Take the 2-minute tour ×
Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

At the end of Episode VI, Luke had beaten Darth Vader in a duel, but didn't seem to injure the latter critically — all Luke did was to sever Vader's right hand, which was a prosthetic to begin with. So, why did Vader die after he had thrown the emperor off the deck and saved Luke?

share|improve this question
2  
I just finished my annual Star Wars marathon and picked up your thread. All of the answers are so well thought. I noted to myself that Vader's suit malfuctions before his hand is re-amputated. He falters, weakens and, yes, after he is disarmed (literally), can barely stand even though he did not suffer a mortal wound during his duel with Luke. –  user11759 Jan 6 '13 at 6:51
    
It's entirely possible that he (Darth Vader) simply fell unconscious due to the combined pain of Sith lightning and his suit shutting down. Although I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have survived the Death Star exploding. –  Steam Mar 4 '13 at 16:52
1  
as a complete sidenote, when my bro & me played with SW-figures, we had this notion that Luke brought Darth to the ship and connected him to life-support, thereby saving his life. The fire-burning part was just burning the old shell. That made Vader a good guy, alive & kicking :D –  flq Nov 19 '13 at 13:22

13 Answers 13

up vote 68 down vote accepted

To add to what jwenting said, you can clearly see Vader hit by the emperor strikes.
This most probably destroyed a part of his suit which he needs as a survival system as Luke said to him when he wanted to remove his helmet.

You can check on this HD video. Here are some screenshots for the proof of the hits. enter image description here
enter image description here
enter image description here

share|improve this answer
16  
You've made me curious now; were those skeletal shots in the original moves, or were those something added in when Lucas "revamped" them back whenever that was? –  eidylon Apr 22 '11 at 16:52
5  
@eidylon From what I remember, they were in the original ones but it seems they have been enhanced (and some of them added as I don't remember they were so many occurrences of this X-Ray style effect). –  LudoMC Apr 22 '11 at 16:54
19  
I have the original VHS (I just dated my self I know) and the "skeletal shots" and the "X-ray effect" are in them just not as brilliantly colored/lit. –  Vaughn Jul 28 '11 at 4:22
5  
The skeletal shots are mostly flashes; they're subtler in the movies than in these screen shots because they're interspersed with general flashes of light and the black mask –  KeithS Oct 11 '11 at 23:44
1  
Also the fact that his prosthetic arms made him incapable of making force lightning suggests that he is even more vulnerable to electricity than a normal person. –  Lord Apricot Jan 8 '13 at 0:10

Vader was probably mortally wounded by the blasts of energy released during the fight, if I remember correctly he was hit multiple times by the Emperor. As he depended on his suit for survival, and it's conceivable the systems in that suit could become overloaded by that energy release, he could possibly be killed by blasts that the healthier, younger, Skywalker could (barely) survive.

share|improve this answer
3  
The suit shutdown makes sense since in the end he was able to look at Luke as Anakin not as Vader. –  Sinan Apr 22 '11 at 7:57
7  
"When he could no longer stand it, he lifted the emperor bodily from behind and threw him overboard" yes, and during that time you see energy crackling around them if memory serves. –  jwenting Apr 22 '11 at 8:49
3  
Vader was horribly mutilated, as is clearly visible in the final moments when Luke lifts his mask. In fact Luke tells him he'll not survive having the mask removed and Vader tells Luke he wants to look on his son with his own eyes one more time. So the suit does something to keep him alive. Whether it uses technology, Force, or a combination I can't tell (and the movies of course never mention). –  jwenting Apr 22 '11 at 10:25
3  
I don't know that it is fair to say that Luke was barely surviving the Emperor's assault. It is fair to say the attacks were not pleasant, but despite his advanced age the Emperor could probably still easily overpower and kill Luke had he wanted to. More than likely the Emperor was still trying to turn Luke by torturing him, in order to bring out his anger and hatred. –  Xantec Apr 22 '11 at 19:22
2  
No, he says clearly when Luke protests, "nothing can stop that now", referring to his death. I think the force lightning destroying Vader's built-in life support (and probably damaging his fragile remaining humanoid tissues; remember, both Luke and Vader's bodies were smoking after Palpatine's lightning) is the most logical explanation. Pretty much the entire scene between Luke and Vader/Anakin in the shuttle bay is best understood at face value. –  KeithS Oct 11 '11 at 23:47

Vader's suit was a life support suit - he couldn't survive outside of it.

