Is This Spaceship The Key To Unlocking The Biggest Secret Of 'Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker'?

The teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is edited very precisely, referencing the original Phantom Menace teaser trailer and Return of the Jedi, but also showing us the heroes we love back together for one final adventure. When I was creating my breakdown of the trailer, one part seemed out of place to me. It's a shot of a small spaceship flying toward a rocky and snow-covered planet drenched in fog under cover of night. We don't know where this is or who is operating the spacecraft.

While the planet is new, the shot isn't as dramatic as the rest of this trailer. Is this shot in there to show us that Abrams will be bringing us to new and different worlds, a reaction to the New Hope criticisms of Force Awakens? One thing is for sure: Abrams uses these trailers to create discussion. He wants us to speculate and ask questions. But maybe this shot is actually – (big comedic, dramatic pause) – the key to unlocking J.J. Abrams' mystery box.

What Might This Spaceship Mean for the Final Installment of the Skywalker Saga?

Twitter user @GenghisDingus was the first to bring this to my attention over the weekend. The ship in this shot looks very familiar to a ship we previously saw in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And from every freeze frame I have done of the new trailer and that film, they look like the exact same ship. It's very possible that it could just be an A-Wing or something similar (we do see an A-wing crash later in the trailer), but for now let's explore what it might mean if it is the same spaceship.

The appearance of the ship in Force Awakens happens during Rey's "forceback" sequence – she touches Luke's lightsaber and finds herself adventuring through a montage of moments from the original trilogy as well as more modern events: Luke watching his Jedi Temple burn, the Knights of Ren slaughtering people, and even some visions of her past.

We see her being abandoned on Jakku as a young child, Unker Plutt isholding her hand as she yells to the sky "Come back!" We have to assume she's calling for her parents or whoever left her on Jakku. Unker tells the girl to be quiet as she screams more and the camera pans up to the mysterious ship flying away. It may also be worth mentioning that clips of past Jedi and Sith can be vaguely heard in the background of the forceback sequence, but this shot alone has very hard to hear quotes from Palpatine and Obi-Wan Kenobi.  You can watch the whole sequence below.

Did J.J. Abrams Have Plans for Palpatine When He Was Developing Episode 7?

It might be a complete coincidence that Emperor's voice appears right before this clip in The Force Awakens, but note that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said at Celebration that the idea to bring Palpatine back into this story was made "long ago." She doesn't say when, but considering Colin Trevorrow was working on this film just a year and a half ago; I think it's probably a good assumption that Abrams had Palpatine in his original plans when developing Force Awakens.

Many of the books and comic books that were in development during Force Awakens spent a significant amount of time showing us that Palpatine was working on something before (and after) his death, and had even sent sentinel droids bearing his likeness to employ the Emperor's Contingency plan. That plan is unknown, but basically involved the creation of the First Order. So I think it's safe to assume that Abrams was playing with the idea of involving Palpatine in the new trilogy even as far back as Episode 7.

But it is interesting to note that if you read The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it appears that Snoke came together very late in the process of production. There are a lot of discussions of Jedi hunters and alternate bad guys in the early development stages, but not much in terms of an Emperor-type figure. The book almost reads as redacted, missing big pieces of information that Abrams didn't want public.

In fact, J.W. Rinzler co-wrote a making-of book for The Force Awakens, which was delayed and delayed and eventually vanished from the Lucasfilm Books publishing schedule. The book was finished and turned in and has simply disappeared from existence. Many fans believe that it has vanished because it delves into a lot of the plans that Abrams set up for this trilogy, revealing George Lucas' original treatment for the sequel trilogy, which was abandoned (yet used in parts) for Force Awakens and Last Jedi. Also, Abrams is the kind of filmmaker who changes his mind a lot throughout production, so maybe they didn't want to reveal some of those changes. It's often speculated that Rey's parentage was originally revealed in the filming drafts of Force Awakens (fans point to that Leia hug near the end, and Han's interactions with Rey, which appear to be from an earlier version of the script).

