Had Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer managed to shoot down R2-D2 and C-3PO’s escape pod at the beginning of A New Hope, the future of the Star Wars galaxy would have been very different. Now that the Star Wars lore has expanded through all sorts of media and time periods, it can be easy to forget that the saga began with a relatively simple story about unlikely heroes running into a MacGuffin. The plans for the Death Star carried by R2-D2 set the narrative for the very first Star Wars movie, and it allowed audiences to explore that new galaxy through the eyes of Luke Skywalker.
R2-D2 and C-3PO being destroyed at the beginning of A New Hope would mean that neither Luke Skywalker nor the Rebellion would ever put their hands on the plans for the Death Star. More than making it far more difficult for the Rebellion to have any chance against the Empire’s new battle station, R2-D2 never making it to Tatooine would have led to the Skywalker-Solo family that saved the galaxy more than once not being formed. Though Luke would have still learned about the ways of the Force at some point, the heart and determination shown by Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy thanks to his friends would not have happened. Here’s what else would have changed.
The Rebellion Never Gets The Death Star Plans
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story revealed how the rebels were able to steal the Death Star plans in the current Star Wars canon. Rogue One establishes that the only copy of that data was the one Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor managed to broadcast to the Rebel Alliance’s ship. In other words, after Scarif was destroyed, the piece of data handed to Leia was the only way the rebels would ever be able to access the Death Star plans. Therefore, with the pod carrying R2-D2 and C-3PO destroyed, the most crucial piece of information against the Empire never makes it to the Rebellion, and the Rogue One squad’s sacrifice is for nothing.
The Death Star Isn’t So Easily Destroyed (& Becomes Palpatine’s Greatest Weapon)
The Death Star’s design flaw was the only advantage an enemy of the Empire could have against Palpatine’s battle station. While a large fleet full of both small and big ships could perhaps have a chance against the Death Star in a very expensive attack, the current state of the Rebel Alliance meant that something like that would never happen. Therefore, no force in the galaxy would represent a threat to the Death Star. With the Imperial Senate closed right as the Death Star destroys its first planet, Palpatine no longer has any opposition. Any efforts of the Rebel Alliance would be matched by the Death Star destroying or threatening another world.
A New Hope establishes that the Empire was willing to close the Imperial Senate precisely because they could now count on the Death Star. As such, the Star Wars movies never really showed what Palpatine’s reign would have been with a fully operating Death Star being used for a considerable amount of time. The first one was destroyed right after its debut while the second was destroyed before it was even finished. If the Empire was already an almost impossible enemy for the Rebel Alliance and other non-Imperial planets to face, then a fully functioning Death Star would have completely unbalanced the equation. In other words, the Rebellion would have to retreat.
Obi-Wan Reaches Out To Luke Instead
Obi-Wan Kenobi established that Obi-Wan had plans to train Luke as soon as possible, yet Owen was not on board. However, in the Obi-Wan Kenobi finale, Obi-Wan tells Owen that Luke should be free to choose his own path rather than having to train as a Jedi from a young age. That is why Obi-Wan only talks about the Force and the Jedi with Luke after he finds Ben Kenobi in order to deliver Princess Leia’s message. If Leia’s message never makes it to Tatooine, then Luke has no reason to reach out to Obi-Wan. As such, it would be up to Obi-Wan to decide whether he would ask for Luke’s help.
Despite living on a remote Outer Rim planet, Obi-Wan would learn of the Death Star and Alderaan at some point, especially if something happened with Leia. Bail Organa and Yoda were the only two people in the galaxy along with Obi-Wan that knew the secret of Anakin Skywalker’s twins, meaning that the death of Bail Organa would have caused Obi-Wan to act. Obi-Wan knew that he would not be able to defeat the Emperor by himself and that Luke Skywalker would be essential to help save the galaxy. Therefore, instead of a more classic hero’s call caused by fate and chance, Luke would have been called upon by Obi-Wan to help.
Han Solo Doesn’t Join The Rebellion
The only reason Obi-Wan and Luke hired the Millenium Falcon was that they had to go to Alderaan to respond to Leia’s call for help. Without R2-D2 making it to Tatooine, Obi-Wan and Luke would not be in the iconic Star Wars cantina the same day as Han Solo looking for a ship. That said, had Obi-Wan decided to train Luke and later assist the Rebellion in some way, then the duo would have still needed a ship. Nothing guarantees that Han Solo would have been on Tatooine, especially considering that Jabba the Hutt was beginning to be bothered by Han’s lack of payments.
Even if Han was still on Tatooine by the time Obi-Wan and Luke were intending to travel, the scoundrel pilot would likely not become personally attached to the Rebellion. The only reason why Han Solo returned at the end of A New Hope to save the day after already receiving his payment is that he created a strong bond with Luke and Leia. Without the trio’s adventure on the Death Star, Han would have continued to be a hired gun who’s only there “for the money.” Also, without the help of friends, Han and Chewie would have been caught by Jabba the Hutt at some point.
Leia Remains Captive
With Alderaan destroyed and the Imperial Senate closed, there would be no reason for the Empire to keep any diplomacy toward other planets. Still, having the Princess of Alderaan, who was also a well-informed rebel, as a prisoner would have helped the Empire. There would be no reason for the Empire to kill Princess Leia right away, especially if they had any hope of learning more about the Rebellion. The Empire had countless prison complexes around the galaxy, such as the factory from Andor, many of which would be out of reach for the Rebel Alliance. With Leia arrested or dead, the Rebellion suffers a major loss.
Obi-Wan & Luke Fail Against Darth Vader & Palpatine
What really made A New Hope hopeful was the fact that Luke Skywalker could save Anakin in a way that Obi-Wan or Ahsoka never could. After the events of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Obi-Wan regarded Anakin as dead and completely gave up on saving his friend, hence Vader’s “Obi-Wan once thought as you did” line in The Empire Strikes Back. The heroes only win in Return of the Jedi because Luke was able to redeem Darth Vader, which by itself only happened because Luke went through a journey of self-discovery throughout the original trilogy. Without Leia and Han at his side, Luke would have become a warrior rather than a kind-hearted Jedi.
The Rebel Alliance would not have been destroyed right away as the Empire only discovers Yavin 4 in A New Hope after putting a track on the Millenium Falcon. Still, the Rebellion would have failed. With the Death Star allowing Palpatine to rule over the galaxy using fear and Luke unable to fulfill his true potential, the Empire would never be at risk of failing.
With Leia dead or arrested and Luke sidelined with Obi-Wan only, Darth Vader is never redeemed. Palpatine continues to develop his cloning and essence transfer abilities, and Luke would be at a much higher risk of falling to the dark side and becoming Sidious’ next receptacle. All of this played out in a significantly different way thanks to R2-D2 and C-3PO not being shot down in the escape pod at the very beginning.
Next: Star Wars Just Altered The Official Rebellion Timeline