Sheev Palpatine - also known as Darth Sidious - is a major villain in the Star Wars franchise, serving as the main antagonist in the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy. He is the Dark Lord of the Sith, the mortal enemy of the Jedi and the entire galaxy, who used deceit and cunning to rise to power over the Galactic Republic, reorganising it into the Galactic Empire and establishing himself as Emperor of the galaxy. His mastery of the dark side of the Force surpasses that of all Sith that came before him and its corrupting energies had warped his body into a hideous, corpse-like state.
Palpatine has been portrayed by Ian McDiarmid in all of the Star Wars prequel films and in Return Of The Jedi. When the character made his first brief appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, he was portrayed by a woman, Elaine Baker, and voiced by Clive Revill. However, the DVD version of Empire replaced Baker's original theatrical Emperor with Ian McDiarmid who had played the role in all other film appearances. He would also be voiced by Tim Curry in the TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and by Ian McDiarmid once again towards the end of Star Wars: Rebels. MCDiarmid would reprise the role of Palpatine once more in The Rise of Skywalker, the third entry in the sequel trilogy.
The Phantom Menace
In the first prequel film, Palpatine is serving as the representative for his home planet of Naboo in the Galactic Senate. At this time, no one in the Republic is aware of his double identity or that the Sith still exist since they were defeated a thousand years before the film's events. As Darth Sidious, Palpatine is working with the Trade Federation, using them to cut off Naboo from the Republic with a blockade of starships and occupying the planet with a massive army of battle droids. The whole purpose for engineering this crisis was so that Palpatine, in his guise as Naboo's senator, could sow discord within the Senate and push for a Vote of No Confidence in the leadership of the Republic's then-Chancellor, Finnis Vallorum. Padme Amidala, convinced of the corruption in the Senate, called for the vote and cemented Palpatine's eventual rise to Supreme Chancellor. Following the vote, whether or not the Trade Federation dominated Naboo no longer mattered to Palpatine as he was sure to win the election for Chancellor, and once elected he would make several alterations to the Constitution that ensured he remained in office indefinitely. Nonetheless, he sent his Sith apprentice Darth Maul to Naboo to aid in the defence of the capital of Theed for when Queen Amidala and the Jedi returned to take back the planet. Maul was killed during the Battle of Naboo and the Trade Federation was defeated, but Palpatine became aware of the highly Force-sensitive boy Anakin Skywalker who had participated in the battle and took a great interest in him.
Attack Of The Clones
Ten years after the Battle of Naboo, Palpatine was serving as Supreme Chancellor of the Republic. By this point, his term in office had actually expired, but he remained in the position since the Senate demanded he serve a longer term in order to resolve the growing Separatist crisis. Palpatine had promised the Republic that his negotiations with the Separatists would succeed. In truth, he was exacerbating the situation as Darth Sidious by placing his new apprentice Count Dooku as the leader of the Confederacy of Independent Systems and was manipulating both sides into preparing for war. Not long after the Naboo crisis, Palpatine had secretly made arrangements for the creation of a clone army to serve the Republic. In an emergency session of Congress, the Chancellor was appointed new emergency powers that allowed him to form an army legally, and so with the Separatists arming on Geonosis, the clone army was mobilised and sent into battle, beginning the three-year conflict known as the Clone Wars.
Revenge Of The Sith
As the Clone Wars neared their conclusion, the machinations of the Sith were finally coming to fruition. Palpatine had arranged for his own kidnapping by Separatist forces, fully expecting Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker - the heroes of the Jedi Order - to come to his rescue. Palpatine had decided that the time was right to convert Anakin to the dark side of the Force and make him his new apprentice, but first he had to dispose of his current pawn Count Dooku, aka Darth Tyranus. Anakin fought against Dooku and defeated him, but then killed the disarmed Sith lord at Palpatine's urging, further drawing him towards the dark side. After confronting General Grievous on the bridge of the Invisible Hand, Anakin and Obi-Wan managed to return the Chancellor home.
The following day, Palpatine continued to manipulate Anakin's emotions, ripening him for his role as Sidious' new apprentice. He appointed Anakin as his representative on the Jedi Council, knowing that only Jedi Masters sat on the council and that Anakin wouldn't be granted the rank. The Jedi also became highly suspicious of the Chancellor and ordered Anakin to report on all of Palpatine's dealings, which only served to make Skywalker feel all the more conflicted and aggitated. Again, Palpatine had foreseen this and used it to plant the seeds of desire and jealousy in Anakin's mind, telling him a Sith legend about a Dark Lord known as Darth Plagueis (who was in fact Palpatine's own master) and how he had mastered the dark side of the Force to such a degree that he could create life and save others from death. Anakin became enamoured by the idea of stopping others from dying and asked the Chancellor if it was possible to learn such a power. The Chancellor replied "Not from a Jedi."
