Darth Vader turned out to be one of the most prominent characters in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series on Disney+. Portrayed by Hayden Christensen, the character served as the main antagonist and stood opposite his former master, Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. After the announcement that the character would be included in the project and Christensen would be making his return to Star Wars, many fans wondered how exactly he would be used.
Once the Dark Lord of the Sith found out about Obi-Wan’s whereabouts in “Part III,” the two characters had their first on-screen interaction since 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. The end of the episode featured a brief duel between them, resulting in Obi-Wan getting injured and then saved from Vader’s grasp by Indira Varma’s Tala.
The next time the characters came face-to-face was in the finale. They dueled once again, but this time Obi-Wan was more in-tune with the Force and defeated his former Padawan just as he did on Mustafar 10 years prior in the timeline.
It's hard to imagine a story based around Obi-Wan Kenobi that doesn’t include Darth Vader in some capacity. In the original script for the project that was intended to be a feature film, the character was still largely present, but his role and confrontations with Obi-Wan were quite different.
Darth Vader's Original Role in Obi-Wan Kenobi
In an exclusive interview with The Direct's Nathan Johnson, Obi-Wan Kenobi writer Stuart Beattie described the role that Darth Vader played in the original version of the project's script. Beattie wrote the script for the first of three Obi-Wan Kenobi feature films and his story was eventually turned into Season 1 of the Disney+ series.
Beattie briefly talked about how he "convinced" Lucasfilm to allow him to tell his story. The writer said that the two core ideas involved Obi-Wan leaving Tatooine and coming face-to-face with Darth Vader. After he was told that "Neither of those things can happen," Beattie used Return of the Jedi to back up his claim:
"So it's actually how I got it all going. I convinced them. I said to them, 'So, the big radical idea was Obi-Wan must have left Tatooine at some point in these 19 years. And further than that, he must have had a confrontation with Darth Vader.' And they were like... 'Neither of those things can happen. I was like, 'Well, no, [that] must have happened.' And they're like, 'Why?' And I said, 'Well, there's a moment in Return of the Jedi when Luke hands himself over to Vader. And he says, there's still good in you. I still believe there's good in you.' And Vader's reply is, 'Obi-Wan once thought as you do.' And I pointed out to them that at no point do you ever see that happen in Revenge of the Sith. Obi-Wan just goes to Mustafar and they have their big fight and he leaves him to die. And they're like, 'Oh, my God, you're right, there must have been a point.'"
The writer also talked about how people needed to "actually believe" that Vader was the one who killed Anakin Skywalker:
"And I followed it up with, 'How does someone talk about Darth Vader betraying and murdering Anakin and actually believe it? There's got to have been more there.' And then Padme saying to [Obi-Wan] as she died in his arms, 'There's still good in him.' And then the idea that he thought Anakin was dead. He thought he killed his brother this whole time. So she was wrong, but now he's alive. And, 'Oh, my God, maybe she was right. Maybe there is still good in him.' So where did Vader get that sense that Obi-Wan thought there was still good in him? It was really that line from Return of the Jedi that convinced them to hire me to write the story."
When talking about his version of Vader, Beattie described him as "obsessed with Kenobi" and "obsessed with revenge." He also revealed that Emperor Palpatine played a role in his script "from the beginning:"
"To me, Vader in this period is just so obsessed with Kenobi, so obsessed with revenge and what you did to me, you know that he just wants to put a lightsaber to him. And he doesn't want this to last another second. He wants to kill this guy. In my film he was under pressure from the Emperor from the beginning. 'Forget Kenobi. Forget Kenobi. That's Anakin, let that go. Focus on the present, we've got this problem and this problem, this problem,' you know, and Vader just can't let it go."
Beattie also revealed that his script featured Vader thinking Obi-Wan died at the end of the film and using that as justification for why the Sith Lord is "shocked" when he learns of his former master's survival in A New Hope:
In mine, he really did believe that Kenobi was dead at the end, which was the thing that allowed him to finally let Kenobi go and focus on ruling the galaxy with an iron fist. Because it always seemed that in [A New Hope] he was shocked when he was like 'I sense something, a presence I've not felt since...' Why do you stop talking to yourself? It's because you're that shocked, you know?"
Beattie went on to say that he thought "the only way that Vader" could let Obi-Wan go would be if "he believed Kenobi was dead:"
"So I always felt that that was a moment when he suddenly realized, Oh, my God, he's alive. I mean, in the next scene, he's talking to Tarkin and Tarkin's like, 'What? No, he's dead. He's got to be dead,' you know, (but) no, no, he's alive. So I felt that was justified and really the only way that Vader would have stopped hunting Kenobi is that he believed Kenobi was dead."
When asked about the duels between Obi-Wan and Vader in the series and how they differed from his script, Beattie started by saying that his version of their fight took place on a space station and that Vader was actually the victor. The writer revealed that "Vader pushed (Obi-Wan) off" of the station, which separated them and didn't allow them to finish the fight:
"In mine, Vader won the fight. They were fighting on this space station. It was falling apart in the atmosphere of this big planet and Obi-Wan basically fell off. Vader pushed him off and they separated. They didn't get the chance to find Obi-Wan, basically. But what was going through Obi-Wan's mind is the same thing which is, 'My brother is truly dead. He's gone. And while I absolve of that guilt because I didn't kill him, Vader killed him, I'm still just devastated. I'm absolutely devastated.'"
