The first Star Wars Black Series Palpatine release was in 2015 as part of wave 8 of the line in its 2nd phase blue packaging. In 2019 this figure was given a makeover and boosted into a deluxe release as Emperor Palpatine was now packed with alternative, hands and heads - and most importantly with his throne.
The packaging for Palpatine uses the same design principles as the other phase 3 packaging with a slightly glossy black box, grey lined Gregory Titus illustration and a glossy red side spine. The front of the box has the usual window through which the figure is visible, but it also has two smaller cut out windows to the side of this with the alternative head sculpts displayed.
The red spine carries no number as this is an exclusive release and not part of the newer deluxe line, although the box dimensions are similar to the wider and deeper boxes used by Moloch and Grievous. The back of the pack carries a small text background for the Emperor as well as a larger version of the artwork used on the box front.
"Scheming, powerful, and evil to the core, Darth Sidious restored the Sith and destroyed the Jedi Order. He slowly manipulated the political system of the Galactic Republic until he was named Supreme Chancellor -- and eventually Emperor -- ruling the galaxy through fear and tyranny."
Paint & Sculpt 4/5
Out of the box the figure is seated in his throne, so he needs to be teased out carefully and the various robes releases. I will start with the robes which are soft goods and are evidently a much better material than the original release and hang much more naturally. The issue with the hood has been resolved somewhat too with some stitching round the back to hold the hood flatter to the head and neck, sadly ours still rode up on one side and despite wetting it and trying to shape it - it refuses to conform. Next plan is to use a small pin to keep it in place.
Under the outer robe is the same sculpted body as previous, although of course we have now lost the rubber skirt and have a soft goods version to allow Palpatine to sit in his chair.
The head sculpt too is a big improvement on 2015, mainly down to the new face print technology that allows a more subtle shading to the various lines and wrinkles of Palpatine's face, and also allows those distinctive eyes to be realised fully.
Palpatine also gets two other head options. The first (top row of the collage below) is an angry Palpatine with teeth bared and eyes intense with a furrowed brow. The second is a smiling, more sadistic Palpatine. Both are just as well executed as the base head and of course allow you to tweak your display to whichever of Palpatine's "moods" you wish to employ.
For anyone thinking they can upgrade the 2015 figure with one of the heads from this pack will be disappointed as Hasbro seem to have amended the neck peg and head socket, so the newer head sits far too high on the older figures neck.
Like the 2015 release, Palpatine has his cane which is a gnarled piece of wood cast in a glossy black plastic. It does its job and fits into the Emperor's right hand well enough. It is a touch too short and even when Palpatine is stooped over the cane doesn't meet the floor.
The new accessories for the set are of course the Force Lightning hands. These are one complete piece with the rubbery translucent force lighting coming out of the sculpted fingers of the hands. These swap in and out easily and with some teasing of the arm articulation and then posing the cloak around this you can get some good Force Lightning poses, and it works really well with the angry or smiling head options.
Like the head, the hands can't directly be swapped to the older figure as the 2015 version had a secured ridge piece in the hands, making them difficult to remove from the old figure.
The other accessory is the big one, the Emperor's Throne. This is a cast piece, and it feels hollow. The shape of the throne is good and crisp and it is cast in a glossy plastic with a shaped base. The chair sits fine on the base, flat to any flat surface, but the base does not rotate.
The rear of the chair is painted a purple, perhaps a bit too bright in colour than what we see on screen and certainly a lot brighter than the original promotional images. There are controls built into the chair's arm-rests and these are painted in reds and yellows.
The chair is a touch undersized once you get Palpatine sat into it. His head touches the top of the chair when his body is in the seated position, it should ideally be a few mm's higher.
Palpatine has 18 points of articulation, two more than a current figure of the line - benefitting from the re-use of the older body and therefore coming with double jointed elbows and a bicep swivel rather than the more recent single rotating elbow.
Head : ball jointed pivot neck
Body : ball joint waist
Arms : ball joint shoulder, bicep swivel, double jointed elbow, wrist pivot Legs : ball jointed hip, thigh swivel, double jointed knee, ankle rocker
These joints are sufficient for Palpatine's needs as they allow him to do the poses we want from the Emperor. Firstly we have the stooped upright position, supported by his walking stick if needed, while he inspects the troops on his arrival at the Death Star. We then have the Force Lightning poses to attack Luke, although this does need some careful balancing as it does make Palpatine front heavy and prone to overbalancing.
The third is the seated position, which out of the three is the most impressive.
The Emperor and Thorne really come into their own when you start to build up a diorama around the Throne as a centrepiece. Multiple Imperial Royal Guards are of course a must.
You can also start to think about recreating any one of the Throne Room scenes from Return of the Jedi, and Palpatine can even balance nicely on an outstretched Darth Vader's arms ready to be throne into the Death Star's core.
The improvements over the 2015 release of Palpatine is immense on this figure, from the head and hand options to the face print technology. The robes are still not perfect and can ride up around the hood which is a frustration, but of course soft goods are the key to this figure and getting him to sit in that impressive Throne.
Palpatine is the first of what we hope are more diorama type figure releases to help build our 6 inch Star Wars world, and we score it an impressive 4 out of 5.