- "He's more machine now than man. Twisted and evil."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi, on Darth Vader
Darth Vader's armor, serial number: E-3778Q-1, was designed to maintain and protect the young Sith apprentice's charred body while exuding an air of intimidation and control. His suit followed an ancient Sith tradition, in which the warriors of the dark side of the Force would adorn themselves in heavy armor. The suit's construction incorporated Sith alchemy to augment Vader's severely diminished physical strength and vitality.
The suit provided a suite of life-support system and gave Vader relatively free movement without having to use a hoverchair. It was damaged or broken several times during its use, necessitating upgrades and repairs. The suit was finally irreparably broken in 4 ABY, when Vader absorbed Emperor Palpatine's powerful Force lightning in his face aboard the second Death Star to save his son, Luke Skywalker, from certain death. After Vader's death, Luke ceremonially cremated his father along with the armor on the forest moon of Endor.
The armor encased Vader completely, creating a seal to protect his charred skin and lungs. It was also uncomfortable to wear. Vader slowly learned to live with the isolation and anonymity that the suit imposed on him. Vader had to change his lightsaber style to compensate for the weight, bulk and inflexibility of his armor. The electronics of the suit were sensitive to electrical discharges, though Vader added a limited amount of insulation to the suit after discovering this. To escape the armor's claustrophobic nature, Vader had several pressurized meditation chambers built where he could remove his mask and suit and still survive. Vader longed to be less dependent on his armor and tried at times to function without it, but he labored in vain.
Despite the weaknesses imparted by the suit, it also provided a number of strengths. These included greatly enhanced durability and stamina, numerous sensory enhancements, and protection from extremely inhospitable environments and biological weaponry.
- 1 Design
- 2 Functionality
- 3 History
- 4 Discomfort, limitations and enhancements
- 5 Meditation chambers
- 6 Behind the scenes
- 7 Appearances
- 8 Sources
- 9 Notes and references
Like traditional Sith armor and patterned after that of ancient Sith droids, Darth Vader's suit was made to be both intimidating and fearsome. The front was carved out to fit around his head and show his "face." This helmet had a raised ridge that ran from between his eyes to the back of his head, where it merged into the durasteel, obsidian, and plasteel of the helmet itself. In addition, it was also rumored that the helmet's already strong metallic hull had also been further strengthened via dark side alchemy, with the specific technique not being found in the database of the Rhinnal Medical Academy. Two less jagged ridges swept over the eyes of Vader's mask proper and served to accent them. The jagged edges also acted as a means to deflect potential energy blows onto the thick shoulder armor. This helmet locked into the mask, via a pressurized seal comparable in integrity to a Class C spacesuit. Besides protection, it also stuck needles into Vader's skin when fixed in place, which feed neurological data on brainwave activity to the central chest computer, and possessed radiator conduction pads that were installed into the helmet as a means to allow excess heat to bleed through the metal surface.
The mask itself went halfway around Vader's head. The mask's appearance was given a similar appearance to a skull in order to enhance the fear factor of the Dark Lord of the Sith. The top of this mask was crowned with a circular interface dotted with an array of square slots around a disc of silver. This disc served as an interface between the mask and the helmet. Made of black durasteel, these components were hermetically sealed and connected with a flat backpack that cycled air to Vader's lungs. The air pump itself was located inside the top of the mask, which, via a ventilator, supplies a distinctive rasp. An implanted enunciator linked to an electronic voice processor enabled Vader's scorched vocal cords to produce speech. Around the part of the mask covered by the helmet was the external neural sensor array. Also hidden beneath his mask were four red heat dispersion vents, accented by yellow wire. The face of the mask was somewhat exaggerated and angular, with two ridges above his eyes that fit in with those of his helmet. The optical lenses appeared bulbous. This front part of the mask was of a more highly polished black material than that of the back, being the more flexible of the two. The ridged bridge of the nose seemed lost in the largeness of the eyes, but jutted out in a manner similar to a bare Human skull. The mask's cheekbones were generally angular, curving slightly to join the nose at its base. The base of the nose was a silver multipurpose detector that acted as the suit's primary environmental sensor, and could measure radiation, temperature, and atmospheric toxicity and displays the information in the HUD, was rounded in shape, with a triangular grill growing out from beneath it that served as an air filter, further contributing to its skull-like appearance. The optical lenses served as visual filters, allowing for Vader to detect infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths, while also blocking out excess light, due to the inability to repair Vader's damaged retinas. In addition, the lens also came equipped with a HUD that supplied critical data automatically as an overlay if Vader entered new environments, including information about atmospheric composition, nearby bio-signatures, and others, which could also be selected via the mouth or tongue controls (by pursing the lips, or extending the tongue). The lens, likewise, came equipped with secondary eyeshields that activated within 5 milliseconds, automatically sliding over the optical blisters to prevent blindness when approaching intense light. Components for a disassembled SoroSuub DH-57 comlink were also built into the mask's interior, as a result of it being a cheaper solution compared to custom-designing a new unit. It also was equipped with audio enhancers and sonic dampeners, the latter of which were also capable of reducing noise as a defense against sonic weapons, and they can extend Vader's hearing range to 40 kHz, enough to be higher than a Ronto. It also came equipped with a voice synthesizer, which, upon picking up the electronic sounds from a built-in vocoder, translated Vader's otherwise weak speech to be audible, and also added a timbre, bass and amplification to produce an impressive amount of vocal quality.
A hermetic collar wrapped around Vader's neck and slanted forwards in the front to meet the mask at the bottom of its triangular grill. It was added in because the artificial vertebrae alone were of limited value as structural units. The back, which sloped slightly outward at the base of his neck, was studded with metal interfaces. The two sides of the front were edged by two tubes that followed the mask's edge until it reached the base of the triangular grill. At the end of these tubes were two silver studs. On top of the slanted front of this collar were several interfaces, with wires running back from it to the back of the collar. From the sides of the collar came two metal stems capped with a curved fixture. These touched the outer corners of Vader's mouth. The collar, along with the chest armor, was also lined with electrodes that feed information status of the suit's performance during monthly maintenance sessions at the EmPal SuRecon. The collar was also equipped with feeding straws that allowed Vader to feed himself from an implanted bladder filled with RepMed vita paste, and could be refilled either during monthly maintenance, or on demand. Despite this, however, a redundant system to accommodate intravenous feeding was also installed because of the vitapaste's terrible taste. The collar also came equipped with a vocoder in the jaw assembly to aid in Vader's weakened speech, as well as mouth controls that Vader could utilized to his advantage in combat, including visual overlays; optical magnification, comlink-frequency selection; boot magnetization; and targeted audio amplification for surveillance. The collar locks the mask in place via electromagnetic clamps.
