The Duel on Death Star II was the final, climactic lightsaber duel between Luke Skywalker and his father, Darth Vader. It was the duel that redeemed Anakin Skywalker, and led to Galactic Emperor Palpatine's first death at the hands of the Chosen One, earning Luke Skywalker the title of Jedi Knight. It was an integral part of the Battle of Endor.
On the forest moon of Endor, Luke Skywalker turned himself in to Imperial troops. When questioned, he denied the fact that he was part of a team of Rebel commandos that had been sent to Endor to deactivate the shield protecting the orbiting Death Star. Vader took custody of Luke and dismissed the commander to search for the Rebel team. Luke tried to convince Vader to come with him and forsake the dark side, but Vader refused, believing that it was too late for him to escape what he had become.
Vader transported Luke to the second Death Star and led him into the Emperor's throne room. Palpatine immediately began trying to seduce him to the dark side of the Force, but Luke refused to give in, and also implied the imminent deaths of all onboard, including himself and Palpatine. Palpatine, knowing that Luke was referring to the Rebel Fleet's approaching attack on the Death Star, revealed to Luke that the entire battle was a trap that he had orchestrated to destroy the rebellion. Luke taunted the Emperor, telling him that his overconfidence was his weakness, to which the Emperor answered that Luke's greatest weakness was his faith in his friends, with Vader informing Luke of the futility of resistance.
Luke witnessed the arrival of the Rebel fleet in the system and the start of the space battle. It was then that Palpatine revealed another secret—the Death Star II was operational, and Luke watched helplessly as the battlestation fired its superlaser, destroying the Mon Calamari Star Cruiser Liberty. Luke refused to give in to his anger, but the Emperor continued to taunt him, telling Luke that all his friends and the entire rebellion would soon be destroyed.
- "Never! I'll never turn to the dark side. You have failed, Your Highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.''"
- ―Luke Skywalker
Palpatine could feel his anger and tempted Luke to strike him down and complete his journey to the dark side, which was very similar to Anakin's duel with Count Dooku onboard the Invisible Hand. Luke ultimately summoned his lightsaber to his hand, and he struck out at the Emperor, only to have his attack blocked by Vader's own saber. As the battle began, Palpatine smiled, cackling in satisfaction.
Vader and Luke battled on the dais before the throne for quite a while, circling and trading numerous blows with no injury, until Luke attacked very aggressively, gaining the advantage by unleashing a flurry of attacks. As the battle moved, Vader found himself with his back to the stairs. Luke quickly took advantage of this, kicking Vader down the steps. As Vader landed in a heap at the base of the steps, Palpatine goaded Luke to make use of his aggression and hatred, causing Luke to deactivate his lightsaber and state his refusal to continue fighting.
Vader quietly ascended the steps, pointing out Luke's lack of wisdom in lowering his defense, before attacking with a sudden overcut. Luke was able to ignite his saber just in time to block Vader's blow. As the two began to resume fighting, Luke suddenly moved to the side and leapt into one of the data pods in the room. As Vader stabbed his blade into the gap between two consoles, Luke jumped up onto one of the ceiling walkways, out of Vader's reach. As Vader looked up, Luke attempted to convince the Sith Lord that there was conflict in him, but Vader denied this. Luke retorted with his belief that Vader would not kill him now, as he had not done so before on Cloud City. Vader responded by chastising Luke's underestimation of the dark side, and said that if he would not fight, then he would "meet his destiny." Seemingly, Vader had learned from his mistake on Mustafar, by not leaping up after his son, as he had done in his fight with Obi-Wan Kenobi, twenty-three years earlier.
Vader then raised his lightsaber and hurled it at Luke, who ducked to avoid the blade, and it severed the walkway's support struts, instead, showering Luke with sparks. As the gantry fell, Luke slid along it, landing on the floor and scurrying under the dais, much to the amusement of Palpatine. Vader curtly walked down the stairs and followed.
As Vader stalked the shadows beneath, searching for his son, he began to taunt Luke, telling him the only way to save his friends was to give in. Sensing Luke's thoughts, Vader learned that he had a daughter—Luke's twin sister, Princess Leia Organa—and suggested that he would turn her to the dark side if Luke would not be turned.
