Star Wars: Leigh Brackett and The Empire Strikes Back You Never Saw

Leigh Brackett's draft for Star Wars II would have produced a very different The Empire Strikes Back.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Dream Poster

If you’re a regular Den of Geek reader or even if you’re just a casual sci-fi movie fan, I don’t have to really tell you that The Empire Strikes Back is a masterpiece of blockbuster cinema. It’s already embedded in most of your brains that this much darker 1980 sequel to George Lucas‘ original blockbuster is the standard by which we measure most other big-screen space adventures. But before it was the magnum opus from Lucas, director Irvin Kershner, and writers Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett, the spark that would become The Empire Strikes Back floated in the nothingness of space, waiting for its big bang. 

The story goes that Lucas didn’t really have a plot for “Star Wars II,” but only some general ideas. By the time Star Wars premiered in May 1977, the saga’s sequel could have gone in one of two ways: the low-budget or blockbuster route. Although we got the latter, thanks to Star Wars‘ massive worldwide success, there was in fact already a plan in place in case the film wasn’t a huge hit. Lucas hired Alan Dean Foster, who ghost-wrote From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, the novelization of the first film, to write the low-budget sequel. That eventually became the first Expanded Universe novel in the franchise’s history, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, which sees Luke and Leia crash on a jungle planet and face off with Darth Vader in a race against time to find a mysterious gem called the Kaiburr crystal. 

But since Star Wars was such a huge success, Lucas had a much bigger problem on his hands. He had to follow up his beloved blockbuster with an even better sequel, which, in the days between 1977 and 1980, was highly anticipated, to say the least. It cannot be downplayed that while he was planning Star Wars II, Lucas was also busy building his very own empire – Lucasfilm – not to mention continuing to foster innovation at Industrial Light & Magic. And as J.W. Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back points out, Lucas planned to finance his sequel out of pocket, in order to keep 20th Century Fox from tinkering with the film. So it makes a lot of sense that Lucas decided to step away from writing and directing Star Wars II.

Leigh Brackett, Rogue Leader

While you probably know that Lucas turned to Irvin Kershner, one of his former USC professors, to direct the movie, it’s possible that you haven’t heard of the film’s first scribe at all. Because, well, through the years, space opera writer Leigh Brackett’s contributions to The Empire Strikes Back have been a bit downplayed and overshadowed by Kasdan’s much bigger star. But Brackett, who Lucas first met through a friend during his search for a screenwriter, was vital to the creative process of Empire, especially in its pivotal early days.

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So why might you not have heard of her? Perhaps Brackett isn’t a household name today because her contributions to the film came to a tragic end when she died of cancer in March 1978, only weeks after she had turned in the very first rough draft of the script. But even before she took the gig in 1977, Brackett wasn’t very well-known outside of the science fiction community, where she was known (and ostracized) for writing pulpy space opera and planetary romance novels and short stories. In fact, she was a maverick, choosing to write lighter sci-fi romps at a time (the 1950s science fiction boom) when the genre was transitioning to a more serious approach. Brackett also mentored and collaborated with much more celebrated sci-fi star, the late Ray Bradbury. 

Watch The Empire Strikes Back on Amazon

According to George Lucas biography Mythmaker by John Baxter, the film mogul was surprised to hear during their first phone conversation that Brackett had plenty of screenwriting experience. Between 1945 and 1977, she had already written 10 films, including The Big Sleep, which she co-wrote with Nobel Prize-winning novelist William Faulkner. Her credits also included Rio Bravo, El Dorado, and The Long Goodbye

In late 1977, Lucas and Brackett met for several story conferences to hash out an outline for Star Wars II. Together, they figured out the skeleton of the film’s plot, which remained pretty much intact in later drafts, although there were some differences, according to Rinzler’s book. For one thing, Darth Vader was not Luke’s father in the outline.

