When Luke watched the Imperial fleet destroy the rebel starships, Emperor Palpatine could feel the anger and hatred grow inside Luke.

He taunted Luke.

Good. I can feel your anger. I am defenseless. Take your weapon! Strike me down with all your hatred and your journey to the Dark Side will be complete!

Luke pulls his lightsaber to him, activates it, and swings towards the Emperor, only to be blocked by Darth Vader.

Yet from this still image it looks like Luke's lightsaber was closer to the Emperor than Vader's. And Vader's is closer to the camera.

enter image description here

Which means Vader's lightsaber was on the wrong side to block Luke. Luke's lightsaber should have sliced off Palpatine's neck before hitting Vader's lightsaber.

If there is an out-of-universe explanation, I will accept that. Was that scene filmed wrong? Was Mark Hamill a little too fast for David Prowse to swing his lightsaber prop to block? Was it a simple editing oversight? Did the stunt choregrapher make an error?

If there is an in-universe explanation, I will accept that too. Did the novelization say something about that moment? (Perhaps that Luke realized he could not just strike down the Emperor because by the time his lightsaber got close to the Emperor, Darth Vader would have killed Luke. Therefore Luke had to kill Vader first.)

  • 2
    OK. I've found the shot in question. It's from the 2004 DVD release, since superseded by the 2011 Blu-ray edition which no longer shows the blades inside each other.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 10:58
  • Technically this question is a dupe of Are deleted scenes considered canon? (since it refers to something that appeared in an earlier release of ESB) but I'm going to leave it open because I'm interested to know if anyone from LucasFilm ever commented on the changes they'd made to the lightsaber fight sequences.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 11:00
  • Valorum, actually it's not a dupe. The scene shows were the actual sabers were (the thin Vader saber section is the actual slim white metal rod that they used). The fact Vader is over Luke's, shows the left saber was closer to the camera than the right side. They went to fix it digitally, but the question is, why was Vader's saber on the outside to begin with?
    – CyberClaw
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 13:12
  • @CyberClaw - I think this is just a poor effect. They've tried to make the sabers less "glowy" and in doing so, they've made it look like Luke's saber is partially inside Vader's
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 10:29
  • If you watch the small clip in the question you'll see the saber positions are correct (Luke's saber is swung from the inside). You have to think how they make the effect too. The actors have this thin white sticks, they digitally paint red / green. Then they just add a glowing effect over them that enlarges the "blade". Before the glowing effect, the red saber would be clearly over the green, what you see in red is in fact the white stick painted red. They just messed up in post processing.
    – CyberClaw
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 10:35

2 Answers 2


Luke is at the right of the camera, and swings over his right shoulder. The emperor is in the middle, and Vader is on the left. There is no way for Vader to actually block that swing if it was aimed at the Emperor (geometrically), short of putting himself between the emperor and the lightsaber and then block. I'm guessing it wasn't aimed at the Emperor, it probably was aimed at Vader, who Luke saw as a direct threat.

The picture is thus correct, Luke's saber swings from the emperor's side, and Vader swings at Luke's saber, staying "on top" from the camera angle.

  • It isn't very clear that Luke was attacking Vader, it was the whole point of the taunting by the Emperor to make Luke strike down the Emperor (to end the war, etc...). I always thought Luke was trying to slice the Emperors head off, but Vaders saber magically appeared in front of it through foresight Vader had about the attack of Luke. Is there any way to prove Luke was aiming at Vader?
    – Mixxiphoid
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 13:34
  • 1
    The fact Luke swings from his right side would put his saber behind the Emperor's head, not in front of it (as you can see in the video). If by lousy swordplay, or because he intended to hit Vader, we'll probably never know.
    – CyberClaw
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 13:58
  • As a sort of justification to attack Vader first, the Emperor hadn't revealed his power as a Sith yet, so Luke could be leaving the easy target for last, and focus on his most dangerous opponent, Vader. Still a stretch though.
    – CyberClaw
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 14:00
  • @CyberClaw "...the Emperor hadn't revealed his power as a Sith yet..." I am pretty sure Luke knew the Emperor was a Sith Lord. Yoda and Obi-Wan would have mentioned it.
    – RichS
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 5:56
  • @ RichS Sure he knew he was a Sith lord, but Luke and the audience never get to see his actual power. We know Vader is mobile and is armed with a lightsaber. We look at the emperor, and it's easy to assume he is weak. Yoda does prove looking weak and being weak are 2 different things, but still, Vader looks much more like the threat since we didn't yet see the emperor actual use physical violence. And while Palpatine is a master manipulator, I doubt he is a match for Vader (but then again we always see him playing coy for the emotions so who knows).
    – CyberClaw
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 6:07

Luke is close to Palpatine, maybe 1.5-2 meter away, and somewhat to the left looking from his position. Vader is even closer, immediately behind and right to the throne.

enter image description here

Luke grabs his lightsaber, and Vader instantly ignites his, moving the tip to the left, to block incoming strike from Luke's right side .

enter image description here

Luke swings over his right shoulder and moves a bit forward. Vader leans forward and to the left to block. Palpatine rotates in his chair slightly clockwise to have better view. Here is my poor diagram in Paint :) , it is not entirely accurate but you get the picture :)

enter image description here

Overall, looks like Luke is trying to cut down both Palpatine and Vader in one stroke . Palpatine was probably ready to defend himself against Luke, but note that he has complete confidence in Vader standing behind him, fatal mistake for any Sith Lord :P

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