Sheev Palpatine, (also known as Darth Sidious or simply the Emperor) is the main antagonist of the Star Wars franchise, mainly portrayed by Ian McDiarmid. In the original trilogy, he is depicted as the aged, pale-faced and cloaked Emperor of the Galactic Empire and the master of Darth Vader. In the prequel trilogy, he is portrayed as a charismatic Senator from Naboo who uses deception and political manipulation to rise to the position of Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic, and then reorganizes the Republic into the Galactic Empire, with himself as Emperor.
Though outwardly appearing to be a well-intentioned public servant and supporter of democracy prior to becoming Emperor, he is actually Darth Sidious, the Dark Lord of the Sith – a cult of practitioners of the dark side of the Force previously thought to have been extinct in the Star Wars galaxy for a millennium. As Sidious, he instigates the Clone Wars, nearly destroys the Jedi, and transforms the Republic into the Empire. He also manipulates Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker into turning to the dark side and serving at his side as Darth Vader. Palpatine's reign is brought to an end when Vader kills him to save his son, Luke Skywalker.
Since the initial theatrical run of Return of the Jedi, Palpatine has become a widely recognized popular culture symbol of evil, sinister deception, tyranny, and the subversion of democracy.
Original trilogy Edit
The Emperor does not appear in Star Wars, but is mentioned as the Galactic Empire's ruler by Grand Moff Tarkin during a meeting with the Death Star's council, to whom Tarkin states that the Emperor has dissolved the Galactic Senate for its increasing support of the Rebel Alliance and given direct control to the regional governors of the star systems controlled by the Empire. The Emperor makes his first appearance in The Empire Strikes Back in the form of a hologram, revealing himself to be the Sith master of Darth Vader. He tells Vader that Luke Skywalker is becoming a serious threat to the Empire and must not become a Jedi. Vader convinces him that Luke would be a great asset if turned to the dark side.In 1983's Return of the Jedi, the Emperor appears in person to oversee the last stages of the second Death Star's construction. He assures Darth Vader that they will together turn Luke, now revealed to be Vader's son, to the dark side. Unknown to Vader, the Emperor plans to replace his apprentice with Luke. When Vader brings Luke before his master, the Emperor tempts Luke to join the dark side by appealing to the young Jedi's fear for his friends, whom he has lured into a trap. This leads to a lightsaber duel in which Luke defeats and nearly kills Vader. The Emperor tells Luke to kill Vader and take his place, but Luke refuses and declares himself a Jedi. Enraged, the Emperor attacks Luke with Force lightning. Moved by his son's cries for help, Vader throws the Emperor into the Death Star's reactor shaft, killing him.
Prequel trilogy EditIn the 1999 prequel Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, which is set 32 years before Star Wars, Palpatine is depicted as a middle-aged Galactic Senator from the planet Naboo who is secretly the Sith Lord Darth Sidious. As Sidious, he influences the corrupt Trade Federation to blockade and invade Naboo. Queen Padmé Amidala of Naboo flees to the planet Coruscant to receive counsel from Palpatine, unaware that he actually engineered the invasion. After a plea for help from the senate results in bureaucratic delays, Palpatine persuades the queen to make a motion to have Supreme Chancellor Finis Valorum removed from office.
When Padmé attempts to liberate Naboo, Sidious sends his Sith apprentice Darth Maul there to capture her. The invasion is eventually thwarted and Maul is defeated in a lightsaber duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Palpatine uses the crisis to be elected the new Chancellor of the Republic. He then returns to Naboo, where he befriends the young Anakin Skywalker, telling him that, "We will watch your career with great interest".
In the 2002 sequel Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Palpatine exploits constitutional loopholes to remain in office even after the official expiration of his term. Meanwhile, as Darth Sidious, he continues to manipulate events from behind the scenes by having his new Sith apprentice Count Dooku, a former Jedi master, lead a movement of planets in seceding from the Republic to form the Confederacy of Independent Systems.
