10 Facts You Didn't Know About Darth Sidious (The Emperor)
Darth Sidious and Emperor Palpatine
The ultimate antagonist of the first two Star Wars trilogies, Darth Sidious represents all that is evil in the epic saga. Unlike many sympathetic villains (Boba Fett, Darth Vader, and Count Dooku all have sympathetic motives), Sidious bears little redeeming qualities, constantly demonstrating his sadistic nature and unrivaled (or perhaps I should say unlimited) power.
Yet despite Palpatine's prominence in the plot, most fans know surprisingly little about the head of the Empire. So don your black cloaks, ignite your red lightsabers, and embrace the dark side—we're delving into ten fascinating facts about the vicious Sith Lord who successfully dismantled the Jedi Order.
10. No One Knows His Lightsaber Form
Just as Star Wars has never revealed the name of Yoda's species, the series has never declared which lightsaber Form Palpatine uses. The movies, strapped for time, don't delve into the various styles much, but through novels and other supporting media, we've learned almost every character's preference. Yoda uses the acrobatic Form 4 (Ataru), Obi-Wan employs the defensive Form 3 (Soresu), Anakin and Luke use the battering Form 5 (Djem So) and so on.
Yet as deadly as Palpatine is with a blade, we still don't know which style he prefers. Boggling the matter even further, sometimes (like in Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith) we see him wield a single crimson blade, while others (the Clone Wars series and Galaxy of Heroes video game) he wields twin red lightsabers. Regardless of which battle he enters, it's pretty clear that Sidious can fight superbly in multiple areas and adjust to the situation as needed.
9. He Wasn't Trained Until Age 17
Remember, in the Old Republic days, Jedi were expected to be instructed from a very early age—even preteen Anakin was almost rejected for his ripe old age of nine. Sith often followed suit; Darth Maul was taken for training as an infant.
Thus, it's amazing that Palpatine turned out as strong as he did considering he had no Force instruction until age 17. At that point, Darth Plagueis convinced the adolescent Palpatine to murder his father. Palpatine, raised in a wealthy noble family on Naboo, had grown to believe that money could substitute for morals, and was all-too-eager to kill his father and begin his path towards becoming the galaxy's most prevalent Sith Lord.
8. He Likely Masked His True Appearance All Along
No, Mr. Miyagi, this is mask on. Casual moviegoers may believe that Palpatine's fairly-handsome face becomes scarred in Episode 3 after his own Force Lightning is reflected back at him courtesy of Mace Windu's purple blade. But many hardcore fanatics, including Palpatine's own actor, Ian McDiarmid, believe that Palpatine had simply been hiding his disfigured appearance all along using the Force and simply chose that moment to let his disguise fall.
Remember that Luke was blasted with Lightning much longer than Palpatine, yet he suffered absolutely no facial scarring. And we know the dark side eventually warps the physical features of users—would it not have long since deformed a veteran like Palpatine? By letting his disguise fall, Palpatine strengthens his argument that the Jedi attacked him, letting him justify his actions to the Senate, garner the galaxy's sympathy, and claim complete control over the government.
7. He Probably Killed Padme
I hate to give you "probably" in a fact-based countdown, but this one's too juicy to ignore. Anakin's wife Padme, one of the strongest-willed characters in the series, supposedly dies at the end of Episode 3 of a "broken heart" and "losing the will to live." Even the medical droids seem puzzled, telling Obi-Wan "we can't explain it, but we are losing her."
Yes, Padme just endured some trauma after witnessing her husband fall to the dark side, but she's just given birth to two children. Would she really lose the will to live for them at that point? Long story short, one interesting theory suggests that Palpatine siphoned the life from her at a distance, needing her to die in order to shackle Anakin to him. This would also explain how he knew of her death when Anakin (now in his iconic black suit) asks his master where his wife is.
If you find it improbable for Palpatine to affect Padme across such a distance, remember that he's an insanely strong Force user who felt Anakin's danger on Mustafar all the way from Coruscant. And as Episode 8: The Last Jedi showed, powerful Jedi (or Sith) are very capable of projecting Force powers across planets. This adds another layer of evil to an already-twisted character, and at the very least, Palpatine's scheme indirectly resulted in her death. Check out the full theory here.
6. He Recording Himself Being "Attacked" by Jedi to Sway the Senate
While fans are split about Revenge of the Sith's film adaptation, I very much recommend its novel, written by Matthew Stover. It fleshes out many details without every deviating from the focus, and a few scenes actually play out differently. For instance, when Mace Windu and three Jedi Masters attempt to arrest Palpatine after learning his identity from Anakin, he activates a secret recording device, using its audio-only capabilities to his advantage by purposefully crying for help and making himself sound like the victim.
This lets Palpatine later play the recording to the Senate and "prove" how the galaxy is better off without vicious Jedi. Evil as he was, we can't deny Palpatine's proficiency for manipulation. The novel's version of Palpatine's arrest also better explains how he killed Mace's three comrades so quickly, as he tricks his first victim with a pleading question and strike while the Jedi's guard was down.
