The Emperor was a very powerful Force user when it came to foreseeing the future. He had foreseen that Anakin would be defeated by Kenobi. He had foreseen that Luke would came to Vader by himself. And, many other things...

Near the end of Return of The Jedi, he didn't attack Vader, he didn't stop using Force lightning on Luke (which melted down Vader), he didn't separate Vader and Luke (which allowed Luke's verbal attack). So, I can safely assume that he failed to foresee his own fate.

Am I wrong with my assumption? If not, why did he fail to foresee his future?
I don't think someone interfered with this power because Luke and Vader weren't capable of this (Vader didn't foresee that Luke would come to him, so he was less powerful than the Emperor).

  • 3
    @Stormblessed other than the "spoiler" being 36 years old, the tags also give it away.
    – OrangeDog
    Jul 24, 2019 at 12:41
  • @OrangeDog well I made it more specific and less specific, somehow both at the same time. Jul 24, 2019 at 13:34
  • 1
    His arrogance blinded him! Ironic isn't it...
    – Theyna
    Jul 24, 2019 at 21:40
  • 1
    "always in motion the future is"
    – Codosaur
    Jul 25, 2019 at 14:05
  • Or, latest theory, he didn't and he's not dead.
    – Paul
    Aug 6, 2019 at 20:59

13 Answers 13


Force prescience is a tricky thing (as an example, see Luke seeing someone's death the wrong way in Spectre of the Past/Vision of the Future): (spoiler alert):

He had a Force Vision that showed Mara Jade looking dead, in a pool of water. That vision drove a lot of his decisions/behavior in those two books


TWIST! She ended up lying in a pool of water but survived in the end of the second book.

It's quite possible to see one possibility shown to you by the Force, and to interpret it WAY, WAY incorrectly.

Clouded the future is, young Padawan. Always in motion.

  • 1
    Can you please elaborate the event from EU.. I am unable to understand your point.
    – user931
    Apr 2, 2012 at 20:23
  • @SachinShekhar - sorry, it's kind of a major spoiler so I'm a bit reluctant to add the detail. Just read the plot outlines for the 2 books on Wiki or Wookiepedia, that should give you a good idea. Apr 3, 2012 at 13:30
  • Obi-Wan was activising his Powers Vader Could Possibly Never Imagine.
    – n611x007
    Jun 27, 2012 at 0:25
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    Decades of success conquering the galaxy left him a bit arrogant. Luke clearly explained that to him: "Your over-confidence is your weakness." The Emperor ignored that comment, again, because he is so proud of his accomplishments that he fails to acknowledge the threat in front of him.
    – Brandon
    Sep 5, 2015 at 16:48
  • Maybe he did foresee it and allowed it to happen to set greater events in motion! #RiseOfSkywalker
    – E_McAndrew
    Jul 25, 2019 at 16:44

Think of Yoda's favourite line:

Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.

No Force user (including Sidious and Yoda) can literally see the exact future. There is free will, Vader's decision was spontaneous and unpredictable.

Note: I believe IMDb has the word order wrong in that quote.

  • 2
    But, --in fact-- Yoda's vision was being clouded by Palpatine..
    – user931
    Apr 3, 2012 at 3:22
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    @SachinShekhar - Where do you get that from?
    – Chad
    Apr 3, 2012 at 12:55
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    @Chad From movie.. Yoda said by himself.
    – user931
    Apr 3, 2012 at 14:21
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    @SachinShekhar - I do not think he meant Palpatine(or the unknown Sith lord at the time) was intentionally doing that. Just that his actions were causing the future to be clouded.
    – Chad
    Apr 3, 2012 at 16:57
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    ... What just blew my mind here is I have thought, for 32 years now, that what Yoda said was "Always emotion is the future." Jul 27, 2015 at 17:33

There is a Wookieepedia page on the subject, that somewhat addresses this question.

To quote it:

"Force vision had its limitations. Palpatine, in his visions of the future, never saw himself die."

That being said, there's also a well established trend in fantasy that limits the ability of the Prescient to see themselves / things that directly impact themselves. Not all systems use it, but it's awfully common.

Also, as DVK points out; seeing is not the same as understanding; another common issue in fantasy involving prescience. Poor understanding of a valid vision is often the source for tragedy, sometimes even through causing a self-fulfillment loop.

Related side-note; this was

only the first 'death' of several for the Emperor, if you accept the Extended Universe as being canon.

