Over the long Easter weekend, I re-watched the original Star Wars trilogy for the umpteenth time, and not for the first time, I began to think about what those films really told us about the back story, which has become a little more difficult to discern since the prequel trilogy has come along and given us that story in live action. It does strike me that the backstory presented during the course of the original trilogy seems to paint a slightly different picture to what we eventually had in the prequel trilogy. So for today’s blog, I thought it might be interesting to see what we actually learnt from the dialogue in episodes 4, 5 and 6, and whether those anecdotes line up with what we were later given in episodes 1, 2 and 3.
I mean, it’s May the Fourth, it’s Star Wars day! What better way to celebrate than to pick over the scripts of the original trilogy, right?!
A New Hope
The first ever Star Wars movie does pepper in a fair bit of background along the way, giving us perhaps the most clues about what came before. Predominantly, the scene in Obi-Wan’s hut gives us a lot of insight into the prequel era, and it was actually in watching this scene that I had the idea for this blog.
Well of course I know him. He’s me! I haven’t gone by the name Obi-Wan since oh, before you were born.
This was the first line that stuck out for me. Obi-Wan had changed his name to Ben before the birth of Luke – why? It hints at Obi-Wan going into hiding before, or something. Moving on!
No, my father didn’t fight in the wars. He was a navigator on a spice freighter.
That’s what your uncle told you. He didn’t hold with your father’s ideals. Thought he should have stayed here and not gotten involved.
You fought in the Clone Wars?
Yes, I was once a Jedi Knight the same as your father.
I wish I’d known him.
He was the best star-pilot in the galaxy, and a cunning warrior. I understand you’ve become quite a good pilot yourself. And he was a good friend. Which reminds me…
Ben gets up and goes to a chest where he rummages around. As Luke finishes repairing Threepio and starts to fit the restraining bolt back on, Threepio looks at him nervously. Luke thinks about the bolt for a moment then puts it on the table. Ben shuffles up and presents Luke with a short handle with several electronic gadgets attached to it.
I have something here for you. Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn’t allow it. He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damned-fool idealistic crusade like your father did.
Sir, if you’ll not be needing me, I’ll close down for awhile.
Sure, go ahead.
Ben hands Luke the saber.
What is it?
Your father’s lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster.
Let’s pick this scene apart, shall we?
Luke thinks that his father was a navigator on a spice freighter, though we’re never told how the story fabricated by Uncle Owen ends. The first revelation is that Luke’s father, Anakin, fought in the clone wars. What are they? We have no idea. But Obi-Wan was once a Jedi Knight, like Anakin, and the Jedi were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. The clone wars clearly disturbed that peace, but there isn’t anything to suggest that the clones were the bad guys. Authors like Tim Zahn later extrapolated that the clones were evil, and the clonemasters were attempting to overthrow the Republic, a situation exploited by Palpatine to manoeuvre himself into a position of power.
Owen thought that Anakin should have stayed on Tatooine and not gotten involved in the war. Not really sure what to make of that, other than the fact it’s an interesting point that isn’t really cleared up. But if Owen Lars was intended as Luke’s blood uncle, and not the step-uncle he ends up being, maybe Anakin and Owen were supposed to be brothers? Given the different surnames though, maybe it was Anakin and Beru? Unclear.
Anakin wanted Luke to have his lightsaber, when Luke was old enough. Now, this has been explained by Obi-Wan being a bit rose-tinted, maybe, or trying to soften the truth for Luke and not burst that bubble he has about his father as a good man. But I think it might actually have been intended as just that – Anakin knew about Luke, and wanted his son to follow in his Jedi footsteps, bequeathing him a weapon for the time when he was old enough, in the warrior tradition. This does open up some possibilities that I think are quite exciting, but let’s move on.
We then hear about Vader and the Jedi Purge, which is all pretty self-explanatory. I always think it’s worth pointing out here Alec Guinness’ skill as an actor, when he has that brief look of unease cross his face before telling Luke. It’s like he knows he’s about to lie to the boy…
General Kenobi, years ago you served my father in the Clone Wars. Now he begs you to help him in his struggle against the Empire. I regret that I am unable to present my father’s request to you in person, but my ship has fallen under attack and I’m afraid my mission to bring you to Alderaan has failed.
