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Why Star Wars Needs a Young Palpatine Project – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

Why Star Wars Needs a Young Palpatine Project



In the vast expanse of the Star Wars universe, Palpatine, known as Darth Sidious, stands as the epitome of evil, akin to the Biblical figure of the anti-Christ. However, long before his ascension to the position of the Dark Lord of the Sith and Emperor of the Galactic Empire, Palpatine was a human male who climbed the ladder of power through a shrewd blend of cunning, deception, patience, and political acumen. The tale of Palpatine’s life, from his formative years to his rise to power in the Galactic Senate and his orchestration of the downfall of the Jedi Order, is a tapestry woven with threads of betrayal, familial conflict, a supremely malevolent protagonist, political intrigue, and psychological warfare, not unlike the ingredients found in the likes of Game of Thrones and Succession.

As such, one might wonder if the story of Palpatine’s life would be better told as a feature film or a television series, similar to the recently announced Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries. Perhaps it’s time for a standalone film or a limited series that explores the early years of Palpatine.

Born as Sheev Palpatine in 84 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin) in Naboo’s capital city, Theed, Palpatine was the eldest son of Cosinga Palpatine, a noble aristocrat, and his wife. He lived in the ancestral home with his two brothers and two sisters. As a child, Palpatine harbored fantasies of killing his father, whom he saw as incompetent and lacking in ambition. Eventually, Palpatine disowned his name and insisted on being called simply Palpatine. The tension between Palpatine and his father reached its peak in 65 BBY, when Palpatine, under the influence of Sith Lord Darth Plagueis, used the dark side of the Force to murder his entire family. However, all evidence of the crime was subsequently erased by Plagueis, who also destroyed all records of Palpatine’s lineage.

The murder of Palpatine’s family convinced Plagueis that his apprentice was ready to be initiated into the Sith order, and he bestowed upon him the name Darth Sidious. In 67 BBY, two years before Palpatine killed his family, Darth Plagueis, publicly known as Hego Damask, murdered his own Sith Master, Darth Tenebrous, to become Sith Lord and make way for Palpatine to become his apprentice. However, Plagueis was also somewhat fearful of his new apprentice due to the Rule of Two, which decreed that only two Sith Lords, an apprentice, and a master, could exist at any one point in time, thus virtually assuring that any Sith apprentice would eventually kill their master.

Darth Sidious’s training under Darth Plagueis focused not only on honing his combat and Force skills but also on sharpening his political talent. Plagueis’s primary goal with Sidious’s training, just as it was with Palpatine and apprentice Anakin Skywalker, was to strip away any vestiges of his humanity. In addition to enduring physical hardship, Palpatine was forced to relive the murder of his family.

Palpatine and Plagueis spent a considerable amount of time together, seeking to unlock the secrets of immortality. Through his ability to manipulate midi-chlorian life-forms, Plagueis was able to create life to prevent those he cared about from dying. Palpatine later observed that Plagueis was able to achieve immortality through the process of transference, a Force ability that allowed a user to transfer their consciousness into another body. Palpatine attempted to use the process of transference in The Rise of Skywalker with his granddaughter, Rey, but she was able to resist him with the help of the other Jedi.

Palpatine killed Plagueis just before his election to the office of Supreme Chancellor by blasting a drunken, sleepy Plagueis with Force lightning in his apartment. While Palpatine’s assassination of Plagueis was a reflection of his unwillingness to share power, it also adhered to the Rule of Two, as Palpatine had already selected his own apprentice in the form of Darth Maul.

If a younger Palpatine were to be portrayed on screen, the role would require an actor who could embody the character’s layered complexity, conflict, and deception, shifting seamlessly from a dignified statesman to a being consumed by the dark side. The ideal choice would be Matthew Rhys, who has demonstrated his ability to play morally ambiguous characters with empathy. Rhys also bears a striking resemblance to Ian McDiarmid, who has defined the role of Palpatine since his debut in Return of the Jedi.

In the Star Wars universe, Palpatine, also known as Darth Sidious, is the equivalent of the anti-Christ. However, long before Palpatine became the Dark Lord of the Sith and the Emperor of the Galactic Empire, he was a human male who rose to power through a clever mixture of cunning, deception, patience, and political savvy.


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From his early childhood to his rise to power in the Galactic Senate to his eventual orchestration of the fall of the Jedi Order, the story of Palpatine combines the elements of betrayal, family conflict, a magnificently hateful protagonist, political intrigue, and psychological warfare, not unlike the mixture that’s found within great shows like Game of Thrones and Succession.

Therefore, would the story of Palpatine’s life be more interesting if it was presented as a feature film, or within the television format, along the lines of the six-part Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries?


