Saga When did "the Sith" return to Star Wars?

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by Vthuil, Nov 23, 2013.

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  1. Vthuil Force Ghost

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    So as those of you familiar with the script history of Star Wars probably know, the concept of "the Sith", a rival warrior order to the Jedi, dates all the way back to the 1974 rough draft (the source of today's "The Star Wars" comics). They survive all the way up until the third draft, which resembles the final film in many ways, but in the film itself, all that's left is renegade Jedi Knight Darth (apparently his first name) Vader. And while the novelization does refer to him as a "Dark Lord of the Sith" - introducing that term to a wider public for the first time - it doesn't indicate exactly what that is, and describes the Emperor as a puppet under the control of "the very assistants and boot-lickers he had appointed to high office".

    Even as the Emperor does transform into a dark side sorcerer over the course of the next few films, and even as the Anakin=Vader plot point is introduced, the Sith don't come back. The Making of Return of the Jedi features this significant exchange from the story conference that basically gave us the final film:

    So as the Original Trilogy ended, the clear intention seemed to be that the Emperor - while now no mere puppet but a powerful dark side figure - was still essentially the "Nixonian" manipulative politician of the novelization, who had learned to use the Force on his own. He was not a member of the "Sith" order, and except for the vague reference to Vader being a DLOTS, there was no indication that such an order even existed.

    As best as I can tell, things seemed to stay that way for the early works in the "Star Wars revival" at the end of the 1980s. The consistent terms used through early novels like the Thrawn Trilogy and the WEG products are things like "Dark Jedi", "Dark Siders", and so forth - in particular, I'm pretty sure what the WEG books call "Dark Side Adepts" (a concept that I believe emerged here) would be "Sith Adepts" if created today.

    But then in 1993, the Tales of the Jedi comics start being published and directly reintroduce the concept of the Sith to the Star Wars universe - with the title of the second/third series being "Dark Lords of the Sith". The Sith of these comics don't exactly match up with the original idea or, especially, what was eventually realized onscreen in the prequels (no red lightsaber shtick, no Rule of Two, no "Darth" titles - which as an indirect result emerge very suddenly from an in-universe standpoint), but there's certainly a number of similarities as well.

    The concept of what a Sith was still remained elusive for the remainder of the 90s until the prequels, and dark-side-using villains during that time still weren't automatically associated with them. But the Sith had come back as a concept. The question I've created this thread for is why and how. Why did the idea of a Sith Order, dating back to almost the earliest recognizable form of Star Wars but all-but-eliminated from the final films, suddenly reappear in the EU like this?

    In fact, is there any behind-the-scenes material on what went on with the revival of the Sith concept for Star Wars in general? I'm not aware of any myself, but even if there's not, I think this is still an intriguing question to ponder - especially today, when the Sith have bounced back from seeming oblivion (as they repeatedly have in-universe, in what now seems to be a very meta phenomenon) to become such an extremely embedded part of Star Wars that there are heated debates over their relationship to the ST.

    (Note: Part of this is about the EU, so it might fit better in Literature, but it's primarily about behind-the-scenes stuff, so that's why I posted it to Saga).
    Last edited by Vthuil, Nov 23, 2013
  2. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    Luke figuring out Leia's his sister in the RoTJ novelization:

    "For that reason, your sister has remained safely anonymous."
    Luke resisted this knowledge at first. He neither needed nor wanted a twin. He was unique! He had no missing parts - save the hand whose mechanical replacement he now flexed tightly. Pawns in a castle conspiracy? Cribs mixed, siblings switched and parted and whisked away to different secret lives? Impossible! He was Luke Skywalker, born to a Jedi-turned-Sithlord, raised on a Tatooine sandfarm by Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, raised in a life without frills, a hardworking honest pauper - because his mother ... his mother ... What was it about his mother? What had she said? Who was she? What had she told him? He turned his eyes inward, to a place and time far away frin the damp soil of Dagobah, to his mother's chamber, his mother and his ... sister. His sister ...
    "Leia! Leia is my sister! he exclaimed, nearly falling over the stump.
    "Your insight serves you well," Ben nodded.

    Vader's also usually referred to as "The Lord of the Sith" as well as "The Dark Lord" in the narration of that novel - it isn't just the ANH one.
  3. Darth_Nub Saga, Classic Trilogy and Film Music Manager

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    Excellent thread topic.

    To answer, though, I'd have to say that the Sith never really went away, they were just never mentioned in the actual films of the OT - probably because GL hadn't cemented his own view of what this dark order really was. It'd be great to see some outtakes from SW in which General Motti actually states, "This Sith Lord sent by the Emperor will be our undoing", but I've no idea if such lines were ever shot.

