A BLACK HOLE IN THE FORCE
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Like the shadowy Force veils concealing Darth Sidious, there were several paradoxical passages in the Star Wars prequel episodes that did more to obscure certain issues than illuminate. During Phantom Menace, Windu said that Sith Lords had been extinct for a thousand years before the appearance of Darth Maul. Yoda added that there were always two of them, Master and apprentice. In Revenge of the Sith, Chancellor Palpatine revealed to Anakin the little known legend of "The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis." The term "legend" can be applied to any fable, whether based on ancient historical events like the Trojan Horse or purely fictional, more modern stories like the Headless Horseman. According to the Wookieepedia web site, Darth Plagueis died approximately 50 years before the Battle of Yavin when the first Death Star was destroyed by Luke. The mystery is how long Plagueis was a Sith Lord without the Jedi suspecting his presence.
Like the tall, very slender character of San Hill, the Banking Clan's Prime Minister, Plagueis was a member of the Muun species. Beings of this race are naturally long-lived like Yoda, so Plagueis could have been ancient at the time of his death. Exactly when he turned to the dark side is also unknown. At some point, Plagueis adopted the human Nabooan Palpatine as his apprentice and named him Sidious. Palpatine's name and place of birth may be fictitious, so his age is also indeterminate (though later events proved that his lifespan was normal for a human). Plagueis was obsessed with learning how to use the dark side of the Force to extend a person's lifespan. He also experimented with the much more difficult possibility of influencing the Force to create new life. Such an immaculately conceived virginal birth would be known as a vergence in the Force.
Whether some outside influence by an animate being was required to initiate the creation of new life or the Force could achieve conception of its own volition is unknown. Any Force conceived life-form, whether "influenced" or not, would presumably have an extraordinarily high midi-chlorian count. The Jedi believed a prophecy that a vergence would bring balance to the Force. This prophecy was never attributed to anyone, nor was it clarified. No information was given about whether a Jedi could also influence the Force to create a vergence. If Jedi were not able to influence the Force in this manner, then it could be because they lacked the power of the dark side or because it was a question of ethical principles.
During Palpatine's painfully sadistic apprenticeship, he recruited an apprentice of his own which he named Darth Maul. The birth name of the horned Maul is not known. Sidious realized that if Plagueis successfully achieved the creation of new life, Plagueis would kill him and the vergence would become the new apprentice. Thus Palpatine determined to strike first, a seemingly traditional tendency of Sith apprentices. Afterwards, Palpatine befriended the powerful Jedi Count Dooku and convinced him to turn to the dark side as his second apprentice. Sidious named him Tyranus. The date of this event is unknown.
This situation abnegates Yoda's observation about only two Sith at a time, the first of many mistakes by a supposedly grand Master. In Phantom Menace, Sidious dispatched Maul to Tatooine to eliminate Qui-Gon, Kenobi and Amidala but Maul also nearly killed the ten year old Anakin in the process. Therefore Palpatine had to be unaware of Anakin's nature at this time, the first example of poor prescience by Sidious. After Maul was killed by Obi-Wan and Naboo was liberated by the adolescent Anakin, Palpatine informed him that he would be keeping a very close eye on him in the future. So Palpatine might have started planning the termination of Dooku from this moment.
After Anakin executed Dooku in Revenge of the Sith and was irrevocably set upon the path to the dark side, Palpatine revealed the legend of Plagueis to him. Palpatine tempted Anakin with the promise that he could learn the life extension technique to preclude the death of Padmé. He also revealed the possibility of influencing the Force to create new life. When admitting his guilt in Plagueis' murder, he said that it was ironic that Plagueis could extend the lifespan of others but not his own. Whether this means that Plagueis was unable to apply the technique to himself to avoid death from natural causes or whether a Sith Lord was unable to foresee his own murder is unknown. We know from Return of the Jedi that Emperor Palpatine's ability to foresee the future, particularly his own demise, was quite imperfect for such an advanced adept. Yoda suffered from the same shortsightedness. Without definitive information about the age of Plagueis, it's possible that he could have concealed his Sith existence for a very, very long time, awaiting the right moment to seek domination.
These circumstances are convoluted enough but it gets worse, much worse. Anakin's complicity in the murder of Windu and surrender to the dark side was the turning point. Sidious revealed that he had lied about learning Plagueis' secrets of using the Force to create life or forestall death. He teased Anakin with the assertion that by joining him, they might discover the answers together. Sidious explained that Anakin had been "chosen" as his new apprentice and gave him the title Darth Vader. Whether this means that Sidious had personally chosen Anakin or that Anakin was destined from birth to be a Sith Lord is unknown. In addition to these tortuous conundrums, Anakin was already considering the possibility of staging his own insurrection. He suggested to Padmé that he should follow Palpatine's orders for the present, then overthrow him later. Furthermore, during his duel with Yoda in the Senate forum, Sidious admitted that he was already aware that Vader would surpass him in Force ability at some point and attempt to murder him. One begins to ask what came first, the Sith Lord or the egg.
It is obvious from observed events that Anakin was indeed a vergence. His abnormal midi-chlorian count, his ability to sense future events as a child, his superior piloting and dueling skills, his mastery at manipulating the Force and his elimination of two Sith disciples (Dooku in Revenge of the Sith and Sidious in Return of the Jedi) prove this. Since Palpatine had already admitted he didn't know the secret of creating new life, only two possibilities for Anakin's origin remain: Plagueis or pure, uninfluenced procreation by the Force alone. Unfortunately, there is no way to determine Anakin's true pedigree. So a more apt question to pose to the young Anakin was not "Who's your daddy?" but "Who's your Master?"
