Why (& When) The Empire Replaced Clones With Stormtroopers

Why (& When) The Empire Replaced Clones With Stormtroopers

At the end of the Star Wars prequels, the Empire had a full army of clone troopers, but that army was eventually replaced with normal human Stormtroopers, and the impact of this is explored further in The Bad Batch and Obi-Wan Kenobi. In the wake of the Empire’s formation and the events of Order 66, Palpatine’s regime began a gradual expansion of centralized power throughout the galaxy, shifting the old systems of the Republic more and more towards a dictatorship. This process started during the events of The Bad Batch and continued up until the events of the original Star Wars trilogy, by which point the last remnants of the Republic were well and truly swept away.

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The Jango Fett clones who comprised the Grand Army of the Republic were one of those remnants. Though the clone troopers served Palpatine’s purposes perfectly during the Clone Wars, they became a liability in peacetime for a few reasons. As seen in Obi-Wan Kenobi with a homeless Republic veteran begging on the street, the post-war period and early days of the Empire didn’t end well for the clone army. The exact timeline of the Empire’s phasing out of clone troopers is different in Legends than in the Canon, but the root motivations remain the same.

Related: Star Wars: Every Type of Stormtrooper In Canon Explained

In the Legends timeline, the Empire conducted various experiments with cloning after the end of the Clone Wars, including some projects meant to create Force-sensitive soldiers. Clones served as high-level shock troopers and remained a significant military asset for years after the Republic’s dissolution, though eventually, they began to be replaced with ordinary recruits. The main motivation for the switch to Stormtroopers was simply that cloning became too expensive. The costs of ordering, growing, and training clones were exorbitant, and their timetable to become full soldiers was lengthy. There was also a level of distrust of clones that rose up within the Empire, partially due to a series of rebellions. By 1 BBY (before the battle of Yavin), there were hardly any clones serving in the imperial military, and most who remained were in non-combat roles.

Where Did The Clone Troopers Go In Star Wars?

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The Canon process of clones being phased out of the Imperial ranks is largely the same as in Legends, albeit with a few changes. The Kamino cloning facilities were shut down in Canon shortly after the end of the war, leaving only one more generation of troopers to be grown and trained. As in Legends, the decision was based primarily on the high cost of cloning, which was no longer necessary without a large-scale conflict being fought. The rest of the Grand Army of the Republic, due to their accelerated aging, began to be gradually replaced in the ranks within the first few years of Imperial rule. By around 5 BBY in the Canon timeline, before the beginning of Star Wars: Rebels, almost all active-duty Stormtroopers were ordinary recruits.

When The Bad Batch debuted on Disney+ Star Wars fans were shown an additional factor that influenced the Empire’s decision – The Empire created Stormtroopers because they were easier to control than clones. Despite being genetically identical, the clone soldiers of the Republic had remarkable amounts of free will and individuality. Many were conflicted about their part in Order 66 and the subsequent galaxy-wide purging of noncompliant planets and systems. Company 99, the titular “Bad Batch” of clones who refused to follow Palpatine’s genocidal whims, lit a spark with their disobedience, one that led to multiple clone revolts. Ultimately, the clones were soldiers for the Republic and believed in its ideals – justice, freedom, and democracy. Despite their genetic mental programming, they weren’t as willing to be enforcers for a totalitarian Sith regime as Palpatine predicted. Stormtroopers conscripted from fanatics devoted to Palpatine, however, willingly followed Imperial dogma without question, even relinquishing their names for TK numbers.

Another possible reason for the switch from clones to recruits is the extra level of control it gave the Empire over different systems. By taking soldiers from all corners of the galaxy – pitching Imperial enlistment as the only way out of an Outer Rim life of poverty, as Luke Skywalker himself saw it – the Empire reduced the risk of rebellion. A planet with children serving in the Imperial Navy would be far less likely to resist Palpatine’s regime than one with nothing to lose. Therefore, replacing the faceless clone troopers with normal human Stormtroopers may have helped Palpatine tighten his grip on the Star Wars galaxy.

Related: Bad Batch’s Returning Jedi Continues Star Wars’ Order 66 Problem

Obi-Wan Kenobi Shows That The Empire Abandoned Its Clone Troopers

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When the Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series hit Disney+, it offered a glimpse into what life was like for the clones after the Empire switched to Stormtroopers. Clones didn’t appear in the original trilogy, but that’s mainly because Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was released in 1983, and clone troopers weren’t introduced until Star Wars: Attack of the Clones hit theatres in 2002. The Clone Wars were mentioned in A New Hope by Obi-Wan, but that was the extent of their presence until the prequel trilogies.

This was never really an issue. It’s known The Empire phased out its clone army for conscripted Stormtroopers, and their lack of presence in the original trilogy could easily be explained in-universe by the clones meeting an ironically similar fate to the Jedi after Order 66. A genocidal liquidation of his clone army assets would certainly be on-brand for Palpatine, after all. However, because of Obi-Wan Kenobi, it’s now known the clones weren’t violently decommissioned; they were simply abandoned.

In an emotional moment, Obi-Wan comes across a disheveled veteran clone on Daiyu, a seedy planet visually reminiscent of the Coruscant streets from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones’ first act. The eventual fate of most clones wasn’t violent, it turned out, but tragic. They’re reduced to begging on the streets, ignored even by the Stormtroopers who replaced them, leaving the sacrifices they made to build The Empire forgotten. The scene was the latest dark Star Wars moment to represent a serious real-world issue in the colorful, fictional galaxy. The clones have been tossed aside, discarded by an ungrateful Empire – just as veterans of real-world conflicts, such as Vietnam and WW2, were. Yet again, Disney has opted to show that while lightsabers, Jedi, and Sith, are fantastical, struggles faced by ordinary galactic citizens in the wake of the space-opera antics of Star Wars’ extensive main character roster aren’t dissimilar from the impacts of real-life tragedies.

Next: Star Wars: Why Clones Use Their Names But Stormtroopers Use Numbers

Obi-Wan Kenobi is currently streaming on Disney+

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Rick Stevenson
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Rick Stevenson is a writer, editor and performer based in Brooklyn, NY. He’s written on TV, film and games for over six years, in addition to assorted stints in bookselling, carpentry, and TV production. Rick studied writing at the College of William & Mary and Oxford University, and can report with some authority that they are both old. He lives and dies for Avatar: The Last Airbender.

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