Why the Star Wars spinoff could change sci-fi time travel forever

Ahsoka Tano owes her life to time travel. If Ezra Bridger hadn’t used the World…

Ahsoka Tano owes her life to time travel. If Ezra Bridger hadn’t used the World Between Worlds to pull her out of her fight with Darth Vader in Star Wars Rebels, then we would have never seen her meet Din Djarin in The Mandalorian. Now that Lucasfilm has announced the character will get her own TV series, it’s time to address the bantha in the room: Will the upcoming show acknowledge its time-travel roots?

Ahsoka is poised to handle time travel in a way that’s wholly unique to the current sci-fi landscape, steering the series in more of a fantasy direction. Here’s what that might mean for the franchise, and for genre storytelling as a whole.

Time travel is on the table — Sure, Ahsoka is alive because of time travel, but there’s another good reason to believe the upcoming series could incorporate chronological hijinks. Some fans have pointed out that the logo for Ahsoka has an “o” remisicent of the time portals glimpsed in the World Between Worlds.

It seems unlikely this imagery would only feature as an Easter egg, with no real connection to what the show is about. Why evoke the World Between Worlds if you’re not going to actually show it? What’s more, the owl known as “the Morai” briefly appeared in The Mandalorian Season 2. It’s another hint that the World Between Worlds isn’t off the table, as Morai basically told Ezra to pull Ahsoka out of a time portal to save her from Vader.

Time travel would set Ahsoka apart from other Star Wars shows, opening up all sorts of storytelling possibilities.

Ezra, Ahsoka, and that pesky owl in Star Wars: Rebels.Lucasfilm

Second time around — In “The World Between Worlds,” Ahsoka strongly cautions Ezra against using the time portals a second time to save Kanan. She doesn’t mention the word “paradox,” but is concerned that if Ezra tries to change a specific event, the result could be terrible.

So why would she suddenly decide time travel is okay? There are a variety of possibilities, but the most compelling one seems to lead right back to the reason she’s alive at all: Ezra Bridger. Assuming that Ahsoka is still on her quest to find Ezra in the new series, she might use the World Between Worlds to rescue him from hyperspace exile. We don’t know precisely what she’s up to around the time of The Mandalorian, but because she’s looking for Grand Admiral Thrawn, there’s a good bet she (and maybe Sabine) are still searching for Ezra.

Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) discusses the Kelvin Universe with Kovich (David Cronenberg) in Star Trek: Discovery. You can’t imagine this kind of convo in Star Wars.CBS

A Star Wars take on time travel — Legit Star Wars canon has never quite presented alternate timelines, though certain Elseworlds-style stories have existed in various non-canon comics. (The Star Wars: Infinities comics are a notable example.) While some fans insist that there must be a divergent timeline because Ahsoka’s spirit spoke to Rey in The Rise of Skywalker, there’s actually nothing in existing canon to suggest that Ezra actually changed the timeline by saving Ahsoka. For all we know, he was always destined to do this — the ending of the Vader/Ahsoka duel always resulted in a predestination paradox. (Also, who’s to say Ahsoka didn’t die like a day before the events of The Rise of Skywalker?)

Star Wars doesn’t bother dipping into the nomenclature of popular time-travel stories, so we’re left to explain the mechanics of the World Between Worlds by borrowing rules and terms from other sci-fi franchises:

  • In 2009’s Star Trek, we’re told time travel to the past created an alternate universe.
  • Ditto for the beloved Doctor Who episode “Turn Left,” which presents a timeline in which the Doctor died because they never met Donna Noble.

If we assume that similar time travel rules apply to Star Wars, then suddenly you could have all kinds of divergent timelines, thanks to the World Between Worlds.

But why would Star Wars play by the time-travel rules of Star Trek and Doctor Who? Just because everyone else feels compelled to subscribe to the branching implications of a many-world theory, doesn’t mean Star Wars has to. Star Wars has the Force. Star Trek does not. Right away, that makes any hypothetical time travel in Ahsoka more like magic than science fiction.

This means if Ahsoka were to jump into the time portals of the World Between Worlds, there’s no reason to think it would become anything like Doctor Who or the various iterations of Star Trek time travel. Perhaps the better comparison might be Outlander or Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Fantasy time travel is different than science fiction time travel. Arguably, any new time travel in Star Wars will blur that line, but remember that this is the franchise of Chosen Ones, prophecies, and magic animals. If there is time travel in Ahsoka, it will certainly make the show bigger on the inside, but, don’t bet on any of those timey-wimey cliches coming from Snips.

Ahsoka is expected to debut sometime in 2022.