- "The Force is with you, young Skywalker… but you are not a Jedi yet."
- ―Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker
The Duel on Cloud City was a lightsaber duel that took place on Cloud City in the planet Bespin. After failing to capture Luke Skywalker during the Battle of Hoth, Darth Vader—Skywalker's father—set a trap for Skywalker on the Cloud City of Bespin. He captured Han Solo and Leia Organa to torture them, hoping to lure Skywalker out of hiding. Skywalker saw a vision of his friends' suffering while on Dagobah, where he trained with Jedi Master Yoda, and rushed to Cloud City to help them, despite the objections of both Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
When he arrived, Skywalker briefly encountered Imperial troops and Boba Fett, who was taking a carbon-frozen Solo to his ship. Skywalker avoided the enemy forces and made his way to the carbon-freezing chamber and found Vader waiting for him, and the two engaged in a lightsaber duel throughout the chamber. The duel progressed through the city's processing vane and onto a maintenance catwalk where Vader disarmed Skywalker by slicing off his weapon hand. He then tempted the young Jedi apprentice to join him and embrace the dark side. When Luke refused, Vader revealed that he was the boy's own father, Anakin Skywalker.
Rather than allow himself to be captured, Skywalker threw himself off the platform where they had fought, before landing and hanging helplessly at the bottom of the city. Skywalker was rescued by Organa, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian in the Millennium Falcon before returning to the Rebel fleet, where they began plotting a mission to rescue Solo from Jabba the Hutt on Tatooine.
- "I've got to go to them."
"Decide, you must, how to serve them best. If you leave now, help them, you could, but… you would destroy all for which they have fought and suffered."
- ―Luke Skywalker and Yoda
A few days prior to the duel, the Alliance to Restore the Republic had been dealt a disastrous defeat in the Battle of Hoth. Though the Alliance had managed to stave off total destruction, the conflict had seen the Alliance's new headquarters destroyed and had scattered their surviving forces. As the Imperial assault had neared completion, Han Solo, Leia Organa, Chewbacca, and C-3PO managed to escape off-world in Solo's personal ship, the Millennium Falcon. However, the Falcon had been undergoing extensive repairs prior to the battle, and, unknown to its crew, its hyperdrive motivator was damaged to the point of being non-functional.
Vader, who had led the Imperial assault, had been attempting for months to track down and capture Luke Skywalker with the intent of making the boy his apprentice. He arrived in the hangar where the Falcon had been docked just in time to see the ship leave and, recognizing it, he concocted a plan to capture it and its crew. Vader hoped that if he could capture and torture Skywalker's friends, the young Jedi would feel their pain through the Force and attempt to rescue them. To that end, he sent part of his personal armada, Death Squadron, to capture the Falcon. Solo managed to evade the pursuers, but he soon came to realize that the damage to the Falcon's hyperdrive was so extensive that he could not repair it without assistance. Unable to meet up with the remains of the Rebel fleet, Solo attempted to seek refuge on the nearby planet of Bespin. An old friend of Solo's, Lando Calrissian, had become Baron Administrator to Bespin's largest settlement, Cloud City, and Solo believed Calrissian could help him repair the Falcon. However, the bounty hunter Boba Fett had informed Darth Vader of Solo's destination, and, with the advantage of functioning hyperdrives, an Imperial detachment under the Dark Lord's command arrived at Bespin before Solo's crew. After Vader arrived Cloud City, he informed Calrissian of his plan to use Solo and his friends to capture Skywalker. In return for his cooperation, Vader promised that the Empire would leave Cloud City to its own affairs after Skywalker had been captured. With the threat of Imperial occupation looming over his head, Calrissian was forced to comply. With his cooperation, Vader captured Solo and his companions shortly after they landed. He then began torturing the Rebels to lure out Skywalker. The plan was successful; Skywalker sensed his friends' anguish on Dagobah, and prepared to go to Bespin to save them. In doing so, he disregarded the advice and pleas of his masters, Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, the latter of whom told Skywalker that his friends' suffering was almost certainly part of a trap.
