Randy & Jean-Marc Lofficier wrote an essay in 1983 about the genesis of the SW scripts. The article was published in a French Sci-fi magazine. In 1987, the article was printed in English in STARLOG’s SW issue. This article was one of the first ever to deal with the original scripts. This article is reprinted in its entirety with full permission from the author. You can find the original article at http://www.lofficier.com/starwars.htm.
THE STAR WARS GENESIS
HOW THE CLASSIC SF SAGA EVOLVED
A LOOK AT THE FIRST SCRIPTS
BY RANDY AND JEAN-MARC LOFFICIER
ILLUSTRATIONS BY MOEBIUS
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Leia was not a princess, Luke’s last name was not Skywalker and there were no droids on Tatooine In fact, George Lucas’s box office smash of 1977, Star Wars, did not take place a long time ago but rather in the far future of the 33rd century!
It is not unusual for a work of imagination to go through a variety of changes while an author refines and hones his ideas. Different elements, such as characters and places, are often combined in an attempt to streamline the action. Names may be discarded, and then reused in a new context. Sometimes, outside influences will enter into the creative process and nudge it into a different direction than was originally planned. This is especially true with movie scripts, where commercial aspects often take precedence over artistic ones.
Star Wars was no different, Before the version that won the hearts and minds of the world in 1977, there were several drafts, the earlier ones bearing little resemblance to the final film. George Lucas has never hidden the fact that he was inspired by some of the great classics of fantasy adventure. In an introduction to a story synopsis dated May 1, 1975, he refers to his story as being “in the grand tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars and Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon.”
These influences are more apparent in an early 13-page draft dated May, 1973, and called, simply, The Star Wars. In it, the opening spaceboarding sequence takes place in the 33rd century, in the orbit of a blue-green planet named Aquilae. A rebel princess is being pursued by the evil Galactic Empire while she is en route to the planet Ophuchi. The nameless princess is accompanied by General Luke Skywalker, a samurai-like, superhuman warrior.
The princess, Skywalker, and two menial Imperial Bureaucrats, crash-land on Aquilae. They then travel across the planet to the spaceport of Gordon (Mos Eisley in later versions). On their way, they recruit a band of teenage rebels. In a Gordon cantina, Skywalker uses his light saber, then called “laser sword”, during a fight. After nearly falling into a trap set up by an evil space captain, the group steals his ship and escape
Pursued by Imperial patrols, they attempt to hide behind an asteroid. However, their ship has been hit, and when they resume their trip, they plummet towards the planet of Yavin.
Yavin is inhabited by giant furry aliens, who ride birdlike creatures. The aliens serve the Empire and capture the princess and the two bureaucrats. A platoon of Imperial guards take them to the planet Alderaan, heart of the Empire. Skywalker and the boys follow in a squadron of one-man “devil fighters”, and free the princess. The heroes’ safe arrival on Ophuchi, and the ensuing parade, mark the end of the story.
Already in this early draft are key scenes that will be carried and molded throughout all subsequent versions. These are the spaceboarding sequences which open the movie; the colorful, alien-filled cantina; the space battles, the daring rescue-and-escape mission in the heart of the enemy’s territory; and the triumphant return of the heroes which concludes the story.
Other elements are present in substance, but their forms will change dramatically as the movie evolves. For example, the comic relief is provided here by two humans rather than two droids. Both Han Solo and the Wookiees (and even the Tauntauns of The Empire Strikes Back!) are present but unnamed, and not yet friendly.
The young teenage rebels’ innocence will later be incorporated into the character of Luke. Familiar names, such as Alderaan, Yavin, etc., are already in place, but will be subject to much shuffling.
What is conspicuously absent, however, is the almost mystical quality of Star Wars.
The Force, the mythical nature of the Hero, the quasi-Arthurian mentor/pupil relationship, are not yet part of the Lucas universe.
General Skywalker does combine the prowess of the warrior and the wisdom of the wizard, but this is probably due in part to Lucas’ admiration of the samurai films of Kurosawa and other Japanese filmmakers. Both he and the two Imperial bureaucrats are certainly reminiscent of Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress.
It has also been reported that Lucas was later influenced by the reading of Joseph CampbeII’s book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. The work analyses the heroic mythology which is common to all cultures. It enables one to fit characters into archetypal molds, such as the Good Wizard, the Young Initiate, the Lord of Evil, etc. It also establishes various patterns, such as the Quest for an Object of Power, the Search for One’s Father, etc.
Whatever the influences, a second draft, dated January 28, 1975, shows that events have now congealed in a chain more familiar to today’s audiences. This version, entitled “Adventures of the Starkiller (Episode One), The Star Wars”, is far more mystical and mythological than later versions. It also provides a more detailed background on the history of the Star Wars universe.
