The White Knights are largely my response to the Jedi: a fallen order of psychic warriors formerly revered for their nobility of character, now hated and propagandized against. They were called Paladins, and the Red Knights were called Pioneers, until the early stages of editing Shadow Captain, when I decided these names would cause too much confusion with the Partisan faction in the same story. Akira Kurosawa, although certainly extremely gifted, didn’t have quite as much influence on me as Howard Pyle and the Story of King Arthur and his Knights, so that accounts for some of the differences between the White Knights and their inspiration, the more samurai-influenced Jedi.
Another difference is how I imagined their decline and fall. George Lucas (in the Prequels) and Dave Filoni (in the Clone Wars) seem to see the Jedi as overly rigid and old-fashioned, which alienates Anakin from the Jedi and allows Palpatine to manipulate Anakin and the others. For me, the White Knights’ great failing was a lack of discipline and accountability, allowing corrupt psychics to take control of the order and torture and enslave people to their hearts’ content. The Red Knights were officially an attempt to reform the corrupted Order of the White Knights, actually an attempt to deflect and protect the guilty parties. All this is loosely inspired by my impressions of how such things have gone down (minus the psychics) in the real world at different times.
Samar, the Last White Knight, was originally inspired by Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson’s character from the Prequels), but by the time I actually wrote Shadow Captain, he had drifted into something more along of the lines of: “Avery Brooks circa Star Trek: Deep Space Nine plays Gandalf circa the Hobbit.” At the time I wrote Shadow Captain, I hadn’t really picked up on the fact that Mace was supposed to be one of the more “rigid” and “old-fashioned” Jedi. Samar, although certainly more adaptable and independent-minded than Mace, is also very old-fashioned in some ways, and feels that the fall of the White Knights resulted from a relaxation in their disciplinary and teaching standards.
The Red Knights as a whole are not close analogues to the Sith, because many of the Red Knights are basically zombies. The “mindbenders,” the hard core of evil psychics who corrupted the White Knights and then took over the Red Knights, are perhaps more similar, with a “might makes right” philosophy.
The Red Knights combine visual elements from Snoke’s personal guard in the Last Jedi, Palpatine’s personal guard in Return of the Jedi, and Maximilian from the Black Hole. The dynamic between Reinhart and Maximilian in Black Hole may have influenced the dynamic between Essem and the Red Knight aboard his ship in Shadow Captain.
The sequel to Shadow Captain features the Thorn Master, someone who left the White Knights prior to the order’s downfall, and who is also called the Black Knight. When you encounter a Black Knight in an Arthurian story older than Monty Python, he might be evil, or he might just be kind of a wildcard, on nobody’s side but his own. The Thorn Master is the latter, and he will tell you quite emphatically, as he told me, that he is the only Black Knight in the Star Master universe.