  • 3
    I would be careful accepting Wookiepedia info at face value - likely as not, the statement you quoted was sourced from the assumption that he died in the movie and thus he didn't foresee. I wouldn't closely trust any *pedia info without associated quote or reference (having been burned before). +1 for last paragraph Apr 2, 2012 at 20:08
  • By several deaths, you mean deaths of bodies owned by his force ghost too?
    – user931
    Apr 2, 2012 at 20:08
  • The quote from Wookipedia doesn't give reason.. It just repeats the question in different way..
    – user931
    Apr 2, 2012 at 20:15
  • @dvk - I THINK it's sourced from here, but not having a copy, I can't be sure.
    – K-H-W
    Apr 2, 2012 at 21:36
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    @Sachin - Yeah; I was restating the 'canon' info; my hypothesis is that Lucas stuck to the standard 'A seer can't reliably see his/her own future' concept.
    – K-H-W
    Apr 2, 2012 at 21:36

If you ask Palpatine, he would say that yes, it was all planned and everything went the way he wanted it to. This is typical from him, a seductive, narcissistic, and manipulative character who does all he can to look like he controls the situation.

As an example, he did NOT foresee that Anakin would be defeated by Kenobi.

While very proficient at prescience, he is just not that powerful. There are many other things that happened that he did not foresee, like the death of Darth Maul, and the destruction of the first Death Star.

  • 1
    To play Devil's Advocate, it's possible that he just didn't care to foresee how DS1 turned out. Remember that this was a technological toy for his admirals, Vader (who is Emperor Lite) held it in contempt. Apr 2, 2012 at 20:05
  • @dvk No. I think I read in Shadow of the Empire that he was so mad after Vader when DS1 bowled up that he cut one of his cybernetic hand. I have to check.
    – DavRob60
    Apr 2, 2012 at 20:09
  • @DVK Yes, it's unsourced, but see second paragraph : starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Anakin_Skywalker#Punishment
    – DavRob60
    Apr 2, 2012 at 20:13
  • But, Palpatine never tried to show off this power..
    – user931
    Apr 2, 2012 at 20:25
  • 2
    he did NOT foresee that Anakin would be defeated by Kenobi. ~> "Prepare my ship. Darth Vader is in great danger." At that time, Anakin & Kenobi were still fighting..
    – user931
    Sep 9, 2013 at 7:24

One might interpret a line from the movies that might indicate that he had foreseen it. At one point while Vader is trying to convince Luke to join him and together they would rule the galaxy as father and son, he says, I believe, "The Emperor has foreseen it". There are many who infer from that line that he had foreseen it and was trying to maneuver things to change that future.

  • But this line refer to Luke. It's Vader who destroy him, not Luke.
    – DavRob60
    Apr 2, 2012 at 20:30
  • If Emperor foreseen it, it was logical to kill Vader.
    – user931
    Apr 2, 2012 at 20:37
  • @DavRob60 - fixed Apr 3, 2012 at 13:30

Power leads to self-confidence, which leads to a diminished understanding of the Force. This is what happened to the Jedi before their fall (Yoda had warned about that, and eventually they couldn't even realize that the Dark Lord of the Sith was just under their noses, rising to power) and maybe this is what made Palpatine's prescience blind to particular unfavorable possibilities about his future. As luke said:

Your overconfidence is your weakness.


Like many of the comments have stated, his visions are not all powerful. His visions are more like he has to try and scope them out not just them coming to him- so at that point he wasn't looking for a vision of whether or not Darth Vader would kill him because he was sure he wouldn't be betrayed. He had no reason to use his powers to foresee Darth Vader's trust. Also, even if he tried to foresee this, the future is always changing. For example, Darth Vader really did intend not to save Luke but changed his mind at the last second after seeing Luke tortured. It was a last minute decision and no vision could have predicted that fast enough.


Always in motion is the future, as Yoda often said. To see ones own future is tricky indeed. Jedi foreseeing is not an exact science at all, unlike telekinesis or lightsaber skills.

(Palpatine did not foresee that Obi-Wan was going to defeat Anakin, quite the opposite in fact as he even mentioned how he didn't expect that at all, because he underestimated the zeal with it Obi-Wan fought. He said if all the Jedi fought like Obi-Wan did, the sith wouldn't stand a chance)

The Jedi always taught anyone with a force vision to NEVER try and stop the vision, because more times than not, YOU are the actual CAUSE of making the vision come true in the first place. Many times such visions are actually the result of various emotions and desires going on in the subconscious mind that become manifested and amplified by the Jedi's own force powers.