A brief but interesting aside: George Lucas originally only wanted the Emperor to appear in-person in Episode 9.

Did Kylo Ren Lie to Rey About Her Heritage?

So why would that same ship appear in Episode 9? J.J. Abrams has already said that "there is more to the story" of Rey's parents. Maybe The Rise of Skywalker will explore that.

In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren tries to convince Rey to join him. He has ulterior motivations and what he says here possibly can't be trusted. At this moment, he tells her that her fears were true, that her parents were "filthy junk traders who sold you off for drinking money, they're dead in a pauper's grave in the Jakku desert." But in Rey's forceback we see that whoever left her behind on Jakku, left in a nice-looking spacecraft. Not a hunk of junk.

Why would they be buried on Jakku if they clearly left that desert planet? I mean, I guess they could have returned to the planet later and never came back to see Rey. Or maybe they were just hitching a ride on it. But Rian Johnson is a very smart writer and filmmaker and I think he purposely gave details that didn't quite line up with what was shown in this flashback sequence in case the next filmmaker wanted to do something different.

Kylo could be telling the truth, but he also might not be. How does Kylo even know that her parents are nobodies? He saw inside Rey's mind and in a moment driven by personal motivations, he may just be saying what he thinks might turn her to his side. Or it's possible that Kylo is repeating what Snoke told him, and that's another unreliable narrator to add into the mix.

Honestly, I'm not arguing for Episode 9 to change Rey's parentage, but I also don't think we've gotten the entire honest answer. And no, that doesn't mean that she's going to be a Skywalker, or a Kenobi. I understand that many people wish she were just a nobody thrust into extraordinary circumstances, making this universe bigger rather than a few families. The fact that her heritage is presented as such a mystery in Force Awakens suggests to me there is still more to the story of her heritage. I don't think Rey's journey of discovery is over in the climactic moments of The Last Jedi.

Star Wars The Last Jedi Snoke Rumors

My Original Insane Theory: Rey is a Descendent of Snoke

Back in December of 2015, days after The Force Awakens hit theaters, I wrote an insane theory asking "What if Rey was the daughter of Supreme Leader Snoke?" Now, this theory doesn't really make any sense because it turns out that Snoke is not human, nor is he alive. But at the time, I liked the theory because for a variety of reasons:

  • It featured the kid of symmetry that we have seen in Star Wars before, the Yin and Yang. Our villain (Kylo Ren) is the Skywalker-blooded son of one of our heroes (Han Solo and General Leia), so why not have our new hero (Rey) be the offspring of one of our new villains?
  • Kylo is the bad guy trying to resist the pull of the light side, and Rey is the good guy trying to resist the pull of the dark side.

last jedi prime jedi ying-yang

The canonized Force Awakens novel and screenplay revealed that Rey is having a struggle with the dark side in the infamous snow battle sequence on Starkiller base. While these moments aren't played too strongly in the film itself, if you know about the intention behind the scene, you can definitely see the anger and dark side in Daisy Ridley's performance. The audiobook version even has Rey hearing a voice in her head that sounds something like the Emperor or Snoke, trying to pull her to the dark side. And Last Jedi shows us Rey's pull to the dark hole on Ach-to, and her being pulled to join Kylo.

In my original Snoke theory, I theorized that maybe Johnson would mirror The Empire Strikes Back in the way that Abrams echoed A New Hope in Force Awakens, that maybe Episode 8 could end with a twist on the legendary "I am your father" moment, but with Snoke and Rey. Of course, that never happened.

To be perfectly honest, I'm right more than I'm wrong, but like many internet theories, I was dead wrong with this Snoke stuff. And this whole new article of speculation could be as equally incorrect. I want to acknowledge that before we move forward. It's just fun to indulge in speculation and we have a lot of time to kill before The Rise of Skywalker arrives.

And with that set-up, I present to you my latest crazy theory...

