Well, May the Fourth has come around once again. And this year, I got the jump on my Star Wars rumination by posting something about Rey’s parents. I figured that would do for this year (a couple hundred of you have stopped by to see what was on my mind) and I went about my usual business.
But then, the other day, I started thinking about one of the characters and I realized that there’s something of a major plot-hole that’s formed between the original Star Wars trilogy and the prequels. And it centers around Obi-Wan and Darth Vader.
Think about the way things are left at the end of Episode III. Obi-Wan and Anakin have their climactic battle on Mustafar. Obi-Wan wins the battle, watches his best friend get immolated by a lava river, then steals his lightsaber and leaves him for dead. The Emperor finds Anakin’s charred body and brings him back to Coruscant to fix him up, give him some sweet black armor, and then mess with his mind over the fate of his wife. Obi-Wan then goes into a sort of self-imposed exile to watch over baby Luke while learning how to cheat death from his old master, Qui-Gon Jinn.
When the original trilogy opens, Obi-Wan has aged badly (considering it’s only been eighteen years or so). He knows that Anakin has survived and become Darth Vader. The rest of the galaxy, though, assumes that Obi-Wan and the rest of the Jedi have been wiped out by the Empire.So far, so good. That all fits with what’s come before (or after, as it were).
But in Return of the Jedi, we learn some rather odd details that don’t quite fit with what we see in the original trilogy. When Luke learns the truth about his father, he tells ghost-Ben that he believes there’s still good in him. Ben dismisses the idea, stating that “he’s more machine now than man.” Luke doesn’t let go of the idea, going so far as to surrender himself to Vader on the forest moon of Endor. When Luke suggests to dear old dad that there’s a conflict between good and evil still raging within him, Vader comments that, “Obi-Wan once thought as you do.”
Wait, what? Since when? That quote would seem to imply that Obi-Wan believed that, at one point, Vader could be redeemed, only that’s not what we see in Episode III. When Obi-Wan learns that Anakin is responsible for slaughtering the Jedi at the Jedi Temple, he doesn’t want to fight him (they’re “brothers,” after all), but when Yoda insists that he has to confront Anakin, Obi-Wan does so. When the two finally come face-to-face on Mustafar, Obi-Wan doesn’t seem to think Anakin can be redeemed. They argue about loyalties and the Republic and so on, but there doesn’t seem to be much hesitation when the two start fighting. No impassioned pleas for Anakin to turn away from the dark side. No hope of redemption. Just slash-slash, stabby-stabby, burn-‘im-alive aaaaaand we’re done.
Now it’s tempting to chalk this up to George Lucas not paying attention to the background he established. There are a lot of examples of him just retconning large chunks of the Star Wars story (as a matter of fact, I once had some fun making political campaign commercials that highlighted those mistakes). And at first, I was willing to just dismiss it out of hand. But then I started thinking about something that Lucasfilms recently did with Rogue One, and I realized that this odd discrepancy could be taken care of.
Using the Rogues to Fill a Hole
I’ll admit, I never noticed this plot hole until it was pointed out during the run up to Rogue One‘s release. If the Empire was working on the Death Star for close to eighteen years, how come no one ever noticed the flaw with the exhaust port? When you’re building a gigantic planet-killing weapon, you’d think that you’d make sure to find every conceivable flaw. How someone could miss a fatal defect, even one so small, seems rather unusual.
Like I said, I had never heard this criticism until Rogue One was coming out. But it’s a valid point. Why wouldn’t someone notice?
Because Galen Erso, one of the lead designers, deliberately put that flaw into the Death Star specifically so that the Rebellion could exploit it and destroy the Empire’s newest toy. And with this one movie, suddenly this gaping plot hole is plugged, nice and tidy.
As I was thinking about this, I realized that maybe, just maybe, there was a time when Obi-Wan Kenobi came face to face with Darth Vader again, a time when Obi-Wan thought that maybe, just maybe, his brother could be redeemed to the light side of the Force. An encounter that ended with the last Jedi’s apparent death.
So, as a special May the Fourth feature, here’s my take on how that all might have gone down:
Obi-Wan’s Return to Action
When we last saw Obi-Wan, he was settling into a self-imposed exile on Tatooine. He spent his time watching over Luke Skywalker and learning what he can from Qui-Gon’s Force ghost. But as you can imagine, for a Jedi Master, especially one as swashbuckling as former General Obi-Wan Kenobi. He’s only been there for a few years, and already he’s getting squirrelly. As much as he doesn’t want to admit it, he’s missing the old days when he was out among the people of the galaxy, making a difference. Before the dark times. Before the Empire.
Not everything is bad, though. Obi-Wan makes regular trips to Tosche Station, sometimes even as far as Mos Eisley when he’s feeling particularly bored. But his favorite activity, by far, is going to visit the Lars family on their moisture farm. Owen and Beru don’t really know much about Obi-Wan. They only know him as “Ben,” the nice man who brought them Luke. He regularly dines at their table and, all things considered, they’ve become good friends.
