Time travel has been part of the Star Wars galaxy since 2018, and it looks set to play a major role in the franchise’s future – particularly in the upcoming Ahsoka Disney+ TV show. Time travel is a common science-fiction and science-fantasy trope, but it needs to be handled with care. Because time travel is only theoretical in the real world, every franchise has to establish its own “rules,” and it’s very hard to handle them consistently. Take the example of Avengers: Endgame in the MCU, where even the film’s writers and directors don’t agree on the temporal mechanics.
Star Wars has generally been wary of time travel. It was featured occasionally in the old Expanded Universe; Paul S. Kemp’s novel Crosscurrent featured an event where ancient Sith were transported to the present day, while the Legacy of the Force series created a whole new Force-power called “Flow Walking,” which potentially allowed a Jedi to change the past. These ideas were abandoned when Disney branded the old Expanded Universe non-canon (or “Legends“). Time travel was subsequently avoided – at least until Star Wars Rebels season 4, in which Ezra Bridger accessed a mysterious realm called the World Between Worlds. This mysterious plane of existence transcends time and space – and appears to be a canon use of time travel. But how does it work?
Time Travel is a Logical Aspect of the Force
The Force transcends time and space, as proven by the numerous Force-users who have experienced visions of the past or the future. Ancient Force-sensitives appear to have been able to peer through the millennia, producing cryptic prophecies such as that of the Chosen One. The pursuit of such abilities was distrusted by the prequel trilogy, with Yoda in particular fearful some would move from visions of the future to trying to control time. Still, Jedi such as Sifo-Dyas possessed an innate connection with the flow of time, while the likes of Quinlan Vos, Cal Kestis, and – by the sequel era – Rey possessed the rare power of psychometry, allowing them to experience the past when they touch an object.
Certain Force vergence – places and planets rich in the Force – prompt experiences that affect the flow of time. This can be seen in The Empire Strikes Back, where the cave on Dagobah clearly involved a sense of time dilation. The book From A Certain Point Of View features a short story from the perspective of Obi-Wan Kenobi, confirming a Force Ghost – a Jedi who has become one with the Force, essentially a permanent mystical experience – transcends time completely. All this establishes a clear precedent for a living Jedi to be able to find union with the Force, and somehow use it for time travel. And that is where the World Between Worlds comes in.
Why the World Between Worlds is the Only Place Where Time Travel Was Possible
The World Between Worlds is essentially another plane of existence, one that transcends time and space and can be accessed only through the Force. As Star Wars Rebels showrunner Dave Filoni explained in an interview with Nerdist, it was inspired by the C.S. Lewis novel The Magician’s Apprentice, where a crazed scientist discovered a way to access the Wood Between The Worlds – a forest where every pool in the wood linked to a different point in spacetime (and indeed where other worlds could be accessed; in Lewis’ account, the events in this story created the links between Earth and Narnia). The Star Wars equivalent is more abstract, but the same portals are there as a clear homage to Lewis.
The precise nature of the World Between Worlds is unclear, but it appears to be a dimensional plane where two aspects of the Force – the Cosmic Force that binds the universe together and the Living Force which is associated with life – come together in union. “You have to be careful when you’re moving through these big powerful dimensions and what you’re wishing for,” Filoni cautioned, reflecting on the episodes in which Ezra explored the World Between Worlds. “Everything [Ezra] wishes for, out loud, is a dangerous thing to do. If you watch and listen when Ezra talks and he makes certain statements, there’ll be a thunder clap, and that thunder is representative of something else listening. There’s multiple things going on in there and everything becomes a choice between how you want to use power and control, and influence others.” No doubt this is where the distinction between the light side and the dark side comes in; the dark side seeks to use the World Between Worlds, with Palpatine believing it the key to enormous power, while the light side would crave only wisdom through it.
Why Time Travel Doesn’t Break Star Wars Canon
Some viewers are naturally concerned that time travel leaves continuity and canon in flux, but Filoni has always insisted that won’t be an issue. “It’s not really a thing where you go through one door and out another in a different time,” he explained in a featurette on the Star Wars Rebels season 4 Blu-Ray. “You can gain knowledge of the future or futures that may happen, and you can see things that happened in the past. You can at times choose to alter them, but it’s perilous to do so and when you alter something you don’t know if that’s not the way it always happened.” Filoni implies that any attempts to change the timeline have already been written into the flow of history – meaning Ezra never really changed history when he saved Ahsoka, merely doing what he was always meant to do.
How The World Between Worlds Fits Into The Ahsoka Disney+ TV Show
There’s strong evidence the World Between Worlds will return in the upcoming Ahsoka Disney+ TV show. The Ahsoka logo evokes the World Between Worlds, and the first Ahsoka trailer shows its protagonist exploring a temple reminiscent of Lothal, with carvings evoking the World Between Worlds. This is presumably another gateway into this mysterious and dangerous aspect of the Force, although it is unclear how the World Between Worlds fits into the plot. Ahsoka is later shown battling Imperial agents there, perhaps implying there’s something of a race to get to the World Between Worlds, but it remains to be seen why the Empire would covets its power. Whatever the World Between Worlds’ role may be, Ahsoka will surely reveal more about this most intriguing aspect of Star Wars.