The Power of the Dark Side: A Look at Hasbro’s Darth Vader – Dagobah Action Figure
Darth Vader – Dagobah: Taking the form of Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith, this spirit is the embodiment of the dark side of the Force. It dwells in a cave on the swamp-covered planet of Dagobah. Although defeated by Luke Skywalker in combat, its unmasked face revealed that Luke has yet to master the ways of the Force and become a Jedi. – from the Jedi Fact File, Darth Vader – Dagobah
Character Background: Darth Vader – Dagobah: When Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back premiered in May of 1980, Darth Vader’s character was seen by most fans as the personification of the Galactic Empire’s evil. Clad in a life-sustaining suit of armor complete with a Nazi-style helmet and a skull-like breath mask, Vader had been established as “a young JediÃ¢Â?Â¦until he turned to evil” and had helped Emperor Palpatine kill most of the Jedi Order, including, according to Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker’s father Anakin.
Although Vader had been impressive enough in Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope, the Dark Lord of the Sith became a more powerful screen presence in Empire. It is his obsessive pursuit of Luke that drives most of the action in the second installment of the Classic Trilogy, and the screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan gave Vader more nuance and menace than in A New Hope.
Although Empire’s most indelible scene in which Vader appears is the “reveal” sequence in which the fallen-Jedi-turned-Sith Lord says No, Luke. I am your father, perhaps the most puzzling one (at least in 1980) was the Dark Lord’s spirit form’s short but terrifying appearance in that tree-cave on Dagobah:
INTERIOR: DAGOBAH – TREE CAVE
Luke moves into the almost total darkness of the wet and slimy cave. The youth can barely make out the edge of the passage. He sees a lizard crawling up the side of the cave and a snake wrapped around branches of a tree. Luke takes a deep breath, then pushes deeper into the cave.
The space widens around him, but he feels that rather than sees it. It is very quiet here.
Then Darth Vader appears across the blackness. They cross lightsabers, but Luke parries perfectly and slashes at Vader with his sword.
Vader is decapitated. His helmet-encased head flies from his shoulders as his body disappears into the darkness. The helmet containing Vader’s head spins and bounces and finally stops. For an instant it rests on the floor, then it explodes. The black helmet and breath mask fall away to reveal…Luke’s head.
Across the space the standing Luke stares at the sight, wide-eyed in terror. – Brackett and Kasdan, The Empire Strikes Back screenplay
Now that all six Star Wars films have been released and we now know that “Darth Vader” is really Anakin Skywalker’s Sith alter ego, at the time there was much debate about what that scene really meant. Was this Yoda’s way of chiding Luke for taking his weapons into the cave? Did it mean that Luke could potentially be seduced by the dark side as Vader had been? Was Luke fighting himself, or was there a darker, deeper significance to this Force-derived mirage? (If you listen to George Lucas’ commentary on the Empire DVD, the answer is yes to all these.)
Darth Vader – Dagobah: The Figure:
In 2000, Hasbro decided to abandon its one-film product line based on Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace and return to its all-encompassing approach that would combine action figures based on characters from both trilogies. Naming the new collection Star Wars: Power of the Jedi, for two years Hasbro released several waves of figures and vehicles with new packaging and interesting variations on previously released characters’ replicas.
Darth Vader – Dagobah is one of many variants of a 3.75-inch figure that was first made in 1978 by Kenner. Considering that Vader’s armor underwent only very subtle upgrades throughout the Classic Trilogy, you’d figure that there wouldn’t be too many versions of the Sith Lord’s action figure, yet both Kenner and Hasbro have issued various figures, each slightly different from the other – there seems to be a Sith Lord action figure for every occasion (Darth Vader with Lightsaber and RemovableCape, Darth Vader with CommTech Chip and Interrogation Droid, Darth Vader [Emperor’s Wrath] Darth Vader TIE FighterCockpit Gunnery Station…there’s even a Darth Vader Complete Galaxy [Death Star]).
Though Darth Vader – Dagobah appears to be, at first glance, merely an upgraded version of 1998’s Darth Vader (with Lightsaber and Removable Cape), it is a more refined figure and has features that make it the first figure that allows collectors to recreate the eerie dark side apparition Luke confronts in the tree cave.
In the 2000 Power of the Jedi version, Vader’s proportions are less bulky than the 1990s “removable cape” edition, and instead of being solid black with silver, red, and white detailing, the Dark Lord’s armor and helmet are a spectral translucent gray, to suggest a surreal spirit-like appearance. The cape is, unlike most of the newer cloth accessories, made of the same material, but the sculpt accurately depicts the “flowing robes” effect.
The head is also removable and the helmet and breath mask can come off to reveal Luke’s face. It’s also translucent, and the lenses on the breath mask have an ominous-looking reddish tint, giving Darth Vader – Dagobah a distinctly menacing aspect.
As is usually the case with figures featuring the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader – Dagobah comes with a red-bladed lightsaber. Like most Jedi or Sith laser swords issued with Star Wars figures since the mid-Nineties, the “energy blade” is made of translucent plastic that allows light to pass through to simulate a glowing lightsaber effect. Also, the saber’s handle is nicely detailed; unlike the earlier Darth Vader with Lightsaber and Removable Cape figure’s all-black laser sword handle, Darth Vader – Dagobah has a more authentic silver and black handgrip. Furthermore, the figure’s improved articulation allows Vader to hold it either one-handed or like a broadsword; I prefer the one-handed stance since it allows me to pose the figure as though he is also cocking his fist at any opponent in the vicinity.
Darth Vader – Dagobah, as all the figures of the 2000-2002 Power of the Jedi line, comes with a small booklet with role-playing stats and “facts” about the character. For example, its life form designation is Dark Side of the Force apparition, and the lightsaber blade can injure or even kill like its real counterpart.
Although the figure is nicely done, it does come apart very easily. Even older collectors are cautioned that the different components – the head, cape, and lightsaber – do come off Vader’s body rather easily, and pieces can and sometimes do get lost.
As with all the Star Wars action figures, Hasbro recommends this toy for children 4 and up since the small parts pose a clear and present choking hazard, especially for children under 3 years.