What If Darth Vader Didn’t Go Back to the Emperor After the End of Star Wars?

Usual disclaimer: Star Wars in this context means Episode IV: A New Hope

A number of things I’ve written lately about Star Wars have come back to the same question of how much time passes between the chapters of the original Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Usually I harp on the idea that the films seem to work best if you allow the least amount of time between them, or at least a minimal duration.

One was spurred from a Words With Nerds listener who made the poor choice to taunt me with a question on Twitter. He was concerned why there was a wait between Luke’s Death Star victory and his departure to Dagobah.

I helped him out with that, but then I got to thinking.

If I’m willing to compress the timelines as I see fit as an audience member (as any audience member should), then I have to entertain the thought that Darth Vader went straight from the defeat at the Death Star to his fleet.

Incidentally, Vader’s fleet is accepted to have been named the Death Squadron, which seems silly since Death Fleet would indicate a fleet. In all honesty, Death Fleet is a scarier name. When I think of “Death Squad,” I think of a crack troop command sent out to depose rival governments; when I think “Death Fleet” I think “end of Carthage.” Maybe that’s just me.

Anyhow, if we do compress time so there’s at most a matter of months between Star Wars and Empire, I think that adds a lot of urgency to Vader’s search as well. He doesn’t need to know the name of the pilot who destroyed the Death Star at first; he only need to know that there is a pilot and he’s with the Rebel fleet.

Death Fleet on the Move

So he gets to the Death Fleet (I’m just calling it that now) and commandeers them, makes them hang a sharp turn, and goes to Yavin to pound the Rebels into dust only to find they were too quick and relocated already.

The establishing shot of the Executor Super Star Destroyer from The Empire Strikes Back
It is the brute squad!

If you want to add intrigue, make his commandeering of the Death Fleet be a source of irritation for Ozzel and an origin point for the obvious enmity between them. Ozzel was happily going about his mission when Vader, hot off the Death Star loss, shows up and turns what should be a quiet assignment before retirement into a hellacious goose chase.

Vader stays in contact with the Emperor finding out information as he goes. True to the Sith way, the two are racing to find out about this mysterious pilot and never know what the other knows, adding even more subtext to their conversation in Empire.

Tying It Together

So let’s pair this with my explanation about Luke’s delayed Dagobah journey, as it’s viewed by @roberthayjr. The Rebels are all too aware of this pursuit — as established at the beginning of Episode V — and so Luke never has the time to quiet his mind enough to hear/see Ben’s spirit clearly.

It takes a near-death experience to spur Luke into the next stage of his life. This pairs nicely with things, I think, and even serves as a nice symbolic fact about how people approach their own lives: they have to appreciate how fragile mortality is before they start living wisely.

What do you think?