"Darth Vader was lying about being Luke's father" was a particularly prominent theory. "Vader is actually a clone of Luke's father, so he was lying, but he was also telling the truth" was another. "Luke finds out that Leia is in love with Han instead of him, and that makes him turn to the Dark Side" also made the rounds. Some even suggested that Lando was the "another" that Yoda had spoken of.
All speculation ended, of course, when Return of the Jedi provided answers that fans considered satisfying, disappointing, or a mixture of the two.
Since December 15, 2017, fans have been in the same position they were in during the long wait between Empire and Return of the Jedi. After The Last Jedi, fundamental questions lingered: Will Rey become a Jedi? Will she create an entirely new paradigm? Can Kylo Ren be redeemed? Should he be? How will the conflict between the New Order and the Resistance come to an end? How will Leia's status be dealt with, given the untimely passing of Carrie Fisher? What role might Luke play going forward? And how the hell is the Emperor still around?
SYFY WIRE approached a group of distinguished individuals who are not just fans of Star Wars, they have also contributed to the overall narrative in major works published over the last 42 years that are considered either officially, quasi, or formerly canonical. These creative people shared what they believe will, could, or should happen in Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker — or explained why they prefer not to engage in any pre-release speculation.
Meet the participants:
- Alan Dean Foster wrote the novelization of the original Star Wars (writing as George Lucas), along with the 1978 sequel novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, 2002's The Approaching Storm — the lead-in to Attack of the Clones — and the novelization of 2015's The Force Awakens. Foster was not available for an interview, but through his agent, he granted consent for this article to summarize key sections of a movie treatment for Episode IX that he wrote for fun, and posted on his website on May 1, 2018.
- David Michelinie wrote the monthly Star Wars comic-book series for Marvel from late 1981 to early 1983 and created, with artist Walter Simonson, the popular character Shira Brie.
- Jo Duffy succeeded Michelinie as writer of the original Marvel Star Wars series, and remained with it until the series ended in 1986.
- Tom Veitch helped launched Star Wars at Dark Horse Comics in 1991 by writing the acclaimed six-issue limited series, Dark Empire, which he followed up with several sequels, as well as storylines set in the early days of the Old Republic.
- John Ostrander wrote numerous Star Wars comics for Dark Horse, including the series Star Wars: Legacy, which ran from 2006 to 2010 and was set more than 100 years after the Original Trilogy.
- John Jackson Miller wrote several novels, including 2011's Knight Errant (2011), 2013's Kenobi (2013), and 2014's A New Dawn, which was the first work to be set in the "new canon" established by Lucasfilm after it was sold to Disney. Miller also wrote the Dark Horse comic series Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars: Knight Errant.
- Kevin J. Anderson wrote the Jedi Academy trilogy of novels published in 1994, the 1996 novel Darksaber, the Young Jedi Knights YA novels (with his wife Rebecca Moesta) published from 1995 to 1998, and numerous Tales of the Jedi comics for Dark Horse.
ON LEIA'S FATE
Foster: The story treatment begins with a funeral procession on the peaceful, neutral world Almuria, during which "Finn, Rey, Poe, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2 say a few words. A simple coffin is brought forward. Through the transparent upper part of the canopy, we see General Organa. A grave appears. As the music rises, she is buried."
Duffy: I would be very happy if they don't kill Leia in this movie the way they killed Han and Luke. I would prefer they have her become a Supreme Court justice or whatever the Star Wars equivalent would be — rise to an emeritus status and be in the government.
Can they please leave just leave us with ONE person who's still alive? I love the droids and I'm glad they're still around, and thank Heaven for Chewbacca, but for crying out loud, can they please not kill everybody? I like the [new] kids, but they're not a replacement for the originals.
Ostrander: It would make sense if Princess (General) Leia dies in the course of the movie.
ON THE TRUTH ABOUT REY
Foster: Late in the story treatment, Kylo Ren attacks Rey with his lightsaber. "Ren's blow cuts the upper right side of her scalp. She falls to the floor, gasping." Then, Foster indicates that the upper right side of her head is cut away and cauterized. "Amid the exposed bone, a small freeform transparency fills part of her head, melding sinuously with her brain. Behind the transparency, lights flash and twinkle. Reaching up, Rey touches the exposed area, and draws back her hand in shock. The revelation is as unexpected to her as it is to us."
