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Grand Moff Tarkin

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Grand Moff Tarkin
Star Wars character
First appearanceStar Wars (1977)
Created byGeorge Lucas
Portrayed by
Voiced by
In-universe information
  • Captain
  • Admiral
  • Governor of Eriadu
  • Moff
  • Grand Moff
  • Station Commander
SpouseThalassa Tarkin (Legends only)
Significant othersNatasi Daala (lover, Legends only)
ChildrenEllian Zahra (surrogate daughter)
Garoche Tarkin (son, Legends only)
RelativesJova Tarkin (great-uncle)
Gideon Tarkin (brother, Legends only)
Rivoche Tarkin (niece, Legends only)
Ranulph Tarkin (cousin, Legends only)
Saro (daughter-in-law, Legends only)
Voren Na'al (nephew-in-law. Legends only)

Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin is a fictional character in the Star Wars franchise, introduced as the main antagonist of the original 1977 Star Wars film[a] (although he has less screen time than his iconic equal Darth Vader), in which he was played by Peter Cushing. In the film, Tarkin is depicted as a high-ranking officer of the Galactic Empire, placed in charge of the operations on the Death Star, the Empire's moon–sized battle station. He orders the destruction of the planet Alderaan by the station's superlaser, and dies at the end of the film when the Death Star is destroyed by Luke Skywalker.

Apart from the original film, Tarkin has made appearances in various canon and non-canon Star Wars media, including the animated series The Clone Wars, Rebels, and The Bad Batch, and the films Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One. He is also the protagonist of the 2014 novel Tarkin, which details the character's backstory and rise to power within the Empire's ranks. In the novel, Tarkin advocates for the Tarkin Doctrine, a military system based on "the threat of force, rather than force itself". His philosophy becomes central to Imperial policy and earns him the position of the first Grand Moff in the Empire. (In the Galactic Empire, a "Moff" is the governor of a Sector, or subdivision of the Empire; a "Grand Moff" is the governor of an Oversector, a grouping of several Sectors.)

Tarkin's character has been well received, and he has been called "one of the most formidable villains in Star Wars history."[2]

Concept and creation[edit]

Governor Tarkin's character was originally conceived as a holy man from the planet Aquila, but was changed later in the creative process into an antagonist.[3] As the Emperor would not appear until later in the original trilogy, Lucas used Tarkin's final version as the "main villain" of the first film, a personification of the Empire.[4] According to a book created to help promote the original film to prospective theaters, he aspires to become the Emperor.[5]


During the production of Star Wars, Peter Cushing found Tarkin's boots, furnished by the wardrobe department, to be very uncomfortable. Director George Lucas agreed to limit shots where Cushing's feet would be visible, allowing him to wear slippers.[6][7][8][9] Cushing admitted many years later to not knowing what a "Grand Moff" actually was, joking that it sounded like "something which infests a clothes closet" and characterizing Tarkin as a "deeply cross and unpleasant gentleman".[10]

In the 2005 prequel film Revenge of the Sith, Wayne Pygram was able to achieve the likeness of a young version of Tarkin through the use of prosthetic makeup.[11] For his performance as Tarkin in the animated series The Clone Wars, voice actor Stephen Stanton researched Cushing's performances and then tried to imitate what Cushing might have sounded like in his mid-thirties and soften his voice to portray a level of humanity.[12]

In the 2016 anthology film Rogue One, archive footage[13] and a digital scan of Peter Cushing's life mask made for the 1984 film Top Secret![14] were used to create a 3D CGI mask which was augmented and mapped to actor Guy Henry's face.[14][15] Henry had studied Cushing's mannerisms many years previously for the lead role in British TV show Young Sherlock,[16] but insisted on a screen test as he was not comfortable that his vocal imitation was accurate, stating he sounded more "Peter O'Toole than Peter Cushing".[17] The ILM team searched through hours of footage to find suitable material of Cushing to build from. The footage from A New Hope was lit very differently to the lighting used in Rogue One and had to be digitally changed. The more they manipulated the lighting to match the other actors in the scenes the less like Cushing the character model looked, which meant creating a balancing act between "a digital figure" and "one who looked precisely like Cushing".[18] The owners of Cushing's estate were heavily involved with the creation and had input right down to "small, subtle adjustments".[19] The result, which has been called "one of the most complex and costly CGI re-creations ever", received a mixed response, with questions being raised about the morality of using a dead actor's likeness.[20][21]



Star Wars (1977)[edit]

Introduced in the first film in the original Star Wars trilogy, Governor Tarkin is the Grand Moff of the Galactic Empire and commander of the Death Star.[22] After Emperor Palpatine dissolves the Imperial Senate, Tarkin and Darth Vader (portrayed by David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones) are charged with pursuing and destroying the Rebel Alliance. He threatens Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) with the destruction of her home planet, Alderaan, if Leia does not reveal the location of the Rebel main base of operations. When Leia names the planet Dantooine as the base's location, he destroys Alderaan regardless, hoping to make an example out of the planet's support of the Rebellion. Upon learning that Leia's coerced information was false, Tarkin orders Leia's execution.

