The Skirmish in the Senate was a confrontation that took place in 19 BBY between the Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Sidious and the Jedi Grand Master Yoda. The two veterans of the Force engaged in a ferocious lightsaber duel, with each making liberal use of their powers. Ultimately, Yoda was forced to flee after coming to the conclusion that he could not possibly defeat Sidious, despite his great ability. Afterwards, Yoda went into exile while the Dark Lord rushed to Mustafar to rescue his apprentice, Darth Vader, who had been grievously injured by Obi-Wan Kenobi during their duel on Mustafar.
- "Destroy the Sith, we must."
- ―Yoda to Obi-Wan Kenobi
The aftermath of the duel between Jedi Master Mace Windu and Supreme Chancellor Palpatine—who was also Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Sidious—left the young Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker in turmoil—torn between his loyalty to the Jedi and his wish to save his wife, Padmé Amidala, from dying during childbirth, as he had seen in visions.
Palpatine, who had played the role of a mentor to the boy for many years, swayed Skywalker to his side by tempting him with the power to save his wife from death, using a power only available to him through the dark side of the Force. With no prospect of returning to the Jedi Order given his inadvertent role in Windu's death, he saw no other option for himself than to join the Dark Lord's cause. At that moment, Skywalker knelt before Sidious and was inducted into the Order of the Sith Lords as Darth Vader. Sidious then sent him to the Jedi Temple with the 501st Legion and orders to kill all the Jedi within it. The Dark Lord also enacted Order 66, an emergency measure programmed into the clone troopers fighting alongside Jedi in the Clone Wars that commanded them to eliminate any and all Jedi around them. These two actions virtually eradicated the Jedi from the galaxy.
Before leaving the Jedi Temple, Vader had used the Temple's signal beacon to transmit a repeating message that any surviving Jedi needed to return to Coruscant. Vader hoped that this message would serve as a deadly lure to the lucky few Jedi who had managed to escape the Purge. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, the Jedi Grand Master, both managed to survive Order 66 and discovered the message from the Temple. Suspecting that it was a trap for Jedi survivors, the two eventually made their way back to the Jedi Temple with the intention of re-coding the Temple's message beacon. Upon arriving at the Temple, they encountered a clone trooper garrison that had been left there to execute any Jedi who returned as instructed by the beacon. The two Jedi eliminated the troopers and reconfigured the beacon to warn all surviving Jedi to go into hiding. On their way out, Kenobi and Yoda had looked through the Temple's security hologram footage and discovered that Skywalker, Kenobi's former Padawan, was commander of the slaughter. The two Jedi knew that they had to make an effort to destroy the two Sith Lords for the sake of the galaxy. Kenobi, overwhelmed with despair at seeing Anakin's betrayal, volunteered to take on Sidious while Yoda would fight Vader, as he was unable to bear the thought of striking down his "brother." However, Yoda knew that Kenobi was not powerful enough to fight Sidious, and said as much. Kenobi then regained his composure and pointed out that if Sidious had managed to best Kit Fisto, Agen Kolar, Saesee Tiin, and Mace Windu by himself, then even he and Yoda together did not stand a chance. Yoda concurred, and decided that Kenobi should go to attempt to kill Vader while Yoda engaged Sidious. Given Yoda's strategy, he likely knew that if Sidious sensed that Vader was in danger, he would go immediately to aid him. By engaging Sidious, Yoda likely hoped that, even if he could not kill Sidious alone, he could keep him occupied long enough for Kenobi to kill Vader. As such, Kenobi left to find Vader on Mustafar while Yoda entered the Chancellery Secretariat to confront Sidious.
Inside the Galactic Senate Chamber Holding Office of the Senate Building, the Grand Master confronted the Dark Lord of the Sith after Force pushing his guards against the wall, rendering them both unconscious. Yoda then mentioned that Palpatine, or rather, Darth Sidious had recently gained a new apprentice, while sarcastically mocking him to be the "Emperor". Sidious then remarked on his survival and when Yoda asked him if he was taken aback by it, Sidious told him contemptuously that he was blinded by his own hubris and that he would then be subject to the maximum might of the Dark Side. Sidious then blasted Yoda with Force lightning. Caught off-guard, Yoda was thrown across the chamber and slammed into a wall. As Sidious advanced on him Yoda quickly recovered and ignoring Sidious' taunts, retaliated with an equally powerful Force push that sent the Dark Lord flying over his desk in a heap. Yoda declared that Sidious' reign was over and not a moment too soon. Not wanting to take any risks at his moment of triumph, Sidious attempted to flee but Yoda blocked his way, igniting his lightsaber. Realizing he would have to fight the Jedi Master blade-to-blade, Sidious ignited his own weapon after declaring that Darth Vader would become "far more powerful" than either of them, although Yoda responded by stating that that his "faith in Vader and the dark side may be misplaced". With nothing left to be said, the duel began.