So this is why in trying to stop a vision that you have, you can actually make it happen as it becomes a sort of self fulfilling prophecy.

Also as Palpatine said regarding seeing the future and sensing connections "It has everything to do with awareness. No one was all powerful with the force and no one was infallible with it's use". So no matter how powerful in the force someone is, you are no where near being God or perfect in all things.

Yoda is regarded as one of the top five most powerful Jedi to have ever lived in the history of the galaxy, and even he failed to see the rise of the Sith.

Palpatine was also so confident in how thoroughly he had purged the dark side from Vader, that, along with the fact that Vader was on the dark side for over 20 years now, that there was no chance of him ever turning against him.

Of course this shows how ultimately Luke was really more powerful than Palpatine as Luke and consistently sensed the little bit of good in Vader that he was going to try to resurrect. Once Vader saw Luke being killed by Palpatine, and knowing that he could no longer have any children due to his injuries and his condition, finally awoke that little bit of the light side in him that neither Palpatine nor Vader could get rid of. Yes, Vader himself was trying to remove all the remnants of the light side in him, those little bit of compassion, mercy or emotional attachments, but he could never get rid of it all fully. Those are the qualities that Luke kept sensing that Vader was struggling with which eventually reawakened once Luke's like was in jeopardy, and those are the qualities in Vader that Palpatine either failed to sense, or simply didn't think they were strong enough to overcome the dark side in Vader.

Palpatine was simply too confident in the dark side overall as he felt that it would keep Vaders light side from awakening, and if it did, that same power would keep Vader loyal to his Master. As Vader said to Luke "You don't know the POWER of the dark side.. I MUST obey, my Master".

These are the reasons why Palaptine failed to see Vader turning against him at that time, though he knew that Vader was plotting it, for it's the way of the Sith.

Prides goes before a fall.


You must remember that at the epic Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance never really began to win until Darth Sidious was completely distracted from the battle. He became very fixated with Luke Skywalker while trying to turn him to the Dark Side, and he became very angry when he failed. Sidious became so fixated with Luke that he completely forgot about everything else that was going on around him, even what his own apprentice was doing. So when Darth Vader made a spur of the moment decision to throw him down the shaft, he didn't even see it coming.

  • I believe in the Zahn trilogy, Mara Jade discusses this point. Jul 28, 2014 at 14:33

He did and he tried to prevent it that's why he sent vader away and was mad when he returned he told him to stay on the com and ship but vader didn't listen then he had to improvise and got too caught up in killing luke and vader was already injured while fighting luke so he turned his back on him he sensed his own death at vaders hands and tried to prevent it.

  • 1
    Can you provide some backup for this?
    – Adamant
    Jan 9, 2017 at 5:39

Speculation: Prescience via the Force is actually the result of a telepathic communication (unconsciously) sent from a Force-wielder in the future to the same Force-wielder in the present. If this is the case, then of course one cannot foresee one's own death - after all, the dead are not physically present to be able to communicate with the past. (Note: Even if 'Force ghosts' can communicate with their living past selves, as they do not exist in the physical world anymore they cannot communicate anything about the world to the past)

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    As you state yourself this is only speculation, do you have any evidence at all that you could edit in to back this up or is 100% head canon?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Aug 6, 2019 at 14:00

Just as Yoda misinterpreted how Anakin would bring balance to the Force, so did the Emperor. The Force had to rebalance itself out of the dark side as it had been for the past 30 or so years and there is no way to predict how.


Emperor never was able to see the future. He was just trolling and over-confident to the point where he could boast and laugh about how he can plan ahead. The trap he laid to Luke was actually simple to plan because he knew how easily Anakin was manipulated with his mother and wife. Also setting ambush on Endor was tactical planning and common trick in warfare: You want to lure enemy forces in open using bait and destroy them easily with large reserves flanking them. Emperor was only stopped because he ran out of luck. He did not calculate that Ewoks could help with the destruction of shield generator. Also no matter if Luke would be turn to his side they were all already doomed when Rebel fighters entered to Death Star II's superstructure.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. This is a fairly big claim; you should provide evidence that the Emperor was always only ever bluffing when he claimed to foresee things.
    – DavidW
    Jul 24, 2019 at 2:38

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