But then, someone tracks down Obi-Wan with truly dire news. I’m not sure who it is. I don’t think it’d be Bail Organa; he wouldn’t want to risk exposing Luke’s hiding place or put his own adopted daughter at risk. It wouldn’t be Mon Mothma; she clearly doesn’t know who or where Obi-Wan is. Instead, I’m thinking that maybe it’s one of the clones that Obi-Wan served with, maybe even Commander Cody himself. Cody, who regrets what the Empire did to the Jedi, has spent years trying to locate his former commanding officer. This isn’t just for nostalgia. Cody (or whoever it is) desperately needs Obi-Wan’s help. He (or she) has learned that the Empire is up to something horrible.
And this horrible thing isn’t some run-of-the-mill, boring little bit of evil. This isn’t stormtroopers ransacking a Jedi temple or a Grand Moff oppressing his subjects. This is a point-of-no-return sort of evil, a scheme that could radically pitch the newly minted Empire into a darkness that no amount of rebelling could overcome. Maybe they’ve discovered a way to scan for Force sensitive people from great distances, meaning that they’ll be able to track down the last survivors of Order 66 and, more importantly to Obi-Wan, Luke and Leia as well. Something like that?
Yeah, I have no idea what it is right now. But Cody or whoever it is has come to Tatooine to enlist Obi-Wan for one last mission, one last chance to strike a blow against the Sith. Obi-Wan thinks about it. It’s a risk, leaving Luke unprotected, but this threat is so critical, he realizes that he has to take the chance.
And he’s not the only one who feels that way. Much to Obi-Wan’s surprise, Owen Lars wants to come with him. He confesses that he’s always wondered what took his step-brother away from his family. He thought for sure that Anakin was ready to stay on the Lars farm when he came to save Shmi from the Tusken Raiders. But then he left to save Obi-Wan on Geonosis. He’s longed to understand the pull to adventure that Anakin followed. He wants to have an adventure too. Obi-Wan is reluctant, but he doesn’t want to waste too much time arguing. Soon Cody, Obi-Wan, and Owen are leaving Tatooine to stop the Empire’s scheme.
But they’re not the only ones. Palpatine has learned that the Rebels are trying to stop his plan, so he dispatches Darth Vader to make sure that they can’t stop him. And thus, Darth Vader encounters Obi-Wan Kenobi. Obi-Wan is shocked to discover that his friend survived (apparently he doesn’t get the Star Wars equivalent of CNN on Tatooine) and it throws him for a loop. He reaches out to Vader and tries to save him. He’s absolutely convinced that his friend is still in there somewhere, that he can come back to the light side.
And maybe Vader is tempted. Maybe he stumbles a bit when he encounters his old master. And maybe, that little bit of weakness in him, is enough to give Obi-Wan and his compatriots the opening they need, at least at first. But soon it becomes evident that Darth Vader is too far gone to be rescued by Obi-Wan. Soon Obi-Wan and his team of adventurers are in a desperate race against Vader. Obi-Wan and his team are trying to stop the Empire, Vader is trying to protect it, and they keep on clashing.
In the end, Obi-Wan’s team is able to stop the Empire’s evil scheme, but at a major cost. Cody is killed and Obi-Wan and Vader fight one more time (Obi-Wan wins again, but only barely–hence why Vader says the last time they met, he was the learner, but now he’s the master in Episode IV). As a matter of fact, this whole adventure, whatever it is, causes some serious damage to Obi-Wan, enough to age him prematurely so that he appears to be much older than he actually is. In the end, Obi-Wan and Owen manage to slip away on a ship but, at the last moment, it appears as if the Empire shoots them down. Vader has to return to Coruscant and admit that he’s failed.
Of course, Obi-Wan and Owen didn’t die. They return to Tatooine. Any sense of accomplishment Obi-Wan might feel is muted, though. Owen is rattled by his experience. He’s come to realize that Anakin was a fool for following Obi-Wan on some “damn fool idealistic crusade” all those years ago. He should have just stayed on Tatooine and not gotten involved. He tells Obi-Wan to never come by the Lars homestead ever again. He doesn’t want him anywhere near his family. Obi-Wan, chastened and shaken up by what Anakin has become (more machine now than man), agrees. He returns to his home by the Dune Sea and hangs up his lightsaber. Not forever, of course. He knows a time is coming when he’ll have to take it up again. But for now, he’ll content himself to being Ben Kenobi, the hermit and secret protector to the galaxy’s final hope.
I don’t know about you, but I kind of like this idea of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader squaring off one last time. I think it would make for a fun stand alone movie like Rogue One or the upcoming Han Solo flick. And while I know that there’s been a a novel about Ben’s time on Tatooine, it’s been legend-ed like the rest of the EU. The door is open for a new story, one final showdown between the master and his old apprentice.
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There’s actually a chance they’re going to make some sort of Obi-Wan Kenobi: A Star Wars Story kind of movie in the future, and it would be really cool to see them do something like you’ve described here 🙂 Nice ideas/theories!
I don’t think it would be Cody, though. He did follow Order 66 at the end of RotS, and he’d probably have guilt as his motivation if he was in as a character. Not that I don’t like the idea, but I’d probably like to see a minor/semi-minor Clone Wars character, like Boil or Jesse or someone similar contact Obi-Wan, because not only would it follow the neat idea of putting cartoon characters into live action form (like Saw Gerrera), but it would differentiate it from the plot point of someone high in command contacting the protagonists, which is what Galen Erso did in Rogue One.
Those are just my thoughts on it, though. Neat post, and can’t wait for your next book! 😀