General Kenobi served Bail Organa in the Clone Wars. Wow. So the Jedi were the generals in that war, or at least, Obi-Wan definitely was. Again, the inference feels very much like it was a war against clones, but let’s not labour that point. I do find it interesting though, how Obi-Wan is here portrayed almost like some kind of personal bodyguard for Bail Organa, hinting that the Alderaanian had a much wider role to play in the backstory than he was otherwise given. It makes him sound like he answered to Bail Organa somewhat specifically, and not simply to the Senate.
I want to briefly mention the conference room scene as well, where Vader is called a devotee to an ancient religion. It’s only been 20 years since the conclusion of the Clone Wars, and the destruction of the Jedi, and people are already forgetting about Force users. I suppose that’s what happens when people see an opportunity for advancement and seize it, though. There’s a similar moment when Vader tells Tarkin that he can sense Obi-Wan aboard the Death Star – Tarkin tells him the Jedi fire has gone out of the galaxy, and Vader is all that is left of the Jedi religion. Tarking presumably does not know that the Emperor is an adherent to the Force, although at this point in the meta-history it’s likely that the Emperor was not a Sith Lord in the same way that Vader is.
What is definitely worth noting here, though, is the continual use of the word “religion” to describe these folks. The thing with midi-chlorians that we got later on makes the Jedi an exclusive club that is based on a birth defect rather than something you can train for. But I suppose we’ll get to that in the next movie.
I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete.
Ben Kenobi moves with elegant ease into a classical offensive position. The fearsome Dark Knight takes a defensive stance.
When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.
So, whatever might be coming up in the Kenobi series, even whatever we saw in episode 3 – I think this is pretty definitive that Vader and Obi-Wan parted ways a long time ago. What’s interesting, to me, is that Vader seems to be suggesting that Vader left Obi-Wan while still an apprentice. We’ll come back to this in episode 6, though. Suffice it to say, though, I find this very interesting.
The Empire Strikes Back
There isn’t a great deal of background that can be gleaned from the next film, perhaps as it serves instead to continue the narrative from last time. Of course, there are still a few bits and pieces that come through, though. Let’s start with a really small point:
You will go to the Dagobah system.
There you will learn from Yoda, the Jedi Master who instructed me.
While this appears to have been addressed in episode 2 with Yoda instructing all the younglings in the Jedi Temple, I think the inference here is that Yoda instructed Obi-Wan much more one-on-one. Along the way, however, Yoda seems to have become the sort of living legend – Grand Master of the Jedi Order, no less – and as such the possibility that Obi-Wan was Yoda’s padawan discarded. Ah well.
Luke goes to Dagobah, and then we have this curious remark:
If you’re saying coming here was a bad idea, I’m beginning to agree with you. Oh, Artoo, what are we doing here? It’s like… something out of a dream, or, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just going crazy.
Still… there’s something familiar about this place. I feel like… I don’t know…
All of which seemed to point to the idea that Luke was either born on Dagobah, or else had spent some time there before being taken to Tatooine and the Lars family. Maybe Yoda was reaching out through the Force and young Luke became aware of it somehow? I mean, it’s pretty specific, and the fact that it’s mentioned twice does seem to be pretty telling. I’ve not come across anything that has yet explained this, either, so it’s just left dangling there.
Now then, the following dialogue was changed in the 2004 DVD release of the trilogy, but I’m sticking with the older version of the conversation between Vader and the Emperor, as I feel that we need to stay firmly in 1980 for the purposes of this blog.
A twelve-foot hologram of the Galactic Emperor materializes before Vader. The Emperor’s dark robes and monk’s hood are reminiscent of the cloak worn by Ben Kenobi. His voice is even deeper and more frightening than Vader’s.
What is thy bidding, my master?
There is a great disturbance in the Force.
I have felt it.
We have a new enemy – Luke Skywalker.
Yes, my master.
He could destroy us.
He’s just a boy. Obi-Wan can no longer help him.
The Force is strong with him. The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.
If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally.
Yes. Yes. He would be a great asset. Can it be done?
He will join us or die, my master.
Vader kneels. The supreme Emperor passes a hand over the crouched Lord of the Sith and fades away.
I am very interested in the fact that Vader has barely any reaction to the name Luke Skywalker, which is one of the reasons why the lines were changed in the 2004 release (Vader instead saying, “How is that possible?”) It does go some way to continuing the idea from the last movie, that Anakin knew he had a boy and wanted to give him his lightsaber, and so the fact that the Emperor names him here either suggests that Vader already knew he had a son, or else Skywalker is indeed the galactic version of Jones, and there’s no real way of reconciling Anakin and Luke as father and son from the name alone.
