- "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope."
- ―Princess Leia Organa in a hologram message
The Rescue of Princess Leia was a pivotal event in 0 BBY leading directly to the Battle of Yavin. It occurred when Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2, aboard the freighter Millennium Falcon, rescued Princess Leia Organa from the Galactic Empire's first Death Star. It also featured the second (and final) lightsaber duel of erstwhile Jedi Master and apprentice Obi-Wan and Darth Vader, in which Kenobi sacrificed himself and became one with the Force.
Rendezvous with destiny
In order to destroy the ultimate weapon of the Empire, the Death Star, the Alliance to Restore the Republic, launched Operation Skyhook, an operation to steal the plans of the Imperial battle station to find out its weakness and to ultimately destroy it.
Princess Leia Organa gained possession of the stolen schematics and was forced to flee to the desert planet of Tatooine on-board her diplomatic ship, the Tantive IV, pursued by the Imperial I-class Star Destroyer Devastator. When her ship was boarded by Imperial stormtroopers and the Sith Lord Darth Vader, Organa stored the plans into the memory of the astromech droid R2-D2. Together with the protocol droid C-3PO, the two droids escaped the ship in an escape pod and crash-landed on Tatooine.
The droids were recovered by Jawa scavengers, and they were eventually bought by Luke Skywalker's uncle, Owen Lars. While cleaning Artoo, Skywalker came across a holographic recording of the Princess, saying: "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope." The message led Skywalker to meet the former Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, who was then going by the name "Ben Kenobi." Kenobi rescued Skywalker from Tusken Raiders and took him to his hut, where Skywalker repaired the droids and recovered the rest of Organa's message. She implored Kenobi to bring the astromech droid to her father, Bail Prestor Organa, on Alderaan.
Passage to Alderaan
- "You must learn the ways of the Force if you're to come with me to Alderaan."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi to Luke Skywalker
Upon entering Mos Eisley, Skywalker, Kenobi and the droids were accosted by Imperial stormtroopers, but Kenobi used a Jedi mind trick so the troopers would let them pass. Skywalker and Kenobi headed into a cantina to look for a pilot to transport them to Alderaan. Kenobi managed to strike a deal with Han Solo, a smuggler, and his Wookiee first mate, Chewbacca to fly them to Alderaan for 17,000 credits: 2,000 in advance and 15,000 on arrival.
Arrival on the Death Star
- "That's no moon! It's a space station!"
- ―Obi-wan Kenobi
Upon arriving at the location of Alderaan, they discovered that there was nothing to be found but an asteroid field; the planet itself had been destroyed by the Death Star's superlaser. While trying to understand what had happened, they spotted a lone TIE/LN starfighter, which appeared to be heading towards a small moon. While they moved towards the moon, also chasing the fighter, Kenobi realized that it was not really a moon; it was an enormous space station. Moments later, they were pulled into a hangar bay by its powerful tractor beam.
The rescue of Princess Leia
- "This is some rescue!"
- ―Princess Leia
On board the Death Star, the group hid themselves in the Millennium Falcon's smuggling compartments, avoiding the initial checks. When Scanning crew BT-445 came aboard, they were ambushed. Solo and Skywalker then called for assistance from the guarding stormtroopers TK-421 and TK-422. They beat up the two stormtroopers, allowing them to disguise themselves as stormtroopers.
Solo and Skywalker, disguised as stormtroopers, along with Chewbacca proceeded to take over the hangar's control room, killing several officers, including Pol Treidum and a nearby Imperial Navy trooper, in the process. Once inside, Kenobi instructed R2 to log into into the Imperial network to locate the tractor beam's power supply. From there Kenobi left to switch off the tractor beam controls, leaving the others to wait in the control room.
However, it was not long before R2 discovered that Princess Organa was being held prisoner on-board. With some coaxing, as well as the offer of a generous reward, Skywalker managed to convince Solo to participate in a rescue attempt. Skywalker's idea was that they, disguised as stormtroopers, "arrest" Chewbacca as a fake prisoner and attempt to "exchange" Organa with Chewbacca, although Chewbacca snarled at Skywalker when he attempted to cuff him, resulting in Solo cuffing him instead with Solo telling Chewbacca that he thinks he knows what the young man was actually planning. However, Solo expressed his doubts about the plan working.
Leaving the droids in the control room (with Skywalker and Solo telling them that if the Imperials get suspicious, they lock the door and hope they don't have blasters), Skywalker and Solo made their way to Detention Block AA-23. While in transit, they came across a MSE-6-series repair droid on patrol, with Chewbacca proceeding to scare it off by roaring at it. Eventually, they arrived at their destination, where Skywalker tried to bluff the guards by saying there was a prisoner transfer from Cell Block 1138. When Shann Childsen, one of the officers, got suspicious of the two "troopers," the three had no choice but to blast their way through.