    However, script drafts aside, Vader was always referred to as 'the Dark Lord of the Sith' in the OT comics and novels, there just wasn't any elaboration upon what that meant. And yes, the Emperor's particular affiliation was never confirmed, even in the drafts or supporting published material (early 1990s EU indicated that he associated with the 'Sith' of that period, although it never confirmed if he was actually a 'Dark Lord of the Sith').
    The Sith were always a part of the First Era of SW (1977-1987), despite not being mentioned once in the films - the novels, comics, and various articles in magazines would make mention of Vader's status, but it was simply a mystery just what the Sith were. Nevertheless, plenty of old-school fans knew that Darth Vader was 'the Dark Lord of the Sith'.

    My own dormant interest in SW was awakened in the mid-1990s with a simple advertisement in a Bartman (Bartman - not Batman) comic about a new SW comic series called 'The Sith War'. I remembered the term, just had no idea what it meant. Off to the comic store, and so it began - again.
    18 years later, I'm a moderator on an internet discussion forum about films I'd dismissed in my teenage years as childish rubbish that I was embarrassed to have been so obsessed with as a child.

    And all it took was one four-letter word.

    I'd say part of the answer lies right there. With the slumbering giant stirring and ready to conquer the world once more, GL & LFL knew that to restart the franchise they'd have to get the old fans in gear first, so it was time to tease us all about what we felt hadn't been answered. The PT would eventually answer our questions about the fate of Anakin Skywalker et al, but tossing a few bones in the interim about just what 'the Sith' were was a prime opportunity to suck many an old-school fan back into the fray. Setting the EU stories and references 4000 years prior to the existing story meant there wouldn't have to be too much commitment regarding what GL would do with the PT.

    As for GL's own development of the Sith, I'll have to weigh in when I've got some time to reference the usual sources.
  4. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

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    Indeed. In fact, Palpatine's status as a Sith was never confirmed until TPM. Going back to 1990, Timothy Zahn had no clue about what the Sith were and decided to use that as the name for what became the Norghi. When Lucasfilm said no to that, he came up with the alternate name. Other Sith Lords did not start showing up in the fiction until "The Jedi Academy Trilogy" which introduced Exar Kun and "Tales Of The Jedi: Knights Of The Old Republic", which introduced Freedan Nadd. Kevin J. Anderson and Tom Vietch were then given the go ahead to delve into the Sith with "Dark Lords Of The Sith" and "The Sith War". Many elements similar to what Lucas would go with began creeping up here, such as the power struggle among the Sith and the acts of betrayal to their own what would define the rule of two.

    Lucas only made Palpatine a Sith Lord because it was the most logical course of action. He might have been influenced by Steve Sansweet to go the route, like he had with Coruscant's name.
  5. Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn The Other Saga Moderator

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    I can't remember the details, but I believe the TOTJ creators said that Lucas had heard they wanted to do a story about an ancient group of darksiders and he suggested they call them the Sith, providing background materials (perhaps the early drafts of ANH?) to give the comics creators some idea of what he had in mind.

    As Nub noted, Vader was always Dark Lord of the Sith... though Palpatine was not. Perhaps in the later OT and Intertrilogy times, Vader was considered to have taken on an ancient title on his own.
  6. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

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    I had heard something along those same lines about the backdrop of TOTJ. As to Vader being a title, that didn't become official until Lucas started writing TPM and created Darth Maul and Darth Sidious. Hence the Sith in TOTJ had their own names and only with the Darth Bane books and essential guides, were was an explanation concocted.
    Jedi Merkurian likes this.
  7. Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn The Other Saga Moderator

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    I wasn't even thinking along the lines of "Darth" as the title; I meant calling himself "Dark Lord of the Sith." But that's a good thing to note too, when "Darth" became a title. When the names Darth Maul and Darth Sidious came out, I guess.
  8. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    Palpatine uses "Sith magic" in the Empire's End comic, to gain entry into the Solos' rooms.
  9. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

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    True, but that falls under the idea of the time that Palpatine was a master of the dark side, but wasn't a Sith Lord himself. Meaning he wasn't above using that which the Sith practiced. I think the other reason he made Palpatine a Sith Lord was due to his figuring out how to keep him as a master of the dark side without the Jedi knowing it. In "The Making Of Return Of The Jedi", you can see that there's a struggle in the story meeting transcripts about how Palpatine was a politician and a Force user at the same time. In coming up with Padme having a dual identity of sorts, he transferred it to Palpatine. Or vice versa.
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  10. Darth Binky Force Ghost

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    I think there's a strong element of convenience at play. As stated, I don't think GL had in mind exactly what the Sith were and hadn't really fleshed it out in any way until working on TPM (and even then, bear in mind that the sum backstory in the TPM novelization is about a paragraph long). So you have a concept that has been introduced, just like "Clone Wars", "Spice Mines of Kessel", "Dantooine", and "bantha poodoo". No elaboration is given at the time, and it seems presumed that the important ones- especially the Clone Wars, which I've always understood was avoided by EU writers per GL's orders- would be touched on in the Prequels someday.

