21

We see him fall and an explosion occurs, but that doesn't mean he necessarily died.

This is similar to Gandalf falling in Moria: we see him fall and we think he dies (technically he does), but then we learn how he comes back to Middle Earth.

Can the same scenario be true for Palpatine?

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    Perhaps this question would be better saved until after the release of Episode VII... – Null Oct 28 '14 at 1:44
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    In the Expanded Universe Palpatine's physical form died then, but he was able to keep his spirit alive by transferring it into multiple clone bodies. With the recent canon changes by Disney, however, this question is probably impossible to answer until the new film. – James Sheridan Oct 28 '14 at 2:07
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    @Null, yes and no. Could be explained with the Star Wars Expanded Universe... that Lucas is just going to completely ignore for Episode VII, so we could have different answers (yes according to one source; no for the other) or different reasons for the same answer, all potentially valid. – Kreann Oct 28 '14 at 2:08
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    @Deion The EU was specifically de-canonized in preparation for Episode VII. Given that Episode VII is set to occur after Episode VI, we will soon have a canon answer from Episode VII that will almost certainly contradict (and supersede) the EU and the answers below. – Null Oct 28 '14 at 2:20
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    @phantom42: No, J.J. Abrams is. He's so bad we may end up longing for the "good old days" of Jar Jar Binks. – James Sheridan Nov 3 '14 at 12:28
19

If Palpatine were to survive, he would have had to survive three things:

The fall down the shaft

Here's a picture of that fall:

Palpatine falls to his death

I can't even begin to speculate how long that shaft goes, but I'd hazard a guess it's at least a mile1. Palpatine is quite frail, so it's unlikely he could have survived. But let's say he did.

The reactor

That chute leads straight to the Death Star's main reactor. According to Wookieepedia, the Death Star is powered by a Hypermatter reactor, which is powered by particle annihilation and releases enormous amounts of energy. Even if the Death Star reactor was 99% efficient (Which it almost certainly isn't), that's a ton of energy being converted into heat and/or radiation. It's a lot for an old man to bear for a non-trivial amount of time - he's down there for as long as it takes Luke to drag his extremely heavy father from the Emperor's throne room down to the shuttle bay, before:

The Earth*-Shattering Kaboom

Death Star 2 Blows up
That's the explosion Palpatine would finally have to survive. Note that it leave absolutely no debris, which means the explosion atomized the Death Star, and everything inside of it. Even if Palpatine could have survived the fall and the reactor, he's dust by now.

BUT

He did survive, at least in C-Canon. In 1991, Dark Horse comics published the first installment of the Dark Empire series, where we learn that Palpatine kept a stockpile of clone bodies lying around in case he was killed. It takes him six years to pull off, but he apparently managed to send his consciousness across space and into one of these bodies, whereupon he re-takes control of the remains of the Empire, and eventually takes Luke to be his new Sith Apprentice (Because some people never learn). So the answer to your question is yes, Palpatine survived (Or his consciousness did, anyway - that's a much bigger philosophical question I don't want to get into). At least he did until December 21, 20122.

With the recent shake-up in the Star Wars EU, Dark Empire is no longer canon. SO whether or not Palpatine survived is now in the hands of J.J. Abrams.

My bet is on "no".


1 As Dacio points out in comments, we know the shaft is no more than about 80 km (About 50 miles) deep
2 Holy crap guys, the Mayans were right