Kylo Ren voices his disgust: "Droid. Part droid. No wonder you mastered the use of the Force so quickly. No wonder you... learn so quickly. Hybrid. Monster."
Locked in battle with Kylo Ren, Rey's memories come flooding back to her. Foster writes, "Her parents, junk dealers, with an infant. An infant with a deformed skull. They take her to a renegade surgeon on Jakku. There is one possible operation, but it's experimental and highly dangerous. It could kill her. Her parents agree to it. Rey is operated on. The shape of her head is made normal, but with part droid componentry inside to help keep her alive. Natural skin and hair grow swiftly over the surgical opening. Her parents can't handle her. They abandon her as a young girl, paying what they can to Unkar Plutt to look after her. He abandons her as a child, but she turns scavenger and somehow, survives."
Michelinie: I assume Rey will be revealed to be the Skywalker of the title. (Unless Luke is reincarnated as a bantha or something.) Which is kind of a cheat since people involved with the movies have denied that from the start. Maybe Luke stored a little of his midi-juice in a sperm bank and the writers will pull a new Jedi out of their — ahem — out of left field as a surprise?
Duffy: There is the possibility that when Kylo Ren told Rey, "Your parents were nobodies who threw you away, you have no great lineage," that was a lie. If that was a lie, then how dare [the filmmakers]? Because you don't get your audience interested in the narrative by lying to them about what's going on. That's a dirty rotten cheat. I'm assuming they're NOT dirty rotten cheaters. If they reveal, "Surprise, she (or some other character) is a Skywalker too," I'm going to be so unimpressed and so bored.
Veitch: Rey should be the granddaughter of Palpatine. And we finally learn that Palpatine himself is the father of Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader.
THE REDEMPTION OF KYLO REN?
Foster: No redemption here! In Foster's treatment, Kylo Ren remains conflicted, but prone to letting the darkness get the best of him. He doesn't want to kill Rey, but he feels he must — and even apologizes to her as he tries to land a killing blow. But once he discovers that she's part droid, "all sympathy, all potential affection, vanishes from him in an instant."
Shaken by her recovered memories, Rey relaxes and shuts off her saber. Kylo Ren "holds off, still conflicted, but finally decides that he has to kill her. To save her from herself. To purify the Force. For his own sake. She falls backward, her eyes closing in resignation and exhaustion, and he moves in. Right into her reactivated lightsaber as her eyes snap open. Startled, run through, and as conflicted as ever, Ren dies in front of her… killed in the same way he killed his father."
Michelinie: Kylo Ren's redemption? Why? So far he's been nothing but a whiny coward with a sword. Why should he deserve redemption? Besides, he killed Indiana Jones. Screw 'im.
Duffy: I absolutely think Kylo Ren should be redeemed, if only for the very simple reason that Luke, Leia, and Han cared about him and thought he was worth saving. That alone to me makes him worth saving.
Han forgave him. Han knew that Kylo Ren was going to kill him. Han said, "If this is what you need to become what you want to become, I will help you, go ahead." When I was sitting there on my first viewing of The Force Awakens, I was like, "Oh my gosh, he intends to kill Han, and Han has given him permission." I don't know if it was the writers' intent, but I absolutely think it was the actors' intent. Look at the performances.
But I've got to admit, if Kylo Ren reforms, I'm going to be saying, "Okay, so exactly what have we been doing for the last bunch of movies?" If you're going to be like, "I'm going to repeat the Darth Vader arc, but it'll be cooler because I'm the one doing it and anyway, I like the armor that we designed better," I'm not going to be thrilled. But if they do [that] arc again, please, this time, do not freaking kill him!
Ostrander: Kylo Ren must die. He committed patricide; he killed Han Solo (among lots of others, including children). Enough with this redemption garbage; killing Han is not redeemable. (For the record, I didn't think Anakin was redeemable either. He also killed children — among others — and betrayed the Jedi Order.)
CAN THE WAR TRULY END?
