To the surprise of fans everywhere, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker completely jumped over the thorny issue of how Palpatine was still alive, announcing his return in the opening scroll and then offering just one recycled line in explanation. When Kylo Ren questions his survival, the villain recites his “the Dark Side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some would find unnatural” quote from Revenge of the Sith.
The incoming novelization, however, clarifies that Palpatine’s decaying form in TROS was a clone body, though it was struggling to contain his malevolent Sith spirit. If that was intended to be the case, though, fans have wondered why this was not adequately put across in the film itself. Well, unsurprisingly, it seems there was more exposition in early drafts which ultimately got removed.
While attending Comic-Con Brussels recently, Darth Sidious himself, Ian McDiarmid, was asked for more information about his character’s revival and decided to reveal an interesting fact, saying:
“The cloning thing? Yes. Well, of course, there were all sorts of explanations for why I might return. But it’s interesting because I think I can reveal something.”
McDiarmid then went on to say that initial drafts featured Kylo Ren inquiring whether Palpatine was a clone when he first discovers him on Exegol. The Sith Lord was then to have replied: “More than a clone. Less than a man.” This wouldn’t have answered all our questions either, of course, but it would’ve better helped paint the picture of the villain being in a clone body that was only just clinging to life.
The actor also spoke generally about Palpatine’s unseen influence on the entire Sequel Trilogy, commenting that when you rewatch them in light of TROS‘ revelations, you pick up on the “sense of evil” that’s threaded throughout.
“So Snoke was a clone, Palpatine was responsible for everything. He made everything, in one way or another. Talk about power… In a sense, when everyone commits a bad act, it’s because of this character, this influence. Either in public or pervasively in private.”
We have a better understanding of the former emperor’s backstory now, then, than when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker first came out, but the situation could still use some explaining. Presumably, though, future comics or novels, or even TV series or movies, will eventually get around to that. We just have to be patient.