Return of the Jedi
US: May 1983
The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia
US: Dec 2008
Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas
US: May 1999
The Secret History of Star Wars
US: Nov 2008
If there is any one universal pop-cultural truth out there (besides the obvious, that MAD Magazine is better than Cracked) it’s that no matter how much education we have, no matter how intellectual we become, no matter how high-minded our pursuits, Star Wars still rules. Sure we’ll talk ‘til our mouths are dry about the comparative merits of Olivier’s vs. Branagh’s Henry V and Hamlet versions, but we’re also all about murdering, dissecting and figuring out what makes all of our pop culture favorites tick, especially Star Wars!
Case in Point: George Lucas is the singular mind behind the Star Wars trilogies (whether you recognize the prequels as more than boiled hogwash in a rusty spit cup or not). It’s no secret, however, that Lucas didn’t have every little plot point figured out way before the original 1977 film, no matter how much he would love for you to believe that he did. For example, originally, Vader and Anakin were two distinctly different dudes, Luke and Leia were fast on the freeway to a romance made in Galactic Imperial Match.com, and C-3PO was no more Luke’s “half-brother” than R2-D2 was Luke’s Hoover Vacuum cleaner!
So what about all of those crazy early drafts of this famous amalgamation of Uncle George’s sweet day dreams? To celebrate the added “layers” of unnecessary 3D onto both Trilogies, here are some actual plot layers straight out of George Lucas’ old plans that just might have made Star Wars a more engrossing saga (in somebody’s mind, anyway) and at the very least it would have turned out completely different.
1. Uncle Owen is Obi-Wan’s brother, not Anakin’s step-brother! (Original Trilogy, Episodes IV - VI)
In the film Attack of the Clones, Uncle-to-Be Owen says to Anakin “I guess you’re my stepbrother!” causing big fat, pony-tailed, goateed fan boys to shift uncomfortably in their stretched out sweat pants and cry out “Wait, WHAT?!”
Why? Because those true believers knew what most devoted Star Wars fans had known for over a decade. Anakin wasn’t “Uncle” Owen’s big brother, Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi was Owen’s big brother. And how did they know? Because Star Wars literature specifically said so.
Early scripts of Return of the Jedi show that this was the original intention, If you doubt it, check out James Khan’s novel adaptation of the George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan screenplay where Obi-Wan spells it out in no uncertain terms: “So I took you to live with my brother Owen, on Tatooine… and your mother took Leia to live as the daughter of Senator Organa on Alderaan.”
If that’s not enough, the Canonical Star Wars Encyclopedia illustrated this fine fact for us in detail as did The Essential Guide to Characters and A Guide to the Star Wars Universe.
The Senator Organa thing came to pass, what’s with all of the “Fire Uncle Owen” nonsense? Could this have been awesome? Just imagine an entire new history for both Obi-Wan and the Jedi.
Much as we saw Dooku and Anakin taking on new names once they become Sith (Tyrannus and Vader, respectively), might becoming a Jedi have once also meant taking on a Nom de Guerre? (Or in this case a new Nom de Guerre des Etoiles?) This sure would go a long way toward explaining why an old white guy from a desert neighborhood with neighbors named “Luke” and “Owen” has a cool Samurai name like “Obi-Wan Kenobi”.
Could good old Obi the Vader-Slayer actually have grown up with the name “Ben Lars”? It’s got a ring to it, no?
But setting all of that aside… this would solve one massive plot hole.
Who hasn’t wondered why between Episodes III and IV, the artist formerly known as Anakin Skywalker never swooped back to his old stomping grounds to wipe out those who know the most about his past and prevent any embarrassing Kindergarten Yearbook photos from popping up on the Imperial Internet?
The Jedi geniuses didn’t even change Luke’s name when they hid him… why wouldn’t a dark light bulb glow above Darth’s helmet? “Some kid named ‘Skywalker’ living at my Mom’s old place? Totally can’t be a coincidence, man, I HAVE A SON!”
In this alternate concept for Obi-Wan and Owen, that answer would be clear! Vader’s most interested response might go a little something like “Where in the galaxy is Tatooine and why should I give two darns?”
It’s impossible to know for sure why this one never happened, aside from Lucas’ lamentable need to make everything “Literal”.