He allows the Rebels to escape the Death Star with Leia after placing a tracking beacon on the Millennium Falcon in order to find the Rebel base. He orders the Death Star to destroy the Rebel base on Yavin 4. In the film's climax, Tarkin refuses to believe that the Death Star is in danger from the Rebel starfighter attack; as a result, he refuses to evacuate. He is subsequently killed by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who succeeds in destroying the Death Star by firing torpedoes into the exhaust port. Tarkin is last seen deep in thought seconds before the Death Star explodes.

Revenge of the Sith (2005)[edit]

At the end of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, the final film in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, a younger version of Tarkin, played by Wayne Pygram, makes a cameo appearance overseeing the original Death Star's construction, standing beside Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen) and Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).[23][24]

Rogue One (2016)[edit]

In the film Rogue One (which takes place just before the events in A New Hope), Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), Director of Advanced Weapons Research for the Imperial Military, meets with Tarkin, who expresses his skepticism about Krennic's management of the Death Star project. Tarkin oversees the Death Star's first attack on the Rebellion when it is used to destroy the Holy City of the planet Jedha. Impressed, he congratulates Krennic before announcing that he is going to take command of the Death Star from that point on, pointing out security breaches that had occurred under Krennic's command (much to Krennic's chagrin). Later in the film, Tarkin is informed of a Rebel attack on Scarif, the planet where the plans to the Death Star are kept. He orders the jump to hyperspace to the planet, where an ongoing battle between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance rages. Tarkin has the Death Star target and destroy the Scarif base, killing Krennic, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), and any other survivor of the ground battle.

Television series[edit]

The Clone Wars (2010–2013)[edit]

In the animated television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, set during the events of the prequel trilogy, a younger Tarkin (voiced by Stephen Stanton) is depicted as a Captain and later an Admiral in the Galactic Republic Navy.[25]

In the third season, Captain Tarkin and Jedi Master Even Piell (Blair Bess) are ambushed and attacked by Separatist forces. Prisoners to the Citadel, Tarkin and Piell are freed from captivity by a rescue team. Initially pessimistic about being in enemy territory, Tarkin puts himself at odds with Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter), but their respective opinions of each other improve when each realizes that both know Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian Abercrombie). During a skirmish, Tarkin fights and attempts to execute Citadel Warden Osi Sobeck (James Arnold Taylor), but fails when Sobeck swiftly retaliates and nearly kills him. However, Tarkin is rescued just in time by Anakin's Padawan Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein).

In the fifth season, Tarkin, now an admiral, suspects Ahsoka of masterminding a terrorist attack on the Jedi Temple, and attempts to have the Padawan arrested. After Ahsoka is recaptured, Tarkin requests that the Jedi Order expel her and turn her over to the Republic so she can receive more "impartial" judgement. The Jedi concede and Ahsoka is tried before a jury of senators, with Tarkin heading the prosecution while Padmé Amidala (Catherine Taber) heads the defense. Despite Padmé's impressive defense, Tarkin casts doubt by mentioning that Ahsoka had been seen with Dark Jedi Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman). After Tarkin and Padmé's arguments conclude and the jury reaches a verdict that Palpatine is about to read, Anakin arrives with Barriss Offee (Meredith Salenger), the real mastermind of the attack.

Star Wars Rebels (2014–2018)[edit]

In the television series Star Wars Rebels, Tarkin (voiced once again by Stanton) starts off as Governor of the Outer Rim territories, including Lothal, but eventually receives his Grand Moff title.[26] He visits the planet Lothal to deal with its growing Rebel activity, and reprimands Minister Maketh Tua (Kath Soucie), Agent Kallus (David Oyelowo), and the Inquisitor for their repeated failures to stop the planet's Rebel cell. Tarkin has the Inquisitor execute Commandant Aresko and Taskmaster Grint (both David Shaughnessy) for their inability to deal with the cell's leader, Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.). Later, Tarkin sets a trap for the Rebels and manages to capture Kanan during their mission to send a message through one of the planet's communication towers. The Rebels' message gets sent out, but Tarkin then orders the tower to be destroyed. Kanan is tortured by the Inquisitor and transported to the Mustafar system aboard Tarkin's Star Destroyer. During Kanan's rescue by Rebel forces, Tarkin's Star Destroyer is destroyed, and the Inquisitor is killed. On Lothal, Tarkin introduces Agent Kallus to Darth Vader (James Earl Jones).

