"So, Palpatine's been out there all this time. Pulling the strings."
Star Wars Inside Intel is a StarWars.com feature where Lucasfilm Story Group member Emily Shkoukani, whose job is to know as much about a galaxy far, far away as possible, explores obscure facts about Star Wars lore and continuity. In this installment, Emily connects the dots of Palpatine’s Contingency plan…
Although Poe Dameron might not have understood how Palpatine returned in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and was understandably exasperated at the news, it was all part of the Contingency: a plan that anticipated Palpatine’s death and prepared for his return to power.
Palpatine was a talented manipulator, from killing his own Sith Master, to creating conflicts and conspiracies within the Republic senate, to orchestrating a galaxy-wide war and taking power as the Emperor. As a Sith Lord, Palpatine craved power but feared losing it. This compelled him to design a backup plan, officially known as "the Contingency." In the event that he died, Palpatine’s plot would go into effect.
Originally introduced in Claudia Gray’s Star Wars: Lost Stars as a concept, the Contingency itself began in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy. After Emperor Palpatine was unexpectedly betrayed and killed by Darth Vader, and word of his death, along with the destruction of the second Death Star, traveled across the Empire. The Contingency unfolded as planned: Sentinel droids were dispatched to Imperials throughout the galaxy and advised them on next steps, starting with Operation: Cinder.
Operation: Cinder sought to destroy Imperial and New Republic planets alike, with the goal to destroy sensitive information or other liabilities. The operation was carried out in various ways, including the use of climate disruption arrays which, once fired upon a planet, would create catastrophic weather conditions; vortex detonators, a customized explosive that made the planet of Nacronis uninhabitable; and the Imperial Navy, who engaged in battles on planets that attempted to resist the operation such as Naboo, Burnin Konn (as mentioned in The Mandalorian), Abednedo, and more. Operation: Cinder was devastating but it also solidified many allegiances to the newly erected New Republic and saw many Imperials defect due to the brutality of the operation.
One major element of the Contingency was about a year after the Emperor’s death at the Battle of Jakku. Led by self-appointed Counselor of the Empire Gallius Rax, he brought the remainder of the Empire to Jakku in a last stand against the New Republic. The majority of the Imperials involved in the battle believed they would retake the galaxy with a victory, but the Contingency planned for this to be the conclusion to the Empire. Rax was originally supposed to have the entire planet of Jakku destroyed along with the Imperials as further punishment for failing Palpatine. What was unaccounted for in this plan was Grand Admiral Rae Sloane.
An underling of Gallius Rax, Sloane was kept in the dark about the Contingency and Rax’s involvement. As such, Sloane began to believe that Rax was deviating the Empire from its intended glory. On Jakku, Sloane confronted Rax where she shot and killed him. In his final moments, Rax appointed Sloane to the Contingency and urged her to retreat to the Unknown Regions with Brendol Hux to create a new and better Empire. With Rax dead, and thanks to Sloane, Jakku was saved. Rax’s plan to completely destroy the Empire did not unfold, with remnants of the Empire continuing for years following the official end of the war. Sloane would heed Rax’s final demands and head for the Unknown Regions.
For many years prior to his demise, Palpatine sought immortality on the Sith planet of Exegol. It was on this planet that he and his cultists, known as the Sith Eternal, experimented with cloning. Exegol was also where Palpatine built his Final Order fleet. As an immortal Sith, Palpatine would reign supreme over the galaxy with his Sith armada. This would be the grand finale of the Contingency, known only to a select few.
When Palpatine was killed on the second Death Star, his consciousness transferred to a clone of his own body on Exegol but the body was too weak to contain him. This led to Palpatine creating more clones and strand-casts of himself in the hopes that one would offer a more suitable vessel for him to inhabit. All of this effort ultimately culminated in Rey, the daughter of one of Palpatine’s strand-casts. She was the perfect vessel -- but her father and mother did everything they could to hide her from her sinister grandfather.
Destiny, and the Contingency, would catch up to Rey in the form of the First Order, led by one of Palpatine’s evil duplicates called Snoke. Although Snoke was unsuccessful in bringing Rey to Palpatine, and was unexpectedly killed by his protege Kylo Ren, Palpatine continued to pull the strings in order to reel in his granddaughter so he could finally achieve ultimate power.
With the Final Order operational, it slowly deployed from Exegol and pledged to destroy planet after planet. The Resistance worked quickly to counter this new threat. Rey accepted her role as a Jedi and rebel, and arrived on Exegol to bring a conclusion to the conflict. Palpatine planned for Rey to partake in a ritual which would allow him to inhabit her body and live forever, but Rey had other plans. With the help of Ben Solo and Jedi past, Rey took her final steps and defeated the phantom menace once and for all.
Did you learn something new about the Contingency? Check back bi-weekly to learn something new about the Star Wars galaxy!