When Luke is in Yoda’s hut, there are a few remarks made by way that Yoda doesn’t wish to train Luke, calling him reckless and so on. When he says that Luke is too old to be trained, that seems to have been the cue for child padawans in the prequels, but really there’s nothing to otherwise suggest this – as we shall see in the next film. Also, Yoda tells him that a Jedi must be deeply committed to studying the Force, which again suggests, to me, that the Force is more akin to a religion that anyone can join if they’re so inclined.
The scene can be read a few ways, though, and I suppose Yoda could just have been testing Luke’s commitment by saying he wouldn’t train him. Because if we think that Luke, as Anakin’s son, will have a very high midi-chlorian count as well, wouldn’t it be more dangerous to leave him untrained? Especially when Obi-Wan outright says later on that it is a dangerous time for him to leave his training incomplete. It’s interesting, for sure, and I do often wonder how Lucas sees the Dagobah scenes from the original trilogy in relation to the Jedi philosophy from the prequels.
I don’t want to get too much into the idea of the Force as an energy field that anybody can touch if they try hard enough, because in many ways there isn’t really any direct contradiction to the later revelation of midi-chlorians. It sure sounds like anyone can be a Jedi, and there aren’t these strict rules about age and blood flying about, but there is also the inference of beings having a natural affinity for the Force, such as the son of a powerful Jedi also having the potential to be powerful. This, I suppose, is the original trilogy’s way of telling us about midi-chlorians without telling us about midi-chlorians. But I really don’t want to labour this point, because it has already been done to death in the 23 years since episode 1 came out. Let’s move on!
Stopped they must be. On this all depends. Only a fully trained Jedi Knight with the Force as his ally will conquer Vader and his Emperor. If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path, as Vader did, you will become an agent of evil.
This quote is worth mentioning, because it is again suggestive of the idea that Anakin and Obi-Wan parted ways during the former’s training, and not when the two of them were Jedi Knights as is shown in episode 3. We also get another of these tantalising clues as to why Anakin fell to the dark side, choosing the easy way. It definitely supports the idea that Anakin wanted more, and now.
Return of the Jedi
I suppose it’s part of the process of wrapping things up, but we get a surprisingly significant chunk of information again in episode 6, which once more revolves around Obi-Wan as the agent of exposition! We don’t really learn anything during the first half hour or so at Jabba’s palace, but once Luke returns to Dagobah, the lore begins to flow once again.
No more training do you require. Already know you that which you need.
Yoda sighs, and lies back on his bed.
Then I am a Jedi?
YODA (SHAKES HIS HEAD)
Ohhh. Not yet. One thing remains: Vader. You must confront Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi will you be. And confront him you will.
I think this little exchange is interesting, as it suggests there isn’t quite such a formal structure to the training for a Jedi. Luke basically gets in shape and learns some telekinesis, then he needs to overcome a great personal trial before he can be called a Jedi for real. It’s interesting because it really puts this sort of thing on a very personal level, which is in keeping with the brief glimpses we’ve had throughout the three films of how the Force works. It’s very much an internal mastery type of thing, and I think to some extent, the prequels demystified the whole thing.
Luke…Luke…Do not…Do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor, or suffer your father’s fate, you will. Luke, when gone am I (cough), the last of the Jedi will you be. Luke, the Force runs strong in your family. Pass on what you have learned, Luke… (with great effort) There is… another… Sky… Sky… walker.
Without getting into how well set-up the whole ‘Luke and Leia are brother and sister’ thing was, I think it’s very interesting that Yoda is relying on Luke to pass on what he has learned, as if anyone can teach this Force stuff. Whether that is a sign of the desperate times the Jedi are in at this point, who knows. But there’s never the suggestion that Leia would be too old to be trained, so are child padawans really that important?
When you watch the films in episode order, his line about underestimating the Emperor becomes layered with much more meaning, too. However, I also like it because it suggests that the Emperor was able to trick Anakin into falling to the dark side, somehow. Maybe Anakin thought he wouldn’t necessarily fall to evil, or something? Again, interesting.
The biggest info-dump that we get, however, comes from Obi-Wan’s talk with Luke in the following scene. I’ve included an extended version of this scene from the Third Draft of the script, which I think was used for James Kahn’s novelization, with the lines not filmed highlighted in bold.
