The Dark Empire, also referred to as the Empire Reborn (not to be confused with Hethrir's "Empire Reborn" movement), was the titular portion that ruled over parts of the former First Galactic Empire led by the reborn Emperor Palpatine, also known as the Sith Lord Darth Sidious. Although his renewed regime itself was formed when Palpatine revived himself in a clone body in 4 ABY, it officially revealed itself in 10 ABY, when he became strong enough to resume conquest of his broken Empire that had all but fallen into civil war. It collapsed less than a year later in 11 ABY, upon Palpatine's final death on Onderon, as well as the destruction of Byss, the capital of the Dark Empire.
The most notable difference between the Dark Empire and Palpatine's earlier Galactic Empire was that the latter was not openly run by dark-side users. The Emperor kept a group of Force-sensitives, called the Dark Side Elite, to carry out his will, similar to the Emperor's Hands of the earlier Empire. There were always seven of them, and once one died, another was immediately appointed. Despite being trained and empowered by Palpatine himself, the Elite took heavy casualties during Operation Shadow Hand and were wiped out by the end of it.
Palpatine intended to eventually use solely the dark side of the Force to run the Empire, but had to use regular vehicles until that could be accomplished. His rule introduced a new line of superweapons to take the place of the two Death Stars his earlier Empire had. They were the Eclipse-class dreadnoughts, massive warships that were equipped with small superlasers. Both of them, the Eclipse and later Eclipse II, were destroyed. The first was consumed by Palpatine's Force Storm, which he lost control of, and the second was destroyed when R2-D2 set it on a collision course with the Galaxy Gun, another superweapon, similar to the Tarkin.
Similar to the Galactic Empire prior to 4 ABY, the Dark Empire's official title for its head of state was the Galactic Emperor, and it utilized several portions of the Imperial Military to enforce the Emperor's will via a Diet of Imperial Planetary Governors. Unlike the Empire prior to 4 ABY, however, it was openly run by a Force user (in this case, Dark Jedi/Sith). The primary method of governance was a dark-side magocracy, where the most powerful Force user (Palpatine) would rule, with several Dark Side Adepts enforcing his will. He also intended to use the dark side of the Force alone to attack his enemies, to the extent that he eventually wouldn't even need to rely on superweapons to enforce his will. Another difference was that Palpatine designed the Dark Empire to run on autopilot in the event that he was killed before he could do a soul transference, at least while Byss was still in existence.
Although the Dark Empire intended to fully replace all superweapons and vessels and solely use dark-side-related methods of enforcing its rule, it was forced to rely on them to defeat the New Republic. Force-related weapons included the Shadow Droids, which were biomechanical weapons created with Sith alchemy, and Chrysalides, which were rancors mutated by Sith alchemy. Imperial Sentinels, mindless bodyguards used by Dark Side Adepts, often accompanied them on missions across the galaxy.
Non-Force-related weapons and vessels included various capital ships, including Imperial-class Star Destroyers, Victory-class Star Destroyers, Interdictor-class heavy cruisers, at least four Sovereign-class Super Star Destroyers, at least one Bellator-class dreadnought, at least five Allegiance-class battlecruisers (including the Allegiance itself), the Eclipse and Eclipse II of the Eclipse-class dreadnoughts, at least one Secutor-class Star Destroyer, at least three Procursator-class Star Destroyers, at least two Vengeance-class dreadnoughts, Lambda-class T-4a shuttles, Delta-class DX-9 stormtrooper transports at least three Executor-class Star Dreadnoughts, at least five Mandator III-class dreadnoughts, and many Modular taskforce cruisers of all varieties. Dreadnaught-class heavy cruisers, and Carrack-class light cruisers, Lancer-class frigates, Lictor-class dungeon ships, Guardian-class patrol ships, Imperial Hunters, and Imperial Customs Frigates were also used. It also held a asteroid siege platforms, which where used to attack Altyr V. Torpedo Spheres were also used. Starfighters also included several TIE/LN starfighters (including the elite Dark Squadron), TIE/sa bombers, TIE/IN interceptors, TIE/D automated starfighters, I-7 Howlrunners and GAT-12 Skipray Blastboats. Security drones likewise included Hunter-Killer probots, Scorpenek annihilator droids, and Shadow Security Droids. It also possessed superweapons, including the World Devastators and the Galaxy Gun, as well as the Eclipse-class dreadnoughts' superlasers. The standard infantry for the Dark Empire was the stormtroopers, scout troopers, and field stormtroopers. The ground vehicles were AT-ATs (and its aquatic variant), AT-STs, Century tanks, XR-85 tank droids, Reconnaissance Troop Transporters and AQ-5 Waveskimmers, and its ground weaponry included the X-1 Viper "Automadon."
The direct commander-in-chief for the forces within the Dark Empire was known as the Military Executor. Sedriss QL held the title of Military Executor appointed by Emperor Palpatine, but Sedriss died in 10 ABY; he was replaced by Xecr Nist. In addition, the foot soldiers included a variant of the stormtroopers that were amplified by the power of the dark side of the Force, known as dark troopers. In 10 ABY, when the Dark Empire retook the planet Balmorra, a few SD-9 battle droids were sold to the Imperial arsenal.
