As one of the biggest sci-fi franchises ever, Star Wars has been subjected to a lot of nerdy, obsessive deconstructions. Its success and engagement with fans has spawned hundreds of additional stories and thousands of pages worth of lore that fans pride themselves on keeping internally consistent. The problem is, it wasn’t really designed to support this, at least at first. The original Star Wars Trilogy is on the level of modern legend in its thematic and narrative broad-strokes. In other words the Rebellion is definitely the good guys and the Empire is definitely the bad guys. After all, the Empire is supposed to be a brutal dictatorship that murders billions of innocent people just so it can stamp out some dissidents who don’t enjoyed being ruled by a Sith autocrat.
But, let us entertain the dense over-analysis of Star Wars as a franchise for a moment. What if we actually explore the argument that plenty of Star Wars fans have made over the years that the Empire might have had some redeeming qualities? Perhaps they were even closer to being the real good guys. Here are 15 Reasons Why The Galactic Empire Was Actually Good.
15. IT ENDED THE TURMOIL OF THE CLONE WARS
The Star Wars galaxy has seen its fair share of galactic war. By the time of the prequel movies the Republic had enjoyed a long period of peace and prosperity. But that prosperity had led to complacency. Many worlds and many figures in the Republic had become too interested in preserving their own power and derelict in their governing duty.
With pressing problems going unresolved, unrest and resentment grew, especially in the corporate sector and the Outer Rim. Over the whole course of the war the Republic was forced to play defensive and fight the Separatists on their terms.
The level of devastation wreaked by Clone Wars had not been seen for thousands of years. It touched nearly every world in the galaxy, claiming billions of lives and ruining billions more. The rise of the Empire marked the first period of peace and stability in the galaxy that many could remember at the time.
14. IT ENDED THE INEFFECTUAL, CORRUPT BUREAUCRACY OF THE REPUBLIC
By the time the Clone Wars had broken out, even those still supporting the Republic had come to realize that the Galactic Senate was corrupt and ineffectual. The bloated bureaucracy had encouraged senators and local government officials to curry and keep as much personal power as they wanted.
The Naboo Crisis brought this failure into sharp focus. Despite the apparent abuses of civil liberties committed against the people of Naboo by the Trade Federation, Queen Amidala’s pleas for help fell on obstructive ears. The then Supreme Chancellor Valorum had lost the respect of the senators and his effective authority with it.
When Valorum proposed an official committee to investigate whether Naboo was in fact being invaded, Amidala’s call for a vote of no confidence was immediately answered by a chorus of “Vote Now!” in the senate chamber. When Palpatine eventually announced the new Imperial Order, most of the senators welcomed the prospect of an authoritarian ruler who could deal with problems swiftly and effectively.
13. CORPORATE ENTITIES HAD BECOME MORE POWERFUL THAN THE REPUBLIC
The taxation of trade routes to the Outer Rim and the Republic’s failure to address the grievances of corporate interests was a major factor in motivating the Separatist movement. It was really a case where there Republic created a problem and then made it worse. The cursory ruling of the Outer Rim for a hundred years had let corporations grow in influence, but then they exorbitantly taxed the companies for bringing goods to and from the Outer Rim.
Companies like the Trade Federation had already grown so powerful that they had their own senator. When they banded together with the Techno-Union Army, the Banking Clan, the Commerce Guild and the Corporate Alliance, their combined technological and military might would have easily subdued the Republic, had the clone army not been ready and waiting.
12. THE JEDI HAD FAILED THEIR MANDATE
The Jedi were supposed to be the guardians of peace and justice for the Galactic Republic. But throughout the Republic’s history, the Jedi had actually been the source of many of the Republic’s worst crises. Several Jedi fell to the Dark Side and waged war in Republic space, devastating thousands of worlds, often under the belief that they were still adhering to their Order’s mission.
Revan, Exar Kun and Ajunta Pall were all fallen Jedi. After thousands of years, the Jedi never really learned how to better prepare their best and brightest against the Dark Side or to prevent them from succumbing, including Anakin Skywalker, the supposed chosen one.
By the time of the Clone Wars, the Republic had become too bloated and the Jedi order had shrunken too much for them to fulfill their role. They failed to see the creation and the true purpose of the clone army. They couldn’t stop greed and corruption from destroying the Republic from within and they couldn’t dissuade the Separatists from leaving.
11. THE EMPIRE WAS WILLING TO LEAVE LAWFUL PERSONS IN PEACE.
As Palpatine decreed in his first Imperial Inaugural Address, “We are an Empire of laws!” Law and order was clearly a priority for the Galactic Empire. To that end, it was not only moral but more efficient for the Empire to not interfere too heavily with the day to day business of law abiding citizens.