Luke approached the Cloud City in his X-wing starfighter, unaware that the Imperial forces occupying the city had been tracking his progress since his arrival in orbit. He landed his craft without incident, and proceeded cautiously into the city. As he and R2-D2 began the search for his friends, he encountered Boba Fett and a group of Imperials who were transporting Solo—encased in carbonite—to Fett's ship. Skywalker, hoping not to reveal his presence, quietly followed the group for a short time until they disappeared from sight. As Skywalker prepared to continue through the city, Fett suddenly reappeared and fired on Skywalker, who ducked around a corner to avoid the shots. After firing a few deterring blaster bolts, Fett disengaged and Skywalker, not knowing what Fett's cargo had been, did not attempt to follow him. Shortly after, he encountered Organa and Chewbacca, who were being brought to Vader's flagship as prisoners. The stormtroopers escorting the pair began shooting at Skywalker, who took cover again. Organa saw him and, aware of Vader's trap, desperately tried to break free of the grip of an Imperial officer in an attempt to warn Skywalker. As the group of Imperials with Organa broke off the fight and dragged her away, Luke attempted to follow. Just as he passed through the door where Organa had disappeared, it slammed shut behind him, cutting him off from R2-D2.
Making his way through the catwalks and elevators of a gas-processing vane in the lower levels of Cloud City, he eventually reached the dimly lit carbon-freeze chamber. Suddenly, the chamber lit up, revealing Darth Vader, standing atop a flight of steps to the walkway above. Vader claimed that while the Force was with Luke, the boy was not a Jedi yet. Striding up to the Dark Lord, Skywalker ignited his lightsaber. Vader responded by calmly activating his own saber, and the duel began.
- "You have learned much, young one."
"You'll find I'm full of surprises!"
- ―Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker
Skywalker opened the duel with two brief, unsuccessful strikes at Vader's torso. He then attempted an overhand strike, but the Sith Lord blocked the attack with a one-handed grip on his weapon. Skywalker's assault resulted in a blade-lock, which Vader broke by casually pushing Skywalker to the floor. Skywalker quickly recovered and advanced, engaging in an aggressive string of attacks as Vader retreated. However, Vader soon counter-attacked and forced Luke back to the head of the stairs. During a subsequent pause in the duel, Vader complimented Skywalker on his swordsmanship, and Luke arrogantly agreed. As he spoke, Skywalker attacked Vader again, but after a few strikes Vader disarmed him with a quick flourish.
Vader then lazily slashed at Skywalker, hoping to herd him towards the carbon freezing pit. Skywalker dove out of the way of the attack and rolled down the stairs to the freezing chamber's main platform. Vader jumped after Skywalker and held him at blade-point just beyond the edge of the pit. As the pit was closed and Skywalker's attention was focused on his opponent, the young Jedi did not perceive Vader's trap. Vader then claimed that Skywalker's destiny lay with him, and that Obi-Wan had known it. As Skywalker denied this, Vader continued to walk Luke towards the now-open freezing pit and Luke, not realizing that the pit had opened (or indeed that it was even there), continued to retreat. As such, when Vader performed another casual swing of his weapon, Skywalker backed right over the lip of the pit and fell in. Vader immediately activated the chamber with the Force, remarking that his victory had been disappointingly easy. But before the freezing process could begin, Skywalker used the Force to leap out of the pit and grab onto the hoses above it. Vader then approached the pit, contemptuously musing that Skywalker was not as strong as he had been told, when he heard a metallic crash from above and noticed Skywalker trying to climb the tubing above the pit.
Complimenting Skywalker's escape, Vader slashed one of the hoses in an attempt to dislodge his opponent, triggering alarms that started blaring through the chamber. Skywalker jumped down, grabbed the severed hose, and used it to spray gas into Vader's masked face. With the Sith Lord momentarily stunned, Skywalker used the Force to summon his lightsaber to his hand. He re-engaged Vader and locked blades with him again. Vader taunted Skywalker, asserting that, while he had control of his fear, unleashing his anger was the only path to victory.
The Sith Lord broke the blade-lock and attacked. Skywalker managed to fend off Vader's onslaught, flipping over the Sith Lord to avoid an attack at his legs. Landing behind Vader, Skywalker went on the offensive and drove the Sith Lord to the edge of the platform, kicking Vader in the abdomen. Vader toppled over the edge of the platform and disappeared from sight. Seeming to have gained the upper hand, Skywalker jumped down after Vader.
Searching for the Sith Lord, Skywalker wandered through a tunnel into the city's processing vane, which overlooked a deep, low-pressure reactor shaft. There, he encountered Vader, standing with his weapon ignited at the far end of the chamber.
As Luke began to haltingly advance on his opponent, Vader telekinetically tore a fixture of metal pipes off of a wall behind Skywalker and threw it at him. As Skywalker turned and cut the fixture apart, the Sith Lord lunged, engaging Skywalker in a brief bout of swordplay. As the pair locked blades, Vader used the Force to throw a metal box at Skywalker, which smashed into the back of his head and broke the blade-lock. Vader then pulled back and began telekinetically pummeling Skywalker with various objects in the room.
