Darth Vader, This Is Your Life...

Darth Vader, this is your life. See more Star Wars pictures.
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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a promising young Sith Lord overcame adversity and a handicap to take the galaxy by storm in a big, big way. ­He probably had no idea as he pulled the first few labored breaths through his new breathing mask and respirator that he would go on to do great things.

As a personal emissary to the Emperor, this ambitious and talented young man was a symbol of tyranny throughout the Core Worlds and beyond. He headed the Imperial Navy, led the hunt for the Rebel Alliance, oversaw the construction of the second Death Star and was personally responsible for killing scores of Jedi during the great Jedi purge of the Clone Wars.

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Dark warrior, star pilot, statesman, enforcer, saber master, leader, a bad mammer-jammer -- all words that could be used to describe the Dark Lord of the Sith. Who is Darth Vader really? Well, Darth Vader, this is your life.

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The Set Up

"You guys ... you got me. I can't believe you guys!"
"You guys ... you got me. I can't believe you guys!"
Photo courtesy © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.Digital work by ILM

The show started as we lured Lord Vader to one of the forward decks of the Star Destroyer Inquisition under the pretense of a routine troop inspection. Admiral Piett helped us with our clever little ruse. When the elevator doors slid open, instead of a garrison of trembling troops, Lord Vader found host Ralph Edwards of the popular TV show, This is Your Life, a camera crew and a live studio audience.

Vader: What is this Piett? What is going on here?

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The show's host, Ralph Edwards, approached Lord Vader warmly with a small box and a book tucked under one arm.

Edwards: Lord Vader, how are you?

Vader: Who are you?

Edwards: Here my Lord, take this, it's a present for you.

Ralph Edwards handed Lord Vader the customary This is Your Life charm bracelet that has several tiny charms on it. Each charm represents a milestone in Vader's life.

Vader: I don't normally wear jewelry but ...

Edwards: Darth Vader, this is your life!

Vader: Oh! Oh! You! Piett! You! I'm going to kill you! I can't belive this.

Edwards: Lord Vader, will you come with me please? I have a story I'd like to tell you... a story about you.

Vader: I really am going to kill you, Piett.

Humble Beginnings

Young Anakin Skywalker
Young Anakin Skywalker
Photo courtesy © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.Digital work by ILM

Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith wasn't always the larger-than-life black-hand-of-death that we've all come to know and love. Lord Vader's story starts on the desolate and dusty rim world of Tatooine. Born into slavery under the name Anakin Skywalker, young Vader was the son of a kind slave woman named Shimi Skywalker. Never having a father to look up to, Anakin -- or Ani as his friends called him, grew up quickly on the streets of the rough trading town, Mos Espa. Showing a preternatural adeptness for electronics and piloting, Anakin built his own pod racer from mere scraps -- parts hoarded from his master Watto's junkyard. The only human ever known to successfully pilot a pod racer, Ani was only nine years old when he took first prize at the Boonta Eve Classic.

Eventually, Anakin was whisked away from Tatooine by maverick Jedi, Qui Gon Jinn and taken to Coruscant where, after much convincing, he was finally accepted by the Jedi Council and trained by Jedi Knight, Obi Wan Kenobi.

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Edwards: And now Lord Vader a special guest from your past.

Guest: I remember as a young boy Anakin was quite precocious and intelligent. He was one of the few humans who could speak the language of just about anyone who rolled through Mos Espa. He once outwitted me in negotiations for a thermal coupling. I was haggling with Anakin in my native tongue of Dug claiming I only had 30 Republic Credits to my name. But during the deal I was bragging in Twi'lek to my pit boss. I was going on about the 80 Rupees I had in my back pocket and how I was going to rip off this stupid leg walker by convincing him he could exchange his credits for Rupees at the local cantina.

Edwards: Lord Vader, do you remember this voice from your past?

Vader: It's been so long... I just don't know.

Edwards: Special guest, please continue.

Guest: Do you remember the Boonta Eve Classic? That was the first time you ever beat me in a pod race. I really couldn't believe it -- considering that I sabotaged your pod. I tore out the thermal coupling. I thought there was a nice touch of irony in that.

