The Star Wars franchise has been going strong for over forty years thanks to its sprawling worlds and giant collection of characters. Heroic icons like Luke and Leia solidified the Skywalkers’ light side legacy, while the sequels’ Finn and Rey remind us that the choice to be good is what counts. Star Wars has also produced some of pop culture’s most recognizable antagonists to challenge its heroes, and though Vader tends to hog the dark side spotlight, his genesis is thanks to Sheev Palpatine, also known as Darth Sidious.
The evil mastermind and leader of the Sith rose to prominence thanks to his wily ways, and his mind was always churning out plans to further establish his Imperial rule over the galaxy far, far away. However, the galaxy isn’t the only thing he’s subjugated. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, Palpatine has also conquered the world of memes in our universe. As a result, it’s pretty easy to forget just how ruthless this Sith lord can be when the fandom is swimming in jokes about the story of Darth Plagueis the Wise.
At the end of the day, Palpatine is a tyrant and turncoat whose Empire terrorizes families, destroys livelihoods, and colonizes worlds without mercy. There may have been a massive time jump between Episodes III and IV, but there’s no rest for the wicked.
The following list draws from various Star Wars media, including some of the de-canonized Legends, so spoilers abound ahead.
Here are 20 Most Wicked Things Palpatine Did Between Star Wars Episodes 3 And 4.
20 He Uses The Jedi Temple As His Palace
A major component of Palpatine’s Imperialization of the old Republic is taking over the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, transforming it into his Imperial Palace and excavating the ancient Sith shrine underneath it.
According to the Tarkin novel and Nexus of Power, the Sith found a light side focal point of the Force on Coruscant, five thousand years before the Galactic Empire came to be, and decided to build a Sith shrine on top of it in order to convert it to the dark side.
The light side vergence turned dark.
Once the Jedi defeated the Sith, the Jedi tried to cap the location’s dark powers by putting the Jedi Temple on it and eventually turn it back to the light. Not only did the dark powers not return to the light, they also weakened the Jedi.
19 He Survives An Assassination Attempt
In a storyline featured in Lords of the Sith and Orientation, Palpatine, Vader and Senator Orn Free Taa of Ryloth visit the planet of Ryloth to quell a potential rebellion against the Empire five years after the Clone Wars.
The crew embark on the Star Destroyer Perilous, and Palpatine orders a stop at the Denon system in order to meet with some Imperial Navy chiefs on the training cruiser Defiance.
Commandant Pell Baylo conducts training for the Imperial Naval Academy, and Vader is instructed to oversee the process. Baylo secretly views the Galactic Empire as malicious, and sets a hyperspace route that would have sent the cruiser into Christophsis’s sun. Vader uncovers his plot and ends his life.
18 He Senses Vader's Sinister Intentions
In perhaps one of the most infamous scenes of the entire prequel trilogy, Palpatine senses Anakin’s fear and recalls the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise to entice the Jedi to the dark side. He makes reference to the Rule of Two when he reveals Plagueis’s apprentice ends his master’s life.
Since it turns out said apprentice is none other than Palpatine himself, it comes as no surprise that he would harbor similar concerns about Vader.
After having crashed on Ryloth, Palpatine and Vader meditate while their guards recuperate.
During their meditation, Palpatine senses his apprentice’s desire to end his master’s life.
When confronted about it, Vader reiterates that he is loyal to his Sith master.
17 He Turns the stormtroopers against Vader
Palpatine tests Vader’s loyalty time and time again, and in Star Wars: Dark Times: Blue Harvest, he goes a step further and implements a contingency plan.
He issues a secret order to the stormtroopers, making sure that they would attack Vader if he ever commands it.
Vader questions Clone Commander Vill of the 501st Legion whether or not such an order had been passed on. Vill, being a clone programmed with extreme obedience, replies that he doesn’t have the authorization to confirm or deny the existence of the order. Vader then concludes that Vill’s answer confirms his suspicions and ends Vill’s life so that Palpatine doesn’t find out about his inquiry.
It’s not known whether a back-up plan like this exists in canon, but knowing Palpatine, it probably does.
16 He Orders The Elimination Of A Whole Village
During their time stranded on Ryloth, Palpatine and his crew meet a Twi’lek girl in the forest. Palpatine is ready to end her life when Vader blocks him, saying that she could lead them to a village so that they could contact backup forces.
The village becomes the site of a battle between Palpatine’s forces and the rebel group attempting to free Ryloth from Imperial rule. The rebels fire warning shots so that the villagers can hide in a mine shaft away from the violence. The Ryloth rebels aren’t a match for the Imperial forces, though, and are quickly terminated.
Palpatine orders Vader to eliminate the Twi’lek villagers in the mine shaft so that no witnesses survive, and although Vader hesitates, he obeys the ruthless order.
15 He Creates The Inquisitorius To Hunt Younglings
Order 66 has a devastating effect on the Jedi Order, nearly wiping out all the light side Force users. However, Force-sensitive younglings are still born throughout the galaxy, and have the potential to revive the Jedi Order.
