What Could Have Been #32 | Star Wars Episode IX: Duel of the Fates

What Could Have Been #32 | Star Wars Episode IX: Duel of the Fates

The original script for Star Wars: Episode IX ‘Duel of Fates’ leaks online along with a slew of concept art. Could this have made a better story?

Star Wars: Episode 9: Rise of the Skywalker has come and gone and left in its wake a slew of frankly disappointing reviews including this one from our very own Will Harrison. Don’t get me wrong, the film is very entertaining, but in my opinion, it wasn’t a very fitting end to a saga that began in 1977.

One of the key issues with director J. J. Abrams film is that it undoes and tries to “fix” what many conceived as problems with Rian Johnson’s Episode 8: The Last Jedi.

Personally, I think the larger problem is that the new trilogy doesn’t look like it had a story mapped out from the very start. Each director created their own story that followed on with threads left behind by the previous film.

Just recently, we got a glimpse of a very different version of Star Wars: Episode IX.

The First Order palace towers above the surface of Coruscant.

Colin Trevorrow had directed Jurassic World for Universal to huge box office success. In August of 2015, Lucasfilm announced that they had hired Trevorrow to write and direct Star Wars Episode IX.

Trevorrow spent two years on the project working with his collaborator Derek Connoly, but in September 2017 he was unceremoniously removed from the film and soon replaced with J.J. Abrams.

The reason for the departure was the old Hollywood cliché of “creative differences”. It has been reported that the head of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, wasn’t happy with the script drafts which were being submitted.

In December 2019, film director and producer Robert Burnett streamed live via YouTube the details and his impressions of Trevorrow’s Star Wars Episode IX script entitled Duel of the Fates. The script was dated 16th December 2016, just a week before Carrie Fisher’s untimely passing.

What follows is a description of Trevorrow’s vision of Star Wars: Episode IX. This was originally written in note form by Reddit user Lollifroll, I have re-written and fleshed out the text. Also included amongst the text is the original concept art based on this script that also leaked in recent days and has been confirmed by Trevorrow as genuine.

A second video was recorded by Burnett where he delved into the script in greater detail. You can read the transcript of this video by Lollifroll here. Here you will find extra details such as Rey becoming permanently blinded by Kylo in their climactic lightsaber duel.

The film opens with the classic Star Wars opening scrawl that will set the scene for the story.

Star Wars

Episode IX – Duel of the Fates

The iron grip of the FIRST ORDER has spread to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Only a few scattered planets remain unoccupied. Traitorous acts are punishable by death.

Determined to suffocate a growing unrest, Supreme Leader KYLO REN has silenced all communication between neighbouring systems.

Led by GENERAL LEIA ORGANA, the Resistance has planned a secret mission to prevent their annihilation and forge a path to freedom…

The film begins at the Imperial shipyards on the planet of Kuat which also has an orbital ring with another moon close by. BB-8, Rose Tico, Finn and Dameron Poe are there to try and infiltrate the Imperial installation. The workers are all oppressed natives working against their will.

They are joined by Rey and the plan is to send an explosive into the power shaft that delivers raw ore into the ring and thereby disabling the entire complex.

Unfortunately, despite the explosive charge detonating, the First Order manage to contain the blast to prevent any damage. A First Order Admiral by the name of Vaugh says the Resistance tactics are, “pitiful!”

Rey who arrived disguised as a Tusken raider is revealed to have created her own lightsaber which is double-bladed. It is a combination of her own staff and Luke Skywalker’s cracked lightsaber.

A battle breaks out between our heroes and the First Order. Poe, Finn, Rose, Rey and BB-8 manage to steal a Star Destroyer and escape.

Rey on the bridge of the captured Star Destroyer.

The Knife-9, a ship that carries the Knights of Ren, arrives on Kuat and Admiral Vaugh is killed by one of them for his failure.

For the first time in this new trilogy, the film would’ve cut to Coruscant which is no longer the bright vibrant city as seen in the prequels. New buildings have been built atop the art deco structures of the Old Republic. The First Order has built a new enormous palace that dwarfs the buildings beneath.

As the planet has been taken by the First Order, the surviving citizens are now just scavengers trying to stay alive.

Having been promoted since The Last Jedi, Chancellor Hux is addressing Bisc Kova, a traitor who helped the Resistance steal a Star Destroyer and escape. Kova is executed with a light blade guillotine.

Bisc Kova, the traitor who helped the Resistance steal Star Destroyer is executed.

