The Death Star has a huge role, pun intended, to play in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. James Luceno's Tarkin established none other than Wilhuff Tarkin was put in a position to oversee the project, so it seems to be a given that he'll appear in the upcoming film. I believe we spotted him in the second official trailer, but I'm even more convinced he's in the new "Breath" television spot; pause the below video at about five seconds in and see what you think.
The back of that head looks like Tarkin to me... not that I've spent a ton of time looking at Tarkin and examining the shape of his head.
Given the Imperial officer's impending presence in Rogue One and overall role in the Star Wars universe, it's a fine time to look at his history. When we first met him in A New Hope, he was one of the few officers Darth Vader listened to. Let's touch on some important things to know about Tarkin and his history.
Time with Palpatine
Tarkin and Palpatine go way back. The Grand Moff met the future Emperor while training at the Sullust Sector Spacefarers Academy. Tarkin was in his 20s and had come to the academy after being part of a security force that protected his homeworld of Eriadu. It was Palpatine, then a senator representing Naboo, who asked Tarkin to consider a career in politics. Tarkin resisted at first, instead pursuing a path at the Republic's Judicial Academy (Palpatine helped him get in). Tarkin made his mark in the Judicial Department but eventually followed Palpatine's advice about politics and pursued military service once the Clone Wars began.
To Serve and Protect
Speaking of that political career, Tarkin returned to Eriadu and governed the planet. The position offered Tarkin power and the ability to learn and use leadership qualities that would serve his military career.
History with Anakin Skywalker
During one mission in the Clone Wars, Tarkin served as a captain under Jedi Master Even Piell and had a few encounters with Anakin Skywalker. Anakin, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Ahsoka Tano were actually responsible for freeing Tarkin from a formidable Separatist prison called the Citadel. Tarkin and Anakin found a mutual respect for each other. I wouldn't say they were pals, but they shared some similar views about the role of the Jedi Order in the war. His appearances in Star Wars: The Clone Wars began with "The Citadel" in season three.
This line Tarkin mentioned to Anakin says a lot: "I find their tactics ineffective. The Jedi Code prevents them from going far enough to achieve victory, to do whatever it takes to win, the very reason why peacekeepers should not be leading a war. "
Anakin and Tarkin's working relationship was strained when Tarkin, an admiral at this point, was involved with the mess with Ahsoka at the end of season five of The Clone Wars. He was responsible for leading the investigation on the terrorist attack of the Jedi Temple and ultimately prosecuted Ahsoka (wrongly) for the crime.
Tarkin didn't have room for shades of gray. When the Empire formed, they targeted worlds known to be aligned with the Separatists in order to quash any rebellions. Tarkin was assigned to take care of Antar 4. He went overboard, not bothering to sort Separatists from those following the Republic. He ordered arrests and massacres and attracted unwelcome attention from the media for the "Antar Atrocity." To get Tarkin out of the spotlight, Palpatine maneuvered Tarkin into the Western Reaches.
What's in a Title?
Ever the ambitious ladder climber, Tarkin continually worked to rise through the ranks. Emperor Palpatine made Tarkin the Empire's first Grand Moff. He was also the Governor of the Outer Rim. Because of the latter role, he appeared in Star Wars Rebels. He was tasked with restoring order to Lothal and other planets in the Outer Rim and making sure they met production demands. Lothal had a makeshift camp named after him: Tarkintown. The residents of the slum were forced from their homes and farms by Tarkin.
Mission with Vader
We saw Tarkin working with Vader aboard the Death Star, but a successful mission with Vader led to Tarkin's promotion to Grand Moff. Palpatine assigned the duo to track the people responsible for attacking Sentinel Base (the location where Tarkin was overseeing Death Star construction from). They completed the mission and eventually learned a person Palpatine trusted, Vice Admiral Dodd Rancit, was conspiring against the Empire. They worked well together, and the mission was just one of their team-ups.
Grand Moff Tarkin was responsible for overseeing the construction of the Death Star. Before being appointed to that role, Rogue One: Catalyst illustrated his competition with Orson Krennic. Each of them had their eyes on higher ranks and engaged in tactics to undercut the other. If not for some failures, Krennic could have been in Tarkin's position.
Images: Lucasfilm/Disney, Del Rey
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