Viewing either The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi, one can’t help but notice how Captain Phasma stands out in her shiny silver armor. Whether it’s in contrast to the white of the First Order stormtroopers or the black of the First Order TIE pilots, the brilliance of her armor (as well as her cape) clearly mark her as different.
How did she get to have such armor?
This question is answered in Delilah S. Dawson’s Phasma, a novel that is an origin story of sorts about Phasma on her native planet of Parnassos.
Following the main events of the book (sorry, I’m not spoiling those here), Phasma returns to her planet from having voluntarily served in the First Order and heads straight towards Emperor Palpatine’s former ship (374):
Returning to the real work at hand, she continued to dig out Brendol’s ship, the one he called the Emperor’s Naboo yacht. A silly name for a broken toy. She couldn’t help remembering the first time she had seen it, a falling star burning through the sky and plummeting into unknown lands, farther away than anyone she’d ever known had traveled. Phasma had left a trail of bodies behind her, getting here. And she would leave a trail of bodies behind on the way back if that was what it took to erase every sign of the girl who had been born here on a forgotten, broken planet called Parnsassos.
Phasma doesn’t have anyone else help her put the armor together; she does it all by herself (374-375):
Tearing the ship apart took hours. Even with her various tools, it was an exhausting job, all done under the blistering sun in her full armor, and she had to take several breaks to sit in her TIE, drinking water, watching out for beetles, wiping the sweat off her forehead. Funny how, even on Parnassos, she didn’t feel comfortable without her helmet. After she had joined the Scyre, she’d embraced their fierce masks and salve paint as her new visage, as a better way to face the world and terrify it, perhaps giving her a slight edge in any battle. Her helmet performed the same service. She’d first put on the fallen stormtrooper’s armor in the middle of this very desert and had never looked back. No one in the First Order knew what her true face looked like, except Brendol.
She would remedy that. Soon.
In her efforts, though, she enjoyed the process: “It had the feel of a ritual, what she was doing here. It felt right. Transforming valuable remains into protection was, after all, a very Parnsassian talent” (375). This process also provided her with an opportunity for reflection of her own past: “As she dragged the chrome plates back to her ship one by one and loaded them in, she recalled using plates of metal as sleds and then as shields. To think that all those years she had lived in the Nautilus and then in the Scyre, she had had no idea what existed outside of their small territory. It had felt like a revelation that an entire group could sleep on one patch of dirt, as Balder’s Claw folk did” (375). Phasma still left some of the ship’s plating: “She only took as much of the yacht’s chrome plating as she needed, leaving the rest to the desert, where it would soon be buried” (375).
After gathering the materials from Emperor Palpatine’s yacht, she then took the materials over to a factory: “She had chosen this particular factory, out of dozens of Con Star factories, because it had specific machinery capable of replicating a very particular kind of process. Having downloaded the facility’s map into her datapad, she knew exactly which room housed the equipment she needed. She didn’t even have to flip the generator; everything hummed along perfectly when she powered up the synthicator” (376).
Even though she used a machine, it was still a laborious process for her: “Plate by plate, she fed the chrome sheets into the smelting chamber until they were all gone. Then, piece by piece, she removed her stormtrooper armor, placed it in the scanning chamber, waited until it had been properly coded, and replaced it with the next piece. They had built this costly machine so they wouldn’t have to constantly ship in new parts whenever something broke; they could merely replicate an exact replacement. Phasma was happy to consider it one small piece of Con Star’s payback for having made her early life a living hell” (377).
The process with the machine also required some technical know-how on her part (377):
The synthicator screeched back and forth as each new piece of armor took shape in glorious chrome. She had to carefully file the sharp edges and drill holes and place bolts here and there, but the printer’s work was flawless beyond her wildest imagining. The helmet was the last piece and also the most time consuming. She had selected a prototype helmet design that Brendol had rejected but she had fought for, and she had to first remove all the intricate electronics within without damaging them, then reattach them inside the new helmet. It was a tricky business when working with plastoid and even more challenging when dealing with the slickness of the chrome. She sighed heavily and pulled out her datapad, studying the downloaded schematics to help her get all the fittings just right. To think: Just a year ago, she had never held a working datapad, and now she could build one from scratch, given the right materials.
Powering down the synthicator, Phasma left her old white armor on the ground. Piece by piece, she put on the chrome armor for the first time, lovingly fitting every shining plate. Her captain’s cloak sat perfectly on her shoulder, swirling around the metal with a satisfying swish that it didn’t have over the old white plastoid. Along with the chrome plating from the ship, she’d also hauled in a new chrome sidearm and matching chrome blaster rifle, both ordered secretly and already tuned to her gloves. The blaster slid into its holster with a decisive click, and Phasma smiled.
The creation of this new armor was ground-breaking, special, and helped her carve out a distinct identity for her: “Standing before a plate-glass window, Phasma was, for once, satisfied. Just as she had constructed this shining suit, the first of its kind in the First Order and even more distinctive and commanding than that sycophantic fool Cardinal’s red suit, she had also constructed a completely new Phasma” (377-378).
Even though the origin of her armor had been hinted at in Pablo Hidalgo’s Star Wars The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary (see here, for instance (honorable mention #1)), the narrative treatment that her creation of her distinct armor receives in this book is helpful in providing a richer understanding of its background.