Obi-Wan Kenobi’s death was a key moment in the original Star Wars trilogy, but the saga would have been irrevocably different if Kenobi had killed Darth Vader instead. The Star Wars franchise’s first lightsaber duel canonically ended with Kenobi allowing his corrupted former pupil to strike him down, buying time for Luke Skywalker and the other heroes to escape the Death Star and deliver its blueprints to the Rebellion. If Kenobi had killed Vader, however, Luke’s Jedi training would have been quite different, as would the state of the Galactic Empire after losing two of its best leaders. The lore of the canon and Legends Star Wars continuities means that The Emperor would have a different replacement for Vader, depending on the universe.
Obi-Wan Kenobi ventured away from Luke, Han Solo, and Chewbacca to deactivate the Death Star’s tractor beams, but upon being detected by Darth Vader, the two confronted each other. Vader is quite confident in A New Hope, having spent years mastering the dark side of the Force and learning the culture of the Sith, truly becoming a Sith Lord rather than simply being the fallen Jedi he was in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Despite his increased strength in the dark side, Obi-Wan Kenobi is more than capable of killing a Sith Lord, as shown throughout canon and Legends.
Obi-Wan taunts Darth Vader in A New Hope’s 1976 novelization, telling him that “If my blade finds its mark, you will cease to exist,” before alluding to the Jedi afterlife, which Sith cannot access (though they do become chaotic and dangerous spirits who can only inhabit limited areas). Assuming that Kenobi’s blade did indeed find its mark, Darth Vader would be dead and Obi-Wan would have to fight his way through a small squad of Stormtroopers to reach the Millennium Falcon. The Star Wars saga would be quite different from this point on, though who would replace Vader would depend on whether the continuity is canon or Legends. Here’s what would have happened if Obi-Wan had killed Darth Vader in A New Hope.
The Battle Of Yavin Is a Greater Rebel Victory
With Obi-Wan traveling to Yavin IV with Princess Leia, he’d be privy to the Rebels’ plan to destroy the Death Star and likely coach Luke on how to guide his ship’s proton torpedoes if he makes a trench run. Vader’s plan of tracking the Millennium Falcon would succeed, even with Vader dead, so Tarkin would arrive in the system, preparing to destroy the base. However, without Vader entering the ensuing battle, far more Rebel ships would survive (including Biggs Darklighter and Garven Dreis), albeit without successfully hitting the Death Star’s main reactor. Even though Luke wouldn’t be in the same mortal danger as he is canonically, Han Solo would still return to the Rebels and assist them in the Battle of Yavin, and Luke would still destroy the battlestation.
Luke Begins His Jedi Training Earlier (With Obi-Wan AND Yoda)
Thanks to Obi-Wan’s survival, Luke Skywalker would also begin his Jedi training in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Yavin. As he finds his place within the Rebellion as an X-Wing pilot, Luke would also gradually become more formidable in his skills with a lightsaber and the Force. However, Luke’s most advanced training would eventually take him to Dagobah, where he’d work towards Jedi Knighthood under the tutelage of both Obi-Wan and Yoda.
The Empire Is Devastated Without Tarkin Or Vader
With Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin dead, the Empire would have lost two of its greatest military leaders. Combined with Luke Skywalker’s Jedi training and Obi-Wan likely taking a leadership position within the Rebellion’s high command (since he’s a veteran General from the Clone Wars), the Rebels would grow in strength and numbers as well as win a string of victories against the Empire. In the Legends universe, the Empire might be able to mitigate this by turning to Grand Admiral Thrawn in their desperation. Thrawn wouldn’t be available in the canon timeline, as he became missing in action before the events of A New Hope.
Emperor Palpatine Replaces Darth Vader (But Who With?)
Darth Vader’s death wouldn’t only harm the Galactic Empire’s war effort against the Rebellion, but it would also necessitate that Emperor Palpatine, as the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, finds a replacement for his fallen apprentice. As shown in 2020’s canon Darth Vader comics, Palpatine had already initiated his Sith Eternal experiments on Exegol by the events of the original trilogy, so he’d presumably have a strandcast replace Darth Vader, training one to become a Sith Lord. In Legends, Palpatine had numerous dark side-trained agents serving him in the Empire, but since Shira Brie (the eventual Sith Lady Lumiya) hadn’t started her Sith training yet, the clearest choices for Vader’s successor are the Inquisitor (and former Jedi) Jerec and Palpatine’s adopted daughter, Mara Jade.
Jerec is a brilliant and scholarly dark side user who proves his leadership after Return of the Jedi when forming a group of dark side warriors and leading a contingent of military units from the Imperial warlord faction known as the Pentastar Alignment. Jerec long wished to supplant Darth Vader and is extremely powerful in the dark side of the Force, mastering Form II of lightsaber combat as well. Mara Jade, however, is not only trained by Palpatine himself in the ways of the dark side, but she also has a strong Force bond with him, drawing power from Palpatine (until his first death). While Jerec could nearly rival Darth Vader’s power, Mara Jade and her mastery of the lightsaber combat Form IV would prevail, and she’d become the new Dark Lady of the Sith after killing him.
Luke’s Faith In The Jedi Is Shaken When He Learns Vader Was Anakin
Although Obi-Wan Kenobi’s survival would make Luke’s Jedi path far easier, he would eventually struggle with the dark side, though in this case, perhaps more intensely than he does in the films. Sooner or later, Luke would learn the truth about Darth Vader, discovering that Obi-Wan killed his father without attempting to redeem him (with Palpatine’s new apprentice perhaps being the one to tell Luke this truth). This would play perfectly into Palpatine’s plans, as Luke’s faith in both his mentors and the Jedi way itself would be damaged.
Would Luke Skywalker Defeat Palpatine In Star Wars Canon?
Since Luke Skywalker has no emotional connection to Palpatine or his strandcast apprentice, Luke’s growing struggle with the dark side would inevitably lead him to kill Vader’s replacement. With his faith in the Jedi way in shambles, Luke would probably join the Sith and replace the strandcast, making him the next great threat to the Rebellion. In his newfound position as a Sith Lord, Luke would not only lead the Empire to victory over the Rebellion on numerous fronts, but he’d likely betray and kill Obi-Wan Kenobi (and possibly Yoda as well). The only way that the Jedi and Rebels could succeed is if Leia becomes a Jedi (perhaps trained by Yoda or the Force ghosts of him and Kenobi), defeating her brother and The Emperor in a redemption arc for Luke that mirrors Anakin’s in Return of the Jedi.
Luke Skywalker Redeems Mara Jade In Star Wars Legends
In Legends, Luke would probably resist the dark side in a similar manner to Return of the Jedi. Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade fell in love in the Legends timeline, and while they’d be bitter enemies in this alternate Star Wars original trilogy era, their eventual feelings for each other could easily still develop. Just as Luke appealed to the good within Vader, using their paternal bond to redeem him, he’d likely help Mara Jade reject the dark side using their romantic attachment, helping them both defeat Palpatine and eventually establish the New Jedi Order as they’d both see that the old Jedi ways of shunning attachments are flawed. This would also help Luke forgive Obi-Wan and Yoda, who might join Luke and Mara Jade’s New Jedi Order in this new version of the Star Wars saga.
Next: How Mara Jade Could Have Been In Return Of The Jedi (& Why She Wasn’t)
- Rogue Squadron (2023)Release date: Dec 22, 2023
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