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Original Star Wars art by Roger Kastel

Abandoned ‘Star Wars’ Plot Points Episode IV: A Family that Slays Together Strays Apart

Planet of the Wookiees, expendable heroes, familiar clones, depressing endings, unknown siblings, and more twins than you can shake a saber at: is this the Star Wars saga you remember?

As reported in “Abandoned Star Wars Plot Points, Episode I: The Ties That Surround Us, Bind Us and Penetrate Us” a lot of crazy concepts almost made it into the Star Wars saga, like Obi-Wan as the brother of Uncle Owen and Boba Fett as the brother of Darth Vader. In the sequel, “Abandoned Star Wars Plot Points, Episode II: The Force Behind the Scenes“, we talked about the confusing plethora of various scripts that George Lucas had brewing in the background throughout the saga’s history. In the next episode, “Abandoned Star Wars Plot Points, Episode III: Evolution of Light and Dark“, the changing faces of the characters we thought we knew so well were explored in weird detail.

By now, anyone who gives a womp rat’s ass about the Saga “Uncle George” built has seen the Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens trailers, and have contemplated the answers and the questions they both bring forth. So far, we’ve seen the now aging Luke, Chewbacca and Han still being themselves in the future years after that final Ewok-hosted party on Endor (which was the fans’ biggest gripe point about the series until the coming of Jar Jar Binks). The rest of the gang is largely comprised of characters we don’t know so well; so far we have little idea how they fit together. Then again, even the Star Wars relationships we take for granted were not always carved in stone.

If you can believe it, Aunt Beru was once intended to be related to Emperor Palpatine, Luke had six siblings, Leia was Luke’s cousin, and Han Solo was, at one point, Luke’s brother (in a completely different draft, so that he was never one of the “seven brothers” and never had to musically seek out “seven brides”). If you think that’s insane, check out these exposés of what almost went into the “Star Wars Family” and see how that floats your sail barge.

1. Luke has a Force-sensitive sister… and it’s not Leia!

As I’ve reported in the first three “episodes” of this PopMatters series, there were a ton of evolving scripts and treatments coming from the pen of George Lucas, before, during, and after the actual production of the movies themselves. Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker were originally distinct characters. Yoda was never envisioned until necessity created him. Obi Wan was once a cyborg. Boba Fett was a cop. The Emperor was originally named “Cos Dashit”.

One thing I haven’t mentioned, however, is that the Star Wars saga has always been simply lousy with twins. We’ve seen this on the big screen with Luke and Leia and in the expanded universe with Jaina and Jacen Solo. Going back to the second draft of Lucas’ Star Wars script, the Skywalker family had a set of twins in Luke’s younger brothers Biggs and Windy. Yep, Luke was not one of the twins, and the character of Leia was, in fact, the biological daughter of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. Tellingly, a number of planets in the Star Wars saga also have “twin suns”.

In the early drafts of The Empire Strikes Back, the Ghost of Anakin (making him Darth Vader pretty hard to pull off) reveals to Luke that he does, indeed, have a twin sister. Hell, we all know that… it’s Leia, right?

Well, nope.

See, just as in the final versions we got, the Skywalker twins were separated at birth, with Luke sent to live with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. However, unlike the final story, that second twin was not to become a princess senator like Leia did. While Luke is making due with old desert hermits and tiny Mister Spocks, Luke’s sister is training to be a Jedi on the other side of the galaxy. The ghost of Anakin, in fact, will not reveal the location of this sister for fear that Darth Vader might sense who (and where) she is through the Force. The plan (which, unlike what we saw in Revenge of the Sith, did include Anakin) was to keep the twins separated so that if one should die, the galaxy and the “good guys” would still have a champion.

