Some time ago, I stumbled upon The Skywalker Paradigm, a sort of Star Wars conspiracy theory. Here’s how it introduces itself:
The Skywalker Paradigm is a way of viewing the Star Wars movies that adds enormous clarity to every facet of the story. I’m not trying to tell you about the plot holes in Star Wars – I’m telling you there are NO plot holes in Star Wars. … The movies stand by themselves, like a History Channel documentary about World War II, pieced together from found footage and records. The story is there already – you’ve just always misunderstood it. It’s okay – everybody else did too.
The site sucked me in. It felt like a real argument… buried in forty thousand words of sentence fragments, mid-nineties formatting, and redundant information.
I read through it and mapped out the core of the theory. Some peripheral bits got cut. Some weak angles got patched with my own interpretations. The following is what I came up with. For your reading pleasure: The Abridged Skywalker Paradigm.
Before Episode I
For a thousand generations, the galaxy was governed as the Old Republic. Republic authority was enforced by the Jedi knights, a religious order of “despotic samurai thugs”. The Jedi wield lightsabers, powerful weapons which can cut through anything and act as perfect foils to the blasters employed by the rest of the galaxy.
Source: The Skywalker Paradigm
Membership in the Jedi order was open only to those with a biological disposition towards use of the Force – a high midi-chlorian count. In fact, any children found to have a suitably high midi-chlorian count were conscripted into the Jedi religion.
The Force is a terrifying weapon of psychological attack. Force users can knock adversaries off-balance, confuse them, or even choke them, all through hypnosis and suggestion. Such abilities were used liberally by both the evil Sith and the ostensibly-good Jedi.
Episodes I, II, and III
At the opening of Episode I, we see a group of separatists using a blockade to exert economic pressure on the wealthy planet of Naboo (and thus on the Galactic Senate). Their intention is to break off from the Republic – to be free from the Jedi.
Instead of diplomats to negotiate with the separatists, a pair of Jedi enforcers are dispatched to bring them to heel. The separatists, realizing their nonviolent options have been exhausted, deploy a military force to hold Naboo hostage.
The conflict escalates. The Jedi deploy their own army of clone troopers, which was formed without the knowledge of the (clearly toothless) Senate. The battlefield spans entire solar systems, putting billions – if not trillions – in danger.
Horrified at the idea of so much bloodshed, Senator Palpatine wrests control of the Clone Army from the Jedi. He stages a coup, killing no more than a few thousand, and uniting the galaxy once again as a Galactic Empire. Palpatine serves as Emperor, assisted by his ward Vader. Vader, previously known as Anakin Skywalker, was trained as a Jedi and was instrumental to their defeat.
Note that extensive digital tampering is evident throughout Episodes I, II, and III, so it’s impossible to know which details have been manipulated for pro-Jedi propaganda purposes. For this reason, the bulk of the analysis is concentrated on the relatively-undoctored Episodes IV, V, and V.
For a time, the galaxy was at peace; this is still largely the case at the beginning of Episode IV. To everyday civilians the Empire is visible only through its security force, Stormtroopers, who are shown to be polite and professional:
- Stormtroopers are the only characters in the movies to ever use the “stun” setting on their blasters.
- When dealing with civilians, Stormtrooper weapons are not even loaded. Troopers are ordered to load their weapons upon learning that Han Solo – who just murdered someone in a bar fight – is on the run nearby.
- Stormtroopers do not unduly invade civilian homes. Even when pursuing the dangerous Han Solo, they bypass locked doors.
The peace will not last. Not content to serve, Vader and his daughter, Leia, have enlisted a terrorist organization called the Rebellion. Leia leads them under a false name to disguise her connection to Vader. Their aim is to depose Palpatine and install the Skywalker line as monarchs.
Source: The Skywalker Paradigm
Rebel attacks against the Empire have led to the creation of the Death Star, a space station with titanic destructive potential. The Death Star is commanded by Tarkin, a high-ranking Imperial officer with his own ideas about the future of the Empire. Tarkin is a threat, not only to Vader and Leia’s plans, but to the galaxy as a whole.
