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Wilhuff Tarkin
Biographical information



64 BBY (29BrS), Eriadu


0 BBY (35:3), Death Star I

Physical description





1.8 meters[2]

Hair color

Auburn[2] (graying)[3]

Eye color


Chronological and political information
"Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader's leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board."
Leia Organa

Wilhuff Tarkin was a Human male from Eriadu who became the first Grand Moff and then importantly, the commanding officer of the first Death Star. Born to an influential family, Tarkin lived a life of luxury on the Outer Rim planet Eriadu. Eventually, he became governor of the planet. Tarkin made many influential friends, such as Raith Sienar, and Palpatine.

When the Galactic Empire was formed in 19 BBY under now-Emperor Palpatine, the ambitious Tarkin became a Moff. Not long after, he was promoted to Grand Moff, the first individual to achieve such a rank.

Tarkin quickly gained himself a reputation for being highly competent and ruthlessly efficient. He became very influential, having authority even over Lord Vader, and developed the infamous Tarkin Doctrine, which stated that the threat of force alone would prevent rebellions. During his time in the Empire, Tarkin met a young woman named Natasi Daala, who showed strategic brilliance despite the fact that she was a woman and thus discriminated against. Tarkin took her under his wing, and the two became lovers. She became an admiral, the only female to achieve such a rank. When the Death Star project was commissioned, Tarkin was placed in charge. He used the mighty superweapon to destroy the planet Alderaan, in the belief that this demonstration of power would silence the Rebel Alliance. Tarkin and his theory were wrong, and he died when the Rebels destroyed the Death Star in the Battle of Yavin.



Early life (64 BBY29 BBY)

Governor Tarkin, along with Denn Wessex (left) and Marcellin Wessel (right), in 19 BBY, shortly after the end of the Clone Wars.
"The Republic's forces need a manicure and a heavy trim. And after this success, I'll be the barber, Raith."
"I shall sweep up after you.
―Wilhuff Tarkin and Raith Sienar

Sometime prior to 44 BBY, Tarkin married Thalassa Motti, a member of a wealthy and prestigious patrician family on Phelarion. This was more out of expediency than out of any real romantic sentiment; Thalassa was heir to the substantial fortune earned through her family's centuries-old megonite moss mining business, and through her, Tarkin had access to that wealth.

Tarkin began his career in the Eriadu military. Around 39 BBY he met Raith Sienar; they were apparently classmates at a military academy. By 33 BBY, he had become lieutenant governor of the Seswenna Sector. That year, his mansion was, for a short time, the residence of Supreme Chancellor Valorum, who was on Eriadu representing the Galactic Republic at the Eriadu Trade Summit.

Governor Tarkin.

By that time he had become acquainted with Senator Palpatine; as early as 29 BBY, Tarkin began to work closely with Palpatine, sharing his views on the superiority of Humans and the need for strictly enforced order, and helping him arrange (and stall the investigation into) the murder of the Trade Federation Directorate. Palpatine made him full governor of the Seswenna Sector, as well as appointing him commander of the Republic Outland Regions Security Force. Also at this time, Tarkin had been ordered to keep a watch over Coruscant's Jedi and prevent them from expanding their influence. To this end, he claimed to have spied on Jedi conversations within the temple by passing a broken droid with hidden listening devices onto a young Padawan Jedi Anakin Skywalker, known to be a talented and religious repairer of droids. At this time, he lived in the Prime Senate Spire.

In 29 BBY, he launched an unsuccessful attack on the living planet Zonama Sekot, and presented Palpatine with Raith Sienar's plans for a moon-sized battle station. This would be his first encounter with the Jedi Anakin Skywalker, who would become a future ally in the Galactic Empire.

During this time Tarkin's brother, Gideon, served as Minister of Defense for the Seswenna Sector, presumably appointed by Wilhuff.

The Dark Times (19 BBY0 BBY)

"Rule through the fear of force rather than through force itself."
―Wilhuff Tarkin in the Tarkin Doctrine
Wilhuff Tarkin (left) with Emperor Palpatine and Lord Vader in 19 BBY overlooking the construction of the first Death Star.

