Yodasnews Review: Darth Sidious – Senate Duel (Sideshow Exclusive Edition)
Review and Photography by Jeffrey A. Gouse (SithLord0498)
Review Date: March 6, 2008
The duel with Mace Windu was a shatterpoint for the fabric of the Old Republic-era Star Wars universe. In those moments, everything changed. Order 66 was issued, condemning the vast majority of the Jedi to immediate execution. Anakin Skywalker fell from grace, and Darth Vader was born. The duplicitous “mask” of Palpatine melted away in a torrent of Sith lightning, revealing the twisted deformed face of Darth Sidious, Dark Lord of the Sith and tyrannical ruler of the Galactic Empire.
That same demonic visage can be found on the subject of this review. Today, we conclude our examination of Sideshow Collectibles’ first 1/6th scale two-pack with an in-depth look at Darth Sidious as he appeared during his all-too-brief duel with Yoda in the Senate Rotunda.
True to the nature of the character itself, the quality of the portrait sculpt is deceptive. It appears flat, dull, and lifeless when viewed in full light. It looks boring and far from menacing. That, readers, is an illusion. The strength of this sculpt is not found in the paint applications (save for the Sith eyes). Instead, it is found in the finely crafted nuances of the folds and crevices of the portrait. Those seemingly-innocuous details make phenomenal use of the interplay between shadows and light when under natural and controlled lighting situations. By both reflecting light off the pale flesh paint and purging entire regions into shadow, the true menace of the portrait emerges. Every shift of the light brings out entirely different perceptions of Darth Sidious. It is so effective that the facial expression itself seems to change each time. Perhaps most surprising of all, certain lighting conditions even make this face look very much like the leaner, more emaciated Palpatine of Episode VI—a welcome bonus for owners.
Furthermore, it looks as though sculptor Oluf Hartvigson took a very realistic approach to fashioning the Sidious portrait. Comparing the shape of the face and its expressions strongly indicate that the Palpatine portrait was the foundation with Sidious’ deformities sculpted on top of that base portrait (or sculpted directly into the Palpatine base). If true, then this approach is a novel yet practical way to simulate the real-life prosthetics worn by McDiarmid.
To say Hartvigson truly outdid himself with these two portraits would be a gross understatement.
Sidious’ costume is middle of the road in terms of quality and execution. Sadly, it would have scored higher had Sideshow not made some bizarre decisions in the process of tailoring this figure’s costume. On the positive side, both the hood and the velvet-like collar contain wires that let owners sculpt them into the necessary positions. It is particularly helpful with the collar because it allows one to move the arms and then sculpt a natural hang for the collar. Without the wire, it would simply stick straight out. The downside is that the hood wire protrudes approximately one quarter of an inch from the hem, infringing upon the overall aesthetics of the feature.
Additionally, the designers made a poor choice when it came to developing the way in which to execute a functional version of the cloak’s triangular clasp. Rather than using a small black snapper that would join the robe squarely in the center, Sideshow’s designers opted to use a weak strip of Velcro. There are two major problems with this choice. First, it does not hold the robe together very well at all. Second, the clasp sits off to the side and frankly looks terrible. However, the clasp itself is top-notch. In addition to being finely detailed, the paint wash gives the clasp a realistic pewter look.
And now we get to the chief reason for the lower rating.
Through some inexplicable lapse in logic, Sideshow chose to use a sleeveless dress with a frilly design to cover the base body beneath the outer robes. Not only is that fairly disturbing to look at, but it is also unequivocally inaccurate since Revenge of the Sith clearly showed Sidious wearing black trousers under this costume. If you want to check on that, pop in the DVD and skip to the scene where Yoda Force-pushes Sidious over his chair before the duel.
Articulation: Above Average
To reiterate comments made in the Palpatine review, there is little left to be said for the Buck body. It is very poseable but with limitations. The neck joint still can’t tilt down very well, which will make it difficult to pose with any current or future Yoda figure. The only advantage the Darth Sidious figure has over Palpatine is the wrist joints are tighter this time, meaning a better range of motion for lightsaber poses.