The Yoda character also didn’t receive his iconic name until later drafts of the script. In the earliest outlines, Yoda was named “Buffy,” which was short for “Bunden Debannen.” Lucas writes in the outline, “Buffy very old—three or four thousand years. Kiber crystal in sword? Buffy shows Luke? Buffy the guardian. ‘Feel not think.'” Close enough. From this outline, Brackett set to work on the very first draft of The Empire Strikes Back.

Star Wars by Ralph Mcquarrie

“Star Wars Sequel”

I spent an evening with that first draft, which you can read in its entirety here, flipping through the “Star Wars sequel”—as the draft is innocently titled—that might have been. In lieu of Lucas’ original story treatment, here is the key to the creative process of The Empire Strikes Back and evidence of Brackett’s vital contributions to the film. This scanned version of the draft, which fan site StarWarz.com acquired in 2010 after years of searching for the “holy grail,” includes plenty of (semi-legible) handwritten notes and crossed out lines.

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Unfortunately, I can’t confirm whether these are Brackett’s notes to herself after meeting with Lucas or if Lucas himself scribbled on the pages. Still, it’s fascinating to read the notes along with the typed words on the page, as if you’ve found your way into Brackett and Lucas’ stream of consciousness.

Most importantly, you see that Brackett’s draft, while definitely in need of a rewrite and several tweaks, holds all of the big moments we’d eventually see on screen. We still get a version of the Battle of Hoth (a much more ridiculous one), the wise words of an old Jedi Master, the excitement of zooming through a deadly asteroid field, a love triangle (a MUCH more overt one), a majestic city in the clouds, unexpected betrayals, and the climactic duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader that we would reenact on playgrounds for years to come. 

The rough draft begins, not with a shot of deep space, but with a fade in on an ice planet, which isn’t called Hoth. Luke and Han are riding their “snow lizards” around the planet’s surface, looking for signs of life, especially any life forms that might endanger their Rebel base, which Brackett describes as an “ice castle.” Almost immediately, Brackett’s love of space fantasy and planetary romance bleeds through, which sets the tone of the script as a more classic piece of science fiction. Planets and places sound dazzling in her descriptions, even something as simple as the “ice formations” that catch Luke’s attention while scouting with Han. 

Star Wars Concept Art by Ralph Mcquarrie

“Dimly there appears through the veils [of snow] a formation of rocks,” Brackett writes, “Or perhaps ice of exceptional beauty, catching points of fire from the sun.” And there are plenty of other beautiful descriptions in her draft. You can tell she understands the Star Wars universe, even in its relatively early days, as she instills that wonder for the universe and exotic settings that we still associate with the franchise.

But her settings really belong to the chrome of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials. Barely in sight is the aged, worn, rusty, lived-in universe that Lucas had established in 1977. She’s writing for a different time, so to speak. 

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And Brackett means to write “space fantasy” in every sense of the word. The ice monster, which is not yet called a “Wampa,” that Luke encounters on the planet’s surface can “vanish in a burst of vapor,” more wraith than hulking beast. This isn’t the one-off adversary from the film, either, but just one of a horde of ice monsters that later attack the Rebel ice castle. I wonder how George R.R. Martin would feel about the “Winter Is Coming” feel of this script’s opening act, as the Rebels scramble to protect their base from the ice beasties. It’s not the Empire that drives the Rebellion out of their hidden base at all, in fact.

The ice planet segment actually takes up a pretty large chunk of the movie, and you can tell that Brackett loves writing the chaos inside the Rebel base, which is first invaded by monsters and then attacked by the Empire—who bring “tank-type crawlers” to the party, undoubtedly the predecessors of the AT-ATs. And she has fun portraying the Rebellion as a group of bumbling idiots, too. Even though “1,026 systems” have joined their cause since their victory at Yavin, the Rebels in this draft are like chickens without heads, many frozen to death by burst water pipes inside the base. Their attempt to repel an exceptionally organized attack by the ice monsters is perhaps best accompanied by the Benny Hill Theme.

