From the celebratory mood on Endor’s moon and planets near and far, the Special Edition of Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi would have us believe the struggle with the Galactic Empire was over. However, the glimpse of white armoured stormtroopers and TIE fighters in the first trailer of The Force Awakens seems to put an end to that old hope.
We saw the end of the Old Republic with the proclamation of Palpatine’s New Order, though it is only now with Star Wars: Rebels and recent Disney/Lucasfilm endorsed literature that we are beginning to see how it grows and expands and maintains its grip on the galaxy. This is important, for it is much more than firepower of armour clad humanoid recruits and capital ships that keeps trillions in thralldom.
Undoubtedly, the infrastructure of the Imperial Holonet was sliced by Rebel operatives, eager to broadcast the fall of Palpatine and the destruction of the second Death Star at Endor and garner support among the civilian populace as well as crestfallen sections of the military. But I believe Galactic Empire was prepared for this.
From James Luceno’s fine book, Tarkin, it can be gathered that the Emperor is unaffected by the minutiae of his reign. Instead, Sidious, ever sensitive to the dark side of the Force and its currents, prefers to leave the day to day affairs to members of his Imperial High Command; his agencies like Imperial Intelligence, COMPNOR (Commission for the Preservation of the New Order) and its ubiquitous Imperial Security Bureau; and most notably the Imperial Ruling Council – those who, neither Sith nor military, serve Sidious and do his bidding. (Continues)
This coterie of rich robed advisors travel with the Emperor and we briefly we see two of these pale-faced figures conferring with him alongside Vader and Jerjerrod in the throne room on the Death Star.
Presumably these courtiers met the same fate as their master at Endor’s moon; but it does not mean they all did. Several figures, like Mas Amedda, the Grand Vizier of the Empire, were not present on the second Death Star. That being said, we don’t know what happened to Mas Amedda after Master Yoda retreated into obscurity from the duel in the Senate Rotunda. Though we do know the Empire holds a pro-humanoid stance.
That being said, one legendary figure that Luceno alludes to in both his books – Darth Plagueis and Tarkin – deserves special mention, not necessarily for the sake of the named individual, but more the type of character he represents. Sate Pesage (below) is recommended to Palpatine upon assuming the Senate seat for the Naboo constituency by Hugo Damask, his political mentor and Sith Master – Darth Plagueis. Quickly he becomes an intimate confidante of the freshman Senator, arranging assassinations and other unsavoury dealings, far from the sight of both the Senate and the Jedi Council. Indeed, both men seem to have a very candid relationship, with Pesage coming to know of Palpatine’s mastery of the Dark Side of the Force.
As one who has accompanied Palpatine from the very beginnings of his political career to his accession as Emperor, he would have been privy to the most intimate details and plans of the Senator, Chancellor, Emperor and Sith Lord. In fact, the contrast in the way he is portrayed in these books of James Luceno is itself significant.
In Darth Plagueis he is Palpatine’s fixer, yet in Tarkin he hardly is mentioned or says little. Rather, Mas Amedda and Ars Dangor, another member of the Imperial Ruling Council, seem to take centre stage. Has he fallen out of favour or is he waiting for others to fall?
I would speculate that, as a seasoned operator at both the Republic Senate and in the Imperial Palace, he – or one similar – has learnt much from his Sith master, preferring silence and shadow. I would also suggest that he knows that life at court is both dangerous and delicate and one must never seek the light if one is to survive its gaze.
In other words, I believe that Sate Pesage and those like him, prepared for that unlikely scenario that was played out at Endor. They had an Omega contingency. I do not imagine the Empire simply shattered in shock or woke up from the Sith spell that was cast over the galaxy. No, the destruction of the second Death Star initiated a contingency plan, that took shape in the oblivion of Tarkin’s demise at Yavin 4. (Continues)
Why so? Tarkin – the archetype of the Imperial loyalist – rose rapidly both due to his dedication and skill but also because of his ambition and confidence. Recognising the logistical impossibility of garrisoning every star system and patrolling every parsec of interstellar space, it was Tarkin that formulated his doctrine that fear was itself a weapon (for, like the Sith, fear, indeed despair, is a weapon that wounds and weakens). Tarkin’s Death Star project was intended to instill fear across the vast lawless region of backwater systems known as the Outer Rim Territories. However, Core and Inner Rim systems, close to the heart of the Empire and its new order, were never meant to be targeted by its destructive superlaser.
In making the unilateral decision to test the power of battle station on Alderaan, a once venerable member of the Old Republic and Imperial Senate, a planet known widely for its pacifism, Tarkin signed his own death warrant for several reasons.
