Fans of the first two Star Wars trilogies already know the basic story of Obi-Wan Kenobi — the character, that is, not the Disney+ series of the same name that premieres on May 27. While Lucasfilm has Obi-Wan Kenobi under its usual blanket of secrecy, there’s enough content — six movies, two TV shows, plus a couple of trailers — to suggest very strongly where the story will focus its attention.
Let’s back up for a second with a refresher of that wider narrative. The fugitive Jedi’s tragic tale starts, chronologically, in the prequel movies (Episodes I to III). Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), an apprentice to Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), takes on former Tatooine slave Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd/Hayden Christensen) as an apprentice of his own. They are comrades in the Clone Wars (as seen in the 7-season animated show of the same name), then fight each other after Anakin becomes a mass-murderer dubbed Darth Vader by Emperor Palpatine. A badly wounded Vader becomes more machine than man. Obi-Wan hides Luke, the son Vader didn’t know he had, on Tatooine.
Some 19 Star Wars years later, in Episode IV, Obi-Wan (Alec Guinness) leads Luke on a mission to deliver Death Star plans to the Rebellion, fights Vader again and vanishes at the moment of death, becoming Luke’s somewhat unreliable advisor from beyond the grave in Episodes V and VI. After so many encounters with the exhausting Skywalker clan, no wonder he was tired.
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There’s more to Obi-Wan’s story, of course. We’ve left out Darth Maul, Qui-Gon’s killer and Vader’s predecessor, who ends up dying at Obi-Wan’s hands twice (the first time in Phantom Menace, the second time, post-Clone Wars resurrection, in the sands of Tatooine during the animated series Rebels). But there’s not that much more. The missing 19 years of Obi-Wan’s tale is an area Lucasfilm has largely left alone, deliberately, until now.
And that means Obi-Wan Kenobi has plenty of questions it could answer, some of which we’ve been dying to know for years, and some which, like many Star Wars questions, should remain unanswered. The latter would include the name of the planet Obi-Wan calls home. “Stewjohn” is the official canon answer in Lucasfilm’s database, because George Lucas said so during a Jon Stewart interview. Probably best to avoid that one.
But here are seven major questions that longtime Star Wars watchers would love to see the new show answer:
1. Did Obi-Wan see Qui-Gon Jinn again?
At the end of Revenge of the Sith, Yoda tells Obi-Wan he’s made contact with Qui-Gon’s ghost. This encounter took place in a scene that was deleted from the shooting script, since Neeson was unavailable. Instead, Yoda tells Obi-Wan his former master will train him to “return from the netherworld of the Force” — become a ghost after death, basically — while Obi-Wan is in hiding on Tatooine.
Presumably that’s just what Qui-Gon did, since Obi-Wan appears confident in his ability to resurrect in phantom form during his duel with Vader on the Death Star. “Strike me down,” as the immortal line goes, “and I shall grow more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”
So does that mean we get to see a tear-jerking reunion of the late master and his beloved apprentice?
That’s possible, but fans must prepare themselves to only hear Qui-Gon in voice-over. That was the plan for Revenge of the Sith, and Neeson only appeared again as a voice and some twinkly lights to Yoda in Clone Wars season 6. (More on that meeting in a minute.)
Plus, the only Force ghosts we’ve seen appear to be the age they were at death (Anakin’s Force ghost at the end of Return of the Jedi was played, in its special edition form, by Christensen, the argument being that’s what Anakin looked like when the good in him died.) Neeson has aged well, but not so well that he looks exactly as he did during his character’s death scene 23 years ago.
Then again, Lucasfilm is proud of the ever-improving de-aging CGI technology that produced a young Mark Hamill in The Mandalorian and Book of Boba Fett, so anything is possible if Neeson is on board (he’s been denying an appearance, but also said he’s open to reprising the role in general).
One nerdy deep cut the show doesn’t need to bring up: The fact that Obi-Wan already saw a ghostly version of Qui-Gon on the Force-filled planet of Mortis, during one of the weirdest arcs of Clone Wars. Obi-Wan dismissed that vision as a “mind trick” … even if it wasn’t. (Long story.)
2. What’s the secret of Force ghosting?
So this life-after-death trick Obi-Wan learned: How’s it done, exactly? If Qui-Gon couldn’t manifest physically, how could Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin? And why was Qui-Gon the first Jedi to discover the concept, surprising even Yoda?
Revenge of the Sith offered a vague answer in that deleted scene: Qui-Gon was to say “a state acquired through compassion”. Okay, so just … be more Buddhist? Nothing wrong with that, of course — George Lucas has described his personal spirituality as a “Methodist Buddhist” hybrid on occasion — but we’ll need a little more detail there to explain why every highly compassionate Jedi in the galaxy isn’t returning as a Force ghost.
In Clone Wars, Qui-Gon’s twinkly lights led Yoda on a trip to Dagobah. Sounding like he was running some kind of Nine Perfect Strangers retreat, Qui-Gon told his small green friend “[Y]ou will learn to preserve your life force, and so manifest a consciousness which will allow you to commune with the living after death.” When Yoda asked, quite reasonably, “How?”, the ghostly voice changed the subject. We’re still waiting for the answer, Qui-Gon!