Star Wars Concept Art by Ralph Mcquarrie

During the ice castle scenes, Brackett also quickly establishes one of the draft’s major pitfalls: the love triangle between Luke, Han, and Leia, which is as subtle as a Vader Force choke. Brackett definitely embraces romance in her approach, as a much more damsel-like Leia falls into the hero’s arms on multiple occasions for a quick make-out session. If you think Star Wars‘ treatment of women is already bad, you should get a load of this script, which sees Leia become the object of the men’s affections and not much else. Han and Luke are the rough-around-the-edges and baby-faced beefcakes who grab Leia and try to convince her to love them. This is the less subtle precursor to the Slave Leia debacle. In later drafts, Lucas and Kasdan’s revisions definitely helped to bring in a lot of the nuance to Han and Leia’s budding relationship. 

Another thing that really irks me about these love scenes is how pervy Threepio and Chewie are throughout. While hiding out in the asteroid cave (sans Exogorth stomach), the duo watches as Han and Leia get intimate in the Falcon’s cockpit and even gossip about their love affair. Threepio doesn’t understand how humans can suck face and Chewie is jealous that Leia is taking Han away from him. In several instances, Han’s furry friend even cockblocks the scoundrel.

Eventually, even Vader needs Leia…in order to lure Luke to Orbital City, the rough draft’s version of Cloud City. Actually, let’s talk Darth. For a movie called The Empire Strikes Back, the Empire is scarcely in the first two acts of the rough draft at all. The villains don’t appear on screen until 20 pages in, and not in a fleet of battleships in pursuit of the Rebel base. Vader’s iconic Super Star Destroyer Executor is nowhere to be seen. Instead, we first meet the titular bad guys in “the administrative center” of the Empire, the planet Ton Muund. There waits Vader in his castle.

Again, you hear Brackett’s affinity for space fantasy in her description of the planet and her use of another castle. She writes, “Ton Muund should have an odd sort of day; perhaps a blue star.” This is one instance where I very much would have liked to see Brackett’s version on the big screen, just to witness the Imperial capital’s day in blue light. (Actually, I would’ve liked to watch Han, Luke, and Leia fight ice wraiths, too. Sorry, not sorry.) We don’t see the planet very often in the film, but like with many of her settings, I just love any moment on Ton Muund so much. I wonder if it wasn’t a precursor to Coruscant?

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Rinzler also points out in his book that Lucas considered putting a “city planet” in the movie and a “water planet” with an underwater city. You already know how that turned out.

Star Wars Vader Versus Luke Concept Art by Ralph Mcquarrie

Vader is already on the hunt for Luke in this draft. It seems that Luke’s destiny is already very much in place here and that he must face off with the villain by the end of the movie. After chasing him out of the ice planet, Vader continues to be a creeping menace to Luke throughout the film. It’s interesting how Brackett plays up Luke and Vader’s connection. While they aren’t father and son in this draft (that came in Lucas’ revision of Brackett’s script), Luke and Vader do have a unique relationship through the Force. 

Brackett turns Vader into a sort of dark wizard who can attack Luke with the Dark Side from across the galaxy. There are several instances in the script where Vader manages to get into Luke’s head and knock him out with the Force. We see this as early as the escape from the ice planet, when Luke is knocked unconscious while piloting past the Imperial ships. I can’t imagine Brackett wasn’t a fan of The Lord of the Rings, especially the scenes where Sauron invaded Frodo’s mind through the Ring.

A lot of Vader’s depth is missing here, though. Brackett writes Vader like he’s a guy performing evil deeds for evil’s sake. There really isn’t any motivation besides revenge for his humiliation at Yavin. He gets one scene with the Emperor, like in the film, where it’s clear that his ass is on the line if he doesn’t destroy Luke. By the end of the script, though, Vader understands that Luke could be a powerful asset for the Dark Side, and he tries to turn him during their climactic fight in the depths of Orbital City. But again, without the famous reveal, this confrontation bears a lot less weight.

