When Luke is leaving Dagobah to save Han and Leia, Obi Wan says:

If you choose to face Vader, you will do it alone. I cannot interfere.

Why? As a Force-ghost, Obi Wan can presumably go anywhere he chooses. Is he being arbitrary and stubborn here, or is there some reason that this time, unlike many other scenarios (Death Star I, Yavin, Hoth, Dagobah, etc), he can't accompany Luke? In essence, is the issue that he can't help Luke, or merely that he won't help him?

  • 3
    Presumably because if he pops up in the middle of the fight, that would be distracting as hell for Luke and he'd probably end up dead...
    – Valorum
    Jun 6, 2015 at 19:21
  • 3
    @Richard - ha! He should have thought of that when Luke was trying to blow up the Death Star.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jun 6, 2015 at 19:23
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    "Obi Wan can presumably do anything he chooses." Like what? Force Ghost's aren't tangible. At best, he could yell at someone.
    – phantom42
    Jun 6, 2015 at 19:32
  • @phantom42 - That's what I had in mind, actually- he only "helps" by nagging Luke. But why couldn't he nag Luke this time? :). Edited question for clarity.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jun 6, 2015 at 19:35
  • 2
    The implication is that there are rules and that interfering in a duel would breach those in some fashion.
    – Valorum
    Jun 6, 2015 at 19:38

2 Answers 2


I believe this is actually an artifact of Lucas' original intentions regarding Ben and Yoda's Force Ghost abilities.

From the Annotated Screenplay for Return of the Jedi:

In the revised rough draft Luke has been taken prisoner and is being taken to the Emperor. He is inside the Imperial shuttle, sitting in a small metallic cell; he is begging Ben to help him face his father, saying that he might be able to resist the dark side. Yoda's image appears for the first time in this draft. He tells Luke that Ben can no longer help him; his power to stay in the Netherworld has been spent, and he will soon be one with the Force, his identity lost forever. Only Luke can draw him back to the material world, but Luke is unsure of himself, and his anger toward Ben for not telling him that Vader is his father could prevent him from coming back to the real world.

So, while the scene you're asking about is from Empire, it sounds like Lucas' earliest plans were for Ben to possibly not show up again at all as a result of Luke's rushing into the encounter he wasn't fully prepared for, against the advice of Ben and Yoda.

  • 2
    Very interesting! +1. I know the dynamic of Luke being angry at Ben was more pronounced in the early drafts, but then again, in the early drafts, Obi Wan and Yoda intervene directly in Luke's final showdown with the Emperor.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jun 6, 2015 at 19:54
  • That draft sounds like the type of over-explaining storytelling we got in the prequals. I am glad younger Lucas knew to avoid that.
    – zipquincy
    Dec 14, 2015 at 22:21

While I upvoted @phantom42's answer I would like to offer my perspective when I first saw that scene and heard him say it:

He can't AND he won't. In most-to-least felt order, I felt that:

  • he can't "interfere" in a fight, as he's a ghost.
  • he can't interfere against Vader (I always pondered whether this was due to Vader's power as a living Sith vs that of Jedi ghost or Vader being the one who cut / was allowed to cut him down, might be both).
  • he won't do it, as he's a mentor - he let's Luke face his decisions, especially those made against his counsel.

Note also, that Ben himself said "cannot interfere", not "will not interfere". That - for me - was also why the can't reasons rate higher than won't.


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