Beattie also talked about the importance of having them be separated because Obi-Wan would kill Vader if he had the chance in order to save "countless lives," which were mainly other Jedi. The writer also continued by talking more about his movie, specifically how the beginning of it depicted Vader as "the big Jedi Killer:"
"To me, if Obi-Wan has a chance to kill Darth Vader, he would do it. I mean, you know, how many countless lives would you save? Right? Especially knowing that Vader would be hunting other Jedi, which was established in the show. My film began with Vader taking on five Jedi at once and killing all of them, you know, so it established that he is the big Jedi killer. The Inquisitors are capturing them, but Vader is the big daddy who comes in and just lays waste to any Jedi all while hunting Kenobi."
Beattie then went on to explain what it meant for Obi-Wan when he saw Anakin's face behind the mask of Darth Vader:
"Yeah, to me, he's looking at Anakin and Anakin does come through. That's the moment where Obi-Wan is thinking 'Is this a moment to rescue my friend and bring him back and end all of this?' Because remember, all the guilt goes away, all the problems go away if Anakin is still alive and can be brought back to the light."
The writer also talked about how if Obi-Wan could have turned Anakin back from the dark side, "the two of them" could have "(paid) a visit to Palpatine" and ended everything:
"That's option B that Obi-Wan never thought was an option, because he thought Anakin was dead. So option A, the only option, was Luke. So, all of a sudden, he's now presented with option B and, instantly, you don't have to wait for Luke to grow up and then get his powers and training. You can do this instantly, right now. Bring Anakin back and boom, the two of you go pay a visit to Palpatine and it's over."
Beattie revealed that "the whole story was building" to the confrontation between Obi-Wan and Vader, specifically to the point where Obi-Wan sees his best friend's face. The writer explained that it was an important moment for Obi-Wan's character because it is the exact moment that he realizes Vader and Anakin "are two separate people:"
"To me, what the whole story was building to was that moment when I had Obi-Wan take the helmet off or slash the helmet and give him that scar. That was what it was all building to and the whole reason to tell the story was that moment for him to see Anakin, and in that moment to realize Anakin has been killed. He said, 'This is Vader now.' So that understanding to go through Obi-Wan so that now he knows, Vader did betray and murder Anakin Skywalker, and they are two separate people."
When asked to talk more about Palpatine's role in the original script, the writer briefly described a comedic scene between the Emperor and Vader:
"[Palpatine] was sending Vader to crush a Rebel uprising on a moon somewhere. And he was saying... 'Forget Kenobi, forget Kenobi.' And I had this really funny line, I thought was funny. But it was, you know Vader saying, 'Look, Kenobi is one of the two biggest threats, you know, in the galaxy.' And the Emperor responds, well, you know, 'Pity you didn't kill him when you had the chance.' And Vader responds, 'The other one is Yoda.' And the Emperor just gets really pissed off at him. 'You forget your place.' [Laughs] You know, so he's on him from the start, 'Let this go. That's Anakin. You're Darth now.'"
The Importance of Including Darth Vader
Darth Vader is widely regarded as the greatest villain in the history of film. Since his first on-screen appearance in the opening scene of A New Hope in 1977, Star Wars fans have wanted to know every detail about his entire life. In the late 1990s, the creator of the galaxy far, far away, George Lucas, decided to make another trilogy of films set within the franchise to give a backstory to Vader and showcase exactly what drove him to become the imposing killer who was more machine than man.
While the prequels have endured their share of criticism for the past two decades, one of the elements that those films, as well as The Clone Wars animated show, have really focused on is the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan. Now, all these years later, those two characters' connection is still being fleshed out.
According to Beattie, one of the main purposes for writing Obi-Wan Kenobi was to show the Jedi master going on a journey of accepting the fact that his friend, Anakin Skywalker, had been killed by Darth Vader. Obi-Wan tells Luke himself in A New Hope that Vader "betrayed and murdered" Anakin.
It is interesting how both versions of the project handle Obi-Wan reaching that conclusion differently through the decision of the victor in the final battle. Darth Vader's victory over his former master in the original script demonstrates how unstoppable the Sith lord has become, whereas Kenobi's victory in the series shows showing how it is the only way for him to try to reason with his friend. The justification for Vader's victory also may lend itself a bit better to the events of A New Hope, due to it informing the Sith's surprise at Obi-Wan's return.
While both versions seemed intent on including Vader, it is notable that Beattie's script attempted to flesh out his character in other ways, such as through his battle with other Jedi. This has been seen in other Star Wars media like comics, but it would have been exciting to see how this version of Vader would play out on screen.
It is almost impossible to craft a story about the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope that doesn't include Darth Vader. They are like two sides of the same coin, and even though they have had their differences and are at opposing ends of the spectrum at this point in the timeline, they are still essential to each other's story.