I was re-watching The Empire Strikes back this afternoon and there is the scene where Ozzel and Piett are arguing over the data sent by the Hoth probe droid. Ozzel is insistent that this isn't Rebel activity. He then continues to argue it with Darth Vader when the Sith lord joins the conversation. Finally, after losing the argument, he then makes the most incompetent approach to Hoth, providing the Rebels with enough warning to allow most of them to escape the planet.

From a logic standpoint, it seems unlikely that someone who was that completely incompetent and that poor a strategist could have risen to the rank of Admiral. It seems to me that a reasonable alternate theory is that Admiral Ozzel is actually a Rebel agent (or sympathizer) who competently made his way to the rank of Admiral, then used that position to try and divert Imperial forces away from Rebel bases. And that, failing that, he risked death (and received it) to try and save as many Rebels as possible.

I know nothing in the movies supports this, but is there anything in either other canon or Legends that would support such a theory?

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    Incompetent people hold high positions in real life. Why should Star Wars be so different?
    – Adamant
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 3:32
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    @Adamant Yes, incompetent people hold high positions in real life, but that's only because we don't have Darth Vader to choke the life out of those idiots before they rise any further.
    – RichS
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 3:37
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    @BBlake Ever hear of the Peter Principle? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle
    – RichS
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 3:37
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    @BBlake I know you're really asking about whether Ozzel is a rebel spy (or at least a sympathizer), but there's no evidence of that to my best knowledge. I think Ozzel was there to show Vader's a real bad-ass who has little tolerance for mistakes or incompetence. I see no other reason for his character other than to die as an example to others.
    – RichS
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 5:26
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    @RichS - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon's_razor Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 13:05

2 Answers 2


Various canon source (such as Ultimate Star Wars indicates that he's simply incompetent at his job. There's no suggestion whatsoever that he was in league with the Rebellion.

Admiral Kendal Ozzel commands Darth Vader's flagship, the Executor. Ozzel displays poor judgement; first doubting evidence of life on Hoth, and then failing in a bid to surprise the rebels there.

Ultimate Star Wars - Admiral Ozzel

and from the canon junior novelisation, we have Ozzel's internal thought process. He feels that Piett is simply being over-enthusiastic about a very small find.

“I think we’ve got something,” Captain Piett is saying. “The report is only a fragment from a probe droid in the Hoth system, but it’s the best lead we’ve had.”
Admiral Ozzel shrugs off his captain. Piett is entirely too enthusiastic, in Ozzel’s opinion. As if every sentence he utters might prove sufficient for a promotion. “We have thousands of probe droids searching the galaxy, Captain…”
“The visuals indicate life-readings, sir. And the Hoth system is supposed to be devoid of human forms.”
Admiral Ozzel represses the urge to roll his eyes. These young, ambitious captains tire him so. “If we followed up every little lead a probe sent back—”

Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back: So you want to be a Jedi?

This assertion (that he's incompetent rather than devious) is backed up by the Official Star Wars trading card for Ozzel which offers some additional backstory about his earlier military career, persistently failing upwards due to his wealth and family connections.

Born into a wealthy Caridan family, Kendal Ozzel graduates from Core World institutes as a Captain of the Line but is relegated to teaching positions because superiors doubt his ability to function as an effective field commander. Even so, he continues to serve the reorganized Galactic Empire, eventually assigned to Darth Vader's Star Destroyer, the Executor.

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    Darn, I actually kind of like the OP's theory. Good answer +1
    – DBPriGuy
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 0:34

i just re-watched the movie. it is pretty clear that Admiral Ozzel is not incompetent, rather he is trying to help the rebels. the official star wars trading card isn't the authority on something sewn so ambiguously into the story by the director and screenplay actors. In the movie, the commanding officers even look at each other suspicious of each other in conflict at every bad decision. Admiral Ozzel says he wants to disregard the drone malfunctioning on Hoth. Then purposefully comes out of hyperspace that alert the rebels to their looming invasion. I think if you read the official movie script, there will be enough subtle hints for you to recognize what the story was going for with his alleged "incompetence"

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    Do you have any sources for this besides your interpretation of the film?
    – amflare
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 20:01
  • I was considering writing to the actor who played Ozzel.Michael Sheard c/o The Narrow Road Company, 21/22, Poland Street, LONDON. W1V 3DD. UK.
    – todd
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 20:26
  • Sadly, I learned Sheard passed away. So, I'm afraid the authority on the subject would fall on Irvin Kershner, Leigh Bracket and Larry Kasdan. I suspect it was the script/directing staff took artistic privilege in the ambiguity of whether or not he was intentionally helping.
    – todd
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 20:33
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    last word I will say on this:Canon book "Allegiance" (novel) by Timothy Zahn describes how Mara Jade's became suspicion of Ozzel and was eventually transferred from the Reprisal to the Executor because of her suspicions. Quote from Mara Jade to Darth Vador: "I don't know if [Ozzel]'s disloyal, easily manipulated, or just plain stupid. But I think he bears watching."
    – todd
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 20:50
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    The trading card is a weak source, but the Ultimate Star Wars guide is a canon source.
    – Valorum
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 21:13

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