When Darth Maul was first revealed in the lead up to The Phantom Menace, Star Wars fans were pumped. It would be hard for this new Sith Lord to ever be as iconic as Darth Vader, but his black and red skin, horned head, yellow eyes, and double bladed lightsaber were all great cause for anticipation.
The reception of The Phantom Menace has been chronicled and debated on the internet ad nauseam in the nearly two decades since the release of Episode I, and while most people agree that Maul is a bright spot in the film, many would also argue that he was underutilized and wanted his role to go on into future prequels instead of being isolated to The Phantom Menace admittedly spectacular third act fight scene.
The Duel of the Fates may have marked the end of the Sith apprentice's live-action career, but Maul now lives on through animation and even his own comic book. In fact, the majority of his character arc is contained in storytelling that many Star Wars fans haven’t even been exposed to.
To shed some light on the life and times of Darth Sidious’s first Sith apprentice, here’s Everything You Need to Know About Darth Maul.
16 It Took Two Performers to Bring Him to Life in Live Action
It actually took two actors to bring Darth Maul to life on the big screen, though most fans are only familiar with one of them. The physicality and combat performances of the Sith apprentice were provided by famed martial artist Ray Park. Park was virtually unheard of by most moviegoers when he was originally cast as Darth Maul, but he’s since gone on to appear in other movies like X-Men and G.I. Joe. While Darth Maul wasn’t a major character in The Phantom Menace in terms of development or screen time, his acrobatic performance set a new standard for lightsaber combat.
While Maul was on screen, he was either standing around menacingly or doing backflips. He was definitely not much of a conversationalist. In fact, Darth Maul wasn’t even voiced by Ray Park. The voice of the Sith apprentice was provided by Peter Serafinowicz, who's best known for his work in Guardians of the Galaxy and the recent reboot of The Tick on Amazon. Serafinowicz didn't have all that much to do, as the character has 3 total lines in the whole film. It seems Darth Maul prefers to do his talking with a lightsaber. At least in The Phantom Menace.
15 His Animated Voice Actor Is A Huge Star Wars Fan
While Maul is the strong silent type in Episode I, he’s far more talkative when he makes his return in The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, voiced by Sam Witwer. Witwer is no stranger to voicing Sith apprentices, as he’s also also the voice (and face) of Darth Vader’s apprentice, Starkiller, AKA Galen Marek, in the non-canon The Force Unleashed video game. He also provided the voice of The Son in The Clone Wars and Emperor Palpatine in season 2 of Rebels, and several background voices in The Force Awakens.
In addition to providing a multitude of voices in the Star Wars universe, Sam Witwer is a massive Star Wars fan. As an avid player of the West End Games Star Wars RPG in the '80s, Sam became well versed in most of the earliest Star Wars source books and world building that would become the expanded universe - now Star Wars Legends - and is again being used as a major influence on new Star Wars content, especially in Star Wars Rebels. He even had custom action figures commissioned for the characters he created in the RPG (pictured above).
14 His Mother is the Leader of the Nightsisters of Dathomir
While Maul’s people, the Zabrak, typically hail from the planet Iridonia, Maul himself is one of the Zabrak males known as the Nightbrothers that can be found on the planet of Dathomir. Meanwhile, Mother Talzin (the leader of the Nightsisters) claims to be his biological mother. They are of two different species, so it’s not clear if this is even a possibility through her Dathomirian DNA, or if it’s some other Nightsister magick, but Maul and at least one of his fellow Nightbrothers are claimed as her children.
This is not something that’s known to Maul until his adult life, so the only way this could ultimately affect his character is if they share any genetics - despite being different species. Nonetheless, this does give Maul a Dathomirian and Nightsister heritage, presenting another facet of his character that still has yet to be explored. With Maul in search of a purpose in the galaxy, this very well may prove to be relevant in stories to come.