Circa 2001 he probably said something like “Oh no, I forgot to have Qui-Gon Jinn get romantic with Shmi Skywalker before they left Mos Espa. Heck! Um… (scribble, scribble)... ‘he totally finds out he had a step-brother, because his ma got married later, then got dragged off by a Tusken… Raider… and that qualifies old Owen to be thought of… as… Luke’s… family… in Yoda’s… mind… and…’ Huh? Yeah, I’d love some Pizza, sure!”
2. Darth Vader has a brother. It’s Boba Fett! (This Primarily relates to the Original Trilogy, but was set to be announced in the Prequel Trilogy, Episodes I - III)
Going hand-in-hand with that last entry, imagine Owen is still the little brother of smilin’ “Ben Lars” (now going by his stage name of “MASTER Obi-Wan Kenobi, that’s who.”), what if Vader did have a brother and what if that brother became the most feared and dangerous Bounty Hunter in History?
That very idea was one of the things Lucas was throwing around for the Prequels… to the point that his ex-wife even reported that fact to Dale Pollock’s acclaimed book, Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas. As accounted Skywalking, Marcia Lucas said “George had Boba Fett and Vader being brothers in the prequels.”
This would have been awesome! Imagine Vader and Fett, back-to-back lightsabering and raygunning down cowardly Jedi and Gungans alike just for the fun of it. The Vader Brothers would be more legendary than the Righteous Brothers, the Ringling Brothers, the Brothers Grimm and the Warner Brothers all put together.
Why did that never happen? Well, according to that same Reader’s Digest article, Lucas abandoned the idea as being “too hokey”, and in this case, as incredible a venture as the Vader Bros might have been, we have to step back, take a geek pill and admit that this is the truth. Star Wars is already packed with revelations of surprising family ties that increasingly have become more and more and more of a stretch. Still the sibling rivalry would have been absolutely incredible to witness. (So… “Go Team Vader!”)
3. Anakin falls to the dark side, in part, because of an Obi-Wan, Padme, Anakin love triangle! (Prequel Trilogy, Episodes I - III)
Lines like “I don’t want to hear any more about Obi-Wan”, and accusations such as “You’re with him! You brought him here to kill me!” sound a lot like a jealous husband’s tirade against a mutual (turned suspicious) “friend.” When Padme says she can’t follow him down this path, Anakin’s response is “Because of Obi-Wan?”
Is there any substance to this? According to Lucas biographer Dale Pollack there is. In his book, Skywalking, Pollack’s research revealed that there would “also be a torrid love triangle among the grown-up Queen (who will give birth to twins, Luke and Leia), Annakin [sic] Skywalker, and Ben Kenobi. The consequences of this love triangle are one of the great betrayals layered throughout the three prequels that have enormous impact on all of the major characters in the story.”
Could this idea of the love triangle have worked? Check out Emperor Palpatine’s line in Return of the Jedi relating to the new Lightsaber Luke has built: “Ah, yes. A Jedi’s weapon, much like your father’s.” It most certainly was not. Luke’s old (pre-Return of the Jedi) lightsaber was “much like” Vader’s (because, of course, it once was Anakin’s).
Mightier than the sword.
Luke’s new lightsaber (from Return of the Jedi) is “much like” Obi-Wan’s and everybody knows Obi-Wan isn’t… Luke’s… Wait a minute!
Now it’s starting to fall into place. Had Lucas stuck with this red herring of a plot point, think of just how much would have been called into question when we look back at the original Trilogy! It would sure have packed in the mystery that Lucas worked so hard to erase with his over-explanations and expositions of the prequels!
In spite of what was said above, what if Uncle Owen literally was both Luke’s Uncle and Obi-Wan’s Brother? What if Palpatine was one of the only ones who truly knew this and said that lightsaber line just to taunt with Lord Vader like the intergalactic version of “birthers”?
The entire Star Wars saga was made great, in part, due to its many slowly unraveling mysteries. Conversely, what arguably tainted the saga was Lucas’ dispensing with so many of these mysteries in the filmic equivalent to a tell-all novel: the prequel .With something as sensitive (and perhaps, as bizarre) as this rising out of the ashes of Anakin, fans would have something to debate about for hours on end (besides whether they think Jar-Jar is merely annoying or is, in fact, the devil).
