The Transcendence Theory: A Case for Darth Plagueis
An Interactive White Paper by
Benjamin M. Levine and Gurwin S. Ahuja
“There has been an awakening… have you felt it? Even you have never faced such a test. It is time.”
These are the ominous first words we hear from Lord Snoke, Supreme Leader of the First Order in trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Speaking with Kylo Ren, Supreme Leader Snoke has sensed a disturbance in the Force that is apparently so great, he believes that it is time to initiate some long held plan to preserve the power of the Dark Side. 30 years after the events of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, this awakening serves as the founding conflict to be explored in a new generation of Star Wars films.
Naturally, fans all over the world have published hundreds of theories regarding multiple aspects of the upcoming film and where the broader sequel trilogy will eventually lead. This white paper is limited to the exploration of Supreme Leader Snoke’s true identity and why it matters to the broader Star Wars story.
WARNING: If you wish to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens without any presumptions, stop reading now.
After careful consideration of the available evidence, we theorize that Supreme Leader Snoke is actually Darth Plagueis the Wise, a legendary Sith Lord and Darth Sidious’ (Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine’s) former master. Moreover, we believe that beyond the eternal struggle between good and evil, yin and yang, the Light Side and the Dark Side of the Force, etc., the underlying story that will connect the prequel trilogy (episodes I-III), original trilogy (episodes IV-VI), and sequel trilogy (episodes VII-IX) is about the Light Side and Dark Side paths to immortality. Supreme Leader Snoke’s true identity of Darth Plagueis is central to what we call “The Transcendence Theory,” which we outline below. We are obliged to note that other fans have proposed various elements of the Transcendence Theory, but we were compelled to assemble this white paper when we failed to find a comprehensive overview to share with friends and family.
THE TRAGEDY OF DARTH PLAGUEIS THE WISE
Watch video before reading any further:
“Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith so powerful and so wise, he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the dark side, he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying. Unfortunately, he taught his apprentice everything he knew. Then his apprentice killed him in his sleep. Ironic. He could save others from death, but not himself.” — Chancellor Palpatine to Anakin Skywalker in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Readers must have a comprehensive understanding of the midi-chlorians in order to grasp the magnitude of our theory. Before reading any further, please review Wookieepedia’s definition:
“Midi-Chlorians are microscopic, intelligent lifeforms that live within the cells of all living beings. The Force spoke through the midi-chlorians, allowing certain beings to use the Force if they were sensitive enough to its power. Midi-chlorian counts, used to determine a being’s potential in the Force, could be tested by examining a subject’s blood. The highest known midi-chlorian count — over 20,000 — belonged to Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One who was believed to have been conceived by the midi-chlorians. According to legend, midi-chlorians originated on a planet in the heart of the galaxy, from which life was also said to have emerged. The midi-chlorians played a role in eternal consciousness; as all living beings generated the Living Force, it fed into the Cosmic Force and communicated through the midi-chlorians, allowing a being who had the knowledge the manifest themselves after death.”
Chancellor Palpatine (Darth Sidious) was the aforementioned apprentice that killed Darth Plagueis. As master and disciple, Plagueis and Sidious sought to unlock the secrets of immortality and to complete the thousand-year-plan of the Sith to overthrow the Galactic Republic and Jedi Order with a new Sith Empire. Once Sidious was powerful enough and well-positioned to realize the Sith plot, Sidious no longer needed to be Plagueis’ second in command. Unlike the Jedi Code, The Rule of Two mandates that only two Sith — a master and an apprentice — could exist at any time, so Sidious was forced to kill Plagueis in his sleep in order to assume the mantle of master.
According to Sidious, “to cheat death is a power only one has achieved.” Sidious clearly believes that Plagueis, while able to save others from death, failed to save himself. We propose that Sidious’ assumption is flawed and that Plagueis did in fact attain immortality through the Force.
IMMORTAL AMONGST THE SHADOWS
Darth Plagueis has always worked in the shadows. He orchestrated Palpatine’s (Sidious’) rise to power in the Galactic Senate, and eventually to Chancellor. At this point in the saga, Sidious thought to have killed Plagueis in order to assume full control of the Galactic Republic and then rule as Emperor.