Vader's pectoral armor appeared to be one piece that protected his entire upper torso. The durasteel material was gray in hue with several black vertical stripes. Around the neck of the full-shoulder pauldron was a black chain, and connected to the upper seam of the armor was Vader's black, flowing, nearly floor-length armorweave cape. Coming from beneath the pectoral armor was a black tabard which was open in the front and reached down to the ground. The shoulder armor itself weighed 12.2 kg overall, was resistant to both blasters and energy blades, and was capable of withstanding hits from both weapon types with only minor surface pitting. A drawback, however, was that its weight made it difficult for Vader to raise his lightsaber to full height, though he could still raise his hands above his head if pressed.
Around his entire abdominal area, he wore a plastoid girdle that protected his organic and synthetic internal organs, and on his back, hidden by his cloak, he wore a flat black backpack. Over his solar plexus, he wore a chest unit that served to regulate many of the life-support functions of the suit, including the status of Vader's cardiopulmonary and neural systems. The chest control box had three slots, relating to neural systems data; respiratory systems data; and circulatory systems data for the top, center, and bottom slots, respectively, and several rectangular buttons adorning the unusually vulnerable piece of machinery. The blue button activated the suits auto control functions, while the red button, located below the blue button, activated the suit's manual override. The rightmost switch, located at the bottom, acted as a system reset while the rest of the four switches located at the bottom were programming touch plates. There were also two shafts located on the left and right of the control box, acting as the life function sensor arrays. The data slots accepted RepMed data wafers Ix44a and Ix44ax sizes, which, when inserted, uploads within 200 milliseconds full diagnostics of all suit systems for monthly maintenance. The uploaded diagnostic information, likewise, is required to be stored in a permanent archive. Although the chest computer and other systems were designed to run for weeks, they also were rechargeable via two access ports in the rear of the chest box. The fastest method of recharging involved attaching cables to a fusion furnace. His belt, which went over his tabard, and also was mostly black, had three metal boxes around the front. The middle one had a silver electromagnetic clasp adorning it that included the release button and audio sensors. The other two boxes were symmetrical blocks decorated with several green, yellow, and gray buttons. The left box was the respiratory controls, which contained six gray knobs for manual adjustment; a red system active indicator button; two green buttons composing of a reset switch (left) and an auto/manual toggle (right); and a gray rectangular surface that acted as a CO2 vent. The right box were the temperature controls, containing two green buttons that had the same purpose as the green buttons on the respiratory controls; a heat vent below the green buttons; a system active indicator button and manual adjustment knobs. The clasp also contained a compartment containing a spare energy cell in case of emergencies, as well as backup comlink and a tool kit for simple suit repairs.
Vader wore a black ribbed, padded, multi-ply body glove that covered everything below his neck. This flexible, quilted suit was blast-dampening, and was made of a fireproof material that provided some protection against flames and corrosive gasses. The armor was constructed in ten layers, with each subdivided into three primary layers. The first primary layer was a self-sealing surface similar in function to a standard Emnat suit worn by most Imperial military officers. The outermost layer was a black insulating shell, and the inner layer was an Andwa gel-crystal matrix. The second primary layer dealt with impact protection from physical shock due to the irreversible damage to the torso. The first layer was Reifflex cellular padding which was also utilized for some Stormtrooper helmets; the second layer was orthofabric; the third layer was mylar laminate; the fourth layer was polychlorophene-2 fiber weave, while the final layer contained a rechargeable energy suit. The third primary layer related to the pressure and temperature regulatory functions of the suit. The first layer contained plastex pressure garments; the second layer related to temperature stasis and the third layer was a compression sheath.
There was also a gasket within a suit that accesses the cartridge containing kouhunin chemicals to lessen Vader's perception of pain. The suit was also lined with sensors plugged to diagnostic systems to monitor Vader's pulmonary, cardiovascular, and neural interfaces and feed the data to the central chest box. The suit's temperature was likewise regulated via a heating unit installed on the back.
The outer cape and the tunic were made out of armorweave, as they provided protection from environmental damage and were light enough for adequate movement. The cape also acted as a protective cloak designed to block fire and acid jets, thus helping protect the suit's electronics. Similarly, the cape also minimized the possibility of grit and other contaminants from entering and potentially clogging up the filter.
Gloves and boots
On his hands he wore black reinforced gauntlets, the right glove being a Mandalorian crushgaunt fitted around one of Lord Kaan's indestructible Sith amulets, and modified to include grip-augmentation circuitry. The gauntlets were also made of a micronized Mandalorian iron weave to protect Vader against glancing lightsaber blows during the patient's physical therapy sparring sessions, as well as deflecting a direct hit from a blaster bolt. The gloves, as well as the boots, contained magnetic clasps that snapped onto Vader's prosthesis tubing, in order to prevent him from shifting equipment or clothing during combat. Because of Vader's prostheses being effectively skeletal in nature, the gloves and boots also contained padding to provide definition, with the added benefit of confusing enemies as to which portions of Vader were cybernetic.
Vader's shiny black all-terrain combat boots contained shin armor of durasteel that hinged on the sides of the foot of the boot to allow him to walk. The boots soles also contained a ferromagnetic core which could be activated by Vader's mouth-operated controls to generate a strong magnetic field similar to that of zero-g spacesuits used by soldiers to cling to starship hulls, and the shin armor was among the heaviest items in the armor's assembly. In particular, the shin armor's durasteel also rendered him invulnerable to stabbing strikes or shrapnel spray.
Though the extent of Vader's injuries remained concealed by his foreboding armor, it was known that he required an advanced life-support system to stay alive. This life-support system was integrated into his armor, thus freeing Vader of the limitations inherent in external life-support equipment. Circuitry throughout the suit monitored cardiac, respiratory, and neural systems, and three slot-like dataports located on Vader's chest unit allowed access to collected diagnostic information. Like Stormtrooper armor, the suit was equipped with a sensitive temperature-regulation system, which could be controlled by a function box on his belt. This unit was powerful enough to allow Vader to walk the surface of icy Hoth without any additional protection. Impulse generators lacing the armor provided electrical impulses to stimulate Vader's muscles, providing him with great mobility and strength despite his severely damaged muscles and nerves. To amplify this even more, Vader's strength and constitution were boosted by chemicals created with Sith alchemy. These were provided by the life-support apparatus in his armor, and were constantly injected into him.
Vader's mask was one of the most important pieces of Vader's armor, and was vital to his survival. Without it, he would die unless in the pressurized, controlled atmosphere of one of his specially-made meditation chambers. Inside the mask were many needles that poked into his flesh to interface with him. The pressurized helmet monitored and regulated Vader's body temperature, contained radiators to diffuse heat generated by the suit's electrical systems, and contained a primary environmental sensor that continually evaluated Vader's surroundings for potential hazards. Lenses filter out light that could cause further injury to Vader's damaged corneas and retinas.They also provide infrared and ultraviolet vision, enabling Vader to see clearly in complete darkness. Sensors in the Sith Lord's helmet relay environmental data, which is then displayed as peripheral readouts. When piloting a starship, such as his personal TIE Advanced x1 prototype starfighter, Vader could slide a second layer of eye shields across the mask's eyepieces.