Filled with doubt and haunted by nightmares about his wife Padme's death, Anakin was caught at a crossroads between his loyalty to the Jedi and his desire to save Padme, whom he had envisioned dying in childbirth. When next he met with Palpatine, the Chancellor revealed to Anakin that he was a practitioner of the Force, including the dark side, and told Anakin that the Jedi did not trust him, that they feared Anakin's exceptional Force powers would make him a threat to them. He went on to state that Anakin would only be able to save his wife from certain death by taking advantage of the Chancellor's knowledge of the dark side. While he did not say it in exact words, Palpatine admitted that he was indeed a Sith lord and Anakin ignited his lightsaber, ready to kill the old man should he need to. Still clinging to his loyalty to the Jedi, Anakin decided to turn Palpatine over to the Jedi Council and returned to the temple to inform Mace Windu of this revelation. Windu did not fully trust Anakin and ordered him to remain at the temple while he and three other Jedi Masters went to the Chancellor's office to arrest him.
When Palpatine was confronted by the Jedi, he revealed his true Sith nature, igniting a lightsaber and leaping into battle with a bestial Sith war cry. The Chancellor swiftly cut down Saesee Tiin, Agen Kolar and Kit Fisto, but found Master Windu to be a more challenging opponent. Anakin, having disobeyed Windu's order to stay at the Jedi Temple, entered the Chancellor's office to find Windu standing over Palpatine by the window which had been shattered as the two combatants fought. Palpatine unleashed a blast of Force lightning at Windu, who blocked it and reflected it back at the Chancellor. The dark energies caused Palpatine's flesh to sag and turn deathly pale and his eyes turned a sickly shade of yellow: this was the true face of the Dark Lord of the Sith. Palpatine pleaded for Anakin to help him and Anakin told Windu that the Chancellor had to live in order to stand trial. Windu deemed the Chancellor too dangerous to be kept alive since he had control of the Senate and the Courts and prepared to deliver the killing blow. As he brought down his lightsaber to kill Palpatine, Anakin stepped in to defend the Chancellor, using his lightsaber to cut off Windu's sword hand. As Windu grasped his wounded arm, Palpatine took the opportunity to strike back, blasting the Jedi Master with the full fury of his Force lightning and sending Windu plummeting out of the window.
Having aided the Chancellor in killing a fellow Jedi, Anakin was stricken with guilt over what he had done. Entangled within the web of the dark side of the Force, Palpatine was able to easily persuade Anakin to become his new apprentice. Anakin was convinced now that the dark side could help him save Padme's life and so he pledged himself to Palpatine's evil teachings, taking on the Sith name of Darth Vader. With Anakin now firmly under his control, Palpatine worked quickly to establish himself as Emperor, calling for the reorganisation of the Republic into the first Galactic Empire and ordering the extermination of the Jedi, whom Palpatine had branded as traitors before the Senate.
Jedi Masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda survived Order 66 and would return to Coruscant in order to disable the recall signal at the Jedi Temple that called for all of the Jedi across the galaxy to return, prolonging the Emperor's campaign of eradication against the Order. Obi-Wan would later travel to Mustafar to confront his former pupil while Yoda fought against the Emperor inside the Senate Hall. Yoda's power was not enough to defeat Palpatine and so the Jedi Master fled. For now, the galaxy was his to control. What mattered was that the Jedi survive to one day overthrow Palpatine and restore freedom to the galaxy.
Not long after his duel with Yoda, Palpatine travelled to Mustafar after sensing that Vader was in danger. When he arrived, he found his apprentice lying on a volcanic riverbank, suffering injuries that would be fatal to any non Force-user: his limbs had been severed and his body horribly burned both inside and out. With the loss of so much of his living body, Vader's Force potential had been greatly reduced, but the Emperor could still use him as a significant instrument for instilling fear in his subjects and so rescued his crippled apprentice, returning him to Coruscant to be rebuilt as a cyborg. Vader was kept awake during the entire operation, the pain fueling his rage and also his power. When the operation was completed, the Emperor then informed Vader that Padme was dead, that Vader had killed her in anger. With that, the last remnant of Anakin Skywalker was consumed by darkness, and so Darth Vader had nothing left to live for except the bidding of his master.
