When it comes to time travel, sci-fi fans are likelier to associate slingshotting back and forth in time with Star Trek rather than Star Wars. Nonetheless, a single story arc on Star Wars: Rebels introduced time travel into a galaxy far, far away, and this has some major potential implications for the franchise. So drop that Hera fan art you were just scribbling while we explain exactly how time travel works (and how it doesn’t work) throughout Star Wars.
Rebels introduced time travel to the canonical Star Wars franchise, but earlier novels explored the concept as well.
Strictly speaking, Rebels wasn’t the first time that Star Wars dabbled in time travel. In the old Star Wars Expanded Universe, which had stories of ancient Sith traveling forward in time (in the Paul S. Kemp novel Crosscurrent) and various Legacy of the Force novels featured “Flow Walking,” a special ability that allowed Jedi to manipulate the past. However, none of the Star Wars EU is canonical anymore since Disney acquired the franchise, so these older stories have no way of potentially affecting the current continuity of shows like The Mandalorian or Ahsoka.
It looked like Star Wars would never return to the topic of time travel, but the fourth season of Rebels introduced a mysterious location known as the World Between Worlds. Jedi with the right keystone could access this location within the hidden Jedi Temple on Ezra Bridger’s homeworld of Lothal, and this is a place in which the Cosmic Force and Living Force are joined together. This allows the Jedi to go into the past and make major changes, but he has to be willing to live with the consequences.
“Flow Walking” was a Jedi ability used in Legacy of the Force novels that allowed Jedi to manipulate the past.
In Star Wars: Rebels, we see that Ezra uses this time travel ability to save Ahsoka Tano from certain death at the hands of Darth Vader. He is very tempted to use this ability to save his slain friend and Jedi Master Kanan Jarrus, but Ahsoka gently reminds Ezra that doing so would effectively jeopardize all the lives that Kanan died to save. Because of this, Ezra makes no other changes to the timeline, and he ends up destroying the portal and then the temple despite Emperor Palpatine trying to convince him to use time travel to save Ezra’s deceased parents.
That would have theoretically been the end of Star Wars adventures with time travel, but we see that Ahsoka discovers another portal that can access the World Between Worlds. So far, the franchise hasn’t returned to this interesting concept, but it has the potential to completely transform Star Wars as we know it. And it might be doing so sooner rather than later: there are strong hints in the Ahsoka show (including her finding markings similar to those found in the Lothal Jedi Temple) that she may end up fighting the remnant of the Empire for access to time travel.
What could this mean for the franchise? The possibilities are literally endless: for example, changes to the Star Wars timeline might allow the franchise to walk back some (or maybe even all) of the controversial Sequel Trilogy. Time travel also opens the door for Star Wars to have its own live-action multiverse, which might follow in the footsteps of the old Star Wars Infinities comics that explored scenarios such as what the galaxy would have been like if Luke Skywalker failed to destroy the first Death Star.
Ahsoka looks like it’s going to explore time travel and fundamentally alter the Star Wars franchise.
Much like Ezra Bridger walking into the World Between Worlds, Disney now has a big decision to make with Star Wars: time travel could be used as another fun one-off gimmick, or it could be used to make sweeping changes to the entire franchise. Such changes could prevent what some fans see as a downward spiral in quality or maybe even drive a nail into the coffin of this galaxy far, far away. Here’s hoping Dave Filoni and other major franchise architects channel the wisdom of the Force before making any major time travel decisions.