One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, two StarWars.com writers debate which character from the saga is the scariest.
Wilhuff Tarkin is the most terrifying Star Wars character, says Michael.
Palpatine, Vader, Snoke, Dooku — there’s no shortage of evil in the galaxy far, far away. So there’s really no wrong answer to the question, but only one person can truly claim the mantle of being most terrifying, and that person is Wilhuff Tarkin.
Think about it. While completely evil, every other candidate shares one thing in common: Their lives are dominated by the dark side. Consider Vader, in particular. If there’s one thing the prequel films showed us, it was how Anakin had been seduced and coerced into becoming Palpatine’s new apprentice. Palpatine, a master of manipulation, twisted Anakin’s soul so tightly that he almost had no choice but to bow at his master’s side. Through all this, Anakin ceased to exist, and Vader, a tortured slave not only to Palpatine but to the dark side itself, was born. The point here is that all these characters — Vader, Dooku, Palaptine — suffer under a powerful influence that enhances their evil.
But not Tarkin.
Tarkin has no time for the dark side. He’s more or less indifferent to the engine that powers his counterpart, Vader, and his leader, Palpatine. Tarkin’s a military bureaucrat who is committed to getting the job done. And that job is galactic domination through any means necessary. Tarkin doesn’t need the dark side to capture and kill rebels and whoever else, innocent or otherwise, who stands in his way. His cold pragmatism is the only power, supernatural or otherwise, that Tarkin requires to serve Palpatine’s dark agenda. (An agenda that Tarkin fully embraces.)
Also, let’s not forget the means by which these agents of evil achieve their ends. Sure, if you cross the Empire, Vader will hunt you down, torture you, and likely Force-choke you out of existence. But Tarkin? Cross the Grand Moff, and he’ll obliterate your entire planet, committing genocide in the blink of an eye. Not because he takes pleasure in death and destruction; he’s not a sadist like Palpatine. No, Tarkin is just getting the job done. And if the that requires extinguishing two billion lives, so be it.
It’s chilling math, and it’s the exact reason why Tarkin is the scariest character in the Star Wars universe.
No, Emperor Palpatine is the scariest Star Wars character, says Dan.
When considering who the scariest Star Wars character is, there really is no contest: Sheev Palpatine. The former senator from Naboo and later Supreme Chancellor-turned-Emperor is the last person you want to meet in a dark alley, and the first person you think of when considering who the most terrifying presence is in the mythology. And, it’s not just Force lightning or bad teeth that make Palpatine scary (although that certainly doesn’t hurt his case). There’s so much more to this fearsome Sith Lord.
For instance, let’s talk about the slow burn that is the rise of the Empire and the eradication of the Jedi Order. In The Phantom Menace, a seemingly mild-mannered Senator Palpatine “reluctantly” takes over as Chancellor of the Republic, and for thirteen years, helps create galaxy-wide tension that is a catalyst for creating armies on both sides of the conflict. In order to create a paradox for the Jedi philosophy, he is willing to cause untold suffering and conflict to the entire universe, in the hopes of tearing those ne’er do wells apart. And, he does it without anyone really noticing until it’s too late. When you consider that he sows these seeds of betrayal and destruction with planning, guile, and subtlety, right under the nose of some of the most powerful beings in the galaxy, and does so with a smile … that’s scary!
Not to mention that he corrupted the Jedi’s most promising young Padawan, creating the fearsome Darth Vader, and got him to believe in genocide as a career path. Not scared yet? How about the fact that he traded secrets with the Nightsisters to learn how to manipulate the Force for dark purposes, ordered a devastating attack on his home planet of Naboo (in the event his Empire came to an abrupt end), and made the Jedi Temple his home base after he wiped the Jedi out. All of them. And you thought Hoth was cold.
So, we’ve got the psychology part down, but what about his skills with a lightsaber? There’s only one Sith who defeated Yoda in a duel, beat three Jedi at once without breaking a sweat, and tossed Darth Maul and Savage Opress around like they were rag dolls. Darth Sidious is no joke. Plus, he’s the only person in the galaxy that Darth Vader is subservient to, even to the point of kneeling. He has no compassion, empathy, or kindness in him, and even pitted father against son. There can be no doubt that Emperor Palpatine is the scariest character in Star Wars.
What do you think is the scariest Star Wars character?
Michael Moreci is a novelist and comic book writer. His debut novel, Black Star Renegades, is a space adventure in the spirit of Star Wars. Michael is currently writing for the Star Wars Adventures comics series for IDW as well as Wasted Space for Vault Comics.
Dan Zehr is a high school English teacher with an MS in Teaching and Learning, and is the Host and co-creator of Coffee With Kenobi, a podcast that examines Star Wars’ mythology from a place of intelligence and humor.