Have you ever wondered to yourself about one of your favorite franchises and thought it didn’t need to be improved or modified? That certainly rings true for a lot of Star Wars fans out there in our galaxy. Having attended the panel for the Ten Year Anniversary of Star Wars: The Clone Wars at San Diego Comic Con 2018, I was floored by the announcement of the Clone Wars’ return. The reveal trailer showed off dialogue from a few characters including several clones such as Captain Rex and Commander Cody, Anakin Skywalker, and Ahsoka Tano. It wasn’t until after I returned from my trip that I realized something: who’s going to provide the voice for my favorite Sith Lord, Darth Sidious? An idea sprung to mind then, what if Ian McDiarmid returned to portray Palpatine in Star Wars: The Clone Wars?
Throughout the time that the Clone Wars was on air, the character of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine was portrayed by two actors: the late Ian Abercrombie, who was then followed by the incomparable Tim Curry. Abercrombie delighted in his portrayal of Palpatine, demonstrating the vocal ability to depict a steadfast leader, and that of a fatherly role model to Anakin Skywalker. In equal measure, when Abercrombie had to don the mantle of Dark Lord of the Sith as Darth Sidious, the cold, calculating nature of the character was made ominous and verbose. My personal favorite performance of Abercrombie is the same episode where Sidious made an in-person appearance in the series for the first time, rather than being relegated to a mere hologram. That episode is “The Lawless” from the fifth season.
Sadly, Ian Abercrombie passed away while the Clone Wars was still in production. That left series producer, Dave Filoni the task of recasting the character. Tim Curry took the reigns of the character, and provided his talent through to the series’ supposed end. Let me tell you, his version of Darth Sidious was so gravelly and menacing that I thought he was a wonderful choice to continue the character.
When Disney purchased Lucasfilm the Clone Wars had met its untimely end, and any content planned for a sixth season and beyond became scrapped. Tim Curry finished his role as Palpatine, whose work can be seen in the unaired episodes gathered in the Lost Missions collection, and on Netflix. Tragically, in July 2012, Curry had suffered a major stroke that effectively ended his acting career, as well as a chance of him returning to voice Palpatine.
Now in 2018, with the Clone Wars confirmed to return, who better to take up the torch than the original Darth Sidious himself, Ian McDiarmid? Yes, there’s always the possibility that Dave Filoni could look elsewhere in terms of casting. After all, Emperor Palpatine played a role in Star Wars Rebels being voiced by Sam Witwer, who also played the character in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. In Rebels, when Witwer was Palpatine, the character is never seen on-screen.
For the final season of Rebels, however, Palpatine manifested in body and hologram form. For this special occasion, Dave Filoni had McDiarmid reprise his iconic role. Filoni spoke for the fans when he described getting chills when McDiarmid said his character’s names in the recording booth in Sidious’ boisterous tone, “Ezra Bridger and Ahsoka Tano, mine at last.” It was very surreal to see, and especially hear, that happen.
Not to discredit Sam Witwer, what a fantastic guy. When it comes to Palpatine, I don’t think I’ve heard him use a more tame voice. After all, we’re returning to the Clone Wars, and that means Palpatine is still the beloved Chancellor of the Republic, so he’ll need to keep things a little more hush. No doubt I think he could be up to the task.
Yet this could be the season that the Clone Wars truly goes out. Even in Rebels, Captain Rex describes working with Ahsoka up until the Siege of Mandalore, but we never got to see it due to the series’ cancelation. Now that plot is about to unfold before our eyes. The Ahsoka novel also describes the Siege of Mandalore as the final gathering of Ahsoka, Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Rex. Anakin and Obi-Wan receive emergency orders to return to Coruscant because of the Chancellor being kidnapped by General Grievous, thus directly setting up the Battle of Coruscant and the events of Revenge of the Sith.
One season of Rebels is all that Ian McDiarmid had to work on. If this is truly the ending to the Clone Wars that we’ve been waiting for, I say Lucasfilm goes all out. His spine-tingling performance in Rebels aside, Ian McDiarmid is obviously enamored with the character to have come back for the show. Aside from that, McDiarmid is a regular attendee at several sci-fi and comic conventions, especially as a regular at Star Wars Celebration. I had the pleasure of meeting him there through a signing event, and I asked him to please come back to Palpatine in some way shape or form. Little did I know what was waiting around the corner. I also attended his panel devoted completely to his personification of Palpatine and Darth Sidious, the man even did the character’s howling cackle on cue and the audience ate it up. I mean, have you seen McDiarmid do a Shakespearean Palpatine before? It’s worth checking out.
When it comes to the Clone Wars, Palpatine is such an integral part of this conflict. In fact, he is central to the raging war the show is based on as both the unrelenting Chancellor Palpatine of the Republic, and the cunning Darth Sidious pulling the strings of the Confederacy of Independent Systems. There’s no doubt in my mind that he will appear at some point in the show’s next season as the mastermind he is. To see General Grievous lead an attack on the streets of Coruscant, right into the Senate to kidnap Palpatine has to happen too, unless Count Dooku leads that campaign. You see, the possibilities are highly entertaining and Ian McDiarmid fits the part because he has essentially never left it. This would make the direct tie-in to Revenge of the Sith all the more poignant.
It won’t be long until we see what Dave Filoni and company will be bringing us when the Clone Wars returns. Here’s hoping that Filoni picks up the phone and gives Ian a call to come back just one more time. My fingers are crossed that the Palpatine in Ian’s head tells him to “do it.” Yeah, I’m a total Sidious fanboy, but it’s only because Ian McDiarmid has made the character so memorable that we want him back time after time.
Are you as excited for the return of Star Wars: The Clone Wars as I am? Do you want to see Ian McDiarmid reprise his role too? Let us know in the comments below. Love Star Wars as much as I do? Then check out some of my other written works on the franchise right here on Mammoth Gamers.