Remember Obi Wan’s exchange with Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, in which Yoda argues that Luke is not their last hope, but instead that “there is another?” That makes a whole lot more sense now, doesn’t it? Leia was, at the time, certainly not to become a Jedi candidate. Further, good old Lucas himself has indicated that such a plot point was important for audience suspense. With that point intact, the fans could believe that Luke was never the sole hero and he could actually have been killed off in any given moment because the saga would continue with “another”. How’s that for suspense? Everyone is expendable in the Star Wars galaxy.

There is much debate over who the hell this “Other” might be. Aside from Luke’s twin, speculation has led to a future apprentice or a separate hidden Jedi. But if the twin sister is not Leia, does that ruin things, or could it have made things a bit more awesome?

Well, first off, there’s that now-incestuous kiss in The Empire Strikes Back that remains a major nausea-inducer throughout all these years. Yeah, it’s cool as hell that Leia ended up with Han, but can you imagine if, looking back, Luke really had been something of a threat to Han’s seduction of the princess?

Better yet, Yoda’s “There is another” line would clearly have been about this secret non-Leia sister, meaning Yoda knew about this all along, he and Luke were not the last of the Jedi and, well, Obi-Wan might have had no idea.

It has been implied by Lucasfilm insiders that Luke and this mysterious twin might have eventually fought side-by-side as Jedi Knights in a future sequel.

Imagine when things got their darkest in the series: Luke has had his hand lopped off by Daddy; Palpatine is about to destroy any planet he wants with his new, big-ass Death Star; Leia almost had to add “The Hutt” to her nom de guerre; Han barely avoided his fate as a Swanson’s TV Dinner; and everybody is surrounded by furry Ewoks. What if, as this happened, a small craft parted the heavens and out flips a hot new Jedi, chopping off Stormtrooper heads and making cracks about her big brother not being able to cut the proverbial mustard?

Does this, in fact, fit with Lucas’ other early visions? According to Mark Hamill in a 1980 interview with Starlog, early concept work had Luke “hiding behind” the female lead. “Originally, she was the lead character… then they reversed the roles.” In point of fact, before Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) became the instant success it was (allowing The Empire Strikes Back to be made), one of the low-budget sequels planned was to have Luke search for a mysterious character far away called “The Princess of Ondos”. Connected or not, there is a precedent.

So yes, this could have been pretty amazing if Lucas ran with it. Why did it never happen? Who is “the Other”, as originally intended?

Let’s take a look back at our second episode, “The Force Behind the Scenes“. Lucas changed his mind many times about how to encapsulate Star Wars. At one point it was to be an open-ended saga with lots of movies and various directors. At another, it was to be a saga of four trilogies (for 12 episodes). But most commonly, Lucas hinted at a trilogy of trilogies, starting with Episodes IV — VI, flashing back with Episodes I — III to fill the backstory and concluding with Episodes VII — IX, which Hamill quoted Lucas as predicting for a 2011 release.

At the time, Lucas had planned to feature one major hero per trilogy, and that character would hand off the series to the next generation in the first episode of said trilogy. The Prequel Trilogy was (then) planned to be the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi (with plenty of Anakin and Vader peppered in, same character or not). Kenobi would then pass the legacy on to Luke Skywalker, as he actually did in Star Wars: A New Hope before Luke’s own tenure as a central character would end in Return of the Jedi (1983). In the Sequel Trilogy, Lucas planned to answer the question of who the “Other” actually was as Luke would pass on the central role to that character be it a new apprentice, a descendant or even his actual sister.

During the filming of The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas maintained his intent for three trilogies, 20 years apart. After The Empire Strikes Back, however, Lucas faced a major burnout. He had adopted a daughter with his wife Marcia, and wanted to spend more time with the child. His marriage was subsequently failing, and he was disenchanted with the entire filmmaking process. Thus, the proposed “Sequel Trilogy” was cancelled (and often denied). For a long time, it seemed that Lucas would not even make the Prequel Trilogy. “The next trilogy will be all someone else’s vision”, Lucas said.

In fact, Lucas did return to write and direct the prequels, which started production just about 20 years after the original Star Wars was released. However, if by “the next trilogy” he meant the sequels, that prediction has come true, with his selling of Lucasfilm to Disney and the making of Episode VII with J.J. Abrams in the director’s chair.

