In the Star Wars "Expanded Universe," that helped fill in the gaps left by the films, Emperor Palpatine made a shocking return after his climactic death at the end of Return of the Jedi.
In a comic book storyline called Dark Empire, it was revealed that Palpatine had arranged a huge collection of clones of himself be created, any of which he could transfer his consciousness into upon bodily death. He intended to cheat death this way forever, endlessly downloading himself from one body to the next. He even managed to tempt Luke Skywalker to join the Dark Side during the crisis of his return, but it didn't last.
With new Star Wars stories being told from the time that Return of the Jedi ended up to The Force Awakens and beyond, fans might be wondering if the new continuity Lucasfilm has established since its purchase by Disney might accommodate a similar resurrection for Palpatine. But the actor behind the wicked Emperor gives the notion an unequivocal no.
Speaking to fans during a panel at Star Wars Celebration, actor Ian McDiarmid teased his audience with the cloning idea. But lest their hopes rise too high, he was quick to point out that it was never going to happen.
"The Emperor was too bright not to know that," he said, referencing the possibility that Anakin Skywalker might one day return to the light side of the Force. "Maybe he cloned himself in time to be in the next movie."
When the audience reacted to this idea with cheers, he had to backpedal fast.
"But he didn't!" McDiarmid concluded. "But he didn't, unfortunately. No. Listen, ladies and gentlemen. I'm dead. I've been dead for the last thirty years. I can conform that — George was quite categorical."
Recent rumors have suggested that McDiarmid could have filmed some secret scenes for The Force Awakens, but it sounds like those reports were unfounded. Mr. Lucas himself put the kibosh on any return engagements from the Emperor years ago. And even though J.J. Abrams and his team tossed out Lucas' ideas for a third Star Wars trilogy, it's quite safe to assume that we've seen the last of Emperor Palpatine.
But he could always turn up in stories set before Jedi, like the Disney XD animated series Star Wars Rebels.