Palpatine: The Early Years

star-wars-emperor-palpatine-lucasfilm
20th Century Studios

Palpatine was born as Sheev Palpatine in 84 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin) in the capital city of Theed on Naboo, into one of Naboo’s most affluent families. Palpatine was the eldest son of family patriarch Cosinga Palpatine, a noble aristocrat, along with Cosinga’s wife, and was raised in the Palpatine ancestral home along with two brothers and two sisters.

As a boy, Palpatine fantasized about killing his father, whom Palpatine saw as incompetent and lacking in ambition. Eventually, Palpatine disowned his birth name and insisted on being referred to simply as Palpatine. The tension between Palpatine and his father reached a climax in 65 BBY, when an enraged Palpatine, now under the influence of Sith Lord Darth Plagueis, used the dark side of the Force to murder the entire Palpatine family.

However, all evidence of the crime was subsequently removed by Plagueis, who also made all records of Palpatine’s ancestry, and that of his family members, disappear. The murder of Palpatine’s family convinced Plagueis that Palpatine was indeed ready to be initiated into the Sith order. Accordingly, Darth Plagueis bestowed upon Palpatine the name Darth Sidious.

Related: Ian McDiarmid Defends Palpatine’s Return in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The Apprenticeship With Darth Plagueis

Star Wars - Darth Plagueis
Dark Horse Comics

In 67 BBY, approximately two years before Palpatine murdered his entire family, Darth Plagueis, who was publicly known as Hego Damask, an influential financier, and political lobbyist, murdered his own Sith Master, Darth Tenebrous, to become Sith Lord and make way for Palpatine, as Darth Sidious, to become Plagueis’s apprentice.

However, Plagueis was also somewhat fearful of his new apprentice due to the former Sith Lord Darth Bane’s Rule of Two, which decreed that only two Sith Lords, an apprentice, and a master, could exist at any one point in time, thus virtually assuring that any Sith apprentice would eventually kill their master, as Plagueis had done.

The training that Darth Sidious received from Darth Plagueis focused not just on developing combat and Force skills but also on Palpatine’s already sharpened political talent. The Sith Lord’s primary goal with Palpatine’s training, just as it was with Palpatine and apprentice Anakin Skywalker, was to destroy any lingering vestige of Palpatine’s humanity. Accordingly, besides the harsh physical conditions and suffering that Palpatine was subjected to, he was also forced to recount the murder of his family.

Related: Star Wars: The 10 Most Powerful Sith Lords, Ranked

Cheating Death

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith- Tragedy of Darth Plagueis
20th Century Fox

Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious spent a great deal of their time together as master and apprentice, immersed in their shared quest to unlock the secrets of immortality. As Palpatine recounted to Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode IIIRevenge of the SithDarth Plagueis was, through his ability to manipulate midi-chlorian life-forms, able to create life to prevent those whom Plagueis cared about from dying.

Sidious also observed that Plagueis was able to achieve immortality through the process of transference, a Force ability that allowed a user to transfer their consciousness into another body, which would then become a vessel. Of course, Palpatine later attempted to use the process of transference in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker with his granddaughter, Rey, who was nonetheless able to repel Palpatine with the help of her fellow Jedi.

Of course, while Darth Plagueis may have been able to save people whom he cared about from dying, he wasn’t able to save himself. As Palpatine also recounted in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the SithPalpatine, just before his election to the office of Supreme Chancellor, killed Darth Plagueis by blasting a drunken, sleepy Plagueis with Force lightning in Plagueis’s apartment.

However, while the assassination of Plagueis certainly owed to Palpatine’s unwillingness to share power, it also reflected an adherence to the Rule of Two, as Palpatine had already selected his own apprentice in the form of Darth Maul.

Who Should Play the Younger Palpatine?

Matthew Rhys in Perry Mason
Warner Bros. Television Distribution

The role of a younger Palpatine requires an actor who can project seemingly endless layers of complexity, conflict, and deceptiveness within a near-constant state of duality as Palpatine so deftly transitions from the role of a dignified, stately politician to someone who is entirely consumed by the dark side. Moreover, the role also requires an actor who has a resemblance to Ian McDiarmid, who has defined the role of Palpatine since his first appearance as Palpatine in Return of the Jedi.

Such an actor is Matthew Rhys, the star of the spy drama series The Americans and the titular star of the period drama series Perry Mason. As a Russian spy turned all-American family man in The Americansand a down-and-out private investigator turned criminal defense lawyer in Perry Masonand as Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who leaked Pentagon secrets to the press in the film The PostRhys has demonstrated a strong aptitude for playing morally-ambiguous characters who elicit empathy from an audience, even if audiences don’t otherwise approve of a given character’s actions. Moreover, Rhys also bears a definite resemblance to McDiarmid, who is approximately thirty years older than Rhys.

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