Star Wars’ Order 65: The Command To Kill Palpatine Explained


Emperor Palpatine gave the command to execute Order 66, intended to wipe out all the Jedi in Star Wars, but the preceding one – Order 65 – was to potentially kill Palpatine himself if necessary. Depicted on screen in Star Wars: Episode III – Return of the Jedi, Order 66 is the culmination of Palpatine’s masterplan to take control of the galaxy, as he turns the clone troopers against the Jedi with the use of a secret bit of programming built into their code. Almost the entire Jedi Order was killed, and most of the survivors fled into exile.

Order 66 lives on in infamy as the end result of Palpatine’s scheming, but part of the reason he was able to keep it a secret is that it was tucked away among 149 other contingency orders, all of which were designed to be carried out by the Republic’s army when commanded to do so by either the Supreme Chancellor or the Security Council. The 150 orders loosely remain part of Star Wars canon, having been mentioned in the sourcebook Rise of the Separatists that accompanied Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars RPG, though most of the previously fleshed-out specifics were solely in Legends, leaving the canonicity unclear at best. The majority of the known orders were fairly straightforward, like Order 4, which stated command of the army would pass to the vice chair if the Chancellor was incapacitated, but the command just before Order 66 was the most interesting.

Related: Star Wars: Every Jedi Who Survived Order 66 (In Canon)

Whereas Order 66 was designed to turn the clone army on the Jedi, Order 65 would’ve turned the troopers on the Chancellor – i.e. Palpatine – himself. That Palpatine would’ve been well aware of this contingency is perhaps part of his genius; by not only having a command that could remove him from power and perhaps even kill him if necessary, but also placing it right next to the order to take out the Jedi, then it helps avoid any greater scrutiny upon him or what plans he may have. The full text of the command was revealed in the 2007 novel Republic Command: True Colors, by Karen Traviss:

In the event of either (i) a majority in the Senate declaring the Supreme Commander (Chancellor) to be unfit to issue orders, or (ii) the Security Council declaring him to be unfit to issue orders, and an authenticated order being received by the GAR, commanders shall be authorized to detain the Supreme Commander, with lethal force if necessary, and command of the GAR shall fall to the acting Chancellor until a successor is appointed or alternative authority identified as outlined in Section 6 (iv)

Of course, Order 65 was never implemented during Palpatine’s reign as Chancellor, which is obviously by design. Though working in the shadows as Darth Sidious, Palpatine also had command over the army and the Galactic Senate, meaning it would’ve taken something extraordinary for a majority to rise up against up, and perhaps even impossible given the extent of his influence. Palpatine presumably knew this, and so could comfortably have Order 65 sitting next to Order 66 in the list of commands.

The one scenario where Order 65 might’ve come into play in the Star Wars movies – or at least been even possible – is if Mace Windu had successfully apprehended Palpatine when he confronted him, before making the decision to kill him instead (which obviously backfired on him). Windu knew, though, that Palpatine would likely walk away free because of his control, and so even then it would’ve been a real surprise for Order 65 to be implemented, unless Windu and his other Jedi could somehow break Palpatine’s influence. Of course, that never happened, and it was Order 66 rather than 65 that became such a huge, devastating part of Star Wars canon.

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