Foster: The treatment has the Resistance achieving a decisive victory over the New Order on two fronts, with Rey, Finn, Rose, and C-3PO on Coruscant and Poe, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and BB-8 leading the charge on Almuria. Foster writes, "What now? Is the First Order/Empire really finished? C-3PO doesn't know. But he has seen a great deal, and if he has learned anything, it is that nothing is ever, really, completely for certain."
Michelinie: Should the Resistance/First Order conflict be resolved? Oh, please, God, yes! We've had the same dynamic for eight — soon to be nine — movies.
Ostrander: The leadership of the First Order will be dead and its members scattered by the end of the film. However, I don't see them killing off everyone in it; they'll scatter across the galaxy. The struggle between good and evil is eternal. They'll just have to get a new name. And they will.
A LAST LOOK AT LUKE
Foster: In the treatment, Luke Skywalker returns to help Rey defeat the villains — but not as a Force ghost. He's back for real, in the flesh. Luke acknowledges that he vanished at the end of The Last Jedi, but he did not actually die. As he describes it, he passed "from this plane of existence, yes. Doesn't mean I passed to the other." Luke explains that to avoid detection from his Force-wielding enemies, he "had to… go away for a while. To that space in between. It's a quiet place. The Force allows it." He smiles and adds, "I was tired. I needed a rest anyway."
Once the big battle is over and Rey and Luke emerge triumphant, Luke weakens, smiles tiredly, and makes a final request of Rey: "Take care of the galaxy." He then whispers, "Aunt Beru," and this time, he truly does die. "No in-between existence this time." Nor does he fade away.
Foster: Since the treatment was written well before the revelation that Emperor Palpatine would return in The Rise of Skywalker, Foster's top-level villain is none other than Supreme Leader Snoke, who is brought back in a manner very close to how Veitch resurrected Palpatine in Dark Empire — cloning.
Foster writes: "The Clone Wars. When Imperial scientists got very good at producing clones. A small, brilliant segment perfected the technology. Absolute duplication of the original, down to the last neural connection. Which allowed for duplication of knowledge, memories, everything. Perfect cloning. Did [Kylo] Ren really think Snoke would allow him to destroy everything he had worked for? First law of military strategy: always have a reserve in waiting.
"How many clones of him are there, Ren wonders? Snoke's grin now turns into an evil grimace. 'Wouldn't you like to know?'"
This question is answered later, when Luke singlehandedly takes on a literal army of Snoke clones, all of them wielding lightsabers.
Duffy: We don't know for sure that the Emperor is human. Maybe he's some kind of Force vampire. He may come from a species that has an exceptionally long lifespan and it may be that he has literally achieved a kind of vampirism with the Dark Side of the Force. That's how I would handle it.
But what's he actually going to do? Say, "I win after all, and Snoke was just my puppet all that time"? Or is he going to say, "Wait, using the Force for evil is wrong, you've saved me, and by the way, I am Anakin Skywalker's long-lost father"? If Palpatine turned out be the last Skywalker, that would crack me up! That really only works if Kylo Ren dies, because otherwise we're back to "No, there is another."
Veitch: The simplest idea is that he used his Dark Side power to protect himself when Vader threw him down the reactor shaft. Maybe he emitted a bubble of Force energy around himself (like Leia in The Last Jedi). He might even have cocooned himself in the Force, to survive the explosion of the Death Star.
And here's another idea. What if the REAL Emperor was never on the Death Star? What if he's a consummate Sith adept who has concealed himself for many generations, able to project himself physically or possess a host (such as Palpatine) from generation to generation? The big reveal of The Rise of Skywalker could be that the real Palpatine is an evil far beyond anything previously seen in Star Wars.
Ostrander: To quote Deadshot in Suicide Squad: "How are you not dead?" Is he a Sith Force ghost? Well, he needs to be dead for real and sure by the end of Episode IX. [And] who takes down the Emperor and how? Having a coalition of Force ghosts showing up would be cool: Luke, his Dad, Yoda, Obi-Wan, Mace Windu (who is just too damn cool). Aayla Secura. If Palpatine is a Force ghost of some kind, it would make sense that other Force ghosts could take him on and it would tie up all nine pictures real nice.
