Palpatine's 'Rise of Skywalker' throne is a deep cut from Star Wars history

An unused design discarded from 1983's 'Return of the Jedi' resurfaces in the trailer for 'The Rise of Skywalker.'


It’s the end of the Skywalker Saga as we know it, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is putting out all the stops. That includes resurrecting an unused design for Palpatine’s throne, which puts a neat bow on this 30-year story.

On Monday, during a broadcast of Monday Night Football where the Patriots crushed the New York Jets like rebel scum, the final trailer for The Rise of Skywalker premiered. Of the many, many wild moments that pack the two-minute trailer (Rey and Kylo Ren, clashing on the ruins of a Death Star!), the Emperor’s new spiked throne is easily the most chilling visual element. Made of black stone and featuring jagged stone spikes protruding like the legs of a dead spider, Emperor Palpatine’s new crib practically dares you to come hither.

“Long have I waited,” says the Emperor’s disembodied voice booming as the camera inches close to the unoccupied throne. Is the Emperor saying he’s been waiting all this time, since his presumed death at the end of Return of the Jedi, to make his ultimate strike? That idea is fueling a lot of fan speculation at the moment.

But never mind Palpatine. What about the throne? Here’s a little bit of trivia to share at your Halloween party this weekend: The spiked throne is an unused design from original Star Wars concept artist, Ralph McQuarrie. He first drew the piece in 1981, and the concept wasn’t used for 1983’s Return of the Jedi.

On Monday, just as the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker hit the web, Phil Szostak, Lucasfilm creative art manager and author of Star Wars art books (including The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, out December 20) shared on Twitter a McQuarrie illustration for Palpatine’s throne. And the resemblance between the two thrones aren’t just uncanny, they’re exactly the same.

Original 1981 Ralph McQuarrie sketch of Emperor Palpatine's throne. Concepts like these will be featured in the upcoming Star Wars art book, 'The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skyalker' out December 20.


Emperor Palpatine's new throne, in 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.'


“1981 Emperor’s throne room thumbnail sketches by Ralph McQuarrie for #ReturnoftheJedi,” tweeted Szostak. In a follow-up tweet, Szostak promoted the release of The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker as way to “learn more about the inspirations that fueled #StarWars designers and filmmakers.”

It’s unknown exactly why McQuarrie’s spiked throne was discarded back in 1981. Technical limitations and story alterations may have played a factor; another idea for Palpatine’s throne was to be by a boiling lake of lava on the planet Had Abbadon, until the throne room was relocated to be aboard the second Death Star. (The lava, meanwhile, was expanded into the lava planet Mustafar for Revenge of the Sith.)

But the release of The Rise of Skywalker is as good a time as any to bring back ideas and give them a second chance. It’s hard to accept, but we won’t have this chance again. I know. I’m crying already too.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be released in theaters on December 20.

Related Tags