On his belt, Vader wore two small system function boxes: the left system box featured a temperature regulation system and the right system box contained a respiratory sensor matrix. The center buckle featured an audio enhancement unit built into the electromagnetic clasp of the system status belt. Also included in the belt buckle was a small tool kit, spare energy cell, and backup comlink.
As the suit doubled as armor, the life-support system was made to be somewhat tough, though the electrical systems themselves were delicate. Vader's armor was built around a plastoid girdle that protected the natural and synthetic internal organs in his abdomen. Though Vader's heart still functioned, his pulse was machine-regulated so that it could not quicken unless directed by the suit. More visible durasteel armor plates covered his shoulders, upper body and shins. His gloves and the padding on his chest and arms consisted of blast-dampening armor, and were made to be impervious to fire and well-protected against explosions, piercing, and poisoning. In addition, his helmet and mask kept light from blinding him. When damaged, Vader's pressure suit self-sealed against wounds and burns.
Once sealed, Vader's mask and armored suit could serve as an airtight spacesuit for at least a short time. He relied on an internal oxygen supply when he flew his TIE fighter in the Battle of Yavin, and he had survived surprise exposure to space during assassination attempts by mutinous Imperial officers.
Vader's prosthetic limbs and all of the armor's functions were powered by dozens of rechargeable energy cells located throughout the suit that allowed Vader to travel for long stretches without recharging his armor. Even when the energy cells were depleted, he could maintain basic life-support functions through replaceable backup power cells. Typically, however, Vader recharged his suit within a meditation sphere, such as the one located aboard his personal Star Dreadnought, the Executor—although he could access any standard fusion furnace for this purpose. In addition, several implants, referred to as a central implant cluster, were inserted into four of his organs. In particular, his cardiac implant took the place of his original heart and major arteries by pumping blood; the circulatory implant regulated blood flow; and the respiratory implant disperses oxygen throughout the organic tissues. All of these implants connected via a thick central cable to the chest computer, with an additional set of cables connecting the lungs and throat added after two and a half hours of microscalpel surgery. It also possessed a waste recycler similar to those employed by long-haul asteroid miners. However, all of the linkages were faulty and unreliable, thus forcing Vader to undergo frequent maintenance of his suit and be dependent on Imperial medical specialists for the rest of his life. The surgical droid DD-13 speculated that Palpatine deliberately allowed for these design flaws in order to keep Vader from rebelling. Despite how integrated the suit appeared to be with regard to Vader's cybernetics, virtually all of the external components of the suit could be removed in their entirety, as Vader was known to routinely remove both the suit and his prosthetic limbs during maintenance sessions.
Because of his injuries, most of Vader's senses were irreparably damaged and thus were replaced by his armor. The dark hemispherical goggles that covered his eyes filtered out light that might have caused further injury to his damaged corneas and retinas and enhanced his vision; however, in enhanced mode the optical sensors in the half-globes shifted the light toward the red end of the spectrum. Its bulkiness prevented him from seeing the toes of his boots without tilting his head almost ninety degrees. Similarly, the mask's eyes were tinted red as well, this being visible under certain lighting conditions.
Various displays inside Vader's helmet supplied the Sith Lord with a steady stream of data, amplifying his already formidable connection to the Force. His helmet's eye coverings provided infrared and ultraviolet vision, allowing Vader to see clearly even in complete darkness, and dampeners offered limited defense against sonic attacks.
The medical droids had rebuilt the cartilage of his outer ears, but his eardrums had melted beyond repair in Mustafar's heat. Sound waves had to be transmitted directly to implants in his inner ear. Also, Vader could still smell naturally, but the mask he wore amplified his olfactory senses.
Vader could take food through his mouth, but only when he was inside a hyperbaric chamber, since he had to remove his triangular respiratory vent. It was therefore easier for Vader to receive nourishment through liquids, intravenous and otherwise, and to rely on catheters, collection pouches, and recyclers to deal with liquid and solid waste. Though liquids were preferable, he still had the capacity to chew if he wished, though a nutrient feed provided Vader with all the nourishment he required. In the event that he did desire oral consumption, he would ingest RepMed vitapaste via straws located inside the grills of his facemask. In public, Vader was known to claim that he never ate or drank.
What remained of his real limbs ended in bulbs of grafted flesh, inserted into machines that triggered movement through the use of modules that interfaced with his damaged nerve endings. The stumps of each organic limb were implanted with neural links that relayed muscle impulses between the brain and the limbs, allowing for the limbs to move under conscious control. The servomotors likewise were modeled after the human form, allowing for movement and rotation possible for various joint parts including the wrists, ankles and knuckles. The limb pistons likewise utilized hydraulic fluid to operate, and as such required a replenishment of fluid as well as a piston realignment every six months and diagnostic check-ins during the monthly maintenance sessions. His mechanical appendages provided him with greater strength than an ordinary man; he could adjust the servodrivers and pistons in his forearms to provide his hands with enough strength to crush nearly anything they could grasp. With the power of his arms alone, he had the ability to lift an adult being off the ground, though he had always been able to do so with the Force, especially in moments of rage. When put to use, his mechanical legs would allow him to leap a considerable distance. His gloves incorporated a unique micronized iron that could deflect anything short of a lightsaber blow.
When Vader first had to walk with his new legs, he had to take slow, deliberate, thudding steps. By the time he was accustomed to his new legs, he retained the noisy gait, as it "announced" his coming, though he soon walked more naturally. The durasteel alloy of Vader's lower legs were enhanced by strips of armor similar to those that filled and gave form to the long glove that Vader had worn over his right-arm prosthesis; these leg prostheses were protected by the greaves of Vader's suit. The alloy strips were added in late into the surgery, to allow for Vader to walk relatively normally after simulations revealed that his stock prosthetic legs would buckle under the overall weight of his armor. Vader's boots also adhered to his artificial limbs and the soles could magnetically adhere to bulkheads if Vader wished—during an assassination attempt in which Vader was put into an open airlock, his boots remained planted to the floor while his companions were sucked out of the breach. Later, however, he jumped into the void willingly.
Because of the large amount of mass the overall armor contained (the shoulder armor alone weighed 12.2 kg), Vader did not often run, but was still capable of doing so if necessary. In addition, he was still capable of using Force speed, but rarely did so.
Vader's back, specifically his spine, was not whole. Although his injuries on Mustafar did not significantly affect the spine, it still was injured to the extent that, coupled with the projected strain of the shoulder armor and the later-adopted hermetic collar, the original bones had to be replaced with artificial and structurally superior components. This forced Vader to wear a thick electrode-studded collar that supported his helmet to safeguard the cybernetic devices that replaced his upper vertebrae. The first few vertebrae of his neck were not natural and their sharp-edged regularity suggests that they were cybernetic replacements. Bone was broken at the second and third vertebrae, and possibly the first and fourth. The spinal cord itself was not broken above the third or fourth vertebra. The severing must have been nearly but not totally complete, as he retained the ability to breathe weakly for at least a few seconds unaided.