Further, Lucas had his “eureka!” moment surrounding Vader’s secret identity of Anakin Skywalker during the later writing process of The Empire Strikes Back, though the reference to “The Other” remained. From there, Lucas started finding familial relations between almost everybody in the Galaxy except between Luke and the Aunt and Uncle who raised him. Thus, as Return of the Jedi was being crafted, Lucas shoved Leia into that role, and with a few hints of Force sensitivity toward the end of The Empire Strikes Back (the only two characters Luke can mentally communicate with long distance are Leia and Vader), things seemed to fit. The mysterious “Other” was never on the other side of the galaxy after all, and was right in Luke’s face (and once, disturbingly and literally so) the entire time.

Who knows, though? With all of these “Special Edition Revisions” Lucas keeps doing, we might get new versions in another six years or so that could CGI that whole subplot back in, starting with Padme’s delivery of the triplets. “Luke… Leia… Ella!” Then the latter will show up at the end of Return of the Jedi (making her the Jedi who “Returned”) and take on her own new name… “Ella Vader”.

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An insider’s look at Ella Vader

That’s gold, my friends.

2. Luke walks off into the sunset for a sad, lonely ending.

What’s your favorite way to watch the Star Wars films? Lucas states that they should be watched in numerical, not chronological order. Many fans argue that the films should be watched in chronological order of creation to preserve the big surprises. Some suggest that one should watch Episode IV and Episode V first, then skip Episode I and watch Episode II and Episode III as a flashback on the newly talkative Vader’s part, then flash forward to Episode VI. Sound complicated? Well, the sequel trilogy may complicate all of that even more.

My favorite way? Watch the Original Trilogy (Episodes IV – VI) and then pretend that Mark Hamill’s 1978 flick Corvette Summer is actually set in the same universe. If you really want to have fun, suffer through Laserblast (1978), which, like Corvette Summer, also features Kim Milford, this time as the sweaty teen who blows up the Star Wars sign on the side of the road. (It helps if you watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of that one.) After watching them all, imagine how they all got together in the same movie. You may have to drink an awful lot to do this, but trust me, you’ll have fun.

Of course, it might help if Lucas had stuck with his originally planned ending to Return of the Jedi. While Lucas had intended to include Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill in the “Sequel Trilogy” (that is, when he wasn’t denying its existence), he had planned for Luke to go out in a very different way than we saw in the final version of Return of the Jedi. In fact, Jedi‘s ending was once going to be almost as bleak as that of Empire.

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Walking off into the setting metaphor…

As previously reported, Lucas’s original hope was to make a Flash Gordon adaptation for Universal Studios; when that fell through, he set about creating Star Wars (his “new hope”), which had a decidedly Japanese influence. However, after American Graffiti, Lucas described his next project as “cowboys in space” and “a Western movie set in outer space”.

Westerns were huge influences on Lucas and the swashbuckling adventure he was creating. This is, of course, not much of a stretch as many of the samurai movies that influenced Star Wars were also remade as Westerns. The Seven Samurai (1954) was remade as The Magnificent Seven (1960). Yojimbo (1961) was remade as A Fistful of Dollars (1964). Needless to say, in none of these films (not to mention the direct influence on Star Wars, 1958’s The Hidden Fortress) did the hero celebrate at the end by dancing with a bunch of extremely hairy little people in tree houses.

Nor did this happen in the planned ending to the first Star Wars trilogy. According to Lucas’ producing partner Gary Kurtz, the original Return of the Jedi found the heroes rescuing the kidnapped Han Solo early on, but things would get dark soon after that point. The question of who got the girl would be easily answered with “not Luke”.

