Could Sybok Have Saved Darth Vader?

I had occasion to think recently of Star Trek V. My love for it is controversial and deepens with each time I watch it. It’s not a rational love. But it is a love of sorts.

As I thought about it, I came to think of Darth Vader and how pain was a motivating factor for him. He lived in constant pain. Part of his pain was physical, to be sure. Another significant part of his pain, however, was emotional.

Given that we’ve seen the complexity of the Star Wars galaxy to include a great many things not suspected in the past, I wondered why there wasn’t some sort of self-help series Vader could have used to alleviate his pain.

“I just need a huuuuuuuuuug!”

Thinking of self-help, I wondered if there was some sort of Dr. Phil-style guru who shat out platitudes about things to make it seem like every decision was OK so long as the person came to terms with it. I mean, it’s a big galaxy.

Given that, I thought of Sybok. He’s a straight-up commentary on self-help gurus. I figure then that he, or his equivalent, would exist in Star Wars. American culture (and possibly others) are resplendent with people who espouse the philosophy that no decision is truly wrong. Given that, it would follow that the Emperor could have sent a self-help guru to Vader and give him a pep talk.

Imagine a Sith truly at peace with his awful ways. The Emperor could have employed such a person, even for himself. An Oprah-like being who insisted that it was all OK so long as you personally were at peace with your choices.

Kirk & Vader

While Star Trek V rejected this philosophy, later Star Trek works fully embraced it. The entire series of Star Trek: Voyager seems to have been dedicated to spreading the notion that all choices are good choices so long as the individual is happy with them.

This means that Vader and Kirk may well be philosophical soul-mates. It means as well that Star Wars is a more philosophically grounded and fulfilling series of works than Star Trek.

Perhaps I really should be class president.

I just blew your mind.

The Real Chosen One: Other Theories and Final Conclusions

Here we are, the final chapter in the Chosen One saga.Obviously, my focus through the previous blogs was on the dilemma of the Chosen One. My three candidates are obvious: Qui-Gon, Anakin and Luke. The official take on things is that it’s Anakin, Luke is something of a fan-favorite choice and Qui-Gon stems from what could be called my unique perspective on things.

I’m living evidence that you don’t need to be in college, drunk or near weed to spend time to analyze small details. I’d hope, actually, that everyone’s figured out that my love for Star Wars is legitimate and more than just a nostalgic joyride. There’s no ironic act here; it’s simply that I see it through these eyes.

But instead of approaching the smattering of left-over tidbits like why Obi-Wan doesn’t qualify, why I don’t focus on Leia, and what music I use as my writing inspiration with the rigid format of the previous, I’m just going to go with an FAQ approach. Hopefully it encourages some of you to build on it in the comments section.

Why Doesn’t Obi-Wan Qualify?

Simply, because there’s nothing special about him.

This is not to say he’s not a pivotal character. Of course he is. He is instrumental in screwing up Anakin’s training and beginning Luke’s. But there’s nothing to Obi-Wan that says someone else couldn’t have been there in his place. Would it have changed the variables? Affected the outcome? Of course.

But changing the type of car I drive doesn’t mean I changed my destination.

Why Don’t I Consider Leia to be the Chosen One?

[For the people who like to be outraged and take screenshots out of context for their social media pogroms:JOKE FORTHCOMING.]Because women ruin everything. [It’s a joke.] The Chosen One is supposed to save it.[THAT WAS A JOKE.]

I kid, I kid. I don’t consider Leia to be a candidate for the Chosen One for two simple facts.

She’s not strong in the Force. Luke’s out there flying, able to skim Beggar’s Canyon thanks to some seriously innate Force skills. Vader can torture Leia at point-blank range and not even sense a disturbance (but does the Emperor?).

Second, so that I can drain some of the fun out of this for The Boy Wonder, Leia wasn’t Luke’s sister until story conferences for The Empire Strikes Back. The concept of twins was in the original script, but Lucas didn’t write Star Wars with the brother-sister thing fleshed out. This doesn’t bother me the way it bothers other people who were fine with it until the 1990s, but I do consider it sort of a DQ here.

What is Meant by “Balance of the Force”?

This is one that can’t be completely clear to anyone, I think. You have the immeasurably metaphorical balance of light and dark. In the TPM era, there’s too much light. In the original-trilogy era, there’s too much dark. Luke is the Superman, a blended balance of light and dark personified, and Leia will be the virtual well-spring of future Jedi.

There are two Jedi and two Sith (film character-wise) from the end of Revenge of the Sith to the end of Return of the Jedi, when the meaning of Jedi and Sith are rendered irrelevant. Technically the Jedi remain, but in a drastically different way.

Do I think that there were only two Jedi and two Sith in play until Luke came into his own? Frankly, yes.

This doesn’t mean there weren’t other Force users. Vader and Palpatine were described by Lucas as a dysfunctional couple always looking for something better, but they never found it until Luke offered the real potential. So yes, Balance was also for a time the strict 2-2 count between Jedi and Sith.

But ultimately I take “Balance” to mean, the eradication of the old order and the birth of the new (hope). Basically, the old system was broken beyond repair and had to be scrapped completely. This was the destiny. How that happened was determined by the actions of the major players.

