Rumor of the Day: Is Emperor Palpatine Returning to Star Wars: Episode IX?

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Oct 11, 2018, 10:58 AM EDT

Dead isn't always dead in the Star Wars universe, as anybody who saw Darth Maul's jaw-dropping re-emergence in Solo: A Star Wars Story will tell you.

So it may not come as a terribly big surprise that director J.J. Abrams is considering resurrecting the franchise's ultimate baddie, Darth Sidious, aka Emperor Palpatine — at least according to the latest rumor coming out of Episode IX's production.

A leaker (presumably YouTuber Mike Zeroh) tells the UK's Express that Ian McDiarmid will be reprising his role as the Dark Lord in a pivotal scene featuring Adam Driver's Kylo Ren. Of course, when  audiences last saw Palpatine, he met an untimely end in Return of the Jedi after Darth Vader threw him into the Death Star's reactor in order to save Luke.

According to the report, with Supreme Leader Snoke killed by Ren in The Last Jedi, the Emperor will return to lend some assistance to this new apprentice and the First Order.

"Emperor Palpatine will play a role in Episode 9," claims the leaker. "Specifically, Kylo Ren with an ignited lightsaber, presumably his cross-guard lightsaber, cutting through a blast door on some jungle planet and entering what appears to be a vault."

"Eventually Kylo Ren is holding a square object that projects a lifelike project[ion] of Emperor Palpatine. Palpatine's hand is raised in front of Kylo Ren showing blueprints or plans that could be a new weapon."

If the source is to be believed — and we'll assume many Bothan spies died to bring us this information if it's actually truly, but take it with a heaping grain of salt for now — it's not his Sith ghost we'll be seeing, but a hologram.

As it happens, the Star Wars: Battlefront II video game did something similar, with Luke breaking into a vault on the jungle planet Pillio and finding contingency plans the Emperor hid in case of his defeat after the Galactic Civil War.

Given that Sidious told Anakin in Revenge of the Sith that the Dark Side gives Jedis power to cheat death, Palpatine's rebirth wouldn't be entirely shocking. After all, in the Dark Empire II comics in the mid-'90s, after the end of the Galactic Civil War, the Emperor comes back to life and tries to rebuild the Empire after he transfers his spirit into a clone body.

In any case, word of Palpatine's possible return comes after Mark Hamill confirmed that he'll be reprising Luke – most likely a Force Ghost version of him – alongside original trilogy veteran Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian in Star Wars' final installment in the Skywalker saga.

Episode IX is slated to hit theaters on Dec. 20, 2019.