This tells us that the Emperor was overconfident in the Dark Side in regards to Vader turning against him.

However, at one point Vader tells Luke that he can destroy the Emperor and that he (the Emperor) has foreseen it.

So, if Palpatine has foreseen that Luke (or another Skywalker for that matter) can destroy him, why risk bringing him closer with the expectation of turning him to the Dark Side?

I know turning Luke would be a great asset, but still, this is probably the only man in the galaxy that can kill you. Why not cancel this possibility immediately and have Vader kill him on first occasion?

  • 23
    Always in motion, the future is. Palpatine was probably just over-confident about his chances of changing it Commented May 21, 2015 at 15:04
  • 2
    You could also argue that Luke was a source of great power. Palpatines entire life was based around the pursuit of power, regardless of risk.
    – DavidS
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 15:11
  • 21
    I'd bet Palpatine foresaw Luke destroying him not as a Jedi, but as his Sith apprentice, long in the future. Commented May 21, 2015 at 15:27
  • 4
    @DavidS Palpatine very carefully managed risk. He couldn't have remained hidden for so long otherwise. Commented May 21, 2015 at 21:45
  • 2
    @MatthewRead I didn't say he didn't manage the risk well, just that he has a record of being totally willing to gamble everything (his life, the peace of the Republic, the Empire) if he judged the reward worth it. And I think he'd consider more power worth it. Dude's an addict, and games are no fun when there's no challenge...
    – DavidS
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 8:55

5 Answers 5


It is never made clear how Luke's ability to destroy the Emperor has been foreseen (if in fact Vader did not simply make this up in order to persuade Luke to join the dark side). It is, however, clear that the Emperor needs Luke.

Vader has long ago been rendered an inferior pupil to the Emperor - he is growing old, his body has been replaced with excessive machinery, and the Emperor (rightly) predicts that he will turn on him at the crucial moment. To maintain the Rule of Two, the Emperor needs a new apprentice, and a still-green young Jedi Knight like Luke is an ideal candidate to turn.

This also seems to be his modus operandi - when faced with the possibility that Count Dooku would betray him, he saw the potential to turn young Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side by having him kill Dooku in cold blood. This is the exact same thing he tries to do to Luke with Vader, and it very nearly works given how Luke has embraced his anger to defeat Vader in direct combat.

And finally, we should also remember that while Palpatine was willing to try to convert Luke by talking him into this murderous act, he was also prepared for it to fail, and promptly executed his plan B with Force Lightning.

The only true flaw in his plan was to underestimate Anakin's rekindled loyalty to his son, and Anakin's ability to betray the Emperor even under such circumstances.

  • 25
    +1 for the point that the Emperor's plan B was to kill Luke with his Force Lightning, which was very effective right up until Vader turned against him.
    – Null
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 17:24

In Episode V, the Emperor tells Vader

We have a new enemy - Luke Skywalker...He could destroy us.

This is likely what Vader is referring to when he later tells Luke

Luke. You can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son. Come with me. It is the only way.

Vader is imploring Luke to join him so they can destroy the Emperor as father and son, which is Vader's plan but obviously not the Emperor's plan. It serves Vader to tell Luke that they can defeat the Emperor, but it's not necessarily true. The Emperor said that Luke "could" destroy both Sith (it's only a possibility), but Vader stretches the truth (implying that it's more of a certainty) and excludes himself from the Emperor's "prophecy". Vader has reason to lie/exaggerate so that his proposal is more convincing and enticing to Luke (otherwise Luke would just think he's not strong enough to defeat the Emperor, and he'd only die trying to challenge the Emperor).

We have reason to believe that it's not (entirely) true, because (a) Sith like Vader are known to be deceptive and, more importantly, (b) Vader can sense Luke on the forest moon of Endor whereas the Emperor cannot:

Vader: I have felt [Luke], my Master.

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

If the Emperor can't even sense the presence of Luke on the forest moon of Endor, why would we believe that the Emperor has foreseen that the same person will destroy him mere hours later? Of course, the Emperor could be lying to Vader, but he has little reason to lie to his fellow Sith whereas Vader has a much better reason to lie or exaggerate to a Jedi he is trying to convert.

Even if it is true that the Emperor has foreseen his death at the hands of Luke with some sort of certainty, the future is always in motion (as pointed out in the comments) so the Emperor knows there's a possibility he can turn Luke. Given the Emperor's overconfidence in his hold over Vader and overconfidence in general (Luke specifically says it will be his downfall), it's no surprise that the Emperor believed he could turn Luke to the dark side. The chance of gaining a powerful young Skywalker (Luke) without the limitations of the half-machine Vader is just too good to pass up.

Finally, it's worth noting that it was really Vader who destroyed the Sith, not Luke. Luke undoubtedly played a crucial role, but it's Vader/Anakin who destroys the Sith -- so the Emperor couldn't have foreseen that Luke would destroy him, because that's not what happened.