Am I saying that Obi-Wan was Luke and Leia’s father? Of course not. What I’m saying is that if that aspect had been harder hinted as originally planned, Lucas might have pumped an entire saga’s worth of mystery back into the history of Star Wars. Then again, imagine the entire original trilogy was based around one jealous fit. Maybe that would have been worth complaining about.
Why did it never happen? Lucas re-edited Revenge of the Sith and took out most of the subplots to focus on Anakin’s betrayal of the Jedi and fall to the dark side. Thus, the love triangle subplot faded away, making Anakin only a little jealous and preventing him from looking quite so remarkably confused in later generations. Still, had this stayed in the script, the final duel between Darth Vader and Ben Kenobi on the Death Star might have been viewed as less a “New Hope” than the real “Revenge of the Sith”!
4. “Obi-Wan killed your Father!” (OriginalTrilogy, Episodes V - VI)
Impossible? Read on. So secretive was the new, enormous surprise of Luke’s lineage during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back that a fake dialogue page was given to actor David Prowse to read. This revealed not that Vader was Luke’s Father but that “Obi-Wan Killed your Father!”
Naturally, James Earl Jones overdubbed that line with the now-iconic “No, I am your Father!”, shocking the force out of all of us… including David Prowse, himself, the very man in the Vader armor who delivered the original line.
Mark Hamill confirmed this in a 2004 with Home Theatre.com, “Mark Hamill Interview” (Chris Chiarella, 1 October 2004).: “The fake line that was put in there just to try and keep the secret was ‘You don’t know the truth: Obi-Wan killed your father!”
How could this have been a good thing if it negates one of the Saga’s key moments? The Intrigue never ends. It’s hard to look back on a time when we did not know that Darth Vader was Luke’s father, but originally, that was the plan, Han. Could this have been “Awesome” or might this have ruined one of the best parts of the saga?
Let’s take a good, hard look at how the original version might have worked. This plot wrinkle could have done two things: 1) make Obi-Wan look like a bigger fibbing liar than he was and 2) push Vader’s execution of his old master into a much more morally ambiguous area.
But doesn’t that ruin Vader being Luke’s father? Gonna have to give the big “N-O” on that one!
As Obi-Wan later said, “many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” As a matter of forceful fact, Obi-Wan’s most successful pupil, Darth Vader, could have made the claim of Obi-Wan killing Anakin and could still have been telling the truth “from a certain point of view”. “Master of Evil Darth” stepped into that Lightsaber Duel by the Volcano looking like Hayden Christiensen but walked out wrapped up in a tin can and fetish wear… all because of Obi-Wan… who also may have coveted his student’s wife.
If Obi-Wan’s infamous Padawan truly followed his master’s philosophies, he might have seen that the good man who was Anakin Skywalker died by Obi-Wan’s hand, thus creating Darth Vader and saving the big, paternal reveal for Return of the Jedi.
Why did it never happen? Quite simply, “I am your Father!” is one of the biggest, most memorable reveals in movie history and surely helped The Empire Strikes Back secure the status not only of one of the best sequels of all time but as one of the best films of any kind of all time. If the misleading dialogue HAD made it into the final cut our only hope is that Scott Bakula would have gone back in time, possessed Lawrence Kasdan and convinced Lucas to shove “I Am Your Father” back into the script… just to right that which once went wrong.
5. It doesn’t matter anyway because Darth Vader was lying! (Original Trilogy, Episodes IV - VI)
Much of the cast and crew thought Darth Vader (and perhaps, George Lucas) was lying about his being Luke’s Father. In the DVD Documentary Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy, James Earl Jones actually says this flat out: “When I read that part in the script where it said, ‘Luke, I am your father’, I thought, ‘He’s lying. I have to see how they carry this lie out’.”
How would that work? Showing Vader as the next successor in a whole string of Darth Liars follows the devilish and manipulative Sith plots that Palpatine made himself such a king in. Imagine Vader pulling Luke’s strings, causing him to question everything he believed about the Universe and tripping him one more step to the Dark Side with this “Space Opera” plot point. That would be the highlight of evil, wouldn’t it?
But it never happened. According to the Return of the Jedi DVD Commentary, the scene from that film that takes place at Yoda’s old homestead was added to Jedi‘s screenplay, specifically to confirm that Vader was telling the truth. Yoda wasn’t even in the first drafts of the screenplay. George Lucas wanted to make this very clear so that nobody could dismiss this as a lie.