Disney announced in advance that it would not make any Star Wars: Episode VII-related announcements during the 2013 D23 expo, but that hasn’t prevented complaints amongst fans – not to mention, invited speculation from news outlets, as for the reason behind the lack of an official update on the project’s status.

Truth be told, though, it’s probably best in this case to just apply Occam’s Razor: that is, assume that the real reason Episode VII wasn’t featured at this year’s D23 is because the project is still a long ways off (case in point: there are still at least 4-6 months left until production gets started). The casting process for the film may be properly underway at this point, but there’s little to no reason to suspect that Disney executives, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and/or Episode VII director J.J. Abrams feel too much pressure to reveal their hand of cards as quickly as possible.

So, where does that leave the rest of us? To discuss the latest Episode VII-related rumors – and today we have a doozy for you, courtesy of Latino Review (i.e. the folks who brought everyone the Zac Efron and Ryan Gosling audition rumors last month). The site is claiming that not only will Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious – portrayed by Ian McDiarmid in 4 (technically 5, if you’re including George Lucas’ newest cut of The Empire Strikes Back) previous Star Wars live-action movies – be returning in Episode VII, but LR’s sources also claim to have the scoop on how the dangerous Sith Lord will come back after his untimely demise in Return of the Jedi.

If you want to know that potential spoiler, go ahead and check out the full article HERE (but be sure to take a big grain of salt before you do). For our money, we’ll just say that Palpatine is not supposed to make an appearance in the way that many hardcore Star Wars fans have speculated – that is, he will not use the same trick that he employed in the famous “Dark Empire” comic book series from the Star Wars Expanded Universe literature.

This isn’t the first Episode VII-related rumor of this ilk we’ve heard; indeed, some nine months ago – at the time of writing this – claims emerged that Palpatine’s apprentice Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker will appear in the film (in some form). We’ve broken down the pros and cons of bringing back characters from Episodes I-VI for Episode VII on a previous occasion, but we’ll go ahead and briefly outline the two sides of this particular coin:

  • On one hand: McDiarmid is terrific in the role, whether we’re talking about his portrayal of Machiavellian Senator Palpatine or the character’s true identity as the outright wicked Emperor/Darth Sidious. So, following that logic, why should you not bring back such a wonderful antagonist – one who could help to bridge the gap between the different generations of Star Wars movies, no less?
  • On the other hand: you can only get so much mileage out of a character, before they become dead weight as far as progress in the overarching story is concerned. Not to mention, the rumors about what Expanded Universe storyline could be a major influence on the Episode VII narrative indicate that there’s little room nor reason to bring Palpatine back in the fold.

As far as the public discussion is concerned, anything is possible in Episode VII right now; at least, until we get some official information about what the story is going to be in Michael Arndt’s screenplay (translation: don’t get too upset or excited by any of these rumors).

Having said that: if, for the sake of further discussion, we just go ahead and assume that Palpatine is going to make an appearance in the film, then he doesn’t have to serve as the primary villain in Episode VII (or subsequent installments, for that matter).

In fact, if Latino Review‘s insiders’ recent claims are correct, then Palpatine could essentially appear in a capacity similar to Exar Kun in author Kevin J. Anderson’s “The Jedi Academy” novel trilogy (click on either of those links if you want to learn more about the EU character and literature being referenced). So, that’s also an option that is worth taking into consideration.

How about it, readers: should Palpatine return in Episode VII? Or is it time for a new major villain to take the stage – possibly someone who is not a Sith Lord, nor whom you would instinctively associate with the Dark Side of the Force?

Star Wars: Episode VII is slated to hit theaters in Summer 2015.

Source: Latino Review