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Something I just realized, what possible strategic benefit would have been gained through the killing of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan?

Darth Maul is sent apparently specifically to hunt down Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. But those are just two Jedi from literal thousands. Why try to hunt them down to kill them and risk losing one of the very few Sith which were around? It also makes it pretty clear that there are Sith around, instead of being extinct for millennia.

Even during the fight on Naboo, he pretty much ignores the Queen and the other VIPs to focus on both Jedis. I could understand if he wanted to for instance kill the Queen and they were in the way, but in the fight on Naboo he seems content with letting her go, even if that risked the failure of the invasion.

So what possible strategic plan was there behind sending him to hunt them down?

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Qui-Gon is key player and would have been a member of the Jedi Council if it wasn't for his maverick attitude. He's known as one of the most powerful jedi alive. Killing him would be a major coup for the Sith. –  Richard Jun 14 at 10:20
    
@Richard: I think Qui-Gon's maverick attitude is the very thing which makes him a target -- see my answer below. –  Royal Canadian Bandit Jun 14 at 10:23
    
@RoyalCanadianBandit - He's one of the strongest Jedi in the galaxy and is used as the council's "go-to guy" for international politics. That alone makes him a huge target. –  Richard Jun 14 at 10:23

3 Answers 3

up vote 28 down vote accepted

If I had to pick one word to describe the Jedi in Episodes I-III, it would be complacent. They do not notice Sidious' plot as it develops under their very noses. In Episode II, Mace Windu confidently announces that turning to evil is not in Count Dooku's character. In Episode III, Yoda completely fails to give Anakin any useful advice, even when he is in obvious distress, tempted by the dark side, and coming to Yoda for help. And so on.

Qui-Gon is an exception. He tells Obi-Wan to be "mindful of the living Force". In general, he is a lot more flexible and attuned to the present than the other Jedi. So if possible, Sidious wants him out of the way. When Qui-Gon is stranded on a primitive world with only his apprentice to help him, Sidious sees his opportunity and sends Darth Maul.

Later on, when Qui-Gon wants to take Anakin as an apprentice, killing him is even more crucial. Under the guidance of Qui-Gon (instead of the inexperienced Obi-Wan), Anakin would be much less likely to fall to the Dark Side, and when he grew to maturity he would be a formidable opponent for Sidious.

If both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan had been killed, it would have been better still from Sidious' point of view. Yoda didn't want Anakin to be trained as a Jedi, so presumably he would have been sent back to Tattooine, and Sidious could have brought him over to the Dark Side whenever he wanted. By surviving and taking on Anakin as his apprentice, Obi-Wan made things a little better than they might have been otherwise.

None of this is explicitly stated, but I believe it's a logical conclusion from what we see in the prequels.

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IMO Episode I would have been greatly improved if Sidious had a line or two of dialogue explaining the above motivation to Maul. As it is, the viewer has no idea why Maul is trying to kill the Jedi. Darth Maul looks all cool and scary, but the shark in Jaws was a better developed character. –  Royal Canadian Bandit Jun 14 at 11:34
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It wouldn't be quite right for Sidious to explain that to Maul: Part of the power of the Sith is their ability at intriegue, discovering hidden motivations, etc. Maul, if he had needed such a thing explained, would have been an exceptionally poor Sith, and Sidious wouldn't waste breath explaining it to a poor Sith. So, basically, if Maul were dumb enough to not know, he'd be to dumb to be trusted with the information. –  Jeff Jun 14 at 15:50
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@Jeff: I really don't care if Darth Maul knows the purpose of his mission. The important thing is for the audience to know it. If Sidious conveyed this information by monologuing to thin air after Maul left, fine. Anything is better than failing to coherently explain a major plot point, so that after 2 additional movies and 15 years, people are asking questions about it on StackExchange because it's still confusing. –  Royal Canadian Bandit Jun 14 at 20:31
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@Jeff: Also, note that Sidious had no problem explaining things in detail to Vader in Episodes 3, 5 and 6, so I don't think he had some sort of personal rule against doing it. –  Royal Canadian Bandit Jun 14 at 20:57
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Wow, none of this is stated at all in the films or books, but it makes so much sense! Excellent deductive answer +1 –  SSumner Jun 15 at 0:15

TL;DR: Because Papaltine/Sidious told him to take care of the Jedi first.


From the script

Prior to the flight to Tatooine, Amidala has suspicions about an invasion, but still believes that negotiations are still possible with the Trade Federation.

CAPT. PANAKA : Check the transmission generators...