One of the crucial sections of The Empire Strikes Back is Luke’s Jedi training on Dagobah, under the tutelage of Master Yoda. Brackett has this part almost completely in final form. Except for a lot of the dialogue (most of her dialogue was rightfully scrapped) between Yoda (“Minch” in this draft), Luke, and Ben, and one or two very different moments, things play out pretty much as they do on screen: Luke crash lands on the “bog planet” and meets a little “frog-like” old man named Minch, who he doesn’t immediately recognize as a powerful Jedi Master. Minch takes Luke on as his student, despite his reservations, in order to prepare Luke for his fight against the Dark Side. In one scene, Luke does pull his ship out of the bog using the Force. Easy peasy.

Star Wars Yoda and Luke Concept Art by Ralph Mcquarrie

There’s one pivotal scene where things go off the deep end, though. It’s by far the script’s most controversial: after Minch has taught Luke how to summon Ben’s Force ghost (Obi-Wan cannot appear whenever he wants, and can only be summoned through the Force—Brackett clearly liked necromancy), his old mentor shows up…and brings Luke’s father with him!

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Only identified as “Master Skywalker,” Luke’s dad gives him the generic speech about how proud he is of the young hero. He also reveals that Luke has a twin sister, although it’s not Leia, but a girl named Nellith who’s never mentioned again in the story. I’m guessing Brackett was leaving that for the third film. The scene ends with Minch, Ben, and Skywalker “knighting” Luke with their lightsabers, effectively awarding him the title of Jedi, although he must face one final test in order to be a true member of the Order: defeat Vader. 

That fight happens on “Hoth,” which is really Bespin, but with way more flying manta-rays, as Han, Leia, and friends quickly discover. Han and Leia are really thrown off course as the script progresses, not unlike their arc in the film. Han, who is less mercenary and more proper Rebel soldier, isn’t trying to get back to Jabba to pay off a debt. In fact, there aren’t any bounty hunters in this movie. Thank Lucas and Kasdan for Dengar Boba Fett.

Before the “Attack of the Vanishing Ice Wraith Monsters,” Leia convinces Han to go on a mission to convince his stepfather (!) Ovan Marekal, leader of “the Transport Guild,” to join the Rebellion. Brackett imagines Marekal as “the most powerful man in the galaxy next to the Emperor,” so he’s probably a good guy to have on your team. Of course, as promised, you never actually see that mission play out, since Han is busy running from the Empire and making out with Leia. 

The final act on Hoth contains the script’s best moments, and it’s where Brackett’s space fantasy really shines through. Again, she effortlessly makes the planet sound wondrous and mysterious, as the Falcon lands on the planet’s surface way below its blanket of clouds. Brackett gives us a green landscape of ruined cities, where “noble-looking” natives with “white skin and hair” known as “Cloud People” ride in flying “mantas.” Han hopes that they can all hide out with his pal Lando Kadar (same Lando, different last name) while this whole Empire thing smoothes over. Lando had established a trader’s outpost on Hoth’s surface when last Han saw him, but has since built a huge Orbital City among the clouds. 

Star Wars Ships Concept Art by Ralph Mcquarrie

I think Brackett lends her most sentimental eye to Lando, who’s still a sweet talker, but infinitely more lonely. Here, Lando is one of the last of a long-forgotten batch of clones left over from the Clone Wars. Lando reveals his backstory to Han’s friends in an emotional monologue: “It didn’t seem strange to us to see our own faces endlessly repeated in the streets of our cities. It gave us a sense of oneness, of belonging. Now, when every face is new and different, I feel truly alone.” This is just good sci-fi writing and captures the signature melodrama of Star Wars

Lando is easily my favorite character in the script, a man out of his place in the galaxy. On Hoth, he has been taken in by the natives, and the leader of the Cloud People, Chief Bahiri, considers him an adopted son. Good will for the character doesn’t last long, of course, since he still betrays Han in order to protect his interests on Orbital City. And he even gets Bahiri killed in the process.

