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In Return of the Jedi, why did Lord Vader and the Emperor go to the Death Star? It seemed that Luke would seek out Vader wherever he was.

  • Luke told Yoda he would confront Vader.
  • Luke told Leia he would go to meet Vader.
  • The Emperor told Vader that Luke would seek him out.

The rumor that the Emperor would be on the station made the station an appealing target, but it seems that the Rebel forces would have gone to Endor to attack it while it was still vulnerable and (supposedly) not operational, regardless of whether the Emperor was there or not. Time was more important than the Emperor's presence.

So why would Vader and the Emperor go to the one place where the entire Rebel fleet would be concentrating their firepower? Even if they were overconfident, why not stay on Coruscant or a Star Destroyer far from the fight, and wait for Luke to seek them out, if a meeting was for certain?

Palpatine is patient and methodical. This seems to be at odds with that.

  • Is your question, "Why was Vader and Palpatine on the Deah Star?", or is it, "Why did the emperor order the Death Star to go to Endor?" – Firebat Sep 13 '15 at 0:11
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    @S.Fruggiero : The OP clearly means the former. He/she asked why were they on the one place where the Rebels would be attacking, the Death Star obviously. The Rebels weren't there to attack the moon. – user51095 Sep 13 '15 at 0:19
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    @TangerinesonTatooine - Thanks a lot. Now I want to see a version of Star Wars where the rebels and the empire team up to annihilate the Ewoks. – Wad Cheber Sep 13 '15 at 1:50
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    To put them back on schedule – BBlake Sep 13 '15 at 13:10
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    Emperor: Fuzzy teddy bears with spears are an abomination to the Dark Side! They must be destroyed! Yoda: Evil you are, but cute beyond tolerance the Ewoks are. Vader: Yoda is right. The Ewoks must be destroyed! Luke: Aw, dad - c'mon - they're not THAT bad! Vader: Shut up and do as you're told! AND GET YOUR HAIR CUT, YOUNG MAN! Kids these days...I just don't know... Palpatine and Yoda in unison: Tell me... – Bob Jarvis Sep 13 '15 at 17:33
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The Battle of Endor was an integral part of the Emperor's plan to seduce Luke to the dark side, so the Emperor's presence on the Death Star was necessary.

First of all, the Emperor's presence did influence the Rebel decision to attack the Death Star:

Mon Mothma: We also know that the weapon systems of this Death Star are not yet operational. With the Imperial Fleet spread throughout the galaxy in a vain effort to engage us, it is relatively unprotected. But most important of all, we've learned that the Emperor himself is personally overseeing the final stages of the construction of this Death Star.

While the Rebels probably would have attacked the Death Star eventually, Mon Mothma makes it clear that the Emperor's presence was of utmost importance and that they needed to attack as soon as possible (the Rebels couldn't be sure if the Emperor would stay on the Death Star much longer). The Emperor used himself as bait that the Rebels couldn't refuse. If the Rebels hadn't known of his presence, they probably would have spent a bit more time conducting reconnaissance and gathering intelligence. If so, they might have discovered the two big surprises the Emperor had for them:

  • the Death Star's weapons systems were already operational
  • the Imperial fleet was not dispersed throughout the galaxy, it was hiding on the other side of Endor.

If the Rebels had known this, they would have used a guerrilla attack (more like their attack on the first Death Star) instead of sending their fleet. By goading the Rebels into sending their entire fleet, the Emperor set up a decisive battle which the Empire would almost certainly win.

All this was a setup to seduce Luke to the dark side. The Emperor sprang his trap and Luke was forced to look on helplessly as his friends in the Rebel fleet were being slaughtered by both the Death Star superlaser and the Imperial fleet:

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At this sight, the Emperor taunted Luke that the Rebellion will be crushed:

Your friends up there on the Sanctuary Moon are walking into a trap. As is your Rebel fleet! It was I who allowed the Alliance to know the location of the shield generator. It is quite safe from your pitiful little band. An entire legion of my best troops awaits them. Oh...I'm afraid the deflector shield will be quite operational when your friends arrive.