Since the Separatists are secretly building a battle droid army, Palpatine uses the situation to have himself granted emergency powers. Palpatine feigns reluctance to accept this authority, promising to return it to the Senate once the crisis has ended. His first act is to allow the creation of a clone army to counter the Separatist threat; this results in the opening salvo of the Clone Wars. With the galaxy now at war as Sidious planned, Dooku brings him the secret plans for a new superweapon.
In the 2005 sequel Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine is captured by cyborg Separatist general General Grievous, as part of a plan devised by Sidious. Palpatine is rescued by Anakin and Obi-Wan, but not before the Jedi confront Count Dooku again. A duel ensues in which Anakin defeats Dooku. Palpatine orders Anakin to kill the unarmed Dooku; after some hesitance, Anakin kills Dooku in cold blood. Palpatine then escapes with his Jedi rescuers and returns to Coruscant. By this point, Palpatine has become a virtual dictator, able to take any action in the Senate. He makes Anakin his personal representative on the Jedi Council, who deny Anakin the rank of Jedi master and order him to spy on the Chancellor. Palpatine tells Anakin the story of Darth Plagueis, a powerful Sith Lord who was able to manipulate life and death but was killed by his own apprentice (who turns out to be Sidious). Darth Sidious killed Darth Plagueis in line with a Sith tradition, mentioned by Master Yoda in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, referred to as the Rule of Two by the creator, Darth Bane. Yoda states that "Always two, there are. No more, no less." Eventually, Palpatine reveals his secret identity as a Sith Lord and Darth Plagueis' apprentice to Anakin; he knows that Anakin has been having prophetic visions of Padmé, his pregnant secret wife, dying in childbirth, and offers to teach him Plagueis' secrets to save her life.
Anakin informs Jedi Master Mace Windu of Palpatine's treachery. Windu and three other Jedi Masters attempt to arrest Palpatine and haul him before the Senate for trial. Palpatine pulls a lightsaber out of his sleeve and kills everyone but Windu, whom he engages in a fierce duel. Windu eventually subdues the Sith Lord and deflects a blast of Force lightning back into Palpatine's face with his lightsaber, disfiguring Palpatine's face into the pale, wizened visage seen in the original trilogy. Anakin appears and intercedes on Palpatine's behalf by cutting off Windu's arm, allowing Palpatine to kill the Jedi Master with a blast of Force lightning. Anakin then pledges himself to the dark side as Palpatine's new Sith apprentice, Darth Vader.
Palpatine orders the clone troopers to turn on their Jedi generals, while dispatching Vader to kill everyone inside the Jedi Temple and then assassinate the Separatist leaders on the planet Mustafar. Palpatine then reorganizes the Republic into the Galactic Empire, with himself as Emperor. Jedi Master Yoda confronts him in his Senate office and engages the Sith Lord in a lightsaber duel that ends in a stalemate. Sensing that his new apprentice is in danger, Palpatine travels to Mustafar and finds Vader near death following a duel with Obi-Wan. After returning to Coruscant, he rebuilds Vader's burned, mutilated body with the black armored suit from the original trilogy. Palpatine then tells Vader that Padmé was killed in the heat of Vader's anger, breaking what remains of his apprentice's spirit. Palpatine is last seen watching the original Death Star's construction, with Vader and Wilhuff Tarkin at his side.
Animated series EditPalpatine/Darth Sidious is a central character in Genndy Tartakovsky's Star Wars: Clone Wars micro-series, which is set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The character's likeness in the series is based on that in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.
In the first chapter, Palpatine is informed by Obi-Wan Kenobi that the Jedi have discovered that the InterGalactic Banking Clan has established battle droid factories on the planet Muunilinst. Palpatine agrees to send a strike force that includes Anakin Skywalker, and suggests that Anakin be given "special command" of Obi-Wan's fighters. Yoda and Obi-Wan initially speak against it, but reluctantly concede to the chancellor. In the seventh chapter, a holographic image of Sidious appears shortly after Dooku trains Dark Jedi Asajj Ventress. Sidious orders Ventress to track down and kill Anakin. He remarks to his second apprentice that her failure is certain, but the point of her mission is to test Anakin.