Taking the loss of his Star Destroyer personally, Tarkin orders that Maketh Tua be brought before him for her failure to find the Lothal rebels. Knowing the true meaning behind the summoning after the deaths of Aresko and Grint, Tua attempts to defect to the rebellion, but she is killed by Vader and Kallus before she can leave Lothal. Tarkin later appears in the season three premiere where he meets with Governor Pryce (Mary Elizabeth Glynn) regarding the Lothal Rebels. He subsequently grants her request for use of the Seventh Fleet, commanded by Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen). Tarkin appears via hologram in the season three finale, being briefed on Thrawn's imminent attack on Atollon to stymie a coordinated Rebel attack on Lothal. Towards the end of season four, he warns Thrawn that he must prove the worth of his TIE Defender program, Thrawn's prototype design of a new Imperial Star Fighter, or it will be shut down in favor of diverting resources to Krennic's "Stardust project" - which would eventually become the Death Star.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch (2021–2023)[edit]

Tarkin (voiced again by Stanton) appears in the Disney+ series Star Wars: The Bad Batch, set between the events of The Clone Wars and Rebels. In the premiere episode, "Aftermath", Admiral Tarkin arrives on Kamino to discuss with Prime Minister Lama Su if the Empire should continue to produce clone troopers, noting that conscripted soldiers would be less expensive.[27] He later evaluates Clone Force 99, a group of genetically enhanced clone troopers also known as the Bad Batch, through a battle simulation. While impressed by their extraordinary skills, he also notices disobedience in them.[28] He then dispatches them to the planet of Onderon to eliminate a group of refugees led by Saw Gerrera, as a test of their loyalty. When the Bad Batch disobeys orders, Tarkin has them arrested, but separates Bad Batch member Crosshair from the others after noticing that he is more loyal to the Empire. Tarkin has Kaminoan scientist Nala Se intensify the programming of Crosshair's inhibitor chip, turning him against his teammates, who escape Kamino.[29]

Tarkin is later promoted to Governor, and in the episode "Replacements", he puts Crosshair in charge of an "elite squad" of recruited soldiers, who are then sent to finish the mission the Bad Batch had abandoned. After the mission is successful, Tarkin sees potential for conscripts.[30] In the episode "Return to Kamino", after most Imperial personnel are evacuated from Kamino, Tarkin orders Vice Admiral Rampart to destroy all settlements on the planet, wiping out most of the Kaminoan race.


Tarkin appears in Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel, the prequel novel to Rogue One, where Tarkin forms a rivalry with Advanced Weapons Director Orson Krennic.

Tarkin (2014)[edit]

Star Wars: Tarkin explores the title character's origins, and chronicles how he meets and aligns himself with Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader prior to the events of A New Hope.[31] The novel was one of the first four canon novels to be released in 2014 and 2015.[32] Tarkin's Star Destroyer, the Executrix, is introduced; it later appears in Rogue One.[33]

From a Certain Point of View (2017)[edit]

In Glen Weldon's short story "Of MSE-6 and Men", featured in the anthology From a Certain Point of View, Tarkin is revealed to have been sleeping with the stormtrooper TK-421 during the events of A New Hope, after capturing Leia Organa, but before his armour was stolen by Luke Skywalker in order to rescue Organa.[34]


With the 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm by The Walt Disney Company, most of the licensed Star Wars novels and comics produced since the originating 1977 film Star Wars were rebranded as Star Wars Legends and declared non-canon to the franchise in April 2014.[32][35][36]

In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Tarkin appears in several novels, including Death Star, Cloak of Deception, Rogue Planet and Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader. The original Marvel Star Wars comic series features a powerful superweapon called "The Tarkin" after the late Grand Moff. His protegee and lover, Natasi Daala, is later featured as a frequent antagonist in novels set after his death.

West End Games' roleplaying material describes the "Tarkin Doctrine", which emphasizes ruling "through the fear of force, rather than force itself", and has been mentioned various other times in the Star Wars canon. He is also mentioned during the New Jedi Order novel series as having been present on Zonama Sekot with Anakin Skywalker. In the comics series Darth Vader and the Lost Command, Tarkin is seen telling Vader of a missing convoy of Imperial craft and adds that his own son was in command of the convoy and is also missing.



  1. ^ Later titled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope


  1. ^ Cushing is also given a special credit acknowledgement for this movie, as Peter Cushing OBE, for the use of his character likeness.
  2. ^ Gilchrist, Todd (August 8, 2006). "Star Wars Speeches: Grand Moff Tarkin". IGN.
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  5. ^ Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy (DVD). Star Wars Trilogy Box Set DVD documentary. 2004. 74:30 minutes in. His insatiable political ambitions to become Emperor have driven him to use ruthless means to quell the rapidly growing rebellion.
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