6 Questionable Moments From the Original Star Wars Script
There was some weird stuff going on when Star Wars was first put to paper.
Famously, the first draft of Star Wars/New Hope was initially titled ‘The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as taken from the Journal of the Whills’. Even though Lucas was eventually forced to remove the thrilling ‘Whills’ plotline – judged as simply being ‘too real’ by a panel of movie executives – we must never let ourselves forget just what the man is capable of coming up with when left to his own devices. Obviously the prequels help with that, but the first drafts of the original series were pretty fertile ground as well.
6. Ben, Jedi master
Obi-Wan stays plain Ben throughout the original scripts, but that’s probably the smallest departure from the finished product. The first warning signs come when he describes the glory days of the republic to Luke, when, according to him ‘all the solar systems were free…no taxes, no fear’, making him come off more like a libertarian doomsday prepper than a solemn warrior-monk. That said, the guy literally lives out in the desert with a stockpile of ancient weapons, so perhaps this isn’t too strange.
The ‘these aren’t the droids you’re looking for’ scene is gone, with Luke simply bluffing his way through the checkpoint, so our first actual taste of the force comes – depending on your point of view – when Ben cuts Pigface’s arm off in the cantina, or when Han casts doubts on ‘hokey religions and ancient weapons’, prompting Ben to use the force to set off Han’s blaster, just to prove him wrong. This shockingly casual use of the force is a bit of a theme in this early draft – after Vader finds that one guy’s lack of faith disturbing, and is shut down by Grand Moff Tarkin, in his impotent fury he uses the force to crush a cup.
Despite his shoot-from-the-hip approach to his faith, Ben acquits himself pretty well during a dogfight with TIE fighters, piloting the Falcon alongside Chewbacca. His stealth mission on the Death Star very nearly all goes to hell when he’s confronted by a gang of stormtroopers, who he immediately cuts to ribbons, which is only appropriate for this more bloodthirsty iteration of the character.
You may have heard that Obi-Wan being killed by Vader was Alec Guinness’s idea – Guinness hated everything about the role and, having already signed up for the whole trilogy, desperately wanted less screen time. Luckily, Guinness’s petty, diva-style insistence on a smaller role accidentally made the film fit Joseph Campbell’s ‘hero’s journey’ structure far better by killing off the mentor-figure in the same way as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, Dumbledore in Harry Potter, and Qui-Gon Jinn in a future instalment of Star Wars. As it was in this draft, after fighting Vader, Ben escapes the Death Star with the rest of the gang, and doesn’t get much else to do in the rest of the film – he briefs the rebel pilots on the Death Star attack plan, then gets creepily happy about Leia’s burgeoning attraction to Luke.
Sure, you might say that Lucas hadn’t even come up with the twist of them being brother and sister yet, and you’d probably be right. On the other hand, who’s to say that Lucas hadn’t conceived of incest as a way of becoming strong with the force? This is the guy who wanted Indiana Jones to bang a child, after all.
5. Vader relaxes at home
This one clearly made its impression in the minds of the various creatives behind Star Wars, since they eventually used it in Rogue One. You might think that Vader’s relatively spartan digs on the star destroyer made a little more sense for a Sith lord who’s on the go and on the job, but you’d be wrong – the practical option is obviously a clichéd villain-castle.
Rogue One did up the ante to it being built in a sea of lava instead of a common-or-garden red sea, because Vader will naturally have such good memories of lava planets after losing his limbs and most of his skin on one back in the day. However, not even the critically acclaimed Rogue One had the guts to include what everyone’s been waiting for – Vader having a bunch of inexplicable little pet gargoyles that he feeds out of a golden bowl.
A plotline involving Vader kidnapping a princess and tying her to railroad tracks while twirling his moustache was reportedly trimmed down to merely kidnapping a princess.
4. Dangerous Wildlife
Empire still kicks off with Luke out on patrol on Hoth, and getting jumped by the space yeti – it gets him when he’s gone off to look at a ‘real pretty ice formation’ rather than investigate the imperial probe, but basically familiar territory, right? And then we have the rebel base on Hoth being attacked by hostile forces. What’s changed? This time it isn’t the empire.
The yeti, presumably furious at Luke’s escape, has got its gang together and come for revenge. They get inside the base through the tunnels the rebels have been blowing into the ice, so to be fair to the yetis, the rebels are actively screwing with their natural habitat. A genuinely creepy, Alien-style arc of steadily increasing paranoia in the cramped Hoth corridors is completely undermined by the heavy-handed primordial ancestor of the Luke-Han-Leia love triangle, with exchanges like: “I know you better than you know yourself.” / “A man always hates to hear a woman tell him that. It might just be true, and what a catastrophe that would be!”
Eventually the yetis – who, just to be clear, are wild animals – manage to push the rebels – who, just to be clear, are people with guns – back to the hangars, forcing them into a last stand involving a Chewbacca/yeti fistfight and Luke making an ass of himself. By the time the empire shows up, the rebels are already on the point of evacuating, no doubt prompting a good chuckle.
A shadow of this subplot survived in a deleted scene, which – well, it works well enough in GIF form, and seems to show that at least someone involved with Empire saw a bit of comedy in the idea of being attacked by a swarm of yetis.