Outraged by this, Luke emerged from the shadows and viciously attacked Vader, giving in to and using his anger to fuel his attacks. Luke drove Vader back, his broad bladework showering them both in sparks in the confined space. Luke's assault on Vader was so intense that their lightsabers began to short out. As their battle moved out from under the dais and towards the elevator and reactor core shaft, Vader was driven to his knees as his son continued to hammer him with blows. Finally, Vader was knocked off his feet, and Luke's blade slashed through Vader's wrist, ending the duel, with the duel being intense enough to leave Vader's respirator rasping. As Vader's mechanical hand, still clutching his lightsaber, fell down the shaft, Luke held his father at bladepoint, but he then heard the triumphant laughing of Palpatine.
Pleased by the display of dark power, the Dark Lord of the Sith approached Luke and urged him to finish off Vader and take his place as the Emperor's apprentice. Luke then looked down at his own artificial hand, then at the severed stump where Vader's right hand had been. Realizing what he was becoming, Luke threw his lightsaber away and declared himself a Jedi, like his father before him.
- "So be it ... Jedi. If you will not be turned, you will be destroyed! Young fool. Only now—at the end—do you understand. Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the dark side. You have paid the price for your lack of vision. Now, young Skywalker… you will die."
Palpatine, enraged that his attempt to corrupt Luke had failed, raised his hands and unleashed a blast of Force lightning. As Luke crumpled to the ground, Palpatine chose to torture the Jedi with a continuous barrage of low-intensity lightning, although he could easily have killed Luke instantly, and gradually increased its intensity. As Luke writhed in agony, Vader dragged himself to his feet and returned to Palpatine's side. However, after several moments, the tiny part of Anakin Skywalker that remained in Vader broke through, unable to allow his son to die in agony at the hands of the Sith. He turned on the Emperor, seizing him from behind. As Anakin hoisted his master over his head, a massive barrage of lightning surged through his body, shorting out his life support system. Despite this, Anakin summoned enough strength to continue hoisting the struggling Sith Lord above his head and cast him down the reactor shaft leading to the Death Star's core, where Palpatine's body exploded in a blast of energy.
Emperor Palpatine, Darth Sidious, had suffered his first death. Also, at the cost of his own life, Anakin Skywalker had redeemed himself and fulfilled his destiny.
After the death of Palpatine, Luke dragged his dying father to a shuttle, in the deck of the hangar bay. On the ramp of the shuttle, Anakin told Luke to remove his mask, and informed Luke, when the latter hesitated due to realizing that his father would die without it, that he'd die, regardless of whether he continued to wear the mask. He wanted to look at his son face to face. Luke complied, and upon removing the mask, Anakin smiled at seeing his son's face with his own eyes. Anakin told Luke to escape and leave him behind, also assuring his hesitant son that he already succeeded in saving him. Anakin then told Luke the latter had been right, that there was still good in him, and asked him to tell Leia that he had been right. After that request, Anakin Skywalker died. Luke mourned his father's death and flew with his body down to the surface of Endor via his deceased father's shuttle, ST-321, narrowly escaping a fireball caused by the late stages of the Death Star's destruction. There, Luke built a traditional Jedi funeral pyre and burned the armor that his father had occupied for the entire second half of his life.
Behind the scenes
According to Richard Marquand, George Lucas wanted this duel to be bigger than the Duel on Cloud City but changed his mind during the shooting, saying: "George is very blunt. He said, 'It's just a couple of guys banging sticks against each other. Don't worry about that. It is bigger because of what is going on in their heads. That is what makes it bigger.'"
The junior novelization of ROTJ, written with knowledge of the prequels, goes into Vader's head as he watches Palpatine torture Luke, and suggests that the thought of Padmé and her love broke through to him, and, knowing it was her son being tortured, that it was then that he was restored as Anakin Skywalker and turned on the Emperor. The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi shows Obi-Wan watching the duel from the netherworld of the Force—once Luke refuses to kill Vader and the lightning attack begins, looking on in abject horror as Luke, and with him the hope of the Jedi, is destroyed by the Dark Lord of the Sith, Kenobi is hardly able to believe what he has seen when the Padawan he had given up on as hopelessly enthralled by the dark side reasserts himself and saves his son.
Lucas has stated that Anakin Skywalker's body did disappear in the same manner that Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda's bodies had at their deaths, and that only Vader's armor was burned on the funeral pyre.[source?]
Lawrence Kasdan says: "My sense of the relationship between Vader and the Emperor is that the Emperor is much more powerful than Vader and that Vader is very much intimidated by him. Vader has dignity, but the Emperor in Jedi really has all the power."
