A cybernetic replacement was any biomechanical device used to replace body parts ranging from internal organs to limbs, which were usually lost or destroyed by disease or dismemberment. Prosthetic replacements were connected to organic tissue via a complex synth-net neural interface, which provided the recipient with control and sensation. External replacements were often covered by synthflesh to emulate actual organic tissue.
- "Prosthetics offer sensation and do everything flesh can. They're ideal substitutes in every way, except for requiring maintenance."
- ―Valin Horn
The galaxy had centuries of advanced technology at its disposal. Among them were the ability to replace and, for a price, modify and enhance the body. Cloning was expensive and, given the horrors of the Clone Wars, illegal on most planets after the era. Some limited regeneration of limbs was considered acceptable but there were medical dangers involved with a science that had, for obvious reasons, not seen much development in later decades after the Clone Wars. For the majority of galactic citizens, cybernetic replacements were the cheap, effective, legal, and safe solution to unfortunate and severe physical injuries.
For those willing to make the sacrifice of flesh and expense, the body could be "upgraded" to allow for additional skills and abilities. Some were very innocuous, the Shepherd chip issued to military service members for instance. Others involved modifying the limbs and internal systems of the potential patient. As with everything in the galaxy, this came at a potential price, in credits and in the potential loss of self. Someone could easily go too far in attempting to be "more human than human."
When flesh failed—and sometimes even before that—cybernetics took over. Prosthetic limbs and replacement organs powered by batteries and controlled by electrical impulses were the low end of these procedures with sophisticated cybernetic hardware designed to improve or augment the recipient's body and mind at the high end of the scale.
Two major kinds of cybernetic attachments existed in the galaxy: replacements and enhancements.
- Replacements: Replacements were prosthetic or artificial units intended to replace lost limbs and damaged organs. Common replacements provided no benefits other than duplicating the essential functions of their biological counterparts, and they presented little strain on the beneficiary's overall well-being. In appearance, a cybernetic replacement could be recognizably artificial or virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Example: Rianna Saren's cybernetic lekku.
- Enhancements: Enhancements bestowed new abilities or improved the recipient in some fashion. Enhancements included skeletal reinforcement, subcutaneous communications hardware, and weapon mounts. Some enhancements had visible external components, while others were hidden beneath the skin. Enhancements put more of a drain on the body's resources, and recipients frequently suffered debilitating physical or mental side effects. Example: General Grievous' replacement body.
Subjects of cybernetic replacements/enhancements
Many beings had prosthetic replacements throughout galactic history. Several beings were well known for employing unique or extensive prostheses.
- Darth Malak, a Dark Lord of the Sith during the Old Republic, had a prosthetic voice box that he used to speak, as well as a metallic jaw.
- Rianna Saren, a Twi'lek mercenary who had one of her lekku cut off, had a prosthetic replacement fitted.
- General Grievous was forced to have almost his entire body replaced by cybernetic parts after a near-fatal shuttle crash. Though he retained his vital organs, such as his brain, eyes, heart and stomach, nearly everything else was cybernetic.
- Anakin Skywalker had a prosthetic arm, which he was given after a duel with Count Dooku resulted in the loss of his arm. Some time later, the arm was replaced.
- Bounty hunter Cad Bane had a pair of cybernetic tubes connected to his skull to help him in breathing.
- Sith Lord Darth Maul had to wear a cybernetic apparatus instead of his legs which were cut off by Obi-Wan Kenobi at the end of their duel on Naboo. Maul would later live on Lotho Minor in near-madness until he was found by his brother, Savage Opress, and taken back to Dathomir where Mother Talzin created him a new pair of cybernetic legs. He would later gain a pair of human mechanical legs that returned him to his previous size thanks to a group of Mandalorians led by led by former Governor Pre Vizsla.
- A great deal of Darth Vader's ravaged body was supported by prosthetic replacements, although they had a comparatively low quality compared to others. Vader's artificial limbs were incredibly heavy and purposely badly made, frequently snagging on the inside of his suit. However, despite the low quality, his artificial limbs never tired or weakened.
- Inquisitor Valin Draco was fitted with extensive cybernetics, following his near-death when he was attacked by the Alderaanian Resistance beneath the Almas Academy.
- A'Sharad Hett lost his right arm in his duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine and received a prosthetic replacement. When he met the Yuuzhan Vong, they restored his organic arm.
- Grand Moff Trachta was kept alive by a cybernetic respiratory system, and his eyes were replaced with ocular cameras, including a third "eye" in the back of his head.
- Luke Skywalker was also fitted with a prosthetic hand after losing his own during a duel with his father on the planet Bespin. This hand was replaced during his brief service to the resurrected Emperor. The replacement was later severed during a duel with Lumiya, so he was given yet another replacement prosthesis.
- The Sith Lady Lumiya also received extensive amounts of prosthesis after crashing her starfighter following a dogfight with Luke Skywalker. It was her claim that high levels of prosthesis dampened an individual's sensitivity to the Force, though others, like Darth Plagueis, thought otherwise. This, she claimed, had stopped Darth Vader from attaining the full potential of a Sith Lord and was also stifled her attempts to achieve a mastery of the dark side of the Force.
- Sith Saber Gavar Khai had his arm cut off at the forearm, in battle with Luke Skywalker, and replaced it with a cybernetic that was stronger and faster.
Alternatives to cybernetics
This area of medical technology was spurred by the carnage of the Clone Wars, and the replacement of body parts with lifelike replicas reached a high level of refinement during the Galactic Civil War. Not all prostheses, however, were designed with replicating the real body part in mind. The prosthetic arm of Arden Lyn, a Teräs Käsi master was conspicuously disproportionate to her body and was in fact a modified droid arm.
Although prostheses were widely available, not all candidates accepted the replacement limbs offered to them. The Jedi Tenel Ka lost an arm during a practice lightsaber duel with Jacen Solo but chose to shun the offer of a replacement, instead choosing to focus upon her own physical and Force-based abilities to compensate for the loss. Wolf Sazen also kept his arm from being replaced after Darth Nihl cut it off until later in 137 ABY.
Also, the arrival of the Yuuzhan Vong, who wielded advanced biotechnology, opened new avenues for the replacement of lost limbs. After being captured by the Yuuzhan Vong, A'Sharad Hett's synthetic arm was replaced with a grown organic replacement. Decades later, Hett, now Darth Krayt, would order that a similarly organic replacement be given to Darth Nihl after the Nagai lost his right arm to Cade Skywalker.