Duel of the Fates: How hearing Colin Trevorrow’s script changes the narrative

Kelly Marie Tran is Rose and Daisy Ridley is Rey in STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER.
Kelly Marie Tran is Rose and Daisy Ridley is Rey in STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER. /

You can now hear Colin Trevorrow’s Episode IX script in audio form, and the nine-part podcast will change the way you experience this Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker alternative.

I told myself I wasn’t going to read it. And for months, I stood by that promise.

Hearing that the original Episode IX script was out there for everyone to read and run with admittedly made me nervous. I’m a writer who appreciates a good story, don’t get me wrong. I just had a feeling this one would stir up more controversy than I felt the fandom needed.

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But then a Star Wars fan decided to do what Star Wars fans often do best: turn their love of Star Wars into art. In this case, an audio drama-style production of the leaked Colin Trevorrow Episode IX script suddenly surfaced as a nine-part podcast. This month, it was released as one full and final episode.

It’s appropriately titled Duel of the Fates: A Podcast in Nine Parts.

Duel of the Fates: A fun idea with impressive results

I don’t use the word “production” lightly here. The nearly three-hour show includes a full cast (and narrator), music, and sound effects — all of a much higher quality than you’d honestly expect from something that isn’t coming from Penguin Random House Audio or Audible as an official Star Wars audio experience.

The production’s director, editor, and narrator, Jamie Dew, when asked about turning the Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow script into a nine-part series, cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a major reason for the project.

“Once I read it [the script], I immediately saw the idea that it could be done as like a dramatic table read … and then COVID happened,” he said during the production’s after show. “And when COVID happened, it became: ‘Well, why not make this a podcast?’ Something about the challenge of that really struck a chord with me.”

Dew calls his production of Duel of the Fates an “alternative narrative ending” to TROS and makes it clear he just wanted to make something entertaining and “fun” for his fellow fans.

“I was somebody that enjoyed Rise of Skywalker, but didn’t feel as satisfied with it as I wanted to,” he said, echoing the thoughts of many Star Wars fans who appreciated the film but felt let down by the final product.

So what we got as a result was just what Deew promised to provide: A fun, different and exciting Star Wars experience that anyone could enjoy.

There are big differences between Trevorrow’s script and The Rise of Skywalker — I won’t do a deep dive into all of them here. But there are a few notable elements that made this alternate story truly stand out.

Where Colin Trevarrow’s story hit home

The script and production touch on many of the points that match up with different fans’ concerns related to TROS — everything from certain characters being sidelined for questionable reasons to an ending that felt strangely hollow. Some of the biggest differences between the two scripts are too obvious to ignore.

  • Rose Tico having a major role. Within three minutes of the 2-hour-40-minute production, Rose had already spoken more lines than she speaks in TROS. She’s elevated to the same level of importance as Finn, Poe, and Rey, and actually gets to have moments to herself “on-screen” which truly make her shine. (The one thing that has always bothered me about TLJ is that she was almost always only in scenes with other men and never alone, but that’s a small criticism, all things considered.)
  • Just the right amount of fan service. I could write a novel about all the ways Star Wars has done fan service wrong and right over the decades. What I will say about The Rise of Skywalker is this: Its desperate need to please long-time fans didn’t make the film unwatchable, but it did take up a lot of valuable time, and that hurt the final product in many ways. Trevorrow’s script sprinkled in just enough fan service to satisfy the soul (and have you very, very worried about R2-D2) without it ever feeling forced. It honored its Star Wars roots without relying too heavily on them. And it made the story much more palatable.
  • An ending that feels like an ending. A major theme of The Last Jedi revolved around the uncertain future of the Jedi as well as any Force-sensitives spread throughout the galaxy. The story ends on a hopeful note for potential Force-users despite Rey being the only Jedi left, instead of just focusing on Rey honoring one specific family legacy.

To be clear: There were plenty of things in this script that still don’t land. It’s still very clearly a first draft with plenty of flaws. It’s not “better” than TROS. Each are problematic in their own ways.

But it’s interesting to see and hear several key points that were consciously changed for reasons we may never officially know, but can speculate on thoroughly.

We can treat this script the same way we treat Legends

The Legends vs. Canon separation is still a pain point for many Star Wars fans, with some outright refusing to accept Canon material as “their” Star Wars. Whether this frustration was born out of confusion or something deeper, one fact remains: Nothing in Star Wars has been, or will ever be, erased.

Lucasfilm very deliberately drew a line between everything created before 2014 and everything that came after it, calling one “Legends” and the other “Canon.” Legends stories still count. They’re just on a different timeline of sorts. You can even call them an alternate universe.

Duel of the Fates can easily stand among other Legends stories in the exact same way. It’s a good story; it’s just not Canon. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter or that fans can’t enjoy it. It just means it’s not the version of the Skywalker Saga finale we got on film.

This scripted-turned-audio-drama is officially the closest thing we’re ever going to get to a produced version of the original Episode IX script. It’s an entertaining listen, and it paints an interesting picture of the way things could have ended.

It doesn’t change anything. But it was never supposed to. The point of projects like this should never be to say: “I hated the way professionals did this, mine is better” or “they should erase what they did and do this instead.”

Being a fan is supposed to be about celebrating what you love and enjoy. If an alternate ending to a story is how you enjoy Star Wars, then please — enjoy that story. But keep in mind that a different story does not erase the original. Both were created with the purpose of entertaining an audience.

It’s OK to sit back, relax, and enjoy stories for what they are, even if they’re not exactly what you imagined. The beautiful thing about art is that anyone can enjoy the parts they like and leave the rest for others to appreciate.

Duel of the Fates is worth a full listen if you’re curious about what it might have looked like as a finished product. What it does most effectively of all is remind the listener that Star Wars stories can go a million different ways. There is no “right” or “wrong” way.

Stories, set in any universe, are a narrative collection of possibilities. Only one of those possibilities can make it to post-production and beyond. And once it does, thee’s no turning back.

Next. Colin Trevorrow asked Rian Johnson to shoot an extra scene for The Last Jedi. dark

Have you read or listened to the Duel of the Fates script? What made you decide to check it out or avoid it?