Vader's helmet was the center of his life-support system. It was fitted with an air pump, which was connected to a flat filter system worn on Vader's back. Together, the backpack and the air pump continuously cycled purified air through Vader's ravaged lungs. A small, back-up air-processing filter was located in his distinctive mouth grill, which also doubled as a respiratory intake system. Vader's life-support system also included a chest-worn, computerized control panel unit that regulated his respiratory functions. From this chest panel, a thick cable entered his torso, linking to a breathing apparatus and heartbeat regulator. The ventilator was implanted in his terribly scarred chest, along with tubes that ran directly into his damaged lungs, and others that entered his burned throat, so that should the chest plate or belt control panels develop a glitch, he could breathe unassisted air for a limited time out of his mouth, which had not been burned to the extent of his throat.
A belt-mounted function box housed the respiratory sensor matrix responsible for controlling Vader's breathing. Using it, Vader could easily adjust the controls on his armor to increase or decrease his supply of oxygen.
Vader's breathing was machine-regulated, but his pace of breathing quickened during physical exertion and could be overridden by involuntary emotional reactions. In addition, his respirator would also let out a strained rasp if undergoing extreme exertion rendering him exhausted or if part of his armor is significantly damaged. This is especially evident when Vader lost his right arm to Luke Skywalker in their final duel. The respirator slowed down or sped up in response to changes in his remaining body's functions, but Vader was unable to stop it or hold his breath, nor could he slow it. Additionally, Vader's breather functioned even while he was speaking. However, it is apparent that a dampener or similar device had been installed into his suit by 3 ABY, as he was able to surprise Luke Skywalker in a dark passage near the carbon-freezing chamber on Bespin. Vader's ambush was only possible because he could temporarily quiet his loud breathing.
Lord Vader's breather was seriously damaged by Force lightning during his struggle with the Emperor. Although it continued to operate to some extent, the sound of the mechanism was reduced to a strained rasp, implying that the respirator was broken. The labored breathing sound persisted until his final unmasking.
His signature, labored mechanical breathing was the sound of the iron lung Vader was forced to wear. The med droids that had made the suit had inserted the redundant breathing tubes low enough so that, with the aid of an enunciator, his scorched vocal cords could still form sounds and words through a voice synthesizer in the mask. Absent from the enunciator in Vader's mouth grill, which imparted a synthetic bass tone, his own voice was little more than a whisper. Though limited by what the respirator could do, Vader could still make his respirator approximate a laugh or a sigh.
Vader was able to speak even when unmasked shortly before the destruction of the second Death Star. The weakness of his voice was probably partly due to his breathing difficulty and the internal mortal wounds and damage to his cybernetic systems inflicted by the Emperor.
Skeleton and nervous system
Not even Vader's skeleton and nerves were spared from the reconstruction. In addition to the partial replacement of Vader's spine, the rib-cage was also partially removed for the installment of the organ implants, with the sternum being replaced with a perforated metal plate accommodating the cables running to the chest computer, and at least one of his shoulder joints (the right one) being required to undergo partial prosthetic replacement. The remaining organic bones were likewise artificially modified via a tensile-strength augmentation through mineral solutions dripping through the nutrient feeds. In addition, the right collarbone was also installed with a cartridge that injects a synthetic neurotoxin called Kouhunin, derived from the Kouhun centipedes, to lessen Vader's perception of pain to a small degree.
His nervous system sustained the least amount of damage from his injuries at Mustafar. Nonetheless, it was implanted with sensor webs tracing activity running through the cerebellum along the spinal cord to the sensory and motor neurons, so it could be constantly and closely monitored. As such, if his neurons were ever unable to communicate with his metallic prosthetics, Vader would be rendered immobile and a programmed alert would go out to the EmPal SuRecon via hyperwave signal. The muscle fibers were also modified to have electrical impulse generators embedded inside as a means to stimulate damaged tissue.
Thousands of years before his birth, Anakin Skywalker appeared in a vision to Jedi Master Q'Anilia as Darth Vader, along with his son, Luke Skywalker and his descendant, Cade Skywalker, as well as Zayne Carrick. All four of these individuals would later be affected by the Muur Talisman. The vision also showed Karness Muur, hundreds of Rakghouls, and a burning city.
Nearly a decade before his death, the Sith Lord, Darth Plagueis, and his apprentice, Darth Sidious, committed an act that directly violated the nature of the Force. To advance their plan for galactic domination, the two Sith attempted to will a being of their own design into existence, pouring their abhorrent intent into waves through the Force to the countless midi-chlorians that were spread throughout the galaxy. The experiment failed, however, and the midi-chlorians, not willing to obey, not only frustrated Plagueis's attempts, but countered in reprisal, conceiving a child within the slave Shmi Skywalker.
Vision on Mortis
Years later, during the Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker along with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka Tano discovered the Mortis monolith while answering an ancient Jedi distress call deep in space. However their ship had been damaged when Anakin had crash landed it, so the Jedi were stranded on the world of Mortis. Skywalker, not convinced that the Son could be easily contained on the planet, returned on a speeder to see the Father, offering his help in killing the Son. The Father directed him toward the Well of the dark side with the warning not to underestimate the Son. On the way, Skywalker encountered an apparition of Qui-Gon Jinn. Skywalker confided his doubts to the apparition about what he should do with the Son. The Force spirit told him to trust his instincts and that he would find a way.
When he arrived at the "well," Skywalker confronted the Son only to have his lightsaber pulled out of his hand. The Son then offered to show him the future. Skywalker tried to resist, but could not keep out the visions that assaulted his mind. He saw himself killing younglings, choking his wife Padmé Amidala as she begged for mercy, the true face of Darth Sidious, fighting Obi-Wan Kenobi, destroying Alderaan, and his transformation into Darth Vader. He eventually fell to his knees while the smoke behind him formed the shape of the face of Darth Vader. Skywalker collapsed, close to tears and horrified at the revelation of the monster he would become, knowing he would go on to do terrible things. The Son agreed, but offered a way to change the future he saw, asking again for Skywalker to join him. Skywalker hesitated, but then submitted at the promise of peace.
Vision on Nelvaan
Shortly before the Battle of Coruscant, Kenobi and Skywalker were sent to the icy planet of Nelvaan to seek out General Grievous. The Nelvaanians hailed Skywalker as "Ghost Hand," and Orvos, the shaman of Rokrul village, sent him on a quest to save their people from a threat that had vanquished all their previous champions. Skywalker agreed, and entered a cave where he experienced visions of a great hunter, who lost his arm in battle. However, he fought back, and continued to slay monsters with a new black, spiky arm. As he slew the monsters, his power grew until it was out of control, the spiky black arm turning into a spiny black labyrinth that encompassed and destroyed everything the warrior held dear. Padmé Amidala's voice was screaming as the sinister black labyrinth of evil that had once been the great warrior's arm turned back upon the source and morphed what remained of the great hunter into an eerie face—the face of Darth Vader, whom Skywalker would soon become.
