On May 21, 1980, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back made its theatrical debut. To celebrate the classic film’s landmark 40th anniversary, StarWars.com presents “Empire at 40,” a special series of interviews, editorial features, and listicles.
One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, two StarWars.com writers consider whether or not Luke Skywalker was right to leave his Jedi training incomplete and rush to help his friends on Bespin.
Luke was right to leave Dagobah to save Han, Leia, and Chewbacca, says Swapna Krishna.
When Luke sees a vision through the Force that his friends are in danger on Cloud City, he immediately becomes consumed by it and insists on going to help them. Yoda advises his student to resist the temptation to leave Dagobah and try to save them — if Luke falls to the dark side, he’ll undermine everything that the Rebellion is fighting for. The Empire will have a new weapon, perhaps even more powerful than Darth Vader, and Yoda doesn’t want that to happen. He wants to protect Luke, which is why he insists that Luke remain and complete his training.
But, as we all know, Luke chooses to disregard Yoda’s advice. He flies his X-wing to Bespin and falls neatly into Darth Vader’s trap. And although he doesn’t fall to the dark side, as Yoda and Obi-Wan feared he would, he makes the shocking discovery that Darth Vader is, in fact, his father, before Luke must be rescued by Leia, Chewbacca, and Lando in the Millennium Falcon.
“Fear” is the operative word here — Yoda and Obi-Wan were afraid for Luke’s fate, which is why they didn’t want him to leave. They didn’t believe that Luke was able to control his emotions, and that he’d give in to anger and rage after discovering Darth Vader’s true identity. The Emperor would be able to capitalize on that negative emotion and turn Luke to the dark side. Clearly, they underestimated Luke Skywalker.
The reason that Luke was correct in his decision is because Jedi shouldn’t operate from a place of fear. “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering,” as Yoda famously said in The Phantom Menace. Rather than trusting in Luke and his training, Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi are letting their memories of what happened to Anakin, and their fear that the same might happen to Luke, cloud their judgment.
These are all excellent points, says Michael, but Luke should have stayed on Dagobah.
Here’s the thing: It’s nearly impossible to argue with Luke’s decision, given his immediate results. He stood strong against the Emperor and turned his father back from the dark side, saving Anakin’s soul. He played the most critical role in toppling the evil Empire. But —buuuuut. Look at the long-term ramifications: Luke lost vital time with the last living Jedi. Imagine the strength Luke could have gained by staying and learning from Yoda — a Yoda who had clearly learned from his own mistakes, mistakes that contributed to Anakin falling to the dark side.
By the time Luke returned to Yoda, the Jedi Master was literally on his death bed. That year and change that Luke was away, he could have acquired so much wisdom. Instead, that all died with Yoda — and that lost wisdom, ultimately, came back to haunt Luke.
Because while Luke was strong enough to accomplish all those things he accomplished in Return of the Jedi, we come to understand that strength didn’t last when we find him again in The Last Jedi. By his own admission, Luke was weak — though, to be honest, I don’t agree with his own assessment. Nonetheless, Luke had developed a very cynical view of the Jedi Order and even his role as a Jedi Master. His attempts to train his nephew, Ben Solo, left him broken and filled with doubt. So much so that he’d cut off his own connection to the Force and was willing to let the legacy of the Jedi perish.
But imagine. Just imagine Luke has stayed with Yoda. Imagine if he acquired all of the Jedi Master’s wisdom and strength, his understanding of the Force and the nuances of the Jedi Order. Imagine how he could have not only still saved his father, but how he could have saved his nephew later and, in the process, saved himself as well.
Luke’s immediate accomplishments after leaving Dagobah were vast and changed the galaxy. But his achievements had he stayed and been more patient could have done more than topple an Empire — it could have given the galaxy lasting peace.
Is Swapna right or do you agree with Michael’s point of view? Let us know in the comments!
Swapna Krishna writes about space, science, tech, and pop culture. Her work has appeared at Engadget, The Verge, Gizmodo, the Los Angeles Times, Polygon, Mental Floss, SYFY, and more. She is the co-editor of Sword Stone Table, a forthcoming King Arthur-inspired anthology from Vintage. You can find her on Twitter @skrishna.
Michael Moreci is a comics writer and novelist best known for his sci-fi trilogy Roche Limit. His debut novel, Black Star Renegades, was released in January 2018. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelMoreci.
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