One Final Note

The last theory I entertain is that the Prophecy wasn’t misread. It was read properly. But it was bungled by the Jedi (and specifically, Anakin) and so the Force intervened to put pieces in place that would ensure its fulfillment. It’s that whole “Free Will but within a Framework of Destiny” argument.

To wit: Anakin should have been left on Tatooine. Qui-Gon seriously screwed up by taking him away from his loving parent and putting him into the very system that would lead to his corruption. At the moment Qui-Gon works to influence Destiny (the chance cube with Watto), he sets off a chain reaction of events where The Force/midichlorians have to bat clean up. Then, as punishment for being a colossal douchebag, the Force keeps Anakin alive when he should be dead.

So..and here’s where I get weird…Anakin was the Chosen One until Qui-Gon dies/the Jedi reverse their decision about his training/he kills the Tuskens. The exact flashpoint doesn’t matter. What matters is that the Jedi initially recognized they shouldn’t train him. They even say he may be the Chosen One, but his training carries grave danger. In other words, let the Force have its day.

Instead, they act out of self-preservation to make the Chosen One influence the galaxy the way they see fit. Qui-Gon influences the die roll out of hubris and the desire to be “right.” So the midichlorians create the twins (Anakin and Padme as the conduit) as Plan B. One of those children then becomes the Chosen One; or they are the Force’s way of splitting the prophecy in two to make sure not all the power is concentrated in one vessel.

Like I said, it’s a little weird. But I kinda dig it.

Fin

Well, there you go. What say you?

The Real Chosen One: Building the Case for Luke Skywalker

Sorry for the delay: child injured, stitches, horror, it’ll probably take me longer to recover from the experience than her. Jar Jar Hater’s heart is completely hardened to my pain, but seriously, the fact that I had to hold down my own child, screaming at a pitch and volume that I’ve never heard come from another human, as they turned her chin into a knitting project is just one of those horrific moments of complete helplessness that will haunt me for years to come.

Speaking of children, let’s get to who I consider to be our final legitimate candidate for Chosen One in the Star Wars galaxy.

I’m speaking, of course, about Luke Skywalker. He was mentioned in the comments when this series first started, and I think for a lot of the same reasons I’ll list here (plus a few others that I’ve collected after obsessively musing the question for the better part of the last 13 years).

But given all the other speculation, what compelling arguments exist that Luke is the one who was prophesied?

As it turns out, a fair number. But it’s not so straightforward in my mind as others might take it, and let me tell you why…

Building the Case for Luke Skywalker

The prophecy is specifically about one who will “bring balance to the Force.” The tip to the Jedi that it might be Anakin and that the prophecy may be coming true is that Anakin is apparently a directly-conceived child of the Force. Divine conception is a big tip that someone is a wee bit special, traditionally.

But the full text of the prophecy is never stated in the films and honestly, I don’t think it’s ever been spelled out anywhere. Even looking at a source that takes into account the expanded material never has specific text listed. And as with most of my examinations of the text of the films, the EU is discounted from these discussions. It is worth noting, however, that it would provide a fascinating supportive argument for Luke being The Chosen One by the mere existence of light/dark conflict beyond the six films.

And the collective editors of the wikis seem incapable even of acknowledging that the line that tips off the Council about the prophecy is the “conceived by the midichlorians” bit Qui-Gon sneaks in there. And I refuse to get into those discussions, because I gave up on the post-Jedi “Expanded Universe,” or allowing Lucas to be sole arbiter of interpretation for these works, a long time ago. In fact, I dislike it when a filmmaker tries to tell me “what I’m supposed to see” in the story, because that takes all the fun out of it.

But I digress.

Luke Skywalker and Biggs Darklighter talk on Tatooine in the original Star Wars directed by George Lucas
“My dialogue from this scene reads like an Ayn Rand treatise…I’m going to get cut, aren’t I?”

Luke is the Expression of Balance

Plainly, Luke is the expression of balance. He personifies it. He has passion and he has love, but he does not let them rule him. He is part machine, but it does not define him. He wears black but is a hero and spiritual leader.

Like Anakin, the entire fate of the galaxy hinges on his personal decisions. His decision to leave Tatooine to become a Jedi leads to the destruction of the Death Star. His decision to leave his friends after Hoth leads to the death of the Empire.

While it may seem minor, Yoda’s life seems preserved by the Force for the sake of training him. However, couple that with the fact that Obi-Wan is able to commune with him directly after death; if you note, his physical presence as a spirit also becomes more pronounced as Luke grows stronger until he’s sitting next to the young Jedi on a log. The two Sith are moving to master him and by extension replace the other.

Beyond all that he makes the right choices, and with less opportunity, than Anakin. He has the opportunity for vengeance and instead exercises mercy. He does not have a lifetime of training to provide a clear definition of right and wrong, just being raised by loving, murdered “parents” unexpectedly.

He is Batman to Vader’s Bane. (Yeah, I made that connection. Geeksplosion!)