5. He Could Have Eventually Predicted the Future Perfectly
Even still-developing Force users like Luke Skywalker from Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back have been shown to receive Force visions detailing possible futures. However, as Yoda told Luke, "always in motion is the future." Thus, events can often be altered or play out differently than believed (as Supreme Leader Snoke found out in Last Jedi), making Force visions of limited use due to their malleable nature.
However, Palpatine was notoriously skilled in both the Force and long-term planning. Who else could have successfully hidden from the Jedi, orchestrated an entire war at the head of both sides, and gradually planted the seeds of rebellion in Anakin over the course of thirteen years? Palpatine's ability to predict and influence the future seems to excel any other Force-users of his age, and he himself believed that given enough time and practice, he would be able to perfectly envision the future, no "maybe" errata attached. Since Palpatine is so proficient at predicting, his prediction pertaining predicting perfectly is probably perfect.
4. His First Murders Were Accidents
Well, technically manslaughters. Of all the surprising things I've ever learned about Palpatine, perhaps the most astonishing was that he loved Speeder racing. Maybe he had more in common with Anakin that we thought; in fact, in the years of the Empire, Anakin (as Vader) would grow disdainful of machinery while Palpatine reveled in his government's technological superiority. Regardless, in his youth, before encountering Plagueis, Palpatine crashed a speeder he was piloting and inadvertently killed two pedestrians in the process.
But Palpatine's wealthy family was able to pay away any damages, contributing to the future Sith's belief that morals were irrelevant; only power and money mattered.
3. His First Name is Sheev
Yep, Darth Sidious's birth name was finally revealed in the novel Tarkin as Sheev Palpatine. This book is currently canon in the main timeline, but doesn't belong to the Expanded Universe "Legends" timeline.
Thus, if you prefer to leave Palpatine's name a mystery, feel free to go along with the EU, where both Palpatine's name and lightsaber style remain unclear. Speaking of Palpatine's name, in the article "Speak Like a Sith" from Star Wars Insider Magazine, Ben Grossblat, the creator of the Sith language, states that the name Palpatine could be translated in Sith as "He Who Causes Them to Throb and Tremble in Fear." And Palpatine's Sith title, Sidious, is based on the word insidious, meaning malicious and treacherous. Both more-fitting names for the underhanded tyrant than Sheev.
2. He Was Actually the Sith Apprentice in Phantom Menace
In the controversial prequel film Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, we're led to believe Palpatine is secretly the Sith Lord Darth Sidious and Darth Maul is his Sith apprentice, keeping in line with Darth Bane's ancient Rule of Two (which was actually first developed by Darth Revan). This decree states that there can only ever be two Sith at once, as having more simply leads to self-destructive infighting that would prevent the Sith Order from seizing control of the galaxy.
However, Palpatine's Sith master Darth Plagueis is very much alive at the start of Phantom Menace. Technically, Plagueis is the Sith Lord, Palpatine the apprentice, and Maul is actually a violation of the Rule, being little more than a Sith assassin. During Maul's climactic battle on Naboo against Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, Palpatine is nowhere to be seen—that's because he's busy off-screen murdering Plageuis in his sleep and finally assuming the mantle of Sith Lord.
1. He Lived Through Return of the Jedi
Well, at least in the Legends timeline. Obsessed with eternal life, in the Expanded Universe Palpatine had prepared several cloning chambers prior to his demise aboard the second Death Star. When his physical body perished after Vader's betrayal, Palpatine's spirit simply entered one of his clone's bodies, not only reviving him but placing him inside a younger and more-agile host. This was accomplished using the dark technique "transfer essence", which Palpatine describes as "The dying is painful. The transition is not an enjoyable experience. But it is all a small price to pay…for eternal life."
Palpatine's revival was chronicled in the Dark Empire comic, a story that controversially depicts Luke falling to the dark side (sort of, it was partially a ruse) under the rejuvenated Emperor. Ultimately, Leia redeems her brother, who duels Palpatine in the ultimate lightsaber fight we never got to witness in the films, finally besting his opponent and conquering the Emperor for good (his other clone slates having already been destroyed by Luke).
Who is your favorite Sith?
Emperor Palpatine's Legacy
As strong as Darth Sidious was, his selfishness prevented him from achieving his final goal: eternal life. Palpatine's manipulative treatment of Anakin ultimately caused the Chosen One to betray him, ending his life (or, in the EU, setting the stage for Luke to eventually discover and destroy his clone bodies).
Plus, Sidious's own master, Darth Plagueis, was a talented scientist who eventually discovered how to create life using the Force; it's implied this is how Anakin was born without a father. And Plagueis was a rare Sith willing to coexist with his apprentice, potentially living forever, until Sidious's greed got the better of him and he foolishly murdered his master before learning his secrets. Darth Sidious slaughtered thousands in his pursuit of immortality and yet never achieved it, but had he only been a bit more human, perhaps he could have attained his goal. Treachery is the way (and weakness) of the Sith.
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© 2018 Jeremy Gill