Consider how the Empire handled the capture of the Rebel leaders at Cloud City. Lando Calrissian was running a legitimate mining operation without direct Imperial oversight. Then his old buddy Han Solo, who just so happened to be a general in the Rebel Alliance now, shows up right on his doorstep. Wouldn’t it understandable for the Empire to investigate former affiliates of their terrorist targets and try to spring a trap on them if they made contact?
10. THE REBELLION WAS NOT POPULAR
Throughout the course of the films we never see more than a handful of rebel forces. The most we ever see of them is in Return of the Jedi when they launch their attack against the Death Star II, at perhaps a few thousand fighter pilots, crew and commanders. The Expanded Universe lets us see more of their forces and missions but the rebellion is always portrayed as the ragtag underdogs.
And this is set in an entire galaxy, with trillions of inhabitants. Sure, there may have been pockets of rebel sympathizers throughout the galaxy. But apparently the Empire’s rule was bearable enough that the Rebellion could never muster even a decent army or navy for more than hit and run tactics.
Lucas himself even tried to go back and ameliorate this point with the coda in the special edition of Jedi. He showed us the sweeping scenes of celebrations happening on Coruscant, Tattooine, Bespin and Naboo, to help reinforce the idea that the Rebellion’s victory was welcome across the galaxy.
9. MOST OF ITS BRUTALITY IS AGAINST THE REBELS
The Empire’s vast navy was primarily devoted to policing the galaxy, even though they were ruthless in dealing with the rebels. Presumably the Empire’s security forces would have arrested and neutralized plenty of petty law breakers throughout the galaxy during its reign.
Even in the movies the Empire is shown mostly hunting down the rebel forces and that is because the rebels are radically trying to restore a defunct, opposing government by blowing up strategic military installations and killing Imperial armed forces.
In A New Hope Empire is tracking down the stolen top secret plans for the Death Star by capturing suspected colluders Including Princess Leia, who’s supposed to be a member of the Empire’s own senate. In Empire, They’re trying to capture the leaders of the Rebels and bring them to justice, merely waging war on uninhabited worlds like Hoth. And in Jedi we still only see them fighting the Rebels on Endor.
8. THE EMPIRE CAN AND DOES COEXIST WITH ALIENS
There’s no question that the Empire was humanocentric. Nearly all of its figureheads, governors, and military personnel were humans. There were of course a few very noteworthy exceptions, with the Chiss Grand Admiral Thrawn probably being the most famous. Thrawn’s keen military mind nearly restored the Empire to its full glory after the battle of Endor.
Palpatine himself was never explicitly racist. He looked for results first and foremost. In the Legends and in the Canon continuity, several of his acolytes, inquisitors and councilors, were non humans, like the Grand Inquisitor in Star Wars Rebels.
The Ewoks of Endor are an example of the Empire’s coexistence with aliens right from the films. The Empire had built their shield generator on the planet to apparently no detriment to the Ewoks. Before the Rebel strike team shows up and coerces the Ewoks to fight for them, there were no indications that the Empire was hunting down the Ewoks to preemptively protect the shield generator. They simply kept a low profile and patrolled their routes.
7. THE EMPIRE PROLIFERATED ARTS AND SPORTS
Despite what the space-gothic, monochromatic aesthetics of the Empire would have you believe, Imperial society was not a culturally barren dystopia. Other than promoting pro-imperial sentiment, the Empire was much more interested in political and military dominance rather than stamping out all kinds of artistic expression throughout the galaxy.
The Empire even had a few cultural and artistic staples of its own to boast of. Did you know that the Galactic Empire had its own official Imperial Symphony Orchestra? It was formed in 15 BBY and toured all throughout the core worlds. The Empire even had popular bands that played in during their reign, including a group called The Emperor’s New Clothes. (Seriously.)
There was a fair bit of sports in the Empire too. Wegsphere, which was basically a 6v6 game of low-gravity soccer, was originally a sport developed for members of the Empires Commission for the Preservation of the New Order or COMPNOR. But is became so popular across thousands of Imperial worlds that it was adopted as the Empire’s official Sport.
6. THE EMPIRE PROVIDED OPPORTUNITIES FOR ADVANCEMENT
As in most societies, people care a great deal about economic stability and personal opportunity. The waning days of the Republic were no great time for average beings in the galaxy between unchecked corporate power and the tumult of the Clone Wars. The Empire made a point of providing jobs and opportunities for hard working citizens throughout the galaxy.
The Empire needed skilled workers and brave service men to maintain the Empire’s vast infrastructure and to fill the ranks of its armed forces and security forces. In A New Hope both Luke Skywalker and Biggs Darklighter talk about their ambitions to escape their mundane life of moisture farming and join the Imperial Academy.
