Sheev Palpatine aka Chancellor Palpatine aka Emperor Palpatine aka Darth Sidious was first introduced to the Star Wars universe in The Empire Strikes Back appearing in hologram form. His first physical appearance wouldn’t be until Episode VI.
The first Emperor Palpatine minifigures were released in 2000. These two came with the original yellow skin tones and are differentiated only by the color of their hands. The yellow hand version came in 3340 Star Wars #1, 7166 Imperial Shuttle, and 7200 Final Duel I. Some issues of set 3340 included a Palpatine with black hands instead which creates two unique variants.
Palpatine would not receive an update, or an inclusion in another set, until 2005 with the release of 7264 Imperial Inspection. Unlike many other minifigures of the time that transitioned from yellow skin tones to flesh, Palpatine went from yellow to gray. This version came with a nearly identical head print, the same torso with updated light bluish gray printing, and gray hands.
Three more years would pass until the next version came along. This time the torso print was updated with a new robe pattern. The head printing was also updated adding more detail than the prior versions. Both 8096 Emperor Palpatine’s Shuttle and 10188 Death Star included this version.
Although the previous version would remain available for many years due to its inclusion in the longest running Star Wars set in history – 10188 Death Star – we would not get an updated minifigure for six years. Surprisingly this version wouldn’t come in any set. Instead it was the exclusive minifigure in DK’s The Dark Side book from 2014. DK had included only Light Side characters in its previous publications, but only a Sith could fill the minifigure-shaped slot in the cover of this one. This figure was a complete update from prior versions with different colored head and hands, new face and torso print, and for the first time leg printing!
Now that the figure had been completely re-imagined, it was time for LEGO to capitalize on their efforts. Three more variants would spawn from this version. All of them share in that the head printing was changed – this time adding a softer smile than the previous “evil smile.” The first version would come in only one set – 75093 Death Star Final Duel. Like other figures from the time, Palpatine was given a spongy cape in place of the standard starched fabric. This change in the assembly created a new variant that was found in 75159 Death Star, 75183 Darth Vader Transformation, and 75185 Tracker I. Although he would keep the spongy cape, it was finally time to trade in his hood for the updated mold. The final variant came in 75291 Death Star Final Duel and most recently in the latest LEGO Star Wars magazine.
What about before the Emperor was the Emperor? In the Prequel Trilogy we get more understanding of how Palpatine rose to power. With his appearances throughout Episode I-III as well as in The Clone Wars, there was ample opportunity for more minifigure variants. In 2009, the first Chancellor Palpatine minifig was released in 8039 Venator-Class Republic Attack Cruiser and the 852844 magnet set. This version aligned with many of the other Clone Wars style minifigures from the time with overdrawn faces and large eyes. He also required a new pauldron to be created which has not been used in any other minifig to date.
The Chancellor’s first update would come three years later with 9526 Palpatine’s Arrest. This time dark red parts were used for the body, and the torso printing was updated. Additionally the cartoon-style face was replaced.
Serving as the only version to come with dark bluish gray clothing, the Chancellor included in 75044 Droid Tri-Fighter is also the only one to feature him with white hair. This minifig came with a uniquely printed torso, legs, and head. Although other versions of him in this outfit have been included in the LEGO Star Wars video games, no other official version has been released.
And that’s the story of Darth Sidious. Appearing as eleven different minifigures across 14 sets, two publications, and one magnet set, he has received a fair amount of attention especially over the last few years. What versions are still missing? Do you think we should get an updated Prequel Trilogy-inspired one? Let us know in the comments section below.
As the chief archivist, Kevin Downard maintains and curates the library catalog.
Getting in at the ground floor when the LEGO Star Wars theme first launched, Kevin has been collecting ever since. He is a self-proclaimed minifigure guru and has a passion for tracking down and cataloging every minifig variation – no matter how obscure. He has assisted Rebrickable and Bricklink in maintaining their set inventories, helped overhaul the rebelscum.com LEGO forum, and created the LSW Collector mobile app.