  • 1
    The "if" is important. We have no corroboration that the Emperor forsees anything. I mean he always says it in the context of "like oh yeah I knew that."
    – Yorik
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 16:31
  • 2
    We also don't know if the Emperor really didn't sense Luke at the Battle of Endor - he doesn't seem that surprised to see him in his throne room, and he is not above lying or creatively hiding truths.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 17:18
  • 8
    If the Emperor can't even sense Luke's presence on the forest moon of Endor, why would we believe that the Emperor can foresee that Luke can destroy him? Because the two have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Commented May 21, 2015 at 21:47
  • 1
    I'll have to parrot what Matthew Read has said. I see no reason to conflate sensing presence of another and forecasting.
    – user15742
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 21:54
  • 2
    @Null 1) A full year has passed between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Luke has become significantly more aware of the Force and more skilled with its use. 2) The Emperor wouldn't be paying that much attention to every shuttle that passed through. Vader had the advantage of having the shuttle called to his attention by an officer; it's only natural he'd focus his senses on a suspicious vessel. 3) The Emperor foresaw that Luke would turn himself over to Vader on Endor, and he was right. (The premonition surprised Vader: "He will come to me?" when told to wait on Endor.)
    – jpmc26
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 23:45

However, at one point Vader tells Luke that he can destroy the Emperor and that he (the Emperor) has foreseen it.

The first time I saw the movie, I thought it was a clear error in the script and that it was supposed to be "overlooked" rather than "foreseen".

If we accept "foreseen" at face value, then I guess what Vader is pushing here is the idea that the Emperor sent him to kill Luke only because he "foresaw" that they could overthrow him if they joined forces (and, therefore, it would be a good idea to do so). However, if the Emperor really foresaw this, it'd just be about the dumbest idea in the world for the Emperor to send Vader after Luke. Because of this, the line is clearly complete and utter fail, whether interpreted as a ruse or not.

  • 1
    Actually I thought it was intentional, and the emperor was committed to the cause of the dark side to the cost of his life.
    – Joshua
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 3:32

The Dark Side clouds everything. While the Emperor was extremely tactful, cunning, and patient, he was also so consumed by the Dark Side, especially during his Force Lightning attack against Luke that he could not sense Vader's betrayal; while he reasoned, as others pointed out, Plan A had failed and Plan B would be seen to fruition.

Palpatine told Vader, "He(Luke) could destroy us." He essentially implies that if Luke becomes a Jedi, he would be more powerful than both of them, maybe not combined, though I don't believe it's revealed what Palpatine's vision was, he certainly senses Luke's power(I had reasoned Luke was shielding himself from the Force(Apparently "shutting himself off"(TLJ)) when they were headed to Endor and Vader sensed him and the Emperor did not.

The Sith seek power above all. The Emperor was no different. Anakin could have killed Palpatine, he even asked Anakin if he was going to kill him, and Anakin certainly would like to, but doesn't, instead he turns and joins Palpatine. Perhaps the Emperor thought the same would happen with Luke.

Probably the biggest issue right now is that Luke, who believed there was still good in his Dad and even faced the Emperor and near death(watch ROTJ again the TLJ), figured in a bad choice moment(i guess we all human, but...seriously?) went to kill his nephew. Now, of course Luke wouldn't go tell Leia and see if she thinks that's a good idea, right? Don't get me wromg, I love the story of Luke Skywalker...except how it ended. The conclusion to his story is in the hands of one person and sadly it didn't turn out the way it should have. Among many other things, besides training Rey in the Force...the Force, not the Jedi, the Force, life creates it, makes it grow, c'mon that's not that hard, he should have gone with Rey, Chewie, and R2. I get why he didn't, but why not, the writer wanted to leave his mark on the Star Wars universe? That's the only explanation I can come up with, because the Luke I knew would have followed in the footsteps of Obi-Wan from ANH and gone and fought, even though Obi-Wan represented the Jedi, and it's time for the Jedi to end, I'm the last Jedi, I came here to die, the Jedi end with me, legacy of the Jedi is failure.......wait for it.....I'm not the Last Jedi, she is.......ummm.....was that supposed to be a plot twist, or did he just put the Failure Legacy on Rey? I don't believe it...and perhaps that is why I fail. Adventure? Heh. Excitement? Heh. The Last Jedi craves not these things. Here's hoping we see the real Luke, well real Force Ghost Luke in IX. Oh, and I don't know much about JJ, but if folks think he redid ANH with TFA, wellllllll...... The Last Jedi < Empire Strikes Back (couldn't bring myself to put an equals sign) but serious, same movie, different characters, imagine Vader killing Snoke in Empire and then Luke going to Bespin amd saving his friends while Yoda Force Projects himself against Vader.

  • The Dark Side clouded the minds of Abrams and Johnson so that they could not perceive why Star Wars was good.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 16:02

Besides having a plan B as Zibbobz says, the Emperor might consider him being killed by Luke as a success : if Luke killed him out of rage, then Luke would somehow turn to the dark side the very same way Anakin did after killing Count Dooku...

Hence the two alternatives for Luke are :

  • To be killed by Vader or the Emperor (which clearly is a win for the Emperor)
  • To kill the Emperor and somehow, betray his Jedi oath.

The second option really is risky for the Emperor because it's a long term assumption (will this murder affect Luke so much that he will eventually turn dark ?), but it would make sense.

Your Answer

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

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.