In order to minimize this threat, Palpatine creates the Inquisitorius to hunt down Force-sensitive children, as shown in Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion. The younglings have the “option” to serve the Empire or perish, a policy that drives home just how cruel the Empire is.
The Inquisitorius is an organization of Force-users whose primary purpose is to hunt down survivors of Order 66.
Kidnapping and terminating Force-sensitive younglings is an extension of the mission to ensure that the Jedi never rise again.
14 He Initiates The Great Jedi Purge
In the Star Wars: Dark Times comic series, Palpatine has a campaign called the Great Jedi Purge, one part of which is brutal gladiatorial fights for survival.
In one instance, Palpatine hands lightsabers to five captured Jedi. He tells them to fight against each other, and that the survivor would win their freedom.
Instead of betraying their companions, four of the Jedi attack Palpatine. He ends three of them, leaving only an unidentified human and Beyghor Sahdett alive.
Sahdett decides to save his own life and attack the human Jedi. In awe of Palpatine’s dark side powers, Sahdett becomes an agent for the Empire.
13 He Uses Aesthetics As Propaganda
There’s a clear difference in aesthetics between the Empire, the Republic, and the Rebellion, and as it turns out, Palpatine uses these differences with purpose.
The clinical, military-inspired simplicity of the style employed by the Empire is a stark contrast to the extravagance of the old Galactic Republic. It emphasizes the idea that the newly born Empire is bestowing order upon the galaxy and doing away with the excesses of the Republic.
Using style as a means of propaganda a tactic that can be seen throughout the history of the Star Wars universe. On top of that, a quick glance at history books reveals that using art and aesthetics as a political tool isn’t unheard of in our universe, either.
12 He Searches for the source of The Dark Side
Palpatine is well-educated in the ways of the Sith, and his inquisitions don’t stop when he establishes himself as the Emperor.
Palpatine begins to compile documents into the Dark Side Compendium, a work that is mentioned in the now decanonized real-life book Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force. He doesn’t manage to finish all three volumes due to his demise during the Battle of Endor.
In the canonical Aftermath and Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Expanded Edition, it’s revealed that Palpatine sends explorers out to the Unknown Regions in search of the source of the dark side.
While out exploring these parts of the galaxy, Palpatine’s explorers would found laboratories, shipyards, and observatories-- a secret process that continues for several decades.
11 He Begins To Work With Thrawn
Convinced that the source of the dark side lies in the Unknown Regions, Palpatine continues his inquiries. A pivotal moment in his quest is his encounter with Mitth’raw’nuruodo, also known as Thrawn. The crew of the Star Destroyer Strikefast bring Thrawn to Coruscant so that Palpatine can question him.
As a Chiss from Csilla in the Unknown Regions, Thrawn claims to possess a wealth of knowledge that could help Palpatine in his quest.
It turns out that Thrawn had known Anakin during the Clone Wars, and that Anakin had mentioned working with him to Palpatine years before. In the Thrawn novel, Thrawn warns Palpatine of the dangers of the Unknown Regions, but pledges allegiance to him.
10 He Shows Off The Imperial Military
As mentioned above, Palpatine certainly understands the use of propaganda as a tool to establish and reinforce his Galactic Empire. In Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison, it’s revealed that he doesn’t simply promote Imperial aesthetics and replace old Republic institutions.
During the first few months of the Empire, Palpatine arranges for military spectacles to show off the power of the Empire and bolster unity among its citizens.
As seen throughout the vast majority of Star Wars media, the Empire boasts an impressive arsenal that maintains control over the galaxy for decades. Since there’s no organized resistance against the Empire yet, it’s spine-chilling to think of the military forces at Palpatine’s disposal at the beginning of the Empire.
9 He Purges The Imperial Navy
Palpatine relies on the Imperial Army and Imperial Navy to enforce his tyranny across the galaxy. However, since they had risen from the ashes of the Grand Army of the Republic, he doesn’t fully trust the troops.
In the Star Wars: Republic comic books, Palpatine begins a purge just two weeks into Imperial reign in order to exterminate all threats to his power.
One of the victims is Jace Dallin, an officer with deep loyalties to the Galactic Republic and who had served alongside Jedi Master Plo Koon.
As a result, he is vocal about his doubts when the Jedi are declared traitors. Vader then promptly ends his life, using Dallin as an example to any potential dissidents.
8 He Sends Vader After The Death Star Plans
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story focuses on the events leading right up to Episode IV. A ragtag group of rebels attempt to steal the plans for the Death Star, a new weapon capable of destroying entire worlds. The rebels sacrifice themselves on Scarif for the cause, but not before successfully sending the plans to the Rebellion.
Although Palpatine doesn’t show up in the movie himself, he sends his right-hand man after the stolen Death Star plans. And boy, does Vader make one heck of a cameo at the end of the movie.
In a bloodcurdling fight sequence, Vader mows down the rebels one by one with absolute ease, but is unable to retrieve the stolen plans before they reach Leia aboard the Tantive IV.
