Almost three decades before their live-action debut in The Mandalorian, the Star Wars Canon continuity’s Dark Troopers have been retroactively set up in Star Wars: The Bad Batch. Dark Troopers first debuted in the 1995 video game Dark Forces, which took place in the original Star Wars timeline, the Expanded Universe (now called Legends). These troopers are the magnum opus of Imperial General Rom Mohc, once a Republic veteran of the Clone Wars who became fascinated by the prospect of creating the perfect Battle Droid, having led Clone Troopers into battle against CIS droid forces. Though he created three primary phases of the deadly droids (and a plethora of minor variants), his project ended when he and his factory ship were destroyed by Kyle Katarn. In canon, the Dark Troopers are shown and explained in The Mandalorian, but Star Wars Rebels and now The Bad Batch introduced their precursors.
The three main phases of Legends-era Dark Troopers were all droids, though the Phase III model had the option to be used as a suit of armor for a humanoid. As revealed by the Imperial Doctor Pershing, the first two generations of Dark Troopers in canon were armored suits, but the third iteration was a droid. Stormtroopers in second-generation Dark Trooper suits appeared in the 2014 mobile game Star Wars: Commander. The third-generation Dark Trooper droids famously debuted in the season 2 finale of The Mandalorian, proving near-unbeatable to all but Luke Skywalker.
In the first episode of The Bad Batch, “Aftermath,” the commandos of Clone Force 99 demonstrate their fighting prowess to Admiral Tarkin via a Kaminoan battle simulation. Wanting to push the clones to their limits, Tarkin orders that the test be conducted with blasters set to kill. Lama Su reluctantly deploys massive droids with wrist-mounted blasters. With some difficulty and creative thinking, the Bad Batch prevails. These droids bear a striking resemblance to the DT-series Imperial Sentry Droids seen in Star Wars Rebels. Due to this resemblance, these Kaminoan training droids may be predecessors to the Imperial sentries, which are presumably precursors to the Dark Trooper models.
The Imperial Sentry Droids seen in Rebels were intentionally designed to reference the Legends-era Dark Troopers, and share many obvious visual features with the canon third-generation Dark Troopers. With this in mind, it’s reasonable to assume that the canon Dark Trooper project was inspired by the Imperial Sentries, which were extremely deadly in their few Rebels appearances. The training droids seen in The Bad Batch not only share a similar appearance to the Sentries but near-identical tactics and weaknesses as well. Despite powerful wrist-mounted blasters and armor plating, the training droids and sentries could be destroyed by armor-piercing blasters (including their own) or powerful melee attacks. This is quite similar to the Separatist Alliance’s Super Battle Droids.
The Imperial Sentry Droids were manufactured by Baktoid Combat Automata, who built many of the Separatist Alliance’s droid forces, including Super Battle Droids. While it’s reasonable to assume that they were absorbed into the Empire after the Clone Wars ended, it seems unlikely that they’d manufacture droids for the Empire mere days after the war ended. One possibility is that the Empire used one of their designs for a new training droid, or simply confiscated existing models and reprogrammed them for Imperial use. In any case, there is a clear connection between the training droids, Imperial Sentries, and Dark Troopers in Star Wars Canon, connecting Star Wars: The Bad Batch to The Mandalorian.
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