The First Lesson and Luke’s Return: The Original Trilogy’s Drafts and the Sequel Trilogy

Written by robotical712

The Original Trilogy’s draft scripts are a fascinating look at what could have been. A New Hope alone had four very different draft versions before the one we’re familiar with. Yet for all the differences, the earlier scripts have ideas that come to fruition decades later. The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi first drafts contain several lines that are of particular interest as we look forward to the final film of the Saga.

Concept Art drawn by the great Ralph McQuarrie.

The Empire Strikes Back First Draft

Looking through the first Empire Strikes Back script is a fascinating experience. The beats and settings are familiar, but the story bares little resemblance to what we now know and love. In this version, Darth Vader is definitely not Luke’s father and is instead a fallen apprentice, exactly as Obi-Wan told Luke. Indeed, Luke’s father appears to him as a ghost while Luke takes the oath of a Jedi!

Bespin is still there, but there is none of the emotional punch of the final film. Luke escapes with his hand and innocence and Han is never encased in carbonite. On Hoth there is this gem:

LUKE: I love you.  I want to keep you safe

He kisses her and she returns it…a sweet and tender kiss.  Then she pushes him gently away.

LEIA: Dear Luke.  Try to understand.  Whether I will it or not, I’m the Princess Leia Organa, a leader of the rebel forces…

LUKE: And I’m just the farmboy from Tatooine.

LEIA: You’re Luke Skywalker, the fighter pilot who destroyed the Death Star.  You have duties, Luke, just as I have. There isn’t any place for love – not now.

Clearly the idea Luke and Leia were long lost siblings was far from George Lucas’s mind at this point in time. These scripts are a reminder that things can change considerably between rough drafts and movies. The Original Trilogy was not a masterpiece of planning, but a happy accident. Right now the reader is probably wondering what value the forty year old draft scripts can possibly provide beyond an entertaining look at what might have been. As it turns out, quite a lot.


A Familiar Scene


It is spotlessly clean.  The floor is covered with reed mats.  Various exotic items hang on the walls, mementos of Minch’s years as a Jedi.  Luke sits on the floor…even so, the roof is close over his head…listening to Minch, who crouches on a small bed.

MINCH: For the novice, the body must be comfortable, neither hungry not overfed, neither hot nor cold.  You must not be sleepy or tired, and your mind must be clear.

(Luke nods; Minch assumes a posture of intense concentration)

Let your mind go free.  I’ll help you. Reach out.  Reach for the Force… the Force that runs between the stars, between the galaxies.  The Force that lights the suns, and surrounds all living things.  Reach for it, Luke.  Reach…

LUKE: I’m trying.


A grim castle of black iron that squats on a rock in the midst of a crimson sea.


In a tower room, grim and darkling, lighted by the red glow outside.  Vader is at home, at ease. He has companions; several small gargoyles that perch or caper on the massive furniture.  He is feeding them tid-bits from a golden bowl, enjoying their ugliness and their greed. Abruptly he stiffens. He sweeps the gargoyles aside and stands up, his fists on the table.  The gargoyles skitter away, frightened.


Minch and Luke.  Luke’s face glistens with sweat.  Minch is staring at him in amazement.

LUKE: I think…  I think…


Darth Vader, feeling the disturbance in the Force, knowing it can only derive from one source, hurls his own dark power against Luke.


Luke, in semi-trance, shows signs of distress.

LUKE: Dark.  Dark.

Minch is instantly alert.

MINCH: Come back, Luke.

But Luke straightens and something unfamiliar comes into his face.  When he speaks his voice is harsh and deep, and he is not speaking to Minch but to someone far away.

LUKE: No!  Fight. Dark…with dark!


The gargoyles cower.  Darth Vader recoils as if from a blow.  And then he laughs, AS IF HE HAS DISCOVERED something that bodes no good for Luke.


Minch, frightened, bends every effort to call Luke back.

MINCH: Luke!

Luke’s eyes open and he looks at Minch.

LUKE: Darth Vader knows struck at me.  And I felt…power.  I struck back.