At this point Vader stood up and said, "Sebulba! You dirty Dug!" Sebulba came out from behind the screen and the two old rivals shared a warm hug.

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Photo courtesy © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.Digital work by ILM

"You dirty Dug!"

The Power of Love

Kindly old Palpatine was the father Vader never had.
Kindly old Palpatine was the father Vader never had.
Photo courtesy © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.Digital work by ILM

Anakin grew to be a powerful Jedi under the tutelage of Obi Wan Kenobi. Ambitious and impetuous, the young Jedi had an innate understanding of the power of the Force. Held back by both his instructors and the council, Anakin didn't allow this to stop him from honing his true skills. Anakin eventually found both a friend and a mentor in kindly, old Chancellor Palpatine. Despite his busy schedule of manipulating the Senate, secretly running the separatist movement and playing both sides against one another as part of his master plan to destroy the Jedi and rule the galaxy, Palpatine always made time for his favorite young man, Anakin.

While Anakin found the father he always wanted in Palpatine, it was while on a routine escort mission that he found the thing that would ultimately shape his destiny: true love.

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The young Jedi was sent to escort Senator Amidala to Naboo and protect her from Separatists assassins. The two, young and strong-willed, traveled in disguise using public transport.

Edwards: And now Lord Vader another guest from your past.

Guest: I was with you on the transport to Naboo. Nasty thing, that transport. Smelled like the backside of a Gundar... cold, too. But not where you and Senator Amidala were. You both emanated a warmth. I remember seeing you two standing in the meal line. You were lost in one another. It's really an amazing thing to be there right at the moment true loves sparks. I watched you two for hours that night. You stayed up talking about your past, your future, your dreams and aspirations. You two were beautiful -- a knight and a queen, so young and so in love. That love saved her life.

The happy couple.
The happy couple.
Photo courtesy © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.Digital work by ILM

I had her beautiful face right in the cross hairs of my Blas-tech rifle scope and my finger on the trigger. I was set to spray the contents of her pretty head all over you as she watched you sleep. But I was mezmorized by the tenderness of the moment. I couldn't see my mission, my bounty -- I couldn't pull the trigger. I also didn't see you get up. In that single moment of hesitation you blind-sided me and started choking the living sh...

Vader: I remember you! You are that cut-rate Rodian assassin that the separatists sent. I thought I killed you.

Assassin: Nope.

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Photo courtesy © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.Digital work by ILM

"I thought I killed you."

Troubled Times

Even Darth Vader has a mama -- Shimi Skywalker.
Even Darth Vader has a mama -- Shimi Skywalker.
Photo courtesy © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.Digital work by ILM

Even as Anakin and Amidala's love blossomed, there were dark storm clouds gathering. Haunted by terrible nightmares of his mother, Anakin decided to return to his home-world of Tatooine to rescue his mother from a life of slavery. Once he arrived, he met his mother's new husband Cliegg Lars and his step brother Owen Lars. He also learned that his mother had been taken by Sand People.

Intent on rescuing her, the brave young Jedi went to find his mother. Sadly, he learned his mother had been tortured and mortally wounded by the savage Tusken raiders. Overwrought with grief, Anakin slaughtered the animals -- every last man, woman and child.

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Later Anakin faced the Jedi traitor Count Dooku in the first battle of the Clone Wars. Dooku bested him and the encounter cost Anakin his arm. Later, when he took Amidala's hand as his bride in a secret wedding on Naboo, he did so with a cybernetic replacement arm.

In the following months, Anakin became a legend in the galaxy as he and Obi Wan beat back the advances of the Separatist army. But despite the accolades, Anakin suffered during this time as he was often separated from his wife for months at a time. It was also during this time that Anakin grew closer to Chancellor Palpatine. Palpatine began to teach Anakin about the true power of the Force. This closeness, and the contradictory teachings Anakin received from Palpatine, caused an ever growing rift between Anakin and his master, Obi Wan.