However, if Plagueis was Anakin's progenitor, why didn't Sidious know about it? Was Plagueis unaware he had achieved such a monumental accomplishment? Did Plagueis keep the birth a secret from Sidious? Why was Palpatine so surprised by the ten year old Anakin's abilities? Or could it be that "influenced Force conception" occurs as a completely random event and no one, not even a Sith Lord, knows who or where the child is? This would be similar to the reincarnation of the new Dalai Lama when the previous one has passed away, necessitating an intensive search.
Truthfully, these speculations are probably totally fallacious because of an inaccuracy in Lucas' own backstory rationalizations. According to the Star Wars canon, Plagueis was killed at least four years before Anakin was even born in 42 BBY! So conjecture about Plagueis being Anakin's progenitor is unfounded. Hypothesizing some sort of delayed reaction in "influenced Force creation" or even worse, a four year gestation period, is stretching speculation well past the breaking point (though Star Wars fans seem to have a fond predilection for such). Could Plagueis have initiated immaculate Force conception from beyond the grave? At the end of Matthew Stover's novelization of Revenge of the Sith, the ghost of Qui-Gon reveals to his new Padawan Yoda that no matter how old a Sith is, he can never achieve his greatest desire, eternal life. The only method of attaining eternal existence is to become one with the Force by sacrificing one's own life to it. This is unobtainable for those who are captivated by their own egos: Sith Lords need not apply. Therefore Plagueis couldn't have achieved Anakin's conception while still an animate being nor as a Force spirit. To be Anakin's sire, the stated time period of his death would have to be revised.
But what of Anakin's children? It is readily apparent that Vader's normally conceived and birthed offspring were not vergences. While strong in the Force, Luke and Leia both exhibited many instances of non-qualification. Neither was particular adept at Force manipulation when compared to Sidious, Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan or even Windu. Vader accused Luke of lacking sufficient prescience, disregarding the fact that all of the Star Wars characters were, including himself. This may be evidence that some form of the Uncertainty principal is involved. As Yoda noted, the future was difficult enough to perceive even when there wasn't a Sith Lord hanging around to shroud the issue. The latency of Luke's emerging Force ability is attributable to Yoda's admonition to Obi-Wan at the end of Revenge of the Sith not to train the boy. Yoda thought it best to let pure fate determine Luke's path.
However, the vergent Anakin displayed superhuman skills as a child with no training at all while Luke remained unaware of his talents until the age of nineteen and required instruction from the elderly Obi-Wan. One can argue that it was Anakin's ultimate self-sacrifice that finally slew Palpatine. However, without Luke's loyalty, empathy and devotion to the Force and to his father (plus his helplessness against the Emperor's onslaught), Vader never would have "re-turned" from the dark side. The task required both together, thus restoring balance to the Force by eliminating Sidious' dark side imbalance! This is what Lucas had been hinting at all along. Anakin was ten years old when the Jedi Council discovered his vergency; thirty-six years later the Jedi prophecy finally came true. It should also be noted that without Leia's assistance, Luke and Anakin never would have been in a position to achieve this restoration.
Lacking sufficient hard evidence, it's too difficult to crack this endless tail-biting with inference and deduction alone. However, the final verdict one must draw from all these elements is inescapable: a Force-conceived vergence with a midi-chlorian count above 20,000 turned into a dark side demon that terrorized an entire galaxy for two decades while the demon's non-vergent children became true Jedi and the saviors of the Republic! Unfortunately, this leads directly to the ultimate question: Is this immaculate miracle of life and the Force, whether created by a Sith Lord or not, inescapably destined to turn to dark side? Got me, tune in next week for the finale.
Another question posed by the prequels was the true identity of Sifo-Dyas, the member of the Jedi Council who placed the order for the Kaminoan clone army. He too was a Jedi friend to Palpatine but it's not known whether he was aware of Senator Palpatine's Sith connections as Dooku was. More than likely, he was not because he would've been able to deduce Palpatine's evil intentions at desiring a clone army and it's hard to imagine a Jedi Council member this naive. At the beginning of Attack of the Clones, Anakin laments that it has been ten years since he's seen Padmé. It is also stated in the film that it takes ten years for clones to mature. According to Obi-Wan, Sifo-Dyas had passed away ten years before the discovery of the clones. So "Sifo-Dyas" must have placed his order with the Kaminoans immediately after Phantom Menace, then conveniently died shortly thereafter.
This smacks of Palpatine's careful planning and he could have easily faked an identity. It was not an alias used by Dooku because during the Battle of Geonosis, Dooku was shocked that the Republic could assemble such a huge army so quickly. Therefore, the order for the clone army must have been placed by the real Sifo-Dyas acting on behalf of Palpatine and then he was slain; or else Palpatine killed him first, then used his identity. The fact that Sifo-Dyas died at such an opportune time confirms that it wasn't from natural causes. This begs the question of whether the Jedi conducted an investigation or not. Wouldn't the evidence of a homicide have been immediately apparent? I was unable to find enough pertinent information on this subject to make a determination.
And finally, Count Dooku adopts his own apprentice, the sinister assassin Asajj Ventress in the Clone Wars cartoon series. So once again, the dictum of only two Sith Lords at a time has been violated. Nothing like having a spare Sith Lord handy!