Abandoned 'Star Wars' Plot Points, Episode III: Evolution of Light and Dark
"Minch Yoda"? "Darth Wilson"? "Kane Starkiller"? "Cos Dashit"? "Jaster Mereel"? "Gary Vader"? Who are these guys that brought the Star Wars saga we know to life?
In the beginning (or, August of 2012 to be more accurate) there was Abandoned 'Star Wars' Plot Points, Episode I: The Ties That Surround Us, Bind Us and Penetrate Us… and it was good. Then, in February of 2013 came Abandoned 'Star Wars' Plot Points, Episode II: The Force Behind the Scenes, which was even better and more popular.
And now it’s time for the long awaited “Episode III”, though I might have skipped straight to VII considering all. Why? For years after Return of the Jedi (1983), there was little or no Star Wars news, which is as hard to imagine as the Cubs winning the pennant. Now, especially after the announcement of the much anticipated "Sequel Trilogy", the news about our favorite space saga is not only omnipresent but seemingly changes every day.
At the time of this writing the internet is buzzing like a mynock chewing on a power cable about the new teaser trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens. Who are these people? What does it mean? Is Han taking Rogaine? What happened to Luke’s Michael Jackson glove? Is Vader returning? If not, who is taking Vader’s place? Who is holding the helmet as if to pensively say "Alas, poor Vader, I knew him, Horatio!"? Is Chewie taking Rogaine?
If you’re reading this from the future (in which case… I wonder if I’m dead), you already know the answers to these questions and this article may seem immediately dated. Not so fast! Read on… you never really know what is and isn’t going into your Star Wars movie. There were a lot of amazing and even fleshed out concepts that were completely abandoned before screen time. Let us once again take a peek at what might have been in that "Galaxy Far, Far Away", true believers!
1.That Yoda is a real "Minch".
Early concept art for Yoda
Most every fan understands that Star Wars became a trilogy because “Uncle” George Lucas had an enormous amount of story ideas and only one movie to tell them in. Most fans can also tell you that the destruction of the (one and only) Death Star was intended to take place at the end of the third film… which was a film that most people (especially Lucas) believed would never happen. After all, nobody predicted that Star Wars (1977) would be a hit, much less that it would change movies as we know them.
What most fans don’t realize is that Star Wars is, in fact, a condensed version of the (once) hoped-for trilogy as Lucas originally envisioned it. "Chapter I" (as it was then known) would be Star Wars and would essentially contain the first act of (what we now know as) Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. All of the major characters would be introduced and Luke would leave Tatooine on a mission to invade fortresses, save princesses, and strive for his place as a laser sword slinging Jedi like his father before him.
The adventures of Luke Skywalker would continue with Star Wars II (for lack of a better title), in which Luke would undergo Jedi training under Obi-Wan for an extended period and would have to choose between his mission and his friends. Eventually he would face Darth Vader in a duel that ends in a draw. This actually did form the backbone of the second film and was reduced to a single "training" sequence with a remote on the Millennium Falcon in the first. The duel with Vader was deleted from Star Wars… at least with Luke as the adversary, but its preamble, the storming of the Death Star, remained in the final version.
The third film would entail Luke, now a full Jedi Knight, finally facing (and killing) Darth Vader on the Death Star and placing a "small moon" obliterating bomb on board, while a vicious dogfight (ending with the destruction of the Death Star) unfolds around them. In the end, Kenobi would congratulate Luke and welcome him into the Jedi order. In the actual film Luke is included in a fleet of ships and destroys the Death Star from the outside with Darth Vader barely escaping to fight another day. Essentially, Lucas shoved these three acts together for a somewhat episodic film with quite a lot excised for coherence and run time.
As everyone and their Wookiee knows, Star Wars was an enormous hit that practically defined the “blockbuster” and Lucas’ plans for low budget sequels could be abandoned in favor of bigger followers like The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). That meant Lucas got to reinstate the parts of his vision that he had excised, such as Luke’s duel with Darth Vader and his more rigorous training. After all, does one become a Jedi after ten minutes of swordplay with a remote?
There was just one problem. Because the third act of the actual Star Wars film that we got had about 66 kinds of nothing for Obi-Wan to do. So Lucas shifted the lightsaber duel to one between Vader and his former teacher, Kenobi and added the gravitas of Kenobi’s death to Luke’s journey. So… with Kenobi gone, who the hell is supposed to "rigorously" train Luke now?
That was the problem that Lucas and staff faced in story conferences preparing for The Empire Strikes Back. The meetings produced the concept of "The Critter", a little frog man (although, according to StarWars.com, "a large alien being" was briefly considered) who could easily be ignored, but turns out to be an incredibly powerful figure, older and wiser than Kenobi and able to train Luke even better. Lucas dubbed the little "critter" as "Minch Yoda" (and originally, simply "Minch"). Lucas further described Yoda as unable to fight and having the personality of a Muppet.
That first part was later disproven, especially in 2005’s epic Revenge of the Sith lightsaber duel, but that last part came true, as Frank Oz (well known for portraying Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear) was chosen to bring Yoda to life in voice and puppetry. Yoda was also wise and old and venerable, a trait that he initially hides (apparently along with his fighting skills). While Yoda certainly turned out to be "a real mensch" with his comedy and hijinks, an early concept of "Minch Yoda" showed that he was… really kind of a jerk. For example, Minch Yoda, at one point in early treatments, actually starves Luke to coerce him into training.
The old, wise and professorial side of Yoda (the "Minch" was eventually dropped) was a clear copy of Obi-Wan Kenobi and both evolved from "The Starkiller", a wise, grey haired, legendary old Jedi, hundreds of years old, who is hunched over due to his age (and actually is the original model for the father of Luke Skywalker). The goofy, joking, wacky Muppet side of Yoda, however (intended to test characters by hiding his true nature) originated in the character of "Ben Kenobi" himself, another replacement for Starkiller, who (in early drafts) acted childlike and silly and annoyed Luke until Luke realized that he was the Jedi Master he was searching for. Sound familiar? This ultimately proves Yoda’s true lineage.
While the character faced alterations in the prequel trilogy (from a vastly different-looking puppet in the first film to a fierce swordfighter in the second and third) at least we didn’t end up with a seven foot Yoda bouncing around. Maybe if Wilt Chamberlain was available?