As the Republic transitioned into the Galactic Empire, Tarkin rose in prominence through his connections to Palpatine. He was in command of the invasion of Kashyyyk and the occupation of Mon Calamari. In 18 BBY, a group of citizens stood on a landing platform directly underneath his transport, protesting the Imperial taxation on Ghorman. Tarkin ordered his ship to land regardless, crushing hundreds to death. The event marked the first of many acts of cold blooded mass murder at the hands of Tarkin.

This incident was labeled the Ghorman Massacre by Rebels. This action led to Palpatine giving him the rank of Admiral. This marked the early formation of his "Tarkin Doctrine" of suppressing dissent through state terrorism. Tarkin himself often told Palpatine that he should "rule through the fear of force rather than through force itself." He also had a unique relationship with Darth Vader, who trusted Tarkin's judgment to the point of sparing Admiral Conan Antonio Motti's life after Motti had openly defied Vader.

Sometime during the era, he committed the Atravis Sector Massacres.

In 5 BBY, Gideon Tarkin was killed in the Erhynradd Mutiny. Wilhuff then adopted Gideon's orphaned daughter, Rivoche, who ironically would later become an Intelligence agent for the Rebellion. Fortunately for her, her uncle probably never suspected her Rebel sympathies.

There is some confusion as to exactly when Tarkin was promoted from Moff to Grand Moff, an administrative rank created especially to honor him. Early in 18 BBY, it was already being said—at levels of the Imperial hierarchy so high that Darth Vader knew of it—that Tarkin would soon be a Grand Moff, though he had at that point held the rank of Moff for less than a year.[5] Though the time frame is still a matter of discussion among historians, there is firm documentary evidence that it was Advisor Ars Dangor, acting with the blessing and authority of Palpatine himself, who officially promoted him to the rank of Grand Moff, assigning him control of Oversector Outer, an area which comprised most of the Outer Rim Territories.

Tarkin's protégé, Natasi Daala

Around this time, he took an officer named Natasi Daala, a woman who joined the Imperial forces, as his protégé. He became protective of her and promoted her to the rank of Admiral, due to her great tactical skills. Many quietly complained that Daala was sleeping her way to the top. When one of those remarks made its way back to Tarkin, he searched out the officer who had made it. He had the officer sealed inside an environmental suit and ejected him into the space over a planet as punishment. Tarkin had the suit's radio left on so that others could hear the man over the course of 24 hours as his orbit decayed. The officer's orbit decayed to the point where he finally entered the planet's atmosphere and burned up on reentry. However, the allegations were in fact accurate, as Daala did have an affair with Tarkin once she transferred under his command. He had her quietly watch over the weapons-developing installation in the Maw, giving her orders to remain there with four Imperial I-class Star Destroyers at her command. Lady Tarkin, presumably, did not know of this.

Just prior to the Battle of Yavin, Tarkin was traveling by shuttle to the Nebulon-B frigate Vehemence which was due to take him on an inspection of the Death Star. A Rebel raid on his shuttle in the Eriadu system resulted in the escape of his Mon Calamari slave, Ackbar, although Tarkin was able to escape the assassination attempt just before the Rebels attacked. Ackbar would later become one of the Empire's greatest enemies.

During the same time, it is known that Grand Moff Tarkin visited one of the Imperial-class Star Destroyers of his own fleet, the Allecto. This routine mission was, however, disturbed when his shuttle was violently attacked by three squadrons of Rebel starfighters, which tried to shoot him down and inflict severe damage to the Star Destroyer. Unfortunately for the Rebels, a disaster was eluded—as the Rebels were destroyed.

The Destruction of Alderaan and the Battle of Yavin (0 BBY)

"A major part of this station's value is as a deterrent. We must prove to the galaxy that we are prepared to use it at the slightest provocation."
"If your plan serves our purpose, it will justify itself."
"The stability of the Empire is at stake. A planet is a small price to pay."
―Wilhuff Tarkin and Darth Vader
Grand Moff Tarkin aboard the first Death Star.

