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VADER: Obi-Wan is here. The Force is with him.

TARKIN: If you're right, he must not be allowed to escape.

VADER: Escape is not his plan. I must face him alone.

It seemed like Obi-Wan was trying to escape since he was deactivating the tractor beam for the very purpose of escaping the Death Star. So, how was escape not his plan? Or was this just Vader guessing wrong? If Vader isn't wrong, then why isn't escape Obi-Wan's plan?


NOTE: The question How does Vader know that escape is not Obi-Wan's plan? is related but doesn't address Kenobi's side of the issue, just Vader's (so it's not a duplicate).

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Obi-Wan seems to have realized that he was unlikely to escape soon after the Millennium Falcon was captured by the Death Star. When he split up from the rest of the group to deactivate the tractor beam, he had the following conversation with Luke:

Obi-Wan: I don't think you boys can help. I must go alone.

Han: Whatever you say. I've done more than I bargained for on this trip already.

Luke: I want to go with you.

Obi-Wan: Be patient, Luke. Stay and watch over the droids.

Luke: But he can...

Obi-Wan: They must be delivered safely or other star systems will suffer the same fate as Alderaan. Your destiny lies along a different path than mine. The Force will be with you...always!

Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope script from imsdb

This conversation occurred before Vader's conversation with Tarkin. There is evidence that Obi-Wan wasn't aware of Vader's presence yet, but he clearly had a sense that Luke's destiny would be different from his own. Obi-Wan probably insisted on disabling the tractor beam alone because he was the only one expendable:

  1. Luke is the new hope of the Jedi.
  2. Leia is an important leader of the Rebellion.
  3. The droids hold the vital Death Star plans and must escape with them.
  4. Han and Chewie are needed to pilot the Millennium Falcon.

Keeping in mind the fact that Obi-Wan is the only expendable one, I can think of at least two good reasons why Obi-Wan didn't plan to escape the Death Star himself:

  1. He needed to distract the stormtroopers guarding the Millennium Falcon and delay Vader so that Luke and the others could escape.
  2. He would become more powerful as a Force Ghost.

Regarding the delay/distraction, here's a screenshot (taken from this Youtube video) demonstrating what Obi-Wan accomplished by going alone and fighting Vader:

Obi-Wan vs. Vader

Vader was just outside the hangar where the Millennium Falcon was, so if he hadn't been delayed by Obi-Wan he would have been able to prevent everyone from escaping. Moreover, the screenshot also shows that the hangar was crawling with stormtroopers -- again, Luke and the others had no chance to reach the Falcon if not for the fact that the stormtroopers were distracted by the duel between Obi-Wan and Vader.

The quote you provide demonstrates that Vader knew of Obi-Wan's presence. Either Obi-Wan was unable to hide his Force presence from Vader (possibly because he wasn't aware of Vader's presence) or he chose to deliberately reveal himself to Vader. If the former, Vader could track Obi-Wan via the Force and therefore Obi-Wan had to stay away from Luke and the others so that they could escape. If the latter, it must have been to delay Vader and distract the stormtroopers. Even if Obi-Wan had been able to hide his Force presence, there's very little chance he and the others could have defeated the stormtroopers guarding the hangar before Vader and more stormtroopers arrived. Obi-Wan had to sacrifice himself as a distraction to allow the others to escape.

Obi-Wan was deactivating the tractor beam so that someone could escape in the Falcon, not necessarily himself.

By sacrificing himself, Obi-Wan also became a Force Ghost. Recall what he told Vader:

You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope script from imsdb

As a Force Ghost, Obi-Wan could be a voice of guidance in Luke's head. Obi-Wan proved particularly effective as a Force Ghost later, when he advised Luke to use the Force rather than the targeting computer to destroy the Death Star. If Obi-Wan hadn't sacrificed himself he would not have been able to do that.