But most importantly, it is important to note that while Vader may be the hammer that smashes the Sith, it’s Luke’s willing self-sacrifice that is the force driving him. Vader, a monster in shape and action, is moved to destroy himself and the master of evil because of it.

In other words, the forgiveness he extends to the fallen redeems the world. Sure sounds like restoring balance to me.

What do you think?

Are these arguments more compelling than the ones for other characters? Less so?

Next Blog: The Real Chosen One: Other Theories and Final Conclusions

Just to give a tease on the last installment, I’ll address why Obi-Wan never enters the discussions, why I don’t focus on Leia, and what music I use as my writing inspiration for these blogs.

Flashback Blog: I Must Obey My Master

Yep. I’m still in the process of reclaiming my old blogs from their old origin points to protect them from being locked away from me for good. I’m also very tired and going to sleep pretty much immediately after I post this.

This time, I decided to nab another one that explores the nature of the Dark Side, but also Anakin/Vader’s dependency on Palpatine/Sidious. It’s something that, as a fan, I’m always interested in trying to peg down just because of the subtextual complexity laid down in that relationship.

So here are my thoughts from 2005, just a few months after Revenge of the Sith was released.


I Must Obey My Master

Originally published on August 24, 2005, at the original kessel korner.

There is something over which I have pondered for more than twenty years. In Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader, on the forest moon of Endor, declares, “I must obey my master.” In light of the events revealed in Revenge of the Sith, I think finally know why.

Now, you must know that I am not pulling this from any official source. So don’t take my word as ‘canon’, unless like me, it makes the most sense for you. 🙂

I have always wondered why Vader must obey his master. It just didn’t make sense; Vader offered Luke the opportunity in The Empire Strikes Back to overthrow the Emperor. (As a side note, I loved the parallel moment in Sith when he made the same offer to Padmé.)

There are any of a number of noble reasons you can throw out there as well. One which I always favored was that Vader defends the Emperor, in part because on a subconscious level he wants to prevent Luke from making the same mistakes he did. That explanation still works in the subtext, but it’s not a strong enough motivator to keep Sidious alive.

Vader is already doubting the ways of the Sith by the beginning of Return of the Jedi. The statement, “It is too late for me, son” points to a conflicted soul, one who is resigned to his fate but unhappy about it. It’s not the triumphant declaration of power that we came to expect from Vader after A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, when he was still a blazing acolyte of the Dark Side.

Despite the conflict, despite the doubt, Vader acts first out of the Fear of Death. And since we know that Vader fears death above all other things, he must do everything in his power to protect…the wellspring of his life.

After Revenge of the Sith, it clicked for me when Sidious told Anakin the story of Darth Plagueis. The Sith want to acheive immortality by unnaturally prolonging life. The one word that Palpatine/Sidious hit on in the “legend” was power. Later, when Anakin turns, Sidious states that “only one has mastered” the secret to immortality, “but together, I am sure we can discover its secret.”*

The Emperor, when he goes to find Anakin on Mustafar, does not turn and look for a new apprentice. It would have made sense, would it not? Especially for a ruthless, self-serving manipulator like Sidious. He had already won. We know that Anakin is damaged goods by that point, and so does he. But rather, he goes to the lava shore and saves Anakin’s life. This is not a tender man, so to see any sort of tenderness does not fit.

Palpatine still needs Anakin, because as weakened as he is, he is still the key to Palpatine’s chance at immortality. After his slash-and-burn fate, Anakin needs Palpatine’s power to stay alive as well. They act like parasites, one feeding off the other.

That is the key. Together, Sidious and Vader are extremely powerful. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and I believe that one keeps the other alive.

Even in his weakened state as a zombie cyborg, Vader provides the power for the Emperor to cheat death…to a certain point. The problem is that Vader is no longer the powerful man that Anakin was, and as time marches on he cannot feed the Emperor’s “need” much longer. The Emperor now needs the whole, unspoiled son if he is to unlock the secret forever.

Vader, on the other hand, made three plays for power (Mustafar, Death Star, Bespin) and failed. The sun is already setting on him, and he knows that he has blown his chance at “independence”. He needs the Emperor in Return of the Jedi far more than the Emperor needs him. Vader must obey his master, because otherwise he will die. Without Palpatine, the key to Vader’s unnatural life ends.

“Luke, help me take this mask off.”
“But you’ll die.”
“Nothing can stop that now…”

I am already sure that everyone will tell me that it was the Emperor’s lightning that killed Vader. Being more machine than man, blah, blah, blah. But you know what? People survive Force lightning in the films. While I think still that it brings the house crashing down, it is the removal of the Emperor’s power that ensures Vader’s death. This adds even more nobility to the sacrifice. When he throws the Emperor down that ill-placed reactor shaft, he knows that he is committing suicide to save his son. That is the ultimate sacrifice – not to just throw yourself into harm’s way, but to know that it means your end.

So what was the final moment that pushed Vader over the edge? We all know that. But now, maybe I understand why it was such a difficult decision from the start.

* Give me a break. If I mis-quoted something, I know I was at least in the ball park. I haven’t seen Sith more than five times yet, the memorization will come.


I still think this is a pretty valid interpretation after all these years. Anyone have any thoughts?