    So the element of convenience is that there's no "in-unverse" reason to bring up the term "Sith". The general population of the GFFA clearly doesn't know the difference between Sith and Jedi, or have any clue what the Force is. Take for instance Tarkin's line to Vader in ANH:
    Even a high-ranking guy who was definitely around for that Jedi-Sith stuff in ROTS doesn't seem to know there's a difference. Why would ordinary people in the GFFA, especially considering it's been about 20 years since ROTS and many of those GFFA citizens probably don't remember the Jedi? And Palpatine is clearly one of these manipulative puppet-master folks. He doesn't have to reveal that he's a Sith- he has Vader to be the menacing public face. So it just never comes up until we see his rise to power.

    But you have the added problem of the EU (and I'll note here that I'm decidedly not a fan, but I did follow it up until Vector Prime). There were all those concepts, as I noted above, that were mentioned briefly to add some depth to the GFFA. Since GL was a filmmaker and not JRR Tolkien, he hadn't already come up with back stories, so the EU writers took it upon themselves to do it- and then, in some cases (notably, again, the Clone Wars), the early EU wound up being wrong about that stuff. For example, Zahn initially put the Clone Wars as happening when Anakin was about 4 years old, and appears to have assumed that the Clone Wars involved some sort of warlord(s) using cloned soldiers to attack the Republic (I'm sure it's been retconned/explained away since I read those books). So you have this mishmash of various stories, and then efforts to retcon/translate to make them all fit. Not helping the situation is that even the films muck things up, like Obi-Wan claiming that the Republic lasted 1000 generations and then Palpatine stating in AOTC that it was only about 1000 years old at that point.

    Thinking back, I dimly recall one EU comic actually claiming that Palpatine was not a Sith- he was just some random Dark Side-using bad dude. This was at the point when the EU was still claiming that "Dark Lord of the Sith" was this unique title that only one person could hold... there were supposed to be a series of like seven DLOTS's who were kinda like a Pope of the Dark Side, and Vader was supposed to be the last. I'm pretty sure it was the Dark Empire series that made this claim, in the appendix stuff at the end where they introduce Ulic Qel'Droma, and by extension, the Tales of the Jedi series.

    I haven't been around the forums in a long time (like five years or so...), so please excuse the dice stuff. I just started hitting buttons without knowing what they'd do...
    Darth Binky threw 6-faced die for: Total: 24
    Last edited by Darth Binky, Nov 30, 2013
  11. Vthuil Force Ghost

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    I don't actually have a copy of Dark Empire, but while I remember that appendix, I definitely don't remember anything like this.

    To be fair, I've always thought it was pretty silly how the EU took Obi-Wan's rather generic phrasing to mean that the Republic had literally come into being exactly 25,000 years ago.

    Incidentally, as far as this
    goes, I'm pretty sure Tarkin knew Vader's true identity - so while he may indeed have been vague on the difference between Jedi and Sith, I think he did know that Vader had been a Jedi.
  12. Darth Binky Force Ghost

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    While perhaps the "Palpatine wasn't a Sith" bit was me inferring something that wasn't there (although I don't think that was the case), the "there is only one Dark Lord of the Sith" was definitely in there, and was reinforced in the original Tales of the Jedi comics. They made a point of having the ghost of Marka Ragnos (the previous DLOTS) intervene in a duel betwen Exar Kun and Ulic Qel'Droma- Ragnos crowned Kun the new DLOTS and made Qel'Droma his chief lieutenant. There was also a story about Naga Sadow trying to cheat (he basically picked a fight with the Republic) to attempt to win the title immediately after Ragnos's death. I don't know how much of this has been retconned since those comics came out though. I also don't have those comics right here with me.
    Agreed, but the EU has run with it so that's what we're stuck with. It's just one example of how there's some inconsistency between the films and the EU- and sometimes the films with the films.
    That's exactly my point. He was a very high ranking guy- high enough that he could get away with barking orders at Vader without fear of asphyxiation- and yet even he wasn't aware of the fact that there was a difference. The novelization makes it clear that people know that Vader is the DLOTS. So why would the average Rebel (since most of the OT films are seen from their POV) know (or care) that there's a difference between a Jedi and a Sith? My point was that there was conveniently no "in-universe" reason for the topic to come up. Jedi... Sith... it was all the same as far as most of the GFFA was concerned, and when the one galaxy's one known Sith/Jedi showed up at your doorstep, you had reason to be very nervous.
    Last edited by Darth Binky, Nov 30, 2013
  13. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

