From a Certain Point of View: Would You Rather Serve LEGO or Live-Action Palpatine?

Two StarWars.com writers debate working for the Ruler of the Beach or the ruler of the Empire.

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 celebrating the LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation, two StarWars.com writers duel it out over which master to serve: live-action Sheev or LEGO Palpatine.

Palpatine and Darth Vader on the beach in LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation

Sign me up to follow the Galaxy’s Best (LEGO) Emperor, says Mark.

It’s possible to be a believer in liberty and freedom and still have a grudging respect for the long-gestating masterplan of Sheev Palpatine. From Senator of the Mid Rim world of Naboo to the most powerful seat in the cosmos, the scheming, the machinations, the manipulations, the devious brilliance of a plan that was so exacting it had 65 orders before the infamous 66th….it’s easy to admire. Consider the planning, the ability to constantly pivot between publicly leading a Galactic Republic while at the same time orchestrating a Separatist movement from the shadows. The Emperor of the flesh and blood Star Wars saga was an impressive operator, arguably the most tactically astute leader the galaxy has ever seen.

Darth Vader and Palpatine in A scene from the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special

However….I’d stand behind the LEGO incarnation of Sheev Palpatine ahead of the real one any day. When Darth Vader gifted his Emperor with a “Galaxy’s Best Emperor” mug? Palpatine — as was often the case — was offended by the implication that in order to be the best Emperor, there had to be other Emperors to compete against. That wasn’t what Vader intended. LEGO Sheev was the one, true Emperor, but in this particular stand-off of LEGO Emperor versus his flesh-and-blood equivalent, the brick does the trick.

Let’s look at some of the reasons for his obvious superiority:

Darth Vader and Palpatine on the beach

One moment he’s rigging a limbo competition on the beaches of Scarif while insisting Lord Vader applies suntan lotion — “Rubbity-rubbity, and don’t forget my shoulders, they really burn!”The next he’s cheering on his underling as he battles the forces of good — “Less talky-talky, more fighty-fighty!” You could view Empire Day as a propaganda exercise designed to brainwash the galaxy into accepting the might of the Empire or see it for what it’s meant to be: a reason to celebrate the greatness of the Emperor.

The discovery of the Kyber Saber in the Jedi archives captivated Palpatine to the point of obsession — “Emperor likey!” — and to show his relentless determination, he wouldn’t rest until the saber was his. He didn’t get his way thanks to Rowan Freemaker tossing it into a lava pit, but that determination was unquenched, while his quest for equal opportunities meant that both Rowan and Luke Skywalker were declared public enemy number one. That’s generosity from a true people person (who just happens to have made many people go zappity-zap-zap while showing what an amazing guy he is).

Vaneé

You could attempt to reason with the live-action Palpatine in the hopes of making him see your point of view, but where’s the fun (or chances of living a long and healthy life) in that? And who would you rather follow: the sensible, manipulative politician Palpatine or the frivolous, colorful, yet also quite manipulative LEGO Palpatine — who might just bounce around the Star Wars chronology with a time key and change history as we know it?

I think you know the answer. With a fast ship, a complicated backstory and an-as-yet unrevealed personal motivation, life in the Star Wars galaxy can be one endless series of incredible adventures. Better to enjoy it on a Scarif beach playing limbo in the sun with LEGO Palpatine than standing on a Scarif beach watching the Death Star blow a hole in the world in the name of the Empire.

Sheev Palpatine

As much as I love the LEGO Emperor, I’d have to go with the live-action Palpatine, says James.

I love, love, love the LEGO Emperor. He’s devious. He’s selfish with his “Gimme, gimme, gimme!” attitude. He’s everything that Emperor Palpatine from the movies is and more. But the things that make him such a fun character are the exact reasons I would rather serve plain ol’ Palpatine. The LEGO incarnation is basically a greedy child, but with unlimited power and no one to rein him in. While the regular Emperor has a long game and hides his evil nature to some extent, LEGO Palpatine is in-your-face evil: he’s in control and he knows it. Step out of line, and it’s time for zappity-zap-zap. Bring him some bad news and it’s fry time. Even catch him when he’s having a bad day or just bored, and you’re gonna wish you had stuck a fork into a power outlet instead. I’ll take my chances with the real deal.

The Emperor laughs in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

Live-action Palpatine might get mad from time to time, but he won’t use his Force lightning all willy-nilly. I’d like to believe he’s less likely to electrocute the messenger who brings him bad news. After all, he’d see the value in getting the truth rather than have scared underlings worry about their own necks and bring him only what they think he wants to hear. Sure, he’s creepy and his dental hygiene is rather lacking, but you can probably work on your reports without having to fear for your immediate survival every day. He values and rewards competence and good replacements are hard to find. How many regular underlings do we see the Emperor kill in the movies? Now compare that to Mr.-You-Gave-Me-The-Same-Mug-Vader-Did-for-Empire-Day Palpatine, and you’ll notice the body count. So, yeah, count me in for working for a relatively calm and less violent supervisor.

While the plastic-free Emperor might let his subordinates jockey for his favor, his C-handed counterpart actively undermines his own top dogs. Remember when he created the droid M-OC to track down Rowan Freemaker when Darth Vader was having trouble? It’s no fun when bosses undercut their employees. Besides, the LEGO Emperor can’t even remember Rowan’s first name. Not a detail-oriented fellow.

Palpatine confronts the senate with his scarred face under a cowl in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

LEGO Palpatine is far more impulsive than his flesh-and-blood version. He might want to crush the rebellion, or maybe just have his sycophants listen to his new theme song. You never know when his mood will change, or when his interests will take a sharp turn. While having varied work and building reliability for being flexible is good, the constant babysitting and sucking up to the boss would get tiring. And without the ability to just say ‘no’ to him, I’d be enabling him, which would just make it worse. Live-action Palpatine would at least hear me out, I think. And not be given to such whimsy.

Holograms of Palpatine and Darth Maul speaking to Trade Federation leadership at a conference table.

So far, I’ve been talking as if I was a regular rank-and-file officer or bureaucrat. To get to work closely with the Emperor, you’d have to be competent and astute. And also maybe a Sith apprentice. And if I were a Force-using minion, the rules change a bit. Under Palpatine, treachery is duly rewarded with pain, as Maul learned when he rose up with his Shadow Collective. I would be looking for his displeasure, but also a chance to strike him down. All I have to do is get him distracted — like by having him light up my Jedi son. Then I can get the upper hand!

In the end, I prefer working for grown-ups, and as much as the character of LEGO Palpatine fills me with laughter, I would punch in to serve under boring old human Palpatine any day.

What do you think? Do you agree with Mark or James? Tweet us your response @StarWars!

And catch LEGO Palpatine’s latest adventures in LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation, a new Original special from Lucasfilm and the LEGO Group, now streaming on Disney+!

Hulu. Disney+, ESPN+ logos
Epic Stories. Tons of TV. Live Sports.

Mark Newbold has been writing about Star Wars in one form or another since 1982, and contributes to publications including Star Wars InsiderBuild The Millennium Falcon, and Starburst Magazine. He is an Honorary Friend of the 501st and the Rebel Legion and is editor-in-chief of FanthaTracks.com.

James Floyd is a writer, photographer, and organizer of puzzle adventures. He’s a bit tall for a Jawa. You can follow him on Twitter at @jamesjawa.

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