After killing the guards and destroying security cameras, Solo quickly located the Princess's cell. Skywalker went to retrieve her while Solo stayed to stall on the intercom with a story of a "reactor leak," until the operator asked for his identification number. Not knowing the identification number of the slain officer, and realizing his cover was blown, Solo blasted the console and yelled for Skywalker to hurry, while he and Chewie prepared defensive positions. Skywalker soon found Organa and let her out of her cell. Skywalker unmasked himself when Organa questioned his height compared to a typical stormtrooper and explained that he was present to rescue her and that he was allied with Kenobi aboard the station.
At about the same time, a team of stormtroopers breached the door to the cell block, only to be blasted down by Solo and Chewie as they made their way through the narrow opening one by one. The advantage was not to last, and soon the duo was overwhelmed by sheer numbers and forced to fall back to the Princess's cell. The group blasted several stormtroopers, Imperial Navy troopers, and IT-O Interrogator droids. Neither of the two men, though, had thought of an escape plan, and over the comlink were informed by C-3PO—who, with R2, had posed as Imperial droids in order to relocate back to the hangar bay—that there was no way out, save the main entrance. As troopers started pouring into the hallway and pinning them down with blaster fire, Princess Organa took charge and, grabbing Skywalker's blaster, blasted through a ventilation shaft to garbage compactor 3263827.
Once inside, Skywalker tried to blast open the door with his rifle, only to find it was magnetically sealed. Solo, the last to arrive, tried the same approach, unaware of Skywalker's previous attempt, only to make the same discovery. Skywalker was then pulled into the water by a dianoga that was living inside the compactor and feeding off garbage; Solo managed to shoot it to save him, though not before Skywalker lost the comlink. In addition, the dianoga, sensing that the compression cycle was about to start, abandoned its prey and disappeared deep underwater. No sooner had Skywalker been rescued than the compression cycle began and the walls started to close in on them, a last attempt by the stormtroopers to prevent the prisoners' escape. Skywalker desperately searched for the missing comlink as the others tried to climb out or halt the cycle. Finding the missing comlink, Skywalker called for 3PO's help. However, the two droids were delayed in responding as they were hiding from various Imperial patrols, only learning about it when the doors were close to crushing them. Just before they were crushed, however, R2 managed to stop the cycle.
After escaping the trash compactor, Skywalker and Solo shed their stormtrooper armor, though not before appropriating the utility belts, and they set off for the Millennium Falcon. Before long the group encountered a stormtrooper patrol that had been searching for them. Taking the initiative, Solo and Chewie attacked aggressively and killed one of the squad members (despite Skywalker's protests against their action), forcing the patrol to retreat to another hangar bay where reinforcements were waiting. Overwhelmed by the sheer numbers, they were forced to retreat.
Meanwhile, Skywalker escorted Organa on an alternate route to the hangar bay. Before long they encountered another patrol and were forced to take cover behind a blast door. Seeing no lock, Skywalker blasted the controls, only to discover that these were also the bridge controls, and that, much to their dismay, they were stranded on a ledge above a deep chasm. With it only being a matter of time before the stormtrooper patrol breached the door, and with other troopers firing from nearby ledges, Organa provided covering fire while Skywalker prepared a grappling hook to swing across the chasm, though not before receiving a good luck kiss from Organa. Skywalker, just beforehand, also shot one of the stormtroopers, TK-119, causing the latter to fall down the shaft. The groups eventually rendezvoused in a corridor above the hangar and began discussing how to proceed to the Falcon without being seen by the small group of stormtroopers stationed there.
Duel with the Dark Lord
- "You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi to Darth Vader
Meanwhile, after shutting down the tractor beam, Kenobi had made his way back to the hanger where the Falcon was being kept, musing suspiciously about how easy it had been to accomplish his objective. Just before reaching the hangar, he came face to face with his former apprentice, Darth Vader. Realizing that Vader had obviously sensed his presence long before their encounter, Kenobi began to entertain the notion that he had been allowed to deactivate the station's tractor beam as part of a trap. Drawing his weapon, he strode toward his destiny.
Vader stood at the end of the hall leading to Docking Bay 327, lightsaber already ablaze and awaiting Kenobi. When Kenobi ignited his own weapon, Vader advanced on him, raising his weapon to attack. As Kenobi matched his pose, Vader stated that he had been waiting for him and asserted his own superior power.