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    This isn't true. In the second draft of ANH, when the film started to take shape towards the final product, Lucas wrote a backstory for the Jedi and the Sith. In this draft, Luke explains the origins of the Jedi and the Sith to his younger siblings.

    LUKE (CONT’D)
    In another time, long before the Empire, and before the Republic had been formed, a holy man called the Skywalker became aware of a powerful energy field which he believed influenced the destiny of all living creatures…

    BIGGS
    The “FORCE OF OTHERS”!

    LUKE
    Yes, and after much study, he was able to know the force, and it communicated with him. He came to see things in a new way. His “aura” and powers grew very strong. The Skywalker brought a new life to the people of his system, and became one of the founders of the Republic Galactica.

    WINDY
    The “FORCE OF OTHERS” talked to him!?!

    LUKE
    In a manner different from the way we talk. As you know, the “FORCE OF OTHERS” has two halves: Ashla, the good, and Bogan, the paraforce or evil part. Fortunately, Skywalker came to know the good half and was able to resist the paraforce; but he realized that if he taught others the way of the Ashla, some, with less strength, might come to know Bogan, the dark side, and bring unthinkable suffering to the Universe.
    LUKE (CONT’D)
    For this reason, the Skywalker entrusted the secret of THE FORCE only to his twelve children, and they in turn passed on the knowledge only to their children, who became known as the Jedi Bendu of the Ashla: “the servants of the force”. For thousands of years, they brought peace and justice to the galaxy. At one time there were several hundred Jedi families, but now there are only two or three.


    BIGGS
    Why didn’t the “FORCE OF OTHERS” help the Jedi to put things right?

    LUKE
    Because a terrible thing happened. During one of his lessons a young PADAWAN-JEDI, a boy named Darklighter, came to know the evil half of the force, and fell victim to the spell of the dreaded Bogan. He ran away from his instructor and taught the evil ways of the Bogan Force to a clan of Sith pirates, who then spread untold misery throughout the systems. They became the personal bodyguards of the Emperor. The Jedi were hunted down by these deadly Sith knights. With every Jedi death, contact with the Ashla grows weaker, and the force of the Bogan grows more powerful.


    By the time of the third draft, Lucas had two Sith Lords in addition to Vader. All three sense Ben going off with Luke to join the Alliance. Later, an Imperial Controller asks his Commander if they should alert the Sith Lords, but he will do so in a later report. One of them feels Ben later on, when he's hidden in the a training room, before the two Sith leave for the detention level. They're mentioned one more time, but are not seen. So Lucas had a fairly good idea of who the Sith were, but by the fourth draft and the revised version of it, didn't talk about the Sith in the film which is why the EU was confused on the issue of what Vader's title meant.





    Actually, it isn't a screw up. Lucas said that the Sith had taken over the galaxy over a thousand years earlier and that the Jedi of the day took advantage of the infighting in order to defeat the Sith and nearly exterminate them. This implies that there had been a Republic once and now that it was a new one in the wake of the Sith Empire. The EU went along with this stating the the Old Republic had existed for many years until the Sith took over and then after their war ended, the Republic was reformed and it began to become the Republic of the films.
  14. Darth Binky Force Ghost

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    Ok so they were some sort of vague "anti-Jedi". But beyond that superficial early description, he didn't have much of a story for them. What I meant with the Tolkien quip was that when Tolkien mentions things like "Angmar", "Glorfindel" and "Earendil" in The Lord of the Rings, he already had a mostly fleshed out story behind them. There are multiple quotes floating around out there where GL basically says that he had little idea where he was taking things, he just took them there and then acted like he intended for it all along. So when GL mentions gundarks, the Battle of Tanaab, and "that bounty hunter we ran into on Ord Mantell", he didn't appear to have any back story already in place. The EU writers went and explained them instead.
    That's kinda moving off point, and I don't feel like derailing this interesting topic with an argument about that. My point wasn't that contradictions exist; my point was that the EU writers had all these unexplained blurbs from the films and ran with them. And occasionally those stories didn't jive with how things eventually worked out in the films, like my earlier comment about the Zahn's vague touching on the Clone Wars, or the Dark Empire/Tales of the Jedi explanations of the Sith; the latter is particularly notable because it directly relates to the OP's original question.
  15. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