Original trilogy history
Emperor Palpatine did not appear in Episode IV: A New Hope and only briefly appeared in The Empire Strikes Back. Since Revenge Of The Sith, the galaxy suffered greatly under his tyrannical reign. Thousands of worlds were plundered and their populations enslaved or massacred. The Emperor himself was a ruthless speciesist who believed that Humans were superior to all of the galaxy's other races, and so all non-Human races in the Empire had few to no rights at all. Palpatine was also extremely wary of other Force-sensitives and would send his enforcer Darth Vader to seek out Force-potent beings and have them either killed or indoctrinated into the Emperor's service. By 0 BBY, he had also completely dissolved the Imperial Senate, no longer sharing any degree of power with anyone else. It seemed that no one would be able to threaten him... so it seemed. However, Palpatine would come to recognise the threat presented by Luke Skywalker, the offspring of his own apprentice Vader, who had greatly aided the Rebel Alliance when he participated in the Battle of Yavin and destroyed the Death Star battlestation. Sensing the boy's strong connection to the Force, he commanded Vader to find him and either convert him to the dark side or destroy him.
Return Of The Jedi
In 4 ABY, the Empire had almost completed the construction of the second Death Star battlestation and the Emperor had visited the station to personally oversee the final stages of its construction. Not only that, but the Emperor had also arranged for the Rebel Alliance to become aware of the station's existence, expecting them to attempt a surprise attack and that Luke Skywalker would come with them, hoping to rescue Vader from the dark side and return him to the light.
As he had foreseen, Palpatine was soon greeted by the young Skywalker, brought before him by his father. The Emperor informed Luke of his plans and forced him to watch from the Death Star's command tower as the Alliance fleet arrived and engaged in a brutal battle against the Imperial Navy whilst Luke's friends on Endor struggled against the legion of Imperial Stormtroopers defending the shield generator bunker. As Luke watched the battle escalate, the Emperor urged him to give in to the anger and rage that coursed through him, goading him into taking back his confiscated lightsaber and using it to strike down the dark lord. Skywalker almost did just that, but as he took back his lightsaber, Darth Vader stepped in to defend Palpatine and father and son duelled once again. As the two warriors fought, the Emperor continued to urge Luke into surrendering to his aggressive feelings. Luke remained determined to defy the Emperor, refusing to fight Vader and telling him that he could sense good in him. Unfortunately for Luke, Vader was able to probe his mind and sensed that Luke was concerned for his sister. Previously unaware that he even had a daughter, Vader then stated that if Luke would not turn to the dark side of the Force, perhaps she would. Enraged by this, Luke retaliated with all his aggression, cornering Vader and slicing off one of his cybernetic hands. The Emperor was overjoyed with Luke's anger-driven attack and told him to kill his father and take his place as Sidious' new apprentice.
Even after coming so far, Luke was determined not to turn to the dark side, announcing to Palpatine that he had failed and that Luke was a Jedi like his father before him. Angered, the Emperor deemed that Luke would die if he would not turn and attacked him with Force lightning. In his frustration, Palpatine did not kill Luke quickly and prolonged his suffering as the lightning continuously flew from his fingertips and wracked Luke's body with pain. Darth Vader watched as his master viciously assaulted his son, and something stirred within him. The goodness within Vader - the long-buried remnant of Anakin skywalker - had resurfaced, and he lunged at Palpatine and lifted the old man high above his head. Palpatine's Force lightning cascaded down over himself and Vader as his former apprentice held him up. Vader then threw the Emperor over a railing and down into a reactor shaft. The dark lord screamed as he fell, his own dark power tearing his body apart. As he disappeared from view, Palpatine's body exploded in a terrible eruption of pure dark-side energy, destroying him completely.
Sequel trilogy history
Despite his defeat over Endor, even death wasn't the end for Palpatine. When betrayed by Anakin Skywalker aboard the second Death Star, Sidious had little time to realize that his apprentice had turned on him much like he once did with Darth Plagueis, but unlike his former Master, he had prepared himself for Skywalker's betrayal. Calling on all the power of the dark side of the Force, the Emperor projected his consciousness far, far away as his empty body kept falling towards the battle station's reactor to his death.
Sending his consciousness towards a cloned body designed with Clone Wars era technology by the Sith Eternal, a cultist faction of Sith loyalists who continued to follow the religious traditions of the Sith and sought to resurrect their order, Sidious resurfaced and settled at the Sith Citadel on the ancient Sith world of Exegol in the Unknown Regions. There, he took possession of the ancient Throne of the Sith.