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Han et al are held captive on Hoth, although they aren’t tortured. No one is frozen in carbonite. In fact, there isn’t much tension in their captivity at all, since it’s more like house arrest. And Brackett doesn’t quite provide a dramatic escape scene, although their is a part where Han has to blow open some hangar doors with the Falcon’s thrusters. And things don’t quite pick up in Luke and Vader’s epic confrontation, either. No, Brackett seems to reach the falling action by the time Lando betrays his guests in the script’s big twist. 

Brackett’s draft ends on the Rebel planet Besspin Kaalieda, “an extremely beautiful planet [that] revolves jewl-like [sic] in space” (Lucas apparently liked some of the planet names the writer came up with). There, Luke and Leia see Han and Chewie off, as the Falcon sets off on its mission to parts unknown in order to find Marekal in the third film. As if this were Camelot at the end of a great adventure, Luke salutes the retreating ship with his lightsaber, the blade pointed towards the stars.

Star Wars Concept Art by Ralph Mcquarrie

The Cliffhanger

After reading Brackett’s rough draft of The Empire Strikes Back, I’m still intrigued by the thought of what she could have done had her health allowed her a second try. Perhaps we’d see more of her pulpy sensibility shine through on the screen. Maybe we would’ve even seen another Wampa or two.

When Brackett brought George Lucas the draft in early 1978, Lucas was underwhelmed. Years later, Lucas said in Laurent Bouzereau’s Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays:

Writing has never been something I have enjoyed, and so, ultimately, on the second film I hired Leigh Brackett. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out; she turned in the first draft, and then she passed away. I didn’t like the first script, but I gave Leigh credit because I liked her a lot. She was sick at the time she wrote the script, and she really tried her best. During the story conferences I had with Leigh, my thoughts weren’t fully formed and I felt that her script went in a completely different direction.

Because we’ve been watching the finished film for over 35 years, we know what Lucas’ vision was for his Star Wars sequel. But Brackett’s attempt is not a failure. In 124 pages of her script, the writer establishes the major story beats we’d eventually see in The Empire Strikes Back.

I read through her version of the adventure and I’m amazed by where she’s taken me and how I got there. I liked the view of her blue star and Ton Muund in its odd day. A small part of me still hopes this will make it to the big screen one day. Yet, her story ends like the film itself: in a cliffhanger, floating somewhere in space.

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Notes

While researching this article, I took extensive notes about the Rough Draft for the “Star Wars Sequel” that would eventually become The Empire Strikes Back.

The notes are a running list of all the big differences between Brackett’s first attempt at the story and the finished masterpiece we eventually received. I’m including this list below to give you a full picture of the “Star Wars Sequel” that might have been:

– Tauntaun is just called a “snow lizard.” Hoth is just known as “ice planet.”

– Ice formation catches Luke’s attention, not probe droid “meteor.”

– Weird 3PO exposition about the state of the Empire post-Battle of Yavin. 

– Han mentions “God” in the rough draft. It would have been the only potential mention of God in the saga. The rough draft also mentions sharks!

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– Ice planet is “the fourth planet of this detached system at the edge of the Granida Cluster.” A much larger chunk of the rough draft (40 pages, which equal 40 minutes of screen time) takes place on this planet than in the final film. 

– Scene involving holo-map that shows clear war front of Galactic Civil War. Empire in red and Rebels in green. 1,026 systems have joined the Rebellion. 

– Han Solo has a stepfather named Ovan Marekal. Leia wants Han to convince Ovan Marekal, “most powerful man in the galaxy next to the Emperor,” to join the Rebellion. Marekal is leader of the Transport Guild. Interestingly enough, Han is an actual member of the Rebellion in this draft, as opposed to the more “mercenary” role in The Empire Strikes Back. Han agrees to go on the mission. 

– Han, Leia, and Luke’s love triangle is WAY more overt in the rough draft. Several love scenes between the three of them.

Star Wars Concept Art by Ralph Mcquarrie

– Luke doesn’t wake up upside down in “ice monster” cave. He hears Ben’s voice, which tells him to “Remember the Force,” as he faces the monster. No mention of the word “Wampa” in entire draft. These ice monsters can “vanish in a burst of vapor.”