First, it was too close to the centre of the Empire’s core support. No doubt many in the general populace as well as the military recognised – at a mere hyperspace hop away – not only the barbarity of the act; also shared an anxiety that the New Order, that had meant to bring a structure of justice and peace to the galaxy could be indiscriminate and arbitrary.
Secondly, Grand Moff Tarkin was governor for the vast lawless Outer Rim Territories, far from the loyal sophisticated Core. No doubt some at the Imperial Security Bureau and the Imperial Ruling Council had misgivings of having such destructive power so close to the seat of Imperial power.
Perhaps this is the reason why the Emperor himself travelled to oversee the final stages of the construction of the second Death Star and why it was left in the hands of a technocrat like the diffident Moff Jerjerrod, rather an ambitious governor.
Tarkin’s service to the Empire and its expansion into the Outer Rim was indeed admirable, but I wonder if everyone at the Imperial Court mourned his demise.
Alderaan’s destruction would have generated widespread anxiety and fear, but the destruction of the battle station at Yavin 4, would have created an equal and opposite effect. Planetary systems enjoying the benefits of the Empire’s infrastructure, may have started to waver in their staunch support of the government, many seeing new possibilities and hopes, where immediately after Alderaan it would have once been impossible to imagine.
This would have created a situation with wide ramifications for the Emperor and his government. Notably, the vaporisation of a generation or two of the best and brightest of the Imperial bureaucracy and military at Yavin. The immediate consequence would be seen in rapid but less than discerning recruitment of young humans. Coupled with the shorter periods for training and indoctrination, the Empire would have seen staff officers – like the clumsy Admiral Ozzel – promoted to flag rank with little tactical ability. Younger officers – akin to Firmus Piett – given command positions well before their time. Within the Officer Corps, some would have been ambitious and over confident, while others unsure of their indoctrination, beginning to secretly support the efforts of the rebellion, or like Crix Madine defecting to the Rebel Alliance. (Continues)
The destruction of Tarkin’s battle station would have seen a seismic shift in both the unquestioned support for the will of the Emperor and would have required his allies, like Sate Pesage, to quickly adapt.
Perhaps the rapid construction of the second Death Star in orbit of Endor’s moon is part of an effort to deal definitively with growing unrest within the Empire. Indeed, it could be suggested, considering the short period of its construction to the point of becoming fully armed and operational, that the second Death Star was not initiated after the Battle of Yavin, but was built secretly at the same time as Tarkin’s project, building on its mistakes and design flaws.
Considering the vast resources of tens of thousands of worlds; the mobilisation of trillions, loyal and moulded by a generation of Imperial propaganda and indoctrination; as well as the all too easy flaw of fear and ambition, it is hard to see the Galactic Empire simply crumble with the demise of Sidious and some of his courtiers. Too many people had vested interests in the Empire’s preservation. In other words, the machinery of government would have been so well oiled both by Sidious’ virtual indifference to its daily operation as well as the ready willingness of ambitious toadies and warlords to carve up command and control on his behalf.
Palpatine’s Empire would have continued. Indeed, the brief appearance of the instantly recognisable upgraded stormtrooper helmets in the The Force Awakens teaser reveals that the Empire is still refining and honing its military capability. One suspects that the initial shock and relief of Palpatine’s demise has given way to a long protracted conflict, similar to that of the Clone Wars.
In the midst of this struggle, no doubt the Alliance has garnered the support of many worlds, but the lack of a decisive end to the Empire and effective regime change may bring – as to all long conflict – inertia and the illusion that perhaps the Empire wasn’t really that bad. And here lies the danger for Luke Skywalker. (Continues)
As his father before him, who sought to bring an end to the destructive conflict by aligning with the Dark Side of the Force, so too Luke Skywalker, strong in the ways of the Force, knows the temptation to use the Force in a quick and easy way.
In doing so, he would suffer the fate of the Jedi in the Clone Wars – preoccupied generals of war rather than vigilant guardians of galactic peace. In the face of this temptation to misuse his great power, perhaps Luke retreats – like his Master Yoda – far from galactic war-rooms and political conclaves and compromises.
A Jedi Master once said “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future”. Unlike the Jedi, the Sith seek to maximise opportunities. Rather than bowing to the will of the Force, the Sith seek to control it, manipulate and shape it to their own will. In doing so they took the long view in playing the centuries old game of hide and seek with the Jedi, preferring to wait till the Jedi sleep, before awakening the Dark Side of the Force to strike.
In other words, they prepare and plan, not only to ensure the survival of the Empire as their instrument and means of power, but more critically to ensure their own existence.
They plan for all contingencies, even the fall of a Sith Lord.