One of the often most criticized parts of Phantom Menace, and that of Episodes I-III in general, has to do with the appearance of the villains, in particular the Sith. The hateboys often times will go on record to say that they liked the fact that Darth Vader was a recurring villain in Episodes IV-VI, and that Darth Maul should have been the recurring villain of Episodes I-III. Here is why that was and is not a good idea.
For starters, the idea of having Maul run away from a Padawan, just after he killed his own master, completely destroys the legitimacy of Episode I, and his own character. Maul's ''death'' brings closure to the film itself, and allows to elevate the character of Obi-Wan. A great part of the reason why I love Obi-Wan Kenobi, and why he has been my favorite Star Wars character ever since I was a 5-year old boy who watched Phantom Menace in theaters, has to do with the fact that yes, he ''killed'' the supporting villain of the story. We obviously know that Jedi are only supposed to kill in self defense, and that is exactly what Obi-Wan did, which brings to show you how much he personifies the Jedi Code itself.
Going back to Maul, even if you find a way to keep him alive while not destroying Episode I, you still have to face the fact that it's going to be difficult for this guy to be running around from the Jedi for a decade until the Clone Wars start. He would have been more of Obi-Wan's foil than he ever was of Anakin, since well, Anakin only knew Qui-Gon for like a few days, while Qui-Gon had been Obi-Wan's father figure. Bringing Obi-Wan towards the dark side simply isn't how the story goes, nor is it in the nature of his character. And besides, a duel between Yoda and Maul simply won't work: Yoda would kick Maul's ass in five minutes similar to how Sidious kicked his ass in the Clone Wars. Having Maul die at the hands of Yoda would force Sidious to get some kind of apprentice to run the Separatists for him, and that villain would have had only minor screen time in Revenge of the Sith. So in the end, it was a wise choice to have Maul ''die'' in Episode I, and have Count Dooku be the villain later on.
In Part 2 of this series, I will discuss about Maul's return in the Clone Wars, and how his return is different from that of other Star Wars characters. I will see if I can also talk about why Count Dooku is a great Star Wars villain.