What if, when the script with Trevorrow and Connolly fell through, instead of turning to Abrahms and Terrio, Disney had said “Let’s get that dude to write it,” and pointed to me? Here’s a treatment for what I would have put in a first draft, before producers and executives got their hands on it and made me change things.
Please imagine the opening studio vanity plates fading to black, and enjoy:
THE LIGHT RISES
Rey is training her Jedi skills as she attempts desperately to commune with Luke’s Force Ghost, which she is frustrated that she cannot manage to do. The Skywalker saber is still broken in half; she finishes combining it with her staff to make a blue double-bladed lightsaber.
Supreme Leader Kylo Ren is obsessed with unlocking the secrets of the ancient Dark Side users, partly as a way to quash the conflict he feels within himself. He spends his time traveling to various planets searching for mystical secrets.
This leaves Hux running the entire First Order, a bureaucratic and complex job. He’s just as zealous as ever, but now he’s overworked and stressed. It’s not as much fun as when he was giving speeches and blowing up planets.
The Resistance are only a scattered collection of tiny plucky bands, barely surviving, the First Order gradually hunting down and wiping out their remaining cells one at a time. Finn, Poe, Chewie and Rose are basically doing stealth spy stuff, trying to find out what the First Order is up to, and how they’re getting their information on the Resistance. Chewie is now effectively a single dad to a porg that rides around on his shoulder getting into mischief, while Finn and Poe bicker constantly about everything. Rose is keeping everything together, mediating the petty conflicts in the group and making sure the Millenium Falcon can still fly. The group also has a new ally, the ageing ex-smuggler and once-Rebellion-general Lando Calrissian, who has been feeding the Resistance intel from a secret source about what the First Order is doing.
Hux receives intel on the location of a hidden Resistance cell, and tells Captain Phasma to take her strike team there and wipe them out. Phasma is horrifically burned and her armour functions more like Vader’s now; she is no longer calm and smooth but bitter and angry, consumed by fury and vengeance.
Rey, Poe, Finn, Rose, Lando, Chewie and the droids are at this small Resistance cell when Phasma arrives. They fight their way to safety, but the rest of the cell are wiped out in a ground battle while trying to flee. Rey tries to use the Force to pull a transport full of Resistance prisoners back to the ground, but overexerts herself, and unintentionally shoots Force Lightning through it, destroying it in midair and killing all aboard. This is a Dark Side technique fuelled by her anger, and her anxiety grows about feeling a pull to the Darkness.
Kylo feels this through the Force, as does Leia; Rey’s fury reinforces Kylo’s belief that she will turn to the Dark Side, while Leia’s sorrow feeds the guilt and doubt he’s carrying. Similarly, Rey feels guilt over Leia’s sorrow, which reinforces her feeling that she doesn’t truly belong anywhere.
Hux has a personal pet project, the Fleetkiller, for destroying vast numbers of enemy dogfighters at once from a Star Destroyer. But those around him, including Kylo, think it’s a waste of his time and effort since the Resistance is almost wiped out and has no fleet. Plus, the project has fallen by the wayside due to Hux’s overwork, and is currently languishing half-completed in the First Order shipyards on their command planet Wayland.
Lando receives information about where Kylo’s ship is going next; Rey leaves to confront him, mostly in an attempt to quash down her own feelings of conflict. They have a lightsaber fight but both escape, neither finding the answers they seek, but both unsettled by how much of each other they see in themselves – Rey sees Kylo’s darkness in herself, and Kylo sees Rey’s light in himself.
Lando brings more intel to the Resistance, meeting the others at another hidden cell. The First Order has plenty of materiel but not a lot of manpower, especially after Starkiller Base’s destruction; this is why they seem so powerful and overwhelmed the galaxy so easily, but still only had a handful of ships chasing the Resistance in TLJ. This is why Phasma is still hunting them down with strike teams, instead of overwhelming their forces with armies.
When this Resistance cell is attacked, the Resistance realises there’s a leak in their group feeding the First Order information; it’s set up so the audience suspects it might be Lando, playing both sides, and that’s how he gets his First Order intel. It continues the questions raised around Luke in TLJ - do people stay good forever? Lando once betrayed his friends in the past.
Kylo locates the Sith Temple he’s been looking for. He has a Force Vision, showing him Vader’s redemption in ROTJ, and realises it’s actually an ancient Jedi Temple. The vision conflicts him further; he declares it merely Jedi trickery, but doesn’t really believe himself when he says it.
Back at the Resistance’s main base on the planet Maridun, the Resistance confronts Lando as the leak, but it turns out it’s actually… C-3PO, unintentionally, as the First Order have placed a bug on him. It gets removed, but only after it’s transmitted the Resistance base’s location. Lando’s intel was coming from an ad hoc spy network, and now the cat’s out of the bag, they have to choose to either join the Resistance openly or slink forever into the shadows.
The Resistance formulates a plan to survive, but then realises it could be a plan to destroy the First Order. Rose recalls reading about the Rebels of old, and suggests infiltrating the First Order’s base of operations on Wayland, ordering all forces to storm the Resistance base now they know its location, then blowing it up themselves with the First Order inside.
