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  • Writer's pictureAaron Fonseca

What's the Difference Between Clone Troopers and Stormtroopers in Star Wars?

Your Nerd Side Show with Fonseca:

As a more somber and arguably grounded piece of Star Wars media, part of the formula for Andor is to focus on the Empire's means of oppression. Imperial forces seem to be everywhere with the Republic fallen and the galaxy now Emperor Palpatine's toy box. And, as seen through Cassian Andor's eyes, they're always a problem. Andor's attention to detail is a strong point of the series. Still, its focus on Imperial security and the use of TIE fighters paints a particularly vivid picture of the Star Wars universe at its darkest moment.

Andor bridges the two decades between the rise of the Empire at the end of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith and the destruction of the Death Star in A New Hope. As such, it reveals a key change from Clone Troopers to Stormtroopers, which occurred in the gap between the two films. For instance, a flashback scene in Season 1, Episode 7, "Announcement," shows Clone Troopers on the streets, while contemporary sequences reveal Stormtroopers in the same position. It’s a subtle distinction and sometimes looks like nothing but a slightly different armor design. In fact, the difference between Clone Troopers and Stormtroopers is one of the keys to this part of the Star Wars timeline.

Clone Troopers are genetic copies of bounty hunter Jango Fett, created by the Kaminoans secretly to provide the Republic with an army. While they evince variations and individual identities as their lives take different paths, they all stem from the same DNA and, thus, look and sound exactly like one another. Their armor is best described as "protean Stormtrooper," though decorations and other unique touches were prevalent during the Clone Wars.

They first appear in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones as the Separatists formally break from the Republic. Of course, Senator Palpatine used them as cat's paws the entire time. No one doubts the need for an army with civil war brewing, and the question of who paid the Kaminoans to develop the Clones becomes lost in the need to stop the Separatists. Ironically, Palpatine controls them as well. The Separatists are engineered to create a crisis, which the Clone Troopers magically show up to solve.

That pays dividends in Revenge of the Sith, as Palpatine executes Order 66. The Clones -- programmed from conception to obey it -- turn on their Jedi commanders en masse. In one stroke, they go from loyal comrades to implacable enemies, wiping out the Jedi. Palpatine then orders the Separatist droid armies to shut down, leaving him in control of the galaxy. The Clone Troopers perform exactly as he needs them to, and this begins their transition into the dark foot patrol of the galactic empire.

Stormtroopers Were Conscripted To Hold Power

With the war over, the Clones have served their purpose, and since cloning operations are expensive, the new Emperor decides to change course. Conscripts and volunteers -- who don't need to be raised and trained from birth -- are far more cost-effective and don't require Order 66 levels of loyalty to do their job. The first season of Star Wars: The Bad Batch goes deep into the crossover details, starting with Season 1, Episode 1, "Aftermath." Admiral Tarkin arrives on Kamino to terminate their contract, bluntly telling them that conscripts can do the same job "at half the cost." The first season shows how Clone operations are slowly terminated, climaxing in Season 1, Episode 15, "Return to Kamino," as the Empire attacks and destroys the Kaminoans' cloning facilities.

After that, Clone Troopers are quickly phased out, and conscripted Stormtroopers become the norm. Clones age more rapidly than non-clones -- another reason the Empire doesn't want them anymore -- and their short shelf-life means that the change takes place comparatively quickly. Andor takes place in the midst of that transition, which the showrunners make careful note of in their use of the Empire's ground forces. The change is incidental for Cassian, but for the Star Wars universe as a whole, it's enormous and reflects the dark rise of the Empire. It also explains why stormtroopers are treated as expendable cannon fodder, as they're easier to replace than clone troops and their lifespans.

Different Types of Troopers In Star Wars

Stormtroopers and Clone Troopers are just two varieties of such soldiers in the Star Wars franchise. These variations came about after the transition from Clone Troopers to Stormtroopers, and they tend to reflect certain environmental conditions that the foot soldiers are trained for. Sandtroopers operate on desert planets such as Tatooine, and their armor includes cooling fans and a sand filter. This makes them somewhat similar to the Stillsuits used by the Fremen in Dune. Scout Troopers and Patrol Troopers have more lightweight armor, allowing them to traverse distances more easily on their speeder bikes. Of course, they also have different posts, with Scout Troopers operating in forest environments like Endor, while Patrol Troopers are seen in more urban areas.

Snowtroopers from Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back fittingly operate in snowy environments such as Hoth, with thicker armor and "skirts" that surround their lower bodies and provide extra warmth. Swamp Troopers, also known as Mud Troopers, eschew the usual white color schemes of the shock troops and instead wear green armor to blend in with their murky surroundings. Shore Troopers (Coastal Defender Stormtroopers) have somewhat ruddier (yet still white) armor and protect shorelines, though their usage across the galaxy tends to be rare. That's without even getting into the different versions of the original Clone Troopers, who all had specific armor and color schemes based on rank and function.

This was somewhat seen in the Disney Star Wars sequels, with Captain Phasma being a First Order Stormtrooper with silver armor. Likewise, TIE Fighter pilots and perhaps even Imperial Red Guards could be seen as tangentially related to Stormtroopers. However, they're not quite the same and have different armor and color schemes. All these variations only add to the debate over Clone Troopers vs Stormtroopers, with an endless supply and variants of the latter throughout the series. Clone Troopers only had a presence before the time of the original trilogy, which is why Stormtroopers are still so ubiquitous in the Star Wars universe.

Andor Season 1 is available to stream now on Disney+.

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