I am a huge fan of fan theories, especially ones that make us look at our favorite stories in a new light. One of my favorite theories states that Darth Sidious, otherwise known as Emperor Palpatine of the Galactic Empire, was actually looking out for the Galaxy’s best interests in his rise to power. While the old Expanded Universe (EU) is no longer canon to the franchise, there is a substantial amount of evidence pointing to Palpatine’s true motives: protecting the galaxy from an unimaginable threat, the Yuuzhan Vong.
The Vong were a terrifying race of sadistic warlords who sought to infest the Galaxy and devour all who stood against them. They spread quickly, using their massive world-ships to move nearly unopposed from system to system. The newly formed Republic (which rose following the collapse of the Empire) was unable to properly deal with them, allowing the Vong to take nearly half of the galaxy, killing trillions.
Literally everything the Empire did, according to the old EU, was meant to oppose the Vong. Their super weapons for instance, ranging from the Death Star to the devastating Galaxy Gun, would have been valuable to have in the fight against the Vong as they would have been able to stop their planet-sized colony ships. Throw in a sizeable star-fleet and an equally vast military, and you would have had an armed force that was more than capable of defeating the Vong.
In Palpatine’s eyes, the Republic would have been completely ineffective in the fight against the invaders. He saw the Republic for what it was, a bureaucratic mess run by politicians who were known to be corrupt, and maintained by a small army of monks who would have tried to kill him on sight had he revealed himself to broker an alliance. They would have justified his death as well, citing their dogmatic beliefs that the Sith were meant to be destroyed on sight.
Yes, Palpatine drew his power from the dark side. Yes, he was the latest in a very long line of ancient dark lords who sought to rule the Galaxy from the shadows. But this is only knowledge imparted upon us by the movies, movies which need a villain for the heroes to overthrow. While we know that the actions of the Emperor are definitely heinous, we also know that he had very good reasons for doing some of the things that he did. The Empire had one goal: the survival of all sentient life in the Galaxy, and they were willing to sacrifice certain freedoms for the pragmatic goal of survival. While their actions have resulted in massacres (See: Alderaan), this is nothing new to a Galaxy where even the Jedi will take part in similar genocides.
While we definitely see the Jedi as valiant defenders of the weak during times of crisis, the Jedi are far from the saints that we know them as. Five thousand years before the Clone Wars, a group of Republic explorers accidentally made contact with Korriban, the home planet of Sith species. The Sith at this time were far removed from the Sith as we know them in the films. They were a paranoid race of force users. Being no strangers to invasions by hostile races (having barely survived an invasion from another empire thousands of years earlier), the Sith Empire launched a preemptive attack on the Republic. By the end of the First Hyperspace War, infighting among the Sith armies had allowed the Republic to take much of their territories from them. Under orders from the Supreme Chancellor, Republic forces enacted a brutal genocide of the Sith people out of fear of future Sith resurgences. The Jedi themselves took part willingly, fearing the Sith’s strong connection to the dark side. Many innocents, mostly women and children, were mercilessly wiped out by the Republic and their Jedi allies. What few survivors there were fled into deep space, where they wandered for decades with the horrors of the war still fresh in their minds. Eventually, they settled on Dromund Kass. It was here that they plotted their (very) justifiable revenge, as seen in the Old Republic. The conflict was long, bloody and costly. Eventually, both sides agreed to a cease-fire and signed the Treaty of Coruscant, marking the end of one war and the beginning of a long, cold one.
Warning: Old Republic spoilers ahead.
Going into the game, the player expects two things: The Jedi and their Republic allies are the heroes, while the Sith-led Imperials are the villains.
Numerous examples, mostly found in the Republic-side of the game, paint these sides in surprisingly different lights. Much is said about the amount of effort that the Empire puts into their literal war machine. They will spend billions of credits at the drop of a hat to turn blood, sweat and durasteel into complex contraptions meant to turn planets into smoldering husks. These actions are seen as evil, but nobody complains when the Republic does it. Few people even know that the Republic is incompetent enough to allow these super weapons to get stolen.
