Duel on Death Star II

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Duel on Death Star II
Luke vs Vader DS2

Galactic Civil War[1]


4 ABY[1]


Emperor's throne room, Death Star II[1]


Anakin Skywalker[1]

  • Darth Vader[1]
  • Darth Sidious[1]
"One thing remains—Vader. You must confront Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi, will you be… and confront him, you will."
Yoda to Luke Skywalker[src]

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.


"Welcome, young Skywalker. I have been expecting you. […] I am looking forward to completing your training. In time, you will call me Master."
"You're gravely mistaken. You won't convert me as you did my father."
Darth Sidious and Luke Skywalker[src]

After rescuing Han Solo from the clutches of Jabba the Hutt on Tatooine, Luke Skywalker traveled to Dagobah to complete his Jedi training with Grandmaster Yoda. When he arrived however, he found the ancient Jedi succumbing to the ravages of illness and old age. In response to Luke's pleas, Yoda informed him that he required no more training, but that, to truly achieve the rank of Jedi Knight, he had to confront Darth Vader one last time.[1] Luke, who had been told by Vader during their duel a year before that the latter was his father,[2] questioned Yoda as to the truth of Vader's revelation. Yoda reluctantly confirmed that Vader was indeed Luke's father as Luke had suspected, conflicting the young Jedi.[1]

Shortly after Yoda's passing, Luke participated in a mission to take down an Imperial shield generator on the forest moon of Endor, a vital prelude to the Rebels' plan to destroy the then-under construction second Death Star. However, as the strike team approached the moon, Luke felt Vader's presence onboard the Star Dreadnought Executor, which was functioning as a command ship for the Death Star's ostensibly light security screen. He quickly realized that, if he could sense Vader's presence, then Vader could likely sense his in return, and that as such he was endangering the entire mission by being there. As Luke had feared, Vader did in fact feel his son's presence aboard the shuttle Tydirium and allowed it to land on Endor for that reason.[1]

Unknown to Luke at the time, the entire operation was a web of deception set up by Emperor Palpatine as a trap to destroy the Rebel Alliance. Both Vader and the Emperor were in fact expecting Luke to arrive, and each hoped to turn him into a new Sith apprentice. However, Darth Sidious failed to sense Luke onboard the Tydirium, only discovering this when Vader disobeyed prior orders to remain on the Executor and reported his presence inside the Rebel vessel. The Sith Master then ordered Vader to go to Endor, anticipating that Luke would surrender himself in an attempt to bring Vader back to the light side.[1]

Darth Sidious, taunting Luke to give in to his anger.

True to the Emperor's predictions, Luke turned himself in to Imperial troops on the forest moon. When questioned, he told the Imperial commander at the base that he was alone, though neither the commander nor Vader believed him. 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.[1]

Vader transported Luke to the second Death Star and led him into the Emperor's throne room. Sidious immediately began trying to seduce him to the dark side of the Force, but Luke refused to give in, and cryptically stated that both he and the Emperor would soon be dead. The Emperor, knowing that Luke was referring to the Rebel Fleet's imminent attack on the Death Star, revealed to Luke that he already knew that the Rebels were on their way. Luke taunted Sidious, telling him that his overconfidence was his weakness, to which the Dark Lord answered that Luke's greatest weakness was his faith in his friends. As Vader informed Luke of the futility of resistance, the Emperor returned to his throne and revealed to Luke his masterstroke; he had orchestrated all the events leading up to the imminent battle as part of an elaborate trap. Furthermore, he had reinforced the security at the ground-based shield generator to the point that the Rebel strike force had no chance of destroying it, citing that the security was composed of an "entire legion of [Sidious's] best troops."[1]

As the Rebel strike team on Endor was captured by Imperial troops, Luke witnessed the arrival of the Alliance fleet in the system. As the fleet approached the Death Star, Lando Calrissian realized at the last moment that the Death Star's shields were still functioning, and the Rebel starfighters broke off their attack. As the Rebel starships began to break formation, Admiral Akbar was informed that Death Squadron, Darth Vader's personal fleet, had emerged from the far side of Endor to trap them. Realizing Sidious's ruse too late, the Rebels were set upon by swarms of TIE fighters as Luke looked on helplessly from the Emperor's throne room. Heavily outnumbered, outgunned, and unwilling to retreat without taking down the unassailable Death Star, the Rebel fleet appeared to be doomed. As Sidious taunted Luke with the Alliance's imminent destruction, Luke glanced down at his lightsaber, which was resting at Sidious's side. Following Luke's gaze, Sidious noted Luke's mounting rage and hate, and the Dark Lord began goading Luke to take the weapon and strike him down. Luke refused to give in to his anger, but the Emperor continued to taunt him, telling Luke that turning to the dark side was both unavoidable and his destiny. It was then that Sidious 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. [1]

The Duel

"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[src]

As the Rebel fleet crumbled under Imperial fire, Skywalker's anger grew apace. Sensing this, Sidious tempted Luke once more with a challenge to strike him down and complete his journey to the dark side. As Sidious lapsed into silence, Luke suddenly summoned his lightsaber to his hand and struck out at the Emperor. His attack was intercepted by Vader's crimson-bladed weapon as Sidious cackled in satisfaction, and the duel began.[1]

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, engaged in a lightsaber duel that would determine the fate of the galaxy.