According to the Transcendence Theory, it does not make strategic sense for Plagueis to seek revenge on Sidious for his attempted murder or reveal his presence after gaining immortality through the Force. The Sith’s objective — regardless of the individual Sith — is to form a Sith Empire and overthrow the Jedi Order. We argue that an immortal Plagueis continued to operate from the shadows, allowing Sidious to do the work of building a Sith Empire for him and keeping his immortal existence hidden. As an immortal Sith amongst the shadows, Plagueis would be able to cloud Sidious’ mind into making Sidious think that he is the true Lord of the Sith when in fact, Plagueis remains the true master.
Unlike immortal Jedi (more on Jedi Force Ghosts in section: Transcendence), Plagueis likely achieved immortality through a physical perversion of the Force, as explained by Yoda:
“Captivated by the physical realm, the Sith are.”
This leads us to believe that the method Plagueis used to gain immortality is rooted in his expertise in the manipulation of midi-chlorians, possibly extending his life force in the physical realm indefinitely, whereas his immortal Jedi counterparts have become one with the Force itself. If correct, this distinction means that Plagueis could still die if his physical form or corrupted midi-chlorians were to be destroyed.
As Darth Sidious and Darth Vader built the Sith Empire, we argue that Plagueis most likely foresaw its eventual downfall and decided that facing Sidious and Vader together to assume control before the Empire’s fall would result in defeat, and possibly his true death. With unlimited time, his existence hidden, and his ultimate goal aligned with his would-be murderer and former apprentice, Plagueis made the strategic decision to advance his agenda in the shadows, only to emerge as Supreme Leader Snoke once Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader brought balance to the Force, killed Sidious, and fulfilled the prophecy of the Chosen One. With the power vacuum created by the deaths of Sidious and Vader (not to mention only one active Jedi, Luke Skywalker), Plagueis could easily have filled the void over the 30 years since the events on Endor in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and rebuild a new Sith Empire in the form of the First Order.
“Eternal life… the ultimate goal of the Sith, yet they can never achieve it; it comes only through the release of self, not the exaltation of self. It comes through compassion, not greed. Love is the answer to the darkness.” — Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn on the nature of immortality. [NOTE: This quote is from the Star Wars Legends novelization of Revenge of the Sith.
Although not an overt presence, transcending death by gaining immortality has been a critical theme that drives the plot of Official Canon. Provided below is a timeline of how and when various Jedi attain immortality as Force Ghosts:
- Episode I: The Phantom Menace: Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn lost his battle with Darth Maul and died. In the years prior to his death, Qui-Gon Jinn began studying the secrets of eternal consciousness after death. Qui-Gon Jinn’s training in manifesting his consciousness and likeness after death was cut short by his untimely death at the hands of Darth Maul, however he was able to utilize his incomplete training to return as an immortal, disembodied voice.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season 6: In the waning days of the Clone Wars, Qui-Gon Jinn manifested his consciousness and instructed Yoda to learn the secrets of immortality:
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season 6: Following Qui-Gon Jinn’s instructions, Yoda travels to the planet in the center of the galaxy where life is believed to have been created and seeks out the knowledge of immortality. Yoda meets the Force Priestess(es), an ancient being(s) long since dead, who taught Yoda how to use the Force in order to manifest his consciousness and likeness after death. Yoda learns the secrets of immortality right before the events of Revenge of the Sith:
- Episode III: Revenge of the Sith: After the fall of Galactic Republic and Jedi Order, Yoda tells Obi-Wan Kenobi that he has communed with Qui-Gon Jinn from the netherworld of the Force. Yoda passes on what he has learned from Qui-Gon Jinn and the Force Priestess to Obi-Wan Kenobi, which allows yet another Jedi to eventually gain immortality:
- Episode IV: A New Hope: In truth, Obi-Wan Kenobi was the original Force Ghost when he manifested his consciousness after his death at the hands of Darth Vader. We won’t go into every appearance Obi-Wan Kenobi makes as a Force Ghost from this point, but we feel the following clips are always worth showing:
- Episode VI: Return of the Jedi: Finally, we’ve reached the point of one of the most iconic Star Wars scenes — Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Anakin Skywalker watching over Luke as immortal Force Ghosts on the planet Endor.