Kenobi retorted, mocking the Dark Lord with his Sith title, before attacking the Sith Lord who was off-guard. Vader took the blow and riposted, Kenobi barely blocked the attack, then Vader attacked again, sending Obi-Wan retreating. Then Vader attacked more two times, but Kenobi blocked each blow even with his old age. Kenobi twirled and parried the a third stab, then he blocked and countered Vader's next attack. Then Obi-Wan attacked, but the Sith Lord blocked and countered the attack, surprising Kenobi with his more advanced skills since their last confrontation. Kenobi charged with again, but Vader blocked the strike and pushed his former master in the wall and went to deliver the finishing strike, but Kenobi somehow dodged and used the opportunity to run around the Sith Lord.
Vader taunted Kenobi by saying that his former master's power were getting weak, but the Jedi Master retorted saying that if he was cut down he would become more powerful than Vader would be able to imagine. Kenobi charged him again, but Vader anticipated the strike and locked both blades, and shoving hard, he broke the lock and sent Kenobi back. Vader angled his blade and told Kenobi that he shouldn't have come back. Kenobi realized that the Vader he was confronting was a far different one than in Mustafar, and defeating him would be an entirely different story. Seizing the offense, Vader attacked Obi-Wan starting a exchange of blows, each one blocked everything against him and they even countered a few of each other's blows; but Kenobi was soon tiring, so after a brief blade-lock, he started backing away, but the Sith Lord followed him with his controlled but ruthless offense.
Vader drove Obi-Wan back to an open doorway of the hangar, where the Sith Lord tried to chivvy Kenobi in the way, but Kenobi countered an attack and forced Vader to pull back to the opposite wall. There Kenobi would truly feel that he would never be able to defeat Vader, since the Sith Lord has become a far superior fighter than himself. At that same moment, he took a glimpse of the hangar, and saw some stormtroopers guarding the Millennium Falcon and Luke and the others (including Leia Organa) hiding nearby, waiting for a distraction to get in the ship.
Just then Vader all by sudden unleashed a flurry of attacks faster than the human eye against Kenobi, who somehow blocked and parried each one of them. The two rapidly circled and matched each other's blows for a while as the stormtroopers ran closer to the doorway. Kenobi realized that with that distraction, the others received a chance to run to the Millennium Falcon, he only needed to distract Vader and his Stormtroopers just for a little more time. Seizing the offense, Kenobi unleashed several blows that put Vader on the defensive, but Vader soon regained the upper hand and locked blades with his former master. As the stormtroopers approached the duel even closely, Kenobi would really begin to feel his age, realizing that at any moment he would be struck down by Vader or shot by the Stormtroopers, he concluded that his defeat was inevitable.
He took one last glimpse at the hangar and saw that Luke have stopped following his companions to their ship and was watching the duel, shocked with seeing his mentor so out of breath. Kenobi knew that the best way to give Luke and others a chance to escape was if he sacrificed himself. So he looked at Vader again and smiled, confusing the Sith Lord, then he lifted his blade in front of his face and closing his eyes, he took a long breath. Hesitating, Vader tried to find out the reason of Obi-Wan's suicidal tactic, but at the same time, he viciously sent his lightsaber through Obi-Wan's neck, but Kenobi used the force to extinguish his physical body and became one with the force.
- "Run, Luke, run!"
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi's disembodied voice urging Luke to flee
Luke Skywalker, shocked and distraught by the death of his mentor, cried out in grief. This attracted the attention of the stormtroopers who had been observing the duel, and they immediately turned and began shooting at Skywalker. As the firefight commenced, a shocked Vader inspected Kenobi's remains only to find the robes Kenobi had worn piled in a heap; his body had vanished.
Skywalker, despite his shock at seeing Kenobi slain, was able to take out most of the stormtroopers guarding the Falcon as Vader turned to the hangar. Seeing this, he was quick to lock out Vader by shooting the blast door's controls at Solo's urging. Though Skywalker, in his anger, was eager to finish off the remaining stormtroopers in the hanger, the disembodied voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi urged Skywalker to board the Falcon and escape. Kenobi's deactivation of the station's tractor beam systems allowed the Millennium Falcon to leave the Death Star unhindered. Before leaving the battleground, Vader retrieved his former Master's lightsaber as a keepsake, eventually storing it in his personal fortress on Vjun.
As they escaped, the Falcon encountered at least four TIE fighters on patrol. Despite Skywalker's grief, he and Solo were able to destroy the pursuing TIE fighters and finally escape to the Rebels' base on Yavin 4. While Solo congratulated himself on his role in the daring rescue, Princess Organa asserted that it was a ruse and that they were being allowed to escape, and suspected the reason they were allowed to escape was that they were being tracked, although Solo ultimately admitted that he did not care about aiding the Rebels and just wanted payment. However, the rescuers did not know that the Empire had secretly stored a homing droid aboard their ship, which gave the Empire information on the destination of the Falcon. R2-D2 later destroyed it, but was too late to prevent the Empire from learning that the Alliance's main base was on Yavin 4.