Vader and Luke battled on the dais before the throne for a considerable length of time, circling and trading numerous blows with no injury. Then, Luke unleashed an aggressive flurry of attacks, surprising his father and forcing him to give ground.[3] As Vader retreated, he found himself with his back to the dais's main stairwell and Luke quickly took advantage of this, kicking Vader down the stairs. As Vader landed in a heap on the floor below, Sidious again goaded the young Jedi to make use of his aggression and hatred. The Emperor's words broke through Luke's anger and he deactivated his lightsaber, calming himself. Seeing this, Vader regained his feet and solemnly stated that Obi-Wan Kenobi had taught Luke well. Luke responded with a refusal to continue fighting.[1]

Vader quietly ascended the steps, pointing out Luke's lack of wisdom in lowering his defenses before attacking with a sudden overcut. Luke was able to ignite his saber just in time to block Vader's blow. As the two resumed fighting, Luke suddenly moved to the side and leaped 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 been able to bring himself to do 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."[1]

Return of the jedi 4
Luke uses his anger to break Vader's tenacious defense.

Rather than attempt to leap onto the walkway himself, Vader hurled his lightsaber at Luke, who ducked to avoid the crimson blade. It severed the walkway's support struts, showering Luke with sparks and causing the walkway to collapse. As the gantry fell, Luke slid along it, landed on the floor, and scurried beneath the dais while Sidious laughed in amusement. Vader curtly walked down the stairs and saw Luke retreat under the dais.[1][3] Luke invited Vader to come after him, but Vader refused, believing that Luke's invitation was a trap. To prove that he intended only to speak with his father, Luke tossed his lightsaber out from beneath the dais, where it rolled to a stop at Vader's feet. Vader, mocking his son's foolishness in relinquishing his weapon, picked it up and went after Luke.[3]

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 continued to prey on the boy's fears, and while probing his mind, he learned that he had a daughter—Luke's twin sister, Princess Leia Organa. He mused out loud that Obi-Wan had been wise to hide her, but that Luke's revelation had made Obi-Wan's efforts irrelevant. Capitalizing on his new knowledge, he suggested that if Luke would not turn to the dark side, then he would attempt to turn Leia instead.[1]

With an enraged shout, Luke emerged from the shadows and used the Force to retrieve his weapon from Vader.[3] Tapping into the dark side, he viciously attacked Vader, giving in to his rage and using it 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, both containing synthetic crystals, began to short out. Caught completely off guard by Luke's sudden surge of power and aggression, Vader quickly gave ground under the furious onslaught.[4] 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. Vader collapsed to the floor, his respirator systems taxed to the point that they caused his breathing to come in short, ragged pants. 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 laughter of Sidious.[1]

Vader is defeated by his son in their final battle.

Pleased by Luke's display of dark power, the Dark Lord of the Sith approached him, urging him to finish off Vader and take his place as the Emperor's apprentice. Luke slowly looked down at his own artificial hand, then at the severed stump where Vader's right hand had been. Realizing what he was in danger of becoming, Luke threw his lightsaber away and declared himself a Jedi, like his father before him.[1]

Vader's Redemption

"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."
―Darth Sidious[src]
Sidious torturing Luke with Force lightning.

Sidious, enraged that his attempt to corrupt Luke had failed, raised his hands and unleashed a blast of Force lightning. The blast struck Luke's torso and nearly sent him careening into the same shaft that Vader's lightsaber had just fallen into. As Vader regained his feet, Sidious began taunting Luke, and fired another lightning blast at him.[1] Luke attempted to use tutaminis to absorb it, but his lack of training in the technique coupled with Sidious' power resulted in his failure.[3] As the dazed Jedi struggled to keep from falling backwards to his death, Sidious fired another blast and slowly advanced on him. As the Dark Lord approached Luke, Luke managed to drag himself away from the lip of the pit he had nearly been blasted into. However, before he could recover enough to do anything else, he was struck by another lightning barrage and crumpled to the ground. Rather than simply killing his overmatched foe, Sidious chose to torture the Jedi with a continuous barrage of low-intensity lightning, seeking to make him pay for his defiance. As Luke writhed in agony, Vader returned to his Master's side. Sidious continued to mock Luke as he tortured him, and mentally noted Vader's movements. As the Emperor's barrage continued, Luke cried out to his father to help him, but the conflicted Sith Lord did nothing.[1]

First Death 2
Darth Sidious' first death at the hands of Anakin Skywalker on the Second Death Star.

