I was 10 years old, approaching 11 during the spring months of 1999, leading up to the May of 1999 release date of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. I will never forget the excitement leading up to the release of the first of the Star Wars prequals, for it was the first of that particular type of anticipation for a film that I had ever witnessed in my young life, except maybe Titanic, but to my 10-year old self, comparing Star Wars to Titanic would have been blasphemous.
The Star Wars frenzy that swept the world had many of its star characters at its forefront, from Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn to Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, but I vividly remember not being able to go to the store, to fast food restaurants, book and toy stores or even ordering a pizza without seeing the red and black tattooed horned and hooded face of the new Sith, Darth Maul.
While Maul only had maybe roughly 15 to 20 minutes of screen time, and only spoke about 4 or 5 lines, he simultaneously captured the imaginations and struck fear into the hearts of Star Wars fans and newcomers alike, and his duel with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan Kenobi near the end of the film, is still one of the best lightsaber battles in the entire franchise.
I had never at that point, and have still only seen very rarely, a film character met with such universal popularity and fear, before the film is even released, except of course for Heath Ledger’s Joker.
Let us now fast forward roughly 23 years. The new Star Wars series Obi-Wan Kenobi (following the titular character as he lives out his self-exile on Tatooine, watching over a young Luke Skywalker) has dropped on Disney+ and so far seems to be everything that fans hoped it would be.
When Ewan McGregor first dawned his Jedi robes and had his epic duel with Maul, he would have been only 28 years old, and when he last dawned those robes and took up his blue-bladed lightsaber he would have been 34 years old. Now, at age 51, the aged Jedi doesn’t seem to have missed a step. We have not seen his blue lightsaber ignite quite yet (please note that the author of this piece has not watched Episode 3 of the series yet!) but he has certainly engaged in fisticuffs with some of the series villains, and even traded blaster bolts a time or two.
We have been given brief glimpses of Hayden Christensen as a young Darth Vader, so it seems the series is shaping up to be everything we hoped it would be, but what if it could have been even more?
It has been confirmed by multiple sources, that Ray Park, who portrayed Darth Maul in Episode 1 and very briefly in Solo, was set to reprise his role as one of the most terrifying villains in a Star Wars film.
Yes, you read right. Not only was Maul going to make his triumphant return as one of the key antagonists of the series, but he would have been played by Ray Park once again and had there been a duel between him and Ewan McGregor’s Kenobi (which there almost certainly would have been) it would have marked the first time the two actors had squared off together, or even been on the same screen together sense 1999.
Rumor has it that Maul was scrapped during a creative overhaul, possibly in favor of more scenes featuring Christensen as a young Darth Vader.
Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond excited to see what Christensen does with a second chance at playing the iconic villain, and no doubt it will probably turn out to be one of the highlights of the entire series, but I can’t help but feel a pang in my heart at what could have been had Park returned as Maul, a character who despite his renowned fame and, not to mention a fan-favorite villain, has had very little screen time since his epic debut in Episode 1.
Internet rumor being what it is, many sources have stated the original plot of Obi-Wan featured Maul and other villains hunting the aged Jedi and young Luke Skywalker.
Maul, being one of the most popular characters in the entire franchise, having also made appearances in Clone Wars and Rebels, and seeing as how Maul was responsible for the death of Obi-Wan’s master Qui-Gon, and Obi-Wan was responsible for the severing of Maul’s lower body, a final confrontation between the two characters, and played by the 2 original actors, possibly even a Maul story arc, seems like a no-brainer to this Star Wars fan.
Speculation abounds on whether or not these rumors were actually true, whether or not Park was ever on the set for the show, or if the return of Maul was just ideas tossed around in the writers’ room that quickly hit the cutting room floor.
One thing is certain though, we will not be seeing Ray Park return as the iconic Darth Maul, and we will not be treated to one more epic lightsaber duel between Maul and Kenobi (possibly even on the sands of Tatooine, the incredible “Duel of the Fates” score by John Williams from Episode 1 playing in the background, giving the scene the drama and gravitas it would deserve).
Will Obi-Wan Kenobi join the ranks as another stellar entry on the TV side of the Star Wars franchise? Almost assuredly, but it will forever be marred by the disappointment that there could have been more, a Maul story arc, or even just the above mentioned final duel in the last episode of the series.
Having something as that would have forever brought joy to the hearts of long-time fans of the character and the series, and might have even brought on new fans to witness a final showdown of such epic proportions between two of the most iconic characters in the series. But for whatever reason it was not to be.
However, please do not let the lack of Maul’s presence diminish what is starting out as a spectacular voyage back into the world of Star Wars.
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