It must be Star Wars month at this blog, because once again my head turns toward contemplating ideas for new stories set in that universe. Well, this latest one I have is not exactly a new story, but is more of my own take on an old story that many fans have wanted to see made into a film trilogy: the fall of the old Sith and the rise of Darth Bane, creator of the Rule of Two and founder of the order that would produce Palpatine and his apprentices in the Star Wars saga proper a thousand years later.
George Lucas’s Vision for Darth Bane’s Era: Interesting Differences with existing Lore
We apparently already have a Darth Bane trilogy of novels, not to mention other material on the fall of the old Sith, but if I were in charge of Star Wars I would go ahead with a film trilogy that adapted the lore of this era not faithfully but rather in broad strokes. The foremost reason to do this is that the lore holds that the Sith were defeated by the Jedi, but that was not George Lucas’s vision! From George Lucas’s own words, courtesy of StarWars.com’s Oral History of The Phantom Menace:
So a lot of the story of the prequels, I’d done already. And now I was just having to put it into a script and fill it in, kind of sew up some of the gaps that were in there. I’d already established that all Jedi had a mentor, with Obi-Wan and Luke, and the fact that that was a bigger issue — that’s the way the Jedi actually worked. But it was also the way that the Sith worked. There’s always the Sith Lord and then the apprentice.
Everybody said, “Oh, well, there was a war between the Jedi and the Sith.” Well, that never happened. That’s just made up by fans or somebody. What really happened is, the Sith ruled the universe for a while, 2000 years ago. Each Sith has an apprentice, but the problem was, each Sith Lord got to be powerful. And the Sith Lords would try to kill each other because they all wanted to be the most powerful. So in the end they killed each other off, and there wasn’t anything left. So the idea is that when you have a Sith Lord, and he has an apprentice, the apprentice is always trying to recruit somebody to join him, because he’s not strong enough, usually, so that he can kill his master.
That’s why I call it a Rule of Two — there’s only two Sith Lords. There can’t be any more because they kill each other. They’re not smart enough to realize that if they do that, they’re going to wipe themselves out. Which is exactly what they did.
The Films’ Lore: True, from a certain Point of View?
Some fans have questioned whether the Jedi would allow the Sith to rule the galaxy unchallenged, but given what Obi-Wan said in “A New Hope” about the Jedi being “the guardians of peace and justice” it seems to me that the Jedi defended what they could, perhaps as warlords in the chaotic dark age the galaxy was in during that time, from incursions by the Sith, but they never went after the Sith as such.
Palpatine additionally says in “Revenge of the Sith” that “once more the Sith will rule the galaxy”, and in the same film Mace Windu says “the oppression of the Sith will never return”; both lines imply the Sith ruled at some point. Additionally, Palpatine in “Attack of the Clones” says the Republic “has stood for a thousand years”; this is at odds with what Obi-Wan said about “a thousand generations”, i.e. at least 15,000 years or so, but in the lore this was explained as the Ruusan Reformation at the end of this era having been for all practical purposes a refounding of the Republic. “What I told you was true, from a certain point of view” indeed.
A Sith Film Trilogy
Anyway, I find the idea of the Sith killing each other at Ruusan to be more interesting without any Jedi involvement. It would certainly be a departure from what we’ve seen in Star Wars movies to date. Dozens, hundreds, even thousands of Sith all with red lightsabers battling has the potential to be awesome and epic.
The obvious course of a trilogy would be to have the first film all about the Sith killing each other and Bane developing his doctrines and emerging as the lone survivor. The second film would be all about Bane finding and training his apprentice, Darth Zannah. The third film would be all about Bane being surpassed by Zannah, the Rule of Two fulfilled at the end as Zannah kills Bane and becomes the new Sith master.
A Parallel Storyline: the Ruusan Reformation
All well and good, but covering the Jedi and the Ruusan Reformation of the Republic in a storyline running in parallel to the Sith one is too much for me to resist. It would be unusual to have two stories that don’t interact (much), especially in a Star Wars film, but thematically they’d complement each other very well.
With the Jedi out of the picture as far as confronting the Sith goes, what kind of story could be told about them? Well, here’s where the strokes get really broad: Lord Hoth is the leader of the Jedi’s Army of Light in the lore and defeats the Sith, but in my version he would be an autonomous Jedi warlord operating out of an icy castle of doom on the planet that bears his name (Hoth from “The Empire Strikes Back”), perhaps defending against the Sith but not going on offense, instead focusing on bringing order and justice to his part of the galaxy.
The Rise of Hoth
Right after the Sith are apparently wiped out to the last man, the Senate electes Hoth Chancellor of the Republic, following the centuries-long tradition of Jedi Chancellors. The election of an incorruptible warrior for justice elates the galaxy, much of which is eager to rejoin the Republic after the fall of the Sith. Lord Hoth in my trilogy is as great a philosopher, ideologue, and orator as he is a warrior, the father of the set of ideas that become the Ruusan Reformation, the foundation of the prequel-era Republic; indeed, this platform is why the Senate elects him in the first place after the fall of the Sith.
But soon it all goes wrong, because in order to ensure stability and security in a chaotic and lawless galaxy he finds it necessary to delay the Reformations and assume, with the enthusiastic assent of the Senate, emergency powers to counter the myriad threats to the Republic within and without.