Chancellor Hux and Commander Selleck have a meeting with several alien warlords. First Order has gained allies to help them in their cause. They are aware that Rey is the Last Jedi.

The First Order / alien alliance demands to know of Kylo Ren’s location as he has been missing for some time. Hux only knows that Kylo has gone in search of an object of great power.

The film then cuts to Mustafar, the lava strewn planet which was the home to Darth Vader. Kylo, with a layer of stubble indicating he has been on this quest for some time, is with a Darth Maul-esque droid. He is being haunted by the force ghost of Luke Skywalker.

Luke: “This is where the dark path leads; an empty tomb.”

Kylo (retort): “Where did your path lead?”

Luke tries to convince Kylo to return to Leia.

Kylo: “I’m going to be more powerful than any Jedi…even you.”

In Vader’s Temple, Kylo finds a Sith Holocron which reveals a hologram of Palpatine. The recording is meant for Vader and reveals a contingency plan if Luke had killed Palpatine at the Battle of Endor from the end of Return of the Jedi.

In this plan, Vader was to take Luke to the Remnicore System to see Tor Valum, Master of the sith and Palpatine’s Teacher.

After the message, the Holocron scans Kylo, and probably as a part of a self-defence mechanism, the Holocron explodes and releases red lighting which burns Kylo, who screams in pain.

At the resistance base on the planet of Kor–Alaf, we are introduced to General Leia Organa as she senses with the force what has just happened to her son, Ben (Kylo).

Chewbacca and Lt. Connix informs Leia that the Kuat mission team have returned. They’re shocked to see a Star Destroyer which has landed on the surface of the planet. A funny moment in the script has Rey using a Jedi mind trick on First Order officers who are still on board.

Rey confides in Finn that she doesn’t feel like she has what it takes to be a Jedi and can’t live up to everyone’s expectations. Finn asks her if she can still sense Kylo. Rey confesses she’s been having nightmares and Finn asks if it’s Kylo. Rey says that she can’t explain her connection with Kylo.

Finn tells Rey, “You have to shut him out. He can’t change. It’s too late.” She replies, “It’s never too late to change. You taught me that Finn.”

Meanwhile, the Resistance realizes that the Star Destroyer still has most of its military weaponry on board such as tanks, TIE fighters etc. All that’s missing is an army to use it.

In researching the Jedi texts from Anch-To, Rey discovers that under Jedi Temple on Coruscant, there is a communication system, known as a Force Beacon that exists from the time of the Old Republic. This beacon can send a signal to fifty planets.

The Resistance plan on using this system to gather allies and apparently the First Order can’t stop it since it predates Imperial technology. Rey remarks, “Hope is all we have left.”

As Rey continues to train, Luke appears to her as a Force ghost. Luke is pushing Rey to get stronger in the Force, while she is pushing Kylo to let Ben out.

Rey in Jedi training accompanied by Luke’s force ghost.

Kylo returns to Coruscant. With his face damaged by the Holocron explosion, Mandalorian armour is smelted and is applied to his face. Kylo then Confronts Chancellor Hux and belittles him, saying he doesn’t need titles.

Whilst in her Jedi training, Rey asks Luke, “Balance? The dark suffocates the light, light extinguishes the dark. Over and over and over again. How is that balance in the force?”

Luke replies, “I know that anger. My father had it too.”

Rey responds, “So says my master and his master before him. A thousand masters so eager to tell us how to live.”

The conversation continues with Rey trying to back away from becoming a Jedi, still convinced she is a nobody. Luke fights back telling Rey that the Force is speaking to her and she must listen.

On Coruscant, Kylo and Chancellor Hux are still at loggerheads with each other. Kylo announces he is leaving but not before he informs Hux that he has discovered a power that will make destroying planets insignificant.

As Kylo leaves, he gives Hux a final order, “Find the Resistance, wipe them out, leave the girl to me.”

The Resistance is splitting into teams to carry out their grand plan. Rose, Finn, R2-D2 and C3-PO will go to Coruscant to light the ancient beacon.

Rey, Poe and Chewbacca will travel to a planet to find someone. This someone will help Rey figure out what she needs to do. This was Robert Burnett’s description in the video and it was this vague.

Before Kylo travels to Remnicore, he takes Vader’s mask and believes he now understands his Grandfather.

Kylo looks at Vader’s mask, “You allowed love to cloud your judgement”. He throws Vader’s mask off of a balcony and it shatters.

