Musings:Darth Revan, Bastila Shan, Freedon Nadd, and Sith dynasties
Note: This musing contains spoilers for the Star Wars films, Knights of the Old Republic (KotOR), and its sequel Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (KotOR2).
Luke, you can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me, and together, we can rule the galaxy as father and son!— Darth Vader, in The Empire Strikes Back
These are the striking yet alluring words Darth Vader says to his son Luke Skywalker as he attempts to impress Luke into becoming his apprentice and co-ruler. The father-son relationship between Dark Vader and Luke has become central to the plot and appeal of the original Star Wars trilogy, yet Sith dynasties appear to be the exception rather than the rule. Darth Plagueis, Darth Sidious, and Darth Tyranus took on apprentices instead of marrying and siring children as their heirs, and Yoda states,
Always two there are; no more, no less. A master and an apprentice, not a father and son.
Thinking back on BioWare's Knights of the Old Republic, 👑 we can't help but think that Bastila's speech regarding apprentices turning against masters and the entire notion of Sith kratocracy is be a bit silly and self-defeating.
Eventually I will challenge my Master [Malak]. If I am worthy he will die by my hand and I will become the new Sith Master.
Eventually I will surpass my Master [Malak] and challenge him. If I am worthy he will die by my hand.
Then I will take on my own apprentice and the cycle will begin again. This is the way of the Sith, it is how we assure our leaders are always the strongest and most worthy!— Bastila Shan, in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Why would a Sith train a non-kinsman as an heir instead of training one's own flesh and blood?
Now, history and habit do indeed factor in the Sith practice of apprenticeship. The Jedi, as Star Wars' version of knights or samurai, trained pages and squires known as Padawans. The Sith aristocrats were descendants of former Jedi (the Jen'jidai), and they brought the Jedi practice of apprenticeship to the Sith world of Korriban along with them. Similarly, Darth Revan and Darth Malak were master and apprentice, respectively, before becoming Sith.
Nevertheless, what makes sense for knighthood (a mere vocation) doesn't make sense for rulers or aspirant rulers. Why would one want rulership to pass outside of one's family? I'm not under the impression that the Sith value the ideals of republicanism, and Sith acting in their own interests would presumably desire to break the cycle of kratocracy and safeguard the interests of their own families. If knowledge over the Force is the key to conquest and rulership, then we would expect the Sith to zealously monopolize Force-related knowledge and skills within their families – training only their own children and preventing outsiders from obtaining that knowledge and those skills. Perhaps Sith families would offer knowledge as a form of dowry in order to obtain desirable marriages and alliances, and perhaps families would offer to train wards / hostages as apprentices as another means to formulate alliances between families. Nevertheless, we doubt that such an apprentice would be treated as an heir instead of a kinsman.
Some of you might be thinking,
The Sith were practicing Darwinism and 'survival of the strongest', yet the crux of Darwinism isn't merely for the strongest to survive but for them to survive and pass along the genes that facilitated their survival to the next generation. Apprentices killing masters doesn't result in genes in passed on; instead, it could very well narrow the gene pool and not in a fashion that selects beneficial genes. A Sith practicing Darwinism would engage in eugenics or forbid morganatic marriage; they wouldn't kill their master (i.e. previous generation's strongest).
In addition, by favoring apprenticeship over siring children, the Sith became a proposition – adherents to the Sith Code and teachings – instead of a proper nation or species, particularly after the Great Hyperspace War.
Of course, Darth Revan was both unmarried and childless, so having his apprentice Malak as heir makes sense. Nevertheless, we prefer role-playing as a male Revan, and we tend role-play as a Revan who has successfully courted Bastila. On account of the romantic relationship between Bastila and our male Revan, Bastila offers to be both our Revan's
lover and apprentice. One can imagine this relationship transforming into proper marriage sometime after the usurper Malak is dealt with. Perhaps they could even procreate and forge a new Sith dynasty. Any children from such a union would benefit from a sense of legitimacy. Darth Revan was a war hero and leader. He defied the Jedi Council and became a champion of all those that the Jedi abandoned to their own devices against the Mandalorian horde. The army that become the core of the new Sith Empire believed in Revan and followed him into the Unknown because of it. It was Revan who rediscovered the True Sith, Rakatan civilization, and the Star Forge, and then devised a plan to replace the deteriorating Old Republic with an Empire strong enough to withstand an impending True Sith invasion. What better origin story or founding myth could a dynasty ask for? Any person descended from Revan would command more respect and legitimacy than a person who isn't.
Plus, the example of Malak's usurpation and Revan's restoration with the aid of a fiancee could legitimatize a dynastic system, since it provides an example of the value and reliability of marital and familial ties in comparison to mere apprenticeship ties. These all combine to provide a perfect storm of reasons for the galaxy to accept a Revanite dynasty.
Yet when telling Atton that Revan as a male who reclaimed his rightful place as Dark Lord of the Sith in Knights of the Old Republic II, neither a dynasty nor an empire is formed; instead, Revan disappears, leaving his work unfinished and left in ruins and Bastila alone. Of course, Obsidian Entertainment didn't have the time or resources to explore the possibilities two alternate galaxies – one with a decaying Old Republic, and one with a nascent Sith Empire – and display them for Knights of the Old Republic II, so it's somewhat understandable, yet at the same time, it's disappointing enough that we wonder why they even give the player the option of telling Atton that Revan fell to the dark side once more if the visible results are nearly the same as the light side version.
Now, enough about my favorite playable Sith; let's instead write and read about my favorite non-playable Sith: Freedon Nadd. Freedon Nadd was a Dark Lord of the Sith who conquered the planet of Onderon and established a dynasty and a monarchy that drew legitimacy from descent from him. Naddists would continue to rule the planet for centuries, and when the House of Kira ascended the throne, it was through Oron Kira's marriage to Nadd's descendant Galia that they were able to establish their legitimacy, meaning that Nadd's descendants, through both Houses, ruled the planet for over four millennia. In this manner, Nadd is one of the most successful Sith progenitors in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
In addition, whereas other Sith states held expansionist policies that brought them to ruinous conflicts with the Jedi and the Republic, Nadd's dynasty benefited from isolation. Onderonian nationalist and orator Ponlar noticed how Onderon benefited from isolationism and makes use of the fact in a speech to a crowd.
The Republic has brought nothing but war and death! In our fifty years of flying their colors we have had more war than the past millennia.— Ponlar, in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
Due to the lack of material covering Nadd's life, we can't say for certain whether Nadd attempted to conquer other planets or make war against the Jedi, but if Nadd deliberately pursued a policy of isolation for Onderon, then the longevity of the Naddist monarchy is a testament to Nadd's forethought and genius.Moreover, under the Naddist monarchs, the Onderonians remained a distinct nation and culture instead of becoming a mere proposition like the Sith did after the Great Hyperspace War. By not engaging in expansionism, the Naddists avoided being forced into a position where they would have to accommodate and assuage various peoples in order to maintain an empire. In fact, the Naddists ostracized and expelled dissidents who couldn't or didn't want to fit in: sending them into the wilderness instead of trying to force peoples who resent and distrust each other into accepting and working alongside each other. Only after the Jedi thrice intervened in Onderonian succession crises did the Onderonians had to accept diversity and began to lose their identity and become assimilated into wider Republican culture. This is where modern states could take some inspiration from the Star Wars Expanded Universe: pursue nationalistic yet non-interventionistic, non-globalistic policies.