It is alleged that while commanding the Death Star, Tarkin considered using the superlaser to destroy Coruscant while the Emperor was there to become ruler of the galaxy. Motti actually insisted that they strike before they were removed.[6] Emperor Palpatine himself suspected him of having more ambition than he let on, so he sent Vader to oversee the Death Star's construction, albeit putting Vader under Tarkin's control so as not to arouse suspicion, as well as prompting Mara Jade to train to infiltrate Tarkin's estate.

Alongside Admiral Motti and High General Cassio Tagge, Tarkin formed a triumvirate that commanded the first Death Star. He issued the order to destroy Princess Leia's home planet of Alderaan in a brutal and unabashed show of force typical of the Tarkin Doctrine. During the Battle of Yavin, Tarkin was notified of the Rebels' strategy and that there might be a threat to the battle station. However, Tarkin in his pride for the weapon ignored the officer and this notion of escaping. Had Tarkin listened, and deployed more of the TIE/ln starfighters docked in the station, the Rebels might have been defeated. Tarkin and everyone else on the station perished when Luke Skywalker fired his proton torpedoes down the station's thermal exhaust port, moments before the Death Star was to obliterate the Rebel facility.

Officially, the Empire announced that Tarkin and his staff died when their shuttle crashed in the Tallaani Shipyards[1] during an inspection of fleets preparing to be dispatched to the Outer Rim. Later, Han Solo and Chewbacca were formally charged by the Empire for murdering Tarkin. His widow had a monument built on Phelarion in his honor, and she sought to avenge his death and make the Rebels pay.[7]

Personality and traits

From the beginning of his career, Wilhuff Tarkin gained a reputation for being an extremely cunning and competent individual, both as a politician and a military officer. Tarkin was a firm believer of both human superiority over any other race and the need of a strong centralized government that quickly and mercilessly enforced order. His personal beliefs would later be condensed in his infamous doctrine and his friend Sienar's brainchild, the Death Star.[2]

Grand Moff Tarkin

Tarkin was also an ambitious and ruthless commander, expecting and demanding excellence at all times from any of his underlings. There too he applied the principle of ruling through the fear of force rather than force itself: He would make an object lesson of one person, with the unspoken threat: "Don't fail me, or suffer the same fate!"[8]

As a person, Tarkin could only be described as cold: he would rarely if ever display any emotion to anyone, keeping a firm rein on both joy and anger, and facing any situation with cold, merciless logic. The only notable exception to this rule was in private with Admiral Daala, yet even there, he would instantly switch back to "business mode" and ignore Daala's charms if the situation asked for it. He also possessed a vengeful streak, and would ruthlessly eliminate any who crossed him.[9]

Tarkin enjoyed a privileged relationship with the Emperor, being one of the few people allowed to speak freely in his presence. Although Darth Sidious did not trust Tarkin blindly (as is evidenced by his training of Mara Jade to infiltrate Tarkin's estate[10]), he respected Tarkin's cunning and intelligence, going as far as to incorporate Tarkin's view on politics into his own approach to ruling the galaxy.[11]

Tarkin's relationship to Vader was less pleasant: Tarkin actually resented Vader's meddling in his affairs and feared his Force powers which he did not understand, however he respected the Dark Lord's even greater ruthlessness and competence. Tarkin knew fully that whatever Darth Vader took upon himself to do, he would finish, and that he could consider those matters as settled. Vader, on his side, disregarded Tarkin as negligible (as he would anyone who was not Force-sensitive), yet respected his drive and competence enough to allow Tarkin to take the lead whenever they were paired by Sidious, fully knowing that Tarkin would get Sidious' wishes done, and that he could concentrate on more important matters.[9]

Behind the scenes

Character creation

The character of Wilhuff Tarkin was based on Governor Crispin Hoedaack, a character in George Lucas' The Star Wars: Rough Draft. Hoedaack, an ambitious Human male with "angular features" and "gray eyes", was an Imperial military commander ordered by Emperor Cos Dashit to conquer the Aquilaean system, one of the last Independent Systems. However, Hoedaack perishes when the Empire's space fortress, in which the Death Star was based on, is destroyed by Luke Skywalker and Wookiee pilots. Ultimately, Lucas replaced Governor Hoedaack with an Imperial character whom he named Grand Moff Tarkin.

