The Dark Troopers first showed up in Star Wars: Dark Forces, a computer game released in 1995. They were a secret project by the Empire, a new generation of Stormtroopers: ones that were droid and not human, lethal and dangerous. Dashing rogue Kyle Katarn put a stop to that and on the adventures fo.
My first introduction to the Dark Troopers, however, was years later when I was playing the RTS Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds. They are a unique unit to the Empire, and essentially a more effective and cheaper anti-infantry unit. Naturally, I fielded a lot of them, enjoying my droid Stormtroopers. They were in Battlefront as well, once again an Imperial-exclusive unit (this time with jetpacks!) and I certainly got my fill of blasting Rebel scum while dancing around the battlefront.
Dark Troopers also represent a little snag on Star Wars canon, one that’s not unexpected given the Expanded Universe’s nature of being woven by dozens of storytellers across books, comics, video games, and, when The Phantom Menace came out in ’99, more movies. Upgraded Stormtroopers being droids sounds cool on paper, until you realize that one of the selling points of the Clone Army in Attack of The Clones is that having actually sentient soldiers is an improvement over mindless, unimaginative droids. For the Empire, the successor to the Republic, to go “hold on, live soldiers are good, but y’know what’s better? Droids.” certainly seems like a step backwards.
In any case, that was all tossed out when Disney took over Lucasfilm and threw out the old EU. It was an overly complex, spiraling saga of stories that had very much covered everything from thousands of years before the prequels to over a century after Return of The Jedi. If there was going to be new Star Wars movies, it made sense enough to wipe the slate clean and start over. So they did, made a new trilogy consisting of a good movie, an amazing movie, and a movie of which I speak not, and a couple spin-offs. More comics, books, and tv shows have started to flesh out the world, often taking cues from the old EU. Grand Admiral Thrawn is back in canon, along with the TIE Defender. The Krayt Dragon and its pearl showed up in the premiere of Season 2 of The Mandalorian, bringing back a fun bit of lore from the Knights of The Old Republic game. And then The Mandalorian brought back the Dark Troopers.
Naturally, there’s a bit of nerdy joy here. I’m getting to see these guys in Star Wars live-action! These killer droids that I’ve used in video games over and over again! Yay!
With it comes that same continuity snag, though. One scientist remarks on the Dark Trooper that they took out the human element and now they’re more lethal than ever. Cool! Except for the whole issue that thirty-one years prior the Grand Army of The Republic had been founded on the exact opposite idea. Seems the Imperial Remnant of The Mandalorian doesn’t really know its history.
But then again, is that really so unrealistic? We like to think of progress going linearly, but in reality, more often than not we’re all too happy to try something new even if it’s been done before. As silly as it may seem for the Imperial Remnant to go back to an already-tried-and-discredited approach, you absolutely know that there are groups in real life who would do the same thing if given the chance. Real life is remarkably stupid, and sometimes that idiocy bleeds into fiction.
Anyway. The Mandalorian is a lot of fun. Makes Star Wars feel like a big ol’ sandbox where you can make stuff and play with what other people have built. I’m looking forward to more shows, because, y’know, more Star Wars most always makes me happy (and even if it doesn’t, well, I can live with it).