From a Certain Point of View: Who Is More Powerful, the Emperor or Yoda?

Two StarWars.com writers debate which is truly the Master.

One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, two StarWars.com writers discuss which of two Masters — one light, one dark — reigns supreme.

Revenge of the Sith - Emperor Palpatine

The Emperor is more powerful, says Catrina.

Let’s be clear, right off the bat; I am not an Empire devotee. You won’t see me hashtagging #Imp4Lyfe or collecting relics of the Empire, but while I’m no loyalist, I do try my best to think rationally. In Revenge of the Sith, Yoda left his battle with Emperor Palpatine in a manner that I wouldn’t call a personal defeat, though the ultimate defeat of the Jedi was, undoubtedly, personal for Yoda. The Jedi had lost their way, and he among them, in a move orchestrated by Palpatine himself. But if you pull away the gloss of trickery and lay their skills bare, Palpatine — in my opinion — still holds the advantage. When it comes to a no-holds-barred showdown between the legendary Jedi Master and Actual Galaxy Dominator Sheev Palpatine, there’s only one clear victor: Old Man Palps.

Looking at them honestly, Yoda and Palpatine are often matched in ability during the prequels — but were the two to rematch afterwards, even under less duress, Palpatine’s power would simply outmatch Yoda because Palpatine has no limits on the tricks up his sleeve, and he fights with no remorse. Palpatine grew terrifically powerful as time passed throughout the Galactic Civil War, and was likely riding pretty high on the dark side when he faced Yoda.

But even if they were matched in power, Palpatine’s lack of limit and relentless quest for domination may have overpowered Yoda’s concentrated morals. Palpatine is chaos; Yoda is peace. Without the barrier of military or Council-based backup, Palpatine would go to any limit in order to kill Yoda — but Yoda, guided by the light side, likely feels limits on murder that Palpatine never has.

Attack of the Clones - Emperor Palpatine

What’s more, the Emperor continued to grow in power with each passing day after the end of the Clone Wars, and not just through the massive number of his Imperial forces. Throughout stories like Lords of the Sith, Palpatine is still on the hunt for knowledge and exploring ancient Sith lore, collecting pieces of the past to help build his future. Yoda, on the other hand, went into hiding — possibly isolating himself from the studies that had made him such an iconic Master in the first place. What’s more, even if Yoda did attempt to explore the countless years of Jedi lore, Palpatine still as an advantage in number; from foot soldiers to technicians and historians, Palpatine employed some of the best and brightest (as detailed in Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars and Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath) within his ranks, and they brought all of that information to him on top of his own personal trips to seek more himself. Knowledge is power, and while some might not imagine Palpatine as the type to see himself as “incomplete” in that sense, he certainly held true to that old saying by continuing to pillage the galaxy for more of it.

As new stories reveal secrets that fans never knew before about both Yoda and Palpatine, the limits of their individual power still remain mostly a mystery. Even now, Palpatine’s abilities still remain partial rumor within the stories of the saga, whispered among remaining Imperials and devotees after Palpatine’s demise. Whether Yoda ever had a few more cards up his sleeve has yet to be seen, but the choices made by both masters on either side of the Force (Yoda going into hiding, as Palpatine quests for knowledge throughout the galaxy) would ultimately lead to a battle that ends in Palpatine’s victory.

Attack of the Clones - Yoda

Yoda is more powerful, says Anina.

At the time of his death, Yoda was a good 900 years old. He had also been casually training Jedi for about 800 years. That’s a nice long time to perfect fighting skills, learn a bunch of stuff about the Force, and just grow in one’s abilities. You’ve got to admit, Yoda has definitely had more than enough time to hone his skills and face a multitude of adversaries, making him a well-trained and seasoned fighter. His knowledge and experience are what make him powerful and able to take on the good ol’ Emperor if they ever faced each other again.

I have no problem admitting that Palpatine is one strong ruler of the galaxy, but he thinks he’s the most powerful guy out there and that’s caused him to gravely underestimate Yoda’s butt-kicking abilities. When Yoda went off to discover how to preserve his consciousness in the Force (like Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan), he overcame things that were holding him back and affecting his ability to be the most powerful Jedi that he could. Yoda overcame manifestations of his own darkness, in addition to all the things that he feared. Thus, Yoda became an even more fearless and effective Jedi, one that would be able to look critically at an opponent and figure out the best way to beat them. While on this journey, Palps noticed that he might be able to strike down Yoda through his Force-bond with Dooku. Palpatine thought it would be so easy to break Yoda’s spirit, but instead the confrontation failed miserably and, ironically, helped Yoda learn about himself and his weaknesses. Having come out of that trip with the knowledge of how to become immortal, Palpatine tried a different approach to destroy Yoda which worked out pretty much the same way.

The Clone Wars - Yoda confronting his own darkness

With the destruction of the Jedi Order, Yoda took a really big hit and had to face Palpatine not fully prepared and with his mind and heart on other things. Yes, it’s true, Yoda did lose that battle. And yes, he went into voluntary exile, believing he had failed. But, the goal of that encounter was for Palpatine to kill Yoda and he failed just like he had previously. Even with his entire world breaking around him, Yoda was still able to spar with the Emperor and then find a way to escape without being killed.

Now comes the question, what was Yoda doing during all that time on Dagobah? Well, I think it’s safe to say that he wasn’t napping and enjoying the scenery. Dagobah itself is a planet very strong with the Force so it’s not a big leap to assume that Yoda could have spent his time there learning and training even more. At the end of Yoda’s trials on Moraband, the Force Priestess tells Yoda that Qui-Jon would be around to continue to help guide Yoda’s training, so Yoda probably got a few visits from his old friend while in exile, too. Sure, Palpatine did spend that same time searching for knowledge as well, but he also had a whole galaxy to run, so probably couldn’t give it as much attention as Yoda could. He may be very powerful but I think a lot of his power comes from his ability to manipulate others into doing his bidding. He surrounds himself with massive armies and powerful people like Vader, which make him appear stronger.

In a one-on-one confrontation, Yoda would win because he’s really the more powerful of the two. We may not know exactly how strong each is but Yoda’s years of experience, knowledge, understanding of the Force, and fighting skills could definitely take on an Emperor who — incorrectly — thinks he’s untouchable.

Who do you think is more powerful? Sound off in the comments below!

Catrina Dennis is a writer and Star Wars die-hard. In her spare time, she tells stories, yells very loudly about soccer, and hosts a few very cool podcasts. Catch up with her on Twitter @ohcatrina.

Anina Walas, a recent graduate of Seattle University, is currently an intern at Lucasfilm with the StarWars.com team. She loves pretty much everything Disney, great weather, making/eating really good food, and of course, Star Wars. You can follow her on Twitter @aninaden, but beware, she’s terribly inconsistent about tweeting things. 

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