As a young man Anakin was already a legend.
As a young man Anakin was already a legend.
Photo courtesy © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.Digital work by ILM

In the tumultuous times when the Republic was dissolving to make way for Palpatine's Empire, Anakin finally found the true source of his power -- anger, fear and hatred. Taking his rightful place by Emperor Palpatine's side, Anakin shed his former identity and his allegiance to the Jedi council and took his true name, Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith.

Darth Vader was eventually betrayed by his former master, Obi Wan Kenobi -- leading to an epic showdown between the old friends. Despite Vader's power, Obi Wan defeated him, grievously wounding Vader and leaving him for dead.

These days Darth Vader is kept alive by his cybernetic suit.
These days Darth Vader is kept alive by his cybernetic suit.
Photo courtesy © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.Digital work by ILM

It was Vader's anger that kept him alive. Eventually his broken body was restored through a series of operations. Now outfitted with cybernetics and a respirator system, Darth Vader took the form we have all come to know and love.

A Galaxy of Possibilities

Vader exposes a traitor.
Vader exposes a traitor.
Photo courtesy © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.Digital work by ILM

Despite the adversity, injury and betrayal, Darth Vader rose to the top of the Empire as the Emperor's right-hand-man. Vader successfully exposed Imperial Senator Leia Organa as a traitor and captured her as she attempted to bring the stolen Death Star plans to the Rebellion.

Again Vader faced his old master Obi Wan, but this time it was Vader who was victorious. He killed Kenobi and was the only survivor of the Rebels' terrorist attack on the Death Star. Many brave Imperial men died that day, but Vader dedicated his life to avenging their deaths.

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In an effort to fulfill his sworn vengeance, Lord Vader led a successful campaign to find the Rebels' hidden base. He destroyed it in the Battle of Hoth. Vader managed to captured the Rebel terrorists Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia as they fled the battle. He successfully neutralized Rebel Captain Solo in an ingenious way -- freezing Solo in carbonite. The other Rebels did escape, however, when the spineless Lando Calrissian betrayed Vader to aid them.

Edwards: And now Lord Vader one last person from your past -- a very special guest.

Guest: Lord Vader I remember when you brilliantly devised a plan to freeze the rebel scum, Han Solo.

Edwards: Do you know who this is?

Vader: No.

Edwards: Please continue.

Guest: My Lord, I was in the carbon freezing chamber with you as we plunged the criminal into the swirling gas.

Vader: There were several people in the room that day.

Guest: I was standing behind you.

Vader: Still no.

Guest: ...behind you and a little to the left.

Vader: Sorry... I got nothing.

Guest: Oh.

(awkward silence)

Guest: Oh! You did try to choke me once.

Vader: And yet you still live?

Guest: You got distracted. I think an important fax came in.

Vader: I see.

Edwards: Just come out from behind the screen already.

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Photo courtesy © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.Digital work by ILM

Commander Whatshisname

The Future

Warrior. Leader. Inspiration.
Warrior. Leader. Inspiration.
Photo courtesy © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.Digital work by ILM

The story of Darth Vader is an epic tale of love and loss, triumph and defeat, betrayal and redemption, and the iron will to destroy all. It is an inspirational tale of a man who has always lived by his own rules. In his 30 years as the head of the Imperial Death Fleet, he has proven time and again that he is a take-charge, no-nonsense leader who will not compromise and is not afraid to lead a charge into battle.

Edwards: Lord Vader, you are truly an inspiration to us all.

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Vader: Thanks.

Edwards: What can we expect from the next exciting chapter of your life?

Vader: Well I'm really bogged down in this second Death Star construction right now, and that's honestly not that exciting.

Edwards: Any long-term goals?

Vader: I'd like to find my son.

Edwards: Your long-lost son, Luke Skywalker? Won't that be an interesting reunion? Any plans?

Vader: I want to turn him evil ... or kill him. Whichever works best. He's a little hard headed and kind of whiny. I'll play it by ear.

Edwards: Well you know best. After all Darth Vader, this is your life!