Let me interrupt myself to link to an 80% accurate leak of the Star Wars script from May. It's accurate enough to tell that the leaks were legit and that the script was changed in several places after the leak. Most of these changes were positive improvements to the movie.
What Tang Expects from Episode 8
To spoil Episode 7 for anyone who hasn't seen it or the complaints yet, Rey and Finn are too good with a lightsaber for having no training, and Rey with no training is more powerful with the force than Luke was with training. We deserve some explanations in Episode 8, so let's fic this up.
Rey was trained as a Jedi
This is easy. Rey was a Jedi kid who got away before Kylo Ren killed everyone. Someone who saw the trouble coming had used the force on her to make her forget: "You will remember nothing of where you were trained or who trained you."
In episode 8, Luke tells her: "You will remember." And we get a sequence of her training as a child, and her Mary Sue-ness in the last movie is explained.
Finn was trained as a stormtrooper (duh!)
So Finn picks up a lightsaber and isn't totally confused by it and manages to fight with it. Even though he loses both fights, it's hard to believe. We have another piece of information to work with. The "Traitor!" stormtrooper established that some stormtroopers have training in hand-to-hand combat.
So in Episode 8 we see Finn, angry at himself for losing, training with a plasteel sword, clearly knowing how to use it, and complaining about how it handles differently from the lightsaber with the drag and the weight of the blade. His sparring partner C-3PO complains about not being designed for combat, and Finn says that's had the technicians install a swordfighting program in him. Finn rips open the wound in his back while training, and that's the end of his swordfighting in Episode 8.
The medical staff give him a torso brace so he does not bend and open his wound again. He looks at himself in the mirror and he sort of looks like a stormtrooper again. He walks out of medical with his brace and a walking stick. One nearby Rebellion guy jabs another and jokes "Look out! It's a stormtrooper!" Soon they're in the bar buying him drinks while he tells them stories about the First Order, and someone comes up to ask him if he is that guy who was on that mission to sabotage the oscillator. So Finn who woke up that morning not knowing if he would ever walk again is now in the position of having fans fawn over him for his heroics that he does not think is that big of a deal, but to everyone else he is a hero.
So Finn is stuck in a chair for the rest of the movie. What can he do from a chair? He really admires the X-wing pilot Poe Dameron so he practices on a trainer to learn to fly. He sucks at it. Poe helps him train until the point that he can perform simple maneuvers, but as Poe tells another pilot behind Finn's back, he has no natural sense for it. He has no grace. They might as well let the repair droid fly the X-wing.
They get a new shipment of replacement X-wings, but they don't have pilots. They let Finn go on a training mission because he has been hogging the simulator and has been training more than anyone else. The training wing gets jumped by tie fighters and they have Finn and the other newbies circle around until they are engaged while the experts get to work in the dogfight. In the end Finn doesn't shoot down anything but it's a victory because no friendlies are shot down.
What other chair can Finn sit in? A command chair. He gets some attention from General Leia and ends up in the command room during an engagement. He starts to break down in tears when he realizes that the small dots on the screen are his friends and not all of them are coming back. In the First Order they trained to avoid these feelings and they were not allowed to be friends. The Rebellion is different. The feelings are new to him and hit him hard, but he recovers and pledges to bring back as many as he can.
General Leia is a fucking Jedi Master, damn it
So let's review the overall story going back to Episode 4. This ass-kicking warrior princess on the losing side of a war is introduced to a great source of power that can win the war for her people and which has a special attachment to her family line. Don't try to tell me she doesn't take full advantage of it. So let's imagine what might happen in episode 8.
It is mentioned that General Leia has never lost an engagement against the First Order. The First Order commander says that is because she runs away from any fight she might lose.
Near the end of the movie there's a couple of big Star Destroyers searching for Leia's ship. The outnumbered X-Wings draw the Tie Fighters away into an asteroid field by giving orders in the clear to refuel at a secret base that does not exist. The Star Destroyers launch a large number of fighters to sweep the whole field for the secret base while the friendlies hide out and hope to be rescued.
