I've heard explanations like Tarkin wanted it and presented his plans to the emperor. And I've heard the comment by Vader was more for the audience, since Luke does destroy the Death Star using the force at the end (and #2 does "kill" the emperor also). But did the Sith justify it to themselves as necessary somehow (like they didn't need it but were too busy/lazy to do all that the Death Star could)? Or was Vader BS'ing when he said that? Or was it presented to the emperor and he was like, "sure, why not", being fairly indifferent to it, and/or figuring he might as well enjoy the fear it would instill?

  • 3
    I don't have a canon quote for it, but it's basically what Tarkin says: it's an instrument of intimidation (which is why they needed to fire on a well-known planet). Vader (or especially the Emperor) may be more powerful, but a distant Emperor on his throne is not as viscerally terrifying.
    – DavidW
    Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 0:00
  • 5
    There were no "Sith" making a collective decision here. It was the emperor's choice, and from Return of the Jedi, it is very clear that the emperor makes consistent use of both the Force and his conventional resources.
    – Buzz
    Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 0:46
  • 4
    You could have asked why the empire has stormtroopers, star destroyers, and TIE fighters using the same logic. Vader isn’t trying to say the Death Star is useless. He’s just responding to the claim that the Death Star was “the ultimate power in the universe”. It’s like, “ok the Death Star is great but it’s not literally the greatest, you know”. Also, just because something isn’t the best doesn’t mean it’s useless. Why use only the force to rule the galaxy? Why not use the force plus a huge space station plus a bunch of starships and soldiers, etc.? Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 12:15
  • 2
    It’s not insignificant. It’s insignificant compared with the power of the force. He’s not saying the Death Star is useless. He’s saying that’s how awesome the force is. Also maybe he’s being slightly poetic and exaggerating. It’s just as likely that if Darth Vader we’re emperor, he wouldnt have built the Death Star, but palpatine is in charge and he sees the value of it, even if Vader doesn’t. Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 13:50
  • 1
    A rifle is insignificant compared with the power of a thermonuclear weapon. Why does the US still have Marines? Same reason. You can’t use the most powerful thing for all situations. And the one most powerful thing can’t be everywhere and do everything at once. It’s starting to feel more like this is a personal criticism of Star Wars and not a question from curiosity, because instead of considering these reasonings, it seems to me like you’re simply rejecting all of them. It also seems like you’re talking Vader’s comment as imperial policy, which it clearly is not. Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 14:08

3 Answers 3


What you're hearing in this scene is Vader's opinion. By comparison, Palpatine seems overwhelmingly in favour of mechanical terror weapons to try to control the galaxy. This is his fifth attempt (that we know of) in canon.

  • Army of millions of droids
  • Death Star
  • Death Star II
  • Starkiller Base
  • Xyston-class Star Destroyers

The evidence of why is in Motti's reply to Vader's statment. From the Episode 4 script at IMDB:

    Don't be too proud of this
    technological terror you've
    constructed. The ability to destroy
    a planet is insignificant next to
    the power of the Force.

    Don't try to frighten us with your
    sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader. Your
    sad devotion to that ancient religion
    has not helped you conjure up the
    stolen data tapes, or given you
    clairvoyance enough to find the
    Rebel's hidden fort...

Motti isn't cowed by things he can't see or hear, such as The Force. His response to the idea of The Force is scorn and defiance, insulting the Emperor's apprentice. The Force may be overwhelmingly powerful, but the mere idea of it doesn't succeed in curbing Motti's attitude. He needs a physical demonstration.

The Death Star is a physical and palpable expression of the Empire's power, to persuade citizens/subjects like Motti. And to warn those who feel more defiant than Motti and would join the rebellion.


A few things to unpack here; first off Tarkin didn't come up with the idea for the weapon, he just co-opted and took credit for it once it was clear the thing was finally working as advertised. The initial weapon design was commissioned by Sidious himself, and started under the auspices of the Separatists, before shifted over to the Republic during the war, and then of course the Empire. It's implied it's at least inspired but stories of ancient Sith weapons of terror powered by giant kybers (the one on Malachor likely among them) if not directly based on actual surviving plans.

It's function for the Empire was purely meant to be a means of exerting control through terror. It's no coincidence that Palpatine finally dissolved the Senate and put the regional military governors in direct control of their respective systems just as soon as the station was operational. He felt he no longer needed to bother with the bureaucracy to maintain control once he had the power to obliterate any planet that defied Imperial rule.

As for the force; well of course the force is always going to be more powerful. It's an effectively infinite, omnipresent energy field that transcends time and space. The likely reason Sidious didn't think that mattered is because he was confident in being one of only two left that could actually use it in any meaningful way. But as Luke would later observe; his over confidence was his weakness. After all it wasn't a weapon meant to defeat force wielders, it was meant to bring the galaxy to heel.

Enjoyment isn't really a factor here. Evil people are generally by their very nature fearful and are thus seeking greater and greater degrees of control and dominion. This is just one of many ways in which Palaptine sought to impose his will on the galaxy.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.