Star Wars: Mysteries Revealed (Part 2)

by Todd King, contributing writer

See Part 1 Here

Padme stands next to Anakin in the Geonosis arena holding a blaster
Padmé is all for diplomatic solutions but we know from Episode I that she will fight smartly when it must be done. And here she knows it's time for, as Anakin had put it, "aggressive negotiations." © Lucasfilm.

6. Luke/Leia's Mother

Back in 1980, we learned that Luke's father was still alive. Unfortunately, he wasn't the man Luke imagined him to be. Nothing about Luke's mother was considered until 1983's Return of the Jedi. And after he learned from the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi that he had a paternal twin sister, Luke finally found a quiet moment to ponder the truth of his entire family.

Luke knew Leia was his sibling, but he had to reveal this information to her gently. On the forest world of Endor, on the eve of the Rebel's surprise attack against the Empire, Luke and Leia spoke softly outside an Ewok hut. Leia, already sensing Luke was deeply troubled—even beyond their mission at the Empire's shield generator—asked him about his feelings. Luke didn't immediately speak about his coming confrontation with Darth Vader, but instead turned to Leia and said, "Do you remember your mother? Your real mother?"

We, the audience, had the same question.

It's interesting to note how Luke added "your real mother" to the question. Since we had learned Leia was his brother, that meant that the name we knew her by, Princess Leia Organa, was not her original name. Since she was a Skywalker, Leia must have either had her last name changed or was adopted—both things that were done to protect her.

Luke was raised by his step-uncle and step-aunt, but what about Leia? At the time, we thought that perhaps she had been raised by her own mother, at least for a time. In the film, Leia said that she only remembered images and feelings about her mother because, "She died when I was very young," adding, "She was very beautiful, kind, but sad." For 16 years that's all the information we had on her. From these short lines, we had the makings of an amazing story. Who was she? How did she and Anakin get together?

We finally got our answers starting in 1999 with The Phantom Menace, when we discovered that Leia's mother, Padme, was royalty. Queen of the planet Naboo and a fierce defender of liberty. Forced in the midst of the events leading to the Clone Wars, Padme found herself in galactic conflicts and the destruction of the republic establishment. In a time of great confusion, she found, at first, friendship in a passionate Jedi who wore his emotions on his sleeve. Her planet and people had needed her. The Galactic Senate needed her. The Galaxy needed her. And now, here was one young man who need her most. She tried to hold the splintering galaxy together as well as the conflicted Anakin together, but the evil of war was too much for one person to bind. Her last act of kindness was giving birth to the twins and giving hope to all who loved her, even eventually to Anakin. The prequel films gave us so much about the Skywalkers' mother; her inspiration and sacrifice were greatly felt in all of the saga.

droids piece together the super laser of the Death Star
The ANDOR series reveals pieces of the Death Star's construction. © Lucasfilm.

7. Construction of the Death Star

In Star Wars (1977), Vader says to an Imperial officer, "Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed…" The dark Lord of the Sith was warning the Empire about its own hubris. Ironic, eh? It did raise the question: Just how did they build this thing? It's the size of a "small moon" and has enough firepower to destory anything, even entire planets. At the end of the first film, the Death Star itself was destroyed.

While it was a "technological terror," it was just technology. It could be undone, and it was. It could have a weakness, and it did. But how did it come to be? When a second Death Star appeared six years later in Return of the Jedi, we may have seen it while it was still under construction, but it didn't answer much about how it was made.

Some 19 years later, we get a glimpse of the idea of the Death Star in Attack of the Clones when Count Dooku held its schematics on Geonosis where he was part of many schemes, including a trap for the Jedi and the construction of droid armies for the Clone Wars. And in Revenge of the Sith, we again get a short glimpse of Palpatine reviewing those same schematics in his chambers just before his attempted arrest by several Jedi that he subsequently murdered. So, it really wasn't until 33 years after Return of the Jedi that we get some real information about this ultimate weapon.

In 2016's Rogue One, the fledgling Rebels only first learn about the Empire's weapon when it was nearly complete. The entire film's backdrop centers around the Death Star and one of its chief engineers, Galen Erso. We learn that the weakness in the battle station was by design. Erso became disenfranchised with the Empire's tyrranical ways and planned revenge by secretly installing a trap. He had to hide it well and only revealed it to Saw Gerrera in a hand-delivered message from a defector. The only other person who heard the message was Galen's daughter, Jyn, who recognized the truth and inspired the Rebellion to take the chance to destroy it.

