Question from a Listener: “Why doesn’t Ghost Obi-Wan send Luke to Yoda right after he blows up the Death Star?”

Super Death Panda at Hoth

A listener of Words With Nerds (as you all should be) proposed a question to me on Twitter. To avoid misstating anything, here it is:

It’s a decent question. That is likely to be enough for @roberthayjr to feel happy; he’s a good egg who likes to challenge.

As I thought about the question, though, it’s one that I think is rooted in the “accepted timeline” between Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. That is currently accepted to be 3 years.

The first and easiest way to disregard the question, then, is to say that there’s nothing in the text of the film that mandates a long time between the films. It could be as little as a month between films. The only length of time required is for it to be long enough that they run into a bounty hunter on Ord Mantell, per the dialogue from Han. You can tweak that a little further by saying that it would also need to be enough time for Vader to get back to the fleet, discover Luke’s identity, and set off searching for him without telling the Emperor. (This triggers a new and intriguing thought that I’ll write about later.)

That’s a little bit of a cheat, though. It’s a way of “lawyering around” the question. I don’t want to do that….

…this time.

Ghost Obi-Wan is Emphatic
Luke! Don’t give away the secret recipe. That leads to the dark…fried.

My Answer

The answer as I see it then, is two-fold:

  1. Luke wasn’t strong enough in the Force to see Obi-Wan until that near-death experience on Hoth; and/or
  2. Obi-Wan was waiting to step across the fabric of two realities until Luke was judged ready to take the next step; we’d heard him speak during the final act of Star Wars, he was likely waiting to appear until the right time.

I like both parts of this answer because they can, technically, function on their own.

The second point deserves a little more exploration, though. For if Obi-Wan could speak to Luke, why couldn’t he just tell him to go to Dagobah?

Refining the Answer

The refinement is that Obi-Wan was waiting to send Luke to Dagobah until Luke was could indicate a development and maturity in his Force abilities that was a clear sign that he was ready for the next, important step. After all, as soon as Luke goes to Yoda, it’s going to set off enough of a disturbance in the Force for the Emperor to sense it — hence him coming to Vader and talking about it in Empire.

Again, Luke had to be strong enough to see it, and Obi-Wan appeared when he saw that he was.

As a final “nitpicking interpretation,” who says that Obi-Wan didn’t speak to Luke between Empire and Jedi, dropping hints? Clearly Luke develops further skills like telekineses seen at the start of Empire.

He could have gotten there through meditation, too, but it’s equally valid to think that Obi-Wan spoke to him as Qui-Gon spoke to Obi-Wan while he was on Tatooine. This is, again, an accepted bit of knowledge, inferred from the text of Revenge of the Sith as much as anything else.

So, Bobby, how’d I do? Maybe it’s worth a discussion on Aggressive Negotiations….

Yoda is a many-colored being.
I also come from an era when we accepted both green AND purple (AND blue) Yodas.

In Defense of Uncle Owen

This is a blog that I’ve wanted to write for awhile about Owen Lars.

Before Luke gets to see the world at large, Owen Lars is his great obstacle. The last rampart to block his visions of the future, Owen continually wants Luke to stay on the farm for just one season more.

Uncle Owen talks to Luke Skywalker in this promotional photo from Star Wars, later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope, even before the term Special Edition was invented
Fine, Uncle Owen, I get it. South ridge condensers need to be repaired. But why are you in a bathrobe?

He wants Luke ignore the friends who have grown past him and moved into the world in favor of remaining a farmer.

And of course, Luke wants nothing to do with it. Like the audience, Luke has dreams of adventure and love that are greater than his surroundings can provide.

So naturally we identify with Luke. He is not just the hero of the tale, but I would argue a uniquely American one in many ways. He does not want to enter the trade that provided for him his whole life. He feels he can be fulfilled only if his greatest dreams come true.

Of course for Luke they do. He is our generational archetype, the great hero who came from nothing to change the world.

But what about Uncle Owen?

A Different Perspective

Now that I’ve been a father for a few years, I’m starting to think Owen Lars got a bit of a bad rap.

Owen knew what Luke’s father did. If you pay attention to the ending of Revenge of the Sith, he never interacts with Obi–Wan. That’s on purpose.

Good ol’ Ben Kenobi drops the progeny of Death and Fear into your arms and leaves him to you. Owen never had his own children, looking at the films. Luke was his one and only tie to a sense of family that had disintegrated for Owen since Shmi’s death. So he grew to love and was watching over the child of the galaxy’s most notorious sociopath. Owen was afraid, to be sure. But wouldn’t you be?

