The first trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker stoked immediate fan interest and fueled countless theories from the moment it debuted in April. From its mysterious title to the unmistakable, and chilling laugh, of Emperor Palpatine, the film appears to be full callbacks to the previous chapters in the Skywalker Saga.
However, one of those references has given new life to an old fan theory: the infamously morbid "Ewok Holocaust" and the potentially tragic fate of Endor.
END(OR) OF DAYS
First published in 1997 on TheForce.net, the theory states that the destruction of the second Death Star at the end of Return of the Jedi would have brought an apocalyptic end to Endor, as well as its furry Ewok inhabitants, through a number of devastating knock-on effects: from "biocidal" consequences (such as the nuclear winter effect, similar to the supposed mass extinction impact that is theorized to have killed the dinosaurs), falling, fiery debris from the Death Star, and the well as the potential radiation emitted by the explosion.
While the second Death Star's destruction was a simple display of smoke and fire in the skies of Endor, its proximity to the planet makes such a "clean" fallout difficult to believe.
THE EVIDENCE IN EPISODE IX'S TRAILER
The scene from The Rise of Skywalker that has reignited this theory is one that clearly shows wreckage from the Death Star, or, rather, a Death Star. The location of this failed weapon could either by Yavin IV, where the remnants of the first Death Star would have landed, or, in the case of the second Death Star, the planet Endor, and its Edenic forest moon.
The evidence that detracts from the possibility of it being the first Death Star is that, as detailed in the canon book, Aftermath: Life Debt, the remains of the first Death Star were eventually recovered by a Flotilla governed by Princess Leia. The book was the second in a series meant to bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, rendering the likelihood of these remains being on Endor to be quite low.
The official Star Wars Twitter account stated in 2016 that the Rebel Alliance deployed shields to protect Endor from the fallout of the Death Star's destruction, though this was namely in response to the already reinvigorated "Ewok Holocaust" theory. Adding fuel to the fire, in 2015, a white paper was published by planetary scientist David Minton that scientifically expounded on the existing theory. Of particular note is Milton's theory that the dangerously heated up atmosphere would have burned and vaporized the forests and water supplies.
ADDING WEIGHT TO THE THEORY
The post-apocalyptic wasteland that this theory supposes Endor would have become is a far cry from the lush, verdant greenery we saw of the planet in Return of the Jedi. Conversely, so is the area containing the Death Star wreckage in The Rise of Skywalker's trailer.
Speaking of Return of the Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker's trailer ended with the ominous laugh of Emperor Palpatine, last seen (chronologically) in that film. Said character supposedly met his death on the second Death Star, leading further credence to this Death Star being its remains.
The statement from Star Wars' Twitter account concerning shields could also be hand-waved away simply due to a large amount of elapsed time from the end of Return of the Jedi and the events of The Rise of Skywalker. Eventually, failing or unmanned shields may have given way to debris which had finally found its way through to the planet. The resulting reaction from the usually very superstitious and primitive Ewoks (if they survived) could be to neglect or outright shun the impact area, resulting in the vastly different environment shown in the trailer.
PIECING IT ALL TOGETHER
A Reddit user has added to the theory, stating that a specific piece of the second Death Star that explodes away at the end of Return of the Jedi is the wreckage seen in the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker. Though a seemingly far-fetched idea, the general trajectory of the rubble's path would make Endor its logical destination.
Given the franchise's already dubious relationship with hard science, any scientific explanation for a supposedly debunked theory is equally as dubious. Ample amounts of evidence still suggest, however, that fans will return to the world of Endor in The Rise of Skywalker. Given the clues surrounding this revitalized theory, however, it remains to be seen if the Ewoks will return as well.
The inclusion of the cute, cuddly, and obviously toyetic Ewoks in Return of the Jedi was a controversial decision amongst some fans at the time, with many seeing it as the beginning of the creative downturn of the franchise. As such, this entire theory could be dismissed as nothing more than mean-spirited revenge (of the Sith) toward the creatures, crafted by fans using their own scientific acumen as a means to validate their own dislike of the mini-Wookiees.
Directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker stars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Billie Lourd, Keri Russell, Matt Smith, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher, with Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant. The film arrives Dec. 20.