A friendly force sends fighters to reinforce Leia's force. Leia directs them to attack the enemy fleet instead. The Star Destroyers launch more of their fighters to hold them off. Judging by the pattern on the scanner, it looks like they launched all wings. Leia asks Finn how long it will take them to launch another wing. It will take them five minutes. Leia announces that they will use attack plan one. She puts a commander in charge of tactical, leaves her command chair, sits in the corner, and opens a line of communications to the starboard torpedo room.
Leia's small battle group warps into light speed and quickly drops out next to the First Order fleet where they immediately unload on the nearest ship and cripple it. The tactical commander gives orders to maneuver against the nearest Star Destroyer, using its bulk as cover against the other one. Leia, with closed eyes and a hand to her head, repeats numbers. "Fourth derivative, square root of fifty-four over fourteen..." In the torpedo room, a droid adjusts settings of a torpedo.
Back to the bridge. The Star Destroyer lies in the center of the screen. Someone says "We're targeting them. They're targeting us." Leia opens her eyes and announces "Fire!" The tactical commander orders them to fire forward flak cannons.
On the First Order ship, different crewmen report.
"Their weapons are detonating outside of our defenses. If it is a matter propeller, I am not detecting any impact."
"It's spreading out. Could it be a corrosive weapon?"
"They might intend for the debris to interfere with our targeting. We can still lock on to their ship."
"Expulsion detected. They have fired a single torpedo."
The First Order commander reacts. "What is in that torpedo? All batteries, shoot it down! Switch to manual control if you have to!"
All of their fire misses as the torpedo slams into the ship's shields and its explosion causes a visible ripple. Power goes out in the nearest shield generator room. The stormtroopers remove a panel and slam a circuit breaker to restore power, but the main generator is fried.
With the shields down, the cruiser's precise attacks hit armories and other critical targets. The cruiser passes over the disabled Star Destroyer as secondary explosions rip through the larger ship, and they prepare to repeat the process with the other Star Destroyer.
On the bridge of the remaining Star Destroyer the admiral demands an explanation from the crew as to what happened to the other Star Destroyer "so it does not happen to us." Someone replies that their shield generator was taken out by an electrical overload after they were hit by the first missile. Another crewman says that a resonant wave weapon could cause the energy from the shields to backfire into the ship's electrical systems which would explain the power failures they reported, but the Resistance would have had to know the exact electromagnetic frequency of the shield generator. Someone had to have leaked that information. The admiral orders the crew to recycle the shields and bring them back up at a non-factory setting. "That will leave us exposed." "Then do it now!"
Back on her cruiser, Leia is repeating numbers again. "Second derivative, four over the square root of..." She suddenly opens her eyes. "Forward cannons, target their center shield generator. Fire! Fire now!"
On the star destroyer bridge, "Shields back up in three... two... one..." They watch a small shot streak in and strike the shield generator as soon as it hums to life. "Sir, we've lost the central deflector. The bridge is undefended." The admiral, the same officer who disparaged Leia earlier, stands in admiration. "She is perfect. A computer could not be more precise." Then a shot rips through the bridge.
In a room deep inside the aft section of the star destroyer, the Third Officer dispatches repair teams.
Lieutenant: "Sir, four more off-shift engineers are reporting for duty."
Third Officer: "Position them two bulkheads behind the advance teams in case they take fire. Get suits on them!"
Lieutenant: "You two, Section 32, third floor. You two, Section 32, fifth floor."
Comms Officer: "Sir, we have re-established contact with the central computer system."
Third Officer: "It's about time." He looks at a map of the ship that is mostly empty except for the rear. "Where is the rest of the ship?"
Comms Officer: "Down, sir. Or not in contact."
Creaking metal is heard and half of the lights on the screen go dim.
Third Officer: "That was not good."
Comms Officer: "Sir, we have a report from the forward galley."
Another crewman: "The dining hall?"
Comms Officer: "It's from the front of the ship."
Third Officer: "This is Third Officer $NAME in aft control room two. What is your situation up there?"