I would.

So after 40 years, can’t we give Owen a break? He did the best he could, and even raised a kid with a good sense of values who, when he had the tough choices, made the right ones. He had something to do with that.

We might not like that Owen was protective of Luke. But he did a damn better job than the Jedi did with Anakin.

And I think that’s the point.

The Real Chosen One: Introduction

Some of you reading this may be (hopefully) people who just discovered this blog recently thanks to WordPress’ kind featuring of my last piece on Freshly Pressed. If so, welcome. It’s not always about Star Wars and Star Trek, but trust me, most of the time it is. Just with a fresher perspective of things.

This piece is something I’ve mulled for some time. It’s an examination of Star Wars that came to me as I was re–examining a lingering point from the prequels.

I started to think about a question that’s sort of plagued me in recent years as I think about the “Prophecy of the Chosen One” in Star Wars lore.

Namely, was it really Anakin? Was his accomplishment of really the one that the prophecy foresaw?

To approach this completely, I want to hit on two benchmarks of dialogue from the films.

In Episode I, Yoda muses to Obi-Wan, “The Chosen One, the boy [Anakin] may be. Nevertheless, grave danger I fear in his training.”

Yoda does not share the now–deceased Qui–Gon’s enthusiasm for the child, and the Council at this point has overridden his objections to allow Obi–Wan to train him. “Agree with you the Council does” is an important distinction for Yoda to draw. He doesn’t say “I” or “we” agree with you [Obi–Wan], but that the Council does. The cranky old muppet got out–voted.

So from the beginning we have doubt about Anakin’s true nature and the role he will truly play.

Revenge of the Sith

Moving past the fact that Anakin is a “slow learner” and has yet to mature into his role as a Knight, much less the Chosen One (a point which Mace Windu raises) we get to the heart of where the question really blossoms.

The deepest verbal doubt was further cast in Episode III with this exchange:

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Anakin did not take to his new assignment with much enthusiasm.
Mace Windu: It’s very dangerous, putting them together. I don’t think the boy can handle it. I don’t trust him.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: With all due respect, Master, is he not the Chosen One? Is he not to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force?
Mace Windu: So the prophecy says.
Yoda: A prophecy that misread could have been.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: He will not let me down. He never has.
Yoda: I hope right you are.

And it was reviewing that exchange that got me thinking, if the prophecy is wrong, then who is the Chosen One?

Mulling it over, it came to me that a potential alternative answer is there for us, if we look at it from a certain point of view.

The real “Chosen One” may be Qui–Gon Jinn.

I know, I know. Not even he would expect that to be the case, as he’s the one that discovered Anakin and proclaimed him to be.

He’s the first Jedi known to achieve true immortality, the one who listened to the will of The Force (God) without hesitation and who accepted all things on calm, assured faith. And again, without him Yoda and Obi–Wan don’t receive the gift that is retaining individual consciousness after death.

From there, I started really thinking about it.

Qui-Gon Considers Things
Even Qui-Gon is taken aback by the concept that I’m about to lay out there.

Next blog: The Real Chosen One: Building the Case for Qui–Gon Jinn

An Unanswered Question from Attack of the Clones

Once more, I wade into potentially troublesome territory. But everyone stayed nice and on-topic with An Unanswered Question from The Phantom Menace—or resisted the urge to walk into my brazen trap like Jar Jar Hater and KCSMM—so let’s continue the series to its logical conclusion.

Today’s question is from Attack of the Clones. Like the previous, I have my own answer/response in mind, but want to see where anyone/everyone else goes with it. And since I’m gamely attempting to figure out again if Google+ is anywhere near worth the effort, I’m going to re–post it there.

Why Didn’t Dooku Sense Obi–Wan from Ten Feet?

Vader sensed Obi–Wan/Luke from outside the hold of the Falcon.

Obi–Wan sensed Sidious at work through the Force from across the galaxy in The Phantom Menace.

Vader sensed Luke hiding like a little Pinkman in the Throne Room in Return of the Jedi.

So why couldn’t Dooku, walking about ten feet away from Obi–Wan, sense him? Here was this venerable fallen Master of the Force, trained personally by Yoda as a Padawan and now a full–fledged Sith, turn and burn him to the ground?

Obi–Wan also hides in an alcove right above the conference of Separatists and Dooku doesn–t bat an eye.

Obi–Wan then runs off to his ship and sends a signal out to warn the galaxy about the construction of a top–secret army of Battle Droids Dooku is supervising.