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Happy trails to Luke Skywalker

Leia was set to become the queen of what was left of her people and struggled with her new responsibilities. Luke, the last of the Jedi, doesn’t have some uplifting ending in which he sees that his dear old dad finally made it to Force Heaven and, in fact, doesn’t even get his Ewok Luau. Instead, Luke walks away into the sunset, completely alone with his future left up to the viewer’s imagination, “like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns”, as Kurtz would later describe it. Further, Leia was not intended to be Luke’s sister, which makes their separate isolation especially cold for fans who would have loved to see them together.

Again, though, Lucas had hit a major burnout during and after The Empire Strikes Back, which he had funded himself, and which had stressed him out considerably. With his stress-level putting him at his wit’s end, his new daughter needing him, his marriage dissolving, and his friends even walking away from the saga, Lucas was both ready to move on with his life (outside of Star Wars) and to have as much of a happy (and definitive) ending as possible. These changes caused Gary Kurtz to balk and walk, jumping ship to make The Dark Crystal (1982) with Jim Henson instead.

Thus, Leia was made into Luke’s sister (and the “Other”) and Luke hangs around to celebrate with his sister, Lando, Han, Chewie, R2-D2, Wedge, the ghosts of Yoda, Obi-Wan and Anakin, a whole bunch of Ewoks and their golden god, C-3PO. One can almost picture a post-credits Jedi hangover scene, possibly with Luke sleeping it off in his souped up Corvette.

But what about Han in that original ending? With Luke’s relation to Leia questionable, does he get the girl? Well, actually…

3. Han Dies in the End

For years there has been a rumor that Lando Calrissian originally died at the end of Return of the Jedi (1983), failing to escape the exploding Death Star on time and sacrificing himself to save the Galaxy. Although reported in the press, this is actually total “Bantha Fodder” — that’s Star Wars lingo for “bullshit”, kids.

Han Solo, on the other hand… he was supposed to be as dead as an Ewok under a Chicken Walker. Actor Harrison Ford, producer Gary Kurtz, and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan thought Han’s heroic death would be one solid, kick-ass idea, especially if it happened early on, thus throwing the fans for a Force-spinning loop. Lucas, though resisting the idea on the whole, was more comfortable with the concept of Han buying the proverbial moisture farm during the Battle of Endor, which served as the finale of the film.

Why would this have been awesome? Remember Han’s sorrowful look at the Millennium Falcon as he says, “I have a funny feeling like I’ll never see her again.” How compelling would it have been if he was right?

Now, wait a moment before you click away from this screen. For those of you readers who have based your entire lives on either Han Solo or William Shatner, don’t worry: nobody wants to see Han dead.

Picture the danger of even your favorite heroes proving to be expendable and at risk. Even Obi-Wan and Yoda died. How far could this go? Luke could die under a smoking red blade, Leia might be fed to Jabba’s rancor monster, Ackbar could get a job delivering pizzas in a bad part of town, Han might never be unfrozen, R2-D2 might be mistaken for a Cuisinart and shorted out in a mist of mushy peas.

If no survivors are guaranteed, even your favorite heroes, the suspense could be cut with a light saber. Just imagine how much more thrilling the film would have been with a super Han Solo death scene equal parts Willem Dafoe in Platoon and David Carradine in Kill Bill Vol. 2.

Han would run through the trees blasting out lasers in every which way, as if wielding a tennis racket before finally falling after the 300th hit to the torso. Yeah, he’s that tough.

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Just, you know, still totally laid back and cool.

The Stormtroopers would then all gather ’round him reverently and salute “We killed him, but god… damn do we respect him!” I grew extra knuckle hair just typing that.

As much as we would hate to see Han go, there is a way this could have been incredible, a means of giving Leia, Luke, Lando, and especially Chewie a reason to rage and revenge and basically bounce trooper helmets around, empty or full, with wild justification. So, why did it never happen?

The bottom line: merchandising.

How exactly did Lucas fund such massive films as Empire and Jedi? Well, in part this was because of a deal he had made with distributor 20th Century Fox way back before the first Star Wars was even released. In lieu of negotiating a higher salary after American Graffiti became a hit, Lucas negotiated the licensing and merchandising rights for the film. Fox took no issue with this, because even such deals for larger films often were useless and Star Wars was never going to be a big marketable hit, right?