In the final chapters, a hologram of Sidious again appears and orders General Grievous to begin the special mission: an assault on the galactic capital. Later, the Separatist invasion of Coruscant begins and Palpatine watches from the window in his private residence. He is protected by Jedi Shaak Ti, Roron Corobb and Foul Moudama. Grievous breaks through the Chancellor's window and kidnaps him. After Grievous kills Roron and Foul then defeats Ti, Palpatine is taken to the Invisible Hand (Grievous's flagship), setting the stage for Revenge of the Sith.
In the 2008 animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars (also set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith), Darth Sidious engineers a Separatist plot where Count Dooku turns Jabba the Hutt against the Republic by kidnapping his son Rotta and framing the Jedi for it. Meanwhile, Palpatine suggests that the Republic ally itself with the Hutts. Although Anakin Skywalker and Padawan Ahsoka Tano foil the plot, the outcome suits Palpatine's ends: Jabba places Hutt hyperspace routes at the Republic's disposal.
In the subsequent animated series, Palpatine continues to serve as Supreme Chancellor while his Sith identity remains behind the scenes via holograms. In the second season, Sidious hires bounty hunter Cad Bane to infiltrate the Jedi Temple and steal a holocron. He then takes a valuable Kyber memory crystal that contains the names of thousands of Force-sensitive younglings around the galaxy. The final stage of the plot: to bring four Force-sensitive children to Sidious's secret facility on Mustafar. Anakin and Ahsoka again foil the plot but Bane escapes and all evidence of Sidious's involvement is lost. In the fifth season, Sidious personally travels to the planet Mandalore to confront his former apprentice Darth Maul after becoming leader of Death Watch, killing Maul's brother Savage Opress before torturing Maul with the intent to make use of him. In the final season, Sidous goes to lengths to conceal the full nature of his plan from the Jedi by attempting to silence the Clone Trooper Fives when he learns of Order 66 and having Dooku wipe out any thing tied to Sifo-Dyas.
Literature EditStar Wars Expanded Universe literature elaborates on Palpatine's role in Star Wars fiction outside of the films. The first appearance of Palpatine in Star Wars literature was in Alan Dean Foster's (writing as George Lucas) novelization of the script of A New Hope, published as Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker (1976). Foster characterizes Palpatine as a cunning senator who "caused himself" to be elected president of the Republic, and then declared himself Emperor and isolated himself from his subjects, eventually becoming a pawn of his advisers.
Novels and comics published before 1999 focus on Palpatine's role as Galactic Emperor.Shadows of the Empire (1996) by Steve Perry and The Mandalorian Armor (1998) by K. W. Jeter—all set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi—show how Palpatine uses crime lords such as Prince Xizor and bounty hunters like Boba Fett to fight his enemies. Barbara Hambly's novel Children of the Jedi (1995), set eight years after Return of the Jedi, features a woman named Roganda Ismaren who claims that Palpatine fathered her son Irek. The Jedi Prince series of novels introduces an insane, three-eyed mutant named Triclops, identified as Palpatine's illegitimate son. Created from DNA extracted from Palpatine and placed into a woman, he was born mutated, cast away and forgotten. Triclops had a son namedKen who became known as the "Jedi Prince".
Beginning in 1999 with Terry Brooks' novelization of The Phantom Menace, Star Wars writers chronicled the role of Palpatine prior to A New Hope as a politician and Sith Lord. The comic "Marked" by Rob Williams, printed in Star Wars Tales 24 (2005), and Michael Reaves's novelDarth Maul: Shadow Hunter (2001) explain Darth Sidious' relationship with his apprentice Darth Maul. Cloak of Deception (2001) by James Luceno follows Reaves's novel and details how Darth Sidious encourages the Trade Federation to build an army of battle droids in preparation for the invasion of Naboo.Cloak of Deception also focuses on Palpatine's early political career, revealing how he becomes a confidante of Chancellor Finis Valorum and acquainted with Padmé Amidala. Palpatine's role during the Clone Wars as Chancellor of the Republic and Darth Sidious is portrayed in novels such as Matthew Stover's Shatterpoint (2003), Steven Barnes' The Cestus Deception (2004), Sean Stewart's Yoda: Dark Rendezvous (2004), and Luceno's Labyrinth of Evil (2005) and Darth Plagueis (2012).