The long combat with Luke pushed him towards his physical limits - he is at least 20 years older than Luke, and with very poor health. He'd been drawing heavily on the Force to keep himself moving.

He was injured - the suit was damaged when the cybernetics in his right arm were damaged.

THEN he suffered the extreme emotional turmoil of seeing his son being tortured to death.

When he intervened to stop it (by killing the person who had been his mentor for 20+ years, who had saved his life, and who had helped him save the galaxy - from his POV, at least) he was subjected to several seconds of sustained Force Lightning.

This played merry hell with his already-damaged suit.

The man was beaten into the ground, had to choose between his greatest friend's life and his son's, was electrocuted, and had decades-old mental wounds torn open.

It's not surprising that he died, it's surprising that he lived as long as he did.

share|improve this answer

"Did you ever hear the tale of Darth Plagueis?" The Supreme chancellor (Palpatine) asks Anakin Skywalker this question during the civic performance from his VIP box seat? Thus, preempting a response by Anakin. This is turn sets the stage for the story of a Sith Lord that was so powerful he could even escape death.

Certainly, the suit allowed Vader to live and it's beyond dispute the suit was damaged from the Emperor's force lighting assault on Luke that also rippled through Vader. But I return to Palpatine's original question from SW III and the dark side power his story revealed - the ability to escape even death, and "if we work together (to save Padame)..." These are vital dialogue clues.

I believe Vader's death is not as simple as some would argue. The Force never is. Thus, the suit failure was not catastrophic. It was the Emperor's and Vader's dark side force powers that allowed Vader to thrive from the knowledge of Darth Plagueis- "If we work together"...

Once the Emperor was removed from the equation, Vader's death was inevitable... Vader understood this all to well. It also explains why, after 20 plus years, Vader never slew Palpatine, and became the Emperor himself, which is what Sith do - if anyone has studied their history?

This is why Vader told Luke it was too late. If it were only a matter of the suits mechanical failure though, there would have been time for Luke to get him medical aid by leaving the mask on. He was still laboring with breath. But there is more to it than that.

It had been the dark side of the force that sustained Vader through Palpatine all along. With Vader's sudden disconnection to such power, as well as his turning back to the light side (meaning Vader would not invoke dark side force energy to sustain himself), Vader simply chose to let go... He had found his true peace.

Thus, Vader/Anakin allowed the will of the force to prevail, and in the process fulfilled the prophecy of bringing balance to the force not in a way foreseen by either Jedi or Sith.

share|improve this answer
6  
I think you are wrong. At episode 5 he said to his son Luke "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! Come with me. It is the only way.". Which means that he has a plan to kill Palpatine. –  pichoscosama Jul 31 '11 at 17:26
    
But would that not be turning to the dark side? Which would keep him alive? –  Joe the Person Feb 23 '12 at 3:37
    
@JoethePerson it was an attempt to turn Luke to the Dark Side, Vader himself was of course long since so turned. It was also the traditional way an apprentice Sith Lord gained power, by killing his Master and taking over his place, taking his own apprentice. Vader was technically always Palpatine's apprentice, until the moment he killed him. –  jwenting Aug 19 at 13:47

In conjunction with the life support suit it was probably Anakin's hatred and anger fueling his Sith abilities that allowed him to sustain himself from the end of Eps3 through to Eps6. As he remembered what it was to be a true Jedi by interacting with his son (as early as tESB) that anger began to subside, compromising his Dark Side ability. When he finally died it was likely because he had made peace with himself and simply stopped wanting to live.

