The Unused Story Of Sheev Palpatine
Have You Heard About This?
The big reveal of the original trilogy was, of course, the “I am your farther” moment. The maybe not-quite-as-big reveal of the prequels was the fact that Sheev Palpatine and Darth Sidious were actually one and the same person.
For fans who have kept up with Star Wars after 1983, this wasn’t big news, but even in 2005, when Revenge of the Sith was released, there were people who were shocked to find out that the Sith Lord, who had been pulling the strings ever since the invasion of Naboo was merely an alter-ego of the former senator and later chancellor of the Republic. But these people aren’t really to blame, as neither the name Palpatine, nor Sidious, were mentioned aloud in any of the movies of the original trilogy: he was only ever referenced either as “Emperor” or as “Master.”
The name Palpatine was, however, part of the novelization of A New Hope, as the prologue, which is essentially a very condensed summary of the events of the prequels, includes the following paragraphs:
“Aided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within the government, and the massive organs of commerce, the ambitious Senator Palpatine caused himself to be elected President of the Republic. He promised to reunite the disaffected among the people and to restore the remembered glory of the Republic.
Once secure in office he declared himself Emperor, shutting himself away from the populace. Soon he was controlled by the very assistants and boot-lickers he had appointed to high office, and the cries of the people for justice did not reach his ears.”
This prologue, which surely was not invented by Alan Dean Forster, must have come from the mind of George Lucas. It is another example of how much the story of Star Wars changed while he was plotting and writing the scripts, even if the broad stokes of the story had already been there. The text, although technically not completely false, paints quite a different picture of the Emperor we see in Episodes V and VI. From all we know of the “dark times” between the end of the Clone Wars and the rise of the Rebel Alliance, it is true that Palpatine wasn’t a public figure, but someone who mainly appeared in recorded holo-messages and had personal contact only with his most inner circle. But he surely wasn’t someone who was controlled by bureaucrats or the Senate.
The first mention of an Emperor dates back to early 1973, when Lucas was compiling a list of possible character names for his planned space opera: Emperor Ford Xerxes XII, probably inspired by the ancient Persian king. The 1974 Rough Draft of Star Wars, which was turned into a Dark Horse comic in 2013, included a character named Cos Dashit, a weak-willed and not very clever, but all the more ambitious person, who was elected first president and later Emperor of the Republic and then basically the puppet of bureaucrats and ministers like Wilhuff Tarkin. Dashit was in later iterations of the script replaced by Palpatine, with still no indication that he was Force-sensitive of even a Sith Lord and the movie itself also makes no mention of it. This was only added in The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and of course the prequel trilogy.
Even after the release of Episode III, the discussion didn’t die regarding whether Palpatine and Sidious were two different people after all, and this train of thought has been fueled by the events of The Rise of Skywalker. Palpatine basically confirms that he has been transferring his essence from body to (cloned) body for quite some time - a concept that was introduced in Tom Veitch’s comic books Dark Empire – 1991 - which supports the idea that the character of Sidious is both ancient and not just one character, but the sum of all Sith spirits over the course of centuries or even millennia. And Palpatine on the other hand was just one of the vessels in which Sidious resided until the body of the Emperor was too worn down by the Dark Side energy and Sidious’ essence had to move into another host.
This of course was not the plan George Lucas had when he was shooting Revenge of the Sith, as he clearly saw Palpatine and Sidious as one person. In an interview in Star Wars Insider Issue 82, Ian McDiarmid said that when the shooting of Episode III began, Lucas was still unsure whether or not Palpatine’s appearance should change several times between his human and his Sith face, but ultimately decided against it. This possibility would also explain why Palpatine’s face was left deformed when it was hit by the deflected Force lightning, while Luke’s face was unharmed when Sidious tortured him in Episode VI: The human – Palpatine – face was burned away like a mask, leaving only the true appearance of Sidious.
In a way, this is a version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But in this case, with the evil persona being the true identity, and the human face only something to hide behind.
Written By Gerald Petschk
Sources: George Lucas/Alan Dean Foster: Star Wars, Star Wars Insider Issue 82, Star Wars Insider Issue 144
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