MINCH: The dark side of the Force. Luke, you’re in greater danger than I realized.  Even untrained, you’re far more powerful than I, far more powerful than Obi-Wan. You don’t just touch the Force, you rend it.

LUKE: But why should that be dangerous?  I mean, to be strong?

MINCH: The more strength, the greater the temptation.  Skywalker, if your ship could fly, I’d order you off my world right now.  You’re too great a burden.

Recognize it? A master teaches his student to feel the Force; the student drifts to a dark place; the master panics at the student’s raw strength. Although the details are different, the sequence is beat for beat the first lesson in The Last Jedi. Rey takes the place of Luke and Luke takes Yoda’s. Instead of Luke recoiling at Rey’s sheer power in the Force, it is Yoda recoiling at Luke’s.

Clearly Rian read the Original Trilogy draft scripts. Also of interest is how explicit Luke’s strength in the Force is. The strength of the Skywalker line is never explicitly stated in the Original Trilogy, but is nevertheless a key part of the story. Even back then, the Skywalkers were special.

Back from the Dead

With the discovery Rian clearly used the draft scripts as inspiration for The Last Jedi, let’s turn to Return of the Jedi. One of the most controversial choices TLJ made was killing off Luke Skywalker. Much virtual ink has been spilled on this subject and arguments rage to this day. Lucasfilm and Rian knew this decision would be controversial, but what if they made it because they had an out?

ROTJ Revised Rough Draft


Luke sits in a small metallic cell inside the hold of the shuttle. His head is in his hands.

LUKE: Ben, help me…come to me, please Ben. I’m not strong enough to face my father. Help me to resist the Dark Side of the Force. Ben, Ben, please…

Luke looks up to see a shimmering, translucent image of Yoda standing in the tiny cell with him. Leia is startled by the vision.

LUKE: Yoda?

YODA: Ben can no longer help you. His power to stay in the netherworld has been spent. He will soon be one with the Force. His identity lost forever.

LUKE: No, help him. Bring him back…

YODA: Only you can draw him back to the material world. Stop your anger.

Luke’s anger is preventing Obi-Wan from manifesting? Perhaps something similar will happen in The Rise of Skywalker. Rather than Luke’s anger, it will be Rey’s fear and anger preventing her father from coming back to her. Let’s jump a bit:


Luke lies unconscious on a small island in the middle of a hot lava lake. A hot wind blows across his face and wakes him. He looks around at his hostile surroundings and suddenly becomes aware of another person sitting behind him. He turns on the intruder with Jedi speed. The shrouded figure doesn’t move or even look up.

LUKE: Ben…

Slowly, the hooded figure looks up, revealing his face. It is Ben Kenobi in the flesh.

BEN: I could no longer stay in the netherworld.

LUKE: But Yoda said…

BEN: …that I would become one with the Force and choose not to return to the material world? That your anger prevented me from…

LUKE: But I’m not angry…not anymore…I understand why you didn’t tell me about my father. I do.

BEN: I know. And I am here to help you destroy the Emperor, and…your father.

LUKE: I can’t.

Suddenly Yoda appears beside Ben.

YODA: You can and you will…I in the netherworld, and Obi-Wan at your side. Help you we will.Ben doesn’t simply appear as a mere Force ghost, but comes back to life to aid Luke! The idea Force ghosts are capable of coming back to life has been part of the franchise for almost forty years! Luke’s death in The Last Jedi may only have ever been intended to be temporary. Perhaps they’ll even take it a step farther and have Anakin fill the role of Yoda in the Netherworld. Then the Skywalkwers could be said to have truly risen.

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  1. The MOST interesting part is how JJ and Rian not only stole from the OT, but clearly from its drafts as well. A Darth Vader-ish quote is certainly needed. “Their failure is complete.”

    Back to the effort of purging my brain of the sequels (and the prequels). Fortunately I’m old enough that soon enough senility will set in and as I rewatch the OT (and Rogue One, my secret shame 🙂 ), those memories will remain as the others vanish. After ROTJ, no one could ever have convinced me that one day, the Star Wars fans (not fanboys) would be so demoralized by sullying of the most aspirational movie saga ever.

    Just goes to show that SJW’s and feminists can ruin things previously thought unruinable.


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