Grand Moff Tarkin
|Occupation:||Grand Moff; Governor|
Death Star I
|Associations:||First Galactic Empire|
|First:||Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope|
|Actor:||Peter Cushing; Wayne Pygram; Keene Curtis; Paul Darrow|
Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin is one of the central antagonists featured in the original Star Wars film where he was played by British actor Peter Cushing (better known for his numerous roles in various Hammer Film Productions films during the 1950s-70s). A younger version of the character was briefly seen at the end of the 2005 prequel film Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith where he played by Wayne Pygram. For the Star Wars radio drama, Keene Curtis provided the voice for Governor Tarkin. Doctor Who actor Paul Darrow provided the voice for Tarkin in the 2006 video game Star Wars: Empire at War.
Of all those who rose to power in the Galactic Empire, few possessed such raw ambition as that of Wilhuff Tarkin. Tarkin was born to a life of wealth and privilege on the planet Eriadu approximately sixty-four years prior to the Battle of Yavin. He came from a prestigious family who held great influence in the Galactic Senate and dominated the political structure in the Seswenna sector for several generations. As a young man, Wilhuff entered into a marriage of convenience to Thalossa Motti, heiress to the powerful Motti family of the Outer rim world of Phelarion. He felt no affection for Thalossa, but craved the power and influence that her family name provided.
As a young man, Wilhuff Tarkin joined the military academy on Eriadu. It was during this time that he met fellow cadet and entrepreneur Raith Sienar. The two seemingly had a lot in common and Raith became the closest thing to what Tarkin would consider a "friend". After graduating the academy, Wilhuff Tarkin climbed through the ranks of political power, ultimately becoming lieutenant governor of the Seswenna Sector in the year 33 BBY. 
In the years following the Battle of Naboo in 32 BBY, Tarkin continued to rise through the halls of power, eventually earning the attention of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Palpatine and he shared many of the same viewpoints, in particular a common hatred for all non-human races, whom they believed to be inferior and responsible for the what they perceived as chaos throughout the galaxy. It could be argued that it was Tarkin who chiefly held such beliefs and that his conviction influenced Palpatine's own values.
In 29 BBY, Tarkin was serving as a commander in the Republic Outland Regions Security Force. Having reunited with his old "friend" Raith Sienar, he coerced him into helping him to invade the sentient world of Zonama Sekot in an effort to acquire their living starships. Zonama Sekot unveiled its hyperdrive system and escaped into the Unknown Regions. Despite this loss however, something even more valuable was gained, for it was at this time that Raith Sienar began putting together designs for the ultimate battle station. Whereas Sienar had visions of creating the ultimate fortress, Tarkin saw only the possibility in creating the ultimate weapon. Along with Geonosian Industries, this super-station would eventually become known as the Death Star. 
Less than a year after the formation of the Empire, Wilhuff Tarkin was chiefly responsible for an incident that has since become known as the Ghorman Massacre. Tarkin had traveled to the planet Ghorman in the Sern sector, but found that his landing pad was blocked by peaceful activists protesting the Empire's imposed taxation increases. When the protesters refused to vacate the landing pad, Tarkin ordered his ship to land, killing hundreds of activists. The Emperor silently approved Tarkin's resolution to the problem and promoted him to the rank of Admiral. It was also around this time that he assumed the rank of Moff, a title given to sector governors of the New Order.
Shortly after achieving the rank of Grand Moff, Tarkin took a younger Imperial officer named Natasi Daala as his protégé. The two became romantically involved with one another, but although they tried to keep it a secret, it wasn't long before rumos began circling about the command ships of the officer's dalliance with Governor Tarkin. Tarkin used his position to elevate Daala through the ranks of the Imperial Navy, ultimately making her an Admiral under his personal command. Tarkin eventually assigned Daala to oversee a scientific weapons research facility located at the Maw Installation. 
It was shortly after this that Wilhuff authored a communiqué that would come to be known as the Tarkin Doctrine. In short, this manifesto illustrated Tarkin's ideology of maintaining order through the projection of power. Power was maintained by imposing a sense of fear among dissidents. The greatest representation of the New Order's power was the Death Star. Palpatine agreed with Tarkin's sentiments and elevated him to the position of Grand Moff, a newly created rank, made especially for him. As Grand Moff, Tarkin held sway over all of the regional governors in the Empire. His power continued to grow until eventually Palpatine placed him in command of the Death Star. 
Tarkin viewed the Death Star as the greatest expression of fear and power in the galaxy. He took great pride in its ability to serve as a deterrent against dissention. Even Emperor Palpatine came to view Tarkin as a threat and assigned Darth Vader to serve on the Death Star as his personal spy. He made Vader subservient to Tarkin's command to allay any suspicion. Tarkin and Vader did not necessarily see eye to eye, but they both respected the other's intractable approach towards how to efficiently govern a galaxy. Vader appreciated the power that the Death Star presented, but felt that even this "technological terror" was insignificant next to the power of the Force. Tarkin's co-commanders on the Death Star were High General Cassio Tagge and Admiral Conan Antonio Motti.