Emperor Palpatine had planned to replace the Galactic Empire with his Dark Empire since prior to the Galactic Civil War.
After Emperor Palpatine, the public identity of the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, perished in 4 ABY at the hands of his former apprentice Anakin Skywalker, the Emperor's spirit traveled to Byss by possessing Jeng Droga, one of his Emperor's Hands, a process that cost the latter his sanity until he managed to gain a clone body as well as contact Sate Pestage, who was also partially responsible for his revival. Palpatine, needing to recover his strength before resuming his conquest and revealing his revival, observed the crumbling state of his Empire from behind the scenes. Likewise, the New Republic, although fully aware of Byss's existence, did not know of its connection to Palpatine, and likewise thought it was simply a civilian population, and thus did not investigate it. Palpatine and Pestage were also indirectly responsible for the Trioculus affair in 5 ABY, as they had leaked information about the Glove of Darth Vader to the false Kadaan with the intention of using the Sith amulet to boost Palpatine's weakened power and regain control of the galactic stage. In addition, after Cronal's presumed death at the Battle of Mindor, it was rumored that Pestage used Cronal's codename and identity of Blackhole to further push the Dark Empire into open existence.
In 10 ABY, having recovered more than enough of his strength, he eventually decided to reveal himself via summoning a Force-created wormhole that resulted in damage to Coruscant — which had already seen enough damage from feuding warlords after it was reconquered by the Galactic Empire — although he deliberately didn't stop the mutiny sooner out of revenge, wanting them to "cull the weak." His Force Storm also resulted in Luke Skywalker being captured and delivered to Byss. He then seemingly converted Luke into his Sith apprentice, and proceeded to launch an attack on Mon Calamari with his World Devastators. In actuality, Luke Skywalker feigned allegiance to Palpatine in order to defeat the dark side from within, and proceeded to leak the override codes for the World Devastators, although this did not last long. Palpatine eventually traveled to the New Republic's headquarters, Pinnacle Moon, in his flagship, the Eclipse, and created a Force storm to destroy the Pinnacle Moon, although his plan backfired when Luke and Leia cut him off from the dark side and had him consumed by his own creation.
However, he designed a reboot method in case this were to happen and proceeded to take over another clone body, although the rest of his clone bodies were destroyed by Sa-Di and Nefta, and orchestrated Operation Shadow Hand. However, the Dark Empire's leader suffered a loss of sanity as a result of this brush with death, and utilized the Galaxy Gun to destroy various targets, eventually cowing several former Imperial worlds into surrendering and having the New Republic scattered. However, several Imperials were disturbed at their clone Emperor's behavior, and arranged for Carnor Jax, a Sith apprentice and Royal Guard, to bribe his physician to tamper with Palpatine's DNA samples to increase the clones' deterioration rate from his dark-side presence. Palpatine was eventually killed on Onderon, failing to possess Anakin Solo, and Byss was destroyed shortly beforehand, thus not only ending the Dark Empire, but also severely crippling the Galactic Empire beyond any chance of recovery. Its remaining assets were later reorganized into the Crimson Empire led by Carnor Jax, although it was short-lived thanks to a joint effort by the New Republic and Kir Kanos, the latter intending to avenge Palpatine's death.
Behind the scenes
The Dark Empire first appeared in Tom Veitch's Star Wars: Dark Empire comic book series. The empire that the reborn Palpatine ran was not actually given a name when the comic series was released. It wasn't until The Essential Atlas that it was given a name, which was also the name of the series it originated in. A similar action happened with its successor, the Crimson Empire.
While the Dark Empire is no longer considered part of the main canon, an organization known as the Final Order from the film Star Wars: Episode IX The Rise of Skywalker in the current Star Wars canon bears similarities to the organization. As with the Dark Empire, the Final Order was led by a resurrected Emperor Palpatine and sought to dominate the galaxy like its predecessor, the Galactic Empire, and reestablish Sith rule. In addition, there was a group of dark side warriors within its ranks (Dark Side Elite/Knights of Ren), both have an alternative name with "Empire" in it (the Empire Reborn for the Dark Empire, and both the Sith Empire and the New Empire for the Final Order), both possessed starships equipped with superlasers and a fleet tasked with retaking control of the galaxy, and both attempted to bring a Jedi over to the dark side (Luke Skywalker/Rey).
- Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds (Indirect mention only)
- Star Wars: Dark Empire (First appearance)
- Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
- Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith
- Star Wars: Dark Empire II
- Star Wars: Empire's End
- Crimson Empire (Mentioned only)
- Dark Empire Sourcebook (First identified as Empire Reborn)
- Star Wars Handbook 3: Dark Empire
- "The Dark Side"—Star Wars Galaxy Magazine 8
- The Emperor's Pawns
- The Essential Chronology
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 7 (PLA6, Planets of the Core Worlds)
- The New Essential Chronology
- The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia (Indirect mention only)
- The Essential Atlas (First identified as Dark Empire)
- The Essential Guide to Warfare
- Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide: Updated and Expanded
Notes and references
- The Essential Atlas, pp. 204–205
- Dark Empire Sourcebook
- The Essential Atlas, p. 209
- Star Wars: Episode IX The Rise of Skywalker
- Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: The Visual Dictionary