share|improve this answer
3  
Maybe not so much that he "stopped wanting to live" as simply "was ready to die". Not entirely the same thing. B) –  eidylon Apr 22 '11 at 16:13
    
@eidylon Considering everything "evil" he did as Darth Vader he may not have wanted to live with those memories once he redeemed himself. –  Xantec Apr 22 '11 at 16:14
    
Perhaps. Or he could've also become just as driven light-side to help tear down the Empire. Guess we'll never know; he took it to his pyre! –  eidylon Apr 22 '11 at 16:18

Anakin Skywalker died the same way Mace Windu did, by powerful blasts of Palpatine's lightning. Palpatine was slowly building up to a lethal intensity while slowly torturing Luke. While his suit probably was damaged by the lightning, no one could have survived a direct hit by that lightning, as Mace Windu did not. Anakin's insides lit up on contact with the bolts, and not even for a second did that happen to Luke. Suit or not, he was mortally wounded, as the remaining tissue in his body was fatally damaged.

Nothing else contributed. It was all Palpatine's lightning.

share|improve this answer

You are all missing something, remember when the Emperor was thrown over the rail and into the shaft Luke crawled over to Vader and his breathing was VERY labored,
someone nailed it on the head, when he picked the emperor up he was absorbing the lightning as Obi-Wan stated "He's more machine now than man" Machines and out of control electricity don't mix, the lightning probably blew every circuit board in his life support, I'm willing to bet the only thing that was working in his system may have been the vocals and the optics...

My theory anyway ...:)

share|improve this answer

After sustaining his life threatening injuries on Mustafar; Vader's lifesupport systems on his suit were the only thing that kept him alive. With the suit damaged beyond repair by the Emperor's force lightning it was inevitable that he would die. Even if Luke had managed to defeat the Emperor and turn Anakin Skywalker A.K.A Darth Vader back to the light side of the force, Anakin Skywalker would have been taken arrested by the Rebel Alliance as a prisoner of war. Anakin Skywalker then would have been found guilty of genocide, and crimes against the galaxy and later executed. So Anakin dying on board the second death star happened for the better good.

share|improve this answer

As most others have already correctly mentioned.. vader suit was shorted out by Palpatines force lightning. Since Vaders breathing is machine controlled and because he needs to be in a pressurized chamber at all times in order for his greatly damaged lungs to be able to absorb enough oxygen to keep his biological cells functioning.. once that system is compromised, he is in real trouble.

That is why when Vader told Luke to "Help me take this mask off" Luke said "But you'll die".

As another mentioned, vader was not in good health due to his injuries, he was older, though that doesn't make any real difference to most Jedi, he hand was already injured from being cut off by Luke and also, in the book version of Return of the Jedi, Vader severly slammed his head against the gangplank that he cut down when he threw his saber at Luke earlier. When Luke came after him so ferociously later on.. that is when Vader slammed his head hard. Even though the helmet protected him from some of the impact, he still suffered what was basically seemed to be a severe concussion which could be why he simply had no more energy when Luke was batting him hard with the lightsaber.

All of these things, combined with getting hit by the lightning bolts are what eventually did him in.

share|improve this answer

Darth Vader is one of the mightiest Force-users in the entire series. But for all of his power, there is one thing we never ever see Darth Vader do, even in the Expanded Universe: he never once uses Force Lightning. In some cases, like the video games, his lack of this power is conspicuous in its absence. Other users of the Dark Side apply it liberally, but never him.

Why not? According to the Revenge of the Sith Visual Dictionary, the problem lay in Vader's cybernetics and armor. Essentially, his armor's electronics were not well-insulated, and thus extremely vulnerable to this power. Even if Vader were to direct the lightning at another person, there was too much of a risk that a stray arc could destroy his life-support systems. In the EU it is clear that he must have learned the basics of this power at some point, because he went on to teach it to his secret apprentice, but he never used it himself.