Perhaps the connective tissue is to be found in one of the most philosophical lines of Star Wars: “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter,” Yoda says in Empire Strikes Back. “That could be a clue,” says Bryan Young, a journalist, podcaster and contributor to starwars.com. In other words, perhaps fully recognizing yourself as a form of energy, a fully selfless one, is what turns you into a log-sitting ghost?
Whatever the actual explanation, Obi-Wan Kenobi will have to do what all Star Wars does – walk a fine line between explaining too much (please, no more midichlorians!) and too little (there’s a limit to how many baffling Zen koans this story can stand).
3.What’s with the dumb alias?
“Obi-Wan Kenobi. I thought [R2-D2] meant old Ben?” With that crack detective work in the original Star Wars, 19-year-old Luke introduced us to what is quite possibly the most ineffective alias in the history of cinema. Later, Obi-Wan tells us his first name is one he’s not heard in a “long, long time.” Like a decade, perhaps (the time difference between the Disney+ series and the first movie)? If so, how did he acquire the name “Ben” — and why would a Jedi in hiding from the Empire think he could stay hidden by just changing one of his names?
Unlike the origin of the “Solo” name revealed in Solo, here is a renaming backstory that matters, one we’ve actually wondered about for decades. One answer was offered in the 2014 spin-off novel Kenobi: “Ben” was a geographic feature on Tatooine, and Obi-Wan revealed his last name to a friendly local by accident. Kenobi is no longer Star Wars canon, however — it was the last book to be officially retconned out of existence in a “Star Wars Legends” rebranding.
Which means Obi-Wan Kenobi is free to use that version of the story, or something completely original. Young suspects, based on the amount of time Owen Lars appears in the Obi-Wan trailers, that the show is going to focus on the natural dramatic tension between Luke’s uncle Owen and Luke’s would-be mentor Obi-Wan. “They’ve never shared a scene, but have so much history,” Young says. (Some of that history is off-screen; the pair were said to be brothers in an early Return of the Jedi draft script, and this completely non-canon rumor persists in fandom today.)
In which case, perhaps it’s Owen who bestows the “Ben” nickname – driving home the fact that Obi-Wan is no longer a fancy Jedi. He’s just Ben, a crazy old wizard living out beyond the dune sea.
4.How come Obi-Wan seemed to age so fast?
Sir Alec Guinness on the set of ‘Star Wars’ in 1976. Credit: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
In the less than a decade that lies between Obi-Wan Kenobi and A New Hope, Ewan McGregor (during shooting, a very youthful brown-haired 50) turns into Alec Guinness (then 62 and looking much older, as actors tended to do in the 1970s, with a shock of white hair). That’s within the bounds of belief, of course – but the show may need a line or two about what made Obi-Wan age prematurely. The stress of his off-world adventuring? The brutal twin suns of Tatooine? The desert so dry that Luke’s family literally farmed moisture? Maybe smooth-skinned young Anakin had good reasons to “hate sand.”
And speaking of Anakin …
5. Did Obi-Wan and Darth Vader actually meet again?
Obi-Wan Kenobi, Lucasfilm has said up front, contains a previously unseen showdown between Obi-Wan and his old frenemy Vader. This could well be some sort of Force projection battle in the style of Luke and Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi, but that would be far less satisfying than an actual duel.
Besides, nothing in the dialogue of A New Hope precludes the possibility that they met in person. “We meet again at last,” is all Vader says at the start of their final duel on the Death Star. On that occasion, Obi-Wan doesn’t seem particularly surprised to see Anakin/Vader in this form, and chooses to shorten his name to “Darth” (the Sith equivalent of saying “Mister.”) Ideally, this will make more sense after the show airs.
An interstitial duel would also allow the show to explore one big burning (pun intended) question about the pair’s previous encounter in Revenge of the Sith, when they duked it out on the volcanic planet of Mustafar and Obi-Wan had the high ground. Namely: Why did Obi-Wan abandon the man he loved “like a brother” to die? Sure, Anakin had lost his mind to the Sith and slaughtered a temple full of Jedi kids — but in that more “civilized age,” shouldn’t he have stood trial for those crimes?
Even if Obi-Wan had just thought to bring his former friend’s supposed corpse back with him, Palpatine would never have been able to create his Frankenstein’s monster with the smoldering remnant. It would be appropriate, and dramatically interesting, for Obi-Wan to realize he bears even more responsibility for the galaxy’s nightmare than he knew. Not to mention just how much peril he has placed Luke in.
6. Seriously, why ‘hide’ a kid with his dad’s family?
To be fair to Obi-Wan, it wasn’t his decision to put Luke on Tatooine. “To his family, send him,” Yoda instructed at the end of Revenge of the Sith. And to be fair to both Yoda and Obi-Wan, neither of them knew Vader had survived the Mustafar duel. But still, they did know they were dealing with Palpatine — a massively Force-sensitive, hugely long game-playing being who was using his unlimited power to slaughter Jedi everywhere. The Skywalker kids had to be kept safe from him, surely. And while Leia was under the watchful eye of Alderaan’s most powerful house, Luke went to live with Anakin’s actual family on his actual home planet? What kind of genius witness protection program is this?