Following the theatrical release of Revenge of the Sith, Star Wars literature focused on Palpatine's role after the creation of the Empire. John Ostrander's comic Star Wars Republic 78: Loyalties (2005) chronicles how, shortly after seizing power, Emperor Palpatine sends Darth Vader to assassinate Sagoro Autem, an Imperial captain who plans to defect from the Empire. In Luceno's novel Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader (2005) (set shortly after Revenge of the Sith), the Emperor sends Darth Vader to the planet Murkhana to discover why clone troopers there refused to carry out Order 66 against their Jedi generals.
The Emperor in an early version of The Empire Strikes Back portrayed by Elaine Baker and voiced by Clive Revill.
The Star Wars Databank describes Palpatine as "the supreme ruler of the most powerful tyrannical regime the galaxy had ever witnessed" and Stephen J. Sansweet's Star Wars Encyclopedia calls him "evil incarnate".
As a senator, Palpatine is "unassuming yet ambitious". In Cloak of Deception, James Luceno writes that Palpatine "others found his reclusiveness intriguing, as if he led a secret life", and that "What Palpatine lacked in charisma, he made up for in candor, and it was that directness that had led to his widespread appeal in the senate. ... For in his heart he judged the universe on his own terms, with a clear sense of right and wrong". In Terry Brooks'novelization of The Phantom Menace, Palpatine tells Queen Amidala: "I promise, Your Majesty, if I am elected [chancellor of the Republic], I will restore democracy to the Republic. I will put an end to the corruption that has plagued the Senate". A Visual Dictionary states that he is a self-proclaimed savior. As Emperor, Palpatine abolishes the Imperial Senate. Sansweet states, "His Empire ... is based on tyranny, hatred of nonhumans, brutal and lethal force, and, above all else, constant fear". In Matthew Stover's novelization of Revenge of the Sith, Count Dooku anticipates the coming of the new government: "A government clean, pure, direct: none of the messy scramble for the favor of ignorant rabble and subhuman creatures that made up the Republic he so despised. The government he would serve would be Authority personified. Human authority".
Revenge of the Sith suggests that Palpatine was the apprentice of Darth Plagueis, while later Expanded Universe materials state that he was. Palpatine is characterized as "the most powerful practitioner of the Sith ways in modern times".Palpatine is so powerful that he is able to mask his true identity from the Jedi for decades. In the novel Shatterpoint, Mace Windu remarks to Yoda, "A shame [Palpatine] can't touch the Force. He might have been a fine Jedi."
The Star Wars Databank explains that the Force "granted him inhuman dexterity and speed, agility enough to quickly kill three Jedi Masters" (as depicted in Revenge of the Sith). Stover describes the duel between Yoda and Palpatine in his novelization of Revenge of the Sith: "From the shadow of a black wing, a small weapon ... slid into a withered hand and spat a flame-colored blade When the blades met it was more than Yoda against Palpatine, more the millennia of Sith against the legions of Jedi; this was the expression of the fundamental conflict of the universe itself. Light against dark. Winner take all". During the duel, Yoda realizes that Sidious' Sith Order has changed and evolved over the years, while the Jedi had not: "He had lost before he started". George Lucas has stated that Palpatine considers himself the savior of the galaxy. According to the Databank and New Essential Guide to Characters, Palpatine possesses great patience and foresight. He is depicted as a diabolical genius.
Character creation Edit
From Return of the Jedi onwards, Palpatine became the ultimate personification of evil in Star Wars, replacing Darth Vader as the central villain. When the original Star Wars trilogy was filmed, the Emperor was unnamed and his throne-world unidentified. Though it would not be used in film until the prequel trilogy, the first mention of the name Palpatine came from the prologue of Alan Dean Foster's 1976 novelization of A New Hope, which detailed the Emperor's rise to power. Foster writes:
Here, it is unclear whether Lucas intended Palpatine to be the reigning Emperor or the first of a succession of Emperors. Michael Kaminski, author of The Secret History of Star Wars, claims that Lucas' initial notes discuss a line of corrupt Emperors. Later Lucas depicted a sole villainous ruler.