Before Rey leaves for her mission, she speaks to Leia. Rey still believes there is good in Kylo. Leia is sceptical but believes in Rey’s Jedi training. Leia tells Rey, “You’re not like my father or my brother. You’re new. Whatever happens, remember the force choose you, Rey. Your story isn’t written by anyone else.”

In the YouTube stream at this point, Robert Burnett starts to summarise the rest of the script in less detail.

The First Order tracks down stolen Star Destroyer to Kor-Alaf but the Resistance manages to escape.

Rose, Finn, R2-D2 and C3-PO successfully turn on the beacon

Rose, Finn, R2-D2 and C3-PO successfully infiltrates the Jedi Temple on Coruscant and turn on the beacon. The film would then Cut to different places around the galaxy receiving the signal but unfortunately, somehow, the First Order Disable the signal. Our gang of heroes flee into the underbelly of Coruscant.

Rey, Poe and Chewbacca reach the planet of Bonadan, where Poe lived with his grandfather.

Rey, Poe and Chewbacca are being pursued by the Knife-9 and eventually reach the planet of Bonadan.

Poe and Rey pilot a Razer Sail through Bonadan waters, chased by the Knights of Ren in the Knife-9

Kylo has reached the planet of Remincore and confronts Tor Valum, a 7000-year-old alien of unknown origin, spindly, intense sinewy muscle. Kylo begins training with Valum and in an ode to Luke’s Jedi training in The Empire Strikes Back, Kylo fights Darth Vader in a cave. The fight is described as brutal and Kylo loses.

The 7000-year-old Tor Valum

An ode to Luke’s Jedi training in The Empire Strikes Back where Kylo fights Darth Vader in a cave.

On Bonadan, Poe takes Rey to a Seer who can pull information out of memories. The Seer pulls a star chart out of Rey’s mind from her visions with Kylo. The Knights of Ren show up and fight Rey in a lightsaber battle. She defeats them and the team escape.

Both Rey and Kylo eventually get to the planet of Mortis.

Rey faces a monster outside the forest of Mortis

Leia asks Lando Calrissian if he will organize the smugglers and fight the First Order.

Rose is captured and tortured by the First Order but is able to escape.

Finn, R2-D2 and C3-PO start a citizen uprising on Coruscant around the First Order’s Palace.

R2-D2 and C3-PO roam the streets of Coruscant.

Possibly underground Coruscant where citizens paint and prepare old walkers.

Defected Stormtroopers and Coruscant citizens cheer around old painted First Order walkers.

Stormtroopers prepare for battle against Coruscant citizens.

Finn rallies citizens of the Coruscant underground to fight back.

R2-D2 is fatally wounded in the battle but will be repaired by the end of the film.

Once it becomes clear the First Order is losing the battle of Coruscant, Hux pulls out a purple lightsaber and commits seppuku (honourable suicide).

Leia brings her forces to Coruscant to battle the First Order. There is a huge space and ground battle much like Return of the Jedi. At one point, Chewbacca is flying an X-Wing.

Rey and Kylo battle on Mortis, using force energy that they can pull from each other. At one point in the battle, it is revealed that Kylo killed Rey’s parents at the behest of Snoke.

Rey and Kylo fight on the planet of Mortis.

From the end battle? Luke blocks Kylo’s lightsaber.

Towards the battle’s end, Luke, Obi-Wan and Yoda appear as Force ghosts to save Ben but are unsuccessful.

Ben is “extinguished.”

A final detail was revealed in the YouTube stream that Han Solo did appear in the script and does confront Kylo at some point.

There you have it! This is what Star Wars: Episode IX could have been. As previously mentioned, Trevorrow was removed from the project almost a year after the date on this script, so it’s unknown how much of this story was still in place by the time he was asked to leave.

Considering how tight Lucasfilm / Disney security is, I’m surprised that so much information has leaked regarding this project.

In my opinion, Duel of the Fates certainly sounds better than the film that was released to theatres in December of 2019, especially regarding the plot elements that revolved around Emperor Palpatine!

Princess Leia and BB-8, possibly recording the message to be transmitted by the ancient beacon under Coruscant.


John Abbitt

About the author | John Abbitt

@UKFilmNerd | John loves film, and he used to write for his own website, The Tydirium Hangar Bay, in the late 1990s. Whilst that website became lost in the passages of time, John's love of film did not. He's back, writing for The Unheard Nerd.