Dark Troopers are a blast from Star Wars non-canonical past in Season Two of The Mandalorian, but what are these mysterious Imperial killers?
Season two of the Mandalorian was a fun ride from start to finish. Among the many enemies Din and his friends had to overcome were the terrifying Dark Troopers, a foe so deadly that they needed a little bit of extra help. While the Mandalorian my have introduced these technological marvels to live action, they aren’t exactly newcomers to Star Wars. Lets take a look at their history and what they are.
The Mandalorian has been stitching together a beautiful tapestry of some of the scattered remnants of Star Wars’ best lore. The show shines at its best when Pedro Pascal is moodily blasting through the disparate elements that make up Star Wars’ extended universe. But of all the things to come crashing back into the canon, Dark Troopers were one of the most unexpectedly delightful and a huge reason for that comes from their origins in the heyday of Lucasfilm Video Games. Come back with us to the days of one of the best side-stories of Star Wars, Dark Forces.
First released in 1995 for MS-DOS, Star Wars: Dark Forces represents a massive step forward for both Star Wars and FPSes in general. Set in the expanded universe back before Disney cut through the canon like a lightsaber through Ben Kenobi, Dark Forces was the tale of Kyle Katarn a mercenary and Republic Operative with a tragic past. It was also a technological leap forward, for though the game bears a strong resemblance to Doom, it was developed on its own engine, the Jedi Engine, which featured a number of innovations that Doom didn’t have, including the ability to look up, duck, jump, and find non-combat items to aid the player, like a lamp, air mask, and even ice cleats.
The game (and spoilers for something that came out for MS-DOS) sees Katarn and his ally, compatriot, and all-around badass partner Jan Ors go up against Imperial Forces on behalf of the Rebel Alliance. This brings them up against the forces of General Rom Mohc, as the pair become entangled in the mysteries of the Dark Trooper Project.
The Dark Trooper project was spearheaded by Mohc, an Imperial General who believed in the virtues of personal combat, for whom massive superweapons, like the Death Star, were an inelegant excess. Thus, the Dark Troopers were born.
The very first Dark Troopers were clone troopers transformed into cyborgs via the same process that helped Anakin Skywalker get over finding out that it’s over once Obi-Wan Kenobi has the high ground, the initial troopers, noted as Phase Zero, were eventually phased out as the Empire became less dependent on clones. But a rising star in the Imperial Army, Rom Mohc, took control of the project and began iterating.
Mohc created a new generation of stormtroopers, developing a superior weapons platform that could be outfitted with top-of-the-line weapons and dark gray armor maid out of a material called Phrik, which meant their armor could withstand blasters, explosions, and even lightsabers. These Dark Troopers were basically suits of Power Armor, and came in three different flavors. Phase 1, which was outfitted with vibrosword and blast shield:
Phase 2 which is the most common variety, armed with assault cannons, missiles, and an ARC caster:
Phase 3, the biggest and beefiest yet, and are all droid:
In the game these were the most powerful enemies. And eventually made their way beyond the original Dark Forces game, even showing up in Battlefront and BFII. But, all of that is technically Legends material.
In the show, all we know is that the dark trooper program continued development on the program, and though it was initially designed with a human pilot in mind they became battle droids, and these show up in Moff Gideon’s Imperial remnant when everyone’s new favorite Mandalorian shows up to save the best part of Star Wars.
May the Force be with you