Leia travels to Tatooine to barter with Kenobi, the last Jedi. He is an old enemy of Vader, but she hopes to enlist his aid against the madman Tarkin nonetheless. Before landing, however, her crew mutinies. Leia surreptitiously deploys the droids Artoo and Threepio to seek out Kenobi on her behalf.
Vader rescues Leia and executes her mutinous lieutenant. He then brings her to the nearby Death Star as a “prisoner” to avoid arousing suspicion. For the duration of her stay on the Death Star, Vader is constantly protecting Leia. He personally oversees her interrogation. He steadies her when Alderaan is destroyed by the insane Tarkin. He convinces Tarkin to stay her execution. Ultimately, he even convinces Tarkin to let her escape the Death Star aboard the Millenium Falcon.
Kenobi is not in hiding on Tatooine, but rather lives within striking distance of Vader’s son, Luke. Kenobi cannot contact Luke without risking the Empire’s wrath, while Vader cannot contact Luke without provoking Kenobi. Luke lives with his aunt and uncle, oblivious to his position in this stalemate.
Kenobi has long been plotting his revenge against Vader for destroying the Jedi. He has a contact on Vader’s ship who alerts him when the droids are dispatched in the escape pod. Then, he enlists the (easily-bribed) Jawas capture the droids, fit them with restraining bolts, and sell them to Luke. He anticipates that the droids will seek him out once the bolts are removed, and that Luke will come with them. Kenobi also hires a band of Tuskens to ambush Luke, allowing him to “rescue” Luke and thus gain his trust.
Kenobi’s plan is to brainwash Luke, then send him to assassinate Vader; if either kills the other, his revenge will be complete.
To that end, first Kenobi must convince Luke to come off-world with him. He begins by telling Luke that Vader killed his father, which is a lie. He then attempts to convince Luke to join the Rebellion. Luke declines, citing responsibilities to his family. To force his hand, Kenobi’s Tusken mercenaries murder Luke’s aunt and uncle, burn their home to the ground, and leave (half-assed) evidence that the attack was carried out by Stormtroopers. With no further ties to Tatooine, Luke agrees to travel with Kenobi, ostensibly to Alderaan.
In transit, he begins Luke’s “training.” It is instrumental to Kenobi’s plan that Luke believe himself to be an invincible supersoldier, with powers of premonition and telepathy. In fact, the Force includes neither such ability.
Supposed telekinesis is driven by technology, not the Force. From landspeeders to surveillance droids, the levitation of metal objects is shown to be ubiquitous and reliable in the Star Wars universe.
Source: The Skywalker Paradigm
Supposed Jedi premonitions are actually delusions, hallucinations, and lies. Luke also believes that Kenobi feels “a great disturbance in the Force”; in fact, his contact alerted him of Tarkin’s actions. Why else would Luke, who is strong in the Force, have felt nothing at all?
Supposed Force-ghosts are explained by holograms, also a common piece of technology.
Source: The Skywalker Paradigm
The supposed Jedi ability to predict and block blaster fire with a lightsaber is based in truth, but exaggerated. Lightsabers do absorb blaster fire, but they are limited by the reaction time of their wielders. Luke believes that his instincts allowed him to block the training droid’s attacks while blindfolded; in fact, the droid fired at Luke’s lightsaber intentionally. In later episodes, Luke is only able to block attacks when he can clearly see the shooter1.
Note that Han meets Kenobi’s claims about the Force with disbelief. The galaxy was full of Jedi within Han’s lifetime, and that he is a well-travelled man who has had plenty of run-ins with the law. He, more than Luke (or the audience), knows where hypnotism stops and technology begins.
From their arrival at the Death Star onward, events unfold exactly as planned. Leia “escapes” from the Death Star. A tracking device is placed aboard the Millennium Falcon to lure Tarkin into a trap. Kenobi fakes his own death at Vader’s hands, further establishing Vader as evil in Luke’s mind. The Death Star is destroyed, and Tarkin along with it, while Vader is not on board.
In the immediate aftermath of the destruction of the Death Star, Leia and Vader lose contact with one another. Vader, who has by now learned that Kenobi brainwashed his son and entangled him in their schemes, is anxious to reestablish communication. He sends spy drones to all corners of the galaxy to find them.