– Han and Leia go searching for Luke on tauntauns and find him almost immediately on-screen. Ben does not appear as a Force ghost at all to tell Luke to go to Dagobah.

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– “Commander Willard” worries ice monsters pose threat to Rebel base. His fears are realized later when these ice monsters attack the Rebel base, which is described as an “ice castle.” 

– Luke tells his friends he saw Ben. Interesting since he never admits to seeing ghosts in The Empire Strikes Back

– Luke, Han, and Leia accidently discover a mysterious crystal that resembles “a memory cell” in lightsaber hilt. Fun fact here also: Brackett switches between “saber” and “sabre” throughout the script. At one point, she also calls the weapon a “lightsword.”

– A planet called Ton Muund is introduced as “the administrative center of the Empire.” The Empire doesn’t actually enter the draft until 20 pages in. Brackett writes a beautiful description of the planet: “Ton Muund should have an odd sort of day; perhaps a blue star.”

– Darth Vader is never on the Star Destroyer Executor in the draft. Instead, we see him scheming in “Vader’s Private Quarters” or “Vader’s Castle” on Ton Muund. Vader finds the Rebel base by interrogating a trader, instead of through the probe droid from The Empire Strikes Back. You’ll notice that this version of Vader doesn’t Force choke anyone in the entire story, and that’s just unacceptable.

Star Wars Concept Art by Ralph Mcquarrie

– Ben talks (but doesn’t physically appear) to Luke again in sick bay and puts Luke in odd Force trance. 

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– “Memory cell” holds coordinates to “perhaps place where my father was trained.” Not sure how Luke comes to this conclusion. This will eventually lead him to the “bog planet” that becomes Dagobah in the final script. 

– Darth Vader is considered a Jedi. No mention of the Sith. 

– Script mistakenly says that Luke sent Darth Vader spinning out of control during Battle of Yavin’s climactic scene, instead of Han. 

– Death Star is also mistakenly called “Death World” at one point. 

– Darth Vader and “Master Skywalker,” who is Luke’s father in the rough draft, are two separate characters. 

– Luke “feels” the Empire approaching the Rebel base, instead of Han and Chewie discovering the probe droid. Imperials attack the base while the Rebels are also repelling the ice monsters. The monsters have broken overhead water pipes that instantly freeze many Rebels.

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– Luke is separated from the others by wall of ice from said broken overhead pipes. Luke leaves in Leia’s ship with R2. Han, Leia, Chewie, and a frozen C-3PO leave on Falcon. Same setup as The Empire Strikes Back

– Brackett introduces a Rebel character named “Sedge,” who is Leia’s personal pilot. Unclear if Sedge is actually Wedge Antilles. Sedge dies before he can take off.

– Darth Vader tries to contact Luke through the Force during the ice planet escape, knocking Luke unconscious in Leia’s ship. R2 manages to use the lightsaber crystal with coordinates to send the ship to hyperspace.

Star Wars Concept Art by Ralph Mcquarrie

– No asteroid field section above ice planet. Instead, the asteroid field scenes come when the Millennium Falcon arrive at a Rebel rendezvous that’s actually an Imperial ambush. Han is able to maneuver Falcon through asteroids, shaking the Imperials off their tail, and he hides the ship in an asteroid cave. No Exogorth in asteroid…

– Han and Leia make out A LOT while waiting in asteroid cave. In several instances, Chewbacca and Threepio watch and comment on the love scenes. Kind of disturbing…Also, Chewie is jealous of Han and Leia’s newfound love.

– Luke arrives on bog planet. No mention of “Dagobah.”

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– Yoda is named “Minch” in the rough draft and described as “frog-like.” As in ESB, Luke doesn’t recognize Minch as a Jedi Master. It’s only after Ben’s Force ghost appears that Luke respects Minch, who takes Luke as his student. 

– “By the Force, I call you!” Minch yells to summon Ben’s Force ghost. They duel. Described as “fencing.” Ben’s ghost has to be called. He can’t just appear.

