While Darth Vader is only in Rogue One for a few brief moments, he’s massively important to the movie. As the Emperor’s personal enforcer, he has a major part to play in driving the story — without him the threat to the Rebellion would feel much less severe and the villainous Director Krennic would be a far less complex character. But Vader is not present in Rogue One to simply play a supporting role; we also learn some previously unknown things about him which are of particular interest to fans of Star Wars lore.
SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
The big reveal about Vader — a mind-blowing detail which Rogue One introduces into Star Wars canon — is that when he’s not on a mission aboard his Imperial flagship, Vader lives in a castle on the planet Mustafar. In case it wasn’t obvious, the Rogue One novelization confirms that the dwelling is indeed located on the same volcanic world where Vader — as his former self, Anakin Skywalker — was dismembered in a fateful duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi and horrifically disfigured by molten lava.
The existence of Vader’s castle is a thrilling addition to the lore of the classic Star Wars villain, but it’s not an entirely new concept. The idea first materialized during pre-production on the original Star Wars films and was later repurposed in the now-abandoned Expanded Universe/Legends continuity.
In the earliest story conferences for The Empire Strikes Back, the concept of Vader living in a castle was initially explored. And while it was ultimately shelved, the castle is mentioned in Leigh Brackett’s first draft of the script for the Star Wars sequel and Lucas commissioned concept artist Ralph McQuarrie to visually explore the idea.
Brackett’s ESB script describes Vader’s sanctuary as a “black iron castle” on a rock in a “crimson sea.” But that’s not all, he even has gargoyle-like creatures which he keeps as pets and there’s a gruesome scene where he feeds them.
In the Expanded Universe, the Vader’s castle concept reemerged, evolving from those early notions. It came to be called Bast Castle, first appearing in the Dark Empire II series of comics, and was the private residence of Darth Vader located on the planet Vjun. Bast Castle was later prominently featured in other EU media, including the Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron game. Similarly, Vader had a castle on Coruscant which was introduced in Shadows of the Empire.
In Rogue One, we see an awesome establishing shot of Vader’s castle, which looks pretty similar to the original Ralph McQuarrie concepts above. Once inside, we have a brief look at Vader’s bacta tank chamber, which he presumably uses to heal his body. And we see the rotunda in which Director Krennic pleads his case with the Dark Lord of the Sith. Vader’s creepy-looking aide is there, but there are no other signs of life, and certainly no gargoyles.
Even more exciting than the brief Rogue One reveal, is the possibility that we could return to Vader’s personal abode on Mustafar in future Star Wars stories. It seems like a location ripe for further exploration, but only time will tell if we’ll see Vader’s castle again.