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    True in those cases, but not so much with the Sith. There was more detail in them than there were with what the nest of gundarks were. The only thing Lucas decided to do was have the Emperor not be a Sith, but a dark side guru. That's why the term Sith Lord was non existent in the OT, because Palpatine was an unknown quantity to the Jedi and thus had no idea he was corrupting one of their own. Lucas just decided to make Palpatine a Sith Lord and use a dual identity to maintain consistency with his earlier backstory.


    But the Sith story wound up matching what Lucas did. The only difference was that the writers were free to place it in a time period before the films, which prevented a bleeding over. In Zahn's case, you are correct in that he did screw up things and it took later retcons to make his story fit.
  16. Darth Binky Force Ghost

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    Eventually, yeah, they were pretty much reconciled in ROTS when GL threw in that line about Sith ruling the galaxy again and the EU came up with all the Ruusan Reformation junk. But in 1999 when the TPM novelization said that the Sith came into existence only 2,000 years prior to the Naboo crisis and were believed wiped out 1,000 years later, they, and their storyline, really weren't (bearing in mind that GL reportedly personally had that bit carefully inserted into the TPM novel). The EU had established that they thought that the Sith were an entire race of people (which sorta jives with that 2nd draft stuff you quoted earlier); TPM said that they were just a heretical offshoot of the Jedi.
    Last edited by Darth Binky, Dec 2, 2013
  17. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    It's a bit of both- initially, the Sith were a species and the Dark Lords of the Sith were descended from heretical Jedi that had fled to Sith Space and taken over.

    By the The Sith War comics (still some time before TPM came out), the Sith species weren't being shown, and the Dark Lord of the Sith was purely a heretical Jedi (Exar Kun) leading a few other heretical Jedi.
    Last edited by Iron_lord, Dec 3, 2013
  18. Firmus Jagdon Jedi Master

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    Sith has always been there... I have some ANH trading cards with Lord of the Sith on them, plus the novelization.. but too I think Lucas just threw it out there, liking the sound of this strange word. It sounded nefarious. I do hope the new films get balls deep in the Sith world; Clone Wars touched on some of it, but we need more.
  19. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    The Old Republic went out of its way to bring back the Sith species (albeit hybrids, with the original species having interbred with humans for long enough that there's no 100% Sith individuals) - and I think it went to some effort to flesh out their culture, but I'm not sure- I'm going by the Encyclopedia for the game.
  20. I Are The Internets Chosen One

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    They all answer to Lord Sithis.

    Oh wait that's the Dark Brotherhood.
  21. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

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    Actually, it started with "Jedi Vs Sith" and continued into the novelization for ROTS and the original book "Darth Bane: Path Of Destruction". But you also have to remember that the novelizations for TPM and AOTC were written independently of the EU. They used the terminology and stuff, but they were designed for the wider audience. It was only when Lucasfilm and LucasBooks came up with the idea of the Clone Wars multimedia project, that it was eventually decided that the novelization for ROTS would tie into LOE and all of the CW books. And even in the films itself, there's nothing that explains when the Jedi and Sith Orders came into existence. Just when they last fought per TPM and ROTS.
  22. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    We get a rough idea as to how long the Jedi Order has been "the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic" though in ANH: "a thousand generations".
  23. Legolas Skywalker Force Ghost

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    The Sith returned when the Phantom Menace came out :p
  24. darklordoftech Force Ghost

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    I would have preferred that Palpatine not be a "Sith". Making him a "Sith" takes away from what he as an individual accomplished. Another thing I hate about "Sith" is that it gives the impression that the only way to turn to the dark side is to find a "Sith" to learn from. In conclusion, I feel that "the Sith" is a concept that GL should have abandoned.
  25. Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn The Other Saga Moderator

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    It made sense to me for him to just be a very powerful sorceror. The Sith could be retained as a concept, and as an ancient culture/tradition. In this conception Palpatine might have gotten inspiration from their knowledge and use of the dark side, and Vader might have patterned himself on their culture (personally taking a title, Dark Lord, that - perhaps - hadn't been used in generations) and maybe their sense of style (the intimidating look of his armor had to come from somewhere, and that makes more sense to me than having it just pre-built, laying around to be clamped onto Anakin's body).
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