Well, as much as Star Wars was an immediate and unprecedented success, never before had a toy line taken off like Kenner’s Star Wars action figures. Lucas was making money hand over fist without having to share it with Fox. With his marriage falling apart, Lucas stood to lose tens of millions of dollars. Thus, Lucas wanted a more upbeat ending, both because his real life was rather “downbeat” by this point, and also for the purpose of sell more toys. Happy kids want to run to the toy store immediately after the closing credits. Sad, disappointed kids go home and cry.This was to be the very end, folks.

So the end got a bit happier. Luke no longer walked off into the sunset alone and exhausted, Han no longer went out in a blaze of “big, Corellian” glory and everybody instead got to party hearty with a bunch of 3PO worshiping teddy bears. These changes resulted in an overall different theme that altered the entire tone of the planned film, enough for Gary Kurtz to actually jump ship and leave the series forever while Return of the Jedi was still in pre-production.

Yeah, sure, seeing Han with more holes in him than the plot of The Phantom Menace would have put a big, ugly scar on our childhoods — way worse than seeing Optimus Prime bite it — but think about how much more badass Han’s legend would be after all this time. “When I die, baby… I’m goin’ out like Han Solo!”

Instead, the “Expanded Universe” gave us a whole different way to go out, namely Han becomes house-husband to Leia’s aspiring Jedi while helping raise a Falcon-load of kids that can mind-talk behind his back. Basically, the Expanded Universe Han is Mister Mom with a cool Wookiee companion.

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“Drop the kids off at school? Make me!”

Hey, it sold books and toys, but imagine the laser-ridden, testosterone-fueled alternative. We’re holding out for you in Episode VII, Captain Solo.

Clone Lando and Wookiee Ewoks

4. Lando is a Clone

So after all of the revisions and story changes, we now know that Anakin is Uncle Owen’s stepbrother and Luke’s father as well as being Darth Vader. In addition, we know that Leia is Luke’s sister and Han becomes Luke’s brother-in-law which, in turn, means that that Han is also Vader’s son-in-law (making for some awkward Thanksgivings) and C-3PO is Luke’s half-brother (think about it). It seems like just about everybody is related to everybody else.

But one of our best known and loved characters was once planned to be a member of the biggest damned family in all of Star Wars history — and I mean way bigger than the Skywalkers.

One of the most mysterious mentions within the original 1977 Star Wars was that of “The Clone Wars”, which remained vague until 2002’s Attack of the Clones. In our third episode of this Star Wars abandoned plot series, we talked about the fact that the Clone Wars were originally envisioned much differently with a group of Shocktroopers from another part of the Galaxy wiped out by the Jedi Knights. That’s not exactly what we got in 2002’s Attack of the Clones, but during the first drafts of The Empire Strikes Back, the Clone Wars proved to be something completely different from either version.

In fact, our first introduction to the Clones as well as the Clone Wars was to be none other than Lando himself.

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“But this doesn’t make us brothers, Fett.”

Lando Calrissian (eventually awesomely played by one Billy Dee Williams) was originally envisioned as “a new Han Solo character” created to be a counterpart, foil and possible replacement for Han Solo. In fact, at one point in casting, a black actor (such as Glynn Turman) was considered to play Solo himself. But once you cast Harrison Ford as Han Solo, how can you possibly “replace” him? Easy.

Harrison Ford was not contracted for a third film, and the dramatic carbonite freezing sequence was spurred, in part, by the fact that Han might actually never be seen again. Should Ford have signed on for the final film, which he did, a daring rescue could have been staged, cementing Lando as a true hero, rather than a turncoat. However, should Ford have not signed on to return for Return of the Jedi, Han could have been killed off (or, simply, never unfrozen), and Lando could have stepped into that role. Note that at the end of Empire, Lando is not only flying the Millennium Falcon by Chewbacca’s side, but is actually dressed exactly like Han Solo, to boot.

