The HoloFiles

The History of ‘What If…?’ & Alternate Timelines in ‘Star Wars’

By George Bate & Josh Bate

What if Star Wars

Recently, a rumor circulated that Lucasfilm are in the early stages of developing a What If…? series for the Star Wars franchise. Lucasfilm’s DIsney sibling Marvel Studios have found success with their own What If…? series, which explores what would happen if major events in the MCU occurred differently. Given the possibility of such a series taking place in a galaxy far, far away, we thought it would be interesting to explore Star Wars’ history with alternate timelines and offer up some scenarios we would like to see if a television series comes to fruition.

History of Alternate Events/Timelines in Star Wars

What if Star Wars

Unlike Marvel or DC, Star Wars doesn’t quite have the same precedent for exploring alternate timelines or what would happen if certain events occurred differently. That being said, this is a topic that Star Wars creators have touched on in a number of ways previously.

The most notable of which is the Star Wars Infinities comic series from Dark Horse Comics. This comic series tells the story of the original trilogy if certain key events played out differently. Notably, the series features a redeemed Darth Vader in shining white armor.

A New Hope’s alternate version explores what would have happened if Luke Skywalker did not successfully destroy the Death Star in the Battle of Yavin.

The alternate version of The Empire Strikes Back, meanwhile, depicts what would have happened if Luke died on Hoth. The events that unfold see Han Solo go to Dagobah, a famous bounty hunters frozen in carbonite, and Princess Leia and Yoda having a jungle showdown with Darth Vader. 

What if Star Wars

Finally, Return of the Jedi’s alternate version explores what would have happened if the plan to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt had fallen apart. This story sees the execution of a second rescue mission for Captain Solo and Luke arriving late to Dagobah, leading to his capture by Darth Vader and the Emperor.

The Star Wars

What if Star Wars

Another foray into the world of alternate timelines comes from the late Jonathan W. Rinzler with the eight-issue comic book series The Star Wars. This series adapts George Lucas’ original draft of Star Wars from 1974. In this story, Luke is already an established Jedi and the main protagonist is Annikin Starkiller. 

Beyond all sorts of aesthetic changes, there are also a number of alterations to key characters and events that shed light on what Star Wars may have looked like had Lucas gone with his original vision. Some of these changes include Jedi being called Jedi-Bendu rather than just Jedi, an Empire involved with cloning technologies, a villainous Space Fortress, the Knights of Sith, the planet Utapau, and so much more. 

What if Star Wars

Alternate Endings

Star Wars has also ventured into ‘What If…?’ territory with alternate endings to a variety of video game stories. Most notably, the video game adaptation of Revenge of the Sith features an alternate ending in which the player gets to play as Anakin during the duel on Mustafar. This ending sees Anakin successfully leap over Obi-Wan, despite him having the high ground, and fatally stabbing his former master with a lightsaber. After kicking Obi-Wan’s corpse into the lava river, Anakin is joined by Palpatine, who says, “Excellent work, my apprentice. There are none left to oppose us: the galaxy is ours now.”

But that’s not the end of it. After being presented with a new lightsaber, Anakin turns on his new master and kills Palpatine. Anakin triumphantly tells the surrounding clone troopers that the galaxy belongs to him now.

Check out a video of the alternate ending to Revenge of the Sith below:

Another notable alternate ending comes in the shape of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, the acclaimed video game starring Sam Witwer as Galen Marek, a.k.a. Starkiller. In the game’s conclusion, Starkiller is given two choices that produce either a Light Side or Dark Side ending. The Light Side ending sees Starkiller prevent the Emperor from killing the Rebel leaders, which results in the Rebels escaping and Starkiller becoming a martyr for the Rebellion after he dies from an explosion. The Dark Side ending, meanwhile, comes about if Starkiller chooses to kill his master Darth Vader, which results in the Rebels dying and Starkiller becoming an assassin for the Emperor.

Check out the two endings of The Force Unleashed below:

Legends / Expanded Universe

What if Star Wars

Last but not least, perhaps the most salient ‘What If…?’ Star Wars storytelling to date comes in the shape of Legends. Formerly known as the Expanded Universe (or EU), Legends includes a variety of books, shows, toys, comics, and more that expand the Star Wars saga beyond the original and prequel trilogies. With Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, it was announced that the EU would be rebranded as Legends and that future Star Wars stories will no longer adhere to or fit in with Legends stories.

In this sense, Legends itself serves as a ‘What If…?’ for many scenarios. With stories that take place from over 30,000 years before Episode I and over 100 years past Episode VI, Legends encompasses a vast array of stories, all of which are considered non-canon now. Jacen Solo / Darth Caedus can be seen as an alternate or ‘What If…’ version of Ben Solo / Kylo Ren, Heir to the Empire can be seen as an alternate The Force Awakens, and so on.

What if… the rumors are true?

If the rumors are true and Star Wars will indeed feature a ‘What If…?’ show, the franchise will be heading into exciting, but not exactly novel, territory. Whether or not this comes to fruition remains to be seen, and yet nonetheless looking back at how Star Wars has explored alternate timelines proves to be a fascinating exercise.

The HoloFiles

The HoloFiles is a website and series of social media accounts, including Star Wars Holocron, Marvel Tesseract, DC Motherbox, Film Codex, and Horror Necronomicon. We love cinema and television, and aim to spread positivity across different fandoms. Come to us for news, reviews, interviews, trivia facts, quotes, behind the scenes photos, analytic features, and more!