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The concept of cloning has been a notable topic in Star Wars ever since Luke Skywalker mentioned the Clone Wars in 1977’s A New Hope. Author Timothy Zahn then made clones central to the story in the 1991 Heir to the Empire trilogy of novels he wrote, but they truly launched into the stratosphere with the release of the 2002 feature film Attack of the Clones.
Thanks to shows like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Rebels, and The Bad Batch, the stories of clones themselves were kept front and center in the minds of Star Wars fans. On top of that, with the release of 2019’s final installment of the Skywalker Saga, The Rise of Skywalker, we learned that clones were the lynchpin that allowed Palpatine, the phantom menace himself, to continue operating long after his death, causing the corruption of the galaxy and the child of our favorite heroes.
With cloning technology front and center once again on The Mandalorian, and the future of storytelling looking more and more like it’s going to hit the high notes of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy, it’s worth looking at what we know, both in canon and Legends stories, about the intersection between cloning and the Force.
The Kaminoans are the chief cloners in the galaxy. They created the Clone Army used by the Galactic Republic from a template of Jango Fett’s DNA. They dabbled in science to make the clones of Jango a formidable force. With genetic manipulation, they were able to accelerate the life cycle of a clone so that they could be ready to fight by 10 years instead of the lifetime it would take to develop a clone at a normal rate. They also included inhibitor chips and other personality modifications to make them more docile than the original host. Essentially, they were creating what were meant to be creative machines, far superior to Droids thanks to their ability to think their way through situations.
The Kaminoans lacked the technology to clone the Force, at least intentionally, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t try. Other experiments and genetic misfires created clones like Clone Force 99, AKA the Bad Batch, and Omega, and some think Omega has a touch of the Force herself.
Hemlock’s Clone Grove
Dr. Royce Hemlock is the chief villain in the most recent season of The Bad Batch and works at a secret facility inside Mount Tantiss. There, it’s his goal to kickstart Palpatine’s grand plan into high gear, giving him the cloning technology he needs in order to fulfill his dreams of immortality. Hemlock needed clones to experiment on, and he needed the cooperation of the Kaminoan Nala Se, who cloned the Bad Batch and Omega as well. Hemlock felt that the Kaminoans held the key to advancing the science of cloning sufficiently to create life. This is something the midi-chlorians can do, but they’re little understood. Anakin Skywalker was conceived entirely of the midi-chlorians, but whether this was the work of arcane secrets of the Sith and Darth Plagueis or the will of the Force remains shrouded in mystery.
Hemlock will stop at nothing to achieve his goals, working with the Imperial Advanced Science Division to accomplish all he can. Yet still, cloning the Force remained incredibly difficult and, for some, impossible…
Dr. Cylo, I presume
In the Marvel Star Wars comics, there was a fascinating character named Dr. Cylo. He worked for Darth Sidious and was a rival of Darth Vader’s for some time. He had mastered the ability to alter his genes with other species in order to maximize his abilities, taking one eye of a Rodian. He had other cybernetic enhancements as well. The remarkable thing about him that he’d been able to discover, though, was the science behind creating clones of himself and being able to convert his consciousness into the next clone. He went through many iterations of his body, and each time it died, he moved along to his next clone.
This sort of technology was vital to Palpatine’s return, but Dr. Cylo had no Force abilities and didn’t add any abilities like that to his clones. His process was also very rare, and he’s the only person we know of who had accomplished it in that time period. However, it’s assumed Palpatine was able to use a similar process to survive his death at the hands of Darth Vader at the Battle of the Second Death Star.
A Gaggle of Gideons
By the time we reached the events of The Mandalorian, in the era after the fall of the Empire, at least two connected groups were still working on cloning. The first were those working with the remnants that would become First Order in the far reaches of space, the other was Moff Gideon. Gideon, as he revealed to Din Djarin in the Season 3 finale of The Mandalorian, had put Dr. Pershing to work building an army based on Gideon’s own genetic template. However, he wanted to use the Force in these clone bodies — something he’d never been able to wield — and set Dr. Penn Pershing to solve that problem. That’s why they needed Grogu so badly, to take the midi-chlorians from his blood.
Whether or not Gideon was ultimately successful is unclear. Although Din Djarin destroyed his clone tanks on Mandalore, it’s unknown whether or not Gideon had more elsewhere. It feels like this research was likely another important step in making the events of The Rise of Skywalker possible.
The Snoke & Sidious Experience
According to the Rise of Skywalker novelization, cloning individuals who already had the ability to use the Force was quite a task, even years after the events of the Original Trilogy. If they did retain the ability to use the Force, they tended to be horribly disfigured, like Snoke or Palpatine. Otherwise, they came out looking normal, but with no Force ability at all carrying on into their cloned body, like Rey’s father, Dathan – a Forceless clone of Palpatine. However, Snoke and Palpatine were both able to overcome these obstacles after so many attempts and both had a definite mastery of the Force that continued into their cloned self.
Snoke showed off his mastery in his dealings with Ben Solo while Palpatine was able to return among the Sith Eternal and worked his hardest to transfer his consciousness into Rey Skywalker, the daughter of his own clone, Dathan. It seems as though they finally could master the process of imbuing clones with the Force, but it was never a perfect or simple process.
As we head to the next phase of Star Wars storytelling, with Ahsoka Tano even name-checking Heir to the Empire in the trailer for her new show, it feels like the Force-wielding cloning from that non-canon/Legends book series might have an impact on what’s about to happen on screen. In Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy, Mount Tantiss (featured prominently in The Bad Batch) is where the crazed Jedi clone named Joruus C’Baoth was created. This is also the facility where they grow, in the space of a month, a clone of Luke Skywalker (named Luuke Skywalker, with two ‘u’s). C’Baoth was able to train this clone sufficiently in the dark side to make him a challenge for Luke Skywalker. Whether or not C’Baoth or any other cloned Jedi will appear on Ahsoka or this current era of storytelling remains a mystery, but looking back at the Legends storylines offers us a window of possibility of what comes next.
Using some of the concepts from Heir to the Empire could help form a logical step between Moff Gideon’s work and the work in the sequel trilogy. Though Gideon might be gone (though who can tell in Star Wars, especially with a character willing to clone himself), Dr. Pershing is presumably still around and we could follow him as he continues his research – if he regains his full mental prowess after Elia Kane betrayed him. It feels almost certain that Star Wars storytelling will continue chipping away at information that will reveal more and more about the cloning program on Exegol that produced Snoke and Palpatine. In fact, since we’re seemingly heading toward some amount of Heir to the Empire territory with the new Ahsoka show — Grand Admiral Thrawn is a part of the show, to be certain — it feels like a foregone conclusion, though anything can happen.