Their battle raged through the office, with neither opponent able to gain an advantage. As the fight moved to the Chancellor's Podium, the platform rose through the retractable ceiling into the Grand Convocation Chamber itself. As the duel continued, Sidious found that his movements were being hampered by the small size of the Podium, while Yoda's Ataru style and diminutive stature allowed him to easily jump around the Dark Lord. Yoda ultimately managed to dislodge Sidious's lightsaber out of his grip, disarming him. Sidious eventually took the high ground by jumping to one of the Senate pods above him. He then began to use the Force to throw waves of these pods at Yoda, but the Jedi Grandmaster used his own powers to dodge from one pod to another, avoiding Sidious's improvised projectiles. As Yoda leapt about, he attempted to re-engage Sidious in close combat, but the Dark Lord's attack was too intense for Yoda to close the distance.
It was at that very moment, during a match between the embodiments of the light and the dark, that Yoda realized the Jedi had lost the war before it even started. In the last millennium, the Sith had changed and adapted, becoming a new entity; while the Jedi Order, under his leadership, spent the same time merely training to re-fight the last war. Additionally, Yoda sensed that, while he was tiring, Sidious was slowly gaining strength.
Shaking away his doubts, the tiny Jedi focused himself on an oncoming pod and sent it hurtling back at Sidious. As the pod flew back at Sidious, the Dark Lord realized that he had spread his own powers too thinly to counter the spinning projectile with the Force. He was instead forced to leap from his perch to a lower pod, relinquishing the tactical advantage. Yoda immediately saw his chance to re-engage Sidious at close quarters and leaped at the Sith Lord, landing on the edge of Sidious's pod and igniting his lightsaber. However, Sidious unleashed a blast of Force lightning at Yoda before he could strike, tearing Yoda's lightsaber from his grasp, and causing Yoda to be forced to utilize tutaminis to absorb Sidious's lightning. Sidious advanced on Yoda, steadily strengthening the power of his lightning, while elevating his body in order to target his attack above Yoda's tutaminis defense, causing the latter to begin to falter. However, through the Force, Yoda sensed that although the Jedi Order was broken and the Sith had triumphed, all was not lost. He knew not how or why that might be, but he knew one thing for certain; if the galaxy was to be free from the Sith, he had to survive. With this newfound knowledge, Yoda gained the strength necessary to start redirecting Sidious's lightning back at him, coalescing the energy into a blue orb in front of him, astounding Sidious who began to reel backwards with the strength of Yoda's counterattack. But just as Yoda appeared to be on the brink of succeeding, the combination of both of the Force master's powers caused an explosion of Force energy that hurled them both apart.
Sidious was sent tumbling head over heels to the edge of the pod, but having been at its opposite end when the explosion transpired, he was not blasted clear of the pod and barely managed to grab one of its guardrails. Yoda however, had been standing at the very edge of the pod during the explosion, and weighed very little. As such, the blast sent Yoda flying all the way back to the Chancellor's Podium, situated high above the Senate floor with nothing in between but empty space. Yoda struck the Podium too hard to control his landing, and he rolled off the main portion to the edge where he desperately attempted to climb back up. But, exhausted and holding onto a smooth edge, Yoda lost his grip and fell several stories to the Senate floor. Battered and weary, Yoda knew that re-engaging Sidious with his stamina depleted and his body wounded would be fruitless and knew through the Force that he needed to escape if the galaxy was to have a chance at freedom. Yoda instead chose to retreat as Sidious cackled in triumph above him. Yoda crawled through the ventilation shafts and eventually dropped into Senator Bail Prestor Organa's airspeeder, escaping into exile.