The whole movie was an amazing backstory on many things in the Star Wars realm, but we learned a great deal about the Death Star, including that its main weapon was supplied by power from the same kyber crystals used by the Jedis' lightsabers. Also, there was a lot of bureaucracy surrounding command of the station, its construction was delayed more than once, and finally, as seen in Andor, small pieces of the weapon were put together by hand in Imperial prison camps by unjustly arrested citizens. The size of the Death Star is almost overshadowed by the size of its construction project.

Darth Vader's mask is lowered onto Anakin's head for the first time in EPISODE III
A glimpse inside Vader's mask in EPISODE III. © Lucasfilm.

8. Vader Unmasked

I once wrote about my favorite Star Wars masks some time ago here and the reason I rated Darth Vader's mask so highly is not just because of the design, but because of the story. Even before we learned the true identity of Vader, we wondered what was truly behind the mask. We knew so little about him in the first movie that it was difficult to understand not just who he was but what he was. He seemed human but he had this armor-like suit, there were glowing buttons, a flowing cape, and this grotesque mask where you could constantly hear his machine-like breath. Was he human at all? If so, why was he completely covered by this black vesture? Although we had all these questions in our young minds back in the day, we were not sure we would ever see him without it.

Over the course of two more movies we learned a bit more about this character. He was human and at one time he was a different person altogether—he was a Jedi, he was good, and he had a relationship. With this, we were intrigued all the more! How did it come to this? We knew he turned to the dark side, but how? Through the prequels many years later we got the full picture of his rise and fall. We got to see him as a young man, not too unlike when we first met Luke. Before we got that half of his story, we first only knew him as the villain.

Six years after the first movie, 1983's Return of the Jedi was set to be the finale of the saga. We hoped that some mysteries would be revealed, questions answered. For me—and I'm sure for most everyone at that time—we wondered if Darth Vader's mask would be removed. The revelation of his true self was portrayed physically and metaphorically on-screen. Luke removed his father's mask because, physically, Anakin wanted to see his son without the assistance of technology, and metaphorically, he was no longer Darth Vader. To me, it is the true climax of the entire saga. I think George Lucas summed it up best: "A lot of people have objected to the fact there's a human in there at all. But the film is about human frailties—it's not about monsters."

The Emperor on the second Death Star looking vengeful at Luke
The Emperor as seen in RETURN OF THE JEDI © Lucasfilm.

9. The Emperor's Rise to Power

Before the prequels, one of the ideas of Star Wars that interested me most in those upcoming films, was the rise of the Emperor to power. How did he become the Emperor and how did he create the Empire? And also, just where did he learn his dark Force powers? His character seemed just as mysterious as Darth Vader but this guy was the real deal of evil. After the prequel trilogy finished, Palpatine's story (to me) is probably the most interesting, but it's also the least-told. His lies and manipulations are mostly subtle, except for his temptations to Anakin. I would have like to have seen so much more of his evil plots because, unlike a lot of villains, his plots actually work and he gets to rule the galaxy!

Looking back, what fascinates me most is that some of the Emperor's story was already revealed. I read it in the novelization of Return of the Jedi in 1983 by James Kahn (from Luca's story and screenplay). Allow me to share some of that text here from 16 years before Episode I:

"Back in the days when he was merely Senator Palpatine, the galaxy had been a Republic of stars, cared for and protected by the Jedi Knighthood... But corruption had set in... And so Senator Palpatine had seized the moment. Through fraud, clever promises, and astute political maneuvering, he'd managed to get himself elected head of the Council. And then through subterfuge, bribery and terror, he'd named himself Emperor... [he] knew what others refused to believe: the dark forces were the strongest... For his soul was the black center of the Empire... He smiled at the thought: he was the Empire; he was the Universe."

All of that was written, probably from Lucas's own notes, long before Lucas had penned the prequel's screenplays. It amazes me how, of all those old notes, Lucas seemed to adhere to these so closely. He was a senator, he did maneuver himself to "head of the Council," or Chancellor, and he did bring about the Empire through terror. And even in his famous line, "I am the Senate," these gandious thoughts are so consistent with his portrayal in this old novelization. This is probably why I wanted to actually see his entire plan play out on-screen. It may also explain why I love the Andor series--it doesn't show the Emperor himself, but it shows his mechanizations at work in the Empire during this time.

I hope to cover more items like this again in the future, until then, what answered or unanswered questions about Star Wars interest you?