It was announced at the end of January, that the series Kenobi was in trouble. As more and more details emerged, the problem it seems is with the script, that the story is too close to The Mandalorian. Lucasfilm, and I think rightfully so, want to have a range of tv shows that each have their own distinctive feel. Yet, can they really let an opportunity, one that would see Ewan McGregor come back, slide out of reach?
I remember back in 2015/2016, reading an article on the build up to Rogue One. Within, it stated that the characters in Rogue One should all die, that it was the only way the film could end. At the time, it seemed like a very bold statement, a statement that I whole heartedly agreed with. This was at a time when no one really knew what direction Disney would take with the franchise. Could they make the brave decisions? With hindsight, we know the answer is yes. It makes the film Rogue One, that much more impactful and resonate with fans. The obvious problem, we all fell in love with the characters, so much so, that Disney is having to do a prequel tv series to appease fans.
But why mention this? Because I think Disney has another bold decision that needs to be made concerning Kenobi. Everywhere you look, people are speculating about Kenobi seeing a return of Ashoka, Rex or even Maul. The list is endless. There is then talk that Obi-Wan could fly off on some adventure, leaving Tatooine. And I can see the temptation, the temptation to have Obi-Wan acting like a Jedi and going to planets unheard of, to see familiar characters returning. But the brave decision that Disney needs to make? None of this can happen, not a single one.
Now for some fans, maybe even for Disney, this might seem like production suicide but for me it seems absolutely essential. We have to understand where Obi-Wan is in all of this. Obi-Wan, to his knowledge, has killed the chosen one; the Jedi have all but been destroyed and the galaxy is at the hands of a dictator, who is also a Sith Lord. What is left of the Jedi, Obi-Wan and Yoda (with a few others scattered about), do not have the strength to stop him. Yet there is hope: the offspring of Anakin Skywalker. Obi-Wan and Yoda believe it is Luke and Leia who can stop the Emperor, and only these two. If we look at The Empire Strikes Back, Obi-Wan believes it’s just Luke (“that boy is our last hope”). With the fate of the entire galaxy at stake, it is the task of Obi-Wan to watch over the boy, to protect him. Obi-Wan is tasked with watching over person who can free the galaxy, perhaps bring balance to the force and find victory where the Jedi found defeat.
What I’m trying to say, is that the stakes of what Obi-Wan has to do are astronomical. He’s not simply in exile, he is still a Jedi, he still has a task to complete. With so much on the line, why would he leave Tatooine? How could he in good conscience to leave Luke alone, even for a little bit, to go on some other errand? Because no matter how important it is, it’s never more important than his task on Tatooine, it simply can’t be. If it’s fine for him to leave, it almost makes it pointless in his sacrifice to stay on Tatooine for twenty years. That is why, in Kenobi, Disney shouldn’t let Obi-Wan leave the planet.
The other suggestion I keep hearing is that of characters appearing in the series. Again, if you look at the importance of Obi-Wan’s job, although they maybe in the series, they can never interact with Obi-Wan directly. To do so puts Obi-Wan, his mission and Luke at huge risk. If anyone can find Obi-Wan, it means that the Empire, Vader and the Emperor also have the potential to find him. Obi-Wan has to keep his presence secret, even from those he knows. He can’t risk letting any information out, even to his most trusted friends. All rests on Luke and through him, on Obi-Wan. One slip could spell doom for the galaxy.
So, where does that leave Disney? Well, what I’d expect is something very similar to a western, with Obi-Wan interacting with the people of Tatooine. One of my top five favourite Star Wars books (and I’d argue my favourite) is John Jackson Miller’s Kenobi from Legends. In the book, Miller never lets Obi-Wan off planet, but instead has him interacting with locals, Jawa’s and the Tusken Raiders. We get to see what life is really like on Tatooine, the troubles that the natives encounter every day. It’s a tremendous read that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Although more like a cowboys and Indians story, it feels Star Wars through and through. Disney could do a lot worse than to use this as a blueprint, heck I’d be thrilled if they just adapted the book! The style would suit a television show perfectly.
Yet, the complaint from Disney, is that Kenobi is too similar to the Mandalorian, which also borrows heavily from old westerns. Although they would be similar, is that such a bad thing? Would fans not adore having McGregor back? Obi-Wan is a fan favourite, and to have the original (sort of) actor back would surely draw many fans to the show? It’s a hard decision for Disney but to do anything but keep Obi-Wan on Tatooine, to keep him isolated, would undo everything we know about him, his task and Luke. So how could you make it different from the Mandalorian? Unfortunately, the answer, I feel, is you can’t. The Mandalorian sees a battle-worn individual having to take care of an innocent against the criminal underworld and the Empire. Kenobi at its absolute basic, is a battle-worn Jedi having to take care of an innocent against the natives of Tatooine and from discovery by the Empire. Of course, I’m taking this as at a very basic level. The nuisances would really separate the two. Obi-Wan is still a Jedi who has to forcibly not get involved in affairs, even though his instincts would want him to act. His training is still underway, the emotionally turmoil of the Jedi being gone and knowing it was Anakin that killed them, these are all powerful issues that we could finally see on screen. Would this not make it different enough?
It all comes down to making the brave decision. Rogue One is regarded as one of (if not the) best Star Wars films from Disney, and in the saga as a whole. Like A New Hope, it required someone to take a chance on a decision that wasn’t popular. Kenobi is also in need of that, for someone to realise that although similar to The Mandalorian, it can still be a series that can enthral and captivate Star Wars fans across the globe. Not only that, but there is enough that it could be different, even if on this surface it appears similar.
Obi-Wan was once someone’s only hope, now Kenobi needs someone to be his hope…