In the early development for the original Star Wars trilogy, some stormtroopers had lightsabers - so why did George Lucas ditch the idea? The lightsaber was first introduced in 1977's Star Wars, an energy sword that was the signature weapon of Jedi and members of the Sith.
In the early films, blue and red were meant to signify a good guy-bad guy effect but more colors were introduced down the line; Mace Windu, for example, used a rare purple lightsaber. As the saga developed, saber lore deepened, with the colored glow of the weapon decided by the kyber crystal within, and many variants and similar vibro-weapons able to take them on. But the lightsaber had already evolved a lot before its Star Wars debut.
A prominent group that never used lightsabers are stormtroopers, the soldiers of the Galactic Empire. They had the more clumsy and random blaster rifles as their weapon of choice, although it wasn't always meant to be that way. When Star Wars was still in early development, conceptual designer, Ralph McQuarrie, envisioned a version of stormtroopers that carried lightsabers. The early drafts of Star Wars had lightsaber use more widespread, with the weapon was supposed to be used by more Rebel and Imperial soldiers. Lucas then decided to cut down on the lightsabers to make them more unique, eventually rationalizing they were only used by prominent Force-users, whether aligned with the Jedi or the Sith.
But that wouldn't be the complete end to stormtroopers who used lightsabers in the Star Wars universe. A 2005 issue of Star Wars Insider featured a short story titled "A Two-Edged Sword." It featured a group of six stormtroopers that were clones of a Dark Jedi, Sa Cuis. These Cuis clones were trained directly by Sheyvan, one of Emperor Papaltine's Hands. The final test of their Stormtrooper Corps training involved one of Darth Vader's most trusted officers, Lieutenant Erv Lekauf. Unbeknownst to Vader and the other, Sheyvan had goals to kill the Emperor and he made sure the Cuis clones fought for the one who trained them.
Chris Trevas provided the artwork that supplemented with the short story of the Cuis clones. They were similar to McQuarrie's concept, even holding a similar stance. The lightsaber hilts were white and matched the typical stormtrooper armor. The blade color was notably red to match with the typical Sith weapons. The Force-sensitive Cuis clones became non-canon after Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012.
Stormtrooper lightsabers have now become official Star Wars canon, however. As revealed in the main Star Wars comic run, an undercover Imperial Sergeant named Kreel wielded a green lightsaber. Kreel posed as a gamemaster and stole the lightsaber that was once owned by a Jedi from Grakkus the Hutt's collection. He went on to battle Luke Skywalker on a number of occasions following A New Hope, including on salt planet Crait.
Despite a limited presence in Star Wars stories, the stormtrooper lightsaber's prominent position in McQuarrie's art means they will forever remain a part of the movie franchise's behind-the-scenes lore. And, with Kylo Ren's Sith Troopers seeing the First Order iteration of the foot soldier honoring the dark side order, it's still possible this could happen on the big screen before Star Wars' Skywalker Saga is over.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019