While The Legends Timeline Made Efforts To Patch Up Continuity Snarls
Darth Vader will face off against his old Jedi mentor once again in Obi-Wan Kenobi, though their rematch will change the Star Wars canon for a multitude of reasons. For over a decade, the Star Wars franchise and its viewers have assumed that Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader hadn’t encountered each other between their duel on Mustafar in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and their rematch in A New Hope, but Obi-Wan appears to be changing this. The upcoming Disney+ show’s sizzle reel included artwork of the titular Jedi-in-hiding dueling his former pupil, which, while an exciting idea, could recontextualize and even retcon elements of the original Star Wars trilogy and canon non-movie material.
The modern, Disney-owned Star Wars canon continuity, despite existing for less than a decade, has had far more continuity errors than the previous official timeline, Legends (originally called the Expanded Universe). While the Legends timeline made efforts to patch up continuity snarls and remain as consistent with the original (and later prequel) trilogy as possible, canon has the unfortunate tendency to prioritize its latest stories over consistency with what came before it. This leads to small issues, like Yoda’s lightsaber being destroyed in Marvel’s 2017 Darth Vader comics and reappearing years later in The Book of Boba Fett, as well as entire works being paved over, such as the 2016 novel Ahsoka and the Star Wars: Kanan comics, which cannot be remedied by a simple retcon.
Obi-Wan and Darth Vader’s upcoming rematch in Obi-Wan Kenobi could be interpreted as a worrying sign that the continuity of even the very first Star Wars film is no longer respected, but the show’s director, Deborah Chow, has made reassuring comments regarding how the duel will affect the Star Wars canon timeline. If one carefully considers the dialogue in A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, and Star Wars Rebels, it is possible for Kenobi and Vader to have a rematch between their Mustafar and Death Star duels. Thanks to a concept introduced in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, there’s even a way to have the two battle each other again without even a mild contradiction.
Obi-Wan & Darth Vader’s Dialogue In A New Hope
When Darth Vader first detects Obi-Wan through the Force in A New Hope, he says aloud “I sense something, a presence I’ve not felt since…” implying that it’s been a long time since his last encounter with his master. A New Hope’s dialogue never specifies how long it’s been, however, nor does it specify where the two former friends last met. Before Obi-Wan Kenobi, the assumption was that the two hadn’t seen each other since their duel on Mustafar. Obi-Wan Kenobi takes place in 9 BBY, so while Vader’s A New Hope dialogue now refers to an encounter that occurred less than a decade prior, nine years is still a long time.
The Darth Vader rematch in Obi-Wan Kenobi will have the strongest effect on their dialogue during their A New Hope duel. Immediately before they begin their fight, Darth Vader tells Obi-Wan “When I left you, I was but the learner, now I am the master.” This key line of dialogue coincides with their Revenge of the Sith duel, where Darth Vader had only just become a Sith Lord, having received no training in Sith philosophy, dark side use, or traditions at the time. While he’d be a Jedi Knight (and therefore no longer Obi-Wan’s pupil) when he fell to the dark side, Vader was a learner when he fought Kenobi on Mustafar.
Sith Lords are not simply Jedi who fall to the dark side, and as shown in canon and Legends non-movie material, Darth Vader had to re-learn most of what he’d previously believed about the Force and its dark side. By the time he’d truly grown into his role as a Sith Lord, Darth Vader’s preference for Form V of lightsaber combat was one of the few remaining remnants of his Jedi identity. For Darth Vader and Obi-Wan to have dueled in 9 BBY, the Sith Lord’s dialogue in A New Hope would be contradicted, as he’d settled into the role and mindset of a Sith Lord by that point and is therefore no longer a learner.
“Obi-Wan Once Thought As You Do”
When Luke Skywalker attempts to bring his father back to the ways of the Jedi in Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader laments “Obi-Wan once thought as you do,” further referencing his duel with Kenobi on Mustafar, where Obi-Wan finally loses hope in his former apprentice, drawing his lightsaber when Anakin attacks Padmé and threatens him. While having Obi-Wan and Darth Vader duel in between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope doesn’t necessarily contradict this, it could potentially cause a snarl if Kenobi backtracks on his prequel-era character arc and tries to convince Vader to abandon the Sith, lending more weight to his Return of the Jedi line at the expense of Revenge of the Sith.
Darth Vader’s Rebels Dialogue
At the end of the two-part Rebels episode “The Siege of Lothal,” Darth Vader is eager to track down Kenobi through Ahsoka Tano after discovering that she’s in league with a Rebel cell. Although the episode only takes place five years after the events of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Vader and The Emperor’s dialogue suggests that they both aren’t sure if the Jedi Master is still alive. This isn’t necessarily contradicted by Vader and Obi-Wan’s rematch, but the scene is recontextualized, and perplexingly so, as Vader and Obi-Wan’s duel occurred relatively recently.
“Time Of Death” Is Retconned
A more direct canon contradiction that Kenobi’s duel would create is with dialogue from the short story “Time of Death,” from the 2017 short story collection From a Certain Point of View. The story, which is told from Obi-Wan’s perspective, establishes that when Kenobi and Vader last met, they were on Mustafar during the events of Revenge of the Sith. Kenobi’s rematch between the two would overwrite this story, but it’s not necessarily a major continuity snarl. From a Certain Point of View isn’t meant to be entirely canonical, with the veracity of some stories being partially or entirely up to the reader’s interpretation.