Bob Anderson was Vader's double in this duel as well as in the Duel on Cloud City. Mark Hamill, complaining for the fact that Anderson was not recognized after the work he had done, said: "Bob Anderson was the man who actually did Vader’s fighting. It was always supposed to be a secret, but I finally told George I didn’t think it was fair any more. Bob worked so bloody hard that he deserves some recognition. It’s ridiculous to preserve the myth that it’s all done by one man."Despite the stuntman substitution, Hamill was persuaded to pose for publicity photos with Prowse in the rehearsal hall. "I thought that was nonsense," he charges. "They had us pose in rehearsal clothes with our swords crossed. I had actually been rehearsing all morning with the "real" Darth Vader, and then Dave just came in for the photo session."
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System game Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi featured the duel, although with one minor difference: Luke ends up dueling Emperor Palpatine instead of simply being tortured by him as it was in the movie, although the presence of Anakin Skywalker's ghost in the ending implies that Darth Vader managed to finish Palpatine off like in the movie.
In Star Wars Infinities: Return of the Jedi, Luke was captured by the Empire after leaving Dagobah and after he left two messages; one for to tell the truth to Leia that they are brother and sister and also that Darth Vader is their father, and another to the Rebel fleet not to rescue him. Leia goes to the Death Star to rescue him but was captured and brought to the Emperor. As the Battle of Endor begins, Palpatine orders Vader to kill Leia but Luke blocks Vader's strike and duels him. Luke swings an attack to Vader's legs but Vader jumps and kicks him in the face. Palpatine gives one last chance to join him or die. Leia attempts to intervene, but Palpatine subdues her with Force Lightning. Luke says he doesn't to fight anymore and ask Vader can he kill both of his children, and Vader and Palpatine are stunned by the revelation. Not swayed by Luke's proposal of trying to pull him from the dark side, Vader continues the fight. When Wedge Antilles and X-wings destroy the Death Star's reactor core, Palpatine escapes and Luke cuts Vader's right arm off. But the Dark Lord is still powerful enough to use the force with his left arm to summon his lightsaber and bring Luke down to his knees. Luke says he will not fight anymore, and says that if he wants to strike both him and Leia down, he should do so now and doesn't believe he will. Instead, Vader falls to his knees and begs forgiveness, causing him to turn from the dark side of the Force and become Anakin Skywalker once again.
In the non-canon Lego Star Wars 2, the duel between Luke and Vader was skipped entirely, with Emperor Palpatine immediately torturing Luke with Force lightning before Vader intervenes, with Vader and Luke then teaming up in the battle against Palpatine before Vader finishes Palpatine off just as he did in the movie.
- Star Wars Purge: Seconds to Die (Vision to Sha Koon)
- Star Wars: X-wing Alliance
- Shadows of the Empire novel (Mentioned only) (Palpatine foresight)
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi novel (First appearance)
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi junior novel
- Return of the Jedi (radio drama)
- Star Wars: The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader
- The Truce at Bakura (Mentioned only)
- I, Jedi (Mentioned only)
- Force Heretic III: Reunion (Indirect mention only)
- Betrayal (Indirect mention only)
- Exile (Indirect mention only)
- Revelation (Indirect mention only)
- Outcast (Indirect mention only)
- Abyss (Indirect mention only)
- Star Wars Infinities: Return of the Jedi
- LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
- LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
- Star Wars -Phantasmagoria-
- Star Wars: The Force Unleashed video game (PSP versions only) ("Historical" mode only)
- "Do or Do Not"—Star Wars Tales 15 (Ambiguously canonical source) (Indirect mention only)
- Star Wars: The Power of the Force (1995)
- Star Wars: Power of the Jedi
- Star Wars: The Action Figure Archive
- The Essential Chronology
- The New Essential Chronology
- Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide
- "Classic Moment"—Star Wars Insider 102
- Star Wars: Mysteries of the Jedi
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Complete Season Three
- "Family Tradition"—Star Wars Insider 130
- Star Wars: Beware the Sith
- Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide: Updated and Expanded
- The Essential Reader's Companion
Notes and references
- ↑ Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (novel)
- ↑ http://starwars.com/episode-vi/explore/classic/2000/04/classic20000424.html.
- ↑ http://www.starwars.com/episode-vi/explore/classic/2000/02/classic20000228.html
- ↑ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_vader#cite_note-4
- ↑ # http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Anderson_%28fencer%29
- ↑ Starlog #72. Starlog Magazine via TheForce.net (1983). Retrieved on July 6, 2011.