Thrawn's Night Troopers in Ahsoka.

The Gruesome History of Zombies in ‘Star Wars’

The season 1 finale of Ahsoka revealed that some of Grand Admiral Thrawn’s Night Troopers were resurrected by Nightsister magick, introducing zombies into live-action Star Wars. However, these are far from the first zombies in a galaxy far, far away—here’s a brief history of the undead in Star Wars.

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Geonosian brain worm hive mind in Star Wars: The Clone Wars

(Lucasfilm/Disney)

The Clone Wars animated show is well-known for its violence and darkness, frequently showing side characters, protagonists, and antagonists dying in gruesome, horrific ways. However, the show had yet to veer into outright horror—until the Geonosis arc in season 2.

After invading the Separatist planet of Geonosis, the Jedi focus on capturing the planet’s political leader, a Geonosian Lord known as Poggle the Lesser. After following him to an underground temple during a sandstorm, Jedi Master Luminara Unduli goes missing. When Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi set out to find her, they encounter a horde of Geonosian zombies, kept “alive” by brain worms that connect them to the species’ Hive Mind.

A later episode reveals that the brain worms can infect still-living hosts, too, and completely control them à la Invasion of the Body Snatchers—several clone troopers are killed in the aftermath of the infection, and Ahsoka Tano nearly becomes a victim herself. The Jedi are eventually able to kill the Queen of the Hive Mind and learn that the worms die in extreme cold, allowing them to save most of the infected clones and infected Jedi Padawan, Barriss Offee. But this The Clone Wars arc was only the start of the undead in Star Wars.

Nightsister necromancy in The Clone Wars and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Zombie Nightsisters in Star Wars: The Clone Wars
(Lucasfilm/Disney)

The Nightsisters were introduced in season 3 of The Clone Wars, but we didn’t see the full extent of their powers until season 4. When invaded by the Separatist droid General Grievous, the Nightsisters use every weapon at their disposal—including their dead. One elderly Nightsister uses a “chant of resurrection” to raise the dead in defense of Dathomir, turning them into an army of berserker zombies. This same type of necromancy would later be utilized by Nightsister Merrin in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and by the Great Mothers in Ahsoka.

Darth Sidious in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Poe saying somehow palpatine returned
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

A lot of what happened with Darth Sidious aka Emperor Palpatine after the events of the original Star Wars trilogy is confusing and contradictory. However, the implication in The Rise of Skywalker appears to be that Palpatine used cloning in an attempt to become immortal, but somewhere along the line, the process failed. Palpatine is subsequently trapped in a decomposing body as a result, hence why he needs his granddaughter Rey to turn to the dark side and give him a new vessel to continue his evil reign.

Darth Sion (Star Wars Legends)

(LucasArts)

While zombies and the undead have been a part of Star Wars canon for quite some time now, the Star Wars Legends continuity introduced the concept first. While these instances are no longer canon, they were among the first to introduce zombies to Star Wars, and the Legends mythology is still used to help with worldbuilding in modern Star Wars.

Darth Sion, for instance, was a Sith Lord in the Knights of the Old Republic 2 (KOTOR 2) video game who unlocked the secret to immortality. The only problem was that Sion effectively turned himself into a zombie, living in constant agony due to his resurrection. While KOTOR 2 is no longer considered canon under Disney, Darth Sion’s story set a precedent for Palpatine’s resurrection. In addition, Morgan Elsbeth calling her hyperspace ring the “Eye of Sion” was likely meant as a reference to this Sith Lord and Elsbeth’s plan to resurrect the Nightsisters of Dathomir.

The original Death Troopers (Star Wars Legends)

two undead stormtroopers takeover a ship in the game Star Wars: Commander
(Disney Interactive)

The title of Death Trooper was not originally the designation of the elite black stormtroopers first seen in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In fact, it was originally the title of a Star Wars Legends novel. The novel followed an Imperial prison barge as its inhabitants slowly succumbed to a disease that turned infectees into zombies. These ‘Death Troopers’ became an iconic image, one later used in the Star Wars: Commander game.

The title of Death Trooper would eventually come full circle, as the Rogue One visual dictionary indicated that the Death Troopers may actually be undead in order to ensure their loyalty to the Empire, and the Ahsoka show would later confirm that Thrawn’s Night Troopers became undead at some point during his exile, their loyalty to him undeniable.

(featured image: Disney+)


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Author
Kimberly Terasaki
Kimberly Terasaki is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She has been writing articles for them since 2018, going on 5 years of working with this amazing team. Her interests include Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Horror, intersectional feminism, and fanfiction; some are interests she has held for decades, while others are more recent hobbies. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan.