The Sith Lord characters are the most popular and well-known of the Star Wars’ antagonists. Their history and standing within the Star Wars is complex, and difficult to navigate due to the myriad of stories that make up the Star Wars universe. But with regards to the movies, they are the central antagonists whose evil doings drive much of the plot. Their names follow the title ‘Darth’, a word which I think will always be synonymous with the ‘dark side’.
Darth Sidious (aka Palpatine) is one of the very first Sith Lords to affect the Star Wars stories as a whole. His first appearance is in ‘Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace’, as the Sith Lord who worms his way into the office of the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic; he also made the fateful decision to take an interest in the young Anakin Skywalker. In ‘Episode III: Revenge of the Sith’, he reveals himself to be Darth Sidious.
The first way in which this character plays such an immense role in the Star Wars universe, is to send his apprentice Darth Maul to capture Queen Padmé Amidala. In the process he kills Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan Kenboi’s Jedi Master. The young Padawan is eventually triumphant against Maul, killing him in fury for his master’s death. Maul, by killing Obi-Wan’s master, forces the Jedi to become the independent man we know from the original trilogy. Even in a relatively minor role, he helps to add another layer to these beloved Star Wars characters’ lives.
The character of Darth Sidious goes on to become an even more key element to the Star Wars story as a whole. And how? It’s all down to his next successful move: to bring Anakin over to the dark side. Working on Anakin’s fear for his wife’s safety amongst other weaknesses, Sidious pulls Anakin over to the dark side. He creates a Sith who will become one of the most feared evil characters of movie history – a black masked, heartless Sith Lord who will test Luke Skywalker to his very limits: Darth Vader.
Darth Vader has always been a fascinating character to me. The original trilogy which kicked off the franchise had quite a ‘black and white’ sense of morality: Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance were good, and Darth Vader was bad. Apart from Vader’s one act of selflessness at the end of ‘Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi’, Vader was evil. Full stop. And although I may be stepping on dangerous ground by implying that the prequel trilogy (widely considered to not be as good as the first three) added something to the original films, I think that they certainly did with regards to Darth Vader. In Episodes I, II and III, we get to see the roots of Darth Vader as a young boy. Cute little Anakin Skywalker was young and naive, but with an inherent power not many knew what to do with. His fall to the dark side is anguishing; he was a young man who could have achieved so much. But the evil in the world affecting those that he loved pulled him and his power in the wrong direction. He goes from little slave-boy Anakin, to young Anakin Skywalker with a wife and two children on the way, to Darth Vader. Whatever evil he may achieve later on, this fact is always at the back of your mind when you watch the films.
Like most great stories, the antagonists are as essential as the good guys. Without them, there is no struggle of good vs. evil, no great battle to overcome. Star Wars takes it that bit further though; George Lucas gives the antagonists a story, and a depth and history that makes their darkness all the more frightening. To give a character like Darth Vader his very own tragic story, just demonstrates that some people don’t always turn out how you would expect…