13 He Wasn’t Palpatine's Original First Choice For An Apprentice
After killing his own master and building his skills with the dark Side of the Force in the shadows (while simultaneously climbing the political ranks as Sheev Palpatine), Darth Sidious needed to appoint his own apprentice in order to maintain the Sith Rule of Two. Traveling to Dathomir, he intends to meet with Mother Talzin to exchange knowledge of the dark Side with each other. He also initially plans to ask her to be his apprentice, which would have potentially been a major power play and marriage between the Sith and the Nightsisters.
Once Sidious arrives on Dathomir, however, he’s actually more impressed with the potential of her son, Maul, and chooses to abduct him instead, training him as his apprentice. Since Maul is trained before the Sith have even revealed their existence to the galaxy, he trains and operates completely in the shadows, helping his master lay the groundwork for his eventual rise to power. In the process, he doesn’t only learn how to wield the dark side and fight with a lightsaber, but he’s also a first hand witness to Palpatine’s ability to manipulate people, organizations, and governments into doing his bidding.
12 He Survived his “Death” in The Phantom Menace
After Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui Gon Jinn rescue Padme Amidala from Naboo and flee to Tatooine, it’s Darth Maul that tracks them down, encountering Qui-Gon and marking the first confrontation the Jedi have had with the Sith in a thousand years. In their second showdown, he duels with both Qui Gon and Obi-Wan during the battle of Naboo, taking the Jedi Master’s life before getting cut in half by his apprentice, Obi-Wan.
Many fans were upset at the loss of Darth Maul. The excitement over his look and potential in the other prequels turned to disappointment at the end of The Phantom Menace, only to find out almost a decade later that Maul didn’t actually see his end at the hands of Obi-Wan. After falling down the reactor shaft, Maul was able to channel his rage, giving in to the dark side and preserving himself with its energy. He makes his way aboard a garbage hauler, which takes him Lothor Minor, a giant junkyard world. He would remain there for a decade, slowly losing his mind, until he’s tracked down by his Brother, Savage Opress.
11 His Body and Mind are Healed by Nightsister Magick
After rescuing him from Lothor Minor, Savage takes Maul back to Dathomir and Mother Talzin. Besides being cut in half, Maul had essentially been in isolation for ten years, and his mind had begun to slip away. He still carried a deep hatred of the Jedi, but didn’t have a strong recollection of who he was or how he ended up in his situation. Talzin uses Nightsister magick to restore his sanity and craft him a new set of legs from the ruins of super battle droids.
Even though most of his work for Darth Sidious was done in secret, before his fall, Darth Maul was near the center of a galaxy-wide conspiracy in which he was the primary enforcer of the most powerful being in the galaxy. Having lost that place, Maul sets out to find his role in a universe that had continued on in his absence.
10 He Wants Revenge for Being Deprived of His Destiny
Darth Maul had been a major player in Darth Sidious’s schemes in preparing for the eventuality of the Clone Wars, so when he learns that Palpatine had moved on without him and taken on Count Dooku as his new apprentice, he becomes angry. He put in a lot of the hard work, and was essentially sidelined for the grand reveal of the Sith, which should have been his moment of glory, only to see that moment stolen by a newcomer. And a former Jedi, for that matter!
He’s angry at his former master for moving on with his new apprentice, and he’s obviously not too thrilled with Obi-Wan Kenobi for depriving him of his destiny by defeating him at Naboo. If their battle on Naboo had ended differently, he would be the one leading the Separatist armies now. Filled with rage at basically the entire galaxy, Maul determines he will set things right and claim his rightful place himself, beginning with getting revenge on Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Jedi.
9 He Took His Brother as his Apprentice
Before setting out on his one-man mission against the galaxy, Maul picks an apprentice of his own: his fellow Nightbrother (and actual brother), Savage Opress. Savage had already received some training in the ways of the dark side when he briefly trained under Count Dooku, but since he was merely a sleeper agent sent by Mother Talzin at the time, that training was never able to be completed. Maul sets out to change that.