The fateful surgery
- "He lives."
- ―A medical droid, to Palpatine
Not long after his return to Coruscant after the Battle of Coruscant, Skywalker gave in to Darth Sidious' temptation to turn to the dark side and was dubbed Darth Vader. Sidious commanded his new apprentice to go to the planet of Mustafar and kill the Separatist Council—and supposedly bring peace to the new Galactic Empire. On Mustafar, the corrupted Vader then began his massacre of the Separatist Council. Not long after, Padmé's ship landed outside the bunker, and he ran to meet her. Unbeknownst to her, Kenobi had stowed away on her ship to find Vader, and at that moment appeared from the ship. Kenobi tried to reason with his former pupil, but Vader refused to listen. Vader and Kenobi fought an intense battle throughout the mining complex and down the river of lava outside. The battle ended on the banks of a lava river, where Vader was severely maimed and immobilized by Kenobi's blade, which severed his legs and his left arm.
The defeated Vader fell onto a slope of volcanic sand, and slid helplessly to the edge of a lava river. With his body crippled, Vader tried to claw his way up the bank, using only his remaining prosthetic limb but his body ignited from the radiant heat of the flow and his lungs were scorched by the hot gases he inhaled, which included high concentrations of ko-shol gasses. As the flames started to subside, Vader kept himself alive with the dark side of the Force, his rage, and his unbreakable will, clawing his way back up the bank with his still intact mechanical arm, struggling against his extreme injuries. His injuries were severe, with the lower half of his body being more extensively affected. His lungs had been irreparably scarred, now being mostly dead alveoli and constricted passages.
Darth Sidious, newly declared Emperor of the Galactic Empire, soon arrived and snatched what remained of Vader's body from the bank of the lava river, placing him on a medical capsule and willing him to live. He then took Vader back to Coruscant, repairing the damage to Vader's body through intensive cybernetic enhancements with help from arcane Sith healing techniques at the newly renamed Emperor Palpatine Surgical Reconstruction Center. He was repaired and rebuilt over a period of several days by a hyper-sophisticated Ubrikkian prototype DD-13 medical assistant droid named DD-13/HK, a 2-1B surgical droid by the name of 2-1B/DRX, and an enhanced FX-6 medical assistant droid (the very same droids who rebuilt General Grievous). The Ubrikkian "Galactic Chopper" DD-13/HK oversaw the installation of his cybernetic implants, prosthetic limbs, and synthetic organs, and the FX-6 performed numerous blood transfusions and stabilized the terrible damage done to Vader's eyes, vocal cords, scalp, face, arms, legs, and especially his lungs. Both droids spent much time connecting Vader's severed nerve endings to his new robotic parts.
The surgery was also less than pleasant; 2-1B/DRX deliberately did not perform reconstructive cosmetic surgery to Vader's face, as it would be hidden behind the mask. In addition, anesthetic was not used at all, leaving Vader awake and in excruciating agony for the entire procedure; this was a decision made by the Emperor in order to further fuel Vader's connection to the dark side. The process included eight hours to supply artificial implants to his internal organs, two and a half of which were dedicated to implementing the linkages. Budgetary limitations and lack of effective equipment imposed by the Empire also acted as a factor to the shoddy attempts at repair, with DD-13/HK speculating that the limitations may have been deliberately orchestrated by the Emperor in order to ensure Vader didn't rebel. 2-1B/DRX likewise ordered for Vader's helmet to be waxed with woodoo hide in the hopes that the resulting shine would distract Palpatine from the shortcuts they were forced to implement during the surgery. In addition, the blackened and dead flesh on Vader's scalp that was exposed to the heat of Mustafar was surgically removed, although the scarring itself penetrated to his bones.
Life and death
During his first few months of living in the suit, Vader felt trapped within it, but after a short while he had learned to use it for both intimidation and isolation. It allowed him to feel separate from all the beings around him. At times he enjoyed having his black suit, as it gave him a menacing presence that garnered respect and fear. Also because of his suit, Vader felt a kind of kinship with the clone troopers because they, too, were seemingly dependent on their armor and were almost never seen without it. To compensate for his lack of facial and eye expressions, Vader learned to use simple body language.
On one occasion early on in Vader's career as a Sith, Darth Sidious threatened to use Force lightning against him when Vader expressed displeasure with a dressing-down his master was giving him. Sidious revealed on that occasion that he was well aware that the delicate circuitry that allowed Vader's life support systems to function was vulnerable to electrical discharges. Vader would later outfit his armor with electrical insulation.
Not long after his reconstruction, Vader fought a Jedi named Bol Chatak on Murkhana, and because of Vader having to suddenly readjust his style due to his injuries, the Zabrak managed to injure him before Vader killed her. She had cut Vader's left forearm through the shielding that filled out his glove and had melted some of the artificial ligaments that allowed his hand to pronate. Vader was able to fix some of it himself with a fine-point laser cutter by removing flaps of armorweave fabric that had been fused by the heat to the alloy beneath, and the forearm was later completely repaired at the Emperor Palpatine Surgical Reconstruction Center.
Because of the extensive mechanics of his armor, he was once mistaken by the droid C-3PO for a new model of guard droid during one of the Emperor's Ball ceremonies. The Sith Lord sentenced the protocol droid to work as a preschool attendant for a year as punishment.
Vader's right hand was again cut off during his fight at the Conclave on Kessel when he was searching for Kenobi. Through the Force, he picked up the mechanical hand, still grasping a cortosis blade, and used it to kill Koffi Arana. During the ensuing fight, Vader's suit was damaged and torn open at the left shoulder, lower arm, back, and both of his upper legs, yet he did not seem weakened; soon afterwards he could stand and function. When all except Tsui Choi had been killed, the desperate Jedi threw his lightsaber at Vader. As the Sith Lord deflected it back to kill the Jedi, it sliced a bit into his mask, but afterward he seemed to have no trouble breathing.
Later, Darth Vader hired Boba Fett to capture an Imperial named Abal Karda and, more importantly, the box he carried, not letting the bounty hunter know it was a trap. Vader followed Fett to Maryx Minor and the two battled for control of the box. Boba Fett shot Darth Vader in the forehead during this duel, but it merely scraped his helmet, not penetrating.
When Vader dueled Galen Marek on board the half-completed first Death Star, Marek finished the duel by hurling an energy field generator at Vader with the Force. The generator exploded on contact with Vader and caused severe damage to his armor and life support systems, though not sufficient to disable him. In addition, despite the destruction of most of his mask, his vocoder remained intact.
When an uprising of several Falleen tried to assassinate Vader for what he had done to their homeworld, Xora stabbed Vader in the torso, next to his chest plate. The injury did not seem to faze him in the least. During the same fight, he was shot in the left shoulder, which also did not slow him.
After being forced to crash-land on Vaal after the destruction of the first Death Star, Vader was attacked by several of the native creatures, who ripped his cape, his suit, and his right glove, showing the metallic arm beneath. By this time, Vader had lost his entire right arm.