Yoda will always be with you.
Luke looks up to see the shimmering image of BEN KENOBI.
Obi-Wan! Why didn’t you tell me?
The ghost of Ben Kenobi approaches him through the swamp.
You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father.
You father was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I have told you was true… from a certain point of view.
LUKE (TURNING AWAY, DERISIVE)
A certain point of view!
Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.
Luke is unresponsive. Ben studies him in silence for a moment.
I don’t blame you for being angry. If I was wrong in what I did, it certainly wouldn’t have been for the first time. You see, what happened to your father was my fault.
Ben pauses sadly.
Anakin was a good friend.
Luke turns with interest at this. As Ben speaks, Luke settles on a stump, mesmerized. Artoo comes over to offer his comforting presence.
When I first knew him, your father was already a great pilot. But I was amazed how strongly the Force was with him. I took it upon myself to train him as a Jedi. I thought that I could instruct him just as well as Yoda. I was wrong. My pride has had terrible consequences for the galaxy.
Luke is entranced.
There’s still good in him.
I also thought he could be turned back to the good side. It couldn’t be done. He is more machine now than man. Twisted and evil.
I can’t do it, Ben.
You cannot escape your destiny.
I tried to stop him once. I couldn’t do it.
Vader humbled you when first you met him, Luke… but that experience was part of your training. It taught you, among other things, the value of patience. Had you not been so impatient to defeat Vader then, you could have finished your training here with Yoda. You would have been prepared.
But I had to help my friends.
BEN (GRINNING AT LUKE’S INDIGNATION)
And did you help them? It was they who had to save you. You achieved little by rushing back prematurely, I fear.
LUKE (WITH SADNESS)
I found out Darth Vader was my father.
To be a Jedi, Luke, you must confront and then go beyond the dark side – the side your father couldn’t get past. Impatience is the easiest door – for you, like your father. Only, your father was seduced by what he found on the other side of the door, and you have held firm. You’re no longer so reckless now, Luke. You are strong and patient. And now, you must face Darth Vader again!
I can’t kill my own father.
Then the Emperor has already won. You were our only hope.
Yoda spoke of another.
The other he spoke of is your twin sister.
But I have no sister.
Hmm. To protect you both from the Emperor, you were hidden from your father when you were born. The Emperor knew, as I did, if Anakin were to have any offspring, they would be a threat to him. That is the reason why your sister remains safely anonymous.
Leia! Leia’s my sister.
Your insight serves you well. Bury your feelings deep down, Luke. They do you credit. But they could be made to serve the Emperor.
Luke looks into the distance, trying to comprehend all this.
BEN (CONTINUING HIS NARRATIVE)(CONT’D)
When your father left, he didn’t know your mother was pregnant. Your mother and I knew he would find out eventually, but we wanted to keep you both as safe as possible, for as long as possible. So I took you to live with my brother Owen on Tatooine… and your mother took Leia to live as the daughter of Senator Organa, on Alderaan.
Luke turns, and settles near Ben to hear the tale.
BEN (ATTEMPTING TO GIVE SOLACE WITH HIS WORDS) (CONT’D)
The Organa household was high-born and politically quite powerful in that system. Leia became a princess by virtue of lineage… no one knew she’d been adopted, of course. But it was a title without real power, since Alderaan had long been a democracy. Even so, the family continued to be politically powerful, and Leia, following in her foster father’s path, became a senator as well. That’s not all she became, of course… she became the leader of her cell in the Alliance against the corrupt Empire. And because she had diplomatic immunity, she was a vital link for getting information to the Rebel cause. That’s what she was doing when her path crossed yours… for her foster parents had always told her to contact me on Tatooine, if her troubles became desperate.
Luke is overwhelmed by the truth, and is suddenly protective of his sister.
But you can’t let her get involved now, Ben. Vader will destroy her.
She hasn’t been trained in the ways of the Jedi the way you have, Luke… but the Force is strong with her, as it is with all of your family. There is no avoiding the battle. You must face and destroy Vader!
This is definitely a long scene, and you can perhaps see why a lot of it was left out of the final shooting script. But let’s take it from the top, first concentrating on what we learn from the movie, and then moving into those additional bits. Anakin Skywalker was “seduced” by the dark side of the Force. This is a concept that has become so entrenched within the mythos of Star Wars that it’s just accepted now, but taken together with Yoda’s earlier declaration that Anakin underestimated the Emperor, I think it does speak quite strongly to how Anakin fell – wanting the quick and easy path, perhaps, and urged on by the Emperor. Luke was described in the last movie as reckless, like his father, so I think we’re building a picture of Anakin as wanting more, and wanting it now, and so he falls.