– During early scenes between Minch and Luke, you can see why a lot of the dialogue in this draft was not kept by the final film. Such painful lines include, “There was precious little wood on Tatooine to chop.”

– Minch explains the Dark Side to Luke: “It’s the dark side of you.” It’s the inherent evil that all beings are born with. Minch says Darth Vader was the first Dark Jedi in a long time. 

– After an undisclosed amount of time in training, Luke summons Ben’s Force ghost, who also brings Luke’s father along. Master Skywalker reveals that Luke has a twin sister named Nellith. Skywalker, Ben, and Minch award Luke his knighthood. 

– Luke and Darth Vader have some kind of “Force fight” that stands in for Dagobah cave scene from The Empire Strikes Back.

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Star Wars Concept Art by Ralph Mcquarrie

– Luke feels that Leia is on Hoth and that Darth Vader is waiting for him. Minch tells Luke he must face Vader in person as “final test.” Very different from Yoda’s advice in the film. 

– Darth Vader only appears about three times in the first 70 pages of rough draft.

– It is revealed that Darth Vader can attack Luke with the Dark Side of the Force from across the galaxy. 

– Darth Vader refers to Emperor Palpatine as “Your Imperial Highness/Majesty.”

– Lando Calrissian is “Lando Kadar” in rough draft. His family were refugees from the Clone Wars. It is later revealed that Lando is in fact “a clone of the Ashardi family.” He gives a beautiful monologue about being a clone: “It didn’t seem strange to us to see our own faces endlessly repeated in the streets of our cities. It gave us a sense of oneness, of belonging. Now, when every face is new and different, I feel truly alone.”

– Brackett describes Lando as “handsome, like Rudolph Valentino.” Valentino was an Italian-American actor from the 20s. He was considered a sex symbol at the time and was nicknamed “The Latin Lover.”

– Lando became “respectable” on “Hoth,” which is what Bespin is called in the rough draft. Han explains the word “Hoth” means “cloud.” Hoth is a planet covered in clouds with green landscape of ruined cities. Lando built a big trading outpost on planet’s surface. There’s no mention that Lando once owned the Millennium Falcon in this draft.

– Han et al are attacked by Hoth natives known as the White Bird Clan of the Cloud People. They are noble-looking warriors, with white hair and skin, and they ride giant manta-rays in the sky. The clan is led by a character named Chief Bahiri.

Star Wars Concept Art by Ralph Mcquarrie

– Cloud City exists in the rough draft and is referred to as “Orbital City.”

– Leia uses fake identity on Orbital City. She calls herself “Ethania Eredith,” a smuggler’s daughter who escaped her planet with Han Solo after her father died. 

– Threepio still gets blown up on Orbital City. Lando still ambushes heroes in dining hall, where Darth Vader is waiting. Heroes are not taken prisoner, but aren’t allowed to leave Orbital City. Vader plans to use them to lure Luke to Hoth.

– Han is never frozen in carbonite and there are NO bounty hunters on his tail in the entire draft.

– Bahiri helps Luke get into Orbital City via flying manta-ray. You can really see Brackett’s planetary romance/space fantasy roots coming through in this scene. 

– Stormtroopers kill Bahiri and the rest of the Cloud People. 

– Han, Leia, Lando, Chewie, R2, and Threepio escape Orbital City on the Falcon. 

– Luke faces Darth Vader in the “Vader’s Apartment” in Orbital City. Luke uses the Dark Side to fight Vader. No “I am your father” moment, obviously. Luke falls over railing into the Orbital City core and manages to escape in Falcon, much like in ESB. Luke keeps his hand.

– The heroes arrive on Besspin Kaalieda, “an extremely beautiful planet [that] revolves jewl-like [sic] in space.”

– Han heads out on mission to find Ovan Marekal. Luke salutes the Falcon with his lightsaber. Roll credits. 

* All art in this article by the brilliant Ralph McQuarrie. 

John Saavedra is an associate editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9