In short, conceptually, Lando was a Han Solo clone. Even in the pre-production stages, Lando was connected to Han. Originally named “Lando Kadar“, the character was initially described as “some kind of Ernest Hemingway character” who takes Han (who had been orphaned and raised by Wookiees up until this time) under his wing. In these early sketches, Lando was a “riverboat gambler” type, a trait that remained as in the final film. Solo is said to have won the Millennium Falcon from Lando in a card game, and Lando is said to have won Cloud City’s gas mines from some other loser in a similar game. Early iterations of Lando showed him as someone as simple as a general store owner on the Wookiee homeworld to the head of an expansive transport guild, powerful enough to control all non-military transports in the galaxy. In early versions of the story, Han hates the guy, but ultimately he proves to be the Rebellion’s only way to get Lando’s vital help.

Although closely linked, Lando was also somewhat separated from the rough-and-tumble Han Solo by being described as “slick”, “elegant”, and “like James Bond”. At this point, however, one has to wonder how much that might run in the family because by this time Lando was planned to be a clone, one of the final remnants of the proverbial “Clone Wars”.

Leia doesn’t trust Lando in the original story or the film we eventually got. In the early story treatments, her mistrust stems from the fact that the Clone Wars had wiped out his entire species; so, she wonders, who was he, exactly? The story goes on to reveal that Lando might come from a planet of Clones who reproduced by cloning only (taking most of the fun out of it). Lando might even have been eventually revealed as the leader of one of seven hundred countries on this Clone world. How this reconciles with him leaving to become a Rebellion General, coming from owning a General Store and replacing the frozen Han Solo, we will never know.

According to an entry on StarWars.com, all of the other clones were dropped from The Empire Strikes Back but, although never mentioned onscreen, Lando’s lineage as part of the Ashandi clan of clones remained his official backstory until that plot point was abandoned.

Then again, we don’t actually know if this has actually been wiped out of continuity for sure. In Attack of the Clones, Dexter Jettster describes the Kaminoans as “Cloners” (as if it is a known word) who have been at their business for quite some time. Although we really only see one set of clones onscreen (the troopers cloned from Jango Fett), their creation was said to have started only a decade before the events of that film. It would be silly to assume that their notoriety had spread from this one project, and that there were no other clones in the Galaxy. Although not explicitly shown on film, StarWars.com’s official entry on the Kaminoans states that the Clone Troopers are only the “largest and best known of their clone armies” indicating that there have been many others. The same entry further suggests that although the Kaminoans are “the preeminent cloners in the galaxy”, they are probably not the only ones out there.

Thus, someone should check Lando’s finger prints. Then again, I know quite a few straight ladies who would love the idea of an entire planet populated solely by guys who look like Billy Dee Williams. Hey, hey, hey, it works every time.

5. The key to the whole show is Chewbacca.

So the Skywalker/Vader/Organa/Solo family tree is now just about as hard to map out as the outer rim of the galaxy, and Lando himself might just be a member of the biggest family of any rim of any galaxy. Meanwhile, Han Solo was raised by Wookiees like his best buddy Chewbacca, and may or may not have met Lando when he was running a General Store on planet Kashyyyk.

Well, actually, that general store owner idea was ultimately used in the 1978 TV movie The Star Wars Holiday Special, where that character, Trader Sohn Dann, was portrayed by Art Carney (though, surprisingly, the words “To the moon!” were not uttered by anyone). In fact a great deal of the original plans for Chewbacca’s people, the Wookiees, also went into that much-maligned TV special. When CBS approached Lucas about doing a variety show-style TV special, Lucas reused many of the original Wookiee ideas for the basis of that film… and then later greatly regretted it.

What were these ideas, and how did the Wookiees come to be what we know them as now?

