Everything here will need to be taken with a grain or two of salt, despite the fact that multiple news sites have offered some kind of “sources close to the situation” confirmation. But in general, this is simply a story that is likely to lead to a lot of very rueful Star Wars fans, ourselves included. The reveal of the content that could have existed in director Colin Trevorrow’s original script for Star Wars Ep. 9, which apparently would have been titled Duel of the Fates, is likely to turn the entire Star Wars universe on its head.
It all began with a leak from filmmaker Robert Meyer Burnett, who came across a version of Trevorrow’s Duel of the Fates from 2016. That information made its way to Reddit and was subsequently beamed out across the known galaxy: Here’s the Episode 9 we could have had, rather than the narrative mess that was Rise of Skywalker. And suffice to say, a whole lot is different in Trevorrow’s version, as compared with what J.J. Abrams came up with. Perhaps tellingly, Trevorrow has of yet made no comment about the re-emergence of the script online.
Now, to make one thing clear before we start getting into plot specifics: Just because this material is different, that doesn’t mean it would somehow have been great. Trevorrow’s career has been an up-and-down yo yo in Hollywood, and his 2017 The Book of Henry was so incredibly off-putting that it not only inspired one of our Bad Movie Diaries columns, but likely cost him the Star Wars gig as well. Even if you like how Duel of the Fates sounds, there’s no way to say that the director would definitely have turned it into an improved film. Still: We have to admit that it sounds pretty damn cool.
According to the leaked script, it sounds like Duel of the Fates would have taken place in a Star Wars galaxy where the largely triumphant First Order had gained almost total control, ruling from the former Imperial capital of Coruscant. This would lead to a plot by the Resistance to steal a Star Destroyer and raid the capital world, in order to find an ancient Jedi device to use as a beacon in order to seek supporters/freedom fighters around the galaxy. That portion of the plot would have largely involved Finn, Leia, the droids and Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico, who would apparently have been given a far meatier role here than what she was reduced to in Rise of Skywalker.
Meanwhile, Rey, Poe and Chewbacca would be on their own mission, with Rey simultaneously receiving Jedi tutelage at various points from Leia and the ghost of Luke, although this portion of the story doesn’t seem to be as clear. What we know better is what would be happening with Kylo Ren, who would apparently descend into the depths of Darth Vader’s castle on Mustafar, in order to find a Sith holocron (a recording device, basically) with a lost message from the (still deceased!) Emperor Palpatine.
This, obviously, is a big divergence—Palpatine appears briefly here, but stays dead, allowing Kylo Ren to shoulder more of the load as a true antagonist. Palpatine’s projection relays a message that was originally meant for Darth Vader, instructing him to seek out an ancient Sith master named Tor Valum, who apparently instructed Palpatine. Ren then takes on that task for himself, culminating in the reveal of Valum, described as a 7,000 year-old “Lovecraftian” horror (how could you not want to see this), under whom he trains. It all builds to an epic, final confrontation between Rey and Ren, in which multiple characters (and Force ghosts) attempt to bring the former Ben Solo back from the Dark Side, but he’s ultimately too far gone. Sounds like a poignant ending to us, and one more fitting for the character than the silly exchange of healing magic at the end of Rise of Skywalker.
Other tidbits from the Duel of the Fates script include:
— Ren’s face being damaged and somehow repaired with smelted Mandalorian armor.
— Rey’s parents confirmed as “nobodies” as intended by The Last Jedi, although there would apparently be a reveal that they had been killed by Kylo Ren under Snoke’s orders.
— A droid “described as being similar in appearance to Darth Maul.”
— Chewbacca piloting an X-Wing.
— A whole bunch of other stuff, including quite a lot of Force ghost Luke Skywalker.
Once again, we really need to stress: This all might have come off as totally ridiculous, coming from the guy who wrote and directed The Book of Henry. But after seeing The Rise of Skywalker it’s also safe to say that I wish I could have seen Duel of the Fates instead, if only for a 7,000 year old Lovecraftian dark side Force monster. Whoever’s working on Star Wars IP next: Can we still make that happen? Please? It sounds like the closest thing to the being Abeloth from the former Star Wars extended universe that we ever could have seen on screen.