Star Wars Canon Catch-Up: The History of Stormtroopers

Star Wars is going through a state of transition. For twenty years, an Expanded Universe of novels, comics, and games have supplemented the films and TV shows to create an incredibly deep and detailed Star Wars universe. Soon after Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, however, they wiped the canon slate clean, saying they would no longer adhere to the stories of the Expanded Universe in order to have the greatest creative freedom with their new Star Wars films starting with The Force Awakens.

But with the new films, so comes new books, comics, and games in a new continuity to replace the old one. So, what is canon and what isn’t anymore? After twenty years, are these the same characters and planets we’ve always known and loved? Is it even the same universe? Well, in our new column Canon Catch-Up, we’re here to answer those questions and set the record straight.

Today, we’re discussing the Stormtroopers.

So, what’s the deal with Stormtroopers in the current continuity?

Clonetroopers

Clad in iconic white armor and wielding E-11 blaster rifles, stormtroopers were the culmination of a process started before even the Clone Wars. When the Separatists were destroyed and the Republic became the Galactic Empire and the clonetroopers were redesignated as stormtroopers. With the Jedi Order wiped out, their command of the clonetrooper armies were transferred to Imperial officers and regional governors.

The stormtroopers were given redesigned armor and became the backbone of the Imperial military, keeping order in Imperial territory and bringing the last of the Separatist worlds into the Empire’s dominion. However, after a few short years the clones’ accelerated aging meant that they had to be  replaced by conscripts and volunteers from throughout the galaxy. New stormtrooper recruits were trained in academies on worlds such as Lothal.

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Stormtroopers were active throughout the Galactic Civil War, including the engagements on Yavin IV and Endor. Even thirty years after the death of the Emperor, upgraded stormtroopers are still being used by the First Order.

What about Stormtroopers in the Expanded Universe?

After the end of the Clone Wars, clonetroopers derived from Jango Fett’s genetic template enforced the Emperor’s law until they had to be reinforced with supplemental clones from Spaarti cloning technology. Over the years, clonetrooper armor was replaced until it became the iconic stormtrooper design that would be prevalent through the Empire’s rule. From their earliest deployments, which included subjugating the Wookies of Kashyyyk, they became a force to be feared in the galaxy. Vader’s personal stormtrooper battalion, 501st Legion, became particularly noted for their skills in combat.

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Eventually, Jango Fett’s clones were replaced by enlisted humans or cloned from other less capable genetic templates. The last few original clones who remained in service hated the new recruits, as they could not hope to match the fighting prowess and discipline of the clone army at its height. By the time of the Battle of Yavin, approximately only one third of the acting stormtroopers were based on Jango Fett’s original genome.

Until the Battle of Endor, stormtroopers had never suffered a large scale defeat in battle, but the element of surprise conquered their arrogance when a Rebel strike forced joined forces with a native tribe of Ewoks. The stormtroopers stationed on Endor were divided and overwhelmed by sheer numbers.

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After the Emperor’s death, Stormtroopers became a rarity after years of war with the New Republic. When Grand Admiral Thrawn, however, recovered Spaarti Cloning technology from a secret Imperial installation on the planet Wayland he managed to fill his ranks with a new generation of cloned stormtroopers. The insurgence of capable personnel gave the Empire new life, which it used to push into New Republic space in an effective, but ultimately failed campaign.

After the defeat of Thrawn’s forces, the Imperial Remnant‘s Stormtrooper Corps’ numbers were pitifully low  due to the New Republic’s campaign of attrition and eventually desertion. The last few stormtroopers became high level guards to key personnel or police on the last few Imperial controlled worlds.

During the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, however, the resources that were granted to the Imperial Remnant from its partnership with the Galactic Alliance allowed them to restart their dormant stormtrooper programs. As a result, stormtroopers fought side by side with former New Republic forces, together waging a military campaign that would defeat the Yuuzhan Vong. For decades after, the new stormtrooper program would build until it reached the effectiveness of the forces in Palpatine’s Empire.

What does the Expanded Universe tell us about Stormtroopers in the new continuity?

The Expanded Universe can really only tell us one thing we already know: Stormtroopers are too iconic to leave Star Wars. They may be scarce or have altered armor, but they are as ingrained in Star Wars as things like lightsabers or Darth Vader. Expect to always see these guys on screen in one form or another, The Phantom Menace being the one exception.

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However, the real question is… are these stormtroopers in the First Order clones or conscripts? Unfortunately, we don’t have enough information to make a determination, but our money is on conscripts given what we know about the character of Finn.

While we’re waiting for more post-Return of the Jedi information, check out our previous entry of Canon Catch-Up about the Imperial Remnant.

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