“Nils Tenant is very competent.” – Moff Tarkin to Emperor Palpatine (from the novel Tarkin)
Admittedly, it is a bit odd that I decided to write a post about Rear Admiral Nils Tenant. On the one hand, with the recent revelation that my all-time favorite Star Wars character, Grand Admiral Thrawn, will be making his glorious return to the universe, one would think I would be doing a post on him instead. It is certainly true that I am beyond excited to encounter Thrawn in a new novel and Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels, but at the moment, I am just not prepared to post anything about him.
On the other hand, doing a post on Tenant is odd because he is a rather minor Star Wars character. Actually, saying he is a minor character is being generous. The fact is, Nils Tenant has received only two canonical appearances in the Star Wars universe. His first comes in The Clone Wars episode “Overlords,” appearing rather briefly in the newsreel which serves as a prelude to the show. While he goes unnamed in the show, the episode guide for “Overlords” on StarWars.com at least puts a rank/name to his face, identifying him as Admiral Tenant.
In turn, James Luceno incorporated Tenant into his novel Tarkin. Given the first name Nils and the Imperial rank of Rear Admiral, Tenant’s story is slightly expanded in the book. Most notably, we discover that Rear Admiral Tenant and Moff Wilhuff Tarkin – the novels main protagonist – have a fond relationship dating back to their time in the Sullust Sector Spacefarers Academy. Crossing paths early in the novel when Tarkin travels to Coruscant, the two men have a short but cordial conversation as two friends. While I won’t spoil the dialogue for those who have not read Luceno’s book, I will note that the most revealing moment in the conversation comes when Tenant asks his friend to “put in a word for me” with the Emperor (whom Tarkin is heading to meet when the two cross paths).
Now, on the surface of things, this scene could just be interpreted as one officer trying to use his personal connections to gain more status. In fact, Tarkin even recognizes that this is precisely what Tenant is doing, thinking to himself that “he could understand wanting to be in the Emperor’s good graces…” However, Tarkin does not chastise Tenant for the request. While the Governor is slighty caught-off guard by it, he never-the-less validates his friend by clasping Tenant on the shoulder and stating “If the occasion arises, Nils.” In turn, Tenant smiles and states that Tarkin is “a good man.” And that, right there, is the point of the entire conversation – the exchange helps to establish Wilhuff Tarkin, a man we know will order the destruction of Alderaan thirteen years later, as a man who is also viewed by some as a decent individual. In other words, Rear Admiral Tenant’s brief appearance aids in the humanization of Moff Tarkin!!!
But that is the most I will say about Tarkin and his fascinating character development in the novel that bears his name. I encourage you all to read Tarkin if you haven’t – it is, in fact, my favorite novel in the Star Wars canon to date – but otherwise I wish to turn back to Nils Tenant. Of course, there is little more to say about him other than filling in small details from the novel. After serving in the Clone Wars as the commander of a Venator-class Star Destroyer (his ship is also in “Overlords”), we learn that he was assigned to “pacification” once the Empire was formed. Unfortunately, what this means is never clarified in Tarkin, although I presume it refers to the pacification of worlds/species/groups rebelling against Imperial rule. Furthermore, we also learn through his conversation with the Governor that Admiral Tenant had returned to Coruscant for a meeting of the Joint Chiefs, a body made up of the top brass in the Empire’s Army and Navy. As if a moment of foreshadowing, at novels end, the narrator tells us that Rear Admiral Tenant has also become a member of the Joint Chiefs, a promotion perhaps resulting from Tarkin’s conversation with the Emperor.
Beyond these basics, though, Nils Tenant receives no more major character development in the novel Tarkin. None-the-less, his brief conversation with Governor Tarkin was enough to capture my attention and write this post on him, and because of this I also hope that Rear Admiral Tenant makes some more appearances at various points throughout the canon. Personally, I have always had an intense fascination with the Imperial officers corps, a fascination responsible for posts on other officers in the past – Wullf Yularen and Maximilian Veers – and posts to come. While Nils Tenant and other peripheral characters do not necessarily drive the stories in the Star Wars canon, their presence/existence never-the-less deepens our understanding of the Empire and it’s powerful military. Plus, those officers who are major characters, such as Wilhuff Tarkin and Rae Sloane, benefit from a strong supporting cast which interacts with them, even if that interaction is a short conversation in a bustling hallway.
As for Nils Tenant, I don’t anticipate he will ever become a major actor in the Star Wars saga, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him again especially since James Luceno is the author of the upcoming novel Star Wars: Catalyst, a novel serving as a prelude to the film Rogue One. I just have a small feeling that we’ll encounter Rear Admiral Nils Tenant when the book is released. But hey, even if we don’t, I still think he’ll pop up again somewhere in the canon.