...

From here you will witness the final destruction of the Alliance, and the end of your insignificant Rebellion.

...

[touching Luke's lightsaber] You want this, don't you? The hate is swelling in you now. Take your Jedi weapon. Use it. I am unarmed. Strike me down with it. Give in to your anger. With each passing moment, you make yourself more my servant.

By confronting Luke at the Battle of Endor, Luke was given a front row seat to watch his friends die and the rebellion fail because of the Emperor. This was intended to enrage Luke so that he would (attempt to) strike down the Emperor in hatred and in doing so turn to the dark side. Therefore, the Emperor and Vader had to confront Luke on the Death Star.

The Emperor's primary goal was to seduce Luke to the dark side. The destruction of the Rebel fleet and ending of the rebellion at the Battle of Endor was a secondary objective. The Emperor cleverly devised a way to accomplish both at the same time, and in fact to make it easier to turn Luke to the dark side.

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    Best troops... taken out by teddy bears with spears. – user001 Sep 30 '15 at 22:56
  • @user001 How much better that movie would have been if they went with Wookiees as originally intended... – Wolfie Inu Oct 1 '15 at 4:53
  • @WolfieInu Indeed, it would have made the Empire's loss believable. – Null Oct 1 '15 at 5:03
  • There is a reason the Evil Overlord Rules List includes: "I will never bait a trap with live bait." – Codes with Hammer Dec 9 '15 at 16:47
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Palpatine wanted Luke to turn. The battle was the leverage to turn him, and it almost succeeded. It wouldn't have had nearly the effect if he'd done it from elsewhere.

That he could also bait the Rebels in the process, well, that's a bank shot.

It also isn't the first time Palpatine has done such a thing. He put his life on the line trying to turn Vader, and if that gambit hadn't succeeded, Windu would have ended him then and there. He is methodical, but he's more calculating than patient, figuring the odds of playing both sides for so long and making the appropriate moves.

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The Emperor didn't care if he or Vader survived the Death Star, only that Luke would be turned to the Dark Side. "Strike me down with your hate", the Emperor said to Luke, "and your journey to the Dark Side of the Force will be complete."

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    The Emperor was going to survive, but he didn't care about Vader. He knew Vader had designs on taking over the Empire and was ready to replace him, as he replaced Dooku with Anakin. The "journey to the Dark Side" was Luke attacking using his anger, and fighting his own father. The Emperor was baiting Luke with such a tempting target, killing the Emperor, that Luke could not refuse. Just as the Death Star was only seemingly vulnerable, the Emperor knew Vader would protect him as he had before against Mace Windu. Whadya know, the bad guy lied. – Schwern Sep 13 '15 at 17:08
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    I must agree with @Schwern. The Emperor didn't intend to die; Vader was there to block Luke's lightsaber strike. He intended Luke to turn and take up Vader's place as the Emperor's apprentice. – Andres F. Sep 13 '15 at 17:13
  • Yes, the Emperor's shuttle was there intended for the Emperor's use, not Luke's. – Ras Morthil Sep 13 '15 at 18:36
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There is 2 reasons there. To turn luke (and he himself survives) the emperor needed both vader and him in one place. And even though the death star itself was a very important target the rebels could have sent just small strike teams there isntead of all they got. So why not give them a target they cannot even think of NOT trying to get? The leaders of the empire at one place seemingly without the imperial fleet above them.

This would lead to the rebels trying to cut the snakes head off with ALL they got especially with the primary target of the new death star also being there.

So in esesnce it served 2 important reasons: 1.) Turning luke 2.) Luring ALL that the rebels had there instead of just a small battle fleet of fighters and a strike team for the ground attack.

And as for the emperor not planing on surviving the encounter with luke...there have been a few questions there that indicated that he counted on vader interfering there.

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