Canon has been steadily revealing the Emperor’s goals were far more ambitious than ruling the galaxy and had many hidden projects to achieve them. This gives some context to my discussion of Rey and Jakku.
We’ve known since Aftermath that the Emperor has had a strong interest in the Unknown Regions, but it was only in Empire’s End that we get any hints as to his goals there. In the book we learn that the regions are incredibly dangerous to navigate and no one has survived attempting it. During Sloane’s journey in the epilogue of Empire’s End, we get a glimpse of why:
The journey through the Unknown Regions has been harrowing. Taking short hyperspace jumps through the chaos has been like navigating a dangerous maze at full speed. But the sentinel assured her the path was safe. They skirted superstorms and saw strange creatures out there in the blackness of the void. They lost system power when a magnetic burst of mysterious origin cascaded through space—but it was only for a few hours, and with power
Wendig, Chuck. Empire’s End: Aftermath (Star Wars) (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy) (Kindle Locations 6649-6652). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Despite this, the Emperor considered the prize worthwhile and in an effort to find a way through, he established a navigational mechanism using ancient machines at the Jakku Observatory which took 30 years to finish its work. Empire’s End hints at why overcoming these obstacles is an obsession for him:
“For decades, these computers have been plotting a journey. Outside the known galaxy is an unexplored infinity, Palpatine explained, one closed off by a labyrinth of solar storms, rogue magnetospheres, black holes, gravity wells, and things far stranger.”
Wendig, Chuck. Empire’s End: Aftermath (Star Wars) (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy) (Kindle Locations 5961-5962). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Palpatine said that this galaxy was to be his, but that it was only one among many. Again that phrase arose: the unexplored infinity. This, he noted, was his demesne. The galaxy was his game board.
Wendig, Chuck. Empire’s End: Aftermath (Star Wars) (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy) (Kindle Locations 5967-5969). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
These two passages strongly suggest that what Palpatine sought was a means of expanding his rule far beyond his home galaxy. Once a way was found to this dark nexus, Palpatine would have limitless worlds to subjugate. However, domination of the physical universe was just one aspiration driving him towards finding the dark presence first hinted at in Tarkin:
And he would not allow himself to be sidetracked from his goal of unlocking the secrets many of the Sith Masters before him had sought: the means to harness the powers of the dark side to reshape reality itself; in effect, to fashion a universe of his own creation. Not mere immortality of the sort Plagueis had lusted after, but influence of the ultimate sort.
Miller, John Jackson. The Rise of the Empire: Star Wars: Featuring the novels Star Wars: Tarkin, Star Wars: A New Dawn, and 3 all-new short stories (Kindle Locations 4579-4582). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Sidious is after something long sought by the Sith – power over reality itself. He saw the dark presence as a means of becoming a physical god, with the ability to shape the entire universe as he pleased. The question arises, what is the nature of this presence? I postulate the dark presence and the phenomena present in the Unknown Regions is the result of an ancient attempt at doing precisely what Sidious aims to do. This experiment corrupted a large portion of the Force and has been worsening over time (more on this later). Sidious aims to complete this corruption.
There is additional circumstantial evidence that the Unknown Regions have not always been so unknown or difficult to navigate:
- The Unknown Regions is contiguous and no other location in the galaxy is known to feature that kind of phenomena.
- The Jedi had ancient maps of the Unknown Regions deep within their archives at the Temple on Coruscant (Right).
- Illum was located in the Unknown Regions.
- Jedha, a major location for many Force based religions and once the seat of the Jedi Order itself borders the Unknown Regions.
- The rumor in Rey’s Survival Guide that there was a storehouse on Jakku holding artifacts from ancient civilizations.
Whatever mistakes these ancient practitioners made wrecked a large swathe of the galaxy and Palpatine would have done all he could to ensure it didn’t happen to him. In all likelihood, the key lay in the Chosen One and his bloodline:
Save for Sidious, no sentient being in close to five thousand years had set foot in the shrine. The room’s excavation and restoration had been carried out by machines under the supervision of 11-4D. Even Vader was unaware of the shrine’s existence. But it was here that they would one day work together the way Sidious and Plagueis had to coax from the dark side its final secrets. In the intervening years he had actually come to appreciate Plagueis for the planner and prophet he had been. Such perilous machinations required two Sith, one to serve as bait for the dark side, the other to be the vessel. Success would grant them the power to harness the full powers of the dark side, and allow them to rule for ten thousand years.
Miller, John Jackson. The Rise of the Empire: Star Wars: Featuring the novels Star Wars: Tarkin, Star Wars: A New Dawn, and 3 all-new short stories (p. 125). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
A comment by Snoke to Kylo in the TFA novelization suggests why:
Snoke demurred. “It is far more than that. It is where you are from. What you are made of. The dark side-and the light. The finest sculptor cannot fashion a masterpiece from poor materials. He must have something pure, something strong, something unbreakable, with which to work. I have-you.” He paused, reminiscing.
Only someone who’s ancestor is the Force itself can safely harness the Force energy needed to achieve mastery over the Force itself.