As stated in Episode IV, the emperor needed the senate and its bureaucracy to control the local systems. After the first Death Star was operational, he dissolved the Senate and gave the regional governors power over their territories, controlling them with the fear of the Death Star.

So, after the destruction of the Death Star, how did the emperor keep control over the local systems? If he was able to do this without the Death Star, why didn't he dissolve the Senate earlier? And if he was not able to do this, why didn't we see anything about this in Episode V, like chaos and struggling to keep control? Instead we see a losing rebellion and an empire which seems to perfectly control everything.

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    the imperial fleet was still so massive no one would hope to fight them. imo
    – Himarm
    May 22, 2015 at 13:15
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    It is confusing, going by the movies alone, how we get from the good guys winning at the end of Star Wars with lots of fanfare, to the situation in The Empire Strikes Back where the Rebels are on the run. Perhaps George Lucas should have added a line at the end of Star Wars, say from Princess Leia, indicating the Alliance's struggle against the Empire has just begun. Instead, all we get is a shot of Darth Vader's fighter escaping the Battle of Yavin as a hint that the battle is not over. Plus, we know there is an Emperor, somewhere in the Galaxy, who is presumably still ruling the Empire.
    – RobertF
    May 22, 2015 at 15:36
  • There are other ways of instilling fear in a populous besides just with a super mega death weapon. The Empire could have dispatched legions of storm troopers, AT-ATs, Star Destroyers, etc etc to deal with any planets attempting to defect. May 24, 2015 at 14:19

3 Answers 3


An archived version of the Galactic Empire article on starwars.com notes that

The Imperial starfleet of Star Destroyers and TIE fighters maintained order in the galaxy.

The Imperial Starfleet is estimated to consist of 25,000 Star Destroyers. Most of these Star Destroyers were Imperial-class, but the Imperial Starfleet also included even larger Star Dreadnoughts such as Executor (which participated in the Battles of Hoth and Endor).

The Imperial Starfleet's involvement (along with the Imperial Army's) in putting the Rebellion on the run despite the loss of the Death Star is supported by the opening crawl for Episode V:

It is a dark time for the Rebellion. Although the Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy.

Evading the dreaded Imperial Starfleet, a group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker has established a new secret base on the remote ice world of Hoth.

The evil lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding young Skywalker, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space....

If the Rebels are on the run, the implication is that the Empire is able to maintain control for the most part.

The statement in Episode IV you are referring to reflects the opinion of Tarkin:

Tarkin: The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. I've just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the council permanently. The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away.

Tagge: That's impossible! How will the Emperor maintain control without the bureaucracy?

Tarkin: The regional governors now have direct control over territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station.

Both Tarkin and Tagge are prone to exaggerate the importance of the Death Star. Consequently, Vader chastises them:

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.

The Death Star was a great symbol of fear, but the real power lay in the Sith use of the dark side of the Force, supplemented by the Imperial military.

As for why the Emperor waited so long to dissolve the Imperial Senate, remember that Vader had just captured Princess Leia -- a member of the Senate -- on the Tantive IV. This incident, in which a member of the Imperial Senate was caught aiding the Rebellion, gave the Emperor an excuse to disband the Imperial Senate. To avoid generating sympathy for the Rebellion by holding a senator captive, the official story was that the Tantive IV sent out a distress beacon and all aboard were killed (presumably after the Empire responded to the distress beacon only to discover that a senator was a member of the Rebel Alliance).

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    +1 for the last couple paragraphs. The Death Star creation is unrelated to dissolving the Senate.
    – BBlake
    May 22, 2015 at 14:24
  • The last paragraph I'm not so sure about. openly having the princess captured was too much as vader said that is why he told his underlings that there are "no survivors". Thus nobody knew that he had captured the princess aside from those involved. So THAT shouldn't have been the official reason he gave there for disbanding the senate
    – Thomas
    May 24, 2015 at 14:37
  • @Thomas I've clarified the last paragraph by being more explicit about how the Empire used the "incident" as an excuse to disband the Senate.
    – Null
    May 24, 2015 at 17:18

The short answer is that the Empire did lose control of thousands of worlds following the Battle of Yavin:

From the Star Wars wiki page on the Rebel Alliance:

As a result of the Battle of Yavin, the Rebel Alliance gained credibility as a legitimate military opponent to the Empire. Between the effects of the battle and the dissolution of the Imperial Senate, thousands of star systems openly joined the Alliance in the months following the Death Star's destruction. As a result, the Empire began occupying worlds it had allowed to remain untouched earlier, both actions resulting in an escalation of the war.

The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi of course didn't follow all of the conflicts raging across the Galaxy during the Galactic Civil War. According to canon there were ~25,000 Imperial Star Destroyers and over 20 Super Star Destroyers commissioned by the Empire. The fact that the Emperor couldn't spare more than one Super Star Destroyer and five Imperial Star Destroyers in Darth Vader's Death Squadron should be convincing evidence that the rest of the Imperial Navy was tied down maintaining order and combating the Rebel Alliance elsewhere in the Galaxy.

  • Is this even canon?
    – Gaius
    May 22, 2015 at 18:18
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    @Gaius There are about eight levels of canon in the Star Wars universe. You'll need to be more specific.
    – TylerH
    May 22, 2015 at 19:18
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    The quote block references a series of graphic novels titled Vader's Quest, while the estimate of 25,000 ISDs is pulled from Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire - I'm less certain about the total number of Super Star Destroyers pulled from my memory. I believe these listed sources are all considered "C-canon".
    – RobertF
    May 22, 2015 at 19:29
  • My imagination of the star wars galaxy is that there were perhaps a few hundred races and planets. Not 1000th or billions. If that would be the case, what importance do the events we wittness have? What threat is one (!) death star who can only be at one place at a time to billions of systems? Compare it with the USA having just one nuclear bomb. What significance has the base at hoth? If there are billions of systems and thousands have turned to the alliance there should be hundreds of hoths. I don't now why they must make it so big in the novels.
    – Hothie
    May 27, 2015 at 8:41
  • @Hothie - There are no doubt many Rebel cells scattered throughout the Star Wars Galaxy, but there's only one base where Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, etc. can be found, making the Hoth hideout of prime importance to the Empire. And for storytelling reasons, of course, ESB only follows the events on Hoth. True, the Death Star can only be in one place at a time, however keep in mind the Death Star was such an effective weapon because it's a powerful deterrent - worlds would think twice about sympathizing with the Alliance if they feared complete annihilation.
    – RobertF
    May 28, 2015 at 13:37

This is most certainly a non-canon answer but the Death Star is a basically a nuclear deterrent. It's not it's actual abilities but it's theoretical abilities that keep people at bay.

Just imagine the USA or Russia without it's nuclear arsenal but all of it conventional military power. They would still be able to keep control of their territory by the power of their military alone. They would however lose the the ability for a devastating revenge strike and thus their ability to deter certain enemies from striking against them in the first place.

Losing the Death Star only means that the Empire lost a weapon of Mass Destruction. It still has a considerable military force in play to keep control over hundreds of star systems.

With the loss of their greatest weapon there are a few systems bound to rebel but overall it hardly matters. In the EU a fleet of star-ships was already capable of devastating entire planets. The star-destroyers and the super-star-destroyer are certainly capable of the same feats. The Death Star was only a means to increase the pressure to the point where it is undeniable.

  • The Death Star would only be comparable with the Cold War situation if the rebels had similar capabilities. The Empire wouldn't lose their ability to strike if they used it. They did blow up some planets with it.
    – Mast
    May 24, 2015 at 19:20

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