Darth Vader is one of the most intimidating characters in the Star Wars universe, and it’s in big part thanks to his iconic suit. Vader had to wear the suit and helmet all the time in order to survive, but how did the helmet and mask work? Back in 1977, the film now known as Star Wars: A New Hope introduced viewers to a galaxy far, far, away with a lot of different planets and alien species, all types of robots, and a corrupt political system. The film also introduced characters that are now part of pop culture, such as Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Han Solo, and Darth Vader.
The following films – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – continued exploring their stories, but the prequel trilogy decided to focus on Darth Vader’s backstory, from his days as a young slave in Tatooine to his rise as a powerful Sith lord. The final prequel film, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, saw Anakin Skywalker turn to the dark side and become Darth Vader, and also showed why he needed to wear a very complex suit.
During the duel on Mustafar, Obi-Wan Kenobi severed Anakin’s left arm and both legs, leaving him to burn. Anakin was later rescued by Darth Sidious and taken to Coruscant, where his injuries were treated. Sadly, he was so badly wounded that many parts of his body had to be replaced and he had to wear the now famous helmet and mask to survive – but how did they keep him alive?
Anakin’s wounds were so bad there was no way he could be saved and make a full recovery. The Darth Vader suit had a lot of elements that allowed Anakin to live but with many limitations. Although every part of the armor served a purpose, many viewers seem to be especially curious about the helmet and mask, perhaps because of its unique design (which was made like that in part to give him an intimidating look). The helmet actually played a very important part in keeping him alive, as it contained neural needles connected to the top of his skull and spine, thus forming one interconnected unit – and without these, he wouldn’t have been able to use his (artificial) limbs.
Although Star Wars isn’t scientifically accurate, it did take into account some of the problems humans would come across with when in space, and that’s why the helmet helped keep his eyes from bulging and damaging from the pressure. It also allowed him to eat through a feeding tube, though he could only eat a nutritious but disgusting RepMedia paste – however, it’s worth noting that he could chew if he wanted to, but that required being in a hyperbaric chamber so he could take the helmet and mask off without a problem. In addition to that, the helmet allowed him to control his organic processes, so he had full control of what happened to his body.
Because Anakin’s eyes were badly injured in Mustafar, the helmet’s eye visors gave him the ability to see beyond the normal visual spectrum, as well as the ability to see in complete darkness. Darth Vader’s helmet and mask were so important that he couldn’t even sleep without them, meaning he was always uncomfortable and probably was never able to sleep properly. After knowing how the helmet worked and everything it did for Darth Vader, it’s not surprising that he never took it off, but it’s also heartbreaking to learn that he lived in constant pain.
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