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?
Obi-Wan Kenobi LIVES! (and other deleted intentions)
Alec Guinness wields a lightsaber as Obi-Wan Kenobi
So now we know that Obi-Wan was intended to survive and continue on through the trilogy. That gives us a glimpse into the character of the Jedi known as “Ben Kenobi”. But what other abandoned ideas can we find in his character makeup? You would be surprised.
In our first episode we discussed the (now outdated) Lucas concept that old Obi-Wan was actually (Uncle) Owen Lars’ brother who, in turn, had no relation to Anakin Skywalker. It is, of course, far, far away from “that simple”.
Obi-Wan was created to be the mentor and father figure to young Luke Skywalker and to teach him in the ways of the force. However, that character did not always go by the name “Obi-Wan” or even “Ben” Kenobi. In the original Lucas drafts that grey haired old mentor character was named… “Luke Skywalker”.
Yes, kids, that’s because the hero of “The Star Wars” was, at that time, planned to be “Annikin Starkiller” and the old “General” who trains him had not yet morphed into his cool Samurai persona. “Kane Starkiller”, Annikin’s father (before being revised as “The Starkiller”), is another Jedi who helps with the training. Those characters would merge and split and combine and separate as the writing continued. As the drafts continued, the mentor character became simply the “Old Man” whom our hero (now known as “Luke Starkiller”) comes across on his journey, seemingly by accident, and has to pay for his training. He was also, at a few points, known to the hero as the one character he could run to if anything happened to his father.
However, the two father figures became redundant and eventually the father was deemed more effective dead than alive with Luke striving to attain his legacy. The surviving mentor character evolved through the drafts into “Ben Kenobi”, a legendary Jedi who had been Luke’s missing father’s commander. Ben would not be known as “Obi-Wan” until the fourth draft.
In fact, Luke’s father (eventually becoming “Anakin Skywalker”) and Kenobi were both kids born on Tatooine, grew up together and left to become Jedi to fight in that “damned fool idealistic crusade”, the Clone Wars. Anakin was the same age as Ben and the two were best friends, even after Ben took on the younger student named Darth Vader (at that point a completely separate character from Anakin).
But these are not the strangest temporary ideas to surround the character.
At one point, Kenobi was actually a cyborg (while Vader himself was still all-human). While the reasons for this are unclear, it could go back to the first drafts when the old man “General Skywalker” fell into a boiling lake and barely survived by grabbing a vine with one arm. Just as the “General Skywalker” template evolved into Obi-Wan Kenobi, the boiling lake and mechanical limb concept bears a striking resemblance to the events that turned Anakin Skywalker into the Darth Vader we recognize. In the Revenge of the Sith (2005) duel with Obi-Wan, Anakin (who actually is referred to onscreen as “General Skywalker”) loses his three remaining limbs and uses his mechanical arm to claw his way out of a lava pit. The poor guy didn’t even get a vine.
With our subject (later) proven to be unrelated to Uncle Owen (meaning he was never “Ben Lars”) one must wonder how he got such a cool sounding Samurai name like “Obi-Wan Kenobi”. Star Wars is heavily influenced by the work of Akira Kurosawa, especially the Samurai films. Much of the 1977 film was based upon Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (1958) and, in fact, the word “Jedi” comes from the word “Jidai Geki”, the Japanese phrase for what we call “period pieces” in English. At one point, Lucas considered making the film in Japan with a Japanese cast speaking Japanese. The subtitles would have made for a more “exotic disorientation” for American audiences, fitting perfectly with that proverbial “Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…”
This brings us back to Kenobi. While the Jedi went through many changes and combined with other characters, the “warrior monk” that we all know and love was based upon General Mukabe from The Hidden Fortress, and Lucas’ original choice for the role was, indeed, the same actor who brought Mukabe to life, Kurosawa favorite Toshiro Mifune. Due to cost prohibitions, Lucas reconsidered and decided that only Obi-Wan and Leia would be played by Japanese actors in a (mostly) English-Language production.
So why did it never happen? At the time, Leia was more closely related to Obi-Wan (and in one draft, was actually the daughter of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru), therefore, the entire family would have been Japanese. Lucas, Mark Hamill and casting director Dianne Crittenden have all confirmed that this was part of the plan in the early phases. However, at the same time that Lucas was making a preliminary inquiry with Mifune he was also investigating Alec Guinness for the role. The famous Guinness was interested and available and while the ethnicity of the character changed, the Samurai name remained the same and Kenobi was given “Genuine Class”.
Before “The Adventures of Luke Skywalker” became “The Tragedy of Darth Vader”, Lucas’ initial plan for the prequels was to have them tell the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi as a young man. To a degree, that is what happened with Ewan Macgregor capably taking on the role in Episodes I – III, but it was Guinness who originated the character and his voice can still be heard in subsequent translations.
