On January 13, 2020, filmmaker Rob Burnett gave a gift to the world. He got his mitts on a leaked script for Star Wars: Episode IX, supposedly written by Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly. Trevorrow, as most will recall, was originally announced as the director of the third and final installment of the long-running franchise's sequel trilogy. But in September 2017, the director - already a lightning rod after Jurassic World and The Book of Henry - was abruptly removed from the project. His take on the Star Wars universe - not unlike Phil Lord and Chris Miller's original interpretation of Solo - was doomed to remain purely hypothetical.
But with the leaking of at least one incarnation of Trevorrow's vision, that hypothetical came a little closer to being, if not a reality, at least a more tangible thing. Titled Star Wars: Duel of the Fates, the screenplay is allegedly a draft from December 2016, and presents a completely different wrap-up to Star Wars than what J.J. Abrams delivered with The Rise of Skywalker. Later in January, official concept art for the proposed film was released, and was confirmed by Trevorrow to be genuine.
In his two-part video series, Burnett breaks down Duel of the Fates in detail. There are some thematic similarities between the movie we got and the one that might have been, but the discarded version more substantially follows through on the storylines and creative choices set out in Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi. It's impossible to know if the finished product would have followed this version of the screenplay to a T, but in any case, it features a number of tantalizing possibilities for what we may have seen on screen if Trevorrow's fate had curved a bit differently.
According to Rob Burnett, the original title of Star Wars IX was Duel of the Fates. If that sounds familiar, it's because it's the title to one of the series' most popular musical arrangements, which was written by composer John Williams and plays during the climactic battle at the end of The Phantom Menace.
Not only does Duel of the Fates just sound cool, but it also accurately describes the parallel storylines of Rey and Kylo Ren. It even gets to the heart of Rey's entire narrative: Will she choose the dark side or the light?
Aside from the title change, the opening crawl is totally different. It describes a time in which Kylo Ren has taken over most of the galaxy and has created a code of silence among all First Order planets.
Rose Tico plays a prominent role in this script for Episode IX, in contrast to how she is used - or rather, not used - in The Rise of Skywalker. The film opens with Rose, Poe, and BB-8 attempting to blow up a First Order shipyard, a plan that fails until Rey shows up with a double-bladed lightsaber.
The trio swipes a Star Destroyer to get away from the shipyard - which sounds like it would be awesome to see, in and of itself - and that's not the end of Rose's work in the film. She spends much of the film with Finn, C-3PO, and R2-D2 on Coruscant, where the group attempts to light a beacon to attract allies who will fight the First Order alongside the Resistance.
Rather than fill the void left by Snoke's demise with another big bad - or the return of a previous one - Duel of the Fates turns Kylo Ren into the main villain, although not without some more training first. While on Remnicore, Ren learns to remove the living force from different beings. Tor Valum, a creepy Cthulhu-esque creature, shows the young Sith Lord how to drain people, turning him into a "vampiristic" creature.
Ren ends up using the power taught to him by Tor Valum and turns it against the creature, draining him of all his power.
Emporer Palpatine is all over The Rise of Skywalker. He doesn't just reinherit the mantle as the franchise's big bad, he takes on a more controversial role as well, as it's revealed that he is Rey's grandfather. He spends a lot of time monologuing about evil and destiny, but if Duel of the Fates had its way, none of that would have happened.
Palpatine does show up in Trevorrow's script, but it's in a less corporeal form. While on Mustafar, Kylo Ren discoveres a hologram message from Palpatine to Darth Vader. In the message, Palpatine tells Vader to take Luke Skywalker to meet Tor Valum, the Sith master who trained Palpatine himself.