As Sidious prepared to kill Luke, the tiny part of Anakin Skywalker that remained in Vader broke through, unwilling to allow his son to die. He turned on the Emperor, seizing him from behind with his remaining arm. Sidious, completely shocked at Skywalker's attack, continued to fire the now full-intensity lightning, striking the renewed Jedi Knight as well as himself. The phenomenal power of the lightning caused irreparable damage to Anakin's cybernetics, but did nothing to stop him. Anakin carried the struggling Sith Lord over to the railing above the reactor shaft leading to the Death Star's core, and, with his last strength, hurled him into the abyss. Sidious' body struck the reactor core shortly thereafter and exploded in a blast of energy.[1] The weakened Skywalker nearly followed his former master down the shaft, but his son pulled him back into his arms.[3]

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 as the Chosen One.[1]


"Now… go, my son. Leave me."
"No. You're coming with me. I will not leave you here. I've got to save you."
"You already have, Luke. You were right. You were right about me. Tell your sister… you were right."
Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker, before the former's death.[src]
A redeemed Anakin Skywalker looks at his son with his own eyes for the first time.

After the death of Sidious, Luke dragged his dying father to a shuttle, in the deck of the hangar bay, evading the patrols due to the battlestation undergoing an evacuation drill of all non-essential personnel due to the Death Star II's impending destruction. On the ramp of the shuttle, Anakin requested that Luke remove his mask. Luke, urgently reminding his father that he would die without it, was informed by Anakin that it did not matter. Anakin, realizing the inevitability of his death, only wanted to look at his son without the ocular filters of his mask. Luke complied, slowly removing Anakin's mask to reveal his heavily scarred, deathly pale face. As he gazed at his son, Anakin told Luke to escape and leave him behind. Luke refused, adamantly proclaiming that he needed to save his father. Anakin quietly comforted his son, telling him that he had already saved him, and asking him to tell Leia that he had been redeemed in the end. With that final request and a small smile, Anakin Skywalker passed away.

Luke briefly 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; what little remained of Anakin's organic body had vanished.[1]

The duel was later "adapted" into a Holothriller film called Luke Skywalker and the Jedi's Revenge, under the orders of Lord Cronal, the former Director of Imperial Intelligence as part of a means of manipulating the new-found free speech to promote Imperial values. Skywalker, after watching the holofilm, expressed disgust at the ending, which depicted Skywalker killing Darth Vader to avenge Emperor Palpatine, and also cited most of the film's historical inaccuracies.[5]

Behind the scenes

The climatic duel as pictured in the cover of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi 2000 re-release poster.

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.'"[6]

The junior novelization of Return of the Jedi, 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 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 friend he had given up on as hopelessly enthralled by the dark side reasserts himself and saves his son.

Lucas has stated that Anakin's body did disappear in the same manner that Obi-Wan's 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."[7]

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."[8][9] 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."[10]

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's ghost in the ending implies that 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 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 want 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 once again.

In the non-canon Lego Star Wars 2, the duel between Luke and Vader was skipped entirely, with Emperor Palpatine immediately attacking Luke with Force lightning. Vader quickly intervenes and redeems himself, letting himself be hit with the lightning. Sidious, realizing that Vader has betrayed him, draws his lightsaber and begins to duel with the newly-redeemed Anakin Skywalker and Luke. He sends several Red Guards to kill them, but the guards are all killed by Luke and Anakin. After a long duel, Anakin disarms Sidious, then seizes the chance to throw him into the reactor shaft, albeit not before being attacked with Palpatine's lightning. Due to his injuries, Anakin dies in the Death Star's hangar bay, just as he does in the movie. However, Luke pilots the shuttle off the battle station before the Millennium Falcon even gets into the main reactor of the Death Star; in the movie, he narrowly escapes as the entire station collapses.

In the Star Wars: The Clone Wars television series episode "Ghosts of Mortis", Anakin was shown visions of the future by the Son. One of the visions is of Palpatine using Force lightning while also saying someone would make a powerful apprentice. The vision could refer to Vader's fight with Luke based on Palpatine's appearance during the vision, Palpatine's showdown with Mace Windu in Revenge of the Sith, or even a symbolic combination of both fights.


The duel as pictured in book Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force

Non-canonical appearances


Notes and references

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