Rey locates the Sith Temple Kylo was searching for and visits it herself, seeking answers. She is confronted by the Force Ghost of a youthful and healthy-looking Palpatine; he explains that the Dark Side is simply about embracing the parts of yourself that people prefer to tamp down until it poisons them, and about using your full potential to do what needs to be done for the greater good. Becoming the gnarled Emperor, he feeds Rey’s fears that she’s forced too many people to die for her - Luke, Han, countless Resistance soldiers - all because she has the power to end the war but is too cowardly to do it. He tells her that to save her friends she must use the power she has to destroy the First Order and kill Kylo Ren. Rey believes him.
Through the Force, Leia senses the magnitude of what Rey has accepted. This final loss is too great, and Leia dies, becoming one with the Force. In turn, Kylo senses his mother’s death, and unexpectedly finds himself emotionally crippled by it.
In this moment of utter despair for the Resistance, Lando’s whole spy network shows up ready to fight, led by dozens of heroes new and old. When asked why they’ve had a change of heart since the Battle of Crait, they explain that the legendary Luke Skywalker’s final heroics gave them something to rally around and believe in, and because of their own collective efforts and bravery that Skywalker inspired, they now believe the Resistance has genuine hope.
Kylo is startled by the apparition of Luke’s Force Ghost, who converses with him about Kylo’s rise and Rey’s descent. Kylo – Ben Solo – now accepts the truth of the Force Vision that he saw, realising the manipulation and folly of the Dark Side. He and Luke forgive each other.
Lando has information that allows them to intercept Hux’s access codes for giving executive orders, but they need to do it from a signalling station on Wayland – a planet of storms and seas, populated only by the First Order and gigantic ocean megafauna.
Poe, Finn, Chewie, and Lando infiltrate the signalling station, but the First Order is alerted to their presence. Hux egotistically assumes they’re there for the Fleetkiller, and sends Phasma with legions of stormtroopers after them. A ground battle begins around the signalling station.
First Order ships arrive at Maridun, starting a large-scale air battle. Ben’s ship arrives, but starts blasting TIE Fighters out of the sky – then Rey’s ship arrives and shoots his down. They have an intense lightsaber battle across the grassy terrain, whipped by the wind as the battle rages overhead.
At the signalling station, Poe is about to send the command to the First Order troops when Phasma shoots him in the back and gloats about the Resistance’s pathetic attempt to destroy the Fleetkiller. Finn fights her, powered again by strong emotions, but this time not for himself; as things looks grim, he unexpectedly uses the Force to pull a blaster into his hand and shoot her, destroying her armour’s breathing equipment. As she falls on the floor, very definitely cold and dead for good this time, Poe heaves himself up onto the control desk – they didn’t get Hux’s codes, but Poe has been transmitting to the Resistance this whole time! Overjoyed, Finn and Poe kiss.
Rey and Ben’s battle reaches a climax as the Resistance fleet appears to flee overhead, the First Order ships following after them. Alone on the planet, the air now still, Ben throws away his lightsaber to prove he will no longer fight her. His words and actions convince her, and now their roles are effectively reversed, Ben is the one to redeem Rey.
The Resistance fleet suddenly arrives at Wayland, now engaging the entirety of the First Order’s fleet – even with their new allies, the Resistance is outnumbered. Rose picks up Poe, Finn, Chewie, and Lando in the Falcon, saying she understood their message, but none of the Resistance ships can land on the Fleetkiller without being shot down.
As the Fleetkiller isn’t completed, Hux stays behind to activate it manually, deciding to die for the glory of the First Order by wiping out the Resistance. But when the Resistance ships make their final approach and he sees them coming towards him, he chickens out - because as much as he liked the power, the actual ideology means less to him than his own skin. He climbs into an escape pod, plotting his new life in hiding, then gets eaten by one of Wayland’s giant turtles anyway.
Ben and Rey arrive at Wayland in Rey’s ship, and Ben orders a halt to the attack. But just like real life, the real villain of the piece is simply the power structure itself: Ben’s reversal in behaviour is seen as madness at best or defection at worst by the First Order, and he is powerless to stop their actions.
Ben and Rey use the Force to fly between the First Order ships and land on the Fleetkiller; Finn senses Rey’s presence there and orders the Resistance to retreat. Their ships vanish, Rey and Ben activate the Fleetkiller, and the entire First Order’s fleet is destroyed, the wreckage falling down and destroying the remaining infrastructure on Wayland.
Six months later, we see the Resistance providing food and relief supplies to a world that was hit hard during the First Order’s brief reign. Ben is struggling to fit in and be accepted because of his past, but he’s making progress; Rose encourages him, as does Finn, who Ben has been teaching the rudiments of the Force. Finn and Poe are together; likewise, Rose and Connix. Lando and Chewie reminisce about the days of the old Rebellion against the Empire, while Chewie’s porg annoys C-3PO to the amusement of R2-D2 and BB-8.
Meanwhile, Rey finds a quiet place away from the others and tries again to commune with Luke. This time she is passive and calm, and when she opens her eyes, Luke and Leia greet her. Luke tells her that just like him, she walked a strange path to becoming a Jedi Master like those of old. The Force Ghosts of countless familiar Jedi appear semi-transparent behind him, and look on kindly as Rey watches the sunrise with hope for the future in her eyes.
“It’s like rhymetry. They poem.” - Leorge Gucas
The Rise of Skywalker Expanded Edition by Rae Carson: The Faraday Edit, Revenge of the Sith: The Faraday Nudge, ROTS Ultracut: Order 66, The Light Rises, Faraday Junior’s Star Wars