The Playlist: Tarkin

Check out's handy guide to the man who would become the destroyer of Alderaan.

For Star Wars fans who want a better understanding of various topics, there can be a lot of material to wade through. In The Playlist, we’ll curate select installments of Star Wars that will give you that greater understanding of a specific topic. Consider it your own Jedi Archives — or cheat sheet for your Jedi midterms.


“Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.” – Princess Leia Organa

The partnership between Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader was nothing short of legendary. Together, they were unstoppable. But how did they become the feared duo they were by the time they destroyed Alderaan?

This playlist tracks back through The Clone Wars and traces the first meeting between Tarkin and Vader and culminates with the abrupt end of their relationship at the hands of the Rebel Alliance.


1. Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Citadel Arc“The Citadel”(Season 3, Episode 14), “Counterattack” (Season 3, Episode 15), “Citadel Rescue,” (Season 3, Episode 16) – Then just a captain, Tarkin served as the fleet commander for Jedi Master Even Piell. When they had both been captured, it was up to Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Ahsoka Tano to rescue them.


2. Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Ahsoka’s Trial: “Sabotage” (Season 5, Episode 17), “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much” (Season 5, Episode 18), “To Catch a Jedi,” (Season 5, Episode 19), “The Wrong Jedi,” (Season 5, Episode 20) – When the Jedi Temple has been bombed and it seems as though a Jedi might be involved, the now “Admiral” Tarkin is put in charge of the investigation and trial.


3. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith – Though Tarkin’s place in this installment could be characterized as “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it,” the events that transpire here shape Tarkin’s future, as well as the future of the rest of the galaxy.

Star Wars: Tarkin cover

4. Tarkin (novel) – Written by James Luceno, Tarkin tells two intertwining stories: that of Tarkin’s early life and the first time he’s set to work with Darth Vader at the behest of the Empire. It’s set five years after Order 66 and is a fascinating glimpse at the power-structure of the Empire in its early days.

5. Star Wars Rebels: “Call to Action” (Season 1, Episode 11), “Rebel Resolve” (Season 1, Episode 12), “Fire Across the Galaxy” (Season 1, Episode 13 ) – These episodes of Rebels hit home how fearsome Tarkin has become throughout the galaxy. His name alone brought fear to the system of Lothal and it was his plan that would capture the rebels plaguing the system.

6. Star Wars: A New Hope – Although this was the first time we’d ever seen Grand Moff Tarkin, played by Peter Cushing, it was also the character’s final curtain. Watching A New Hope through the lens of Tarkin’s journey (thanks to the rest of this playlist) changes the movie significantly.

Lost Stars Cover

Bonus: Lost Stars – Written by Claudia Gray, Lost Stars offers an entirely different perspective on Tarkin through the eyes of two pilots he inspired as children. He’s a bit player in this novel, but the influence of his actions is felt by the characters from the beginning of the book to the end.

Tarkin is one of the most interesting characters in Star Wars, brought to life by some of the most talented performers across generations — namely Peter Cushing and Stephen Stanton. The character of Tarkin himself is a complicated one, though our first impression of him might make him seem like a one-dimensional villain. Through this playlist, you’re able to see the sweep of his entire life, from his childhood, early service, and final days.

Bryan Young is an author, a filmmakerjournalist, and the editor in chief of! He’s also the co-host of the Star Wars podcast, Full of Sith.