Ian McDiarmid Casts Doubt On Emperor Palpatine Appearing In Obi-Wan Kenobi

"Obi-Wan Kenobi," the latest "Star Wars" series on Disney+, is almost upon us, and it will bring viewers a prequel trilogy reunion between Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen, who are returning to reprise their roles as Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, respectively. The last time we saw McGregor and Christensen onscreen together was back in 2005 in "Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith," where Obi-Wan insisted that it was "over" and that he had "the high ground," and expressed his disappointment in his padawan learner, Anakin, who was supposed to be "the Chosen One!"

One person who apparently won't be in on the reunion — not "in flesh and blood," anyway — is their costar Ian McDiarmid, who played Palpatine/Darth Sidious, the once and future Emperor in "Revenge of the Sith." McDiarmid recently appeared at the Star Wars Celebration event, where our own Ethan Anderton was in attendance, and in response to a fan question about whether Palpatine would return in "Obi-Wan Kenobi," the actor said jokingly:

"That is a disgraceful question, and one which I have no intention of answering. But [audience laughing] — you see, you can't win, can you! — I will say this. You will remember the very first 'Star Wars' film, subsequently christened 'A New Hope,' the Emperor was present, or his presence was felt, but he never appeared. His presence was interpreted by Moff, by the great Peter Cushing. And then more recently in 'Rogue One,' his presence was felt, but he never appeared. So all I would say about future speculation is if you're expecting the Emperor to appear soon in flesh and blood, don't get your hopes up."

Palpatine already returned, for better or worse

McDiarmid's comments leave open the possibility that the Emperor could return as a hologram in "Obi-Wan Kenobi," similar to how the character first appeared in "The Empire Strikes Back," since that would not technically be "in flesh and blood." However, by name-checking "A New Hope" and "Rogue One," McDiarmid seems to set the stage for the Emperor to be offscreen in "Obi-Wan Kenobi," maybe referred to in dialogue but not seen.

In all honesty, that's probably for the best. Enough time has passed now, with the "Star Wars" prequels, for nostalgia to set in and for people to be more forgiving of their flaws than they were in the past. Alas, the same can't be said for Disney's sequel trilogy, which — whatever you think of it — undeniably carries some fresh baggage.

McDiarmid was back onscreen as the Emperor just three years ago in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," where we learned that the character, now canonically named Sheev, was the grandfather of Rey (Daisy Ridley). For some viewers, seeing the Emperor again so soon might bring back some unwanted "Rise of Skywalker" memories in a way that could rain on McGregor and Christensen's parade a little. That said, McDiarmid gave us one of the best scenes in "Revenge of the Sith" with his recounting of the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise. So give it a few years, and maybe people will be able to look back on Palpatine's "Rise of Skywalker" appearance a bit more kindly. Or just put it out of mind altogether and be ready for an Emperor reunion.