Had Qui-Gon Jinn survived Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, he would have become the Emperor's greatest threat. Liam Neeson's Qui-Gon Jinn has long fascinated fans; Obi-Wan's Jedi Master, Qui-Gon seemed to be an unusually reflective Jedi, one with a wisdom that potentially outstripped even Master Yoda. He was tragically struck down by Darth Maul at the end of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, but his influence continued; Qui-Gon was the first Jedi Master we know of to learn how to retain his consciousness after death.
All this means that Qui-Gon Jinn has become something of a legend in the Star Wars franchise. A legend that Lucasfilm has recently begun to explore, with Claudia Grey's novel Master & Apprentice, Cavan Scott's audiobook Dooku: Jedi Lost, and even a recent tie-in comic from Marvel. All this means fans can know Qui-Gon Jinn better than ever before - and it's become clear that he was the one Jedi Master the Sith needed to kill for their plans to come to fruition.
Because the truth is, Qui-Gon Jinn was a unique Jedi, one who stood on the fringes of the Order and yet had enough influence to potentially disrupt all of Palpatine's plans. Truly the dark side favored Palpatine when Maul succeeded in killing Master Qui-Gon Jinn.
Qui-Gon Understood the Prophecy of the Chosen One
Qui-Gon Jinn understood the prophecy of the Chosen One in a way none of the other Jedi did. The prophecy of the Chosen One predated the Jedi Order, and over the millennia the Jedi had stopped studying it. Master Yoda actively discouraged examining the prophecies, believing that they served as a conduit to the dark side; he argued that to attempt to control the future is to resist the will of the Force. Qui-Gon Jinn, however, took a much more nuanced view. He believed that the Force could reveal aspects of the future; and if the Force has revealed it, how can studying its revelation possibly be against the Force's will? As a result, he'd spent countless hours poring over the prophecies.
The Jedi Order seemed to have assumed that each line of prophecy should be read as separate. That's why they never placed the prophecy of the Chosen One in context, tying it to disturbing lines that speak of "the sacrifice of many Jedi" and the cleansing of the Order's own sin. But the events of the book Master & Apprentice revealed to Qui-Gon Jinn that he was living in the time of prophecy - and made him suspect that the prophecies intertwined. Indeed, the return of the Sith itself is another prophecy from the same block, so Qui-Gon would no doubt have been concerned by the coinciding of these two events. Had he survived Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, he'd have dedicated a lot of time to examining the prophecies and working out how they related to current events. What's more, had he been the one to mentor Anakin, he'd have ensured his new Padawan was familiar with the prophecies as well.
Qui-Gon Would Have Been A Better Mentor For Anakin
The Chosen One was prophesied to bring about "ultimate balance," and the Jedi appear to have interpreted that as referring purely to the destruction of the Sith. It's doubtful that Qui-Gon Jinn would have made the same mistake; he was an unusual Jedi in that he was willing to learn from other Force traditions. As a result, Qui-Gon had a very different idea of what "balance" meant. For the Council, balance meant that the Force has produced a champion to vanquish the darkness, leaving only the light. For Qui-Gon, it involved the acceptance of darkness, so that light might overcome it. That's why Qui-Gon wasn't disturbed when he sensed darkness as well as light inside of Anakin; he knew that was part and parcel of what the Chosen One was supposed to be.
And yet, Qui-Gon would have insisted on teaching Anakin that it still mattered whether he chose the light side or the dark. "For every action we undertake, for every word we speak, for every life we touch - it matters," Qui-Gon argued in Master & Apprentice. "I don't turn toward the light because it means someday I'll "win" some sort of cosmic game. I turn toward it because it is the light." That philosophy would surely have been helpful to Anakin Skywalker; the Chosen One wouldn't have been trained to suppress the dark, but to acknowledge it and to reflect upon it. Frankly, it's not inconceivable that Qui-Gon would have ultimately decided some elements of the Jedi teachings were an obstacle to his Padawan rather than an aid to him; it's worth remembering Qui-Gon was willing to leave the Order so as to teach Anakin. Qui-Gon demonstrated he didn't need approval from the Jedi to do what he thought was right, and it was ultimately Anakin's desire for approval from the Jedi, their refusal to give it, and Sheev Palpatine's open arms that led him to betray the order.
Qui-Gon Knew What It Was To Love
Anakin Skywalker's fall was largely a result of his forbidden love for Padmé Amidala. Oddly, though, Master & Apprentice hints that Qui-Gon Jinn would have helped his Padawan with that issue as well; although the book doesn't give any details, it alludes to a forbidden romance in Qui-Gon's own past. He seems to have fallen in love himself, and though he ultimately chose the Jedi Order, it was a close call. In fact, Qui-Gon even kept a gift from his lover, a precious Mustafarian fire diamond that he kept with him at all times.
What's more, again this returns us to the fact that Qui-Gon expected the Chosen One to be an agent of balance - not necessarily a Jedi at all. He would have empathized with his Padawan's love for Padmé, and would have rather Anakin was true to himself - even if that meant leaving the Jedi - than lived a double-life. One thing Qui-Gon would not have done, though, was brushed it under the carpet; both The Clone Wars and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith strongly suggested Obi-Wan had known about Anakin and Padmé all along, but had chosen to look the other way.
Qui-Gon Would Have Undermined the Clone Wars
But Qui-Gon wouldn't have just caused problems for Palpatine's plans for Anakin Skywalker; he'd also have critically undermined the Clone Wars themselves. Unlike many of the Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn had no veneration of the Republic. He was conscious of the Republic's flaws, believing it compromised too much and had failed to enforce the rights of its subjects. Worse still for Palpatine, Qui-Gon was vocal in his criticisms, and actively worked to find a way around the Republic's limitations. As an example, Qui-Gon disliked the fact the Republic allowed slaves to be ferried through its space, so long as they hadn't become slaves on a Republic world. In Master & Apprentice, he skillfully navigated around legal constraints to find a way to free hundreds of such slaves. He was also very much aware that the Republic focused too much on the Core Worlds, and pushed the Jedi to be as concerned with matters on the Rim. In the end, the political and economic inequality that flourished under the Republic became one of the driving forces for the Separatist movement. Qui-Gon would have been an influential and respected voice, preventing worlds joining the Separatists and encouraging them to reform the Republic instead.
Making matters worse, Qui-Gon had close ties to Count Dooku, his old Jedi Master. Although the two don't seem to have had any contact after Dooku left the Jedi, Qui-Gon would nonetheless have been concerned when the Count of Serenno became a leader in the Separatist cause. He wouldn't have underestimated Dooku's influence, and would no doubt have attempted to meet with his old Master to talk him round. In a worst-case scenario for Palpatine, the tremendously Force-sensitive Qui-Gon would have sensed the dark side around Dooku, and perhaps even have experienced a vision of the future Dooku was working to bring about on Palpatine's behalf. The entire Clone Wars strategy could potentially have been undermined by this one Jedi Master.
This wasn't mere luck on Palpatine's part, though. The reality is that those prophecies - including the ones foretelling the fall of the Jedi Order - are supposed to represent the will of the Force, as the Force itself actively works towards a position of balance. As such, Qui-Gon Jinn's death wasn't just an unfortunate incident; it was part of the pattern. Only Qui-Gon Jinn could have possibly recognized the Chosen One, because he was the one Jedi who had studied the prophecy and believed the time foretold was at hand. But once he'd done his part, his commitment to the light side of the Force would have actively undermined the rest of the process; as such, it was the will of the Force that he had to die.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019