Arguably the greatest Sith Lord of all time in Star Wars is Sheev Palpatine, who secretly carried the name Darth Sidious while working to bring the Jedi Order down. As such, he was always allied with the dark side and was a very manipulative and secretive man with ambitions and motivations that even the people closest to him did not know about. But the fact was that he was a power-hungry man that wanted to plunge the world into darkness so that he could hold on to his power. So, how did Palpatine turn evil and embrace the dark side of the Force?
The truth is that the canon storyline of Sheev Palpatine before the events of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is largely unknown. That’s because Darth Sidious kept his origins and early life a secret throughout his reign as the emperor. As such, little is known about his fall to the dark side in canon.
While the Legends side of Star Wars has an extensive story that details Palpatine’s origins and how he became a Sith Lord, this was all retconned in the current canon as there’s a good chance that Lucasfilm and Disney are going to tell his story, and rise as dark lord in future movies or shows. So, with that said, let’s look at what we know about Palpatine’s early life.
If there’s one Star Wars character with a story intertwined with the Skywalker Saga, it’s Sheev Palpatine. After all, he was the man that manipulated the events of the Clone Wars so that he could eventually bring down the Jedi, turn Anakin Skywalker over to the dark side, and rise to the top as the tyrannical emperor of the entire galaxy. And while he did indeed die at the hands of a redeemed Anakin Skywalker, Palpatine had the wherewithal to bring himself back to life and affect the events of the sequel trilogy.
As such, Palpatine is one man with his fingerprints all over all of the nine Star Wars movies because his actions, directly and indirectly, affected the outcome of the things happening in the galaxy in a period spanning nearly seven decades. He was the Sith Lord that many consider to be the strongest in the history of the Sith because he was able to bring the Jedi Order down. And he wasn’t only cunning, sinister, and manipulative but was also incredibly powerful in the dark side of the Force.
Even though Palpatine has been the overarching antagonist of the entire Star Wars Skywalker Saga, the thing about him is that his origins are shrouded in mystery. In the Legends part of Star Wars, Palpatine’s story was told extensively in the books about his origins. But those have all been unrecognized by the official Star Wars canon. That’s why there aren’t a lot of things known about his origins.
The in-universe explanation about Darth Sidious’ mysterious past could be attributed to the fact that the emperor kept his origin story a closely guarded secret he never told anyone. But what was known was that he was born in Naboo, located in the Mid Rim of the galaxy. Born as Sheev Palpatine, he was a member of a rich and affluent family in the big city of Theed, the capital of Naboo.
During his time on Theed, Palpatine could hone his talents in the field of governance because he studied history, strategy, and politics, all while forming connections with some of the most powerful politicians in Naboo. Through his upbringing, he could hone his skills in manipulation while acquiring great knowledge in many different fields.
How Did Palpatine Become a Sith Apprentice?
As he rose in power, Palpatine eventually came to study the ways of the Force from Darth Plagueis, who was secretly a dark lord of the Sith at that time. However, no one knows how Palpatine became Plagueis’ apprentice or how he found out he was sensitive to the Force. That means that no one knows exactly how or why he chose to study the dark side of the Force.
Of course, the biggest mystery here is in relation to why the Jedi never found Palpatine. In most cases, the Jedi Order was able to detect Force sensitivity within young children that lived in the systems that were closer to Coruscant. Meanwhile, a planet like Tatooine was more difficult for the Jedi to reach, which explains why they couldn’t sense Anakin. But the fact that Palpatine lived on a Mid Rim planet and was actually from an affluent family exposed to different people should have allowed him to come into contact with the Jedi at one point in his early life.
As such, it is possible that Palpatine’s sensitivity to the Force was first sensed and discovered by Darth Plagueis, who might have beaten the Jedi to the punch and started training the young Sheev at an early age. And it was probably through his early training in the dark side that Palpatine could mask his true nature and his sensitivity to the Force from the Jedi.
Eventually, after learning everything that he needed to learn from the dark side, Palpatine adopted the Sith name Darth Sidious. He traveled all over the galaxy together with his master to collect art and knowledge that was related to the dark side because Plagueis was more of a scholar than a fighter. And it was during their time together as a master and apprentice duo. They started working on discovering more about the secrets to immortality, which Darth Plagueis was obsessed with.
Eventually, Darth Sidious and Darth Plagueis learned about the secrets of immortality by transferring one’s essence from one person to another body. This was how Sidious was able to resurrect himself during the events of the sequel trilogy. And while he and Plagueis were trying to uncover the secrets of the dark side, he started his rise to the top of the political ladder as part of the “Grand Plan” that Darth Bane started almost a thousand years ago.
The Grand Plan involved a strategy that incorporated how the Sith were supposed to weaken and discredit the Jedi slowly but steadily while rising to the top of the political food chain. That was what Palpatine did as he became a senator with the help of Darth Plagueis. And it was when he finally reached the Senate, he decided to murder his master in the event that he fondly calls the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise.
After that, the rest is history because we know that Palpatine was able to become the Supreme Chancellor that manipulated all of the events surrounding the Clone Wars and the fall of the Jedi Order. And it can all be traced back to when he fell to the dark side under the mentorship of Darth Plagueis.
More of Palpatine’s origin story and fall to the dark side may be explored in future Star Wars movies and shows. But we do believe that he was the one who followed the path of the dark side from the very beginning because he was always a cunning and manipulative man. As such, he was probably born as sinister as he was at the height of his powers. And all he needed was to learn under Darth Plagueis.