However, the name Tarkin was taken from Grande Mouff Tarkin, a character who appeared in early drafts of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The character was substantially different in personality than Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin; notably, he was described as "thin and birdlike". In The Star Wars: Rough Draft and the following The Star Wars: First Draft, Tarkin was a religious leader on Aquilae or Townowi, but in third draft, Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode I: The Star Wars, and fourth draft, The Star Wars: From The Adventures of Luke Starkiller, he was depicted as the Rebel leader of the Kesselian Dragoons on Yavin 4.[12]


In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Grand Moff Tarkin was played by veteran English actor and former Hammer horror film regular Peter Cushing. When Cushing complained that the boots required for Tarkin's costume were too small for him, Lucas allowed Cushing to wear a pair of slippers during shooting. As the result, the scenes involving Tarkin's presence were filmed from the waist up. Cushing died in 1994, but, eleven years later, Tarkin was portrayed by Wayne Pygram, well-known for his role as Scorpius in Farscape, in the 2005 film Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Originally, Lucas had planned to to edit clips of Cushing from A New Hope, but the poor quality of film made this impossible, as well as the fact that Cushing had asked to be filmed from the waist up because of his uncomfortable boots, and Tarkin's scene required a full-body shot. According to animation director Rob Coleman, he discussed with Christopher Lee, who played Count Dooku in the film and was Cushing's close friend, of resurrecting the actor as a digital character model until Pygram was casted to play Tarkin.[13] Pygram had to go through extensive prosthetic makeup that was designed to make him look like a younger Cushing.

Tarkin was voiced by Keene Curtis in the Star Wars radio drama, by actor Paul Darrow of Blake's 7 fame in Star Wars: Empire at War, and by Nick Jameson, who also portrays Darth Sidious in various video games, in Star Wars: X-wing.


While Grand Moff Tarkin's name was based on Grande Mouff Tarkin from early drafts, there is debate over where Tarkin's name is originated. It is no secret that George Lucas borrowed many names and themes from previous books and visual media sources. Lucas, who loved the concept of a classic fairy tale, may have used the fictional word "Tarkaan" as a basis for this villain. The word "Tarkaan" is a title bestowed upon high military captains of the villainous Calormenes, the antagonists in several volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia. That title was itself probably derived from Tarkhan, an ancient Turkic title for high military officers. The title of Grand Moff may come from Grand Mufti, the highest religious rank in Sunni Muslim countries.

Tarkin's name also resembles that of Tarquin the Proud, the last King of Rome, whose reign was characterized by bloodshed and violence and immediately preceded the establishment of the Roman Republic.

The free software video codec Tarkin was named after Grand Moff Tarkin, as, possibly, was the character Baron Von Tarkin in the 2003 computer game Heroes of Might and Magic IV: Winds of War.

His first name, Wilhuff, was revealed on LucasArts' 1994 CD-ROM Star Wars Screen Entertainment.