When Obi-Wan first met Anakin, he was already a great pilot, which is of course explained away by the antics with the podrace and subsequent battle for Naboo, but I do get the feeling that somehow Anakin was meant to be a lot older. In the original Rough Draft of the movie, Annikin Starkiller was described as being 18, I think, so perhaps this is the image that Lucas had in mind when he was writing this stuff? It definitely doesn’t sound like he was a child, and I do have the suspicion that if he was meant to have been, Obi-Wan might have remarked upon it here? At any rate, Obi-Wan was amazed at how strong in the Force Anakin was, and “took it upon himself” to train him. Interesting – sounds very much again like the Jedi do not have that sort of centralized structure that we see in the prequels.
Now, here we also have something of a contradiction between Episodes 4 and 6, when Obi-Wan tells Luke that both he and his twin sister were hidden from their father when they were born – so how could Anakin have wanted Luke to have his lightsaber when he was old enough? Hm. I guess it’s possible that Anakin told Obi-Wan that he wanted a hypothetical son to have his weapon, or perhaps there was a Jedi custom that allowed for weapons to be passed in that way, and Obi-Wan was just extrapolating?
In his final remark to Luke, Obi-Wan tells him that his feelings could be made to serve the Emperor. Again, it’s that sort of hint that the Emperor exploits this sort of thing, and perhaps that’s how Anakin fell to the dark side, through being so emotional.
So, what do we learn from the dialogue that was cut?
Firstly, Obi-Wan also believed that Anakin could be turned from the dark side, but it couldn’t be done, suggestive of the confrontation between the two that, as we know, put Vader in the suit. This idea is returned to when Vader and Luke meet again on Endor.
There’s a really interesting comment made about how Luke was able to confront the dark side and go beyond it, while Anakin liked what he saw and turned fully down that path. Anakin’s impatience seems to have caused his downfall, again linking in to the idea that Anakin wanted more, and quicker than he was getting it from Obi-Wan. It sounds very much like confronting the dark side and being able to stand firm is a clear part of Jedi training, which I think goes a long way to support the Dagobah cave sequence in episode 5. This is definitely a loss to the script, having these lines cut.
As the scene continues beyond the filmed dialogue, we have a bit of a bombshell in learning that Owen was Obi-Wan’s brother, and also that Anakin did not know his wife was pregnant. The comment “when your father left…” is also very suggestive, as if Anakin fell to the dark side long before Mrs Skywalker began to show her pregnancy, maybe? It is all quite indicative of a chaotic time, possibly linked to the foundation of the Empire as well. I sometimes think that by making the prequel trilogy so wide open, we have lost some of the darker aspects of this family drama that could have been.
Of course, that’s all now largely irrelevant for the purposes of this blog, because it isn’t in the movie.
Next up, then, we have the oft-cited argument for poor story choices in the prequels: Luke and Leia on Endor.
Leia… do you remember your mother? Your real mother?
Just a little bit. She died when I was very young.
What do you remember?
Just…images, really. Feelings.
LEIA (a little surprised at his insistence)
She was very beautiful. Kind, but…sad. (looks up) Why are you asking me all this?
He looks away.
I have no memory of my mother. I never knew her.
This exchange first surprises me because it shows that both Luke and Leia know that she was adopted. Of course, we’ve since had an EU that suggests rumours of an affair between Bail and Padme, but let’s not get into that now – it seems very much intended at this point to tell us that Bail Organa was not related to Leia by blood. The big thing here, of course, is that Leia remembers her real mother, in vague terms admittedly. Again, the EU has (I think) tried to explain this away somewhat with saying that Padme looked a little longer at Leia than at Luke before she died. Hm. However, we also have the story that Sabe also joined Leia on Alderaan and served as a tutor to the young princess. That Sabe and Padme were almost identical is perhaps what is confusing Leia here. But regardless, we have the pretty clear suggestion that Anakin’s wife went to Alderaan with her daughter, and lived in secret for a short while, at the very least. (James Kahn’s novel does have Obi-Wan say Padme died when the twins were aged 4, although obviously doesn’t mention her by name).