My New Insane Theory: Rey is a Palpatine

Maybe my old insane theory was only incorrect in the person specifically named. What if Rey was actually somehow related to Palpatine? This isn't the first time we're suggested this possibility, but when we talked about it previously, it was under the assumption that she could somehow be Emperor Palpatine's granddaughter. The logistics of that seem too impossible and implausible to explain, but the in-canon comic books might offer us a better possible theory.

In the comics, it is "suggested" that Palpatine might have manipulated the Force to impregnate Vader's mother Shmi Skywalker, technically making him Vader's father. To be honest, it's just one panel of a comic book and it's very ambiguous and left up to interpretation. But it's not the first mention of this possibility. In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine tells Anakin that a Sith Lord "could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life." In an earlier draft of that script, Palpatine told Anakin that he "used the power of the Force to will the midichlorians to start the cell divisions" that conceived him.

So if Palpatine could have used the force to create Anakin (and thus the entire Skywalker bloodline), maybe he used it to somehow create Rey? The teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker teases that Palpatine will return in this movie, and the filmmakers have confirmed that much. What if he is returning not just to be a greater evil, but also the reason for everything in this entire nine episode arc.

Let's go over some more circumstantial evidence.

Many Star Wars fans have noted that Rey's lightsaber fighting style is similar to that of Palpatine and very different than that of other notable Jedi like Luke and Obi-Wan.

The name Rey is a girl's name of Spanish origin meaning "king," which many people initially theorized meant could be an indication that she was the daughter of a princess, like Leia Organa. But it would be very fitting for the creation of an Emperor. Remember, names in Star Wars have always had some symbolism. Luke Skywalker is a combination of biblical and obvious. Han Solo is is a loner. Darth Vader means "dark father." Even Kylo Ren's name is a bit of a spoiler, as it's the beginning of Skywalker and end of Solo, his two parents. So yeah, it might be easy to write off the symbolism of the name here, but it's something ingrained in the history of this franchise. Of course, maybe Abrams was just being completely literal and Rey is a ray of hope or the force awakening in this galaxy.

At Star Wars Celebration, someone asked Daisy Ridley if we'll see her use any new force powers in The Rise of Skywalker, and she deflected, saying that Abrams would have to answer for her – which to me signals she does, because if she didn't she could have easily said no. So will we end up seeing Rey shoot lightning from her hands in Episode 9?

rey palpatine theory

But Would That Make Rey a Skywalker?

But here's the interesting thing: if Rey were a Palpatine, then she'd still be the daughter of no one special. I know a lot of people don't want her to be someone of lineage, but keep in mind Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the final film of the Skywalker saga. Luke Skywalker is dead, Leia is played by an actress who is no longer with us and is probably used only in tiny bits in this film, and Kylo Ren seems to be the last remaining Skywalker-blooded person alive in this galaxy.

Abrams has been talking about how this movie will not only end the arc of this new trilogy but end the arc of the nine films as a whole. How do you end that Skywalker story without redeeming Kylo? Again, this isn't an argument to make Rey a Skywalker, but purely thinking about this film on a storytelling level, looking at the whole nine film arc as a whole. How do you complete that Skywalker journey in The Rise of Skywalker?  I'm not sure I know the answer to that question but I think the title The Rise of Skywalker is telling. I think regardless of what we learn about Rey's heritage in Episode 9, she will end up adopting the Skywalker name.

If Rey Wasn't Created By Palpatine, What Does This Mean for the Story?

On a pure storytelling level, it probably means that the Emperor is there so that Kylo can redeem himself in the end, just like Darth Vader did in the original trilogy. To me, that sounds too, well, same-y. But maybe it could be different, because instead it would be Rey teaming up with Kylo to take Palpatine down? Or maybe they could play more with the Yin and Yang theme that has been underlaid across this sequel trilogy – maybe Palpatine is able to actually turn Rey to the dark side, something Vader was never able to do. Kylo's redemption could come from a total 180-degree change in the dynamics, which could be more interesting.