Upon finding the Rebel base, Vader launches an unnecessarily-large invasion of Hoth. This is an opportunity to build his political capital; after all, the Rebellion just carried out a massive terrorist attack against an Imperial military facility! To ensure the safety of Luke and Leia, he leads the attack himself. He considers all other Rebels, as well as Imperial soldiers, to be expendable.
During the Battle of Hoth, Luke’s bloodlust and sense of invincibility make him a force be behold on the battlefield. When his snowspeeder crashes, he doesn’t pause to check if his unconscious friend Dak is alive. Instead, he salvages the grappling cable and uses it to single-handedly destroy an Imperial walker.
Careful not to further agitate Luke’s violent obsession with Vader, Leia has no choice but to flee. Perhaps she makes brief contact with Vader on Hoth, or perhaps her flight tells him all that he needs to know about his son’s mania. Vader knows that something must be done, soon, before Luke’s fervor undermines years’ worth of planning.
Vader’s next move is risky: he hires the bounty hunter Fett to again bring his children in as “prisoners.” Fett reports to Vader, not to Palpatine, and is explicitly instructed to harm neither Luke nor Leia.
With Fett’s help, Vader catches up to Leia and Han on Bespin. He intends to use the city’s carbonite freezer to restrain Luke; until his brainwashing is reversed, he is a danger to himself and others. To be sure of the process’ safety, he tests it on Han. (Perhaps he is displeased that his daughter has become so close to one of her pawns.)
In the meantime, Luke seeks out Yoda on Dagobah, per the instructions of Kenobi’s hologram. It’s unclear if he encounters the same Yoda who once led the Jedi council, or if this is simply another member of the same species. In any case, Yoda serves as an agent of Kenobi. Within minutes of meeting, he drugs Luke. He drills him with anti-Vader propaganda. He uses levitation technology to convince Luke that the Force includes near-limitless telekinetic abilities. He finally convinces Luke’s drug-addled mind that if he doesn’t assassinate Vader – immediately – his friends will be tortured and killed.
Luke arrives on Bespin just minutes after Han is encased in carbonite (which in turn happened just hours after Leia and Han’s arrival). While Luke believes himself to have been fully trained as a Jedi, in fact he spent no more than a day on Dagobah!
Vader is a far better fighter than Luke. He is fitted with sophisticated cybernetic enhancements – not to mention that he actually did receive Jedi training. They seem evenly matched only because Vader is careful not to kill the enraged Luke. Vader first tries talking, but Luke is quick to attack. He tries to freeze Luke in carbonite. He tries to knock him out with heavy levitated objects. Only after all of this does he cut off Luke’s hand. Vader knows well enough that the hand can be replaced; he hopes that Luke’s pain and shock will snap him out of his hypnosis, and again tries to reason with his son.
Luke, hysterical, flees with Leia. Vader’s forces offer only token resistance.
In the time between movies, Luke recovers from his injury and shakes off Kenobi’s brainwashing. He meets with Vader in secret to be trained as a Jedi. This explains how Luke learns to construct a new lightsaber, for example. However, Vader is careful not to overload Luke’s still-fragile mind: Luke is not yet made aware that Leia is also Vader’s child.
The old Luke was a talented fighter in and out of the cockpit, but impulsive and hot-blooded. Vader sculpts him into a new Luke, deceitful and patient. The attack on Jabba’s palace is a test of this new Luke’s abilities.
Source: Return of the Skywalker Paradigm
For both Leia and Vader, Jabba’s defeat is cathartic. Leia sees Han unfrozen from carbonite; pawn or not, she has feelings for the handsome scoundrel. Vader enjoys long-overdue revenge on the crime lord who sold him into slavery as a child. While Vader cannot be present in person, he enjoys the attack vicariously through Luke. Note that Luke’s black cape and his Force-choke are both nods to Vader’s style.
Luke travels to Dagobah to speak to Yoda, and to Kenobi’s “ghost.” It’s clear to them that he is no longer under Kenobi’s spell, so their conversations are short. They halfheartedly repeat that Vader is his enemy. They hedge their words about their past lies. Sensing that Leia’s identity has been kept from him, and trying to shake his faith in Vader, Kenobi and Yoda dramatically reveal that she is Luke’s sister. Luke is unmoved. With nothing more to say, Luke departs Dagobah.