Luke then goes on to surrender himself to Vader.
The Emperor has been expecting you.
I know, father.
So, you have accepted the truth.
I’ve accepted the truth that you were once Anakin Skywalker, my father.
VADER (TURNING TO FACE HIM)
That name no longer has any meaning for me.
It is the name of your true self. You’ve only forgotten. I know there is good in you. The Emperor hasn’t driven it from you fully. That is why you couldn’t destroy me. That’s why you won’t bring me to your Emperor now.
Vader looks down from Luke to the lightsaber in his own black gloved hand. He seems to ponder Luke’s words.
VADER (INDICATING LIGHTSABER)
I see you have constructed a new lightsaber.
Vader ignites the lightsaber and holds it to examine its humming, brilliant blade.
Your skills are complete. Indeed, you are powerful, as the Emperor has foreseen.
They stand for a moment, the Vader extinguishes the lightsaber.
Come with me.
Obi-Wan once thought as you do.
Luke steps close to Vader, then stops. Vader is still.
You don’t know the power of the dark side. I must obey my master.
I will not turn…and you’ll be forced to kill me.
If that is your destiny.
Search your feelings, father. You can’t do this. I feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate.
It is too late for me, son. The Emperor will show you the true nature of the Force. He is your master now.
Vader signals to some distant stormtroopers. He and Luke stand staring at one another for a long moment.
Then my father is truly dead.
Vader confirms to Luke that Obi-Wan once tried to convince Anakin to turn from the dark side, but he goes on to say that it is now too late for him. I wonder whether he is thinking that he’s done too much evil to be able to atone, or whether there’s something else going on in the mystical realm that we don’t really know about. It certainly seems to hint that there is an almost physical grip that the dark side has upon him, especially when he says that he must obey the Emperor. This is expanded a little more later, when the Emperor tells Luke that Vader can never be turned from the dark side. Interesting stuff, and linked again to Yoda’s teachings on Dagobah, where he says the dark side will “dominate your destiny” as if it were a physical thing. While we don’t necessarily get a great deal of insight into the prequels from this exchange, it is nevertheless important for what it tells us about the nature of the dark side, and the hints it provides to Anakin’s fall and the Emperor’s control.
I also like the idea of creating a lightsaber being a “skill”, like there’s some kind of curriculum for training. But that’s perhaps a bit facetious of me!
During the battle in the Throne Room, the Emperor constantly makes reference to Luke’s anger and hate, telling him to “give in to your anger” and “use your aggressive feelings”. While there isn’t anything really concrete that we can say about how Anakin fell, I nevertheless think it’s intriguing to note. Throughout, we’ve been given the impression that Anakin was simply impatient to gain power in the Force, but we weren’t really given the idea that he was violent at this time. This trait is expanded upon and almost becomes a defining aspect of his character in the prequels, but I think the Emperor is also portrayed as being wily enough that he was perhaps able to seduce Vader to the dark side in a different way to what we see on screen with Luke. I do like the slightly creepy way Palpatine befriends Anakin in the prequel movies, of course, but I do wish we had seen a different Anakin in those films – one who was actually a good friend to Obi-Wan, as he is described in the original trilogy.
So what does all of this tell us?
I think, to start with, we had a Jedi Order as something much more akin to a sort of wandering sect of warrior monks, which is surprising when we have a kind of centralized bureaucracy presented in the prequels. Some aspects of the Disney story have actually seemingly tried to bring this back, with talk of hidden temples and the like. It’s something that actually hearkens back to the Tales of the Jedi stuff, as well, actually, which makes me think that the Jedi really were meant to be more along these lines back in the day. It has been covered unto death, of course, but midi-chlorians do seem to come out of nowhere in episode 1. Rather, throughout the original movies we have a lot of “the Force is strong with you” and so on, which does kinda support the idea of people having a genetic predisposition to become a Jedi. But somehow, it still feels like anybody could be trained, particularly when Yoda asks Luke why he’d like to be a Jedi. The prequels seem to paint the picture of untrained Force wielders as like underage wizards in the Harry Potter universe – that is, a danger that must be controlled. If Luke could make it to 18 with nothing untoward happening, and if Leia could continue further still, then it does seem like being a Jedi does have more to do with mindset and training rather than anything else.