  • +1, but we don't have to speculate on the distance of the fall: The Death Star II ... measured over 160 kilometers wide. 1) It's a sphere, radius is half the diameter, limiting the fall to ~80km (or 160km if you speculate it went straight through without changing gravity). 2) They were near the surface of the sphere and near the equator (see: windows wrt. perspective on the rebel fleet). 3) Artificial gravity pulled "down" the shaft. 4) The shaft is perpendicular to the windows. – Dacio Oct 28 '14 at 16:21
  • The real questions are a) What's at the bottom of the shaft? b) What does gravity do at the bottom of the shaft? c) Why even power an artificial gravity field over a shaft that could kill the most powerful Sith Lord, should he fall into it from his bed room? Sigh. Sometimes I really wish Star Wars held up as hard scifi (or, you know, just to logic). – Dacio Oct 28 '14 at 16:24
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    @Dacio Good points about the size of the Death Star; I've added it. A better question might be "Who's in charge of OSHA on the Death Star, and why did they allow a big honking pit in the middle of the Emperor's throne room? I seem to keep bringing this up in answers, but I think many villain's problems could be solved if they just got a decent HR department – Jason Baker Oct 28 '14 at 17:20
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    @JasonBaker, technically the man falling down that pit is in charge of OSHA, though "the buck stops here" may not have been his mantra. :P – Smithers Oct 29 '14 at 5:15
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    @Dacio - The canon description is that the Emperor liked to have the pit because it was intimidating for people to have to walk over a bottomless chasm to get to his throne-room. – Valorum Apr 30 '16 at 23:12
12

His physical form dies there, but is not the last thing we see from him in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. So he died there (unless you consider that he didn't truly die, since he was still in spirit form) and died some several other times after that. The way the Emperor returns confirms that for sure, at least his physical body, was destroyed there (but thanks to the Dark Side of the Force, he didn't cease to exist).

For example, quoting wikipedia, in the Dark Empire series of comic books:

[Palpatine's] spirit returns from the underworld of the Force with the aid of Sith ghosts on Korriban and possesses the body of Jeng Droga, one of Palpatine's elite spies and assassins known as the Emperor's Hands.

That actually happened in a comic called Dark Empire III: Empire's End, where the Emperor says to some Sith spirits:

Your spirits guided me back to this life when I was destroyed by Vader... and his children... My aging clone body will soon die. I need healing... Now.

Actually later is know that Palpatine had a quite large array of clone bodies (that was his way to cheat death instead of being replaced by an apprentice) hidden in the world of Byss:

Palpatine's ultimate fate is further chronicled in the Dark Empire II and Empire's End series of comics. The Dark Empire II series, published from 1994 to 1995, details how the Emperor is once again reborn on Byss into a clone body

enter image description here

There is even a quote, from one of the books of the expanded universe (I think by Timothy Zahn) in which Luke flys back to the moon of Endor and senses something in the force in the place where the Emperor died. I read this long time ago but I'll try to find the reference and add it here.

  • Dark Empire and Dark Empire II are excellent stories! Aside from the comics there's also audiodramas with an extra preface in Dark Empire II featuring the first meeting with Luke and Kam Solusar. – 22nd Century Fza Oct 28 '14 at 3:30
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    It's Dark Force Rising, where Leia (not Luke) loses consciousness after passing through the place where Palpatine died whilst in orbit over Endor. Han described it as "a dead Emperor makes a grab for you[Leia]" but since Zahn had nothing to do with Dark Empire, it's doubtful he had any intention of Palpatine being alive. In fact, the "something almost sad about it" that Leia describes would seem to indicate that Palpatine is well and truly dead. – James Sheridan Nov 3 '14 at 12:31
2

Even if Palpatine somehow survived his fall, he was still on the Death Star when it exploded. He comes back in varying forms in the Expanded Universe (malevolent Force ghost, clones), but he definitely died.

Expanded Universe aside, we can be sure that Palpatine didn't survive his fall because of the terms of the prophecy. If Palpatine had secretly survived, Anakin wouldn't have "destroyed the Sith." And Word of Lucas is that Anakin is the Chosen One precisely because he killed Palpatine, sacrificing himself in the process.

-1

He didn't live, but I hope he did. The Prophecy said he would destroy all Sith and he was the Chosen One, as said in the Prequel Trilogy. He did do that though by killing Emperor Palpatine and sacrificing himself in the process. In some ways the Prequel Trilogy makes it more dramatic, but it also stops future works from having Palpatine. But in 2012, Disney Enterprises (c) bought Star Wars, I'm guessing they can retcon the Prequel Trilogy. Hope they do.

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    That looks more like a comment that an answer. I don't think I even understand what you're saying. Are you talking about Anakin or Palpatine? You seem to be referring to both without making distinctions. – thegreatjedi Apr 27 '16 at 9:15