Grand Moff Tarkin is one of the most infamous characters of Star Wars, even without any flashy fight scenes. Few can compete with the sheer ruthlessness of a man who would casually order the destruction of an entire populated world of pacifists. He’s also notable as one of the few with authority even over Vader, or at least the ability to stand up to him. Tarkin doesn’t stand alone though, he has a family and a history.
Wilhuff Tarkin’s Family
Tarkin’s family always had influence and power. They hailed from Eriadu. He had a relative in the Galactic Senate, in charge of the Seswenna sector. He himself married Thalassa Motti, not out of love but for political convenience and power. He also had a son and grandson. He didn’t love his wife however, but had a lover, Daala, on the side. He was always a firm believer in fear and forceful tactics.
His elder cousin, Ranulph, had the same beliefs he did and partly to blame for the chaos of the Stark Hyperspace War. However, he escaped blame and even got a medal posthumously in exchange for supporting Valorum’s bid for Chancellor of the Republic.
Shayla Paige-Tarkin’s relationship to him is unknown, but given that she was senator of Seswenna senator where Eriadu lies and elected after Ranulph’s death its very likely she was a family member. She was loyal to Palpatine.
His brother Gideon was the Sectors Minister of Defense. He served alongside a Jedi in the Clone Wars in strengthening defense but was later killed. His daughter, Rivoche, was raised by Wilhuff.
His son Garoche was an Admiral, but he, unknowing to Tarkin, actually defected before being killed by Vader, who framed the early resistance for the death.
His niece Rivoche actually was a rebel spy, who was influenced in part by running into young Cadets with different ideals such as Biggs Darklighter.
The Tarkin Doctrine which encouraged rule by fear of force was invented by Wilhuff Tarkin. Before him, his cousin Ranulph had repeatedly pushed and bullied trying to get the Senate to create a Republic fleet, as opposed to the simple judiciary and planetary fleets. The Tarkin Doctrine fit well with Palpatine’s plans for the Death Star. While the family was elitist and arrogant, they didn’t all trust or agree with Palpatine’s plans. Hence Garoche Tarkin going missing and being killed alongside his lover, and Rivoche actually becoming a rebel asset and spy.
Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin’s Personal History
He was originally part of the military when Eriadu was considered part of the Outland Regions. He went on to become Lt Governor of the planet.
He was full governor of the Seswenna Sector and commander of Republic Outland Regions SEcurity Force (presumably part of the Judicial department). He also was ordered to keep close watch on the Jedi and pervent their gaining further influence (whether Palpatine did this directly, or though servants, or even in his guise as Sidious is unknown. Likely the latter.)
Tarkin was responsible for the “Tarkin Doctrine” which was a philosophy of Rule by Fear
He was directly responsible for the Ghorman Massacre, when he landed his ship directly on peaceful protesters and crushed them. This in contrast to the intent, drove many to the Rebellion. He was also involved in the Atravis Sector Massacres
The Death Star
He strong armed Raith Sienar into attacking the world of Zonoma Sekot in the hope of plundering it’s organic starship technology, and set him up to take the fall for it. He actually kidnapped young padawan Anakin Skywalker to get one of the ships, as the boy was bonded with it and it wouldn’t survive without him. This plan fell apart due to Obi-Wan rescuing him, but Tarkin still came out with his reputation intact. He absconded with Sienar’s battle planetoid design idea, which would later be the basis for the Death Star.
Palpatine was initially given the plans by him but were (apparently) rejected. However, later, apparently during the Clone Wars, they were approved. Sometime around it’s end he assembled his team, and destroyed the Omwati homeworld, trying to brainwash the omwati children into the perfect scientists (Qwi-Xux) for the project. By this time, given Sidious’s ties to both sides of the war and the accompanying war developments, the plans and needed engineering were improved.
Did the Grand Moff know Palpatine was Sith?
Apparently not, he assumed both Jedi and Sith were gone though he had suspicions of Vader, although he seems to have had dark dealings, possibly through intermediaries with Palpatine as Sidious. It was apparently known the Emperor did know something of the Force. Tarkin did suspect Vader of having formerly being Anakin Skywalker. This was in part that he knew that Anakin had allegedly died on Mustafar, a fiery world, and Vader was trapped in the suit due to severe injury. Nevertheless, he likely knew more of Palpatine’s rise to power than many others even if he knew nothing of the Sith connection.
For all of this brutality in tactics, Palpatine knew he couldn’t trust Tarkin’s ambition. When his son went missing, Vader was sent to find him. Palpatine and Vader knew Tarkin’s rage and focus would increase if his son (loyal or not) was killed by the Resistance. In fact Vader did strike him down, after the telephatic woman who led him defect played into his own memories and drew up Padme.
Palpatine felt Vader could learn from a partnership with the governor, while also keeping an eye on him. Once he had control of the ultimate weapon there is no guaranteee he wouldn’t cross the Emperor. So Vader helped the man subjugate the wookiees as slave labor for the Death Star project’s actual construction. However, as long as Tarkin did not cross the Emperor himself, it was Tarkin’s project. Vader only aided him in keeping him in slaves and workers. (A far fall for the former slave who wanted to free them, but Anakin’s bio is elsewhere.)
Ultimately the grand moff’s own ego destroyed him. After following the escaped Princess and her rescuers to Yavin 4, his officer’s warned him their was a danger to the Death Star based on the rebel attack pattern. Tarkin refused to evacuate, refused to even have his ship standing by, he was so certain the battlestation was invincible. He died with the Death Star.
- Rogue Planet by Greg Bear
- Dark Lord: Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno
- Darth Vader and the Lost Command by Haden Blackman (comic mini series/graphic novel)
- Star Wars Episode 4, movie, novelization, comic adaption, radio drama
- Death Star by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry
- Classic Star Wars the Early Adventures by Russ Helm (comic strip)
- Jedi Academy Trilogy: Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice, Champions of the Force (Daala’s memories) by Kevin J. Anderson
- Web Archive Wookieepedia for Wilhuff Tarkin
- Rivoche Tarkin
- Star Wars Adventures 12 (WEG) Small Favors by Paul Danner
- Web Archive Wookieepedia for Rivoche Tarkin
https://web.archive.org/web/20071119132832/http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Rivoche_Tarkin (Note: Rivoche was a defector/spy to the Rebellion) niece
- Garoche Tarkin (son of tarkin) also defected – Darth Vader and the Lost Command
- Ranulph Tarkin – cousin killed in Stark Hyperspace War, Star Wars (1998) comics – issue 36-39
- Shayla Paige-Tarkin (unknown relation) but certainly related given she was senator of Seswenna senator and elected after Ranulph’s death. She was loyal to Palpatine. Mentioned in Jedi Trial by David Sherman and Dan Cragg