So what say you? Was Dooku unable to sense Obi–Wan Kenobi, later to be venerated as one of the greatest and most powerful Jedi in history, hiding within arm’s reach?

What does that say about his connection to the Force? Was Palpatine really just keeping him at arm’s reach and using him as a place holder until a true inheritor to Darth Maul could be found?

Again, I have my own line of answers and I think they’re pretty firmly supported by the “text” of the films. But this series is about what you think.

Revising the Text: There Is Another

This is actually going to be a new “series” of blogs I’m starting, where I’ll take questions (if anyone has them, or if I think of an interesting one) about the “text” of the Star Wars films and provide the answers as best I can. May as well, as blog links seem to save me time in Twitter discussions now.

Context

Tolkien re-wrote The Hobbit to fit into the larger story of The Lord of the Rings. Dickens revised Great Expectations. Star Trek: The Motion Picture has been re-edited several times.

Even some of Shakespeare’s plays have multiple versions.

I’ve talked about that sort of thing before, but I’m using the lead-in because blog troublemaker “Jar Jar Hater” felt the need to “introduce” me to another hater via Twitter. I suspect the whole purpose was to try to get me riled up, which failed spectacularly as I just started feeding blog links to him (I knew I did this for a reason!).

But he did ask a question I’ve not specifically addressed before, so I guess I’ll write about it, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s Friday and I’m tired.

But Things Changed!

The prequels revised a number of things that had been presumed by fans. But aside from revisiting assumptions, they re-interpreted things that were in the original scripts, though in most cases those things were never committed to the final cuts of the films.

Case in point, in the original version of the scene where Luke meets Red Leader in the hangar before the attack on the Death Star, Red Leader says:

“I met your father once when I was just a boy. He was a great pilot. You’ll do all right. If you’ve got half of your father’s skill, you’ll do better than all right.”

This was entirely cut from the original film. In the special edition, the scene is added back in, but the dialogue is neatly cut by having an “extra” walk across the scene to remove the reference to the father. It gives us more interaction with Biggs (yay! a reason to give a crap!), and honestly, it’s still not a line committed to film.

And if you’re going to get technical, the Empire Strikes Back novelization by Donald F. Glut lists Yoda as blue and the Return of the Jedi novelization by James Kahn says Owen Lars is Ben Kenobi’s brother.

There are tons of other examples, as novelizations are written while scripts are still in development. Look at the differences between the film and novel versions of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which got to the point where they decided the works were actually complementary but not interdependent.

But but let’s return to the specific question at hand and my answer.

There Is Another

This abrasively angry chap obviously got the memo that I’m still the official Star Wars Ombudsman, and one gem he threw at me was:

@kesseljunkie explain why yoda told Obiwan about leia in empire even though he was at the birth in III

The interpretation of his tweet: Why, when Obi-Wan’s blue ghost says, “That boy is our last hope,” does Yoda reply, “No. There is another”?

He, like many fans, take umbrage at the fact that you can read that Yoda’s suggesting something Obi-Wan doesn’t know. This of course gets destroyed as early as Return of the Jedi, when Ben lets loose with the knowledge that Yoda was speaking of Luke’s twin sister. Of course, it turns out to be Leia.

In the prequels, both Yoda and Obi-Wan are present at the birth of the twins. So what gives, right?

First part of the answer: In story conferences on Empire Lucas debated who the lost sibling was, shelved the reveal until the sequel and kept the exchange so they could keep the audience off-balance. If we know Luke is replaceable, we know Luke can die, which increases the stakes when he fights Vader.

Second part: in the context of the entire series, the exchange is now a sign that Obi-Wan had staked all hope on Luke, and Yoda is telling him that not all is lost. Luke had been watched all his life by Obi-Wan, taken care of by Anakin’s own step-brother (remember, novelizations don’t count) and had been selected to train as a Jedi. Yoda was already approaching 900 years old and it’s not like there were other Jedi Masters waiting around to train Leia should Luke die. And how was Yoda supposed to reach out to Leia? Blue ghost Obi-Wan showed no talent for appearing to anyone other than Luke and Yoda.

And That Is That

There’s your answer. Simple. If you don’t like, honestly, I don’t care. But I think there’s a certain poetry in it, a symmetry in the longer arc of the story and it’s not like I’m ever going to get every hater to stop hating. But at least I’ve given the “text” more thought than “but that’s not what I thought when I was ten!”

Seriously, be open and, if I may: Unlearn what you have learned.

Now go re-read the very beginning of the blog again so I don’t have to try to come up with anything snappier.