Bastards of the Dark Side

People liked the “You Don’t Know the Power of the Dark Side!” How does it work?” piece enough to want a follow-up. One that looks at those unrepentant, irredeemable master bastards. Be careful what you wish for….

A certain array of characters come to mind, for the purposes of this one I propose to look at the likes of Exar Kun, Darth Bane, the Emperor and Darth Krayt. Each has elements in common, yet each are quite distinct in how they go about their dark business. What links them? A yawning, ever demanding sense of desire and ego. The wish to dominate an entire galaxy or more, all for their own benefit.

It might be asked how these individuals lack any sense of empathy for others so completely? The answer tends to be that these individuals are sociopathic personalities. Could they not be psychopaths? Each of these Sith Lords hatches long-term plans, they think strategically on how to achieve their goals – this behavior is not that of the psychopath, who is inclined to more impulsive and unplanned actions.

What is the founding principle for being a successful Dark Lord of the Sith? I would argue it is quite simply the Keyser Soze principle:

You just needed the will to do what the other guy wouldn’t.

This is the dark side in a nutshell: You think this individual, who you seek to coerce into doing what you demand by taking hostages, will give in? That they will not instead let you kill your hostage so they can kill you, if you are lucky? You think they will be content to restrain vengeance merely upon you and not your entire line and every single person you know? Ah, understanding dawns, you should never have taken the hostage in the first place. You understand it is too late to go back, too late to recant, the only questions left are how bad your dying will be and how many others you take with you.

The other element of the Dark Side is that of proving yourself superior to those who failed to give you your due – this both Exar Kun and Darth Krayt have in common. Kun’s ambition to be the greatest Jedi ever leads him into the embrace of Freedon Nadd and to Korriban, where his plans come undone and he gives himself to the dark side. Kun’s subsequent plans of conquest involve defeating the Jedi by corrupting some of them into weapons to slaughter the order. The Jedi refused to recognize how great Kun was, his master would not see his excellence, so now Kun will kill them all and rule the galaxy they would claim to protect.

Darth Krayt is quite different in what he takes aim at – the old Jedi, but also the Empire and the Emperor. Darth Krayt witnessed the destruction of the Jedi, he saw what he considers the failure of the light side against the dark, so better to take up the power of the dark side. He refuses to consider the prospect that the revived new Jedi order could be different, or even better than its predecessor, instead they are fools, trusting to a failed power. It is in returning from death that Krayt throws down the gauntlet to the Emperor, as he, Darth Krayt, can also return from the grave, but better. He will forge a superior Empire, a better and longer lasting one and all will acknowledge it as such or die.

Darth Bane is a walking mass of hypocrisy writ large – a hulking brute with a Force connection to match, it is quite easy for such a person to advocate a strongest wins philosophy of might makes right. Added to that his orbalisk armour and it is all too easy to see Bane as a puffed up macho moron. Yet he did create the Rule of Two, a highly twisted and destructive philosophy true, but also one that led to the dark side’s greatest advocate and expression: The Emperor.

What is it then that sets the Emperor, Darth Sidious, so above both his predecessors Kun and Bane and would-be successors like Krayt? Sheer venom would be my response. Kun would quite likely have been content with merely converting the Jedi, once their leaders were dead. Bane may have set up the vaunted Rule of Two, but he wasn’t the one who fulfilled it, was he? Besides, can anyone really see Darth Bane successfully engaging in the sheer duplicity that Sidious did? I can’t. Bane destroyed his fellow Sith Lords, Sidious killed his Sith master, then the entire Jedi Order. That the Jedi had not, even a century later, recovered from Order 66 is testimony to what Sidious’ designs inflicted. It is why Krayt, for all his claims, is lesser for his plans took advantage of the broken galaxy Sidious practically bequeathed him!

At the same time Sidious also more than meets the other two requirements – there is nothing he will not do to achieve his aims, manipulate a child from the age of 10 so that a decade later he will be a tool? No problem. Setting up a galactic war that will kill trillions in order to weaken the Jedi? Why not? It will also corrupt the galaxy to a militaristic way of thinking that is perfect for an Empire. Equally, it will never be enough. From the start of the empire, work begins on the Death Star, why? Because it is not enough to simply rule the galaxy, the aim is to keep ruling the galaxy, if that takes blowing worlds to cinders so be it! Death? He wishes to deny that, cue the immortality research, which later grants him the cloning techniques and transference.

Let’s envisage a scenario where Sidious wins, the Rebellion is crushed, the galaxy is his, Vader is either dead or a whipped loyal cur, a fleet of Death Stars, World Devastators and Sun Crushers ensure the empire’s domination is complete and unchallenged. What next? Surely it is obvious? Why be content with a galaxy? There are thousands of galaxies, why be content to rule one? It will take too long? With his clones, Sidious has all the time he could ever want – time enough to conquer other galaxies, one by one. Would a galactic cluster be enough? A super-cluster? No, it would never be enough.

There’s also a distinctly different dimension to Darth Sidious in that he has an inclination to sadistically humiliate those he deems adversaries. Bane, Kun and Krayt all liked to prove to their enemies that they were better, but then tended to kill them. In contrast, Sidious is the cat with a mouse and the cat’s spinning out the death to the max. This sense of contempt extends to the galaxy writ large, it is not enough to rule it, Sidious is driven to corrupt it. To bring war and death and murder, to subtly warp people’s perception and inclination to the negative, to encourage all manner of little acts of willing corruption – all which serves the dark side.

We began with the Keyser Soze principle, in closing, another famous film quote comes to mind. Though, for this one, bear in mind that the individuals in question either never possessed an inclination to be reasonable or understanding; or, if they did, they burnt it out of their selves because it would get in the way!

It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear.

5 comments

  1. Eric J. Brown says:

    I think you undersell Bane here. He wipes out all the Sith and quite a bit of the Jedi – forcing them upon massive reforms. You talk about Sidious taking a 10 year old — how old is Zannah when she is apprenticed?

    I think the difference is a matter of background. Bane is a survivor – survivors don’t waste energy on anything that is not beneficial. Sidious comes from wealth – he is dealing with boredom and seeking entertainment. Bane is a miner – you work with your hands on your immediate problem; Sidious is the politician who must sway the electorate. And each becomes a twisted apex of bullying from their own background.

    I don’t know as much about Kun – but is he not the twisted Student as well? The darkside takes what is good – strength, charisma, desire to achieve success – and twists and corrupts it.

  2. Ben Crofts Ben Crofts says:

    Perhaps the difference is that Sidious had Luceno writing him and Bane didn’t? Similarly Krayt had Ostrander and Kun KJA, with a bit of Stackpole admittedly. Writing does play a part in how characters are perceived.

  3. Mike Cooper Mike Cooper says:

    Yet Sidious is mostly known for Lucas. Explain that.

  4. Michael Lind says:

    I think Bane is very important and significant. Then key fact is that Bane developed, implemented and defended a policy so successfully that the Sith were still enacting it a full millennium after his death.

    Considering that the Sith are inherently perhaps the most self-centered, egotistical, and factitious organization that could exist this is incredibly remarkable. The average Sith leader has minions totally disobeying his plans and policies while he’s still alive (in fact generally from about 1 second after they’re announced). Bane, by contrast, built up his case so well that several dozen Sith Lords maintained it more or less entirely until the plan came to fruition.

    The historical record, if nothing else, seems to imply that Bane’s rule of two hit upon a fundamental truth about the nature of dark side organizations.

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