If there’s one thing that we know about the nine mainline Star Wars movies that we’ve seen so far, it’s that the main enemy working behind the scenes was none other than Sheeve Palpatine, the Sith Lord that ended up rising from a senator to the role of the emperor. Of course, he was able to return from the dead during the events of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, where it was revealed that his Imperial remnants and Sith Eternal were responsible for bringing him back. So, was Palpatine a clone?
The original Emperor Palpatine was never a clone but was a true biological person born naturally. However, after his death at the hands of a redeemed Anakin Skywalker, he was eventually cloned by the Imperial remnants. That was how he returned in the sequel trilogy.
Cloning has always been one of the most important concepts in the world of Star Wars because of how it helped change the flow of the galaxy’s history. In that regard, Palpatine also used this technology to his advantage during the time of his reign as he eventually found a way to return to life after he first died back in the original trilogy. Now, let’s look at whether or not Palpatine was a clone.
Palpatine in the original trilogy wasn’t a clone
The storyline of Star Wars would never be complete without Sheev Palpatine, who was always the man manipulating all of the events that transpired ever since the earliest timeline in the main Star Wars movies. While he was first introduced during the events of the original trilogy as the emperor of the Galactic Empire, Palpatine’s first chronological appearance was in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace when he was just a senator but was secretly the Sith Lord that supported the Trade Federation. Eventually, he manipulated all the galaxy events to cause the Clone Wars to erupt.
Through the Clone Wars, he established himself as the galaxy’s emperor and as the man that struck fear into the hearts of everyone living in the Empire. But thanks to the efforts of Luke Skywalker and the other Rebels, he was defeated in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Palpatine was defeated when Darth Vader, redeemed and reverted back to Anakin Skywalker, killed him and fulfilled his destiny as the Chosen One.
Of course, we all know that Palpatine was the looming figure behind all of the events that led to the rise of the Empire and the fall of the Jedi Order. He was around for decades before he died in Episode VI. So, was the first Palpatine a clone?
It is unlikely that Emperor Palpatine was a clone during the events of Episodes I to VI. He was a man that was born the natural way and was uncannily gifted in the ways of the Force. That was how he could elevate himself to a position of great power as he was secretly Darth Sidious, the man behind the Sith Order. And the fact that the ability to use the Force isn’t something that can be found in just any person is the reason why the original Palpatine wasn’t a clone.
During the events before the sequel trilogy, a Palpatine clone in the form of Rey’s father wasn’t even blessed with the ability to use the Force. As such, even if a Force-sensitive person were to successfully clone themselves, there is no guarantee that they would actually produce a Force-sensitive clone as well.
Palpatine was also incredibly powerful in the Force. In the novelization of Star Wars Episode XI: The Rise of Skywalker, it was mentioned that the body of a clone wasn’t enough to handle Palpatine’s incredible affinity with the dark side of the Force. Dark side users also tend to deteriorate slowly due to the immense power and influence of the dark side. And the fact that the original Palpatine’s body could hold up for decades means that he wasn’t a clone.
Palpatine that returned in the sequel trilogy was a clone
The fact that the first version of Emperor Palpatine died is a well-established fact, as that was what led to the fall of the Empire and the rise of the New Republic. But we also know that Darth Sidious returned during the events of the sequel trilogy, as he manipulated the events behind the war between the First Order and the Resistance.
Meanwhile, in the events of The Mandalorian and the Ahsoka series, which both take place five years after the fall of the Empire, it was hinted that the remnants of the Empire were working on related projects to cloning. Moff Gideon, for instance, was working with Doctor Pershing to perfect Kaminoan research and to use Grogu’s genes to create an army of Gideon clones that could use the Force. But it was also suggested that the Shadow Council, which was composed of the Imperial officers left behind after the fall of the Empire, weren’t aware of what Gideon was doing.
Instead, the Imperial remnants were working on a similar cloning project called Project Necromancer, which Commandant Hux said was put in place to ensure the Imperials had a true leader to guide them. This implies that this project was meant to clone Emperor Palpatine or, at the very least, produce Supreme Leader Snoke. As such, it is clear that the Palpatine we saw during the events of The Rise of Skywalker was a clone created from the original Palpatine’s genetic material.
It is also suggested that even Snoke was created using cloning. But while Snoke was powerful and could use the Force, it was said that his body wasn’t strong enough to handle Palpatine’s power and malice. That is the reason why Snoke was allowed to lead the First Order as Palpatine’s substitute and puppet.
Meanwhile, because the clone’s body wasn’t strong enough to handle his power, Palpatine was left to rule the First Order secretly in Exegol, the planet of the Sith Eternal. He had a deteriorated body that only became more deteriorated due to his connection to the dark side of the Force.
As such, while the clones in Star Wars were designed to be genetic matches to their donors, they aren’t perfect, as they aren’t capable of handling the same kind of power that natural-born biological creatures are capable of. In Palpatine’s case, he may have been able to return as a clone, but clones were far too weak to handle his power.