During the duel with his son on Cloud City, Luke managed to score a strike on Vader's right arm, causing him some degree of pain. However, it was not enough to hinder Vader who cut Luke's hand off shortly after.
Aboard the second Death Star, Vader confronted and fought his son, Luke, losing to him when the youth sliced off his right hand. As he watched Sidious torture his son with Force lightning, Vader heard Luke beg for his father's help. So overcome with emotion, he (no longer Darth Vader, but Anakin Skywalker) picked up the Emperor and threw him into a deep pit, absorbing intense amounts of Force lightning in the process and short-circuiting his life-support.
The lightning that lashed Anakin was of a lethal intensity: the energies that Sidious had previously used to strike Luke were less powerful, intended merely to cause agony and torment. When Anakin seized him, Sidious intensified his output, with the intention of finishing Luke. These discharges were absorbed by Anakin rather than his son. The remarkable intensity of these final energetic bursts—exceeding the shocks that had tormented Luke—was evident in the way they heated Anakin's bones enough for them to glow visibly through his flesh and clothing. Anakin's life support system shorted out just after he threw Sidious down the reactor shaft of the Death Star's tower throne room, leaving Anakin mortally injured and paralyzed inside a powerless suit. Luke then attempted to take his father with him to make their escape, but Anakin realized that, regardless of his son's efforts, he was already dead, and requested that Luke remove his mask so he could see his son without the lens filters for the first and last time.
After Anakin's death and the subsequent destruction of the second Death Star, the suit was ceremonially burned on a pyre on Endor by Luke. Seven years later, the young Kyp Durron, an apprentice of the New Jedi Order, uncovered the remains of Vader's armor during his struggle with the spirit of Exar Kun, a long-deceased Dark Lord of the Sith. The bonfire had completely incinerated Vader's uniform, leaving only a jumble of heat-warped bits of plasteel, wires and tatters of the armorweave cloak.
The logs for the armor's construction and Vader's surgery were later recovered from the memory logs of 2-1B/DRX and DD-13/HK. The armor and the reconstruction was later remarked upon as being a story of medical skill, scientific ingenuity and brutal reality, especially compared to the cyborg reconstruction methods used to create General Grievous years prior. It was also speculated that the results would have been even more impressive if not for constraints imposed by the Empire's budgetary issues.
The glove of Darth Vader
The right glove of his suit remained intact when the Death Star II exploded, having been ensnared within a piece of the wreckage that landed on the watery world of Mon Calamari. This wreckage had been pulled through a wormhole created by the explosion of the hypermatter in the Death Star's core. In 5 ABY, Kadann, a Prophet of the Dark Side, foretold that a new Emperor would soon arise, and on his hand he would wear the glove of Darth Vader. Unlike the left-hand glove, the right glove was made to be indestructible, a symbol of evil that would survive forever. After Luke cut off Darth Vader's right hand in their lightsaber duel, the glove was believed to have been hurled out into space when the Death Star exploded.
When a humanoid mutant named Trioculus tried to gain control of what remained of the Empire, The Prophets of the Dark Side would not allow it because he did not have the glove, so he set out to find it. Though he already had loyalty from many of the Grand Moffs, he sought the glove to quiet any remaining doubts about him. Trioculus was determined to find Vader's glove before any other contender for the throne did, and in doing so win the support of Kadann. He ordered the Moffs to begin a galaxy-wide search for the glove using probe droids, first sending the droids to the forest moon of Endor to scan the area, as that was the place the glove was most likely to rest—if anywhere at all. As faith in Trioculus began to diminish among his supporters, the warlord grew desperate. However, he had a stroke of luck when an Imperial agent, Captain Dunwell, discovered several pieces of the Death Star's debris near the Seascape Mountains, in the Valley of the Giant Oysters on Mon Calamari, one of which had revealed the outline of a glove when scanned.
Trioculus and Bertroff Hissa immediately set out for Mon Calamari, where they were greeted by Dunwell at his Whaladon Processing Center, a poaching operation for the native sentient Whaladon species. In his Whaladon-hunting submarine, Dunwell took Trioculus and Hissa to the site of the wreckage. Secretly followed by Luke Skywalker and Admiral Ackbar in a Calamarian minisub, Trioculus retrieved the glove. When Skywalker and Ackbar's minisub was accidentally captured by one of Dunwell's Whaladon-capturing devices, Skywalker infiltrated the vessel and triggered its self-destruct. Trioculus and Hissa narrowly escaped, the warlord vowing to have his vengeance on Skywalker.
The gauntlet's value as a symbol was of little use to the three-eyed mutant, but its potential for use as a weapon was considered to be incalculable. It was his belief that the glove was actually a mystical relic that provided its wearer with the ability to telekinetically attack others from a distance, as Trioculus was ignorant of the fact that this ability was an aspect of Vader's aptitude with the Force, and had nothing at all to do with his glove—something he later found out. As a result of this discovery, he had his droid, MD-5, outfit the glove with technology that could simulate Vader's Force Choke by making whomever it was pointed at gasp and fall to their knees. After this, their eardrums would explode and their brains would disintegrate. However, he soon abandoned its use after discovering that utilizing it too often resulted in periods of blindness—as well as withering his hand. Trioculus then commanded that his servants create an exact replica of the glove, and he later disposed of it, leaving its whereabouts unknown. However, the Bimm merchant Glah Ubooki later claimed he had recovered it.
Discomfort, limitations and enhancements
- "You are so far less now than what you were, you are more than half machine, you are like a painter gone blind, a composer gone deaf, you can remember where the power was but the power you can touch is only a memory…"
- ―Darth Vader's thoughts
An expert mechanical engineer himself, Vader was dismayed by the incompetence of the medical droids responsible for his resurrection in Sidious' laboratory on Coruscant. The technology in the suit was already obsolete, having been used to rebuild and create General Grievous decades earlier. While Vader retained his knowledge of the Jedi arts, he began to feel uncertain about his place in the Force, and while he had taken his first steps toward awakening the power of the dark side, he felt uncertain about his ability to sustain that power. He knew that he was hampered by his injuries, and knew he never could achieve his full potential because of it. At times, Vader wondered if Darth Sidious had purposely designed the armor to restrict him.
There were many problems with his armor. The synthskin that substituted for what was seared from his bones itched incessantly, his body needed to be periodically cleansed and scrubbed of necrotic flesh, and the incessant rasp of his breathing interfered with his ability to rest, let alone sleep. In the rare moments it came to him, Vader's sleep was a nightmarish jumble of twisted, recurrent memories that unfolded to excruciating sounds, and when he attempted to rest, his cybernetic limbs strained against his ruined flesh. Sounds registered as if issuing from underwater. Worse, the implanted sensors lacked sufficient discrimination, so that too many ambient sounds were picked up, and their distance and direction were difficult to determine. Sometimes the sensors needled him with feedback, or attached echo or vibrato effects to even the faintest noise.