Savage is initially resistant to the idea of being subservient to Maul, and even challenges him in combat, only to be promptly subdued by the much stronger former Sith apprentice. Desiring to draw out Kenobi, Maul teaches Savage that the quickest way to get the attention of the Jedi is to attack the people of innocent worlds. He’s right. Obi-Wan soon arrives on the scene, and the two Nightbrothers are able to capture the Jedi before he gets unexpected assistance and is able to escape with help from another of Dooku’s former assassins - Asajj Ventress.
8 He Assembled the Galaxy's Biggest Criminal Conglomerate
After his plans are thwarted by the Jedi multiple times, Maul realizes he needs to take a page out his former master’s playbook and start scheming on a bigger scale. He starts by usurping Pre Vizsla for control of the Mandalorian Death Watch extremist group, then he pressures Black Sun into pledging their support to his budding army, then goes on to garner the allegiance of the Pyke Syndicate and the Hutt Clans, forming the biggest criminal conglomerate in the known history of the galaxy.
Moving on to the next stage of his plan, Maul leads the Shadow Collective to take over the pacifist planet of Mandalore, capturing Duchess Satine, an old friend (and romantic interest) of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and luring Kenobi into a trap. As a part of his revenge scheme, Maul kills Satine in front of the Jedi Master, but Obi-Wan is able to escape Mandalore before Maul executes him as well.
7 Sheev Palpatine Had to Deal With Him Personally
Having sensed the return of his old apprentice, Darth Sidious quickly travels to Mandalore to confront Maul himself. Taking out the Mandalorian guards with ease, Palpatine makes his way to the throne room where he finds Maul, who claims his efforts to create the Shadow Collective and control Mandalore were all for his old master - an attempt to return to his rightful place as his apprentice once more.
Seeing Savage Opress, Palpatine accuses Maul of taking his own apprentice, violating the Rule of Two and becoming a rival. The Dark Lord of the Sith ignites two red lightsabers and attacks the Nightbrothers, killing Savage and leaving Maul begging for his life. Palpatine tells Maul not to worry; he’s not going to kill him, because he has “other uses” for him, and has him sent to The Spire, a prison on Stygeon Prime (the same prison seen in the first season of Rebels).
6 Sidious Uses Him to Defeat Mother Talzin
It turns out that the “other uses” Palpatine spoke of involved Maul’s mother, Talzin. Sheev is beginning to make the final moves in his decades-long scheme for galactic domination, and Mother Talzin is too powerful to be unaccounted for. Maul is tortured by Sidious and Dooku on Stygeon Prime before he's eventually rescued by Death Watch. They stage a confrontation with Dooku, Grievous, and their droid forces on Ord Mantell. During the battle, Maul boards the command ship, defeats Grievous, and shuts down the droid army, allowing his ground troops to capture Count Dooku.
Always 10 steps ahead, Sidious is merely using Dooku to follow Maul to Mother Talzin. When the Nightbrother takes his captive back to Dathomir, Sidious and Grievous aren’t far behind. The Dathomirian Witch and the Dark Lord of the Sith lock into a power struggle, and when she realizes her defeat is inevitable, she forces Maul to retreat and sacrifices her life so he can escape the Sith’s clutches one last time. When Dooku expresses regret over not eliminating Maul, Sidious merely replies, “Maul’s future has been erased, while ours is more certain than it has ever been.”
5 The Siege of Mandalore
Fleeing back to Mandalore and the Shadow Collective, Maul soon has to prepare to face a siege mounted by Ahsoka Tano and the 501st Clone Battalion. Ahsoka had left the Jedi Order at this point, but she’s returned for this final mission. Ahsoka and the clones set a trap for Maul, and the two former apprentices cross blades, but Ahsoka ends up having to allow Maul to escape capture once again to save the life of Captain Rex. Order 66 is initiated during this battle, marking the beginning of the Jedi Purge, so Ahsoka also has to abandon her chase and disappear into hiding herself.
Maul loses Mandalore, the Shadow Collective disbands, and his brother-turned-apprentice and his mother have both been killed at the hands of Darth Sidious. Alone in the galaxy once more, Maul has no choice but to go into hiding until he’s able to gather the strength and knowledge necessary to make his return.
