His name was Triclops and yes, as the name implies, he had three eyes. That is the story of the son of the Emperor.
Not in The Rise of Skywalker version of events, of course. This is a piece of Star Wars history from early 1990s, later discarded when the canon was remade before The Force Awakens. In this case, it was probably good. The story of Triclops, however, is so bizarre that it deserves to be remembered – and it has some resemblances to this day’s story, at least as far as Rey is concerned.
Imagination Gone Wild
Triclops appeared in the series of Star Wars novels written by Paul and Hollace Davids. They were published in 1992-93 and focus on the era shortly after Episode VI. The Rebellion is victorious, but the Imperial remnants are rallying under the remaining Moffs and admirals and there is still the danger of the Empire getting back on its feet.
The danger becomes real as one of the Moffs comes up with the claim that he has found the Emperor’s son and legitimate heir. The rumours of the Emperor having a three-eyed son have apparently existed for a long time. Now his sudden appearance provides a symbol and focus for the shattered Empire to unite. Here is where the story gets complicated, however.
Triclops vs. Trioculus
The early 1990s Star Wars novels certainly show what a chaos Lucasfilm was at the time. It is like LucasBooks just wanted to publish something, anything, regardless of how ridiculous the story would be. True, some real gems came out at that time – Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire, for example – but the Trioculus Saga is a marvel of absolute craziness.
One would think that the idea of Palpatine having a son is bizarre enough. The idea of such a son having three eyes even more so. (The idea of this third eye having mysterious hypnotic powers is, in the light of the former, only a minor detail.)
But what if I told you that aside from Palpatine’s real son, Triclops, the tale featured also a pretender, a three-eyed man called nothing else but Trioculus? (Yes, for those not fluent in Greek and Latin – Triclops and Trioculus both mean the same in the respective languages. The creativity of the authors, or their idea of what they can present to their audience, can be well questioned in this respect.) They differed in appearance: whereas Trioculus had his third eye on his forehead, Triclops’s was on the back of his head. Both were likely the results of Palpatine’s genetic tampering and Dark Side experiments, but Triclops was Palpatine’s actual biological son.
The story was actually more about Trioculus than about Triclops. The real Triclops was a poor, tortured, mad soul, locked up and kept secret from everyone except the top-level Imperials. His brain, the result of genetic tampering and perhaps Dark Side experiments, dreamed the designs of superweapons that were transmitted to the Empire. He was also a pacifist! Only the rumours about the existence of Emperor’s three-eyed son allowed Trioculus and some of the Moffs to pull the con of introducing Palpatine’s “heir” to the Empire.
Too Much Information
The tale includes many other unusual elements. The less bizarre ones include Dark Side prophets or Jabba’s father Zorba the Hutt (who, unusually for a Hutt, had hair that he braided). The more ridiculous ones are for example a human replica droid of Leia that can shoot lasers from its eyes, the fact that Trioculus fell in love with Leia and planned to marry her, or the fact that Triclops himself had a son… with a Jedi… while imprisoned in the mines of Kessel… from where the son was secretly saved by an unknown Jedi and hidden on Yavin 4 in an underground city… until Luke and his friends found him and he joined the Rebellion. Oh, and the son’s name was simply Ken.
It was Ken’s character that gave the saga its unofficial name, “The Jedi Prince Saga”. For reasons that are easy to see, neither of the characters introduced here made much of an appearance outside this saga.
That makes it the more interesting that barely a year before Disney’s reset of the canon, in 2013, “the Emperor’s son” story received an official explanation regarding Triclops’s mother. She was confirmed to be Sly Moore, Palpatine’s aide who was introduced only in the prequel trilogy (she is the bald, grey-skinned woman often accompanying Palpatine). I am not sure what to do with this information… and perhaps it is better to leave it at that.
The Saga Lives On
When looking at stories like this, it becomes very understandable why one may want to push the reset button for the universe every once in a while. However, nothing is ever completely lost. You could say that J.J. Abrams, whether consciously or unconsciously, recycled some of the elements in his version of the tale.
Besides the existence of Palpatine’s son itself, the character of his grandson Ken can be easily compared to Rey. Ken was hidden away by a Jedi to be protected from the Emperor, was discovered by Luke and joined the Rebellion against his grandfather’s Empire. Rey was hidden by her parents from the Emperor, trained by Luke and joined the Resistance against her grandfather’s order. It is a very simple narrative scheme, but who knows – J.J. Abrams and his associates have browsed old Star Wars lore for ideas, and this inspiration may be more than intentional.
To underline the similarities between Rey and this character from this ridiculous book, let me finish by quoting part of the letter Ken receives from his father, a parting word, close to the end of the series. It is easy to imagine that similar text could have been addressed to Rey:
“I know what a shock it must have been for you to realize that your grandfather was Emperor Palpatine. (…) All I can say is, do not believe all the terrible things you will hear about me (…) And if the day comes when you can no longer have faith in me, then trust in the Force, as your Jedi mother Kendalina did. Perhaps then you will discover that there is goodness in my heart.
Until we meet again, your loving father, Triclops”