The pectoral armor that protected the artificial lung weighed him down, as did the electrode-studded collar that supported the oversized helmet, the delicate systems of the mask, and the ragged scars in his hairless head, which owed as much to what he had endured on Mustafar as to attempts at emergency trepanation during the trip back to Coruscant aboard Sidious' shuttle. The weighty cloak and pectoral plating so restricted his movement that he had difficulty lifting his arms over his head, only doing so when necessary, such as when Boba Fett set off the smoke detonator that nearly blew Vader off the edge of a cliff on Maryx Minor. In order to survive, Vader was forced to hold onto the ledge with his hands above his head. As well, Vader still had the capacity to shrug.
The sleeves of the bodysuit didn't hug the prostheses as they should, and the elbow-length gloves sagged and bunched at his wrists. Only the right arm prosthesis that he had received as a Jedi felt natural to him, since he had customized it to fit his needs. The pneumatic mechanisms that supplied articulation and support were sometimes slow to respond. As a result of having artificial arms, Darth Vader fashioned Force lightning to suit this handicap preferring to use it as a last resort also because of the delicate life support he was more vulnerable to it. Vader would attempt to compensate for this vulnerability to Force lightning by upgrading the armor with some sort of insulation, though this provided only limited protection. However, while the insulation provided only partial protection against electrical discharges, the limit to the amount of current that it could absorb appeared to be fairly high. For instance, during his duel with Starkiller on Kamino, Vader was struck by an extremely powerful blast of Force lightning, and though it damaged his cybernetics to the point where he could no longer fight, he survived the blast and seemed not to be in any mortal danger afterwards.
The monitoring panel beeped frequently and for no reason, the lights seeming to serve only as steady reminders of his vulnerability. His electrical systems were woefully delicate, and he was forced to protect his vital chest panel when dueling. This system was so vulnerable that Antinnis Tremayne was once able to deactivate Vader's entire suit by pressing one button on his chest control plate.
Instead of using durasteel for his leg prosthesis, the medical droids had substituted an inferior alloy, and had failed to inspect the strips that protected the electromotive lines. As a result, the inner lining of the pressurized bodysuit was continually snagging on places where the strips were anchored to knee and ankle joints. Additionally, the tall boots were a poor fit for his artificial feet, whose toes lacked the electrostatic sensitivity of his equally false fingertips. These devices made it even more difficult for him to move with ease, much less with any grace. Raised in the heel, the cumbersome footwear canted him slightly forward, forcing him to move with exaggerated caution lest he stumble or topple over. Worse, they were so heavy that he often felt rooted to the ground, or as if he were moving in high gravity. He even felt that he needed to use the Force to move, though he eventually grew used to it. As a result of his large body and abnormal needs, Vader had to have a custom airspeeder made for him to drive comfortably in.
As of 0 BBY, Vader was given an opportunity to have a new suit built for him. This suit would have been far more advanced, technologically superior, and much more comfortable than his original. However, to be placed into this new suit, Vader would have to have had his prosthetics disconnected and his life support systems temporarily disabled. Since the process was considered far too risky, and most likely would result in his death, the idea was abandoned.
Despite how cumbersome it was, the suit did provide Vader with a number of benefits. The first and most obvious was that the suit functioned very well in its role as armor, providing Vader with an extraordinary amount of durability allowing him to shrug off otherwise fatal damage or injuries. The suit also provided limited resistance to lightsaber blades, allowing Vader to take what might have been crippling injuries without visible effect, and greatly enhanced his stamina. Additionally, the suit allowed Vader to function in extremely inhospitable environments, including the vacuum of space. Its independent oxygen supply and air filtration systems also provided Vader with a virtual immunity to the effects of airborne biological weapons.
Due to the limitations of his suit, Vader was forced to modify his lightsaber form. At first, Vader's combat techniques were clumsy, and utilized mostly stiff vertical strikes. However, after a time, Vader began to accept his condition, and began to modify his technique accordingly. Through cybernetics, though his agility had been severely hampered by the suit, his strength and stamina had been vastly augmented, and he began to use this to his advantage. He had retained both the academic knowledge of lightsaber combat and experience that he had attained as a Jedi, and began to borrow elements from all forms of lightsaber combat, even the highest and most dangerous ones. The style that resulted was a unique hybrid lightsaber form built around Djem So that incorporated anything Vader could use to compensate for his weaknesses. He primarily used his overwhelming strength and endurance to easily overpower his opponents, but added a great deal of precision to his technique. He would use his immense strength to overpower his enemies with or without a lightsaber by - for example - either grabbing a man's throat lifting him into the air and crushing it, or blocking a lightsaber hilt and throwing its wielder a distance, with one arm simultaneously knocking someone else a distance. In an extreme display of strength he lifted the emperor in the air with a full cybernetic arm even with the restriction of a missing hand, as well resisting force lightning and finally throwing him down the Death Star's core. Due to his incorporation of multiple styles into his own, his technique also became quite unpredictable. His speed and agility, though hampered, would eventually see drastic improvement, and by the time of his duel with the Starkiller clone, he was capable of moving faster than the human eye could perceive by using short, precise bursts of the Force speed ability. He also began to use the Force far more actively in combat, using it both to overpower opponents that he could not out-fence, or incorporating it into his lightsaber sequences to improve his overall viability as a duelist. However, his style, at least in its early applications, placed considerably greater emphasis on protecting the vulnerable components of his respirator than it did his limbs.
Although he had access to lightsaber resistant cortosis, Vader relied on his own skill with the weapon to protect himself from Jedi attacks. Despite this, various portions of the suit could still withstand lightsaber hits with a fairly little damage. For instance, during his duel with Roan Shryne on Kashyyyk, Vader blocked a strike from Shryne with the back of one of his gloves, and though the stroke visibly damaged Vader's glove, Vader had no difficulty using that hand for the rest of the duel. During the same fight, Shryne also landed a superficial hit on Vader's lower left leg which caused Vader no injury. The pauldron appeared to be particularly durable, as Luke Skywalker landed a direct, two handed strike to Vader's right shoulder during their duel on Bespin, and it did not appear to hamper Vader's physical capabilities at all. To further sharpen his abilities, he frequently sparred with increasingly newer and better droids, sometimes several at a time.
Vader could still easily deflect blaster bolts with his lightsaber, such as on Murkhana when Climber and the rest of Ion Team tried to escape punishment from Vader by shooting at him. Vader even showed that he didn't need his lightsaber to block blaster bolts, when Han Solo shot at him he blocked all bolts with just his hand.
To make up for his relative lack of mobility, Vader often threw his lightsaber at his targets if they were at a distance, sometimes using the Force to spin the blade like a circular saw. He would also, at times, allow his opponent to vent, allowing them to believe that they were driving him back when he was actually letting them wear themselves out before disarming them in one rapid motion.
Vader utilized a two-handed grip on his lightsaber, though he could fight with one of either of his hands, as shown when his right hand was cut off during his fight at the Conclave on Kessel. As a stance used while waiting for his opponents to strike, Vader would point his lightsaber towards the ground at an angle, and would take advantage of his blade's position by making lightning-fast underhanded sweeps and vertical strikes. As well, at times he manipulated his blade with just his wrists, not moving his arms.