In the DVD commentary of Return of the Jedi, George Lucas explains how Anakin Skywalker — not Lord of the Sith Darth Vader — was able to gain immortality:
“This little scene where he burns his father’s body, it wasn’t originally in the script. But I decided it gave more closure in terms of Luke’s relationship to his father, letting go of his father. Even though later on, as we get to the end of the movie, as he joins the Force, he was able to retain his original identity, it’s because of Obi-Wan and Yoda, who learned how to do that: how to join the Force at will and then retain your identity. But it was his identity as he was when he died as Anakin Skywalker.”
Question: Why are these specific events important? How are they relevant to Darth Plagueis and the Transcendence Theory?
Answer: Transcending death is a reoccurring theme with deep implications on almost every major Star Wars Character.
In Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin’s primary motivation for turning to the Dark Side was to save Padme by learning how to save others from death:
Unfortunately for Anakin, he never succeeded in saving Padme from her death and he never learned the secrets of immortality as Darth Vader. Only after redeeming himself and returning to the Light Side did Anakin achieve immortality. Otherwise interpreted, the story of Anakin and thus, the connective tissue of the Star Wars universe, is a story of man’s attempt to transcend death, via two diametrically opposed paths.
As shown in the timeline of clips and descriptions above, every Jedi that died out of the major Star Wars characters succeeded in transcending death, while every Sith has failed at transcending death (so far as we know). The first six Star Wars films make clear that the Light Side of the force is the only true path to immortality and thus, the only way to attain ultimate enlightenment. If we extrapolate this point, George Lucas is telling the world that the path to enlightenment, love, and knowledge, is through human compassion, selflessness, and service for the greater good.
Supreme Leader Snoke revealing himself to be an immortal Darth Plagueis would be a logical introduction of the next phase of the eternal struggle between the Light and Dark sides of the Force and their divergent methods of transcending death.
TECHNICAL AND FILM PRODUCTION CONSIDERATIONS
Darth Plagueis is not human; he is a Muun. Here are some examples of what Muuns look like:
If Supreme Leader Snoke is really Darth Plagueis, then Lucasfilm will need a motion-capture actor to adequately portray such a vital, alien role in the saga. It just so happens that Andy Serkis, who essentially made motion-capture acting mainstream with his Gollum portrayal in Lord of the Rings, was cast to play Supreme Leader Snoke.
Below we summarize and comment on Andy Serkis’ statements from an EW interview full of clues:
“For those frustrated by the lack of information about Supreme Leader Snoke, Andy Serkis feels your pain. When he started work on Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the performance-capture character, he had no idea either. ‘It’s the first time I’ve been on set not yet knowing what the character’s gonna look like. I mean, talk about secrecy!’ the actor says.
Commentary: Did someone say secret identity? Perhaps, like the Empire Strikes Back actors who did not know Darth Vader was Luke’s father until they saw a final cut of the film, Andy Serkis was forbidden to describe certain elements of his character or was purposefully kept in the dark on certain details of his character until the day of filming.
“Here’s what Serkis can share about Snoke: For one, obviously he’s not a nice guy. And he’s a long-range schemer, not an impulsive hothead type. ‘Supreme Leader Snoke is quite an enigmatic character, and strangely vulnerable at the same time as being quite powerful,’ Serkis says. ‘Obviously he has a huge agenda. He has suffered a lot of damage. As I said, there is a strange vulnerability to him, which belies his true agenda, I suppose.”
Commentary: 1) Long range schemer sounds an awful lot like an immortal Darth Plagueis operating in the shadows. 2) Enigmatic yet strangely vulnerable and quite powerful sounds an awful lot like Darth Plagueis achieving immortality, but only having done so because his former apprentice tried to murder him. (Talk about trust issues) 3) He has a huge agenda, yet has suffered a lot of damage, also sounds an awful lot like an immortal Darth Plagueis reestablishing Sith control of the galaxy after watching the Sith Empire he designed fall.
“While Abrams has emphasized a return to practical effects on The Force Awakens, is Snoke perhaps a character who could have been played by Serkis in make-up? “No, no,” the actor says. “The scale of him, for instance, is one reason. He is large. He appears tall. And also just the facial design — you couldn’t have gotten there with prosthetics. It’s too extreme. Without giving too much away at this point, he has a very distinctive, idiosyncratic bone structure and facial structure. You could never have done it [in real life.]”
