If there is to be balance, what you have seen must be forgotten.
Time travel is among the laziest of plot devices. Though it works fine as a limited enabler in classics like The Time Machine, old Doctor Who, and even the mildly comedic Back to the Future, its usefulness has been bludgeoned on screen especially in the past few decades, correlating with the meteoric rise in CGI. Just look to the Marvel universe for how everything becomes pointless when time travel is abused, when no character really dies, when any prior story can be modified or even erased. When time travel becomes no big deal, nothing really matters.
But what about time travel in Star Wars, and why does it need “saving”?
Star Wars Does Time Travel Right
When it comes to the six core classic films, Star Wars handled time travel perfectly – it simply did not exist. Outside of The Force allowing premonitions about the future, there was never any hint of “do this to go back to the past” or “do that to jump into the future”. Everything about the stories was purely linear, in a constant time (don’t think too hard about relativity and interstellar travel; the Star wars world is more akin to Middle Earth than an actual galaxy). Once an event happened, it happened, and there was no going back, even in this fantasy universe.
Why “Save” Star Wars?
If you have been following Star Wars for as long as I have, since the late 1970s, or even if you jumped in around the Prequel era, you should know that the state of affairs is akin to a galactic purgatory. Disney’s “Sequel” trilogy movies were fully ruinous to the brand, particularly the middle film The Last Jedi which featured the character assassination of the most beloved hero in Star Wars, Luke Skywalker. I will not rehash the problems, but will note in that we are now nearly four years past the ludicrous The Rise of Palpatine, which was literally the dragging of a corpse through the alleged Episode IX after TLJ had killed Star Wars the film prior.
If you do not believe me, then ask yourself why all post-TRoP content have absolutely nothing to do with the aftermath of Episodes VII through IX. Would not the post-latest film timeline been the ideal spot for new streaming shows like The Mandalorian? All major recent shows and series have been somewhere between the end of Revenge of the Sith through and up to a few years after Return of the Jedi.
Nothing screams “soft reboot” like all the new Star Wars content being anchored to the classic timeline. The hints being dropped about the live debut of Grand Admiral Thrawn (a de facto classic character) are light years more interesting than…what was her name, Ray?
It is obvious to me that, at least for now, there is a concerted effort to pretend like Disney’s Sequel trilogy never happened, or never will happen. There are two core problems:
- The Sequel trilogy is, simply, awful, and provides no platform for story growth and fan investment, unless Star Wars is suppose to be synonymous with being jarring ridiculous.
- The utter humiliation and destruction of Luke Skywalker as a hero.
Aside from simply ignoring Sequel trilogy content, is there any way to justify its nonsense in-story and lay a foundation that finally moves past the Return of the Jedi era?
I believe that an extremely measured and limited application of time travel can do just that, and the pieces to perform this “operation” are laying in plain sight.
Time Travel is Possible in Star Wars
Nothing is set in stone.
Before getting into how time travel can fix Star Wars, let us review how time travel is treated in this universe.
In The Clone Wars animated series, there is a fascinating mini “trilogy” in the middle of its third season. Three episodes, in apparent isolation from the surrounding story arcs, introduce classic Roman-like deities to the mythology. It is almost like this small snippet of content was introduced as a possible fail-safe/reset button to be used “for emergencies only,” if you will.
On the planet Mortis, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Ahsoka Tano discover three ancient beings, powerful in the ways of The Force well beyond any of their comprehensions, inferred even well beyond Yoda’s. There is Father, Son, and Daughter, the latter two being the manifestations of the Dark and Light Sides of The Force, respectively. The main plot point is that Father keeps his two children at bay from interfering with the galaxy, particular Son, who wants to escape Mortis and his Father to, in typical Sith fashion, bring “peace” to the galaxy.
In the third episode, in attempt to sway Anakin to his schemes, Son breaks the laws of time by showing Skywalker everything in his literal future, up through to him becoming Darth Vadar. Predictably, this drives Anakin mad. He sees no recourse but to align with Son in hopes of preventing that future, not realizing he commits to a trial run of his eventual allegiance to Palpatine.
When Father eventually catches up with Anakin, while Son is away, and learns what Son had done, he knows that the Sith embodiment had committed a great violation:
My son BROKE THE LAWS OF TIME and showed you what you should never have seen.
To counteract what Son had done and bring “balance” back to Anakin, Father does more than simply erase the Jedi’s memories:
“I have ERASED THAT TIME…”
This is more than a passing comment, as it shows how The Force can manipulate time, to actually “erase” a moment in time, that was never extrapolated on before.
These scenes prove (1) that the Star Wars universe has laws governing time, in some sci-fi fantasy manner through The Force, and (2) it is possible to manipulate time by those laws.
References to Father, Son, and Daughter were alluded to again in the Star Wars Rebels series. A major plot point towards the end of the series was a “race” to find a mysterious ancient Jedi temple which, as we learn, is a portal to another dimension to move across both space and…time. Happening about 15 standard years after the events of Episode III Revenge of the Sith, it could be argued that finding this temple, and its promise to control time, was Emperor Palpatine’s foremost obsession. After all, he had already conquered the galaxy in linear time, and left the petty task of finding remaining Jedi to Vadar. If the Emperor controlled the temple, he would control all of space and time, and likely he would consider himself to be, and by all practical applications would be, a god.
In short, the temple is found, and the Emperor of course fails to capture it for his own ends, and the temple effectively vanishes from the galactic stage. We will pick back up on the time temple and its unique dimension in a bit.
The Fate of Anakin’s Apprentice
Let us start to move away from the foundational information, which shows that there are very limited ways to manipulate time in the Star Wars universe, and begin to explore how structured events might be used to “erase” Disney’s Sequel trilogy.