The Millennium Falcon delivered the plans of the Death Star to the Rebel Alliance at Yavin 4, to which the Empire tracked it. Having found a weakness in the space station, the Rebels launched an attack on the Death Star, which was destroyed by the Force-sensitive Luke Skywalker in an X-wing using a proton torpedo.
Vader had gotten a brief glimpse of Skywalker in the Force shortly before the latter's escape, and began to suspect that he was the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, and eventually attempted to deduce his identity for months until learning that he was in fact his son, who he believed had not been born due to his wife Padmé Amidala's death.
Some footage relating to the rescue was transmitted to a facility on Galvoni III, which was later uncovered by Voren Na'al during a mission to steal data and incorporated into a report on the Death Stars.
Behind the scenes
- "Just a few more left."
- ―Skywalker destroying TIE/LN fighters during Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader's bonus mission
The scene featured the first lightsaber duel to be shown in the movies, but it was actually the second (and final) duel between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. Their first duel was the Duel on Mustafar in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith.
To gain access to the Princess' holding cell, Luke and Solo pretend to be stormtroopers and hold Chewbacca "prisoner." They told the cell block commander they were transferring him from detention block 1138. This is a reference to George Lucas's first film, THX 1138. In addition, the name of the cell was actually unscripted, being ad-libbed by Mark Hamill, Luke's actor, during filming, to George Lucas' disapproval. A similar ad-lib occurred earlier when the two characters boarded the elevator, where Luke mentioned he couldn't see a thing out of his helmet (which was due to Mark Hamill admitting he couldn't see outside the eyeholes of the Stormtrooper helmet prop while thinking the cameras weren't rolling).
The first lines for Han Solo while attempting to call a false alarm upon killing the stormtroopers in the detention center were ad-libbed by Harrison Ford, due to his forgetting his lines/failing to read the script.
This is the only film in the series where David Prowse did the lightsaber fighting on his own; he was doubled in the sequels because he kept breaking the poles that stood in for the blades. This switch might explain why Vader pivots on his feet in this film, but not in the others.
Originally, Obi-Wan survived the duel against Darth Vader and fled aboard the Falcon. George Lucas was having problems generating tension in the story, so editor and Lucas's wife Marcia suggested Obi-Wan be killed. Lucas eventually agreed that Obi-Wan could be absent from the rest of the film. Actor Alec Guinness threatened to quit over the change, but Lucas convinced him that the change was better for the overall story.
The event was playable in the video games Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike, both as bonus missions. The former game focused on the escape portion of the mission, whereas the latter game focused on the events of the rescue itself with scenes from the movie interspersed between playable sections. In Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, the player mans one of the Falcon's quad cannons to destroy attacking TIE fighters. As the game throws many more fighters at the player than were seen in the film (to get the game's highest reward, the gold medal), this article assumes it is non-canonical. In Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike, beating this level in the main game results in Star Wars: The Arcade Game being unlocked for Arcade mode. Additionally, the first game's bonus mission was included in the cooperative campaign in the second.
The Rescue on Death Star I was also a level in the ambiguously canon 1987 Japanese Star Wars game. In it, Luke has to evade prowler droids while locating Princess Leia's cell on the massive battle station. In addition, unlike in the original film, he and Vader actually fought each other rather than getting a brief glimpse of each other.
- LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
- LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
- Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith video game (bonus level where one can fight as Vader, older Obi-Wan or various other Jedi/Sith characters)
- Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope
- Choose Your Own Star Wars Adventure: A New Hope
Notes and references
- Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope
- Star Wars: Battlefront
- The New Essential Chronology
- "Galaxywide NewsNets"—Star Wars Adventure Journal 3 dates the dissolution of the Imperial Senate to 35:3:5, which is the same day as the deaths of Owen and Beru Lars, according to Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi establishes that Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi spend the night in the Tatooine city of Bestine following the Lars murders, before embarking upon the Rescue of Princess Leia the next day. The Star Wars radio drama further establishes that Skywalker and Kenobi's departure from Tatooine occurs on the same day as the rescue. Therefore, the rescue takes place on 35:3:6.
- The Essential Atlas
- Star Wars: Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike
- Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
- The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi
- Junior Jedi Knights: Vader's Fortress
- The New Essential Guide to Droids
- Vader discovers Luke's identity by Vader's Quest, which takes place sometimes in 0 ABY.
- Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back
- Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith
- Death Star Owner's Technical Manual
- Star Wars in 100 Scenes