Shaky Voice: "Most of our guns are out. They've been hitting the magazines and capacitors behind them with armor piercers. Where are our escorts?"
Third Officer: "Our escorts were engaging their escorts. Is there any word on their status from the bridge?"
Shaky Voice: "The bridge was the first place they knocked out. We lost the whole command staff."
Comms Officer: "Sir, you might be the ranking officer of the fleet."
Lieutenant: "Sir, one of our crews has given us a video feed of the hull. It doesn't look good."
The video pans over their ship showing the heavy damage caused by the secondary explosions of weapon magazines. The video pans away from their own ship to show Leia's ship advancing and firing leaving the other star destroyer split in two behind them. The aft section of the other star destroyer explodes as fire reaches its fuel storage.
Third Officer: "Do we have any reliable intership communications system?"
Lieutenant: "We might be able to rig something up."
Third Officer: "Signal General Leia's ship and tell them that we might be willing to discuss terms of surrender."
Lieutenant: "... yes, sir."
... The battle is not over yet ...
On one of the First Order's escort ships returning to the battle, the comms officer tells the captain that the flagship has signalled their surrender. The captain replies that the flagship may have surrendered but they have not.
On Leia's ship, a crewman says that one of the First Order frigates is bearing down in an attack pattern. Another says that they are almost out of ammunition. The tactical officer tells Leia "we could use some magic." Finn says "We have some. Friendly fighters will be here in twenty seconds." Leia stands up, walks to the viewscreen, and says "Brave captain. You will not be able to survive this fight."
On the First Order frigate, a crewman says they will be in firing range in five seconds. Three X-Wing warp in and turn towards the frigate. Cut to an outside shot of the fighters firing at the frigate. Back inside, a crewman says there was minimal damage "but we can expect them to turn around and make a pass at our engines." The captain thinks for a moment. "We will not be able to survive this fight. Adjust course five degrees and go to lightspeed. But first, we will send General Leia a gift."
The frigate fires several small missiles. Leia uses a Force Push to activate the triggers of two of them, causing them to detonate well way from the ship. The others strike the side of the ship, causing heavy additional damage to a ship that had already suffered severe damage from the combat and from its proximity to the explosions on the first Star Destroyer.
After the battle...
Large swarms of Tie Fighters return to the fight. The Rebellion informs them that they will stand down if they want a place to land. After confirming the surrender with the surviving Star Destroyer, they agree.
Some of the Tie Fighters may strike space debris on their way back, knocking them out. They cut speed and swing around the battlefield to use the surviving star destroyer as a shield. One of the pilots wishes he had deflector shields.
Every large ship is disabled. The Resistance reinforcements arrive to secure the area. As the First Order just lost the core of their fleet, the Resistance has more nearby battle groups than they do, and they are not aware of the condition of Leia's battle group, the nearby First Order forces decide to withdraw.
Finn wants to know how Leia blew up the missiles. "Show me how you did that!"
Leia may have an aneurysm from the mental strain. This was an absurd level of Force use even for increasingly absurd movies.
X-wings escort Imperial shuttlecraft to the asteroid field to pick up the abandoned pilots. The pilots are not convinced they are friendly, but they tell the pilots what happened and "We have fuel and air." That sounds friendly enough to the stranded pilots.
Leia offers the surrendered First Order forces the opportunity to return to the First Order, join the Resistance, or go to neutral territory. Most choose to return. Transports land on a First Order world. Hundreds of "stormtroopers" arrive, filing out of the transports, unarmed and out of their suits, although knowing the First Order they are probably still wearing uniforms of some sort.
First Order admiralty wants to see the Third Officer who surrendered. Stormtroopers bring in his body, with a gun in his hand and and a hole in his chest. This changes their plans of what they were going to do with him.
Where might these plot threads lead in Episode 9?
The stormtroopers who returned from the battle are met with distrust from the rest of the First Order, which gives them a sense of resentment. The rest of the First Order considers them cowards, incompetent, or both. They are given increasingly menial and cruel duties, at first to give them something to do, then to prove their loyalty, and then for the enjoyment of those giving the orders. The stormtroopers don't feel they deserve it. They never surrendered.
