It’s a well-known fact that imperial storm troopers have terrible aim.
While their failure logistically supports the plot of Star Wars – they would be dramatically different stories if all our heroes just died – there are numerous fan theories on the subject. Perhaps the helmets provide poor visibility (possibly due to cut backs after the Empire took over). Perhaps the troopers were ordered not to hit our heroes – after all, we know they were allowed to escape the Death Star in a trap to reveal the rebel base. Another theory argues that storm troopers miss for the same reason that real, well-trained, combat soldiers do – when it’s a human person standing in front of you, it’s just not that easy to shoot.
But, as I was thinking about it this weekend – as you’re wont on the first day off after a long semester – what if storm troopers have intentionally bad aim? Not that they were ordered to miss or are otherwise consciously choosing to miss – but what if the storm trooper clones are intentionally designed to be poor shots?
Let’s back up a bit.
Before they were the imperial storm troopers of the Galactic Empire, these soldiers were the clone army of the dying Galactic Republic. Replicated from the DNA of legendary bounty hunter Jango Fett, we know – if you’re willing to sit through the prequels – that the clones were genetically modified to reach adulthood faster and to be more subservient and loyal than they would have been otherwise.
In the animated Clone Wars series it is striking just how inhuman the clones are considered. They aren’t treated as people, with independent personalities and intrinsic worth. They are treated as cannon fodder; necessary man power needed to crush the separatists seeking to break from the Republic, but little more human than the droid army they oppose.
This is, in fact, the real the beauty, if you will, of the clone army – unlike ‘real’ lifeforms, they are entirely disposable.
And if you’re building a disposable army, do you want to empower them to overthrow you?
Given the clear power imbalance and injustice faced by the clones, it seems unwise to make them too capable. Far safer it would be to encase them in tough, Mandalorian inspired armor, and send them out as meat shields to take the shots which might otherwise hit a more valued person. In this way, you could breed an army capable of meeting your needs, with little risk of servants’ uprising.
And exactly what needs are the clones fulfilling?
Well, that depends on who you ask, I suppose. The Republic embraced the clones as a ready-made army, conveniently on hand just as numerous worlds declared their independence and plunged the Republic into war. The Republic needed bodies – they needed weapons they could send to fight droid armies, and they needed soldiers whose deaths wouldn’t cause the war fatigue typically associated with such loss. In the Jedi they had powerful generals and leaders, capable of remarkable feats. What they needed was an infantry for these skilled warriors to lead – a disposable army that could counter the opposing disposable army, while the leaders faced off in proper combat.
But, of course, the Jedi aren’t the ones who ordered the creation of the clone army. While the order supposedly came from Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas, given that his death preceded that order, presumably the clone army was the vision of some Sith Lord, whether that be Darth Sidious or the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke we met in Episode 7.
Breeding clones to be less formidable warriors fits neatly into the Empire’s plans. The clones are durable but generally harmless soldiers. A Jedi would never see a (successful) attack from them coming.
Interestingly, the infamous Order 66 which ultimately caused the clones to turn on their Jedi masters was revealed in Clone Wars to be programmed into their DNA. This makes them the perfect Trojan horse – literally unable to hit things until a genetic order takes control. Once the Jedi are virtually eliminated, the order is lifted and the clones go back to being unable to aim – as we meet them in Episode 4.
Following the fall of the Republic, the Empire began replacing clones with conscripted soldiers, forcing them to undergo rigorous training from an early age. While this may be an indication of the high cost of clone soldiers, it may also be an indication of the inadequacy of the original clones. The Empire, though, may have still have aimed to develop sub-optimal storm troopers through their training program. The Empire, I’m sure, would have no qualms in poorly training a disposable army – and they would certainly be cautious about giving such underlings too much training and power.