The opening titles, and later expository dialogue, tells us that the Republic Galactica was founded in the distant past by a holy man called the Skywalker. He discovered the “Force of 0thers”, defined as an energy field influencing the destiny of all living creatures.
The Force is composed of two halves, the good one called “Ashla”, and the evil one, or paraforce, called the “Bogan”. The Ashla communicated with the Skywalker and made him powerful, but he realized that weaker beings could be seduced by the Bogan. He therefore passed on his knowledge only to his twelve children. They, in turn, taught their children, who became known as the “Jedi Bendu of the Ashla”, a term meaning “Servants of the Ashla”.
For 100 000 years, the legendary Jedi Bendu Knights were the protectors of the Republic. However, as the Republic grew, its governing body, the Great Senate, fell under the influence of the Power and Transport Guilds. The now corrupt Senate hunted the Jedi Knights, who fled to the Outland systems of the galaxy. By boosting civil disorder, hindering justice and helping terrorists, the Senate manipulated the people into welcoming a police state. Thus the Empire was born.
Meanwhile, a young Padawan-Jedi named Darklighter was seduced by the Bogan, and taught its ways to a clan of Sith pirates, These became the “Black Knights of the Sith”. They helped the Emperor to destroy the Jedi Knights until only a few were left. The most famous of the remaining Jedi, a leader of the rebellion against the Empire, is called the Starkiller.
The script starts with the now familiar spaceboarding sequence, this time in orbit around an amber planet called Utapau. The purpose of the boarding is for Sith Lord Darth Vader to stop rebel captain Deak Starkiller from reaching the rebel base of Ogana. Vader thinks that Deak is the last son of the Starkiller. What he does not know is that the still-living Jedi Warrior sent Deak to Utapau in search of another son, Luke, and the powerful Kyber Crystal.
Deak is captured by Vader, but not before he has managed to program an R2 unit with the vital message to his brother. R2-D2 and his friend C-3PO crash-land on Utapau and, after an encounter with the scavenging Jawas, find Luke at the farm of Owen Lars. In addition to Luke, the Lars farm houses Owen’s wife, Beru, Luke’s two younger brothers, Biggs and Windy, and Lars’ beautiful 16-year-old daughter, Leia.
Lars has taught Luke some of the skills of the Jedi to prepare him for the call that he knew would come. As Luke prepares to leave, Lars presents him with the Kyber Crystal, a stone which has the ability to amplify the power of either side of the Force.
Luke then goes to the spaceport of MOs Eisley with the two droids to seek passage to Ogana. In the cantina, he fights with his light saber, and meets Han Solo and Chewbacca. He promises them a fortune for safe transportation to Ogana. In fact, Solo is little more than a cabin boy on Captain Oxus’ pirate ship. With the help of Chewbacca and science officer Montross, the greedy Solo outmaneuvers Oxus and steals his ship. The group then heads for Ogana.
When they arrive, they find the planet mysteriously destroyed and the rebellion gone. Luke then entices Solo to attempt the rescue of Deak, who is being held captive on the cloud city of Alderaan, capital of the Empire and residence of Prince Espaa Valorum, Master of the Bogan.
The Star Warriors manage both rescue and escape, and head for the fourth moon of Yavin, the new home of the rebellion. However, they are followed by Darth Vader’s Death Star, already responsible for the annihilation of Ogana.
On Yavin, the Starkiller, an aged, charismatic figure, uses the Kyber Crystal to fight the Bogan Force while his warriors attack the Death Star. A dogfight ensues, with Han rescuing Luke at the last minute. The script contains an alternate ending in which Luke duels and kills Vader near the famous exhaust port. He then destroys the Death Star with a time bomb
The end titles announce future adventures for the sons of the Starkiller, including the rescue of the Lars family, after they are kidnapped by the Empire. It even mentions the title of the next episode of the saga, “The Princess of Ondos”.
This second draft contains all of the ingredients of the final Star Wars story. The dramatic progression from the sand planet to the Empire headquarters, to the Rebel base, are locked into place. However, the essence of the story is still vastly different.
For one, there is a much greater concentration on the meaning of the Force, and of its importance in the nature of the Star Wars universe. In several scenes, historical events are lavishly detailed. In fact, at times, the adventure takes a back seat to the exposition of intricate galactic history. In that respect, by its very richness, the second draft is closer to a work of science fiction literature than a cinematic script.
The mystical elements are also more obvious here. The Starkiller, a grander and earlier version of Obi-Wan Kenobi, is, like Merlin, the ultimate father figure. The relationships between him, his sons and the Kyber Crystal is the stuff of which classical myths are made.
(The Kiber Crystal returned in a slightly different form in Alan Dean Foster’s novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.)
This is perhaps the most fundamental divergence: Luke (described as short and chubby!) is a more mature character. Unlike his brother Deak, he has a more intellectual nature and assumes the mantle of the warrior only because it is his duty. Like young Arthur in The Once and Future King, one can see in him the seeds of future greatness and leadership.