Shock troopers led by Commander Thire were not able to recover Yoda's body, and Mas Amedda was convinced that the Jedi Grand Master had escaped. Sidious assigned Thire and a squad of clones to search for the Jedi, even giving them permission to blow up the Senate building if they wished. Sidious himself had far more pressing matters to attend to, as his unease had progressed to a near-certainty that Vader was in mortal danger. On Mustafar, the Dark Lord found his apprentice near death due to the recent duel where Obi-Wan Kenobi dealt him what seemed mortal wounds. However, Sidious ultimately managed to save his apprentice.
The magnitude of damage in the Senate Rotunda caught the eyes of the Senators. Rumors circulated in the Senate that Jedi Grand Master Yoda had led an attack on Palpatine himself, and that the ancient Jedi Master had been killed. Through Wookiee Senator Yarua, the rumor found its way to Kashyyyk, including the ears of Chewbacca and Tarfful. Eventually, the rumor reached Olee Starstone and her team of fugitive Jedi.
Having not been able to defeat Sidious, Yoda chose self-imposed exile to the swamp planet of Dagobah, where he would wait until Anakin's twins, Luke and Leia, would be of age to turn their father back from the Dark Side. Years later, on Dagobah, Yoda would train Luke in the ways of the Force. Luke would ultimately go on to rescue his father from the dark side and inspire the latter to defeat Sidious, bringing balance to the Force.
Behind the scenes
This lightsaber duel in the Senate Rotunda was created for the 2005 film, Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith. It was unnamed in the film, but an official Hasbro Star Wars Miniatures pack that depicted the duel identified it as the Skirmish in the Senate. According to The Making of Star Wars Revenge of the Sith, Senate hovercams were meant to broadcast the duel across the galaxy on the HoloNet, but this idea was later dropped.
In the novelization, Yoda entered the office from another direction, so no Royal Guards attempted to stop him. Mas Amedda left the office before any exchange was made. Sidious’ Force lightning was deflected by Yoda which blasted the guards into unconsciousness instead of himself being knocked across the room. Yoda then knocked Sidious to the floor with his physical body instead of a Force Push. At the end of the battle, the lightning energy ball did not explode. Sidious safely leaped to a nearby podium and Yoda followed. Sidious then turned around and blasted Yoda, who was still in the air, back against another podium who fell down to the bottom. Sidious was not knocked over by any blast, but he was described as "a very old, very tired man" after the epic battle. In the novelization, Yoda apparently does not lose his lightsaber in the battle, as he is described slicing his way through the ventilation shafts in his escape from the Senate Building.
In the comic, the first half of the duel is a combination of scenes in the movie and the novelization. Yoda entered the office the way he did in the novel, but was blasted by Sidious as shown in the movie. The Red Guards and Mas Amedda mysteriously vanished after the battle started, and Yoda knocked Sidious down with his body as shown in the novel, though here in the shape of a flying dropkick. The duel in the comic ends after Yoda disarms Darth Sidious and gets blasted into the air. In a DVD commentary, Rob Coleman stated that the Emperor's use of Senate pods as weapons was a metaphor for the fall of freedom and democracy brought about by Sidious‘ victory.
There is a contradiction between two official sources about whether Yoda truly fainted or was merely playing weak when Sidious shot him with lightning and sent him flying across the office; the screenplay described Yoda as "stunned," while the junior novelization stated that Yoda faked it to surprise Darth Sidious. As the screenplay is G-canon, it is the official version.
This is one of the few lightsaber duels in any of the films that does not result in any of the participants being injured in any way by a lightsaber.
- Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith
- Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith novelization
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith junior novelization
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith comic
- Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars: Purge (Mentioned only)
- Robot Chicken: Star Wars (Mentioned only) (Non-canonical appearance)
- Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith: Illustrated Screenplay
- The Making of Star Wars Revenge of the Sith
- (Indirect mention only)
- Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide
- "Republic HoloNet News Special Inaugural Edition 16:5:241"—Star Wars Insider 84
- (First identified as Skirmish in the Senate)
- "Q&A"—Star Wars Insider 95
- "Ask Lobot"—Star Wars Insider 123
- Book of Sith: Secrets from the Dark Side (Indirect mention only)
- Star Wars: Beware the Sith
- Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide: Updated and Expanded
- The Essential Reader's Companion
- Star Wars: The Legendary Yoda
- Star Wars: Sith Wars