Explaining to the Dark Troopers, how the series is adapting a video game villain

Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Mandalorian: Season 2, Episode 4.

The Mandalorian: Chapter 12 proved to be a surprisingly eventful episode on multiple fronts, most notably the first appearance in canon of a major Star Wars video game villain. The Dark Trooper looks like it’s now an official part of Disney’s Star Wars timeline, and that means Mando and his friends have a very dangerous new foe to deal with.

If you weren’t a PC gamer in the mid-90s, you might not recognize these sinister armored soldiers. Read on for a full breakdown of what the Dark Troopers are and how their live-action debut will affect the plot of The Mandalorian.

The Dark Troopers shown in The Mandalorian: Episode 12.

Los Dark Troopers en Star Wars: Dark Forces

The Dark Trooper was first introduced to the franchise in the 1994 PC game Star Wars: Dark Forces. Dark Forces revolves around Kyle Katarn, an ex-Stormtrooper and mercenary who is hired by Mon Mothma to steal the plans for the first Death Star (obviously, the game is no longer part of official canon). However, that initial mission only forms the basis of the game’s opening level. From there, the game moves on to a series of missions involving Kyle and his partner Jan Ors investigating the top-secret Dark Trooper Project.

As the game reveals, Project Dark Trooper is the brainchild of General Rom Mohc, an Imperial notable for his obsession with one-on-one combat and his distaste for impersonal superweapons like the Death Star. The Dark Trooper is designed to be a much more powerful alternative to Palpatine’s ordinary Stormtroopers. Dark Troopers are equipped with stronger weaponry, jetpacks, and near-indestructible armor forged from the rare phrik metal.

Dark Forces features three variations of the Dark Trooper. Most of the Dark Troopers seen in the game are actually battle droids rather than living soldiers. The Phase 1 Dark Trooper looks like a cross between a Stormtrooper and a Terminator endoskeleton. The Phase 2 Dark Trooper is much larger and more armored. The Dark Trooper Phase 3 is the culmination of Mohc’s plans. It’s an exoskeleton suit rather than an autonomous robot, and Mohc himself wears the only Phase 3 suit in existence when fighting Katarn at the climax of the game. Naturally, Mohc is defeated and the Phase 3 suit is destroyed along with most of the Dark Trooper Project aboard Mohc’s Star Destroyer.

The Dark Trooper is designed to be a much more powerful alternative to Palpatine’s ordinary Stormtroopers.

Other versions of the Dark Trooper

The Dark Trooper has appeared in a handful of other Star Wars projects, primarily various video games and tabletop role-playing games. For example, the MMORPG Star Wars Galaxies features the Triumphant-class Dark Trooper as a sidekick to Darth Vader, and the previous series Star Wars: Battlefront throws Elite Dark Troopers into the mix.

Kyle Katarn battling a Phase 2 Dark Trooper in Star Wars: Dark Forces.
Kyle Katarn fighting a Phase 2 Dark Trooper in Star Wars: Dark Forces.

Those early Battlefront games also developed the origins of Project Dark Trooper with the introduction of Dark Trooper Phase Zero. These proto-Dark Troopers were designed by a young Lieutenant Mohc using aged Clonetroopers as a template. Leveraging the same technology that powers Darth Vader, Mohc augmented these Clone Wars veterans with extensive cyber updates. Unfortunately, the psychological cost turned out to be too much for these Dark Troopers, so the project turned to droids and exosuits.

Some of the early Star Wars comics from the Dark Horse era, like Dark Empire II and Empire’s End, feature a completely different take on the Dark Trooper. These elite soldiers wear black armor (not unlike the Deathtroopers introduced in Rogue One) and actually have limited Force abilities. These Dark Troopers are one of the many weapons that Emperor Palpatine unleashes on the galaxy upon his return.

Why the discrepancy? The creators involved in the various projects of the Expanded Universe were not always in close contact with each other in those days.

How the Mandalorian could reinvent the Dark Trooper

While it appears to be Phase 2 or 3 Dark Troopers in the final scene of The Mandalorian: Chapter 12, it is practically a given that the series will not follow the lead of the Expanded Universe when it comes to these characters. For one thing, most of Dark Forces takes place shortly after the events of Episode IV, while The Mandalorian takes place five years after Return of the Jedi, so Project Dark Trooper should be long gone by now.

But as with a host of characters and elements that originated in the UE (Grand Admiral Thrawn, Darth Maul’s return, etc.), we can probably expect The Mandalorian to draw a bit of inspiration from these classic stories at the same time. time that puts a new spin on things. We can learn that Moff Gideon, not General Mohc, is the mastermind behind Project Dark Trooper. The Dark Troopers could be portrayed as a last-ditch effort by the Empire to maintain power. No longer blessed with the limitless resources of the Palpatine era, the Imperial Remnant can now see the value in a smaller army comprised of highly capable and nearly indestructible super-soldiers.

Dark Troopers can actually become the dark reverse of the Mandalorians themselves. Perhaps Gideon has stolen the secrets of Beskar armor and other Mandalorian arts to create a new generation of soldiers. To date, Mando has largely managed thanks to his blaster-proof armor and years of training. What happens when the enemy suddenly has those same assets?

It is also possible that the series is based on variations of the Dark Troopers introduced after Dark Forces. Perhaps the series will revive the concept of Phase Zero Dark Troopers, revealing that these soldiers are cyber-powered Clonetroopers left over from the Clone Wars. Hey, Temuera Morrison is already playing Boba Fett, so why not let him play some clone characters while he’s at it?

We could also see the series unifying the conflicting versions of Dark Troopers seen in Dark Forces and Dark Empire II. Perhaps these heavily armed super soldiers are Force users as well. As Chapter 12 makes clear, Gideon is hell-bent on mastering the secret of creating Force-sensitive clones and seemingly helping usher in Palpatine’s return. These Dark Troopers could represent your first failed experiments with midichlorians.

Will Kyle Katarn also appear?

With the Dark Troopers joining the fray in Chapter 12, many Star Wars fans are probably wondering if Kyle Katarn could be next. Is there room for this ex-Stromtrooper turned spy rebel turned Jedi Knight? It is certainly not impossible.

Once again, the series would have to play with the formula established in the UE. Given the events of Rogue One, we know that Kyle was not involved in the theft of the Death Star plans. But thankfully, that adventure is just one stop on a much longer journey for Katarn. Even destroying the Dark Trooper Project is just the beginning. The sequel Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II is about Kyle’s discovery of his Jedi heritage, a thread that continues in various games. Kyle ends up playing a major role in the post-Return of the Jedi era in the UE, even becoming one of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Academy students.

Obviously, a series like The Mandalorian won’t have the space to fully explore that character arc, but we could easily see the character debuting in season 3 as a prelude to a bigger role elsewhere. Kyle could start out like he did in Dark Forces, helping Mando end the threat from Moff Gideon’s dark soldiers. From there, Kyle could connect with characters like Luke or Ahsoka and deal with their Jedi powers. Even 26 years after his debut, Kyle Katarn still has a huge following. Why not build on that following by bringing another familiar face from Star Wars to The Mandalorian?

The Mandalorian Season 2 is currently arriving via Disney +.

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