In Star Wars, Episode VI, Luke surrenders to the Empire and is brought before the Emperor. The Emperor taunts Luke, telling him that he has specifically foreseen the doom of the Rebel Alliance. At one point in the film, he specifically says "Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen". Of course, we find that not all of his "predictions" actually come true.

What is the actual extent of the Emperor's foreseeing/fortune telling power?

  • Does the Emperor actually see the future as it exists at the moment of his vision, but the future can later be changed by other plot events a la the morphing photographs in Back to the Future?
  • Is the Emperor actually unable to see into the future, but convinced that he is able to do so? In other words, his visions are bunk and come from some source other than the actual future, but he thinks they are really from the future and either is ignorant of or ignores any evidence to the contrary (i.e. he is "in denial")?
  • Is the Emperor fully aware of his inability to predict the future and simply lying to Luke in order to bluff him into giving up?
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    Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future. – Jack Jan 15 '19 at 4:14
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    Not very well. ;) – Adamant Jan 15 '19 at 4:39
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    Out of order? Even in the future nothing works. – Mazura Jan 15 '19 at 11:23
  • @Mazura you left a word out :D – Jared Smith Jan 15 '19 at 14:51

What the Emperor tells Luke is actually:

Everything that has transpired has done so according to my design.

The difference may seem irrelevant (especially since the Emperor does tell Vader, earlier in the movie, "Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.") However, combined with other statements that the Emperor makes, what he says to Luke strongly suggests that much of what the Emperor knows is not based primarily on his ability with the Force, but rather on conventional intelligence and planning.

"According to my design" indicates that what is occurring on the Sanctuary Moon is the product is the Emperor's plan. ("Your friends... are walking into a trap, as is your rebel fleet.") Moreover, there is specific evidence that the Emperor has not accurately sensed the situation on Endor through the force:

VADER: A small Rebel force has penetrated the shield and landed on Endor.

EMPEROR: Yes, I know.

VADER: My son is with them.

EMPEROR: Are you sure?

VADER: I have felt him, my Master.

EMPEROR: Strange, that I have not.

Of course, the Emperor presumably does have some precognitive ability. However, we know that the future can be changed by individuals' actions, and that definite determinations are practically impossible. I will leave Yoda with the last word, from The Empire Strikes Back:

Through the Force, things you will see. Other places. The future. The past. Old friends long gone.


Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.

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    I didn't know yet that Vader said "my son" before the big reveal. Interesting. Maybe an observant watcher could even figure it out before the reveal. – Fabian Röling Jan 15 '19 at 7:35
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    @FabianRöling that quote is from Episode 6, which was after the reveal. – JAD Jan 15 '19 at 7:38
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    @JAD Apparently I'm a Star Wars noob, because I remember Vader revealing himself in the finale, then shortly afterwards sacrificing himself to kill the emperor, having his last words and then the death star blows up and people celebrate. Maybe it's part of the same Mandela effect as "Luke, I am your father". – Fabian Röling Jan 15 '19 at 7:43
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    The future in being in motion is not necessarily a counter to conclusively knowing a future event will take place. If we're playing chess and I tell you "mate in 3", that means I know you will lose to checkmate in 3 or less turns. That doesn't mean I know which pieces you're going to move, and thus the future is still in motion, but I know that the mate is inevitable. – Flater Jan 15 '19 at 7:47
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    @FabianRöling lucky you - there's a whole weekend coming soon, and it seems you already got a plan for it :) – mgarciaisaia Jan 15 '19 at 17:04

Does the Emperor actually see the future as it exists at the moment of his vision, but the future can later be changed by other plot events a la the morphing photographs in Back to the Future?

Force Vision isn't quite that good. It gives you some future snapshot of something that will happen, but often no context of the surrounding events. So, for instance, we have this in ROTJ

VADER A small Rebel force has penetrated the shield and landed on Endor.

EMPEROR (no surprise)Yes, I know.

VADER (after a beat) My son is with them.

EMPEROR (very cool) Are you sure?

VADER I have felt him, my Master.

EMPEROR Strange, that I have not. I wonder if your feelings on this matter are clear, Lord Vader.

Vader knows what is being asked.

VADER They are clear, my Master.

EMPEROR Then you must go to the Sanctuary Moon and wait for them.

VADER (skeptical) He will come to me?

EMPEROR I have foreseen it. His compassion for you will be his undoing. He will come to you and then you will bring him before me.

So we have the Emperor missing that Luke went to Endor, but nailing that Vader should go there too, because Luke will surrender to him. We see something similar with Master Sifo-Dyas, who foresaw the need for a clone army, but not that it would be used by the Sith to help found the Empire.

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    And, of-course, Palpatine might've been bluffing half of the time. Just that he has seen some parts of the future, doesn't mean he's able to do it at will all the times he'd want. – Mast Jan 15 '19 at 18:54
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    Of course, in the real future (i.e. Legends), some Jedi learn to not only see the future but to fix it (flow-walking). Don't know who changed that future (i.e. to Canon). Maybe Leia did, since she and Han didn't want to stick around. – user21820 Jan 16 '19 at 12:06

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