4 He Wants to Destroy the Jedi and the Sith
Over a decade and a half passes before Maul appears again when Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka travel to the planet Malachor, where Ezra finds him while he’s separated from his friends. In the intervening years, Maul had become far less aggressive, relying instead on his cunning to get his way. He’s able to entice Ezra with the promise of the power he needs to defeat the Sith - a goal Maul tells Ezra he shares.
After having his destiny stolen from him twice, first by the Jedi, then by the Sith, Maul sees the galaxy being ruled by his former Master and a new apprentice (Darth Vader) and is in search of the means to bring their rule to an end. This search brought him to Malachor, the location of an ancient Sith superweapon and a Sith holocron, which he hopes has the answers he needs to continue his quest for revenge.
3 He Wants Ezra to Be His New Apprentice
His last attempt to train an apprentice didn’t go very well - especially for Savage Opress - but Maul sees something in Ezra, and he wants to make the boy his apprentice. On Malachor, he guides Ezra through the labyrinth of Sith tests on the path to the holocron, teaching him a few secrets of the dark side and parts of the Sith code as they go along. He even fights Kanan over Ezra, blinding the Jedi during their duel.
Maul continues to pursue Ezra through each of their conversations, and he even refers to the padawan as “my apprentice” more often than not. Whether he sees the potential in Ezra and wants the boy at his side or if he has some other place in Maul’s grander scheme remains to be seen, but Maul is a Zabrak on a mission, so any expressed desire to take on an apprentice should carry some weight. It’s not just because he’s lonely. Probably.
2 He Might Know About the Skywalker Twins
During his travels, Maul learned many new secrets about the Force, including a secret about holocrons. If a Sith holocron and a Jedi holocron were to be brought together, they would grant the Force user near complete clairvoyance and access to all knowledge. There are no known cases of this actually happening before, but Emperor Palpatine plundered all the Jedi holocrons in his takeover of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, so it’s likely that he utilized this phenomenon at some point.
Convincing Ezra to aid him in this venture, the two Force users bring the holocrons together. Maul states he’s looking for “hope,” while Ezra wants a means to destroy the Sith. In the flashes of light that follow, Ezra glimpses a planet with “twin suns”, and Maul exclaims “he lives” before rushing off in his ship. Both of these statements point to the same place: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Tatooine. Did Maul merely see Obi-Wan, or did he also see the same hope referenced in the title of A New Hope? If Maul knows about any of the Skywalker children - or even if all he knows is that Obi-Wan is still out there - then there’s some crazy events about to unfold in the time before the events of A New Hope.
1 His Power Can Still Be Felt Decades Later
Darth Maul’s big screen presence was cut short when he died at the end of The Phantom Menace, possibly causing many fans to downplay just how powerful he was. The same is true for Qui-Gon Jinn, although future storytelling has revealed that he may have been one of the most powerful Jedi ever. While their duel and Jinn’s death at Maul’s hand seemed like a letdown for many, we now know that it was actually an epic power struggle.
The Shattered Empire comic shows Leia visiting Naboo shortly after the Battle of Endor when the Empire attacks, carrying out a scorched earth insurance policy put in place by Palpatine to ensure the destruction of his home planet. She’s taken to the hanger, where the fight between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Maul was initiated, and told it hadn’t been opened in decades. While Leia has no formal training in the Force at this stage, she’s still able to feel dark ripples left by Maul, likely as a result of him digging into the dark side to preserve his body.
Storytelling like this has revealed that Maul wasn’t merely a disposable Sith apprentice, but actually a major power to be reckoned with. He executed many of Sidious’ plans behind the scenes to prepare for The Clone Wars, defeated Qui-Gon Jinn, saved himself from a would-be fatal wound, formed a massive criminal conglomerate, conquered Mandalore, and defeated both General Grievous and Count Dooku. He isn’t done making his mark on the Star Wars universe, and by the time his story is concluded, it just might be one of the best character arcs in the whole saga.
What’s your favorite fun fact about Darth Maul? Is there anything important you don’t see here? What do you think the future has in store for the former Sith apprentice? Let us hear about it in the comments!