BIBBLE : A malfunction?

CAPT. PANAKA : It could be the Federation jamming us. Your Highness.

BIBBLE : A communications disruption can only mean one thing. Invasion.

AMIDALA : Don't jump to conclusions, Governor. The Federation would not dare go that far.

CAPT. PANAKA : The Senate would revoke their trade franchise, and they'd be finished.

AMIDALA : We must continue to rely on negotiation.

Captain Panaka explains why they're only trying to capture Amidala.

CAPT. PANAKA : They need her to sign a treaty to make this invasion of theirs legal. They can't afford to kill her.

Papaltine/Sidious knows that the republic won't do anything about the invasion.

PALPATINE : ...the Republic is not what it once was. The Senate is full of greedy, squabbling delegates who are only looking out for themselves and their home sytems. There is no interest in the common good...no civility, only politics...its disgusting. I must be frank, Your Majesty, there is little chance the Senate will act on the invasion.

and

NUTE : The invasion is on schedule, My Lord.

DARTH SIDIOUS : Good. I have the Senate bogged down in procedures. By the time this incident comes up for a vote, they will have no choice but to accept your control of the system.

Meanwhile

From the very beginning of the movie, the Trade Federation has attempted to kill the Jedi (seemingly on their own, as no orders from Papaltine/Sidious are mentioned) and failed.

Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon have discovered the invasion fleet.

QUI-GON : Battle droids.

OBI-WAN : It's an invisible army.

QUI-GON : It's an odd play for the Trade Federation. We've got to warn the Naboo and contact Chancellor Valorum. Let's split up. Stow aboard separate ships and meet down on the planet.

Sidious explains to the Trade Federation that Maul is to kill everyone except Amidala (again, because he needs her to sign the treaty)

DARTH SIDIOUS : Destroy all high-ranking officials, Viceroy ...slowly...quietly. And Queen Amidala, has she signed the treaty?

NUTE : She has disappeared, My Lord. One Naboo cruiser got pat the blockade.

DARTH SIDIOUS : Viceroy, find her! I want that treaty signed.

NUTE : My Lord, it's impossible to locate the ship. It's out of our range.

DARTH SIDIOUS : ...not for a Sith...

A second SITH LORD appears behind DARTH SIDIOUS.

DARTH SIDIOUS : (Cont'd) ...Viceroy, this is my apprentice. Lord Maul. He will find your lost ship.

Finally, Papaltine/Sidious tells Maul to kill the Jedi first, so that he may kidnap Amidala.

DARTH SIDIOUS : Move against the Jedi first...you will then have no difficulty taking the Queen back to Naboo, where she will sign the treaty.


So, Maul is not sent specifically to kill two Jedi; he is sent to kidnap Amidala and kill everyone in the way.

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That would make a lot of sense, however there's a bit of a contradiction in the way he acted during the final lightsaber duel with the two Jedi. He basically lets the Queen and her party leave (doesn't even try to stop her) - so he can fight the two Jedi. If he had won, by the time he gets back from the reactor room, she could have already disappeared, got killed by accident or retaken control of the palace. If Amidala was his primary target, he is horribly inefficient. –  Haedrian Jun 14 at 17:48
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@Haedrian As Sidious told him, once the Jedi are out of the way, he would have no problem getting Amidala. As long as Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are still around, they'll block his ultimate mission. Sidious specifically told him to get rid of them, and he needs to do so anyways if he is to ever kidnap her. –  phantom42 Jun 14 at 19:09
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Reading this explanation makes me understand exactly one thing: The political blather that fills all of the sequels really get in the way of clear & simple concepts. The scripts needed editors to focus the plot on the core issues instead of ridiculous trade politics 100% nobody really cares or understands. –  JakeGould Jun 15 at 6:05

Darth Maul (in the same-named book from C-canon) is shown to have been raised by Palpatine to:

  • Greatly hate Jedi

  • Arrogant to be sure he overmatches them.

When he sees the chance to face down a Jedi, that's his emotions making them his first priority - everything else is an easy, non-challenging and not-as-satisfying target.

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But surely Palpatine directed him towards the target. Or are you suggesting that he just saw the chance to face down this particular Jedi and went rogue on his own? I've always assumed Palpatine made this choice (and Maul is just a tool) - and here I'm questioning why. –  Haedrian Jun 14 at 17:41
    
@Haedrian - I don't recall any detail on what his formal mission from Palpatine was (not to say it isn't somewhere in canon, I just cant recall seeing one) –  DVK Jun 14 at 18:13

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