3. The Changing Face (and History) of Darth Vader (not to mention Darth Wilson and Gary Vader)
Ralph McQuarrie’s early concepts for Vader’s helmet and breath mask)
Lucas is (currently) adamant that his original and constant vision for the Star Wars saga was less “The Adventures of Luke Skywalker” and much more “The Tragedy of Darth Vader”. Darth Vader was always the Dark Lord of the Sith who was raised, phoenix-like, from the burning husk that was Anakin Skywalker, the father of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa and Vader’s history never deviated from this story arc.
Not so fast, there, Sithy-poo!
As most attentive fans realize, that was not always the case. In fact, as we reported in the first “episode” in this series, the shooting script of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) did not feature the famous line “I am your father!” but the Dark Lord instead proclaimed “Obi-Wan killed your father!”
Naturally, Lucas had been working on a ton of other scripts for the films and originally the character named “General Darth Vader” was not a “Dark Lord of the Sith” or even a former Jedi. He was written as a completely separate character from the hero’s father (who also appears in the script). This white haired, imposing Imperial military leader was a mostly inconsequential character who dies in the Death Star explosion at the end of the first film.
But doesn’t the name “Darth Vader” translate to “Dark Father” in Dutch? Serendipitously, yes, although the Dutch pronunciation is closer to “Vah-der” than the name we know. Knowing that the original Vader conception was neither “dark” nor a “father”, could you possibly believe that this was intentional? According to J.W. Rinzler’s book The Making of Star Wars, Lucas himself confirms that “Darth” was not a title (equating to “lord”), but the character’s actual first name which sounded best when paired with “Vader”. Lucas even claims that other last name possibilities were “Wilson” and “Smith”. Can you imagine being terrified by a helmeted “Darth Wilson”?
In fact, according to Michael Kaminski’s The Secret History of Star Wars, “Vader” was actually chosen for the character because it was the last name of a bully at Lucas’ school. Yes, the most dreaded name of all of Star Wars came from “Gary Vader”, which is, to be honest, even less scary than “Darth Wilson”.
In later editions of the original Star Wars script, Vader did become a Dark Lord of the Sith, not merely a cannon-fodder general. Obi-Wan specifically describes Anakin’s murderer to Luke as “a young Jedi named Darth Vader”. “Darth” was not used as an actual title until the prequel trilogy began in 1999. In most of the script drafts of both Star Wars (1977) and even Empire, Luke’s father still appeared as a character completely separate from Darth Vader, including as a “Force Ghost”. (In fact, in the first Marvel Comics Star Wars annual, a prequel-era story features Vader and the elder Skywalker on a mission side-by-side).
Just as the concept of both Luke’s father and Obi-Wan Kenobi became something of a distracting redundancy, in later drafts of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back Lucas realized that both Darth and Anakin were Jedi by the side of Kenobi, and the two characters merged in one of the greatest “Eureka” moments in film history. Nobody saw it coming… not even Lucas himself.
Vader’s appearance was greatly changed during the preproduction of Star Wars. Conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie decided that the bad guy would need some sort of space suit to board the captured ship in the opening scene and designed the now-famous Samurai-influenced black armor… though he never expected Vader would be wearing it the entire time. The iconic armor certainly added mystery to the character, so Lucas’ ideas were influenced and changed. This mystery was further deepened in The Empire Strikes Back when Vader is seen (from behind) with his helmet off, suggesting some terrible wounds must have necessitated the armor. Promotional material went so far as to describe the lightsaber duel between Kenobi and Vader near a volcano, 25 years before Lucas actually showed it to us in Revenge of the Sith (2005).
Fans speculated what Vader might have been under the armor, both before and after he proclaimed “I am your father!” to Luke Skywalker back in 1978. The reveal took place in Return of the Jedi (1983) when Vader’s mask came off to reveal the face of actor Sebastian Shaw as Anakin. Hayden Christensen (preceded by Jake Lloyd) portrayed Anakin in the prequel trilogy and if you thought the character’s rage was palpable during his lightsaber duels, you should see how angry fans got when Lucas inserted Christensen in place of Shaw in the final moments of Return of the Jedi’s most recent “Special Edition” edit.
Re-elect Palpatine. He’s really not that insidious.
Emperor / President / Sith Lord Palpatine
In the first draft of the script that became Star Wars we see the earliest glimpse of the Emperor of the Galaxy giving a fascistic speech to rally the troops to war and implement all kinds of terrible things throughout the galaxy.
The name of that Emperor who caused the shit? “Cos Dashit”. Not kidding.
