In the ret-con version of Episode V (The Empire Strikes Back), the scene between Darth Vader and Darth Sidious (at the time of the changes, still only known as the Emperor) was changed so Sidious specifically tells Vader that Luke Skywalker is the child of Anakin Skywalker.

At the end of Episode III (Revenge of the Sith) Sidious tells Vader that Vader killed Padme in his rage (as I brought up in another question). Telling Vader that Luke was his son is admitting that Padme survived long enough to give birth and that he, Sidious, originally lied to Vader.

We know at the beginning of Episode V that Vader is already stuck on finding "Young Skywalker," which means he likely knows Luke is his son, but Sidious is now telling him, as if Vader didn't know and, at the same time, admitting he lied to Vader and that Vader didn't kill Padme.

What does Sidious have to gain by coming clean at that point? Considering they're both Sith, once he admits this to Vader, he would know that would only give Vader even more incentive to kill him (Sidious).

So what's the point in telling Vader (since the only other two that Sidious would believe would have any reason to know would be Obi-Wan or Yoda)?

  • 9
    What is vader going to do? "Oh my gosh I was wrong to kill all those younglings and help you take over the galaxy, and I never would have done that had you not lied so I renounce it all!?"
    – Chad
    Oct 23, 2012 at 18:38
  • 5
    Sidious is sadistic enough that he might have told Vader just to torture him. Sidious gets his jollies out of stuff like that. He's the Evil Emperor!
    – dmm
    Oct 2, 2014 at 3:46
  • Relevant: youtu.be/zdukWtJwlPU?t=2m14s
    – Ellesedil
    Apr 14, 2015 at 17:02
  • But why does the Emperor refer to Anakin Skywalker in the third person? He definitely knows that Darth Vader was Anakin Skywalker before he gave Vader his sith name. Dec 31, 2017 at 9:21

8 Answers 8


It's because Sidious was not aware of the existence of any Skywalker child shortly before this conversation with Vader. Yoda and Obi-Wan made it clear that Vader and Sidious must be unaware of theirs existence. If they were aware of that before, they would had done everything to get those fabulous prospects by theirs side.

YODA: Pregnant, she must still appear. Hidden, safe, the children must be kept.
OBI-WAN: We must take them somewhere the Sith will not sense their presence.
YODA: Split up, they should be.

Before the first death star was destroyed, it was just unthinkable. The rise of this new republic hero that is both strong in the force and has the Skywalker family name (if he was ever aware of his name) may have weaken Sidious's certitude. But even after that, it was so unexpected that it took him time to see the elephant in the room.

Also note that the Emperor's call only occurs once Luke began his training with Yoda. Thats only at this point that the emperor feels the "great disturbance in the Force". When he realized who was the causes of this disturbance, the only feeling he had was fear. If Sidious tell Vader who Luke was, it's to warn him that the danger for them is real, has Luke would be enough powerful to destroy both of them if he ever happen to become a Jedi. It's Vader's idea to turn him to the Dark side.

Darth Vader: [kneeling before Emperor Palpatine's hologram] What is thy bidding, my master?
The Emperor: There is a great disturbance in the Force.
Darth Vader: I have felt it.
The Emperor: We have a new enemy. The young rebel who destroyed the Death Star. I have no doubt this boy is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker.
Darth Vader: How is that possible?
The Emperor: Search your feelings, Lord Vader. You will know it to be true. He could destroy us.
Darth Vader: He's just a boy. Obi-Wan can no longer help him.
The Emperor: The Force is strong with him. The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.
Darth Vader: If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally.
The Emperor: [intrigued] Yes... He would be a great asset. Can it be done?
Darth Vader: He will join us or die, master.

Also note that Sidious didn't lie to Vader

  • 6
    In the recent Darth Vader comics from Marvel (canon), Vader finds out the rebel pilot is a Skywalker on his own, and starts looking for him not long after the Death Star is destroyed. So, with THIS retcon, Vader lies to Sidious. Aug 27, 2015 at 13:55

The original Episode V made more sense, in that Vader did discover that Sidious had lied to him but by that time his transformation was complete and he did not care (I'm not counting extended universe sources). Sidious referred to Luke as "the son of Anakin Skywalker" because he had decreed that "henceforth you shall be known as Darth Vader". And Vader probably did not want to be reminded of his past life.

  • also, Sidious admitting that he lied to Vader would make Vader hate Sidious and himself more, both of which could only strengthen Vader's ties to the dark side (at least in Sidious' view).
    – Xantec
    Nov 3, 2011 at 14:18
  • 7
    Well, Sidious didn't actually lie to Vader; Vader did kill Padme, just not the way he thought he did.
    – KeithS
    Nov 3, 2011 at 18:38

I don't think it's a huge difference. Basically, the conversation was tweaked just slightly:


Darth Vader: [kneeling before Emperor Palpatine's hologram] What is thy bidding, my master?

The Emperor: There is a great disturbance in the Force.

Darth Vader: I have felt it.

The Emperor: We have a new enemy. Luke Skywalker.

Darth Vader: Yes, Master.

The Emperor: He could destroy us.