As Skywalker failed to hold off the improvised missiles, a misdirected piece of piping smashed through a large observation port behind him. The chamber immediately and violently depressurized, sucking Skywalker out into the reactor shaft while Vader grabbed a nearby wall for support. As the pressure equalized, Vader went to the shattered observation port and observed that Skywalker had managed to grab the railing of a catwalk several floors below.
Skywalker climbed up onto the catwalk and again began searching for Vader. Eventually, he entered a narrow corridor in the processing vane, where he was ambushed by Vader. The Sith Lord engaged in a ferocious series of overhanded strikes, which forced Skywalker onto the defensive. Overwhelmed by Vader's strength, Skywalker was rapidly driven back through the corridor. Blade-locking with the boy, Vader threw him against a wall and slashed at him, but Skywalker recovered just in time to avoid Vader's attack. The attack struck the wall behind Skywalker and showered the corridor in sparks. After dodging another such attack, Skywalker attempted to retreat along the catwalk from whence he had come but Vader quickly cut him off. Shoving Skywalker onto the dead-end that was the central catwalk, Vader continued his relentless assault. Blocking or shunting aside everything Skywalker threw at him, Vader soon blade-locked with the youth one final time and pushed him to the ground.
Putting his saber at Skywalker's throat, Vader proclaimed the boy defeated, and told him that further resistance would end in Skywalker sharing Kenobi's fate. But Skywalker defiantly drove Vader's weapon aside and regained his feet. As they renewed their fight, Skywalker managed to slightly wound Vader's right shoulder with a desperate swing before retreating. Enraged by the breach in his defenses, Vader moved to end the duel, driving Skywalker to a small extension at the end of the catwalk. There, Vader sliced apart a piece of equipment on the catwalk, parried Luke's weapon hard enough to expose his wrist, and sliced off his right hand with a swift undercut. Both Luke's hand and his lightsaber fell into the depths of the reactor shaft.
Revelation and escape
- "If you only knew the power of the dark side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father."
"He told me enough! He told me you killed him!"
"No. I am your father."
- ―Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker
As Skywalker recoiled with a scream of pain, Vader deactivated his weapon and began conversing with Skywalker. While Skywalker retreated to the end of the extension, Vader attempted to sway him to the dark side, promising him that the two of them could end the Galactic Civil War and bring order to the galaxy. Skywalker refused, but Vader then revealed to him that he had formerly been Anakin Skywalker, Luke's own father. Though Skywalker vehemently denied the claim, as Kenobi had told him that Vader had betrayed and murdered Anakin, he sensed that Vader was telling the truth. Though shocked and horrified, Skywalker found the courage to jump off the catwalk to a seemingly certain death rather than join the Empire. As he fell, Skywalker was sucked through a number of vents, which eventually deposited him on a weather vane below Cloud City. Badly injured, exhausted and mentally spent, he called out to Kenobi for aid but received no reply. He then desperately attempted to contact Organa through the Force.
Unbeknownst to Skywalker, Lando Calrissian had switched allegiances to the Rebels in response to Vader changing the terms of their agreement several times. Realizing that Vader could not be trusted to keep his word, Calrissian had freed Leia and Chewbacca and they attempted to retrieve Solo from Fett. Although they failed to do so, they had managed to reach the Falcon and escape the city. While on their way to leave Bespin, Organa heard Skywalker's mental cry for help and ordered the freighter around to rescue him.
As the crew of the Falcon recovered Skywalker, Vader arrived at his flagship, the Executor, and pursued the freighter. As the Falcon left Bespin's orbit, the crew attempted to jump to hyperspace, only for the hyperdrive to fail once again. As the Executor closed in, panic set in on the Falcon as the rebels desperately attempted to discover what was wrong with the supposedly repaired hyperdrive. As the freighter evaded a small group of TIE fighters, Vader telepathically contacted Skywalker and attempted once more to turn him to the dark side. Skywalker continued to struggle with Vader's revelation, particularly with the fact that Kenobi had failed to tell him the truth. With the rebels unable to figure out why the hyperdrive of the Falcon was not functional, the Executor closed and prepared to tractor the freighter. However, R2-D2 had discovered during the escape from Cloud City that the Falcon's hyperdrive had in fact been repaired, and that Imperial agents had simply deactivated it. The astromech droid quickly reactivated the drive, and the Falcon lurched into hyperspace just before the Imperials could activate the tractor beam.
