At long last, Lucasfilm finally pulled back the curtain a bit and treated us to a full-length, final trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. While a great many questions remain (many of which were raised by the trailer itself) it gave fans a whole lot to chew on. Like one sequence, in particular, which glimpses Palpatine’s grand, ominous new throne. But as it turns out, this throne traces its roots back nearly 40 years to Return of the Jedi, and comes from one of the greatest minds in the history of the franchise.
The shot in question appears in the trailer at around the 53-second mark, right when we hear Palpatine’s voice saying, “Long have I waited.” We then see the massive throne, which has sharp, black spires sticking out in all directions. As it turns out, according to Lucasfilm creative art manager and author Phil Szostak, this is based on a sketch done by the great Ralph McQuarrie back in 1981. Taking to Twitter, sharing a side-by-side of the sketch and the image from the trailer, Szostak had this to say.
“1981 Emperor’s throne room thumbnail sketches by Ralph McQuarrie for #ReturnoftheJedi.”
Ralph McQuarrie worked on the original Star Wars trilogy and is arguably one of the most important voices in the history of the franchise, just shy of George Lucas. His sketches helped birth the visual language that we now associate with the movies and things just simply wouldn’t be the same without his influence. It seems director J.J. Abrams is honoring the past by digging into McQuarrie’s old, unused sketches and bringing them to life for Episode IX, which he also did for some of the sets seen in The Force Awakens.
This ties into one of the biggest elements of the movie, and one of its greatest mysteries. Palpatine’s return, as made clear by this trailer, isn’t going to be a glorified cameo or gimmick. The Sith lord is going to factor heavily into the plot. It was initially revealed that Darth Vader’s former master and the leader of the Empire would be returning at Star Wars Celebration, with actor Ian McDiarmid making a surprise appearance during the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker panel. We’ve still yet to see him in the flesh, but his presence has been felt greatly in the marketing so far.
Related: Final Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Trailer Has Arrived
Outside of that, and what else we’ve been able to piece together from the trailers, the plot, beyond the broad First Order versus the Resistance bit, is still largely being kept under tight lock and key by Abrams and Lucasfilm. One would assume this movie is hiding a great many secrets. Luckily, we won’t have to wait all that much longer to see how the Skywalker saga wraps up. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is set to hit theaters on December 20. Be sure to check out the Ralph McQuarrie sketch from Phil Szostak’s Twitter account for yourself below.