The Rise of Skywalker brought Sheev Palpatine back from the dead and gave him a new clone body. It also revealed Snoke was nothing more than a lab creation imbued with Force powers. But while the film merely referenced “dark science” and “secrets only the Sith knew” to explain how any of that was possible, Star Wars has continued to explore the history of that sinister science program on Disney+ shows, especially on The Mandalorian. How did Palpatine “somehow” return? And how did his followers engineer Snoke from scratch? Here’s everything we’ve learned about the Emperor’s efforts to cheat death forever.
The Rise of Skywalker and the Resurrection of Palpatine
Kylo Ren found Palpatine alive but not exactly kicking on the hidden barren Sith world of Exegol in the Unknown Regions. For decades, the Emperor’s loyal followers had worked in secret to resurrect their evil Lord via a new clone body which his spirit could inhabit.
With his clone form far from full power and dependent on a support system that kept him (literally) attached to Exegol, though, Palpatine needed someone to work in his stead. For that he had his loyal followers build him Snoke (and many Snoke copies).
The First Order’s Supreme Leader was a sentient bioengineered marionette that was also strong with the Force. Long before the cloners of Kamino had simply made modified copies of a normal human. But Palpatine’s scientists went much further by making one of the galaxy’s most powerful individuals from scratch. How did they do that?
It took decades of research full of trial and many errors, as Obi-Wan Kenobi showed the creation of Snoke and a clone Palpatine dated back to the start of the Empire itself.
What We Learned About Palpatine’s Cloning Program From Obi-Wan Kenobi
On Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi Master made a terrifying discovery at the Fortress Inquisitorius. The Imperial stronghold contained a secret tomb where the Emperor kept the bodies of Force-sensitive people encased in an amber-like material. This hidden lair was no mere trophy room, either. Those dead Jedi and those strong in the Force were being held as specimens, a part of the early days of Palpatine’s cloning program.
The Emperor was planning on cheating death from from the very beginning of his reign. And we had an idea of what he needed from those preserved bodies thanks to what we’d already seen on The Mandalorian. The Sith Lord’s dark science program needed midi-chlorian rich blood. But with time those scientists realized at least some of that blood and its genetic material needed to come from a living specimen.
Moff Gideon’s Hunt for Grogu on The Mandalorian
Loyal Imperial officer Moff Gideon led Palpatine’s dark science program in the immediate years after the Empire’s fall. His main objective during that era and a major plot of The Mandalorian was his quest to find Grogu. He previously had the Child in his possession and was desperate to get him back because he needed more of Grogu’s blood. Lead Imperial cloning scientist Dr. Pershing was only able to extract so much without killing Grogu, showing that previous attempts to use dead Force users proved ineffective.
The need for Grogu’s blood wasn’t that scene’s only revelation. It also showed small Snoke-like bodies in vats at an Imperial outpost.
Gideon’s program wasn’t just about creating a Palpatine clone. It was also vital to making the Emperor’s proxy. A clone body is very different from creating new life from scratch, though. So how did Snoke go from an idea to ruling the galaxy? Season three of The Mandalorian provided major insight into the unholy breakthrough.
Dr. Pershing’s Advanced Clone Work for the Empire
“Chapter 19” of The Mandalorian revealed Dr. Pershing enrolled in the New Republic’s amnesty program on Coruscant for former Imperial officers. There he gave an arena speech about his past cloning work. He bemoaned the way Moff Gideon (and by extension Palpatine) had turned his work evil while extolling the potential virtues of his research. He said he started off wanting to save people like his late mother from fatal ailments. In doing so he seemed to also explain how later in the Star Wars timeline the Emperor’s scientists (possibly even the now memory-wiped Pershing himself) will soon create the Snoke that will recruit Ben Solo. Here’s what Pershing said about the horrifying scientific advancement doomed to become a reality:
Thanks to the groundbreaking work of the Kaminoans, we know that cloning can duplicate an individual from a single genetic strand. What my work explored was the hopes of combining multiple strands that created replicas that incorporated the best genetic attributes of both donors.
Snoke and his many copies were not a clone of any known individual the way the Clone Army soldiers were modified copies of Jango Fett. Nor was he a one-for-one recreation of a previous body like Palpatine’s clone body. Snoke was an entirely new being made from scratch, and Dr. Pershing explained what ingredients went into Snoke. They took the “best” genetic code of multiple individuals and made something new.
But while we know Pershing’s work will lead to a entirely new life that will terrorize the galaxy, we don’t know who supplied the necessary genetic ingredients used to make Snoke.
Which Force Users Did the Empire Use to Make Snoke?
Which individuals did scientists like Pershing use to make Snoke? Whose blood and genetic material contributed to the First Order leader? Was he a mix of the Emperor and Grogu? Grogu and Darth Vader? Multiple Jedi and Sith? Was he even partly made from Ben Solo, already alive at this time?
Star Wars and The Mandalorian have started giving us important answers that The Rise of Skywalker didn’t. But there’s still so much we have to learn about the Emperor’s attempts to cheat death.
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.