And this, ultimately, is what sealed his fate in Return of the Jedi. Whether or not he received a dose of Force Lightning that "should" have been lethal barely even matters, because the suit's life-support systems gave out. Even before his mask is removed, you can hear the difference in his breathing: he can gasp in a very little bit of air, but they're not the full, deep breaths you heard before. That's not enough to stay alive for very long, and even this assumes that only the respiratory functions of his armor were the only life-support systems that gave out, which isn't very likely. In short, even if nothing else had happened to him, this would have killed him.

That he stayed alive (and conscious) for as long as he did is possibly best hand-waved as him using the Force to remain among the living just long enough to conduct his final business: reconciling with his son. When that was finished, he let go.

share|improve this answer

I decided to look up this myself to see what other people thought about the death of Darth Vader, and here's what I believed is what happened.

As you notice when Anakin was found burnt to a crisp with only 1 limb remaining he was given a breathing mask whilst being carried off the planet. Not only would his exterior body have been severely burned but it's also likely that his lungs were badly damaged from breathing in the hot air and ashes when his clothes set on fire and being so close to the lava lake. When people are pulled out of house fires they're immediately given an oxygen mask to help them breathe so their lungs aren't further damaged from breathing in hot air and ashes.

The suit appeared to be giving off gases, possibly those used in cryogenics, as well as providing him with oxygen. My guess is that the suit was keeping his body from warming up so that he wouldn't die of shock from the severe burns he sustained (pain from such burns can be excruciating if the skin doesn't repair itself properly and can last a lifetime and be very sensitive to exposure and touch. Severe burns cases often die from the shock. Cooling the skin reduces the chances of burns from advancing, which is why I believe Vader's suit was cryogenic but not so much that it would put him into hibernation.)

The suit being damaged would've shut off all life support and his already damaged body was receiving full damage from force lightning when he threw the emperor off the bridge, which would've caused severe pain all over and resulting in him going into shock.

He wasn't that old himself, maybe around 40 years old give or take, so being older didn't really make a difference to him receiving damage from force lightning. It was just that his body was too badly damaged and incapable of surviving such a powerful blow.

share|improve this answer

Anakin was burnt to a crisp on Mustafar and survived for an extended period of time before Palpatine rescued him. Further evidence suggests that the Empire relied on Palpatine's extreme charisma and Force power to remain cohesive.

The death of Palpatine broke the Imperial soldier's cohesion and they were no longer an effective fighting force. My belief is that the sudden overload of force electricity that would have killed anyone else. The Emperor was torturing Luke attempting to turn him to the dark side and then realized his resolve was too strong and was going to finish him. Vader was preparing to kill Palpatine anyway and Vader was fully capable of healing himself for a short period of time as exhibited in TESB When the officer walks into his meditation chamber.

In the expanded universe Starkiller unmasked Vader and he was fine, he just had a harder time breathing. All he needed were prosthetics

share|improve this answer

"There are always two Sith, a master and an apprentice. No more, no fewer." - Yoda, episode 2. When the master dies without a successor, so does the dark side of the force that keeps Vader alive.

share|improve this answer
2  
I can't think of any canon source that says that Vader is physically dependent on the Emperor to stay alive. –  Richard Jan 11 at 19:01
    
Look up The Rule of Two. When darth decided to kill the emporer without a successor it effectively ended the Sith. It was the power of the dark side that kept him alive. –  Danny Jan 17 at 19:10
    
@ Danny, merely pointing at a rule invented for a non-canon book doesn't make this assertion any more convincing. –  Richard Jan 17 at 19:13
    
I had always thought the rule of two was more politics than biology, canon or otherwise. It is also an overstatement, or else an understudy could never be cultivated to overthrow the dominant, and if the dominant died, there would be no understudy-- both cases are a recipe for extinction. I believe what Yoda meant is that if the siths are not in a state of twoness, they are not a threat to the jedi because of current internal turmoil with the siths. –  Lighthart May 12 at 18:55
    
wrong. When the Master dies the apprentice becomes the Master. Vader was Palpatine's apprentice, so became Master when he killed Palpatine (which was the traditional way of succession in the Sith). –  jwenting Aug 19 at 13:48

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.