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The Emperor from Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was a movie that had a lot of heavy lifting to do. It had to bring both a trilogy and a nine film series to a satisfying close. It tried to tie up all the loose ends and give fans a conclusion to a story that began over four decades ago. One of the film's most difficult balancing acts was between taking the story to new places while also paying tribute to where Star Wars had been before. And it turns out that one version of the story would have seen Kylo Ren visit a planet very well known to Star Wars fans, Coruscant.

In the version of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that we saw, Kylo Ren finds the Emperor on a planet called Exegol, that we had never seen on the screen before. But according to the book The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (via ScreenRant) in one early version of the script, the Emperor was discovered not on a new planet, but on Coruscant. The planet that was the center of both the Galactic Republic and the Empire which followed it. As author Phil Szostak explains in the book's text...

Instead of finding his way to Exegol, in the early November 2017 version of The Rise of Skywalker story, Kylo Ren instead takes his shuttle to a desolate, ash-covered Coruscant, the once bustling city streets now overrun by giant wolves. Inside the abandoned Jedi Temple, Kylo takes a central elevator down to the temple's deepest level.

Coruscant is a big part of the prequel trilogy as it's where Chancellor Palpatine centers his plot which eventually results in him taking over as Emperor. It certainly makes some sense that Coruscant would be the location where the Emperor's cloning facilities were located. The fact that he had taken over the Jedi Temple for the purpose feels like an intentional thumb in the eye of his former adversaries.

The most interesting thing about this idea is that in the story Coruscant was apparently abandoned. Previously, the entire planet had been one massive city that extended deep into the planet and had been teeming with people. It's not clear why everybody decided to leave after the Empire fell. Perhaps moving on was easier that taking back Coruscant from the Empire.

It's unclear why the decision was made to move the action away from Coruscant. Perhaps that was just one reference too many and so it was abandoned. As it would have been one of the few direct references to the prequel trilogy, it might have been nice to have.

Of course, if everything that almost became part of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker had been there, it truly would have been a very different movie.

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