During story conferences for The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas and Leigh Brackett decided that "the Emperor and the Force had to be the two main concerns in the Empire Strikes Back; the Emperor had barely been dealt with in the first movie, and the intention in the sequel was to deal with him on a more concrete level". Lucas ultimately decided to feature the Emperor in Return of the Jedi, in which the initial conception of Palpatine was superseded by his depiction as a dictatorial ruler adept in the dark side of the Force, inspired by the villain Ming the Merciless of the Flash Gordon comic books. The rise of an ambitious and ruthless politician dismantling a republic to achieve supreme power derives from the real-world examples of Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Adolf Hitler. Lucas said: "The whole point of the movies, the underlying element that makes the movies work, is that you, whether you go backwards or forwards, you start out in a democracy, and democracy turns into a dictatorship, and then the rebels make it back into a democracy".
Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan noted: "My sense of the relationship [between Darth Vader and the Emperor] is that the Emperor is much more powerful ... and that Vader is very much intimidated by him. Vader has dignity, but the Emperor inJedi really has all the power". In the first scene that shows the Emperor, he arrives at the Death Star and is greeted by a host of stormtroopers, technicians, and other personnel. Lucas states he wanted it to look like the military parades on "May Day in Russia."
According to Lucas, Palpatine's role in The Phantom Menace is to explain "how Anakin Skywalker came to be [Palpatine's] apprentice" and the events that lead to his rise to power. The true identity of Darth Sidious — the 'phantom menace' itself — is left a mystery until later films. Film critic Jonathan L. Bowen remarks: "Debates raged on the Internet concerning the relationship between Darth Sidious and Senator Palpatine. Most fans believed the two characters are actually the same person with logic seeming to support their conclusion". Bowen notes that "suspiciously Darth Sidious does not appear in the credits".
Augustus in the robes and cloak of his position as Pontifex Maximus.
In Star Wars and History published by Lucasfilm, it describes Palpatine's consolidation of power as alike to the Roman political figure Augustus. Both legitimized authoritarian rule by saying that corruption in the Senate was hampering the powers of the head of state; both pressed the Senate to grant extraordinary powers to deal with a crisis, falsely promising to rescind those powers; and both relied on strong control over military force.
When the Emperor first appeared in The Empire Strikes Back, he was portrayed by Elaine Baker, the wife of make-up designer Rick Baker. Chimpanzee eyes were superimposed into darkened eye sockets during post-production "in order to create a truly unsettling image". The character was voiced by Clive Revill.
"With Kershner," Revill said, "you had to keep the reins tight — you couldn't go overboard. It was the perfect example of the old adage 'less is more' — the Emperor doesn't say very much. But when he finally appears, it's at a point in the saga when everyone's waiting to see him. It's the Emperor, the arch villain of all time, and when he says there's a great disturbance in the Force, I mean, that's enough oomph!". During production of Revenge of the Sith, Lucas decided to shoot new footage forEmpire Strikes Back to create continuity between the prequels and original trilogy; wherefore, in the 2004 DVD release of The Empire Strikes Back Special Edition, the original version of the Emperor was replaced by McDiarmid, and the dialogue between the Emperor and Darth Vader was revised.
Lucas and director Richard Marquand cast Scottish Shakespearean actor Ian McDiarmid to play Emperor Palpatine for Return of the Jedi. He was in his late-30s and had never played a leading role in a feature film, though he had made minor appearances in films like Dragonslayer (1981). After Return of the Jedi, he resumed stage acting in London. In an interview with BackStage, McDiarmid revealed that he "never had his sights set on a film career and never even auditioned for the role of Palpatine". He elaborated: "I got called in for the interview after a Return of the Jedi casting director saw me perform in the Sam Shepard play Seduced at a studio theatre at the Royal Court. I was playing a dying Howard Hughes".
McDiarmid was surprised when Lucas approached him 16 years after Return of the Jedi to reprise the role of Palpatine. In an interview, he stated: "When we were doing Return of the Jedi there was a rumor that George Lucas had nine films in his head, and he'd clearly just completed three of them". McDiarmid added: "Someone said that, 'Oh, I think what he might do next is go back in time, and show how Vader came to be.' It never occurred to me in a million years that I would be involved in that, because I thought, 'oh well, then he'll get a much younger actor [to play Palpatine].' That would be obvious" None the less: "I was the right age, ironically, for the first prequel when it was made. ... So I was in the very strange and rather wonderful paradox of playing myself when young at my own age, having played myself previously when 100-and-I-don't-know-what".
