Based on what we see in Episode IV, Grand Moff Tarkin appears to order the destruction of Alderaan by the Death Star entirely on his own. While we know that Tarkin had extraordinary authority on the Death Star, I find it hard to believe he had so much authority that he could destroy whole planets without clearing it with the Emperor first.

Did Tarkin get permission from the Emperor to destroy Alderaan (behind the scenes)? Was Vader able to approve the destruction in the Emperor's place? Or was Tarkin allowed to order the destruction of Alderaan entirely on his own? And if Tarkin could destroy planets with the Death Star on his own authority, what (if any) restrictions did he have (for example, he presumably couldn't destroy the Imperial capital planet of Coruscant)?

Note: Answers must cite canon source(s). Legends sources are welcomed and appreciated as an optional supplement, but Legends-only answers are unacceptable.

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    He conferred with the Emperor (who advised him that the Senate was to be dissolved). They seem to have agreed that the station needed to be demonstrated. It appears to have been left to Tarkin to decide on the target, but Alderaan was well known as a haven for rebels and troublemakers; "“In a way, you have determined the choice of the planet that will be destroyed first. Since you are reluctant to provide us with the location of the Rebel base, I have chosen to test this station’s destructive power … on your home planet of Alderaan.”"
    – Valorum
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 17:19
  • And he's surely high up enough that he should be able to make the right sort of choice - and woe betide him if he didn't!
    – ThruGog
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 18:57
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    @Richard That is the question.
    – Null
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 19:19
  • 3
    @Null - I haven't got time to scroll up.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 19:30
  • 8
    They gave him a Death Star. It's too late to pretend that he needs permission to blow up planets. If they said "Don't blow planets up", he'd blow up their planet.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 13:03

1 Answer 1


He certainly was given an enormous amount of power by the looks of it and the fact that Palpatine stated that,

with the Death Star near completion, the Emperor decided that the time had come to dissolve the Imperial Senate as, with the fear the battle station could inspire, they would no longer need bureaucrats to keep order in the Empire's worlds. Tarkin was immediately informed of the Emperor's plans, as well as the fact that the Senate's former powers would be transferred to the military and to regional governors, such as himself. He then proceed to inform the assembled Joint Chiefs of the new changes and of the absolute necessity of the Death Star.

So with the Imperial Senate dissolved and Tarkin being inform that power was to be given to regional governors and to add to this, there was this conversation between Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin and General Cassio Tagge

"The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. I have just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the council permanently. The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away. " "That's impossible! How will the Emperor maintain control without the bureaucracy?" "The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station."

―Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin and General Cassio Tagge discussing the dissolution of the Senate.

So it he was given the reins to the death star to instill fear with what ever means.

  • Tarkin was the governor of the Outer Rim and Alderaan was in the Core, so Alderaan was not in Tarkin's territory.
    – Null
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 15:12
  • Actually, that conversation is a direct quote from A New Hope. It is right before Vader finds an admiral's "lack of faith disturbing": youtube.com/watch?v=Zzs-OvfG8tE
    – DCShannon
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 15:30
  • @DCShannon, my bad. I was flabbergasted with the fact that I had intended to post a different quote in a different thread (which I have deleted from that thread)
    – KyloRen
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 22:16
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    @KyloRen I don't see how the quotes you've provided prove that Tarkin had the power to destroy Alderaan. There is general agreement that the Death Star should be used against a planet (or at least to threaten one), and Tarkin could presumably use it on any planet in the Outer Rim (since he is the regional governor there), but Alderaan is in the Core and not in Tarkin's territory.
    – Null
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 16:36
  • 1
    I don't really understand how "dissolving the Senate" means "abolishing the bureaucracy" – it just gets under the emperor's control instead of the Senate one's. Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 21:54

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