Obi-Wan Kenobi‘s fourth episode featured an unexpected nightmare. Fortress Inquisitorius isn’t just the home base for Palpatine’s squad of Jedi hunters. It contains a secret tomb of Force-sensitive people. It’s much more than just a Sith trophy room, though. That secret level marks the origins of Star Wars‘ most notorious plot—Palpatine’s efforts to attain the unnatural power of immortality.
The Empire had complete confidence in Fortress Inquisitorius. Palpatine believed it so impenetrable the base wasn’t even outfitted with shields. Typical Imperial arrogance aside, it’s not hard to see why. The fortress sat on a water moon in the Mustafar System, Darth Vader’s own personal solar system. It also served as the center of the Inquisitors operations, and only a desperate Jedi would try to attack those deadly dark side followers. But even if someone did try to break in, most of the building sat deep under water, adding another level of protection.
Just because it lacked shields, though, doesn’t mean it lacked security. The Inquisitorial command center came equipped with a fleet of TIE Fighters. It also had security checkpoints, squadrons of stormtroopers, Imperial officers, seeker droids, and even Purge Troopers. And as Tala found learned when she searched the base’s computer system, the fortress was designed to keep its greatest secrets hidden.
Obi-Wan discovered exactly how horrible that secret was. On a secure level deep under water, on a floor guarded by both patrols and droids, he found a tomb. Inside a long room with two levels, Vader and the Emperor kept the bodies of slain Jedi and Force-sensitive people. Each corpse marked another notch in Palpatine’s decades-long quest to eliminate potential enemies, both young and old.
If that room was nothing more than a sick monument to Order 66 and the slaughter that followed, it would have been a terrifying reminder of Palaptine’s reign. But the specifics of the tomb reveal it to be so much more.
Everyone throughout the galaxy knew the Empire hunted Jedi. Citizens of Tatooine, a planet in the Outer Rim, knew about the Inquisitors and their purpose. Jedi were wanted individuals everywhere. That’s why the Path existed. Keeping Force-sensitive individuals’ true identity a total secret was the only way to keep them safe.
So why keep a Jedi tomb not only hidden but under lock and key at one of your most secure locations? Why not display their bodies around the galaxy as a warning, the way tyrants often put their victims heads on spikes on the city gates? It’s not like the Empire was above such scare tactics. They did exactly that in Obi-Wan Kenobi’s first episode when the Inquisitors left the corpse of Benny Safdie’s Jedi Nari hanging over the streets of Tatooine. More importantly, why have stormtroopers and seeker droids protecting those bodies from prying eyes? Why do you need security to keep that room safe? The answer lies in how Palpatine encased those bodies.
Obi-Wan did not discover a room full of stuffed Jedi on pedestals. He didn’t even come across maimed and deformed bodies. He found carefully preserved corpses locked inside an amber-like fluid, as though they had been frozen in liquid before dying. (Which is why most died with their eyes open and shock on their face.) In fact, those translucent yellow and orange shells looked exactly like the amber that contained mosquitos in Jurassic Park. And that’s no accident, because Palpatine’s plans for those corpses were the same as John Hammond’s for those mosquitos—cloning.
The Rise of Skywalker revealed Sheev Palpatine had not only created Snoke, he managed to return via “dark science, cloning, secrets only the Sith knew.” The most unnatural of all Sith secrets fulfills the promise of Darth Plagueis, as powerful dark side users have often staved off certain death in Star Wars. As for the dark science, The Mandalorian has explored what went into the Emperor’s search for immortality. Four years after Palpatine’s death, Dr. Pershing, who wears the symbol of Kamino cloners, told Moff Gideon he required Grogu’s midi-chlorian rich blood for their secret project.
The success of Pershing and Gideon’s efforts would not come for many years, when Snoke took command of the First Order. But what Obi-Wan Kenobi, set a decade before A New Hope, has revealed is that Palpatine’s ultimate plan began long before he died.
In The Rise of Skywalker, Dominic Monaghan’s Beaumont Kin said that when it came to the Emperor, “There were always whispers of his hunger to cheat death.” Now we know that hunger—which would have been too nefarious for even some of the Empire’s most loyal supporters—dated back at least to the height of his reign. That tomb on Fortress Inquisitorius marked the beginning of the Sith Lord’s unnatural project; Palpatine preserved those hidden bodies to use them the same way Jurassic Park‘s scientists used the mosquitos. Imperial scientists planned to extract organic material that would build Palpatine his own clone bodies.
It obviously didn’t work. (Likely because a dead body—even one unharmed—is no longer part of the Living Force and therefore can’t be mined for midi-chlorians.) That’s why years later the Empire turned towards using a living subject like Grogu. Through trial and error, Palpatine learned the “dark science” required a living Force-sensitive individual. Particularly one with an unusually high “M-count.”
Palpatine’s greatest aspiration didn’t come when he died. It was a lifelong goal. Ruling the galaxy and killing Jedi was always part of his plan to wield the most unnatural and most sinister Sith power. But achieving immortality wasn’t easy even for him. It took years of false starts and stymied attempts. That’s why the only thing sadder than seeing those people encased in amber is knowing their bodies contributed to so much more death in the future.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.