Wilhuff Tarkin
Biographical information



64 BBY (29BrS)[citation needed], 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, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

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)Edit


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, Rogue Planet

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.


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)Edit

Rule through the fear of force rather than through force itself.

Wilhuff Tarkin in the Tarkin Doctrine, Dark Apprentice
Moff Tarkin

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.[4] 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.


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)Edit

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, Star Wars (radio)
File:Tarkin DS.jpg

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.[5] 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] His widow had a monument built on Phelarion in his honor, and she sought to avenge his death and make the Rebels pay.[6]

Behind the scenesEdit


File:Young Tarkin.jpg

Tarkin was played by former Hammer horror film regular Peter Cushing in A New Hope, by Keene Curtis in the radio dramatization of A New Hope, by actor Paul Darrow of Blake's 7 fame in Star Wars: Empire at War, by Nick Jameson, who also portrays Darth Sidious in various video games, in Star Wars: X-wing and by Wayne Pygram in Revenge of the Sith. For Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas originally planned 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 (he is known to have worn slippers instead), and Tarkin's scene required a full-body shot.[citation needed] Pygram had to go through extensive prosthetic makeup that was designed to make him look like a younger Cushing.


A character named Grande Mouff Tarkin appeared in early drafts of A New Hope, but was substantially different in personality; notably, he was described as "thin and birdlike". In the rough and first drafts, Tarkin was a religious leader on Aquilae or Townowi; in the second and third drafts he was the Rebel commander of the Kesselian Dragoons on Yavin 4.[7]

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

There is some debate over where Grand Moff Tarkin's name 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 Heroes of Might and Magic IV: Winds of War video game.


Non-canon appearancesEdit


Notes and referencesEdit

File:Tarkin's code cylinder.jpg

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

de:Wilhuff Tarkines:Wilhuff Tarkinfr:Wilhuff Tarkinit:Wilhuff Tarkinnl:Wilhuff Tarkinno:Wilhuff Tarkinpl:Wilhuff Tarkinpt:Wilhuff Tarkinru:Уилхафф Таркинfi:Wilhuff Tarkin
Preceded by
None, post created
Grand Moff of Oversector Outer
18 BBY to 0 BBY
Succeeded by
Ardus Kaine
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