Throughout most of the original Star Wars trilogy, Darth Vader seems to have complete control over the Empire's military hierarchy. It seems his only limitation is needing to report to his Sith Master, the Emperor. For example:

  • He has full command of the Imperial fleet in The Empire Strikes Back. He even summarily executes Admiral Ozzel and promotes a Captain (Piett) to take his place, without anyone questioning him.

  • (also in The Empire Strikes Back) After Captain Needa loses track of the Millenium Falcon, he honorably confesses to Lord Vader and is nevertheless executed in the same way.

There is one major exception: Grand Moff Tarkin, the commander of the original Death Star, seems to be superior to Darth Vader.

  • While choking an Imperial officer, Tarkin says "Vader, release him!" and Vader complies.

  • After the Millenium Falcon escapes, we learn that it was let go intentionally. Tarkin says "You're sure the homing device is secure aboard their ship? I'm taking an awful risk, Vader. This had better work." This attitude clearly implies that Tarkin some sort of superiority over Vader.

  • When he discovers the Princess Leia lied about the location of the Rebel Base, Tarkin tells Vader to "Terminate her... immediately." Although the Princess isn't actually executed, Tarkin's instructions are followed at least to the point of her being scheduled for execution. (C3PO says "I'm afraid she's scheduled to be terminated.")


  • Does Darth Vader have a military rank? If so, what is it?

  • If Vader does have a rank, is it lower than "Grand Moff" (Tarkin's title), or is it just subservient to the "Commander of the Death Star?"

  • Or does Darth Vader simply have a personal respect for Tarkin that leads him to follow his orders by choice rather than by obligation?

  • What some people seem to forget and others choose to deny, is that Star Wars was likely only going to be one film, which was then extended. In the original it is likely Darth Vader (where at the time his first name was Darth as opposed to his title) was inferior to Tarkin but, after his death, in the sequels they were able to move Vader out of the military structure and closer to the head of the Church (although he portrays similar things in ANH
    – Edlothiad
    Feb 8 '18 at 7:49
  • Related, now Legends: Was Darth Vader really a member of the Empire?
    – Edlothiad
    Feb 8 '18 at 7:52
  • @Edlothiad that's an excellent point. I'm hoping that like many of those "first movie" things, it was eventually incorporated into canon by some random explanation in another source. As I'm writing this, I'm also seeing your suggestion of duplicate question, which seems appropriate... maybe I'll defer to that question.
    – LevenTrek
    Feb 8 '18 at 7:54
  • 1
    In my opinion, you're questions have been answered in the dupe target.
    – Edlothiad
    Feb 8 '18 at 7:55
  • You're right - I just didn't see it when I typed the question. Probably because "rank" wasn't in the dup's question title...
    – LevenTrek
    Feb 8 '18 at 7:56