In Episode VI, during their conversation before meeting the Emperor, Luke asks Vader to give up on the Emperor and join him instead, at which Vader replies: "You don't know the power of the Dark Side, I must obey my master".

What does this mean? Is Vader somehow afraid of the Emperor?

P.S. Please do not say it was a lie, a deceptive trick to get Luke to join the Dark Side, because clearly it has nothing to do with that.

  • 17
    The Emperor is literally the scariest man in the whole galaxy. Only a fool wouldn't be afraid of him.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 15:22
  • 6
    I think that Anakin is recalling how crossing the Emperor turned out for everyone else, regardless of the purity of their intentions. Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 15:26
  • 5
    Remember that scene when the emperor electrocuted the hell out of Vader, similar to how he did to the Jedi in Episode 3? Do you think maybe he's afraid of that happening to him?
    – phantom42
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 15:27
  • One possibility might simply be that Palpatine has some kind of hold on Vader through his physical infirmities and his life-support armor - we know the armor was made using Sith Alchemy, and we know Vader is highly dependent on both the armor and Imperial medical technicians to continue living; and we also know that the Force lightning could f*** the suit up - it could be that Palpatine's control over all these aspects keeps Vader in line.
    – Shisa
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 5:27
  • 2
    @phantom42 I don't know what you are talking about. When does the Emperor electrocute Vader?? Please don't tell me it's in the EU. Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 7:54

8 Answers 8

  • We see in EU (E.g. in the Darth Maul novel) Sith training that rigid discipline and obedience is strongly enforced, with harsh punishments.

  • The Emperor, as a more powerful Sith Master compared to Vader, can punish and hurt him (and has done so, e.g. cutting off his hand for losing Death Star 1 as told by Mara Jade).

  • In addition, Vader is still a Dark Side aficionado, and needs the Dark Side to be able to hope to live at some point outside his life support suit. So, he needs the Emperor.

So, yes, he must obey his master, both by his training; and out of fear of his Master; and out of fear of losing the hope that his Dark Side apprenticeship under Emperor can give him.

  • 1
    Why would Vader being "knowledgeable and enthusiastic" about the Dark Side, mean that he needs the Emperor? I'm not sure I get the connection there. What do you mean by that point?
    – Shisa
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 5:29
  • @Shisa - Emperor has superior knowledge in the area. He's the only (or main) way Vader can learn more. Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 10:38
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    and has done so, e.g. cutting off his hand for losing Death Star 1 as told by Mara Jade <-- Where is this from?
    – enderland
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 12:02
  • @DVK Right, got it. But why would that be a reason for Vader to be afraid of Palpatine?
    – Shisa
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 13:59
  • @DVK Your answer is still not 100% satisfying. Please rephrase it by removing any reference from outside the original trilogy, because I (and maybe other fans too) would like to have an answer from the perspective of a man who saw Episode VI back in 1983, thinking it's the last piece of the puzzle. No prequels, no EU please :) Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 16:46

I thought that was how the Dark Side worked. Taking on a master bound you to him (or at least to the power he represented). Unless trying to kill him and usurp his place, you had to follow him. Oddly enough, killing your master is a form of worshiping him, as he is everything in your life, so you want his place.

This is completely different than the Light Side, which warded off emotional attachment, and thus something Luke would not know or understand.

  • 1
    except that Luke didn't go through traditional Jedi training, and was a very emotional person in the movies. Still, a good answer
    – childcat15
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 19:31
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    @childcat15 Did Vader know he was wavering and so emotional? And, i wonder how much is inherent and how much comes from training. Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 0:06
  • @BrianTkatch Vader knew he cared enough about his friends to try to rescue them in ESB. I don't know about the wavering, but the Emperor could feel his anger and hatred, I'm guessing Vader could too
    – childcat15
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 19:32

Originally no, he did not fear it. At that time he wanted to save his wife and was too blinded to see how bad the Dark side was. As time passed, he realized the power of the Dark side and began to fear of the lengths the Emperor was willing to go to to keep that power and get what he wanted.


I think DVK's answer is great, but its also helpful to look at Vader's character more deeply, specifically that "He is machine now more than man." Machines are just motivated by their programming logic.

Vader was originally motivated by his desire to save Padme. When Padme died, his motivation was lost, and like his body, was replaced with a robotic state of obedience to the Dark Side. The only thing he knew to do after that was to obey his master.

But Luke brought out the "good in him", restoring his humanity. Even in their first encounter, Vader briefly moved out of his robotic obedience by offering to overthrow the Emperor and rule as father and son. But Luke rejected his offer and in their next encounter the robot returned, "I must obey my master".

In the end, Vader found a human motivation to live for, the motivation to save his son. It overrode his programming and restored his humanity.

  • Sorry, but "more machine than a man" IMHO referes to lack of emotions more than being an unthinking robot Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 0:51
  • Exactly. I don't think he was an unthinking robot. As you point out he is an unemotional robot. "I must obey my master" is him speaking from a robotic lack of emotion. "We can rule the galaxy as father and son" is his human emotion beginning to stir within him. Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 5:00

Its not the fact that Vader is scared of the emperor, it's more due to him being Vader's master. No matter what happens, it was the emperor that saved Anakin when he was chopped up by Obi-Wan, so he owes his life to the emperor in due respect. However, he has unconditional love for his son, but he is blinded by hatred for the Jedi, therefore the love he has cannot be expressed. All he can think about is the Empire, and how they need to overthrow the Jedi Order, so he must do everything for the Empire and therefore the emperor himself. He is not scared, he is just very loyal to his master.

  • They need to overthrow the Jedi Order? For all intents and purposes, there is no Jedi Order anymore. By this point, to Vader and the Emperor's knowledge, Luke is the only remaining Jedi.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 13:48
  • Sorry...I got confused between movies hehe! Thanks for correcting me! What I should of said was rebellion hehe Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 13:54

Vader isn't afraid of him at first, but then realizes that the Emperor is willing to destroy everything and anyone in his path to obtain power, which scares Vader.


I take it as the Dark Side robbing its victims of their free will; as long as they are unwilling to jettison their desire for power, victims of the Dark Side cannot resist the demands of anyone stronger in the Dark Side.


I think it's obvious that Vader would overthrow the Emperor if he felt that he could. Evidence of this is that he tries to persuade Luke to join him. He reasons that two Skywalkers together could overpower the Emperor. But the Emperor believes his control over Vader is so complete, Vader will only bring Luke to him frozen in carbonite, so the Emperor can turn him. This is a miscalculation by the Emperor, a blind spot which ultimately destroys him.

  • I'm not seeing how this answers the question.
    – Mithical
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 19:58

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