Not long after being entombed in his suit, Vader began to have moments of claustrophobia and felt a desperate need to emerge from the suit. Because of this, he had several chambers built—meditation pods—in which to do this. He could only remove his mask and rest in a special hyperbaric medical chamber, such as the one on board his Star Dreadnought Executor. Allowing no one to assist him, Vader relied on mechanical devices to remove and replace his helmet and metal breath screen. This pressurized life-support environment of medicated and oxygenated air allowed him to exist unmasked in some comfort. To keep him alive, the surgical theater where he was revived as a cyborg must have had the same pressurized gas mix until his mask was sealed. A small, retractable respirator tube enabled him to survive for a short time with the pod momentarily open. The hyperbaric chamber had motion-sensitive controls and was lifted by servo-lifts. Vader's cape was lifted while in the meditation chamber, and it was mechanically lowered while he was still in the chair.
A meditation chamber existed in Vader's palace in Imperial City and in Vader's quarters aboard the Executor. Another meditation chamber was found deep inside Vader's old stronghold on Vjun by Rosh Penin as he searched for sources of dark energy to 'charge' the Scepter of Ragnos, and the room in which the meditation chamber was located ended up as a dueling ground between Rosh Penin and Jaden Korr. There seemed to be a different kind of meditation pod aboard the Mathayus, one that did not shut and one where he only meditated without removing his mask.
Vader did not stay a passive victim of his reliance on the armor. He actively sought healing through meditation in the Force by drawing upon his rage and indignation at the injustice of his affliction. His Sith powers were able to restore function to the lung tissues, though this relief was temporary, lasting no more than a few minutes at best. Vader believed that he couldn't grasp sufficient purity of hate in order for the dark side of the Force to grant him permanent regeneration and that the joy of his brief freedom ruined his dark concentration. He at times would open the meditation chamber to see how long he could sustain himself without his suit during one of these sessions.
Behind the scenes
- "He became an icon of evil."
- ―George Lucas
Portrayal and creation
Darth Vader's armor, worn by David Prowse and Bob Anderson in the original trilogy and by Hayden Christensen in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, was designed by Ralph McQuarrie, who was instructed by George Lucas to sketch a tall and imposing figure, wearing exotic-looking black armor. Originally, Vader's costume had no helmet—Lucas had envisioned that, instead of proper headgear, Vader's face would be covered by "a black silk scarf." However, McQuarrie added a distinctive skull-like helmet for the character when he read the script of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope and he became aware of the fact that Vader would have to cross through the cold vacuum of space in order to board the captured Tantive IV at the start of the film. The reasons for Vader wearing the armor, of course, would end up becoming far more complicated.
Many of the original parts of Vader's costume were obtained from a costumer called Berman's & Nathan's. Vader was mocked up from a World War II German Stahlhelm helmet and gas mask, a monk's cloak, a leather undersuit, and a metal breastplate. The suit was constructed by costume designer John Mollo, and it was finished in eleven weeks. For Revenge of the Sith, Costume Props Supervisor Ivo Coveney crafted a new set of armor that served a dual purpose. Not only was it designed to fit Christensen, but it provided an opportunity for the department to correct many of the flaws in the original costume, such as the asymmetry of the mask.
The design of Darth Vader's armor was influenced by the costume worn by The Lightning, a villain in the movie serial The Fighting Devil Dogs, and the Japanese Samurai masks; the similarities between Vader's armor and the suit worn by Marvel Comics supervillain Doctor Doom have been noted as well, particularly by Doom's creators, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Vader's iconic breathing noise was created by Ben Burtt breathing through a scuba mask, with a small mic in the scuba regulator. He had originally recorded many different variations of the breathing noise, from raspy and asthmatic to cold and mechanical. While the more mechanized version was chosen, the more raspy noises were used in Return of the Jedi after Vader was fatally injured by Sidious's Force lightning, and shortly beforehand when Luke cut off his right arm. Originally, Vader was to sound like a walking emergency room, with him clicking and beeping whenever he was on scene. However, this proved too distracting, and it was cut down to just his breathing.
The suit in canon
One of the changes in the canonicity regarding the suit was that, by 4 ABY, Vader's left shoulder was completely artificial, and in 3 ABY, after encountering Luke on Bespin, he had remarked that his right shoulder had healed well. Since a bionic shoulder could not heal, Vader's right shoulder must still have consisted of his original flesh, though earlier on Mimban, Vader's right arm was removed from the shoulder. However, whether this healing Vader spoke of was literal, sarcastic, or metaphorical is not known. Another change was that, for Vader's costume in Episode III, the costume, being completely new, was altered from the original design, though only slightly, to give it a newly machined, freshly created appearance. Several small changes to the neck length and shoulder couplings were intended to give Vader's movements a more mechanical look. One more change over canon is that the chest panel of Darth Vader's attire changed slightly from Episodes III to IV, and from IV to V and VI. The canonical reason for this has not been put forth. Also, the control panel from Episodes V and VI bore Hebrew lettering that can be translated as "His deeds will not be forgiven, until he merits."
The suit has been referenced several times in the Expanded Universe, an example being in the Star Wars: Legacy comics, Cade Skywalker is seen to wear a pair of trousers very similar to Vader's as a part of his outfit. As well, in Star Wars: Union, while Mara was trying on wedding dresses, one of the dresses resembled Vader's armor. Leia told the designer Mara turned it down because "The bride doesn't want to dress like the father of the groom." In the original plot of Star Wars: Dark Empire, the Empire would have an impostor wear Darth Vader's armor, or a replica of it, in order to intimidate far-flung worlds enough to submit to obedience, but George Lucas vetoed the idea.
On October 1, 2011, a guidebook was released that expanded on the construction and functions of Darth Vader's armor. According to author Daniel Wallace's blog entry "5 things you didn't know about Darth Vader," they based some elements of Darth Vader's armor (e.g., one of the ten layers of his armor) on NASA astronaut suits, which they had studied before writing the book.
In Star Wars Infinities: The Empire Strikes Back, during a vision while fighting Yoda, Vader's armor reverts to one of Ralph McQuarrie's original designs, but is shortly thereafter destroyed by the spirits of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu and Qui-Gon Jinn.
In Star Wars: The Force Unleashed: Ultimate Sith Edition Galen Marek as Lord Starkiller wears armor that is based on Vader's during his mission to Hoth.
In concept art for what was going to be Star Wars: Battlefront IV, Vader would have received two variations of his armor, both of which were for a what-if storyline where he became the Galactic Emperor. Although both were overall similar to his standard armor, one concept drawing depicted a sleeker armor appearance with a slightly different life-support panel, as well as him wearing a cape resembling Sith robes, including a hood, while the other possessed gold linings and slightly more advanced-looking armor, with the cape having an interior red, as well a slightly circular and primarily red life-support panel.