The eyes of Star Wars fans begin to roll at the very mention of midichlorians. They’d all grown up with a mythical idea of the Force as a spiritual presence that could be harnessed by anyone, for good or for bad, and it felt like a slap in the face when George Lucas came along with The Phantom Menace and told us that Force sensitivity could be measured with a simple “midichlorian count.”
With Disney’s sequel trilogy walking the line between honoring Lucas’ creations and trying not to irritate fans with deep pockets, the established mythology of the midichlorians is becoming less and less clear as time goes by. So, here are 10 Questions About Midichlorians, Answered.
Midichlorian counts can be measured by a simple blood test. The actual count is the number of midichlorians per cell, not the number of midichlorians in someone’s entire body. The Jedi used to use these tests to measure the Force sensitivity of potential youngling trainees before the entire Jedi Order was brought down in one fell swoop by a newly elected Emperor Palpatine.
Qui-Gon Jinn administered one of these tests on Anakin in The Phantom Menace – the movie that so egregiously introduced the concept of midichlorians in the first place – and was shocked to discover just how high his midichlorian count was.
A common misconception is that only Force users have midichlorians in their blood. In actuality, every human’s bloodstream contains midichlorians. It’s just that Force users have a much higher midichlorian count than regular humans. On average, every human has about 2,500 midichlorians per cell.
To be recruited as a Jedi, one needs to have a midichlorian count of around four times that, and the most powerful Jedi Knights will have around six or seven times that figure. This ties into Obi-Wan’s original statement in A New Hope that the Force is all around us and affects everybody, even if it’s only a little bit with some people.
It is possible to increase your own midichlorian count simply by extracting someone else’s midichlorians and injecting them into your own body, but there is no way to change your Force sensitivity, so there’s not much of a reason to do it. A drug named bota can sometimes be used to enhance the effects of someone’s existing midichlorians.
In rare cases, a blood transfusion with midichlorian-rich blood can work, which would technically increase the number of midichlorians in a person’s bloodstream, but it would not transfer any of the blood donor’s Force sensitivity. So, the Force is much more ethereal and spiritual than the black-and-white biological nature of the midichlorians would suggest.
Although most Star Wars fans would agree that the midichlorians could be cut out of the movies and they’d be infinitely better, they do serve a very important purpose in the world that George Lucas has created. When Force users sense something, like a disturbance or the presence of a powerful figure, it’s because their midichlorians told them so.
As Qui-Gon explained to Anakin in The Phantom Menace, “Without the midichlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to us, telling us the will of the Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you’ll hear them speaking to you.”
Midichlorians can’t perform miracles. If someone is dead, they can’t be brought back to life by a mere midichlorian bump. However, if someone has been mortally wounded and can’t be saved by medical treatment as they lie dying, they can be kept alive by a blood transfusion with blood that contains a high midichlorian count.
This is how General Grievous managed to stay alive, despite having basically no body parts left aside from a barely beating heart. In this sense, midichlorians are like a spiritual life support machine. It’s not the life you once had, but it’ll keep you ticking.
Obi-Wan’s midichlorian count is around 15,000, Yoda’s is around 18,000, and Palpatine’s is estimated to be just higher than Yoda’s so let’s say it’s between 18,500 and 19,000. George Lucas has confirmed that Anakin – who was said to have, by far, the highest midichlorian count of anyone in history, making him “the Chosen One” – had double the number of midichlorians that Palpatine had, which would place the figure around 36,000 to 38,000, depending on Palpatine’s midichlorian count.
Lucas also said that Luke and Anakin’s midichlorian counts were the same, so they both share the distinction of the highest midichlorian count between them.
At the end of Revenge of the Sith, when Anakin Skywalker had all of his limbs severed in a lightsaber duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi and he was left so badly burned that he had to wear a black suit for the rest of his life, it’s fair to say that he lost a lot of blood. Since the blood is where the midichlorians are, wouldn’t this affect his midichlorian count?
Anakin himself feared this, and had a blood-testing system added to his meditation chamber to not only check for infections, but also to monitor his midichlorian count. If his injuries did affect his midichlorian count, they didn’t affect it much, since he still bested Luke – his son with the same astronomical midichlorian count – in combat twice.
The reason why Anakin’s midichlorian count is the highest is also the reason why the Skywalker bloodline is so important in the Star Wars saga. In a scene that was cut from Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine explained to Anakin that he manipulated the midichlorians in his mother’s womb to create the perfect apprentice.
Essentially, he was his father. Lucas cut the scene to avoid rehashing the “I am your father” reveal from The Empire Strikes Back, but some fans still take the scene as canon (and, with Palpatine returning in The Rise of Skywalker, J.J. Abrams will likely be making it canon).
Although the part of the pivotal scene from Revenge of the Sith in which Palpatine tells Anakin that he is technically his father was cut, the part where Palpatine explains the ability to create new life from midichlorians was left in. He told Anakin the story of Darth Plagueis, the most powerful Sith Lord who ever lived (and a popular player in the Expanded Universe that Disney removed from the official canon).
Plagueis figured out a way to manipulate other people’s midichlorians to create life and that’s why that power has only ever been used for evil. Maybe in The Rise of Skywalker, it can be used to create the ultimate hero in the way that Palpatine used it to create the ultimate villain.
Following the fan base’s unimpressed response to the midichlorians and Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, the midichlorians were fazed out of the Star Wars saga. However, if George Lucas had made his own sequel trilogy, they would’ve played a huge role in the plot.
According to Lucas, “[My sequel trilogy] were going to get into the microbiotic world. But there’s this world of creatures that operate differently than we do. I call them the Whills. And the Whills are the ones who actually control the universe. They feed off the Force.” Lord only knows what that version of the sequel trilogy would’ve looked like, but at least it wouldn’t have been a rehash.