Given the right context, of course, this blunder — more a result of George Lucas writing himself into a corner between 1976 and 2005 than anything else – can become the main driver of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s plot. We know Obi-Wan goes off-planet and encounters at least one of the Inquisitors, an order of Imperial Jedi hunters introduced in Rebels. Perhaps he is doing so to draw the Inquisitors’ attention away from Tatooine and the Force-sensitive kid that waits there.
Fair enough. But then why, even after the series is over and Obi-Wan knows that Vader lives, does he continue to allow Luke to hide right under Vader’s genealogical nose until the events of A New Hope? This question ties into a similar plot hole: Why was Vader so surprisingly incurious about Tatooine in the original movie, when the rebel ship formerly containing stolen Death Star plans was passing right overhead — especially now we know it’s his home?
Well, anyone who relives old trauma when remembering their hometown will understand one reason. Anakin, who saw his slave mother killed on Tatooine by Tusken raiders (whom he then slaughtered wholesale in revenge), has more hometown trauma than most. Some kind of psychological block against ever setting foot on that nasty sandy planet again would make sense.
And speaking of trauma, what kind of sense would it make to rip Luke away from his family age 10 — especially if you want him to be the true “Chosen One” who grows up to save the entire galaxy? After all, it is only Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru’s murder at the hands of the Empire that convinces Luke to join Obi-Wan on his mission to Alderaan.
But Obi-Wan Kenobi can add a Force-based security factor. Here’s what we know from Obi-Wan’s appearance in Rebels, set around seven years after Obi-Wan Kenobi: Darth Maul had a very hard time finding his old foe on Tatooine, so much so that he had to manipulate young Jedi apprentice Ezra Bridger’s mind in order to draw Obi-Wan out. “He obscured himself in the Force somehow, and maybe Qui-Gon helped,” Young suggests.
7. Did Obi-Wan see Ahsoka Tano – and other rebels?
If there’s one thing we know about this new era of Star Wars entertainment on Disney+, it’s that the shows love to tie into each other — as we saw when The Mandalorian and Book of Boba Fett became, to all intents and purposes, the same story. On Lucasfilm’s slate is Ahsoka, which coincidentally just started filming. The former Jedi padawan at its center — Ahsoka Tano, star of Clone Wars — has already shown up twice in the Mandalorian-Boba Fett narrative. She also has a history with Obi-Wan, who failed to stand up for her when she was falsely accused of a crime, so the dramatic possibilities are too delicious to ignore. (Ahsoka actor Rosario Dawson would need to be de-aged by about 20 years, but as we’ve already noted, that presents less of a problem for Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light and Magic these days.)
If Ahsoka shows up in Obi-Wan Kenobi, and one clue in the trailer suggests her presence, it would come at a pivot point in her own life. A decade before this show, Ahsoka quit the Jedi Order in disgust, just before the Jedi were annihilated by the Emperor. Four years after this show, in Rebels, she reappears as a key figure in the growing rebellion against the Empire. Perhaps Obi-Wan will be given the opportunity to make up for his failed mentorship of Anakin by inspiring Anakin’s former mentee.
So, Obi-Wan Kenobi is already borrowing the Inquisitors, and potentially Ahsoka, from Rebels. What about potential live-action appearances from the other stars of that animated show, set a mere four years later? Ezra is unlikely – he’s stuck on his homeworld at this point, as young as Luke. But Kanan Jarrus, a fugitive Jedi just like Obi-Wan, is a possible cameo, as is Kanan’s friend and rebel cell leader Hera Syndulla.
Then there’s Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) the Rogue One character who’s also getting his own Disney+ series, which has wrapped and is likely releasing this fall. He’s also active in the rebellion at this time. Curiously, both Cassian and Ahsoka have used the rebellion codename “Fulcrum” at one time or another in recent Star Wars media. Putting them together wouldn’t just make Star Wars nerds’ heads explode, there’s a legitimate long-term narrative reason to do so.
And there’s more. In the canon novel Ahsoka, the former Jedi padawan is an agent of Alderaan’s most powerful figure, Senator Bail Organa (Leia’s adopted father, played by Jimmy Smits in Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One). Smits is rumored to be reappearing in Obi-Wan Kenobi too, which could allow Obi-Wan to actually visit Alderaan a decade before it was destroyed by the Death Star. Including young Leia as well as young Luke in the series would surely double the amount of happy fan crying.
And given R2-D2 is in the service of the Organas, perhaps Obi-Wan Kenobi can add another question that has bedeviled fans for years: Why, if Obi-Wan knew this droid so well in the prequels, did he blank Artoo (“Can’t seem to recall ever owning a droid”) when they met in the original movie?
Most of the answers to all of these questions will be on our screens very soon — well, “soon” from a certain point of view.