  • Darth Maul: Saboteur
  • Cloak of Deception
  • Rogue Planet
  • Boba Fett: Pursuit
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith novel
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith comic
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  • Republic HoloNet News Special Inaugural Edition 16:5:24
  • Pax Empirica (Mentioned only)
  • Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader
  • The Last of the Jedi: A Tangled Web
  • The Last of the Jedi: Secret Weapon
  • The Last of the Jedi: Against the Empire (Mentioned only)
  • Star Wars: Empire at War
  • The Farlander Papers (Mentioned only)
  • Star Wars Empire: Betrayal (Mentioned only)
  • Star Wars: X-wing
  • Mara Jade: By the Emperor's Hand
  • Interlude at Darkknell (Mentioned only)
  • Death Star
  • Star Wars Empire: Darklighter
  • Star Wars Journal: The Fight for Justice (Mentioned only)
  • Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope novel (First appearance)
  • Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  • Star Wars (radio)
  • Star Wars 1
  • Star Wars 2: Six Against the Galaxy
  • Star Wars 3: Death Star
  • Star Wars 5: Lo, The Moons of Yavin
  • Star Wars 6: Is This the Final Chapter?
  • Perfect Evil
  • "Galaxywide NewsNets" - Star Wars Adventure Journal 3 (Mentioned only)
  • Play It Again, Figrin D'an: The Tale of Muftak and Kabe (Mentioned only)
  • Star Wars Empire 13: What Sin Loyalty? (Mentioned only)
  • Imperial Spin (Mentioned only)
  • Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron
  • Star Wars Missions 1: Assault on Yavin Four (Mentioned only)
  • Star Wars Missions 2: Escape from Thyferra (holorecording)
  • Star Wars Missions 3: Attack on Delrakkin (holorecording)
  • Star Wars Missions 4: Destroy the Liquidator (Mentioned only)
  • Star Wars Missions 17: Darth Vader's Return (Mentioned only)
  • Star Wars Missions 18: Rogue Squadron to the Rescue (Appears in hologram)
  • Star Wars Missions 19: Bounty on Bonadan (Mentioned only)
  • Star Wars Missions 20: Total Destruction (Mentioned only)
  • Star Wars 25: Siege at Yavin (Mentioned only)
  • Darth Vader Strikes (Mentioned only)
  • Vader's Quest (Mentioned only)
  • Galaxy of Fear: Planet Plague (Mentioned only)
  • Allegiance (Mentioned only)
  • Star Wars Empire: "General" Skywalker (Appears in flashback(s))
  • Star Wars: Rebellion (Mentioned only)
  • Princess Leia, Imperial Servant (Mentioned only)
  • Splinter of the Mind's Eye (Mentioned only)
  • Splinter of the Mind's Eye comic (Mentioned only)
  • The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader (Appears in flashback(s))
  • X-wing Rogue Squadron: Requiem for a Rogue (Mentioned only)
  • X-wing Rogue Squadron 25: The Making of Baron Fel (Appears in flashback(s))
  • X-wing Rogue Squadron 26: Family Ties, Part 1 (Mentioned only)
  • X-wing: Rogue Squadron (Mentioned only)
  • A Grand Admiral Returns (Mentioned only)
  • The Courtship of Princess Leia (Mentioned only)
  • Dark Force Rising (Mentioned only)
  • X-wing: Isard's Revenge (Mentioned only)
  • Jedi Search (Mentioned only)
  • Dark Apprentice (Appears in hologram)
  • Champions of the Force (Mentioned only)
  • Children of the Jedi (Mentioned only)
  • Darksaber (Appears in flashback(s))
  • "Two for One" - Star Wars Adventure Journal 15 (Mentioned only)
  • Vision of the Future (Mentioned only)
  • Star Wars: Union (Appears in dream)
  • Survivor's Quest (Mentioned only)
  • Young Jedi Knights: Heirs of the Force (Mentioned only)
  • Dark Tide I: Onslaught (Mentioned only)
  • Balance Point (Mentioned only)
  • Edge of Victory II: Rebirth (Mentioned only)
  • Force Heretic I: Remnant (Mentioned only)
  • Force Heretic III: Reunion (Appears in flashback(s))
  • The Final Prophecy (Mentioned only)
  • The Unifying Force (Mentioned only)
  • Revelation (Mentioned only)
  • Outcast (Mentioned only)
  • Omen (Mentioned only)

Non-canon appearances


Notes and references

One of Grand Moff Tarkin's Code cylinder.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The New Essential Guide to Characters
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 The Essential Guide to Characters
  3. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  4. Rogue Planet
  5. Last of the Jedi: Against the Empire
  6. Star Wars (radio)
  7. Princess Leia, Imperial Servant
  8. Darksaber
  9. 9.0 9.1 Death Star
  10. Mara Jade: By the Emperor's Hand
  11. Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader
  12. The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film
  13. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith commentary track

See also

External links

This article uses material from the "Wilhuff Tarkin" article on the Starwars wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Star Wars Fanon

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