Though Palpatine had been restored to flesh, his imperfect clone body could not contain the tremendous amount of dark energies that were the core of his being, causing his body to break down and take on a ghoulish, undead appearance. As such, Palpatine could not move on his own and required the support of a mechanical harness to allow him mobility whilst also providing him restorative fluids to slow the decay of his body.
With his Empire destroyed, Palpatine forged new plans to re-conquer the galaxy. One of these plans was the formation of the First Order, a new militaristic hermit state formed in the Unknown Regions from the remnants of Palpatine's old Empire. Palpatine would not lead the First Order himself, preferring to remain hidden on Exegol until all of his schemes had been realised. Instead, he created Snoke, a malformed being who possessed tremendous power in the dark side of the Force. Snoke was implanted with false memories and a desire to seek out arcane lore and artifacts. He would rise in power until he became Supreme Leader of the First Order, directing their activities as they strived to rebuild the Empire and destroy the New Republic.
Through Snoke, Palpatine learned of Ben Solo, son of Han Solo and Leia Organa-Solo, and nephew of Luke Skywalker. Sensing that Ben was balanced in the Force, the dark lord sought to tip that balance towards the dark side. Snoke would reach out to Ben through the Force, subtly influencing him. When Luke sensed Ben's growing darkness, the Jedi Master approached his student as he slept and, in a brief moment of instinct, activated his lightsaber with the intention of killing his nephew. Skywalker immediately hesitated and regretted his actions, but it was too late. Ben awoke confused and scared. Not knowing what to do, he used the force to topple his room, trapping his uncle under the rubble. Shortly thereafter, a violent storm suddenly and suspiciously set Skywalker's Jedi temple ablaze, destroying it and killing all the students inside. Solo would later take credit for the destruction to invoke hatred and fear in his enemies as part of the Kylo Ren persona. At the insistence of Snoke, Ben sought to join the Knights of Ren. After being tested by the Knights, the young Solo was reluctantly accepted into the mysterious group.
Across the galaxy, Sidious sensed Ben's every move and emotion. Prompting the fallen Jedi through the force, the Dark Lord of the Sith called for Ben to claim his birthright and strike down the leader of the Knights of Ren. Giving in to Sidious' manipulation, in a fit of rage Ben overpowered and stabbed Ren. Taking up the mantle of master of the Knights of Ren, Solo dubbed himself "Kylo Ren". To ensure Kylo remained on the dark side, Sidious would communicate with Ren from afar, impersonating the spirit of Kylo's grandfather and idol, Darth Vader.
Over the many years of scheming and plotting his return to power, Palpatine had been secretly constructing a new Sith fleet, building hundreds of Star Destroyers armed with planet-killing weapons. He also had his Sith cultists engineer several Strand-Cast clones that would be capable of housing their master's consciousness without deteriorating. Countless abominations were manufactured, though the majority proved to be failures. One such Strand-Cast survived and even thrived, but lacked any Force-sensitivity whatsoever. Sidious viewed this being as "useless" and "powerless", and could not bear to look upon "such disappointing ordinariness". The only worth the clone had to Sidious was continuing his bloodline through natural methods, and the Emperor allowed him to live as his "son". Through unknown circumstances, the clone eventually met a woman and sired a daughter with her whom they named Rey. The Emperor's granddaughter proved to be the perfect vessel capable of holding the immense power of the Sith. In 21 ABY, Rey's father and mother left Rey on Jakku for her protection, and both were subsequently killed by Sith assassins.
By 34 ABY, Palpatine's machinations began falling into place. The First Order had succeeded in cutting off the head of the New Republic government, the Resistance headed by Leia Organa had been backed into a corner, and Kylo Ren had ascended to Supreme Leader of the First Order after assassinating Snoke. By murdering his Master, Kylo had unknowingly completed Sidious' final test. Snoke's role had been designed by the Sith Eternal cultists to groom and mold Ren into a master of attack and cunning. Now Sidious, whose clone body weakened with decay, was satisfied to choose Ren as his successor.
The Rise of Skywalker
One year following Snoke's death, Palpatine broadcast a message to the entire galaxy of his return. Upon hearing of this, Kylo found a Sith wayfinder on Mustafar detailing the location to Exegol, so he heads over there, hoping to finish off Palpatine in securing his power of the First Order. However, Palpatine revealed that he was the one responsible for the creation of Snoke and the First Order, and that he was manipulating Kylo into doing his bidding the entire time. After revealing the might of the Sith fleet, Palpatine offered Kylo a chance to prove himself by tracking down Rey and killing her. Kylo accepted the task, though in secret, he planned to use this as an opportunity to convince Rey in joining him to take down Palpatine.
