At some point during the battle between Qui-Gon and Darth Maul, then enter a corridor. Obi-Wan follows them, but is separated from them by some kind of laser gates.

Obi-Wan behind laser gates

Qui-Gon and Darth Maul reach partway through the corridor while they are dueling, only travelling at a speed of someone walking. When the gates open, Obi-Wan rushes to join the battle, as fast as he can. But even then he can't reach Qui-Gon and Darth Maul before the gates close again.

Why wasn't a running Obi-Wan able to cover a greater distance than what Qui-Gon and Darth Maul managed to cover whilst fighting?

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    You have to understand something. Regarding laws of physics, Q and Lucas have basically the same attitude. Only minor, insignificant mortals like us cling to such banalities. – bitmask Feb 28 '12 at 14:11
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    Not to mention, earlier in the same movie (as Red Letter Media points out helpfully), Obi-wan and Qui-gon use some sort of Force sprinting ability to get away from a batch of battle droids. This would certainly have been handy again here. – Jay Oct 5 '15 at 2:19
  • Given that my answer represents the closest we're going to get to a "word of god" from Lucas, I wondered if you might want to reconsider your acceptance? Or if there's anything additional you'd like me to address before doing so.... – Valorum Oct 1 '17 at 15:17

The assumption you make is that the gates are open for the same amount of time on each cycle. The scene goes like this.

  1. Maul and Qui-gon make it to the gates as Obi-wan starts running.
  2. All the gates open simultaneously, Maul makes it to the final gate, Qui-gon to the penultimate gate and are thus separated. Obi-wan makes it to the first gate, as they all close out of sync.
  3. The laser gates now open sequentially. First the gate behind Maul, then the one separating Maul and Qui-gon. They both get at duelling in the final chamber.
  4. Obi-wan waits for the first gate to open. Maul and Qui-gon are still going at it.
  5. The gates continue to open sequentially. The first gate opens, and Obi-wan runs to the end, slowed down by the gates opening. He is closed off by the final gate shutting before he can help Qui-gon. This open-close cycle is much shorter than for Qui-gon.
  6. Maul Kills off Qui-gon. The gates still aren't open.
  7. The gates open, duelling occurs.

So as you see, the gates are not one a simple open-close cycle, the time and order that the gates open changes and requires some time to move through a full cycle. This is why Obi-wan never made it in time, he is held back by the sequential opening of the gates.

Ironically, I could believe the presence of two living creatures would change the environment in the inner chamber. If the gates were for security of environmental control, that might make the gates close faster/sequentially.

  • The fact that they open/close out of synch is irrelevant. Both parties (QuiGon/Maul and ObiWan) start at the same point and travel the same distance before the first wall closes. – bitmask Feb 28 '12 at 16:47
  • The first time they all open at once, had Maul and Qui-Gon ran they may have both made it through. The Second time they open sequentially, slowing down Obi-wan. – AncientSwordRage Feb 28 '12 at 16:51
  • Ah, okay. I misunderstood (or missed your main point). – bitmask Feb 28 '12 at 16:55
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    I wonder, what the #^$&^# are these gates and why do they keep opening and closing? And what really is this place anyway? – Eregrith Oct 18 '12 at 14:45
  • @Eregrith check out the link in my answer - 'security of environmental'. – AncientSwordRage Oct 18 '12 at 15:15

This was addressed by Lucasfilm's Head of Content/Head of Fan Relations Steve Sansweet in a Q&A on the old Starwars.com website. In short, it's not always possible to replicate every Force power every single time, on command. Elements like distraction as well as mental and physical tiredness affect a Jedi's abilities.

Q. At the end of The Phantom Menace, why didn't Obi-Wan use his super-speed to run past the energy gates that kept him from Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul?

A. Physical feats and acts of strength aren't always 100 percent repeatable. You may also ask why, if your favorite sports team defeated a rival once, do they not defeat them every time? Physical and mental exhaustion play a role in the use of Jedi powers. These may have hampered Obi-Wan's abilities during the duel.

StarWars.com - Ask the Lucasfilm Jedi Council

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    While this is an official answer, it seems like a cop-out. If Obi-Wan's abilities were hampered during the duel, how did he win when Qui-Gon (who used his brief respite to meditate) couldn't? – KSmarts Sep 6 '17 at 13:36
  • @KSmarts - Obi-Wan won because. for the first time in his life he heeded his master's advice to give his trust over to the living Force and let it guide his actions rather than simply using the Force as a tool. – Valorum Sep 6 '17 at 18:10
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    @KSmarts Upon seeing his master be slain, Obi temporarily obtained the Dark Side buff "Payback is a Sith", which grants +7 to speed, strength, and removes the "Lower Ground" weakness – DCOPTimDowd Sep 6 '17 at 18:20

Well, Obi-Wan might not have used Force Speed to get past the gates, because it is a difficult power to use. Luke Skywalker remarked that he wasn't entirely in control of himself when fighting Guri. Obi-Wan might run into the gate, or worse his master and Darth Maul. He ran at a normal pace to be on the safe side, and I guess it wasn't fast enough.

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    What makes you say it was a difficult power? When did Luke fight Guri? I'm not following your point, sorry. – AncientSwordRage Mar 26 '12 at 7:58

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