In 0 BBY, Tarkin was en route to the Death Star when his personal shuttle was attacked by members of the growing Rebel Alliance. Tarkin survived the incident, but the Rebels managed to extradite one of Tarkin's slave servants, a Mon Calamari soldier named Ackbar. Ackbar would later go on to become High Admiral of the Alliance fleet.
It was also during this time that Emperor Palpatine dissolved the Galactic Senate, transferring the balance of power from the bureaucracy to that of regional governors. As Grand Moff, Tarkin's power grew even greater because of this. He possessed the ability to take indiscriminate action without the need for Senate approval. He answered only to the Emperor now. 
Shortly after this incident, the Rebel Alliance put into action Operation: Skyhook, a series of espionage missions that ultimately enabled them to acquire operational blueprints of the Death Star. There was concern amongst the Imperial high command that the Rebels might be able to determine a weakness in the battle station and exploit it.
Tagge did not share Tarkin's and Motti's confidence in the Death Star's defenses and was concerned that the Rebel Alliance could conceivably find a weakness in the structure's defenses. Admiral Motti however truly believed that the Death Star was the ultimate power in the universe. Tarkin recognized Motti's ambition as well as his belief that this space station would be his transport to greatness. During a conference, Motti bickered with Vader over the Death Star's potential and likely would have perished as a result of Vader's Force-choke had Tarkin not ordered him to release the Admiral.
Vader had managed to capture Princess Leia Organa, now a former member of the Imperial Senate, and secretly a keystone player in the Rebel Alliance. She was taken aboard the Death Star and interrogated, but she refused to give up either the stolen Death Star plans or the location of the hidden Rebel Alliance base. Tarkin and Leia exchanged quips with one another and Leia issued a prophetic warning when she told him, "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers". In response, he presented her with a harrowing ultimatum. If she did not reveal the location of the Rebel base, he would turn the Death Star's super-weapon against her home planet of Alderaan. Leia told Tarkin that the Rebel base was located on a planet called Dantooine, but this was later revealed as a lie. Regardless, Tarkin decided to make an example of the Alliance and ordered the destruction of Alderaan. Leia was forced to watch her world explode as the Death Star fired a massive laser cannon into its core. When Tarkin learned about Leia's deception, he called for her execution.
As it turned out, a ragtag group of heroes, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca the wookiee and the droids C-3PO and R2-D2 had come to the Death Star and were able to rescue Princess Leia. Tarkin could have prevented them from leaving, but he secured a homing beacon upon Solo's ship the Millennium Falcon, confident that they could track them to the Rebel base.
The Imperials traced the Rebels to the fourth moon of the planet Yavin. The Death Star came into range of the planet and Tarkin ordered them to prime their super-weapon. The Rebels, having discovered a defense weakness in one of the station's exhaust ports, sent two squadrons of snub fighters out to attack the station. When the threat of danger to the station became more apparent, an Imperial officer asked Tarkin if he wished to evacuate the station. Tarkin snidely rebuffed him saying, "Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances." As it turned out however, the Rebels proved victorious when pilot Luke Skywalker fired a proton torpedo into the station's exhaust port, creating a chain reaction that caused the structure to explode. Tarkin died along with millions of other Imperial officers and soldiers. 
Notes & Trivia Edit
- In Star Wars, Tarkin is only ever referred to as Governor Tarkin. Princess Leia is the only character to address him by name.
- Wilhuff Tarkin is the only central character from the original Star Wars to not receive an action figure in the initial Kenner series line. Tarkin did eventually receive an action figure under the Powers of the Force line.
- Wayne Pygram, who briefly played the role of Tarkin in Episode III, is better known for playing the role of Scorpius, a central antagonist from the Farscape television series.
- Ranulph Tarkin, a character created by John Ostrander for Dark Horse Comics' ongoing Star Wars comic title was intended to be Wilhuff's uncle according to Ostrander. The New Essential Chronology however retroactively established them as cousins.
- There is some discrepancy over who was actually the "brainchild" behind the Death Star. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones presents plans for a battle station as envisioned by the Geonsians. The novel Star Wars: Rogue Planet establishes that industrialist Raith Sienar was the mastermind behind the station while Star Wars Galaxy Guide I: A New Hope indicates that Tarkin was the driving force behind its development. Regardless of which reference is more accurate or canonical, it can be agreed that all three played a major role in the realization of the Empire's greatest and most destructive weapon.
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (novelization)
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (novelization)
- Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker (Official Star Wars film adaptation)
- Star Wars: Catalyst - A Rogue One Novel
Young Adult books
- Star Wars: Empire at War (As a hologram only)
- Family Guy: It's a Trap! (As Mayor West)
See also Edit
The World of Star Wars
Star Wars miscellaneous
External Links Edit