7 The Antar Atrocity
In order to firmly establish his reign across the galaxy, Palpatine orders Imperial forces to target former Separatists worlds and quell any potential uprisings in the Tarkin novel. One of these worlds is Antar 4, and Palpatine charge Moff Willhuff Tarkin with making an example of the world.
The Empire attacks Antar 4, and Tarkin’s forces don’t bother sorting the Separatists from Imperial loyalists, resulting in mass arrests and terminations on both sides.
The Antar Atrocity eventually garners a lot of media attention even after Imperial attempts to hide the extermination of loyalists.
The controversy prompts Palpatine to reassign Tarkin to pacify the Western Reaches and then eventually to oversee the construction of the new Death Star in the Outer Rim.
6 He Sends An Inquisitor After Ahsoka
Ahsoka Tano— Anakin’s former padawan— leaves the Jedi Order at the end of The Clone Wars season five once false accusations against her are overturned. The Jedi had failed her, choosing to believe in the claims of treason instead of hearing her side of the story. Her departure spurred fans to speculate whether or not she survives Order 66, and to their relief, she does.
Palpatine is also surprisingly pleased at the news when Vader informs him of his encounter with his former apprentice in Star Wars Rebels.
Palpatine thinks that Ahsoka holds info on the whereabouts of other survivors of Order 66, and sends an Inquisitor to catch Ahsoka and any other Jedi on Lothal.
5 He Has Vader Eliminate Tarkin's Son
Tarkin is one of Palpatine’s most trusted Imperial officers, and is even given authority to oversee the construction of the all-important Death Star. However, just because he has the Emperor’s trust doesn’t shelter him from the Sith lord’s treachery.
In Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Lost Command, Palpatine is involved in Atoan insurgency during the Reconquest of the Rim at the beginning of the Empire, a series of campaigns to bring the Mid and Outer Rims under Imperial rule.
Palpatine decides that Tarkin needs extra motivation to increase his efficiency as an officer, and orders Vader to rescue Tarkin’s son, Admiral Garoche Tarkin. The Emperor then orders Vader to end the life of Tarkin’s son.
By blaming the Atoans for his son’s passing, Palpatine spurs Tarkin to lead a mass termination of Atoans in revenge.
4 He Declares Mon Mothma A Traitor
Before Mon Mothma becomes a well-known figure of the Alliance to Restore the Republic, she’s a Senator. Even under extreme duress, she displays immense amounts of courage and level-headedness. It should come as no surprise that she becomes a vocal opponent of Palpatine after he becomes the Emperor.
In Star Wars Rebels, she denounces Palpatine as a liar and accuses him of being complicit in a major atrocity.
As a result, the Emperor declares her a traitor to the Empire. Imperial forces are sent to hunt her down, including Grand Admiral Thrawn. Fortunately, Hera Syndulla is able to transport Mon Mothma to Dantooine, where she urges the galaxy to rebel against the Empire in a rousing speech.
3 He Renames Institutions
Once Palpatine rises to power as the Galactic Emperor, he issues orders to change mentions of the fallen Republic, all but erasing it from the history books. This Imperialism is mentioned in the in-universe news article entitled Republic HoloNet News Special Inaugural Edition 16:5:241 (published in real life in Star Wars Insider 84).
The Commission for the Protection of the Republic is renamed the Commission for the Preservation of the New Order; the Grand Army of the Republic becomes the Imperial Army and the Imperial Navy; the Coruscant sector turns into the Imperial Sector; and four intelligence agencies are combined into Imperial Intelligence.
Some institutions of the Republic are dismantled altogether in order to solidify Palpatine’s rule.
2 He Excavates A Jedi Temple On Lothal
The Jedi Temple on Coruscant isn’t the only temple constructed by the Jedi Order. It turns out that there’s another one on the planet Lothal in the Outer Rim. Once the temple is found, Palpatine sends Minister Veris Hydan to excavate the ruins in order to learn its secrets in Star Wars Rebels.
Hydan finds a mural of the Mortis gods, which turns out to be a gateway to the world between worlds, a mystical plane that links all moments in time together.
Palpatine believes that gaining access to this otherworldly realm would grant him immense power and allow him to better dominate the galaxy.
Luckily, the Rebels manage to thwart his plans, and the Jedi Temple is destroyed.
1 He Sells Survivors Into Slavery
At this point, it’s pretty clear how absolutely cruel Palpatine is, ordering the termination of innocent lives without mercy. Those who survive the fights don’t get off easy, either.
In the Star Wars: Dark Times comic series, Palpatine sends a brigade from the 501st Legion to New Plympto due to a rebellion brewing on the planet. The Empire’s military overwhelms the local uprising, and the battle concludes with a high number of casualties.
Palpatine commands Commander Vill to take the surviving Nosaurian women and younglings to a slave market on Orvax IV.
Palpatine issues the order without Vader’s consent, which makes sense given Vader’s past life as a slave.
Do you know any more of Palpatine's misdeeds between Star Wars: Episodes III and IV? Share them in the comments below!