  • this question says Kenobi didn't sense Vader until he was around the next corner, so it doesn seem like he lured Vader away or anything. I get that, once Vader was between him and the Falcon, self-sacrifice was the best way to help the others. but Vader said much earlier that escape wasn't Kenobi's plan (ever) which just doesn't make sense. Right up until Vader and the troopers blocked him, Kenobi's plan was to escape. Am I wrong or missing something? – RedCaio May 25 '16 at 5:13
  • @RedCaio The accepted answer to that question does put a wrinkle in the idea that Obi-Wan intended to delay Vader, but it's still reasonable to say that he intended to distract the stormtroopers. There are quite a few stormtroopers on the Death Star, and even if Obi-Wan could kill them all he wouldn't be able to do it quickly enough to escape before more arrived. I think it's fair to say that Obi-Wan might have hoped to escape, but realized it was likely he'd have to sacrifice himself (whether Vader was present or not). – Null May 25 '16 at 5:19
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    @JanusBahsJacquet My interpretation is, Vader doesn't know Obi-Wan's plans because of the Force. Vader predicts Obi-Wan's plans because of the extreme level of familiarity he has with Obi-Wan, given that Anakin was Obi-Wan's apprentice. One might say that the two were like brothers. :) – Mego May 25 '16 at 9:22
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    @JanusBahsJacquet I agree with Mego's comment. Also, Obi-Wan was more of a threat than the untrained Luke. Finally, it seems to be easier to sense one's Force presence but harder to identify that person so Vader may have felt Luke's presence without realizing it was his son. – Null May 25 '16 at 14:15
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    Let's not forget that A) Jedi (and presumably Sith also) have limited powers of precognition and B) Vader and Kenobi probably both felt that they had a score to settle. Kenobi's entire order was wiped out by Vader, and he was likely waiting to address that situation because he had to keep an eye on Luke. Now that Luke has new protectors (unwitting though they may be) and is reunited with his sister, and Kenobi is in the same place as Vader, it's as good a time as any for the showdown that has been on hold for 18 years or whatever. That's why they both knew there was no plan for escape. – Todd Wilcox May 25 '16 at 16:14
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I don't doubt that Kenobi sensed Vader as they approached. Vader had no need to hide his presence at all; as far as he knew, there were no Jedi to hide from. As for Kenobi, most likely he was masking his presence at that point, not because he expected to run into Vader of the Emperor, but simply out of habit. He had been doing so for many, many years at this point. So now that he is aware of Vader, what does he do? From this point, everything hinges on the fact that Vader and Kenobi know each other VERY well, enough so that each can generally predict the others actions.

Once Kenobi feels Vader's presence he knows he needs to confront him, for personal and practical reasons. After the events on Mustafar, he bears the weight of his choice not to finish Vader off, and is still conflicted about it. Then on top of this, he has just felt the enormous disturbance in the Force caused by the destruction of Alderaan. Once he sees the Death Star and senses Vader's presence, he puts things together and realizes that his old apprentice has just snuffed out billions of lives somehow. With the weight of all those lives bearing down on him, he can't just run away and hide again. He must face Vader one last time.

He reasons that the tractor beam must be disabled to allow the Falcon to escape, and that a solo mission has the best likelihood of success. He knows that once he reveals himself, Vader will want to deal with him himself. Obi-wan is the last tie to Vader's previous life, and Vader will want to extinguish that tie personally.

He also reasons that his own presence will distract Vader from noting the new ripple in the Force that is Luke. If Vader were to realize that another Force-capable person was around, much less his own son, there would be no escape. Luke's best chance lay in Vader's attention being drawn elsewhere.

Knowing all this, Obi-wan stops hiding himself and allows Vader to sense his presence. It's not unreasonable to assume that once he does so, both parties are not only aware of each other, but aware of each others awareness (I know you know that I know!). It is unlikely that he has any illusions of the outcome of such a fight, but defeating Vader was never the point.

From Vader's side, once he recognized Obi-wan's presence, the process would have been simpler. As a Sith, revenge was right up his alley. Here was the man who maimed him and left him to die, and the last remaining tie to his old life (to his knowledge). He would NEED to unleash his anger at Obi-wan, in a way that simply having the ship blown out of space would not satisfy.

He knew Obi-wan well enough to know that the confrontation was coming. He knew Kenobi was there, he knew that Kenobi was aware of him, and most of all, knew Kenobi's mind well enough to predict that he would attempt to rectify his mistake at Mustafar. It's possible he may have also realized that Obi-wan had revealed himself deliberately, after many years of hiding. To Vader's mind, Kenobi was coming to finish things, and in a way, he was. Vader was unaware that the primary goal was misdirection, though.

I don't think anything after deactivating the tractor beam was a specific plan; Obi-wan's aim was to keep Vader distracted long enough for Luke and the others to GTFO. The fact that their battle took place in a spot that just happened to draw the attention of every stormtrooper guarding the Falcon was just a bonus.

tldr: Vader and Kenobi both realized the upcoming confrontation was inevitable. Vader knew his old master well enough to know that he would not try to avoid it.

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I honestly think Obi-Wan just didn't care because he was going to become a force ghost anyway, so he just let himself die in front of Luke to give him a push in the right direction, give him motivation, a reason to become a Jedi, etc.

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    Welcome to SciFi.SE! Answers here generally get upvoted more if they contain something to back up what they are saying. Is there any canon that supports these points? – user32390 May 25 '16 at 10:46

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