ON REY'S DESTINY — AND THE FUTURE OF THE JEDI
Foster: The treatment ends on a note of uncertainty, with Rey weeping over the death of Luke and no clear indication of what she'll do next, aside from striving to live up to his example: "Holding back her sobs, Rey gently closes [Luke's] eyes. C-3PO is there to comfort her. Reaching up, he touches her exposed skull portion. Has anyone told her lately how really beautiful she is? She sniffs, then starts to laugh, softly. Then her expression changes as she sees Finn, battered but alive, limping out of the smoking Imperial complex. He comes toward her and she rises to meet him.
"C-3PO shakes his head dolefully. 'Organics. I'll never understand them.'
"We pull back as Finn hurries to embrace Rey, with C-3PO behind them and Luke sitting peacefully, smiling, beneath the tree."
Michelinie: I wanted to hate Finn and Rey before The Force Awakens; the usual how-dare-they-replace-our-beloved-original-heroes reaction. But I ended up liking both of them a lot. Hopefully they'll live up to their promise in the new movie.
Duffy: Rey is a great hero and I love her dearly. But I am not quite sure where she's going to land because there was such scorched earth at the end of the last movie. I completely loved it, but I'm not seeing a happy Ewok party and going forward from there.
I do not see Rey going forward as a warrior-monk-monastic soldier, who's doomed because she's going to fail to save the next child, who ends up betraying her. That's exactly what I don't want to see for Rey. I want to see her either become what Padme was, a great leader — and hopefully not marry an abusive psycho who means well but is still an abusive psycho — or become like Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru or Obi-Wan and just settle down on a farm somewhere and live within nature and live with her planet. I realize that's not epic.
Ostrander: I think we'll see the replacement for the Jedi and they will be called Skywalkers. The last movie was called The Last Jedi. Rey has the Jedi books and we see her training herself in the preview and at the end of the last movie we saw kids being inspired by the legends of Luke Skywalker.
Miller: A couple of questions I think the first two trilogies raised: What, exactly, should be the relationship between the "regular people" of the galaxy, as represented by the Republic and the other governments, and this bunch of super-powered people among them? And is a Jedi acting alone, trusting his or her judgment, superior to the Jedi as a group, as expressed by the will of the Jedi Order?
I found something to appreciate in The Last Jedi on both of those scores, since it was definitely about a Jedi alone, and about the regular folks having to make do without them. If we get something in The Rise of Skywalker on these topics, it'd definitely be welcome. Maybe it's possible to believe in the Force and not have to join a club that tells you what to do. Maybe it's possible for people to police their own society without having to draw upon a super-powered security force of sometimes questionable loyalty. Those are questions present in the entire series, and it'd be interesting to see if they're engaged.
Duffy: Harrison Ford ain't dead. What I really want to see is Han Solo come back as the most reluctant and improbable Force ghost! I would absolutely love to see that.
Ostrander: The Millennium Falcon survives or I am done with the franchise. Does Lando get it back? That would be interesting.
Anderson: I am actively making an effort NOT to have any preconceptions or spoilers. I'm old enough to remember going to see A New Hope (it was just called Star Wars then) a few days after release, when nobody had talked about it. I had no expectations, and I remember sitting in the audience, curious. Then the rollup happened and popped my eyes out. Then Leia's blockade runner, then the Star Destroyer. I never had an experience like that in my life, and I want to recapture it.
I worked many years for Lucasfilm, doing a total of 54 different projects across the Star Wars universe. It was an incredible experience, being on the inside, helping to create some of the most beloved parts of the Expanded Universe, but the disadvantage of being on the inside, watching all the pieces come together, [is that] bit by bit, [it] took away some of that "real fan magic." I knew so much before the movies came out.
Now, for The Rise of Skywalker, I want to recapture that. I have seen only one of the trailers and I'm keeping away from the discussions and sneak previews. I am going to show up opening night (already have my tickets), and will sit down and wait for the magic to happen again.
Which of the predictions and speculations put forth above will come closest to hitting the mark? We'll find out on December 20, when The Rise of Skywalker opens nationwide.