Sith Lightsabers (Senate Duel): Excellent
While essentially the same design, Sidious’ “holdout” (or backup) lightsaber was distinguishable enough for Sideshow to package the hilt and ignited saber as a separate pair of accessories. The only difference is that this saber has a matte black finish where the earlier “Windu Duel” version had gold plating. Thanks to that difference, the slight splotchy paint application that plagued Palpatine’s weapon is not a factor here.
Sith Holocron: Excellent
In a surprising move, Sideshow included a Sith Holocron with Sidious. Holocrons, while a major part of Expanded Universe lore, never played a role in the cinematic saga, so this was rather unexpected. Considering that this is the second half of an Exclusive two-pack, this would seem to have been the perfect choice for Darth Sidious’ exclusive accessory. Alas, only Palpatine’s Statue of Sistros is exclusive, but that mean all owners of this set will fortunately get the Holocron.
Based an actual prop shown in both Attack of the Clones: Visual Dictionary and Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary, this Holocron is surprisingly accurate down to the smallest details. And “smallest details” does in fact mean the Sith incantation written in Aurebesh on the base of the pyramidal device. This may surprise some readers, but there is an “official” Aurebesh translation guide. The best place to find it is to search “Aurebesh” on www.wookieepedia.com (Star Wars Wikipedia), but it has been in circulation for a long time. The first Star Wars Monopoly games (circa 1997) included the guide so players could translate the coins. For those who are curious, the Holocron inscription reads In umbris potestas est, a Latin phrase that translates as “In shadows, there is power.”
As for product quality and faithfulness to the source, the Holocron has been remarkably well-made. In addition to the replicated inscription, every carved piece is accurate as are the patterned designs on the pyramid (within reason). The following link shows the prop pictured in the Visual Dictionary. The similarities show just how much detail Sideshow Collectibles is capable of reproducing in a scaled format.
Statue of Sistros (Scaled Replica) - Exclusive Accessory: Above Average (Bordering on “Excellent”)
Since this two-figure set contains only one exclusive accessory and it technically belongs to Palpatine, I will merely transcribe my comments from that review for the sake of completeness.
Let me begin by saying that this was a fantastic idea for an exclusive accessory. It’s not something that most people would expect as an accessory since it was merely a background dressing in the film, but fans who read ancillary trivia such as the information found in books such as The Complete Visual Dictionary and Complete Locations will recognize Sistros’ importance and appreciate its inclusion in the set.
The quality of work done on this piece is phenomenal, a trait shared by every accessory in this two figure set. The sculpting is crisp and highly faithful to the source material, and the superb mixture of paints creates a very convincing antiquated bronze look, especially the bluish-green streaks found in the crevices of the scaled statue. Its only fault is that the base is not cut flat and level, which means there is a high tendency to tip over if disturbed.
Quality Control: Average
Darth Sidious shared two of the three design flaws with which Palpatine was inflicted. First, the interchangeable hands are extremely hard to swap out until the peg holes in the hands are eroded away a bit. A great deal of force was necessary here as well. Second, Sidious’ arms were “frozen” as well, but this time the seals were weak enough that the hair dryer was not necessary. Forcing the joint worked. Overall, the problems were not as severe (hence the higher rating) but still unwelcome.
Again, we can only hope the Prometheus body fares better in these regards.
Overall Rating: Above Average
In the end, short-sighted and sometimes bizarre design choices for the costume kept this figure from matching Palpatine in terms of overall quality. The accessories are equally good for this figure with the Sith Holocron being just as impressive as the Senate Camera Droid. The portraits are both realistic and accurate (and chilling in Sidious’ case), and articulation is, for now, standard Sideshow quality.
If this had been a separate release, it would still be a worthwhile purchase, but the criticisms would have weighed more heavily on the overall rating. As the second component of a two figure set, this is a solid addition, and the entire set is definitely a must-buy for collectors.