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Emperor Palpatine and Throne

SWVI: Return of the Jedi
by yo go re

Democracies aren't overthrown, they're given away.

Scheming, powerful, and evil to the core, Darth Sidious restored the Sith and destroyed the Jedi Order. He slowly manipulated the political system of the Galactic Republic until he was named Supreme Chancellor - and eventually Emperor - ruling the galaxy through fear and tyranny.

Hasbro released an Emperor Palpatine pretty early in The Black Series - unfortunately, not early enough to make it into stores before Han and Greedo locked up the pegs for years until Episode VII came along and opened them up again. Well, Hasbro is slowly finding ways to re-release those phantom figures, and rather than just put Palpatine on one of those "Archive" cards by himself, they've done a more impressive Amazon exclusive.

Star Wars was George Lucas writing about the rise of American imperialism, and Palpatine was his take on Nixon - at least, textually; visually, the character was based on Ingmar Bergman's version of Death from The Seventh Seal and on the Evil Queen from Disney's Snow White. He wears long black robes that reveal nothing except his face and hands. The initial figure had a cloth outer robe, but the kimono-style one he wore beneath it was sculpted. This new edition keeps the softgoods, but now the part of the inner robe around his legs is fabric as well, and the ends of his sash are shorter. A black clasp keeps the robe closed at the neck, and the inner edges of the sleeves are lower than the outer edges. The hood gets a few unobtrusive stitches to help give it the proper shape, and if you peek under his kimono, you can find out what kind of clothes he wears under there.

In the earliest drafts of The Star Wars, the Republic's emperor wasn't a Force user, and wasn't actually in charge: he was a figurehead manipulated by those around him. And because 1970s' George Lucas had no better grasp of subtlety than 2000s George Lucas, his name was Cos Dashit. That's not "dash it," like Stewie Griffin would say "dash it all," that's a character just plain ol' named "caused the shit." <Garth Marenghi subtext dot gif> So for years it was fanon that his full name was Cos Palpatine (even though the name "Palpatine" didn't appear in the movies until Phantom Menace, it was used in the A New Hope novelization), until the 2014 Tarkin novel revealed his first name was "Sheev." This Sheev's face is the same as the first toy's, a neutral expression that could express concern or boredom or whatever else you want to read into it.

But here is where the exclusive really starts to set itself apart, because this figure comes with two more heads: the first smiling evilly, and the second furious with anger. All three have his deep, wrinkled visage captured perfectly, with a little bit of gray hair clinging to the back of the scalp. Originally, his appearance was a result of being so enveloped in the corruption of the Dark side; once Revenge of the Sith came out, everybody had to explain why getting hit with his own Force lightning scarred him so much (the best take being that he really did look like that all along, but was using a secret Sith technique to conceal himself and the shock made him drop the mask).

One thing the toy doesn't have that would have been a really off-the-wall inclusion? The Emperor's original head. Before casting Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor, the filmmakers needed someone to perform the role for ESB's quick cameo. They got Marjorie Eaton (Mary Poppins' Miss Persimmon), put her in a prosthetic forehead like this was Star Trek all of a sudden, and superimposed chimpanzee pupils into the darkened eye sockets. Where's our Old Lady Monkey-Eyes head, Hasbro?

Each of the heads works very nicely with one of the included accessories. The first, indifferent head, for example, makes sense with the black cane he used when he first came to inspect the second Death Star. It's not something he really needs to use to get around, it's simply a prop to make people underestimate his strength. The angry head pairs well with the alternate "Force lightning" hands, which plug into the wrists easily when you want to zap Luke. Or Vader, as the case may be. And the smiling head? That's totally from when he's taunting Luke to take his lightsaber and strike him down. Of course, in that scene, the Emperor is sitting down, which is why this set includes his big throne.

The throne measures 4⅜" across at its widest point, 3⅝" deep, and about 5" tall. That doesn't sound very big, but unlike the Marvel team, the Star Wars team isn't going to increase the size of something just because it "feels" too small - this is exactly the size the throne should be, and the Emperor looks good sitting in it.

The exterior of the throne is a smooth, glossy black, and there's a purple cushion to comfort his bony old behind. The seat rests on a round pedestal, rather than four legs, and there are notches with technological elements near where his hands would fall. Those angled armrests sure don't look very comfortable though, do they? And how did he manage to lay Luke's lightsaber on a slope like that without it rolling off? There a bit of silver accenting at the top, including two vents and some little nozzle thing? It looks like a leftover molding sprue or something, but it's there on the prop, so it's here on the toy.

Fans have been making 3D-printed thrones for the Emperor since the first Black Series figure came out, but this official product is much better. As you'd expect. Plus, with the new cloth lower robe, this version is flexible enough to sit in it! Between that, the extra heads and the electric hands, this Emperor Palpatine is a big improvement over the first release.

-- 11/03/19

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