I read somewhere that Luke after A New Hope didn't do anything good to the plot.

The explanation was compelling.

I'm focusing on Return of the Jedi and the final showdown of the two trilogies.

  • The rebels got information about Death Star II, without Luke's help (in fact it was a trap of the Emperor)
  • They start a command mission to destroy the shield generator. Here Luke's only contribution is the speeder fight and using the force to convince the Ewoks that they are friends, shortly before Leia shows up, who would have convinced the Ewoks also if Luke were not present, I assume. The speeder fight was about not giving their presence away to the Emperor, a fact that is later revealed was already known by him (or does not play any role because even the shield generator was a trap).
  • Luke surrenders to Vader, fights him, turns him and makes him kill the Emperor.
  • Han & Co destroy the shield generator with help of the Ewoks (without Luke).
  • The rebel fleet fights the Death Star II and Imperial fleet.
  • Lando and Wedge (without Luke) reach the main reactor and destroy Death Star II.

If Luke were not present in Return of the Jedi, did not turn Vader, and Vader did not kill the emperor, wouldn't they both be killed in the destruction of Death Star II anyway? Vader could have survived if he perhaps would have not been aboard Death Star II. Perhaps he would have died aboard the Super Star Destroyer that crashes into Death Star II.

Could the Emperor have changed the course of events if he would not have been distracted by Luke and his fight with Vader? Would he have been able to flee the Death Star if he was not killed by Vader?

Both trilogies make a big deal about prophecy, the chosen one and so on, that Luke has to meet Vader, etc. It would be sad if all that in the end didn't matter.

So what was the significance that Luke fought and turned Vader, and Vader killed the Emperor shortly before Death Star II exploded anyway?

  • 29
    While Luke does endanger the mission to destroy the shield generator, as you point out, that's not really a problem as the Emperor already knows of it. But what Luke unwittingly does is become a massive distraction to the two Sith Lord leaders of the Empire. If you distract the heads of state with resources you end up not even needing to complete your main objective, then it's a win since they are now investing resources into your distraction.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 17:58
  • 13
    I think this is no longer canon, but in one of the old Thrawn books it was revealed that strong force users can boost the efficiency of nearby military units (some sort of connection thing). The theory in the book was that the Emperor was boosting the Imperial forces near the Death Star, and when he died that went away. Additionally, it's a bit like a drug - when you lose it, there's a backlash. So in that scenario Luke defeating the Emperor had a direct impact on the outside battle as well. Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 17:59
  • 25
    “Here Luke's only contribution is the speeder fight and using the force to convince the Ewoks that they are friends, shortly before Leia shows up, who would have convinced the Ewoks also if Luke were not present, I assume.” — If you assume someone else would have done everything that Luke did, then sure, he doesn’t do anything. Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 20:37
  • 8
    And now you see how easy it is to build an argument that someone "didn't really help anything" or even that they were actively harmful. It's a typical example of cherry picking and very stretchy arguments. Think about this the next time you read a book vilifying someone :P Even if somebody else could have done it (and in some cases, that's very debatable), that may mean that they weren't essential, but they still did it.
    – Luaan
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 21:03
  • 12
    After my last viewing of the film, I came to this conclusion: Even if Luke’s actions weren’t necessary for the rebel victory, that doesn’t mean he was unimportant to the plot. Vader’s character arc and Luke’s character arc <i>are</i> at least part of the plot. You might even argue they are the plot and the war is just the background against which it plays out. Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 15:43

4 Answers 4


Luke's actions in ROTJ were instrumental in the destruction of the Empire and the death of the Emperor.

  • Luke successfully invaded the stronghold of Jabba the Hutt, freeing his friend Han Solo. Han went on to lead the strike team that destroyed the Shield Generator on Endor. Notably, without Han's idea to use the walker to trick the guards into opening the main doors, the attack would have failed.

  • Luke used his "magic" to levitate C-3PO, proving the robot's godhood to the primitive Ewoks.
    C-3PO later went on to convince the Ewok Chieftain and elders to call in the other tribes and attack the Empire's forces against the advice of the tribe's Medicine Man.

  • Luke's presence on the Tydirium resulted in the rebel strike force being allowed to land.
    Vader senses that something isn't right with the shuttle. Had he not felt Luke's presence, Vader would probably have had Piett detain the shuttle, resulting in the strike team being captured/killed.

  • Luke's presence resulted in the Emperor making poor tactical decisions.
    The Emperor could easily have destroyed the rebel fleet on arrival. His decision to use the Death Star II against them seems to have been largely provoked by a desire to demonstrate the absolute superiority of the dark side of the Force to Luke Skywalker.

  • Luke's presence convinced Vader to kill the Emperor.
    The film's official novelisation indicates that the death of the Emperor (prompted by Vader's decision to save Luke) resulted in panic amongst the Empire's forces. Assuming their pilots and ship commanders were similarly distracted this would undoubtedly helped the invading rebel force.

  • Without Luke, the Emperor would have had ample time to escape the Death Star.
    Luke spent almost five minutes chatting with his dying father before hijacking a shuttle and sauntering off. In the absence of a distracting fight between Vader and Luke (and his untimely death), the Emperor would have had nearly ten minutes to make good his escape, counting from the time that the shield went down.

In short, with Luke absent, it's likely that Han would have remained stuck on Jabba's wall, Leia would probably have tried to rescue him on her own (and gotten herself caught in the process, requiring a frontal attack by the Rebellion to free her), the strike team's shuttle would have been captured, the attack on the Endor base would have failed due to lack of Ewok support, the Death Star would have been free to destroy the Rebel fleet on arrival and the Emperor would have escaped to fight another day.