Recalling the initial days of shooting The Phantom Menace, McDiarmid stated: "Stepping onto the set of Episode I for the first time was like going back in time, due to my experience in Jedi. Palpatine's an interesting character; he's conventional on the outside, but demonic on the inside — he's on the edge, trying to go beyond what's possible". McDiarmid added another layer to the character in Attack of the Clones: "[Palpatine] is a supreme actor. He has to be even more convincing than somebody who isn't behaving in a schizophrenic fashion, so he's extra charming, or extra professional — and for those who are looking for clues, that's almost where you can see them". McDiarmid also commented on the scene where Padmé Amidala is almost assassinated:
For Revenge of the Sith, McDiarmid explained that "[...]when you're playing a character of solid blackness, that in itself is very interesting, in the sense that you have no other motivation other than the accumulation of power. It's not so much about not having a moral center, it's just that the only thing that mattered is increasing power", and admitted: "I've been trying to find a redeeming feature to Palpatine, and the only one I've got so far is that he's clearly a patron of the arts because he goes to the opera". McDiarmid compared the character to Iago from William Shakespeare's Othello:
McDiarmid noticed that the script for Revenge of the Sith demanded more action from his character than in previous films. The close-up shots and non-acrobatic sequences of the duel between Palpatine and Mace Windu were performed by McDiarmid. Advanced fencing and acrobatic stunts were executed by McDiarmid's doubles, Michael Byrne, Sebastian Dickins, and Bob Bowles.
McDiarmid's performance as Palpatine was generally well received by critics. Todd McCarthy of Variety commented, "Entertaining from start to finish and even enthralling at times, 'Sith' has some acting worth writing home about, specifically McDiarmid's dominant turn as the mastermind of the evil empire." A reviewer for The Village Voice wrote that "Ian McDiarmid's unctuous Emperor turns appropriately vampiric as he attempts to draw Anakin into the Sith fold with promises of eternal life." Still, his performance was not without detractors; David Edelstein of Slate critiqued, "McDiarmid isn't the subtlest of satanic tempters. With his lisp and his clammy little leer, he looks like an old queen keen on trading an aging butt-boy (Count Dooku) for fresh meat — which leaves Anakin looking more and more like a 15-watt bulb."
Make-up and costumes Edit
Ian McDiarmid required little make-up in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. He recalled: "I'm ... slightly aged [inAttack of the Clones]. In the last film, I had a fairly standard make-up on, but now, they're starting to crinkle my face." Transforming McDiarmid into Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith, however, required extensive make-up. McDiarmid remarked in an interview with Star Wars Insider magazine, "Yes—that was a four-hour job, initially, although we got it down to about two-and-a-half in the end. But this was just a little bit of latex here and there, a little bit of skin-scrunching." He told the Homing Beacon newsletter, "When my face changes in the film, my mind went back to the early silent movie of The Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney." Film critic Roger Ebert wrote that he "looks uncannily like Death in The Seventh Seal" (1957) and film historian Robin Wood compares him to the witch from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Palpatine's wardrobe, tailored by costume designer Trisha Biggar, played an important part in the development of the character throughout the films. In Attack of the Clones, explained McDiarmid, "The costumes ... have got much more edge to them, I think, than the mere senator had in The Phantom Menace. So we see the trappings of power." In the next episode, McDiarmid remarked, "To wear the costumes as the character I play is wonderfully empowering."McDiarmid's favorite costume in Revenge of the Sith was a high-collared jacket that resembles snake or lizard skin. He stated that "it just feels reptilian, which is exactly right for [Palpatine]." According to Trisha Biggar, Palpatine's costumes proved the most daunting challenge. She said, "His six costumes get progressively darker and more ornately decorated throughout the movie. He wears greys and browns, almost going to black, taking him toward the dark side."