Kylo was able to track down Rey, and he explained to her about her true lineage and what happened to her parents; he was even surprised to see that Rey had actually inherited Palpatine's skills in Force lightning after she accidentally destroyed a First Order transport ship with it. However, her continued survival caused Sidious to suspect treachery from Ren and as such contacted him through the Force threatening to turn the Sith fleet against the Supreme Leader unless he killed Rey. Despite this revelation, Rey refused to join Kylo in overthrowing Palpatine, and engaged into a fight against Kylo in the remnants of the second Death Star in Endor. However, Rey backed away in horror after injuring Kylo when he sensed Leia's death, and upon realizing what happened to Leia that distracted Kylo into letting his guard down, a remorseful Rey healed Kylo before escaping to Ahch-To, feeling that she was becoming as ruthless as Palpatine.
Completely ashamed of the fact that she was the descendant of a cruel Sith emperor who had destroyed countless lives, Rey resolved to remain at Ahch-To in self-exile. However, Luke's spirit convinced her to defy her lineage by tracking down and facing Palpatine in order to become stronger. Around the same time, Palpatine learned from Allegiant General Pryde that General Hux had betrayed the First Order by supplying information to the Resistance, so he had Pryde to execute Hux. Palpatine also usurped full control of the First Order from Kylo and transformed it into the Final Order, his instrument for building his new Sith Empire. Palpatine ordered the destruction of the planet Kijimi through a Sith Star Destroyer as a show of force. Meanwhile, Kylo (on the advice of the spirit of his deceased father Han) severed his ties with the First Order and the dark side of the Force, retaining his former identity as Ben Solo, ran to save Rey and help her defeat Palpatine and his forces for good.
Using Ben's wayfinder and Luke's X-Wing, Rey managed to find the location of Palpatine's base of Exegol before sending out the information to the Resistance. Upon confronting Palpatine at his throne with all the Sith Eternal cultists awaiting her arrival, Palpatine revealed to Rey that he actually intended for Rey to kill him so that his spirit would be transferred into her, and that she will become the new Empress and secure full power over the galaxy. To ensure this, Palpatine revealed that he tricked Rey into bringing the entire Resistance to a trap so that the Sith fleet could wipe them all out.
At first, Rey was tempted to strike down Palpatine in desperation to save her friends, but upon sensing that Ben has renounced his ties to the dark side and came to help her, Rey realized that there is hope and handed over the Skywalker's lightsaber to Ben, using their Force dyad to take down the Knights of Ren. Even better, the Resistance managed to bring a powerful armada (led by Lando Calrissian) from other systems to take down the Sith fleet. Unfortunately, Palpatine sensed the power of their Force dyad and restrained both Ben and Rey, draining their Force energy, weakening them and rejuvenating himself in the process.
Casting Ben into a bottomless pit out of spite against the Skywalker family for causing his previous death, Palpatine used his powers to unleash a Force storm into Exegol's atmosphere, putting the entire Resistance armada in chaotic peril. Though Palpatine was about to accomplish his ultimate goal for power and revenge as he cackled evilly in triumph, several of the past Jedi (such as Luke, Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Yoda, Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, Kanan Jarrus, Adi Gallia, Aayla Secura and Luminara Unduli) gave their strength to Rey, allowing her to make one final stand and distract Palpatine long enough to focus his wrath on her.
Sensing Rey's newfound strength given by the past Jedi, Palpatine decided to finish off his granddaughter as an example to secure his power over the galaxy. To that end, he unleashed his full power of Force lightning on Rey, though she was able to fend this off with her lightsaber. With all of his rage, Palpatine angrily declared that Rey was no match for him as he represented all of the Sith. Though Rey agreed with this, she declared that she represented all of the Jedi before using her powers to grab the lightsaber Ben had dropped, using both lightsabers to deflect the Force lightning back on her evil grandfather. Realizing this too late as his powers had turned against him thanks to Rey's newfound strength, Palpatine screamed in complete agony as the Force lightning ravaged and destroyed his flesh before his body exploded, killing him once again but this time for good and avenging Rey's parents and all the past Jedi. Palpatine's death also resulted a massive explosion that killed all of the Sith Eternal cultists, bringing the threat of the Sith to an end once and for all.