Force potential. As Darth Vader, Anakin was believed to have had roughly 80% of the strength of the Emperor. Had he sustained none of his injuries on Mustafar he would have been twice as powerful.
Vader was able to block Han Solo's blaster bolts with his gauntleted hands. One explanation is that Vader used the Force to dissipate their energy, while another is that the Sith armor which protected and sustained Vader's body was practically indestructible. Corran Horn demonstrated the ability to channel energy from outside attacks into Force power in similar ways.
Vader also appeared to have great physical strength, lifting the Rebel Captain Antilles by the throat with one hand, and picking up the Emperor and hurling him to his death. Whether these feats result from his use of the Force, or from the power of his cybernetic limbs, is unknown.
Besides the life support it provides his ravaged body, Vader's Sith armor also offered some protection against the blades of lightsabers. In a climactic duel with his son in the depths of Cloud City, a direct blow from Luke's lightsaber appears to bounce off Vader's armor, although it still elicited a yelp of pain from the Sith Lord.
Darth Vader's appearance
As the Dark Lord of the Sith, Vader's irises would turn fiery yellow when he immersed himself fully in the dark side and the passions of hate and anger, but return to normal in his remorse. At first, Vader continued to dress as a Jedi to hide his new identity.
After losing an epic duel with his former master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin was horribly disfigured by injuries and burns suffered on the lava-planet Mustafar. In addition to his horrific scars and maimed torso, Anakin's lungs were seared, leaving him barely able to breathe. Only his burning hatred and lust for revenge kept his will to live intact.
After his rescue by Darth Sidious, it was realized that a cybernetic life support system would be required to sustain Anakin. New mechanical limbs were attached and a breathing modulator was incorporated into an imposing obsidian armored suit. He was forced to wear the armor at all times, except for when meditating or healing in his pressurized meditation chamber. Also making him even more intimidating than his ruthless reputation alone, the suited Darth Vader was a towering figure, standing nearly 6 feet 7 inches (2.02 meters). Even amongst his Imperial subordinates, Vader's frightful presence invoked terror. Ahead of his portentous footfalls, Lord Vader's distinctive, raspy breathing sent chills down the spine as it heralded his villainous presence.
Behind the scenes
The character of Darth Vader was not originally planned to be a suited cyborg. This was created when the concept artist drew the opening scene where the Tantive IV was being boarded. It was initially imagined that Darth Vader would fly through space to enter the ship, necessitating a suit and breathing mask. This was later made permanent and incorporated in the story.
It is also worth noting that Vader is the Dutch word for father, and it may be tempting to read the character name Darth Vader as Dark Father, a word-play that may well be the root of the Sith title. However judging by the origin of the other Sith names, Vader may also possibly be a derivative of the word invader. However, it is worth noting that in the original scripts for Star Wars, the name Darth Vader was given to a normal Imperial general.
Darth Vader as a cultural figure
Due to his central role, Vader has entered the public consciousness as the quintessential frightening villain; the American Film Institute's list of the greatest movie villains placed him third, after Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates. Lord Vader's powerful, baritone voice coupled with his heavy breathing is easily recognizable to moviegoers—it is symbolic of his transformation from a man of the light to an evil cyborg. He has been parodied by such figures as "Dark Helmet" from Spaceballs and countless other parodies from cartoons, such as "Duck Vader" from Tiny Toon Adventures and "Darth Koopa" from Super Mario Bros. (TV), and his name has become a synonym for frightening evil. During a major renovation, Washington National Cathedral held a competition for children to design new gargoyles for the west towers-one winner was a design featuring Darth Vader.
Darth Vader's head gear appears to be modeled on a Japanese kabuto, which is consistent with the samurai-like order of the Jedi and kendo-like lightsaber duels. It also resembles a German World War II-era Stahlhelm.
Many people say that Darth Vader is loosely inspired by the Marvel Universe villain Doctor Doom. Considered by many to be the greatest comic-book villain of all time, he is similar to Vader. Both have a commanding presence, both are physically deformed thanks to tragic accidents that cause them to wear armor, both are highly intelligent, and both were, in a way, good once. There is also a costume similarity with The Lightning, the first costumed supervillain from the serial Fighting Devil Dogs. However, Lucas himself once mentioned in an interview that he based Darth Vader on the android villain Hakaider from the 1972-73 live action Japanese television series Jinzo Ningen Kikaider, which he watched while visiting Japan in the early 1970s.
The distinctive voice of Darth Vader was played by James Earl Jones in Revenge of the Sith and the Original Trilogy. In Episodes IV-VI David Prowse played the body of Vader, and his face (as his redeemed self), seen only in Return of the Jedi, was portrayed by Sebastian Shaw. Legendary fencer Bob Anderson stood in as a stunt double for David Prowse in Episodes V and VI. Brock Peters performed the voice of Vader in the NPR radio dramatizations. In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Hayden Christensen wore the suit, which was specifically designed to fit his body. For many of the Star Wars video games, including Galactic Battlegrounds, Force Commander and Star Wars: TIE Fighter, he was voiced by Scott Lawrence.