The Imperial Academy offered several prestigious training programs at various facilities including Imperial Army training on Raithal. Those seeking specialized careers would usually graduate to attend Corulag Academy, the Academy of Carida or the Anaxes War College. The Emprie also trained merchant and commercial pilots.
5. THE EMPIRE GREW THE GALACTIC ECONOMY
The Empire had to put all the disaffected citizens of the New Order to work on something, and it had to encourage the corporate sector to at least partially contribute to the collective good after the Clone Wars.
The Empire seized many of the assets from the companies that backed the defunct Confederacy and turned most of them over to more cooperative companies. These included the Kuat Drive Yards, Sienar Fleet Systems, the TaggeCo megacorporation and Merr-Sonn Munitions, all of whom contributed to the design and production of the Empire’s recognizable line of ships, vehicles and weapons.
And of course there were the two Death Stars. Each massive space station, with a diameter of 120 kilometers and 160 kilometers respectively, represented many millions of hours of labor, research and transportation of materials and workers. Not to mention cost estimates in the trillions of credits. Each station was crewed by hundreds of thousands of soldiers, officers, staff and pilots.
4. PALPATINE FORESAW AND PREPARED FOR GALACTIC THREATS
Palpatine obviously ushered in the new Galactic Empire to replace the Republic and rectify all its faults. But in the Legends continuity, there is also a pretty noble reason why Palpatine wanted to maintain order and such a large imperial navy even during a time of relative peace.
Somehow or another, Palpatine came upon evidence that advance parties of the Yuuzhan Vong had arrived in the galaxy in 27 BBY. He knew that the Yuuzhan Vong would be a threat unlike any one in the galaxy had seen before. Masochistic cultists with symbiotic technology that were entirely outside the influence of the Force would require a united galaxy to defend against.
Of Course the New Republic was in charge by the time the Yuuzhan Vong’s invasion began in earnest. Even though the Imperial Remnant was a fledgling fraction of its former self, they did fight with the New Republic against the Yuuzhan Vong, even if there wasn’t much choice.
3. THE EMPIRE PUSHED TECHNOLOGY FORWARD
As with their economy, the Empire took bold steps forward in the advancement of technology. Even though Palpatine relied on regional governors and Moffs to delegate his rule, he still relied on vast telecommunications networks and whole fleets of ships to maintain communication throughout his empire.
Since military might was the main focus of how Palpatine preserved order, advances in weapons and starship technology were one of the Empire’s main focuses. And again the Death Stars were the Empire’s crowning achievement in that regard. The planet destroying superlasers were based on a unique crystal power source that much of the station’s superstructure was dedicated to supporting.
With multiple tributary lasers channeling into a central well above the concave, the Death Stars’ laser dishes could release enough power to annihilate a planet. Or destroy enemy capital ships for more efficient strikes. Other awe inspiring superweapons the Empire built included The “Galaxy Gun” and the “Sun Crusher”, which was smaller than the Death Star but capable of triggering supernovas to destroy entire star systems.
2. THE EMPIRE WAS FULL OF GOOD, UPSTANDING PEOPLE TOO
The movies set the Empire in the role of the bad guys. But the Empire was more than just Vader and Palpatine and the faceless Stormtroopers. There were plenty of servicemen and upstanding citizens just trying to make a living for themselves while following Imperial rule. Plenty of them genuinely believed in the Empire’s goals of striving for order and peace in a chaotic galaxy.
Some of the new Canon supplementary novels have driven this point home especially. In Star Wars: Lost Stars, both Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree join the Imperial Navy Academy with the same aspirations of adventure and greatness. As the Galactic Civil War rages, Thane joins the rebellion and while Ciena continues to advance in the Empire. She grows increasingly jaded about the Empire’s methods but she still rises to the rank of Captain of a Star Destroyer after the Battle of Endor. She even goes out of her way to save civilians without express orders and looks out for her crew and wing mates.
1. THE EMPIRE STRIVES FOR ORDER AND PEACE
“We are an Empire ruled by the majority! An Empire ruled by a new Constitution! An Empire of laws, not of politicians! An Empire devoted to the preservation of a just society. Of a safe and secure society!”
Those were the words spoken by Palpatine at his Imperial Inauguration. And for most of the citizens throughout the galaxy, he kept his word. He took over from the ineffectual and corrupt Republic and he took a proactive stance on preventing war from breaking out across the galaxy again. He put the galaxy back to work creating and serving in his navy and army.
For nearly twenty years the galaxy finally knew order and peace after decades of strife, war and unrest. And the Empire rightfully fought to protect its forces and its citizens from the insurgent campaign led by radicals who wished to restore a corrupt government. Long may we serve the Empire!
Where there any other reasons you think the Galactic Empire was good? Let us known in the comments.