- "Ben… why didn't you tell me?"
- ―Luke Skywalker
Despite Vader's tendency to execute Imperial officers who had failed him on the spot, Vader spared Admiral Firmus Piett, the CO of the Executor, and strode from the bridge in silence. Meanwhile, the Falcon rendezvoused with the Rebel fleet, where Luke was fitted with a prosthetic hand that was visibly indistinguishable from his original one (he would later construct a new lightsaber to replace his lost weapon as well). As his operation was concluded, Calrissian and Chewbacca left aboard the Falcon for Tatooine with the intent of locating Solo in order to free him. Vader's revelation haunted Skywalker, shaking his faith in Kenobi and destroying the image of the father he had thought he had and looked up to.
However, a year later, Luke had managed to come to terms with his parentage, and even thought to use it to convince Vader to return to the light. During his confrontation with Vader and the Emperor on the DS-2 Death Star II Mobile Battle Station during the Battle of Endor, he managed to do just that. Redeeming himself, Vader defeated the Emperor and died from his wounds, bringing balance to the Force and fulfilling the prophecy of the Chosen One which Qui-Gon Jinn believed he would fulfil years ago.
In 34 ABY, the Force-sensitive scavenger Rey discovered Skywalker's original lightsaber in the basement of Takodana Castle, having been recovered by Maz Kanata through secretive means. Upon touching it, Rey had a Force vision, in which she appeared in the corridors of Cloud City and witnessed the duel of Vader and Skywalker.
Behind the scenes
The Duel on Cloud City appears in the 1980 film Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back. The duel is regarded by many Star Wars fans, such as 501st Legion founder Albin Johnson, as the most memorable lightsaber duel in Star Wars history, and perhaps the best remembered scene of the original trilogy.
As George Lucas wanted the lightsaber fights to gradually become "faster and more intense" as Skywalker became better at using a lightsaber, a shift in dueling style became evident, with some one-handed fighting forms making their first appearance—a peek at what lightsaber duels of olden times would eventually be revealed to look like.[source?]
The revelation of Skywalker's parentage was kept so secret that even David Prowse, the actor playing the body of Darth Vader and speaking the lines on set, did not know the truth, as the film's crew was afraid he could reveal it in an interview. Though it's said that Prowse spoke the line "Obi-Wan killed your father," which had been printed on a substituted page of the screenplay, Prowse himself revealed that he actually never said that line in April 2006. Instead, Prowse said "Come and join me and the Dark Side." On the other hand, he believes that the revelation of Luke's parentage was a wonderful twist. Meanwhile, the overdubbed voice of James Earl Jones spoke the true line. Mark Hamill himself was only told moments before shooting the scene, and no one else on the cast other than Jones and Hamill found out until Episode V's premiere.
One of the initial iterations of Rey's Force vision from the 2015 film Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens included Rey witnessing the duel on Cloud City, but the idea was shelved as director J.J. Abrams wanted it to be a more personal story filled with things she couldn't comprehend, like the Knights of Ren or her first time on Jakku. This idea, however, was retained in Alan Dean Foster's novelization and Michael Kogge's junior novel, which both had segments where Rey witnessed a small portion of the duel in her vision.
In popular culture
The great lengths that the production staff went to prevent the identity of Skywalker's father from being leaked to the public was eventually spoofed in The Simpsons episode "Worst Episode Ever," where one of the invaluable Star Wars memorabilia that Mrs. Prince was unwittingly selling to Comic Book Guy was a film reel labeled "Alternate Ending: Chewbacca is Luke's Father."
- Star Wars Epic Yarns: The Empire Strikes Back
- LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – "The Lost Treasure of Cloud City" (Indirect mention only)
- LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales – "Flight of the Falcon" (In flashback(s))
- LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Vision to Rey)
- LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
Notes and references
- Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back
- Battlefront: Twilight Company
- Star Wars: Galactic Atlas
- Star Wars: Complete Locations
- Video showing Luke hit Vader in the neck in slow motion
- Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi
- years before the events of the film Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens. Star Wars: Galactic Atlas establishes that the events of The Force Awakens take place in the year 34 ABY and so using simple math it can be concluded that the events of Bloodline take place in 28 ABY. The tweet in question states that the events of Bloodline take place six
- Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens novelization
- Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens 3D Collector's Edition audio commentary
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens: A Junior Novel