In Defense of Darth

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Title: In Defense of Darth
Creator: eluki bes shahar
Date(s): May 1981
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Wars
External Links:
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In Defense of Darth is a 1981 essay by eluki bes shahar.

first page of the essay

It was printed in Hydrospanner Zero, which was published right after The Empire Strikes Back and its revelations.

Some Topics Discussed

  • Obi-Wan is an untrustworthy source of information with ulterior motives and is out for revenge
  • "betrayed" and "murdered" are extremely loaded terms
  • depends on how you view motives
  • Vader hates the Emperor as much as Ben and Yoda
  • Vader and his motives are misunderstood; he's just really an okay guy in tough spot


In Star Wars, [Vader] shows up and right off the bat is choking a commander to death. Not nice. But consider it from a less partisan point of view.

Tarkin is building Tarkin's Toy out back of beyond. For about fifteen years, Vader has been exterminating Jedi and doing various Sith-Lord things. Now he has been charged with the suppression of the Rebellion. The Outland Govenors have been ordered to cooperate with him. He has been more-or-less 'wished upon' Tarkin (perhaps Tarkin has been getting too ambitious for the Emperor's tastes?), who promptly loses the plans for the Death-Star Battle Station to a spy. Sometimes I think Vader may have leaked than himself, in order to get a line on the Rebellion, but at any rate, Tarkin has ordered him to get them back, and Vader has traced them to a ship bearing the the crest of Alderaan; a ship that has entered an interdicted system and received transmissions from Rebels there — Rebels who had the Death-Star plans.

Rebels. Traitors. The Enemy. Vader is not exercising his unique talents on any loyal law-abiding member of the Empire, or even on an honorable enemy with which the Empire is formally at war, but against criminals and anarchists. At the risk of being as much a rabble-rouser as Princess Leia, I could point out situations closer than you might think here on Earth today that would make a simple bit of Vaderian strangulation look positively tame, but I won't. Suffice it to say that given the situation, Vader's reactions are mild.

Even when he sees Leia — does he knock her about, break a few bones as the fan-hacks are so fend of having him do? No. He is angry, of course, at finding an Imperial sector at the heart of this hotbed of scum and villainy, but merely orders into captivity. The ship is vaporized; possibly with all aboard, possibly not; but the penalty for treason is usually death, isn't it?

He tortured Leia on the Death-Star.

Well, no. Perhaps it is Carrie Fisher's poor acting, but I can't believe that anybody who'd been tortured could show up, not a hair out of place, spotless white Senatorial Robes and all, and sass Tarkin like that. No, Vader was using a Mind-Probe, something that Leia could resist quite well, and thought it may have been extremely unpleasant, it was hardly something you could class as torture. It is at this point that Vader asks for more time to crack her, and Tarkin to blow up Alderaan instead, over Vader's cautious and diplomatic protests. Just see the Sith-Lord gloat over Tarkin when it turns out that Tarkin has cut the Empire's tax revenues by a significant fraction for absolutely nothing. It does make Tarkin willing to listen to Vader's proposals. Does Vader propose rack and thumbscrews? No, he proposes letting Leia escape, suitably monitored.

The man's not stupid.

And speaking of Jedi, as they were at the time, here comes Obi-Wan, Vader's one-time teacher—and incidentally the man who cruelly harried Darth, knocked him into a volcano and abandoned him, and then has the temerity to go around calling Darth beastly, without so much as a by-your-leave.

Did Vader betray the Jedi? Or did he merely, as one writer has suggested, mention to the Emperor that the Jedi were plotting to overthrow him, and let Nature take its course? At any rate, one thing he never did was inquire too closely about Obi-Wan's state of affairs, preferring to allow him to live, if he was alive, so long as he stayed out of the way. And when Obi-Wan does come and make a nuisance of himself, Darth offers him an honorable death lightsabre, warning off Tarkin and his gunsels and refusing any aid or assistance. A courageous act, considering what happened the last time.

Vader's plans are simple: Fett gets Han, Vader takes Leia and Luke to the Emporer, and also Chewbacca (for some odd reason). It doesn't happen to work that way, but again, there's no sadism (what Vader does on his own time for fun is his concern. This is business.), no stupidity, and not whole bunches of gratuitousness.

If you accept that the Emperor is the rightful government of the Galaxy, there is nothing to be said against Vader's actions. If you are a traitorous Rebel partisan, you still have to admire the holes the man puts in the imperial Command Staff.

But let's get dam to the heavy stuff - the duel between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. In it, Vader does a curious thing. He offers to overthrow the Emperor if Luke will help him; asking Luke's aid in ending this senseless warfare. Luke, having been brainwashed by Obi-Wan and not fully anything at all (much less a Jedi Knight) is unimpressed.

Whatever Obi-Wan's occulted motivations, I think it's time, for a reassessment of Darling Darth — without recourse to the sloganeering of the Alliance forces or the biased opinions of old Jedi. And if you do look beneath labels, I think you'll find less of the frothing Rasputin about him and more of the crafty, analytical game-player, following a course of considered and reasoned actions toward a well-anticipated goal.

Of course, that goal is the total subjugation of the Universe and the stakes in the game are human souls, but I can't help that.

The Sith's got style.