To put it another way, we would have witnessed the final destruction of the Alliance, and the end of their insignificant Rebellion.

  • 41
    Would Vader have sensed the rebels on the Tydirium if not for Luke's presence? Luke at least seems to think not ("I'm endangering the mission, I shouldn't have come"). And if Vader didn't sense Luke it seems they would have gotten through ("It's an older code, sir, but it checks out. I was about to clear them"). Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 22:14
  • 3
    @MartianInvader - If you ask it on the site, I'll post a proper response but the short answer is maybe.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 22:16
  • 4
    "Luke ... freeing his friend Han Solo" : Who would not have been in this situation without Luke in ESB, because it was a trap for Luke that bring him into this situation. But this is debatable of course. The last argument is the stringest one that caught me. :-)
    – Hothie
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 7:42
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    The shuttle was about to be passed through until Vader intervened "It's an older code sir but it checks out, I was about to clear them". If Luke hadn't been on board they'd probably have gone straight through.
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 8:47
  • 6
    @MartianInvader: don’t forget that this was basically show for the audience seeing the movie for the first time. Since the whole thing was a trap and they were waiting for the rebels on Endor, it wouldn’t make much sense to deny landing or do anything that could cause the strike force sending a last “we failed” message to the rebel fleet. Letting them believe that they are successful is the only reasonable behavior. What if the strike force was supposed to send a signal to the fleet shortly before attacking…
    – Holger
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 18:02

During the attack on the first Death Star, Vader flew out in his TIE fighter to fight off the attacking Rebels. And, with his high-level force skills, he did a pretty good job. Even Luke would have been killed during his attack run, had Han and Chewbacca not returned and broken up Vader's pursuit group.

On the second Death Star, there were two Sith lords, Vader and Palpatine. During the rebels' assault on the battle station, they were both occupied dealing with Luke. Luke's presence on board prevented Vader and the Emperor from participating directly in the battle. Without Luke being present, Vader could have taken a TIE and blown Lando, Wedge, etc. out of the skies. What precise tactical value the Emperor would have had is somewhat less clear; however, he was a powerful Force user and effective ruler of the galaxy. Presumably, his active participation would have had a significant effect on the ongoing battle.

So, yes, by sidelining the two Sith lords present, Luke may have made a critical contribution to the destruction of the Death Star over Endor.

  • 18
    Don't forget that in the novelisation, it's made clear that the Imperial Fleet is holding back to improve the "show factor" of the battle (and indeed, even in the movie it's obvious that the rebel forces are vastly outmatched, and have no tactical advantage to speak of either). The Emperor was trying to frighten and impress Luke to lure him to the dark side - if Luke wasn't there, they would have smashed the pathetic rebel fleet like there's no tomorrow. At the very least, the first Death Star shot would target Home One rather than starting with the insignificant ships.
    – Luaan
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 20:24
  • 5
    Death Star isn't an acronym. You don't need to put it in all caps. Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 20:37
  • 13
    @ChrisHayes " During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet."
    – Buzz
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 22:55
  • 5
    @Luaan it is even hinted in the movie itself that the Imperial Fleet would be ready to crush the Alliance Fleet. I remember the dialog on the Executor bridge that the Fleet is ready to engage and that they had been ordered by the Emperor to hold the rebels in place and just keep them from escaping.
    – Adwaenyth
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 9:51
  • 3
    The "Death Eater Association's Terminating Huge Space Terminal Actively Raging"
    – user11521
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 20:59

"If Luke were not present in Return of the Jedi, did not turn Vader and Vader did not kill the emperor, wouldn't they be killed both in the destruction of the death star anyway?"

I don't think you can say that with certainty. Having an escape pod ready for the two most important people in the galaxy (so far as the makers of the Death Star are concerned) seems like something somebody in the planning phases would have come up with.

It's also worth noting that Luke finishing his training with Yoda, overcoming the Dark Side, and finding closure with his father are all important setups for both EU material and Disney's work. It's what cemented him as a living legend, a symbol of hope, and proof of what the Jedi are capable of. If not for Return of the Jedi, Luke would be forever known as that whiny brat that was a decent pilot that could barely hold his own against 2/5 of his dad.

  • 3
    "cemented him as a living legend, a symbol of hope, and proof of what the Jedi are capable of. " Exactly, especially with the newer works (prequels, Disney stuff), hope, faith and mythos are the main recurring themes in Star Wars. At the end of the day it's really just a story about some farmer saving the princes and the world, there are tons of those and Star Wars just happens to be one of the better executions of this age old tale.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 9:59
  • @Kevin executions of this age old tale see The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. That book George supposed to have been rediscovering from college days, as a tool in 1975 for turning his second draft of the script into what became shooted as Star Wars, released 1977. (The general story of this connection seems to be blessed from both George's and Campbell's estate.)
    – n611x007
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 12:32

In addition to all the things Luke actually did to further the mission, it may very well have been that one of Darth Vader and/or the Emperor would not have actually been present on the Death Star at the time of the battle. There was no reason for them to be there if Luke wasn’t going to show up. The Emperor wasn’t going to take part in a space battle, and even if Vader decided to take his TIE out for some fun, it wouldn’t have really influenced the outcome of the overall battle much anyway.

So even if the Rebellion replaced Luke in every way and the battle went off as we saw just with someone other than Luke doing stuff, if either Darth Vader or the Emperor survives the battle, the Rebellion wins only its continued survival, not true victory.

The Death Star would have ended the Rebellion, but the destruction of the Death Star would not have meant the end of the Empire if the Emperor, or (probably) Darth Vader survives.

  • not convinced that Vader would have made no difference as a pilot. +1 on the other hand for Palpatine would not have actually been present
    – n611x007
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 12:36

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