If a great many of the other details are still different, it is interesting, however, to note at this stage the introduction of several concepts that will remain through the final film. Among these are the two droids, Darth Vader, the Death Star, Chewbacca, the garbage-eating monster (here identified as “Dia Noga”) and, perhaps the most important of all, the famous dogfights during the attack on the Death Star. (The latter may have been inspired by the 1955 Warner Bros. movie, The Dam Busters.)
Among the noticeable differences are the absence of Princess Leia (the Princess of Ondos?) and the still-evolving character of Han Solo. Solo, a burly, bearded Corellian, is much younger than in the 1977 version and, like Luke, grows through his experiences. The character of older science officer Montross is later incorporated into that of Solo, although his name will survive in a later draft as that of a Tatooine spaceport bureaucrat!
Several of the now familiar names belong here to other characters or places. For example, Tatooine is called Utapau; Leia is Luke’s cousin; the Tusken are Imperial soldiers; Jabba the Hutt is a crewmate of Solo on Oxus’ ship, Alderaan the Cloud City (a concept later reused in The Empire Strikes Back) is the capital of the Empire; Ogana (sic) is the doomed rebel base; and, last but not least, Grand Moff Tarkin is a Rebel general!
Three months after the second draft, a brief story synopsis, dated May 1, 1975, and entitled “The Adventures of Luke Starkiller (Episode One) The Star Wars”, describes a more streamlined adventure.
The character of Deak Starkiller appears to have been replaced by the unnamed rebel princess of 1973, now identified as the Princess of Organa. In this version, Utapau has become Organa (but not yet Tatooine). Luke, a young, daydreaming farm boy, alerted by the two droids, runs away from home to rescue the princess from the cloud City of Alderaan.
It is difficult to assess the specific changes brought about at this stage. A third draft was written during 1975 to further reflect these, and bring the script closer to its final form.
A fourth draft, dated January 1, 1976, was eventually written (with a revised version dated March 15, and then normal revisions at various times during production). This draft is entitled “The Adventures of Luke Starkiller, As Taken from ‘The Journal of the Whills’ (Saga 1) Star Wars”. The format here is quite close to the film, including the opening roll with, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”, etc.
Luke is still referred to as Starkiller and not Skywalker, a change which is reported to have been made late in the production, Most of the other names are in their familiar places, however: Tatooine, Jabba the Hutt, Alderaan, Imperial Governor Tarkin, etc.
The differences between the fourth draft and the film are few, but often significant. During the spaceboarding sequence, the story takes us to the surface of Tatooine where Luke is talking with some of his friends, Biggs Darklighter, Deak and Windy (note the reuse of the names). Biggs has joined the rebellion and asks Luke to come with him. Luke refuses, reluctantly, because he must stay on his uncle Owen Lars’ farm. He meets with Biggs again, however, just before the dogfight on the Death Star.
Between the second and fourth drafts, the Starkiller has been transformed into Ben Kenobi (the ‘Obi-Wan’ was added in a later revision). The old Jedi is introduced on Tatooine, and carries the fight in the cantina.
Solo is in his final form and is now the owner of his own ship. Several scenes, later deleted, show him having arguments in MOs Eisley, first with Montross, and then, in the March 15 revision, with Jabba the Hutt. It is also in this revision that the famous line ‘Let the Wookiee win!’ first appears.
The star warriors no longer rescue the princess from Alderaan (now the doomed rebel base) but from the Death Star itself. In the January 1 draft, Kenobi escapes alive, and the script carries on to the known ending. By the March 15 revision, Kenobi, as in the film, mysteriously disappears when struck by Vader’s light saber.
In the streamlining process, by the fourth draft, the wealth of material on the history of the Star Wars universe has been deleted, or else referred to only cryptically.
The nature of the Force has become almost a complete enigma. The origins of the Jedi, the fall of the Republic, etc., are shrouded in mystery. Gone is Lucas’s brilliant social allegory of the hindering of justice and the rise of anarchy engineered by the Power and Transportation Guilds to bring about a police state.
The adventure remains, perhaps purer and clearer than before, yet to the detriment of the vision and the mythology. One feels, however, that these have not been totally eliminated, but merely postponed. Several of the elements contained in the earlier drafts have found their way into The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.
Often, Lucas said that the early days of the Empire would be the subject of a new series of three films, and it has always been his intention to chronicle the past, present, and future of the Star Wars universe.
It is in this way that elements which were discarded in the streamlining process, perhaps to make the film less costly or more viable at the time, will eventually find their place in the larger Star Wars tapestry.
Star Wars tm & © Lucasfilm, Ltd.
Article © 1999 Randy & Jean-Marc Lofficier
Illustrations © 1999 Starwatcher Graphics, Inc.