Unlike the attack on Jabba, the battle of Endor is anything but a test. Vader, Luke, and Leia are playing for their lives.
Leia (using false intelligence) convinces the Rebellion to attack the new Death Star head-on. The attack is meant to incur heavy casualties on both sides, destroying both the Death Star and the Rebel fleet, and thus give the entire galaxy a distaste for bloodshed. The end of the Empire-Rebellion conflict is then to be the centerpiece of the Skywalkers’ post-coup propaganda campaign.
Leia ensures that she, Luke, and Han are all deployed to the Sanctuary Moon to disable the Death Star’s shield generator. There they have to contend with legions of troops loyal to Palpatine, but at least they’re out of the station’s firing arc.
In the meantime, Vader makes a dangerous play: he walks into the throne room – violating his orders – and blindsides Palpatine with Force-persuasion. In his youth Palpatine would have had the will to resist such an assault, but his old age has weakened him. He is momentarily hypnotized. After just a nudge of suggestion, Palpatine agrees to be alone with just Vader and Luke.
Vader travels to the Sanctuary Moon. Luke “surrenders.” Vader and Luke stage a brief conversation for the sake of the Imperial guards. They then go directly to Palpatine’s throne room. Note that it’s crucial to their plan that Palpatine be assassinated in person, to ensure that he does not flee the Death Star before its destruction. It’s also crucial that they do it quickly, since Leia can only stall for so long before dropping the Death Star’s shield.
Source: Return of the Skywalker Paradigm
Palpatine has survived many assassination attempts in his decades as Emperor. His loose robes hide an assortment of weapons, defenses, and traps. (One might imagine, for example, a bomb set to detonate if his heart stops.) Were Vader and Luke to attack him directly, even together, there’s no telling who would survive. Instead, they put on a show for him. They spar, with words then with lightsabers, in an attempt to draw out Palpatine’s defenses.
Unfortunately for the Skywalkers, Palpatine holds his cards close to his chest. They yell and throw furniture, but he reveals nothing. Short on options (and on time), Luke dramatically severs Vader’s hands. He then taunts Palpatine directly, provoking him to act.
Source: Return of the Skywalker Paradigm
Palpatine deploys his taser, incapacitating Luke. Vader waits until Palpatine is completely engrossed. He then throws Palpatine down a long shaft to his death. Vader knows that the feedback from Palpatine’s taser will wreak havoc on the electronic life support systems within his suit. He chooses to sacrifice himself to save his legacy, rather than watch his son die in a failed coup.
Luke does his best to save his dying father. Had they remained on the Death Star (with its sophisticated medical facilities) perhaps Vader would have lived. They are forced to flee because Leia, having already stalled as long as possible, finally disables the Death Star’s shield.
The Rebel fleet destroys the Death Star, killing its crew of over 2 million people.
After Episode VI
Anxious for peace after such a bloodbath, the galaxy accepts Luke and Leia as its rulers.
Leia controls the government. She sits on the Provisional Senate as a representative of Alderaan, despite the fact that the planet no longer exists. She then quickly moves up to the role of Chief of State of the New Republic. Even after her terms ostensibly end, she maintains control over the workings of the New Republic.
Luke controls the people. He forms the enforcement arm of the New Republic, the New Jedi Order. He creates a new Jedi religion, for which he is the lone prophet. He spends the rest of his life conscripting Force-gifted children into that religion, and training them to be violent enforcers of Skywalker rule.
Episodes I, II, and III are likely a propaganda piece manufactured during the Skywalker era. Similarly to Episodes IV, V, and VI they seem to have been created from historical footage. Unlike Episodes IV, V, and VI, however, they feature extensive digital tampering. They systematically cast the despotic Jedi in a positive light (to promote acceptance of the New Jedi Order), and demonize Palpatine for overthrowing their brutal reign.
Note that Jedi are shown blocking blaster fire many times in Episodes I, II, and III… but only in scenes which feature obvious digital tampering! ↩