Chewbacca himself was based on Lucas’ dog Indiana, a loyal Alaskan Malamute who always rode in the seat next to Lucas when he drove his truck around town (Lucas, not the dog, although that alternative would be awesome). It’s easy to see how this guy evolved into Han Solo’s copilot. “Indiana” was also reused as the name of a certain “Doctor Jones” (also played by Harrison Ford) when he debuted in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. Chewie’s family was once significantly more prominent in the story treatments for Star Wars.

At one point, Lucas considered bookending the entire film as a fairy tale read by a Wookiee mother to her toddler in the middle of an enchanted forest. The book, which would read “Star Wars” on the cover, would contain the entirety of the action of the film. After the book’s characters (including one Wookiee hero) get their medals at the final ceremony, the book is closed, and the Wookiee mother then puts her now-sleeping child to bed. This would, in Lucas’ mind, offset any comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), as the ship doesn’t pass overhead until the book is opened and being read. Further, this bookending sequence would tell the audience clearly that what they are watching is intended to be a fairy tale, not taken seriously as canon.

The presence of the “giant furry native-aliens” goes back even farther than that idea. In Lucas’ 1973 synopsis and 1974 rough draft, the main characters find themselves crash landed on a jungle world where they are captured by “Wookies” (occasionally spelled “Wookees”) wielding spears. Ultimately the good guys befriend the Wookiees (as the word came to be spelled officially) and together they help to topple the Empire and destroy the Death Star(s). Sound familiar? Yes, folks, those oft-unpopular, diminutive Ewoks from Return of the Jedi were originally intended to be gargantuan Wookiees in the early drafts of Star Wars.

How is this possible? Well, not every abandoned plot point in Star Wars stays “abandoned”. Often, old ideas are both resurrected and reused.

In our third episode we talked about the fact that the 1977 Star Wars film was actually an episodic and condensed version of the trilogy that Lucas had wanted to make, but doubted he could. Why? Star Wars couldn’t have possibly been successful enough to warrant sequels, right?

The third planned “Chapter” of this trilogy was intended to end with the Death Star floating around a forest moon with Luke Skywalker on board battling Darth Vader as a rebel fleet armed with stolen readouts mounts a dangerous mission to destroy the battle station. Meanwhile, on the forest moon below, hairy aliens who differ in size from humans were working to help destroy the Empire in their own, more primitive way. Most of you will argue that exactly how the third film (and sixth “episode”), Return of the Jedi actually ended, and you’re right. With very few changes, that is also the way the first film, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope actually ended, as well.

Both films in their theatrical versions (and beyond) feature a Death Star space station either parked at or approaching a forest moon with a military base on it. In Return of the Jedi, the new Death Star is orbiting the forest moon of Endor, where an Imperial military base and shield generator are located. In Star Wars, the original Death Star is approaching the forest moon of Yavin IV, where the Rebel military base is located. Both films feature stolen plans and readouts to this planet-destroying battle station that enable the rebels to blow it the hell up. This quest is arguably the main motivation behind the plot of the original Star Wars. In Return of the Jedi, a group of “Bothan spies” (off-screen) steal the plans and deliver them at great sacrifice. Both films end with the destruction of the Death Star and a grand celebration.

In Return of the Jedi this victory couldn’t have been achieved without the help of the Ewoks, furry little creatures who beat the Empire at their own game via more primitive means. In the original Star Wars, this plot point was once also vital to the resolution of the film. During pre-production, Wookiees instead of Ewoks took center stage in the ground war and even in the Death Star assault as the space sasquatches actually flew their own ships to attack the station.

This, like many of Lucas’ big ideas, was excised for time from the 1977 Star Wars film and ultimately reused for Return of the Jedi which resembles the last act of Star Wars greatly (with one notably hairy exception). Ultimately all of the Wookiees except for Chewbacca were deleted from the script for Star Wars. That Wookiee world was even called “Yavin” in the script and Yavin IV remained a forest moon in the final film. As you can see, the only thing changed in the last act of Star Wars was the removal of the Wookiees.