Darth Vader: He's just a boy. Obi-Wan can no longer help him.

The Emperor: The Force is strong with him. The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.

Darth Vader: If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally.

The Emperor: [intrigued] Yes... He would be a great asset. Can it be done?

Darth Vader: He will join us or die, master.

The tweak in the retconned version (See DavRobo60's answer) basically avoids any questions that would arise among people who knew the backstory, regarding Vader's lack of surprise in the original conversation. "There's a new Skywalker running around? But the Skywalker name died with Anakin!" By giving him a couple extra lines to express surprise, you hang a lampshade on it and move on.

Either way, if this were the first time you ever saw the original trilogy (and hadn't seen the prequels), the huge surprise (that Darth Vader IS Anakin Skywalker) is still safe; there's just a little extra surprise that Anakin Skywalker had a son that Vader didn't know about.

  • Exactly, there's absolutely nothing in the OT to connect Darth Vader to the name Anakin Skywalker aside from Obi-wan's "he betrayed and murdered your father". Up to Cloud City, and even despite this change, for all we know they're still two different people. For a first-time watcher the most significant thing the change does is give a name to Luke's father; nothing more.
    – user8719
    Dec 21, 2014 at 13:00

George Lucas simply changed it when working on the prequel. Originally Sidious (known only as the Emperor back then) doesn't clearly state that Luke is the son of Skywalker.

Another example of Lucas constantly changing things in the first three films to tie everything with the prequels.

  • 2
    Arc-Vile: Welcome to the SF&F site on StackExchange. If you take a look at most answers, they are dealing with the questions "in-universe." Generally, unless someone specifies they want to know what happened in the writing process, they're dealing with the questions and answers from within the universe under discussion - in other words, from the viewpoint of anyone in that universe, without breaking the fourth wall.
    – Tango
    Mar 7, 2012 at 3:17
  • Oh! Ok I get it. Sorry!
    – Arc-Vile
    Mar 7, 2012 at 4:55
  • I totally understand the whole not breaking the fourth wall thing, but most of the time to really understand why something or someone it is the way it is in a fantasy or scifi universe, you have to dig deeper. Especially in something like STAR WARS, THE MATRIX and THE TERMINATOR. :)
    – Arc-Vile
    Mar 7, 2012 at 11:41

After reading the Darth Bane trilogy, I wonder if Vader might not have understood Sidious' deception and appreciated in hindsight that it was an elegant bit of Sith training.

The Darth Bane trilogy and Darth Plagueis deal pretty extensively with the Sith apprentice/master relationship and the philosophies therein and it is kind of understood that they are always trying to deceive each other. The only unacceptable thing would have been failure, and Palpatine quite clearly did not fail. His lesson allowed Vader to embrace his hate and rise to his destiny.


Vader already knew about Luke's existence and real name before that conversation with Sidious. That is why he was taking a great deal of trouble to capture Leia and Han . . . in order to lure Luke to him. His surprise response to Sidious was nothing more than an act. In fact, I believe he knew about Luke's real identity before the Emperor did.

Lucas really had not changed a thing, except a few words.

  • Do you have canon proof for this? Feb 2, 2014 at 18:27
  • Yes, my first thought is what DVK said. There's nothing to back this up.
    – Tango
    Feb 5, 2014 at 19:14
  • In the original EU, Vader had interrogated a pilot who was stationed on Yavin IV. Before expiring, the pilot gave him the name "Luke Skywalker" as the name of the one who fired the fatal shots into the exhaust port. That was the original explanation of how Vader found out about the name, after which he made it his mission to learn everything about Luke Skywalker. Assumedly he discovered the relationship during that search and prior to ESB.
    – Omegacron
    Feb 18, 2014 at 2:06
  • @Tango Vader refers to Skywalker by name earlier in the movie. "That is the system, and I'm sure Skywalker is with them. Set your course for the Hoth system!" The changed dialogue for Episode V really makes less sense than the original... Feb 17, 2016 at 15:35

Nobody knew Luke even existed until he blew up the Death Star. That gave him the notoriety. After that EVERYONE would know the name Skywalker. Until then, even the Emperor would have thought there were no kids. The Emperor is telling him now as if to say, "hey guess who should have been getting Father's Day cards all this time, and the only way we found this out was after he blew up our super weapon?" Vader had only felt the Force in Luke at the Death Star run. Obiwon's Force presence would have been more intriguing to Vader on the Death Star at the first encounter.

  • There's a decent(ish) answer at the core of this, but also a lot of irrelevant info and opinion.
    – Valorum
    Dec 21, 2014 at 10:12

I think they (Sidious and Vader) both knew that the other one knew about Luke and that they were both intent on adhering to the rule of 2 Sith. So this conversation was intended to be an elaborate game of cat and mouse, i.e. "why are you shielding this boy's existence from me?" "We're going to team up and kill you!" "Nah, we are going to kill you..."

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. Do you have any evidence that Sidious knew that Vader already knew about Luke? Otherwise it reads as a normal "here's some new info you need." "Okay, I have an idea." conversation as discussed in earlier answers.
    – DavidW
    Jun 14, 2020 at 4:13

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