The Emperor we now know as Palpatine is the true villain of the two trilogies. Secretly he is Darth Sidious, the Sith Lord who manipulated the masses with a galactic civil war and lured Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side of the Force as his most powerful apprentice. That is until that apprentice (now known as Darth Vader) threw him over a railing to his epic death in Return of the Jedi. Between Cos Dashit and Palpatine’s causing of all kinds of shit, there were many varied versions of this mysterious character. While we know him now as the only Emperor (the Empire was created from the ashes of the Old Republic by him and fell when he died on the second Death Star), at one point Lucas imagined a succession of Emperors. And for a time, there were none at all.
What the early drafts did have was a whole lot of Sith serving the Empire… and not one of them was Palpatine (or Sidious for that matter). So who the hell was Palpatine?
Quite simply, originally Palpatine was Richard Nixon. In formulating the Emperor and thus, the Empire, Lucas was influenced greatly by the Nixon scandals that brought down a Presidency. Lucas watched as President Nixon attempted to change the constitution so he could run for a third term and interpreted his moves after the scandals began as hanging on to the presidency with the backing of the military. Of course, this never happened and Nixon stepped down and was then pardoned by his succeeding Vice President, Gerald Ford.
But what if that had happened? That is what Lucas wrestled with in creating Emperor Palpatine. In the 1976 novel Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, ghost written by Alan Dean Foster and based on Lucas’ script and notes, a brief prologue gave us our first (and for years, best) glimpse at the history of the Republic and Empire. That story surrounding an ambitious Senator named Palpatine, aided by the power hungry and big money ascended to become President of the Republic on a promise of unity. Change the word “President” to “Chancellor” and you’ve got pretty much what Lucas gave us in the Prequels. At that point, Palpatine also declares himself “Emperor” (the “dictator for life” that Lucas once feared Nixon would try to become).
Also like the prequels, the Jedi were largely exterminated. However, the Jedi were not said to be exterminated by the Sith and, although the Clone Wars were mentioned, there is no indication that the Troopers had anything to do with it. While Palpatine was certainly corrupt, he was not the villain we came to know and was, in fact, not a Sith Lord at all. While Darth Vader is described in the novel as “a Dark Lord of the Sith”, it is suggested that there are many like him, but Palpatine wasn’t among them, having become a recluse, with others really in charge. It’s mentioned in the Lucas-based Foster novel that the Emperor is responsible for sending Vader to fight the Rebellion, but not as his apprentice.
In fact, the Emperor of the original Star Wars novel and screenplay might not have even been Palpatine. Sure, the name “Palpatine” is mentioned in the prologue, but first as Senator, then President and then the first Emperor and Kenobi later indicates that there have been many Emperors… and not all of them bad. Note: The name “Palpatine”, though known to fans, is never actually spoken in dialogue in any of the films of the Original Trilogy. The Emperor is simply “The Emperor”.
The fact that we now know that there was only one Emperor and it was Palpatine all along is a microcosm of the shrinking of the once vast Star Wars timeline and universe into, well, a microcosm. What once happened so long ago, nobody can quite remember, now happened less than 20 years before the events of the 1977 film.
As Lucas evolved “Anakin Skywalker” and “Darth Vader” into the same character, he also revisited the Emperor and by 1980 he was referring to that character as “a sorcerer, a bad counterpart of Yoda” who “declared himself Emperor”. This succeeded in softening and humanizing Darth Vader by making someone else the worst guy in the Universe and also set the stage for Vader’s redemption when he rejects Paplatine in favor of saving his son (in Return of the Jedi).
But this also created a new problem. How the hell could Palpatine, a Sith Lord proven to be even worse than Darth Vader, be elected President of the Republic and to then have enough trust to declare himself Emperor? Lucas’ solution? “Leave it for the Prequels!” (and for a time those prequels looked like they would never be made). When they finally came, Lucas created the dual role of Darth Sidious for Palpatine to hide behind in his darker dealings as he politically rose to the top.
And that, my friends, is how an ambitious senator, who wasn’t really all that bad of a guy, became the most wicked wizard in the galaxy and someone truly insidious. Some reelection platform that guy would have.
5. Will the real Boba Fett please stand up?
Daniel Brereton’s Boba Fett
So originally the Jedi were not wiped out by the Clone Troopers and the Sith but by Imperial Governors? Then how does that explain those clone guys running around in the Boba Fett-reminiscent Storm Trooper armor?
Good question. As mentioned above, Darth Vader was not originally sent by Palpatine as an apprentice, but as something of a mercenary and bounty hunter. That concept, according to StarWars.com, eventually morphed into Boba Fett, the mercenary bounty hunter who is sent by Vader after Han Solo and company.