The cruelty reaches a height when an officer orders one of the soldiers to jump to his death off a cliff. When battle comes and they face off against old comrades from their ship who joined the Resistance and say life is different on the other side, the stormtroopers throw down their weapons, as do many others from the local unit who saw how they were treated.
Return to the scene of the battle
The surviving Star Destroyer is reclassified as a supply depot because it is not going anywhere for a while. Rey flies the Millennium Falcon to this Resistance supply depot that someone told her about. When she drops out of lightspeed and sees a Star Destroyer where the supply depot was supposed to be, she panics and turns the ship around.
Luke tells her to "trust in the Force. What do you feel?"
Rey: "I feel like we should get away from that star destroyer as fast as we can!"
Luke: "What do you sense?"
Rey: "We can meditate when we are back in light speed."
Chewbacca reads the friendly Resistance signal from the star destroyer. He flips a switch to disable the hyperdrive, leans back in his chair, and puts his feet up.
Rey yells at him, pouts for a moment, says "fine", and begins meditating. Luke says "Clear your mind..." She gives him a That's Not Helping look and he nods.
A message comes in over the radio. "This is supply station $NAME to $DESCRIPTION freighter. Are you in need of any assistance?" That settles that.
As they approach for a landing. The wookie screams at seeing the wreckage of Leia's ship.
Rey: "What is he upset about?"
Luke: "He says that the wreck out there was my sister's ship."
Rey: "I hope she made it out all right."
Luke: "As do I."
The wrecked ship
Leia's ship is a wreck and cannot be salvaged. To maintain her reputation they have to go to a shipyard and pick up a new ship of the same class that is nearly complete, rename it, and pretend it is her old ship.
By the end of episode 9 enough repairs have been made to both the old ship and the star destroyer to make them just functional enough to move and be seen on scanners as reinforcements during a critical engagement. Maybe the destroyer has enough tie fighters to launch but no pilots, so they can launch waves of fighters that only go in a straight line until they run out of fuel (it's a movie, Isaac Newton). Whether the bluff works or not depends on the story at that point.
How do we outdo the Death Planet?
The old Star Wars had a planet blower upper the size of a moon. The new Star Wars has a planet blower upper the size of a planet. You can't get much more impressive than that. What can we do that is impressive?
Concept: A space station of artificial rings encircling a gas giant. Probes extend downwards into the atmosphere to both balance the station and transfer matter and energy. The entire planet glows and storms form in its clouds as the station pumps energy into the giant to cause a reaction that produces energy that can be drawn. This idea is more of an interesting location than a weapon. Perhaps it was originally a power station and/or refueling point and had been abandoned for a very long time.
Concept: Go smaller. Somebody is building a miniaturized Death Star that cannot blow up a planet but can cause enough environmental damage to ruin the day of anyone on it. The stated purpose of the weapon is to wipe out star destroyers and other large ships at a distance. Its builders jump it into a battle, fry a couple of First Order ships, put a few black marks on the First Order's capitol planet, and gloat about how these relatively inexpensive ships can keep the peace. Luke and Leia are not pleased.
The Final Battle
Leia and Kylo Ren face off in a lightsaber duel. While Kylo knows that he has to kill her to fully turn himself over to the Dark Side, Leia cannot bring herself to kill her own son. Leia warns him: "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can imagine." Kylo Ren swings and Leia's body vanishes, leaving her clothes behind.
Later, Rey faces off against Kylo Ren for their final battle. They circle each other warily, looking for an opening. Suddenly Leia's ghost appears over Kylo Ren's shoulder. "Look at you, beating up on a little girl. Is that what they teach in the Dark Side?"
Leia's Ghost: "And she looks like such a nice girl, too. Why don't you marry her? I would like to see grandchildren some day."
Leia's Ghost: "Even Anakin thinks you're going in the wrong direction. Isn't that right?"
Vader's Ghost: "Yeah, man. What's with you?"