3. Dinner with Vader
When Vader surprises the gang at Cloud City, in the version we know, they go into the dining room and the door closes ominously behind them. In the original draft, instead of Han pulling his blaster and trying to ice Vader there and then, and Vader snarking ‘we would be honoured if you would join us’…they actually do join him for the universe’s most awkward sit-down dinner.
As Leia’s there, this probably counts as a family reunion – so naturally Han, as the prospective ne’er-do-well boyfriend in this equation, proceeds to get madman drunk. Leia herself doesn’t help matters, mocking Vader for being part-machine and so unable to eat and drink. Vader takes it in his stride, but you wouldn’t be surprised to see a stage direction referring to a single tear rolling down his mask.
Eventually, Han, Leia, and Chewie storm off (I’m going to my room, dad!), leaving Vader and Lando alone together. The script mentions Lando having lost his appetite – presumably Vader has altered the dishes of the meal, and Lando should pray he does not alter them further.
2. Luke transcends
Luke eventually has to leave his training with Yoda (or, in this version, Minch) early and go to Cloud City to rescue the gang. Cloud City, for those unlucky few who don’t know the Star Wars canon inside and out, is a floating city built in the upper atmosphere of a gas giant, which, like Jupiter in our galaxy, would at best have only a tiny solid core.. So naturally, Luke decides to go in on the ground to avoid detection, but then trouble strikes when he runs into hostile natives!
The cloud people (yes, really) aren’t bad guys – they just spot Luke’s lightsaber, and having only ever seen Vader using one before, break out the blowguns. Luckily, there’s no harm done, because Luke uses his burgeoning force powers to stop the darts in midair, where they fall harmlessly to the ground. Which – hang on, doesn’t this sound familiar?
As it turns out, Bahiri, leader of the cloud people, is Lando’s foster father, so helps Luke infiltrate Cloud City by pretending to have taken him prisoner. This goes south almost immediately when the cloud people refuse to be condescended to by stormtroopers, break out the blowguns again, and die horrible, senseless deaths. While this draft lacks the ‘I am your father reveal’, it does still have the Luke/Vader fight (in which Vader taunts Luke about having killed his father, no less), which – hang on, the chosen one stops all the projectiles and gets into a swordfight, that also sounds familiar!
Let this be a lesson to all screenwriters. An idea may have seemed absurd when it was in an early draft of a ‘70s space opera, but dress it up in early-2000s era black clothing and you never know how big it could be. In a different universe, Luke was dodging laser blasts in bullet-time gun kata stunts, and Neo lost his hand in a battle with Agent Smith seconds before discovering that the mechanical fed was somehow his father.
1. The ultimate showdown
In Return of the Jedi (or Revenge of the Jedi, as it was then, because as you may have gathered the tranquil mysticism of the Jedi gets pretty shaky in these) Luke never makes it to Dagobah – instead he, Han and R2 are jumped by sinister hooded figures directly after taking down Jabba the Hutt. They turn out to be working for the empire, so naturally they…take Luke, and leave Han be. Han, who is by this point General Solo of the Rebellion.
Luke is taken to the emperor, but this time there’s no father-son bonding first. In fact, in this draft the emperor is scrupulously keeping Luke and Vader apart, sensibly fearing that deep down Vader might still care for his son. To Vader’s disgust, the emperor doesn’t even tell him this himself, instead sending word via General Jerjerrod – interactions which basically prefigure the status-jockeying relationship between Hux and Ren in The Force Awakens, at least until Jerjerrod really pisses Vader off and gets his neck broken.
Instead of the final fight taking place on a half-built Death Star, it all goes down on the imperial capital planet Had Abbadon, specifically in an underground lava lake. The emperor’s plan is initially to turn Luke to the dark side – but then, through poorly defined force-magic, Obi-Wan and Yoda literally come back from the dead to help. Even though the emperor had forbidden from coming along, Vader pops up too. Now the stage is set for a massive lightsabre ghost gang brawl…
…so it ends up being Luke and Vader fighting while the emperor, Obi-Wan, and Yoda stand on the sidelines exchanging quips and explaining the plot. Eventually, when Luke has Vader on the ropes, the emperor hits Obi-Wan with the force lightning, but Yoda flits about in ghost form to block it. Unfortunately Yoda can only keep it up so long, and the emperor stands triumphant, pausing only to puzzle out the ‘there is another Skywalker’ prophecy – which in this case doesn’t mean Leia at all, but actually means that he was completely right not to trust Vader, who finally feels the good in himself and saves his son by grabbing the emperor and jumping into the lava.
If you’re counting, this makes the second time Vader has an unfortunate incident with a lake of lava, and he still wanted to have his holiday home next to one!
In the aftermath, as the gang parties with the ewoks, Vader also comes back from the dead, elevating the original script firmly into the realm of stories that have everyone living happily ever after and involve unicorns and fairies. The script doesn’t specify if he’s still in his terrifying Nazi-sorcerer armor, though even if he is, that arguably beats having the phantom of Hayden Christensen watching from the shadows, the incongruous editing seeming to suggest that he is still strong with the dark side of the force.