Ahsoka Tano may be the most consequential character not introduced in the six classic, core Star Wars films. The young Padawan becomes Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice near the start of the Clone Wars, and was integral to the entire Clone Wars series, appearing in all subsequent major shows including Star Wars Rebels, The Mandalorian, and The Book of Boba Fett.
Ahsoka, of course, survives the Jedi purge, explained in the closing episodes of The Clone Wars. To fast forward slightly, Ahsoka re-emerges to help the rebels of said Star Wars Rebels. In the Rebels episode Twilight of the Apprentice, Ahsoka finally confronts the monster her former master had become, and in typical Force-adept fashion, they duel. The last we see of Ahsoka fighting Vadar, she sacrifices herself so that the two Rebels Jedi, Kanan and his apprentice Ezra, can escape. At the very end of the show there is an allusion to Ahsoka still being alive, surviving her fight with Darth Vadar.
But did Ahsoka actually survive?
Ahsoka Caught in Time
What happened during the Ahsoka vs. Vadar dual is explained towards the end of Star Wars Rebels in the episode A World Between Worlds, which is the climax of the search for the ancient Jedi temple and foiling of Palpatine’s plan to take it as his own. Padawan Ezra, through the course of the story, is the only one to enter the finally-found-temple. Inside he discovered a a reality like nothing he had encountered before. There are path to various portals that, judging from the sounds, lead to significant Force-related events throughout the galaxy in the past (and we can assume, the future too).
In one of the portals, Erza sees the battle between Ahsoka and Vadar, in the Sith temple on the planet Malachor. Erza was there, years before, and hence knows Ahsoka sacrificed herself so that he and his master Kanan could escape. Erza is confused at what he should do, but at the last possible moment, he reaches into the portal and pulls Ahsoka towards him, right before Vadar was going to strike her down.
The following sequence involves a discussion between Erza and Ahsoka.
“Here in this place, I can change things.”
For context, Erza’s master Kanan was already dead by this time in the show, having sacrificed himself so that his apprentice and their small rebel band could live. Erza sees an opportunity to find the portal showing Kanan’s death, so that he could save him, but Ahsoka convinced him not to:
Kanan found the moment when he was needed most, and he did what he had to do.
It is with this argument that Erza takes no action. A skirmish ensues with Palpatine, attempting to enter the portal on his own. Both Ezra and Ahsoka escape, with Erza returning to his own time and Ahsoka returning to Malachor immediately after her battle with Vadar, essentially going back in time, explaining why we saw her at the end of Twilight of the Apprentice,.
So what does this all mean?
Ahsoka’s return to Malachor is the first evidence of an alternate timeline in the Star Wars universe. Ahsoka was killed in her duel with Darth Vadar. Everything that happened after Erza pulled Ahsoka through the time portal is an alternate timeline. The importance of this cannot be underestimated.
To Achieve Balance in An Alternate Timeline
If my theory is true, then Episodes IV, V, and VI, including post-Return of the Jedi stories like The Manadalorian, and Disney’s Sequel trilogy, are happening in an alternate timeline where Ahsoka survived due to Ezra’s intervention. There is no precedent or frame of reference for what this could mean in the context of the Star Wars universe. It could merely result in a classic timeline branch, where future time is altered at a ripple pace due to the change event, here Ahsoka still being alive.
But this being uniquely Star Wars, what if there is a greater branching impact, a ripple in time that altered The Force? Could a bending of the laws of time disrupt The Force, impacting those most attuned to it in extraordinary ways? Could a powerful Jedi Master be led astray, into a madness that cannot be explained in linear time?
My Proposition to Fix Star Wars
If we take the following as true:
- Time travel is possible in Star Wars
- The laws of time can be manipulated only through extraordinary means by The Force
- Ahsoka Tano was killed by Darth Vadar
- Ahsoka’s saving and returning to her time by the powers of the ancient Jedi time temple branched to an alternate reality
- Ashoka’s alternate timeline caused a ripple disruption to The Force
Then it is not unreasonable to project that this alternate timeline would have an ever-increasing impact on reality, Star Wars reality, bending The Force and the events around it in ways not possible otherwise.
Ahsoka taught Erza that his master had found the moment in his life where he was needed most, and sacrificed himself to save his friends. Was not Ahsoka’s “moment” the saving of Kanan and Erza? Her sacrifice led to events which ultimately weakened the Empire and strengthened the budding Rebel Alliance in the run up to Episode IV A New Hope.
The most prominent Light Side adept of the ensuing times, Luke Skywalker, could have been impacted the most, delivering his mental state into one of madness. And could not the same time disruption impact the Dark Side as well, leading to an absurd series of events that shatter the normal time fabric of the SIth, placing malformed clones of Palpatine into positions of influence once more?
It’s all crazy, I know, but no more crazy, I contend, than the drivel presented in the past decade as a major film trilogy intended to carry on the Star Wars legacy but instead sent its future to classic film purgatory.
As to the manner of how this alternate timeline is fixed, I leave that question open, and would be interested to hear your thoughts. The most plausible path is an adventure where Ahsoka comes to realize, in the era of The Mandalorian, that her being there was a mistake in time, and that it was having an impact on Luke and The Force overall, and if left unchecked would lead to the state of affair before The Force Awakens. Ahsoka goes on a final quest to find and re-enter the ancient Jedi time temple, where she could return to her duel on Malachor and permit Time to be healed, with acceptance of her original fate. Problems will persist, e.g. the above explanation may be too dense and nerdy for the casual audience.
And there would be other questions, like what happens to the alternate timeline – I think it simply continues, but with Luke no longer fixed upon the path of insanity that would lead him to attempt murdering his nephew and destroying his fledgling new Jedi order. Then, Star Wars would be reset, and healed, and hopefully the future of its storytelling would be as enjoyable as its cherished past.