Throughout the Jedi Knight Storyline, you are tasked with making sure that these weapons are never used against you, weapons which the Republic would have no qualms about using against their Sith enemies. While you are protecting them from Imperials in most cases, knowledge of the Sith’s full history paints a different picture of their intentions. When you consider that their entire history is full of back to back genocide, these intentions become clearer when confronting weapons like the Planet Prison, a planetary shield designed to protect population centers from orbital bombardment which also has the ability to incinerate them. Then there is the Shock Drum, an earthquake weapon that can level entire continents in minutes. Finally, there is the Death mark, a focused beam that can be fired from orbit targeting anyone on the planet, a perfect and nearly undetectable weapon of assassination against a government ruled by powerful force users.
Among the other things that the Republic is also guilty of, there are all the human experiments. Eclipse Squad, an elite commando unit lead by Republic General Garza comes to mind. They were an attempt by the Republic to utilize recovered Rakatan cybernetics recovered from a raid on a lab run by the Order of Revan. This untested technology was implanted into the bodies of six volunteers. Almost immediately, the project backfired when the Squad went berserk and massacred nearly two hundred Republic soldiers. Using her rank and position, Garza ordered the Republic Trooper to kill the members of Eclipse Squad. The mission itself is framed as one of mercy, but it becomes quickly apparent that you are just covering Garza’s tracks. In fact, depending on your choices, Garza has a chance to get off clean and avoid any and all consequences for her actions.
Speaking of the Order of Revan, there have been times in which the Sith Empire was willing to offer assistance in times of crisis. During the Shadow of Revan story arch, the Empire, while initially hostile, put aside their differences with the Republic to crush a conspiracy that would have destroyed both sides. The Order of Revan, cultists lead by the famed Jedi/Sith Revan of KOTOR fame, had gathered on Yavin to resurrect the Sith Emperor Vitiate (previously killed in the Jedi Knight storyline), so that Revan could destroy him once and for all. This would have been disastrous for the entire galaxy, as Vitiate was an extremely dangerous individual bent on consuming all life in the galaxy, Republic and Imperial alike. Should Revan’s mission fail, Vitiate would be resurrected and all would be lost.
Much later on, during the Eternal Empire and Throne storyline, the Sith Empire actually came through for the Eternal Alliance at the risk of their own annihilation by the Eternal Fleet. When the aforementioned Sith Emperor had been resurrected in Shadow of Revan, he had assumed the form of Emperor Valkorion, ruler of the Eternal Empire. Valkorion conquered the galaxy in a massive military campaign that left both the Republic and the Sith Empire devastated. The Sith, having tasted subjugation for the first time in millennia, offered their support as you built your own rebel alliance to topple the Eternal Empire. Not only were they 100% on your side for the duration of the story, they never once tried to betray you. Meanwhile, the Republic attempted to have you (along with the Sith Empress) assassinated in order to take control of the Alliance.
Now, I fully understand what the Imperials are truly capable of. What I hope to bring to this article was perspective that might shed some new light on the Sith and their motivations. Everything the Sith Empire does in the Old Republic is rooted in a desire to become more powerful, which itself was formed from a desire to survive in the wake of several extinction level events. Meanwhile, the Jedi and the Republic have shown themselves time and time again to be closed-minded and greedy. While the Sith Empire does do some very evil things, they are at least open and honest about what they do. They are a society ruled by strength because they have to be, because to be anything else at any point in their history meant death. They have no qualms about killing to succeed, but at least they will be open about it. Whenever the Republic needs to be held accountable for their crimes, they deflect the blame and cover-up any evidence of their involvement to avoid the consequences of their own actions. The Sith Empire makes mistakes, yes, but they are far more human than their Republic and Jedi counterparts.