The armor itself is interesting, especially in hindsight. Early publications like the magazine Bantha Tracks and the Empire Strikes Back novelization tied Boba Fett’s armor to that of “Imperial Shocktroopers (“wiped out by the Jedi Knights during the Clone Wars”) and “a group of evil warriors” (also defeated by the Jedi Knights during that same conflict). So far, aside from failing to predict the winner, that sounds relatively accurate, especially as the Clone Trooper armor is a hybrid of the Stormtrooper armor and the Fett costume (aka, “Mandalorian Armor”, as it was eventually called). Marvel Comics’ Star Wars series also confirmed that Fett was a Mandalorian Commando who was also involved in the clone wars.
However, it should be noted that these mentions (both from 1979) never actually state that Boba Fett is an Imperial Shocktrooper or evil warrior, just that his armor resembles that of his predecessors. The suggestion is that he cobbled said armor together, which is why it has that scratched and dented “used future” look. However, Boba Fett, in early concepts, was also suggested to have been somehow related to the Clone Wars, possibly as one of those evil warrior shocktroopers — or possibly not.
In fact, Expanded Universe material (at the time, all considered “canon” by Lucasfilm) could not even quite agree that Boba Fett was, in fact, a Mandalorian at all. Multiple publications licensed by Lucasfilm indicated that no one knew exactly how the bounty hunter obtained his Mandalorian armor and 100 percent of zero of them indicated that he got it from his father, Jango Fett.
But that’s because in the expanded universe where Lucas allowed other authors to develop the character’s backstory, his name wasn’t actually Boba Fett at all. His name was Jaster Mereel, a former Stormtrooper (not Shocktrooper) who murdered his boss and fled to become a lawman (called a “Journeyman Protector”). Then eventually, when convicted of treason, Mereel became a bounty hunter under the nom de guerre “Boba Fett” and used Mandalorian armor as his disguise.
In fact, speculation of who Boba Fett really was extended to the possibility that he might not have even been human. Famed horror-themed comic book artist Daniel Brereton painted the first ever picture of Boba Fett without his helmet on and with white hair, pointed ears and a decidedly inhuman face. Fett was not what he would eventually be clarified to be.
While it was true that Lucas was said to have approved all Expanded Universe stories to keep them canonical at, for example, the time of the Jaster Mereel story (1996) and well before and after, Lucas had other ideas. As reported in our first episode, at one point Lucas intended to make Boba Fett Darth Vader’s brother. But by the time he set about to creating Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), Lucas completely changed the character’s history while (somewhat) matching up with his earliest visions.
Stephen J. Sansweet, the Star Wars historian who not only runs the Star Wars museum but also has written a number of Star Wars books, including The Star Wars Encyclopedia, is considered to be one of the fiercest protectors of canon, and that would include everything we believed we knew was carved in armor about Boba Fett. But in April of 2000, Sansweet posted on StarWars.com that viewers should “Forget everything you knew, or thought you knew about the origins of Boba Fett.” and warned that many of the very canonical elements that he, himself, had reported on and protected, were null and void in the prequels.
Sansweet was right. In Attack of the Clones, Fett proved himself to be an unaltered clone of Mandalorian bounty hunter Jango Fett, upon whose genetic template all of the Republic’s clones were based. This seemed to reconcile the idea that Fett was involved in the Clone Wars and provided a bridge to the concept of him wearing the armor of the forces that fought the Jedi during that conflict. However, it was not the Mandalorians that fell at the end of that conflict, but the Jedi — at the hands of the same Clone Troopers they were commanding.
As for poor, forgotten Jaster Mereel, the Expanded Universe managed to rescue him one last time. Retroactive continuity reestablished Mereel as the mentor of Jango Fett. During the time between Jango’s death (oops, sorry, Spoiler Warning) and Boba Fett’s pursuit of Han Solo, the Expanded Universe novels now indicate that Fett did indeed use the pseudonym Jaster Mereel during his time as a Journeyman Protector.
Cheap Trick? Well, the key here is that, as I said, “no one knows” and that would most certainly serve a mysterious character like Boba Fett. As Sansweet himself wrote in April of 2000, “A bounty hunter like Boba Fett has much to gain by having numerous myths of his origin in circulation among potential employers and potential victims.” So, for those of you who once believed that your favorite bounty hunter was a former Stormtrooper, Shocktrooper, Journeyman Protector or even fry cook at Hardee’s, don’t get your jet packs in a wad over changed canonicity. After all, that’s probably what Boba Fett wanted you to believe at the time.
So today, tomorrow, next week and next year, we could be dealing with any number of major and minor changes to what we think we know about the Star Wars Universe. As the “Journeyman Protector” of the saga himself, Stephen J. Sansweet, said so eloquently, “when it comes to Star Wars knowledge, there are degrees of ‘canon.’”