This past week on Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: Rebels” TV show, time travel officially came to Star Wars canon. A too-common aspect of Star Trek, time travel has been absent from Star Wars canon, even rather sparsely used in the former Expanded Universe, but it’s here now, and it comes via the Force. This is huge. It could, and should, have major repercussions in the greater Star Wars universe.
Now before you say, “This is just a cartoon on a Disney channel,” let’s back up for a minute. “Star Wars: Rebels” was created by David Feloni, the man who helmed the “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” movie and TV series with George Lucas. It explored, well the Clone Wars, showing the battles that changed Anakin Skywalker from a young, enthusiastic Jedi into the bitter, angry one we meet in “Revenge of the Sith.” Watching the series from start to finish is really the only way the prequels make any sense. Truly.
Feloni was entrusted by Kathleen Kennedy to keep Lucas’s vision going once Disney took control of the company. He’s a genius, a man who’s responsible for nearly as much of the behind the scenes Star Wars lore as Lucas himself. Much of what you see and will see developed in Star Wars is stuff that comes from Feloni. “Rebels” isn’t just a kids TV show, it’s a playground where Feloni experiments with Star Wars, weaving together its mystical elements to create new stories that move the universe forward in exciting ways.
Plenty of things in Rian Johnson’s “Last Jedi” were first seen in Feloni’s “Rebels.” Leia’s Force flight through space was done by another character ages ago on “Rebels.” Yoda as a more physical and interactive Force ghost — he’s been doing that on “Rebels” for a while. Even Luke’s obsession with “balance” has been a central focus on “Rebels” for ages. The main character is a boy who has studied with both a Jedi master and spent time under the tutelage of Darth Maul, even opening Sith artifacts, something no fully light-minded Jedi is supposed to be able to do. How’s that for balance?
All of that came from the mind of Feloni and onto a TV screen in the form of a cartoon long before it ever came to a big screen with flashy budgets and big-name actors. Now, Feloni has given Star Wars what may be his biggest gift: time travel.
His “Rebels” series has centered around a small backwater planet named Lothal with an out of the way, forgotten Jedi temple. In the penultimate evening of the show this last week, the show brought us back to this temple.
We’ve been there before. It’s where Ezra Bridger, our main character, learned he really did have the power of a Jedi. It’s where he communes with Yoda. It’s where he got the crystal for his first lightsaber. It’s where one of the important characters on the show learned that Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker. This time though, it’s where we learned that there is a “world between worlds,” as the episode’s title tells us.
The Jedi temple holds a room with long paths that lead to portals. As Ezra walks along these paths, he hears voices you’ll recognize, straight out of Star Wars TV and movies, like the prequels, (which would have happened before this point in the Star Wars timeline), and those afterward as well. You hear Anakin, Qui-Gon Jinn, Ahsoka Tano, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi (both young and old), even Jyn Erso and Princess Leia, among others, then very interestingly you hear both Rey and Kylo Ren.
Yep. Ruminate on that for a minute. Clearly what Feloni is doing is trying to directly tie all the movies and TV shows together in one place and, just as importantly, one time. And it works. Brilliantly.
Now we see what Feloni would have us do with time travel in the Star Wars universe. As Ezra walks around hearing these voices, he comes upon a portal with a bird sitting above that he recognizes. The bird belongs to a friend of his, a friend he believes dead at the hands of Darth Vader two seasons earlier in the show, Ahsoka Tano.
Ahsoka was the key character in Feloni’s “Clone Wars” show, the apprentice of Anakin Skywalker who showed him the faults of the Jedi, who helped explain why he fell from grace. She was wrongly kicked out of the order, escaped the death the rest of the Jedi faced at the end of the prequels, and reemerged as an important character in “Rebels” before realizing Vader’s true identity and facing him in an ultimate showdown at the end of season two.
Ezra reaches through the time portal and plucks Ahsoka out of the lightsaber duel with Vader, avoiding certain death, thus changing history and saving his friend. He pulls her into the Jedi time temple, leaving both of them asking “What just happened?” Ezra now realizes exactly what he can do in this place.
He hunts down the portal that contains the moment from just a few episodes earlier where Kanan Jarrus, his former Jedi master, sacrificed himself so Ezra and his teammates could live. He wants to pluck Kanan out of the explosion that killed him, just as he did Ahsoka. Ahsoka, the apprentice whose master is also lost, gone now as Darth Vader, convinces him not to mess with history this time.
Before long, the emperor appears at one of the portals. His soldiers and scientists have been digging outside this temple trying to get inside and discover its secrets for months, with no success, and when he learns that Ezra has breached the temple, he tries to gain access as well. With a power like time travel, where the emperor could walk the halls of Force history and bend it to his very will, the temptation for him is too much to resist.
Despite his efforts, the emperor is unsuccessful in getting Ezra, Ahsoka, or the temple. Ahsoka jumps back through her portal after Vader has left the battle, then Ezra escapes out of the temple and closes it shut. For now.
What Feloni has given J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and many other creatives at Lucasfilm is an amazing new tool. You can now travel through time in Star Wars. You can go all Doc Brown throughout that galaxy far, far away via the power of the Force. This has infinite possibilities.
Abrams could use this in Episode IX to have Rey or Kylo commune with old masters, plucking them into the Jedi temple, then putting them back into their own time after the lesson is done. Perhaps Rey tries to return to the past and kill Snoke before he rises to power. Or maybe Kylo Ren tries to save his grandfather from dying at the hands of Luke and the emperor. The potential and pitfalls are endless.