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Darth Sidious

SWVI: Return of the Jedi
by yo go re

Well, they can't all be sexy dames!

Darth Sidious is a chilling specter of evil who casts his oppressive shadow over the galaxy. Long ago, before war shattered the Republic, Darth Sidious rose to power under an unassuming identity, using political machinations and the dark side of the Force to place himself in a position in which he could wield unlimited power. He worked in small, unseen steps to foment discord and incite greed so that these divisive forces would corrode the peace that had unified the galaxy. Succeeding in this Machiavellian task, Sidious began to build his terrible empire upon the crushed remnants of the Jedi Order and the shattered remains of the war-torn galaxy. Just when his control of the dark side of the Force seemed insurmountable, the completion of his corrupt conquest was torn from his grasp by the redemptive power of a father's love for his son.

This figure was released in 2003, which is why although it's clearly a Return of the Jedi Emperor Palpatine, the packaging insists it's actually "Darth Sidious." They were really trying to make fetch happen back then. Of course, as I recall, they were also trying to play it coy about who this mysterious and unknowable "Darth Sidious" was (even though we all knew from the moment Senator Palpatine showed up who he was an what his future held), so the fact the toy is so open about his identity is unexpected. He's wearing his black woolen robes, which doesn't sound like there would be a ton of opportunity for a wild sculpt, but Hasbro made things dynamic by having the cloth swirling around him like he's in the middle of a storm.

It's easier to create a likeness of an inhuman face than a human one: our minds can instantly pick out incorrect details on Carrie Fisher or Natalie Portman, but will slide right over any imprefections in Ian McDiarmid as long as he's buried under stylized makeup. So this face, with its furious scowl and deep wrinkles, presents one of the best Palpatines ever.

There's really nothing to talk about with the paint, here. The robes are just as solid a black as they appear, without any highlights to accentuate all those folds - it's all sculpt, and it's just black, black, black. Well, very dark grey. They did pick a nice, sickly shade for his skin, and painted a little bit of pink around the eyes to make them look dry and itchy, but nobody is buying an Emperor Palpatine looking for something colorful. A wash picks out his teeth impressively, though shouldn't they look more yellow than this?

Unleashed figures didn't get articulation, as a rule, but Palpatine does get a little in conjunction with his "accessories." Because he'd look silly just gesturing like he's working a marionette (or impersonating Jack Sparrow) forever, he's got alternate hands with Force lightning pouring out of the fingertips. The sculpts are the same, one set just ends way sooner. The arms swap out where they emerge from the sleeves, but there's a bit of a swivel there so the lightning can be pointed different directions.

One thing the Unleashed figures do have is cool bases. They need them, because they can't stand on their own. Plus side, that means if you remove the SW character, you have a neat little display for whatever other figures you want. Since this figure is based on the "I'm about to get shafted by my apprentice" scene, his base is a stylized representation of his throne room: blue and metallic with black panels and miniature stairs. It's not an actual location, just copying the feeling.

The appeal of the first two Unleashed figures we've reviewed is clear, but the fact that Hasbro could make "Fart Party Palpatine" seem like something worth spending your money on really shows how good the line was for its time.

-- 02/26/22

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