Chancellor Hoth goes full Robespierre
To initial acclaim Hoth uses his ever-growing authority to root out traitors and enemies of peace, freedom, justice, and security, but his methods are harsh, his means cruel, and he only becomes worse over time as his apparatus widens the net, sweeping up more and more innocent people into what becomes a galactic Reign of Terror presided over by Hoth as dictator.
Yes, my Lord Hoth becomes the Jedi Robespierre. Much like Robespierre he is “the Incorruptible”, and indeed never does become corrupted in the dark-side-of-the-Force sense, always remaining on the side of the light, but his misguided methods and the increasingly-seemingly-permanent postponement of the revolutionary dream causes a growing schism within the Jedi Order. Aside from a minority of hardcore supporters of his, the Jedi Order increasingly turns against Hoth.
Thermidor with a Twist
Eventually a group of dozens of Jedi battle masters assassinate Hoth at his castle on the planet of the same name, putting an end to the threat to democracy and liberty once and for all, freeing the galaxy to realize his dream of a Reformation; for the dream to live, the dreamer must die. This is an epic lightsaber battle between dozens of assassins and dozens of Jedi supporters of Lord Hoth led by Hoth himself. At the end Hoth is mortally wounded by one Jedi, and with his dying breath presses a kill switch which obliterates his castle into a cloud of vapor, taking all of his enemies and all of his knowledge and effects with him.
Poetry and Teases
Aside from neatly explaining why there’s no trace of such a castle by “The Empire Strikes Back” it also provides a poetic bookend to the Sith all killing each other in the first film of the trilogy, by teasing the audience with the possibility the Jedi would go down the same road.
If I were making such a trilogy I might also tease the possibility of Darth Bane attempting to recruit Hoth to be his apprentice or possibly to replace Darth Zannah, but nothing will come of it. The question of whether Hoth would have eventually turned to the dark side or indeed already did turn by the end would be left ambiguous.
Providing Precedent for the Prequels
I know that colors way outside the lines with regards to Lord Hoth, but the name and connection to the original trilogy is too cool not to use. Also, it would explain not only a lot about the Ruusan Reformation (such as the Jedi giving up power as a gesture of goodwill), but also a lot about the prequel trilogy.
The Jedi pre-emptively assassinating a Chancellor who refuses to give up dictatorial powers? It worked when they killed Lord Hoth. The Jedi attempting to overthrow the Republic as Palpatine accused? Some say that basically happened before with Lord Hoth. Palpatine assuming dictatorial powers to deal with a threat to begin with? Some would say Hoth became a dictator during the last galactic war and did what was necessary to save the Republic. Dooku leading a movement that says the Republic can’t be fixed and it’s time to start over? It turned out well when Lord Hoth did it.
My Lord Hoth: a Prototype of Dooku?
Indeed, my version of Hoth bears a similarity to Dooku, in as much as he’d be a political-idealist Jedi gone bad, albeit in a somewhat different way. I’d make Hoth a fair-skinned white man with piercing blue eyes, hair and full beard white in color (blond when he was younger). This too is similar to Dooku, but aesthetically it matches too well with being from an ice planet to pass up.
Another similarity to Dooku is that my Lord Hoth is a master of Form II (Makashi) lightsaber combat, but so are most of the top Jedi of this era, given that (as also in the original lore) they occasionally encounter lightsaber-wielding opponents, which the form is optimized to defeat, as opposed to the prequel era when they had not encountered such an adversary in centuries. It would be fascinating to see the final duel at Hoth between dozens of opponents most of whom would utilize this form; we haven’t really seen that yet.
To hammer in the Dooku parallels, I’d also have Lord Hoth use a curved-hilt lightsaber, perhaps blue in color to go with the ice theme. The “lightfoil” is another possibility, though most likely I’d incorporate that elsewhere in the trilogy. Indeed, with so many lightsaber users in this trilogy there’s more creative room in lightsaber design than there was in the six episodes of the main saga put together.
Toward a great Ending for the Darth Bane Film Trilogy
As for titles, I’d definitely want to use “Rule of Two” for the last installment; for the other two perhaps “The Rise of Hoth” (or “The Rise of Bane”?) followed by “The Last Sith”.
I’m thinking the final chapter of “Rule of Two”, after the Republic storyline gets wrapped up should be the decisive duel between Darth Bane and Darth Zannah, ending with Zannah becoming the new Sith master, Darth Cognus (as in the existing lore) the new apprentice.
The duel takes place on a planet or other location tilted above the galactic plane, so we could see some of the galactic disk in the final portrait-style shot after the duel (a la “The Empire Strikes Back”). I imagine Cognus kneels before and pledges herself to Zannah after the duel, Zannah says “Rise” a la Sidious to Vader in “Revenge of the Sith”, and they say some lines about Darth Bane, their future together, the Rule of Two, and the Sith Grand Plan. I think I’d like the final line to be Darth Zannah saying something like “Have patience, my young apprentice. It may take a thousand years, but the day will come when nothing will stop the revenge of the Sith.”
A Prequel Trilogy for the Prequels
Now that would be a great call-forward to the prequel trilogy, as well as a hint to those unfamiliar with the lore about the time this trilogy takes place in without being awkward. Indeed, this whole Darth Bane trilogy would be to the prequel trilogy what the prequels were to the original trilogy, the next logical watershed moment in history prior to those events that set the stage.
I for one would very much like to see something like this, and there’s no particular reason why it couldn’t be made in the near future. I hope we get it and it turns out to be awesome!