Commentary: The physical description Serkis provides sounds eerily similar to a Muun. After looking at the examples of Muuns above, wouldn’t you agree?
“If Snoke is a “damaged” character, that raises the question: Did his wounds come from the clash between the Rebellion and the Empire, seen in the original Star Wars trilogy? Serkis hesitates here, but then says he believes Snoke was outside of that conflict. “No, he’s a new character in this universe. It is very much a newly-introduced character,” Serkis says. “He’s aware of what’s gone on, in the respect that he has been around and is aware of prior events. I think it’d be fair to say that he is aware of the past to a great degree.”
Commentary: Who else in the Star Wars story universe can be as powerful as to presumably threaten Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, etc. and have a detailed awareness of past events but a preference for long-range schemes? Reading between the lines, this sounds like an immortal, but emotionally wounded, Darth Plagueis rebuilding his Sith Empire under the guise of Supreme Leader Snoke.
Hopefully this white paper leaves the super fan and casual audience member alike with much to ponder before seeing the new film. Our concluding argument centers around the stakes for the new sequel trilogy. Our view is that the Transcendence Theory is the only storyline Disney could produce that has higher stakes than Anakin Skywalker’s fall from grace and subsequent redemption, which reestablished balance in the Force. If the conclusion of the first six films resulted in the balance of the Force and a new Jedi Order founded by the Luke Skywalker, what else could possibly top that? What has been dormant for so long that has now awoken that could be more powerful than Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker? We argue that Darth Plagueis is the only being more powerful than the Skywalkers and more ambitious and cunning than Darth Sidious.
Uplifting the Prequels
Lastly, incorporating Darth Plagueis into the new sequel trilogy would make the widely-panned prequel trilogy that much more important. The added juice to the prequels Darth Plagueis would provide can yield more bang for the franchise’s buck and is a clear win-win for fans and Disney’s bottom line.
Thank you for taking the time to read this white paper. Regardless of the story’s outcome, we had a fun few months kicking around ideas late night in-between work, friends, and general life commitments. We hope you had as much fun reading our views as we did writing them.
May the Force be with you,
Ben and Gurwin
Canon vs. Legends and Additional Considerations
Canon vs. Legends: Examining the Evidence
When reviewing the evidence used and arguments made in any Star Wars theory, it is important for the reader to understand the difference between Official Canon (Canon) and the Expanded Universe, now known as “Star Wars Legends” (Legends), in order to evaluate the validity of certain claims. Below we briefly describe the differences between Canon and Legends:
- Canon: Any Star Wars content created or produced by George Lucas before April 25, 2014. This includes all six previous Star Wars films and certain other material such as the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series.
- Legends: Formerly known as the Expanded Universe, Legends encompasses officially licensed background stories of the Star Wars Universe. Materials include Star Wars-related books, video games, spin-off films and TV series, toys, and other media created before April 25, 2014.
After Disney acquired Lucasfilm and announced the production of the new sequel trilogy, the Lucasfilm Story Group dictated that past events within Legends would not appear in any future Star Wars materials and that a new continuity has been established that consists only of the original six films, Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series, and all future material from April 25, 2014 onward. Although the events within Legends are not considered Canon, the Lucasfilm Story Group has retained the right to use events within Legends as inspiration for future content. Accordingly, we limited our review of the evidence to sources deemed Canon, but argue that the Lucasfilm Story Group will use elements of Legends novel Darth Plagueis written by James Luceno as inspiration for Supreme Leader Snoke’s identity and motivations. In our presentation and recounting of events, we assume Official Canon as known fact and do not provide references. We note for our readers whether a piece of evidence cited or a claim made is based on material from Star Wars Legends.
While we are confident in the strength of our theory, it must be noted that Disney, Lucasfilm, and writers J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan have the ability to make up entirely new storylines and characters with no connection to anything discussed in this white paper. There is a very real possibility that Supreme Leader Snoke is not Darth Plagueis; rather, he could be a brand new character with no connection or relevance to anything we think might happen in the sequel trilogy.
Lastly, we do not believe the true identity of Supreme Leader Snoke will be revealed in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If our theory is proven correct, we believe Supreme Leader Snoke will reveal himself as Darth Plagueis later in the trilogy, just as Darth Vader revealed himself to be Luke’s father, Anakin Skywalker, in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.