It’s interesting to see what we can glean about the fall of Anakin Skywalker, of course. It definitely strikes me that Anakin was meant to have been a Jedi who wanted to progress quickly to a position of power and command within the Force. Oddly enough, this idea is actually right there in Attack of the Clones, but it comes out as a very whiny kid. We also have the suggestion that he may have known that he had a son (when Luke receives the lightsaber), and this isn’t necessarily disputed when Obi-Wan explains about Luke and Leia being hidden from the Emperor.
The nature of Anakin’s transformation into Vader is quite interesting, and throws up with some really thought-provoking ideas about the way the dark side of the Force works. I suppose it boils down to giving into your rage and anger means that it’s hard to extricate yourself, and when a character as suave and intelligent as the Emperor has a hold over you, it’s even more difficult.
It’s not just the dark side that we learn about though, but there’s also Luke’s Jedi training that has some info sprinkled in, such as the idea of facing your darkness and overcoming it to become a Jedi. Of course, midi-chlorians don’t get a look in, but Lucas has always had this idea of the microbiology of the Force, something that he apparently wanted to explore in his own episodes 7-9. There is for sure the idea that some people have a natural affinity for the Force, which is never explained any further, but it has always felt like anybody could become a Jedi if they tried hard enough. Of course, when telling a story on a galactic scale, I suppose it might have occurred to Lucas that this idea would become problematic, as there might actually end up being bajillions of Force users out there, and I think he wanted the Jedi Order to be a much smaller enclave. But that’s definitely just my own thoughts on the matter.
Other bits and pieces are thrown in, I think, to both give the story a sense of history and, should the opportunity arise, to give Lucas a door to further stories down the road. The Clone Wars definitely comes under this, I think. It’s such a tantalizing line, after all, and could for sure lead to further movies if the original film did well. It almost didn’t matter that the idea wasn’t fleshed out, either – the important thing was that the movie is set in the middle of a conflict, with another conflict in the not-too-distant past for some measure of scope.
All in all, this has been quite an exhaustive look through the dialogue of the original trilogy to see what we can glean about the prequel ideas that were floating around in the 1970s and 80s. In some respects, the prequel trilogy remained faithful to what was established, expanding upon it to create the story that we have from those three films, and nothing is really massively incongruous there. Some things are much more subjective, I think, or perhaps have been twisted a little with the excuse that time can sometimes make fools of the memory. Everything, though, I think, is pretty easily explained, and there are no massive inconsistencies. For many, though, the fact that Leia remembers her mother when episode 3 shows that she can’t possibly remember her, is going to always be a stumbling block.
A big thing for me, though, is how different the Jedi feel between the trilogies. The prequels show us a strict Order that has a strong central presence, and this feels out of place when you study the original trilogy scripts and get the sense of mysticism and such. It’s only a sense, though, and doesn’t outright contradict the prequel trilogy.
I do enjoy the prequel movies, and this blog was never intended to bash those films. I think it’s just really interesting to look at these lines of dialogue and try to see what was intended originally, in comparison to what we eventually got. Watching the original trilogy, which I have done hundreds of times over the years, these things can often just pass me by, so I thought it was really interesting to watch them and be on the lookout for what we can glean!
2 thoughts on “What did the Original Trilogy tell us about the Prequels?”
Don’t you worry, I will gladly step in and bash those prequels 😉
I think this just show cases how bad a story teller Lucas actually was. Not that he had bad ideas, but his overwhelming desire to “tinker” destroyed continuity left and right. and made hash of good ideas because he always gave precedent to the “new” idea, whether it was actually good or not.
And for the record, the dvd release with its own tinkering is an abomination. I hope Lucas burns in a specially grown sarlaac gut just for that pissing on something good.
Oh, I’d never say that Lucas is a bad storyteller, though his disposition towards new and shiny things is annoying. The prequels as a story are still full of classic ideas after all, I think it comes down much more to the script and the direction (with special mention for some bad acting along the way). But the scripts for the original trilogy aren’t exactly brilliant either – I’m always struck by Harrison Ford trying to get his lines out when they’re escaping Tatooine, it’s so damn stilted, yet the story is top-notch regardless.
I suppose the point of this blog (which has inexplicably found its way out from last year and wants to join the party once more!) is that the original ideas for the prequels could have led to some much more interesting films, but as you say, Lucas changes his mind, and is 100% convinced the new idea is better. He needed a Gary Kurtz to put him back in his box, not Rick McCallum telling him everything is gold, solid gold!