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And they still haven’t gotten over it…

According to Lucas himself, “The Wookie {sic} planet that I created for Star Wars was eventually turned into the Ewok planet in Return of the Jedi. I basically cut the Wookies in half and called them Ewoks!”

Lucas made the change, in part, because he wanted that ground battle to work as something of an allegory to the Vietnam War, in which a group of natives helped defeat a more technological force with less advanced weaponry. Here it’s worth noting that Lucas was the original slated director of Apocalypse Now, eventually brought to the screen by Francis Ford Coppola in 1979. Chewbacca had already proven to be technologically advanced (and able to fly ships as in the original plan), so Ewoks were invented as a more primitive (and diminutive) version of the Wookiees.

Instead we got The Star Wars Holiday Special which focused on Chewie’s family living on Kashyyyk (temporarily renamed “Kazook”). The family of Wookiees (led by Chewbacca’s dad) does indeed help defeat a small Imperial garrison (while they’re not watching Virtual Reality erotica, Julia Child-esque cooking shows and Jefferson Starship videos… not kidding). The Wookiee mother and child idea even resurfaces here in the form of Chewbacca’s wife and son waiting for good old Papa to return from trolling around space with a Corellian pirate. Does that make Chewie a deadbeat dad?

A closer reuse of the “Planet of the Wookiees” plot appeared in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith (2005), in which an army of warrior Wookiees (including Chewbacca) help Yoda and his Clone battalion repel a Trade Federation invasion.

See? Chewie is the key to everything.

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So how come Chewie didn’t get a medal?

Now, can you imagine an all-Wookiee version of Star Wars? Well, in the September/October 1980 issue of Prevue Magazine (published just four months after The Empire Strikes Back was released) George Lucas told interviewer Jim Steranko that very thing was among his plans (presumably with subtitles involved).

Superfans, or just observant viewers with decent memories, might point out one other major difference in the finales of Star Wars and Return of the Jedi. In the 1977 film, Luke only faced Vader in the dogfight itself, just before he successfully hit the target and blew up the first Death Star himself. In the 1983 film Luke Skywalker was not involved in the dogfight that ultimately led to the destruction of the second Death Star, as he was busy fighting Darth Vader on that very space station.

Well, as I mentioned in our third episode, this, too, was an abandoned plot point from Star Wars. Although facing Vader in the space battle did exist in many drafts of the screenplay, the last third of the film that was to become Star Wars actually had Luke (instead of Obi Wan) battling Vader in a light saber duel onboard the Death Star and he ultimately blows the damn thing up from the inside, barely escaping with his life. After all, how rare is it that during the entire runtime of Star Wars, the main hero and main villain never actually meet?

How long until that plot point was deleted? Like many of these abandoned (and evolving) plot points, this one remained a possibility even during the filming of the movie. Not even the death of Obi Wan Kenobi was decided upon until production was well underway. Similarly, the alternate Death Star finale existed long enough to actually make the cover of Marvel Comics’ Star Wars #6, written and edited by Roy Thomas, with a cover by Dave Cockrum and Rick Hoberg, and an interior drawn by Howard Chaykin.

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The “Soul-Shattering” part comes when we find out later
that this is technically child abuse

Of course, nothing even remotely close to that happens in the film or in the interior pages of the comic itself. On the other hand, unlike the ending of the film, Chewbacca actually does receive a medal, too. Here again, Chewie is the key to the show.

***

And thus concludes the fourth installment of “Abandoned Star Wars Plot Points”. Many fans were furious with Lucas for abandoning the “Expanded Universe” canon when he returned to create the official Prequel Trilogy with all new ideas. But as you can see, Lucas can’t even agree with himself, and like many great genre-breaking artistic enterprises, Star Wars is the amalgamation of many story ideas and plot points that resulted from a series of changed ideas, abandoned concepts and reconfigured ideas. May the Force be with you… and your families.

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