Rogue One gave us one of our only looks at Darth Vader at the height of his power. All vestiges of Anakin Skywalker’s life died 20 years ago (so far as he knows, anyway), the Empire is on the crux of its ultimate victory (so far as he knows, anyway), and Lord Vader’s name is spoken with reverence throughout Imperial outposts.
But what the movie showed us — Darth Vader at home among the Empire — contained a single element that has shocked and divided fans: the idea that a 7-foot, 8-inch man who stalks around in a floor-length cloak might have a flair for the dramatic.
The rest of this post contains spoilers for Rogue One.
By dramatic, I’m not even talking about Vader casually wading hip-deep through dying Rebel soldiers like he has all the time in the world. Rogue One brought Vader back to the forefront of modern Star Wars films through an establishing shot of a massive black tower with a lava river running down it (dozens of which will no doubt soon be erected on countless Minecraft servers ’round the world).
Moments later, we found out that this was Vader’s stronghold, his meditation retreat — the one place in the universe where he feels comfortable letting it all hang out in a bacta tank. And thanks to the official novelization of Rogue One and The Art of Rogue One, we know exactly where this scene takes place: the planet of Mustafar.
Mustafar appeared in Revenge of the Sith as a suitably epic location for the culmination of the entire Star Wars prequel trilogy, and both Mustafar’s lava-riddled landscape and Vader’s Rogue One tower were based on a scene in an early draft of the script for The Empire Strikes Back. The scene called for a visit to Darth Vader’s forbidding castle on a nearly uninhabitable lava planet. The idea of a Vader-associated lava planet was borrowed for Revenge of the Sith, and for Rogue One, the filmmakers went right back to Star Wars conceptual designer Ralph McQuarrie’s original vision for that scrapped Empire scene to build Vader’s tower.
None of that would conclusively confirm that Vader’s Rogue One scene takes place on Mustafar. But for that we have the official novelization of Rogue One, which definitively states so: Darth Vader’s happy place, insofar as he is even capable of having one, is on Mustafar, the planet where he accidentally murdered his wife and drove his oldest friend to dismember him.
And speaking of that climactic scene, here’s how Rogue One screenwriter Gary Whitta describes the way Vader uses his stronghold, and the bacta tank room within it, in The Art of Rogue One: “What he’s looking at through his window is the location where his duel with Obi-Wan took place. The fact that he’d chosen to build his living mausoleum here is a nod to the conflict in him — that he would go back to this place to reflect on what happened to the man he once was.”
Or, as Sonic-Spoon put it on Tumblr: