16 July 2018

FWS Topics: The Lost Star Wars Prequels

In the 2000 film Gladiator, Marcus Aurelius said to General Maximus: "There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile." There was this fragile dream among many us original fans back in the 1980s that could barely be spoken: the prequels of the Star Wars film universe. There was so much excitement in just the promise of seeing the galaxy before the Empire when the Jedi Knight were at their apex in the final days of the old Republic. Then in 1999, that fragile dream was shattered into terrible solid reality with the release of The Phantom Menace. Of course, today Star Wars films have moved on to the sequel trilogy and the stand-alone films that have put some distance between them and the disease that the Prequels were upon the SW universe and the fan community...with various results. A question has burned in my brain since the first time I saw Episode I...was this what Lucas intended all those years ago when he outlined the collective story of Star Wars? What was George Lucas original vision back when he created the Star Wars lore? Would have the Prequels been proper SW films if they had indeed been released in the late 1980s and early 1990s? In this article, FWS will attempt to answer these important questions of the "Lost" Prequels and track down hard facts.

This Blogpost is Dedicated to the Editor of the Original Trilogy: Marcia Lou Lucas-Rodrigues

Why is FWS Talking about the Prequels?
When the first film dropped in 1977, it was a storm in heaven that thundered across the world, transforming the landscape forever. Within the first film's DNA is hints of the world prior to the Empire: the Old Republic. Within the mists of history that surround the old galactic government is a conflict called "The Clone Wars". It is within this central conflict that the world that we saw unfolded in the original film is framed. With Star Wars itself being so transformative, this hint of previous war was very compelling that mystified a generation until answers finally came in 2002.
The Clone Wars are one of the most wondered about fictional wars in all of science fiction and was the food for thought for us originally minted Star Wars fans. What made the subject so more compelling is that we never got solid answers for over thirty years and Lucas kept the Expanded Universe creators mostly away from the forbidden subject. This makes the Clone Wars and the wider subject of the Star Wars Prequels vitally important to the history of military science fiction and a subject I've been dying to talk about for years.

The Myths of the Holy “Journal of the Whills” Codex and the Books-before-the-movies
There is a story told and retold in the realm of Star Wars is of these holy notebook(s) or legal pad(s) that contain the outline of the entire saga of Star Wars written down by Lucas before the first film was in production. This myth is repeated by articles, fans, the stars themselves, and even Lucas…however, it is bullshit. Throughout the time period between 1978 and 1981 and even up until the writing of the Prequels from 1999-2005 , there numerous stories and rumors about a holy text that tells us of the complete (and floating number of) Star Wars films, but from exhaustive research, this myth is busted. Due to the weird road that the central story of Star Wars took from the early 1970's to the form that we know today, there is no way that Lucas had a master plan.
The majority of the overall arching themes, characters, and storylines were only introduced  during various script develop and while some of these were likely drawn form a holy notebook that is guarded like the recipe for Coca-Cola, the vast major were not. While I am sure that the Bearded One had some ideas stretched out and notes scribbled down concerning the Prequel timeline, they were very basic…at best. Backing this up is a 1978 (a key year in SW development) interview by TIME Magazine with Lucas where he said after the sequel to Star Wars there would be “10 other planned sequels.” So, at this time when Lucas was talking, he a vision of a grand 12 picture Star Wars epic. So, was this already laid out in an yellow legal pad outline? Of course, this is before Star Wars broke the soul of its own creator. The most damning evidence against the complete storyline being contained in an 15 page holy codex notebook is the changing role of Darth Vader and the fusing of Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader into a single character. When original Lucas had envisioned the Sith Lord and the Jedi Knight to be separate people, which is one of the most critical elements of the entire complete storyline of the Star Wars universe. Due to the lack of an complete outline by Lucas and the amount of time between the conceptional Star Wars Prequels that floated around in Lucas head to the actual writing of the Episode I in November of 1994, it is likely that there was a lot forgotten and altered leading us down the dark path of Jar-Jar.

There are some myths that have been around since the very dawn of the Star Wars franchise that continue onward to this very day. Some say that "Episode IV" was part of the original crawl, others that the Biggs scenes on Tatooine were included in the original theatrical release of Star Wars and that there were Star Wars books before the films that foretold the complete story of the Star Wars universe, including the sequels and prequels. The existence of “the books” is an often repeated pre-internet myth, and one I've encountered believed to this very day with people I known saying that the complete story of the Star Wars saga was published in book-form prior the films, thus making the SW films based off of books not scripts. The odd thing is that this is sort of based in truth. Let us first clear something up: Star Wars is not based off of a series of books that George Lucas published prior to the film! What has fueled this rumor is the release of an novelization of the first film by Alan Dean Foster and published in December of 1976 under the of Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker by Ballantine Books. Coming six months before the release of the film, the book is different than the finished film with information not included or released. One strong element is the cover art commissioned by the publisher, Ballantine Books was by Ralph McQuarrie. It is likely this 1976 novelization, that was a hit in its own right, was the source of the "books-before-the-movies" rumor.

Historical Context: 70's Lucas vs. 80's Lucas and 90's Lucas
The George Lucas that concurred up a galaxy far, far away in the early 1970’s was not the same man who decided in 1994 to reentry into Star Wars universe and finally explore the events that formed the world of the original trilogy. In some ways, the Lucas of the 1990’s was shaped by the Lucas of the 1980’s. In our discussion of the creator of Star Wars, the Great Bearded One, we should remember the turmoil of the decade he spent making the original trilogy, the hard years after, and his return to filmmaking altered him and the Prequels. This change in Lucas directly shapes our discussion of the Lost Prequels. Coming off of the success of 1973’s American Graffiti, Lucas wanted his next project to his homage to Flash Gordon and it was took years of writing and rewriting to form the foundation of what we know Star Wars to be. In those days, Lucas badly wanted to be independent, devoid of the Big Studios and their imperialistic ways. However, Lucas needed their money and he attempted to structure the deal with 20th Century Fox as best he could to retain a sense of independence with help from Alan Ladd Jr. In those days, Lucas relayed heavily on his first wife, Marcia Lou Lucas, a talented editor and the closest adviser to Lucas.
In a 2013 Interview, Mark Hamill discussed the importance of George Lucas’ “Secret Weapon”:  He's in his own world. He's like William Randolph Hearst or Howard Hughes, he's created his own world and he can live in it all the time. You really see that in his films, he's completely cut off from the rest of world. You can see a huge difference in the films that he does now and the films that he did when he was married. I know for a fact that Marcia Lucas was responsible for convincing him to keep that little "kiss for luck" before Carrie [Fisher] and I swing across the chasm in the first film: "Oh, I don't like it, people laugh in the previews," and she said, "George, they're laughing because it's so sweet and unexpected"--and her influence was such that if she wanted to keep it, it was in. When the little mouse robot comes up when Harrison and I are delivering Chewbacca to the prison and he roars at it and it screams, sort of, and runs away, George wanted to cut that and Marcia insisted that he keep it. She was really the warmth and the heart of those films, a good person he could talk to, and bounce ideas off of, who would tell him when he was wrong. Now he's so exalted that no one tells him anything.
Her talents, input, and hard work on the film garnered an Academy Award in 1977 for Best Editing for Star Wars and high praise from everyone that worked with her. Without her, the Holy Trilogy would not be the same and nor where the Prequels. With the success of Star Wars, Lucas would throw himself in the rest of the trilogy, two Indiana Jones films, and building Skywalker Ranch along with the associated companies. The Lucas of the 1970’s that was an artistic filmmaker dreaming about independence, car racing, and new frontiers of filmmaking was replaced by the Lucas, the creator of the most successful film of all time and the holder of a new fictional universe that was important to millions that made millions. This was a hefty crown to hold along with being the master over a new entertainment empire.
While he achieved more than he could have dreamed, it came at a price. Lucas and his wife Marcia adopted a daughter, Amanda, but the stress of the back-to-back projects with no break caused a fatal faction in their marriage. By the time she was editing ROTJ at Skywalker Ranch, they were barely speaking. To end the drama, Lucas gave her $50 million and stripped her name off the editing house at Skywalker Ranch he built for her and systematically removed her from the history of Star Wars.
By 1985, LucasFilm was deep shit, financially, and Lucas was looking to replace Star Wars in his professional and business life with other projects and ventures. These were trying times and they deeply affected Lucas, causing him to attempt to control as the chaos grew. During this time, Lucas greatly expanded in his role as a producer and father, achieving some of the independent peace he so desired for years at Skywalker Ranch. By the close of the 1980’s, when LucasFilm was more on finical sure footing, he had reached a nice point in his life, but he still bore the scars. By the time of the time that the Return of the Jedi had run its course, George Lucas and his world was a mess. For all purpose, the Lucas of the 1970's that developed, campaigned for, force for, and film that original Star Wars film was gone, in his place was the Lucas of the 1980's...and he was in need of some R&R. What the 1980's Lucas wanted was to focus on his family, work on the projects of his chosen that were not Star Wars, regain his mojo, and control his own empire.
What the 1980's Lucas sought more than anything was to, as he put it in 1999, "to buy his freedom from the great machine". He wanted to be the master of his own destiny and he got it. For years, the 80's Lucas worked on what he wanted and nothing else while being there for his kids and his relationships. This included the underrated Tucker and the bizarre Howard the Duck.  In some ways, he was the man that Marcia was waiting on. When the 1980's closed out, George Lucas was a more whole man that had put his house into order, made some successes and failures, one of last successes was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. This is when we ushered into the 90's Lucas and the return of the king to his old castle.
One of the Lucas of the 1990's projects was the development of an young Indiana Jones TV show that would track Dr. Jones as a child and a young adult during the First World War with very old Indiana narrating. Running for three seasons, the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles would be an important part of the story of Lucas and coming out of the shadows of the 1980's. Interesting piece of trivia is that there would have been an Young Indiana Jones Chronicles episode about the mythical crystal skulls. He has been quoted as saying how happy of a project this was for Lucas and how he loved it. With a return to Indiana Jones many wondered if he would also return to the world of Star Wars. Beginning in 1993, Lucas began to tell the world, formally and informally, that new Star Wars, set in the closing days of the Old Republic were coming...possibly for the 20th anniversary of the release of the original film. After years of climbing back economically, spirituality, mentality, and creatively; the Lucas of the 1990's was ready to dive back in and tell the story of how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. It was almost like the visionary independent filmmaker of the 1970's can come back full circle after nearly being broken spiritual in the 1980's.      

The Evolution of the Prequels: Hitting a Moving Target
Before we getting to the meat of this article, I think we need to keep a key point in mind that I did not when beginning the research phase of this article. The story of the development of the Star Wars we know and love is fascinating and compelling, leaving with you a deep sense of relief over we got instead of what was envisioned. Given the development and changes emerging out of those proto-years, the elusiveness of Prequel storylines is difficult to track down.
Adding to this is that there was no masterplan outline, and that can be proven with the changing character of Darth Vader…who was not Luke and Leia’s father in the original film or plan…not to mention that Luke and Leia were not kin until at some point in the script development of Return of the Jedi likely around 1981. At the same time that Lucas and company were writing the original holy trilogy, they were also forging the past of the saga and its future…like some odd time travel story. This means that documenting and researching the vintage ideas of the Prequel films is like hitting a moving target that also morphs shape and size.
The best example of this is when Luke meets Ben Kenobi in A New Hope after searching for R2D2 in the desert. During their critical discussion, the audience is informed for the first time of the Clone Wars, the fate of the Jedi, and the Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker relationship. The odd thing is that at the time of that specific film, what Alec Guinness was saying was 100% true, in the context of that film. This was makes the story of the vintage concepts behind the Prequels elusive and vague. At that time, in 1976-1977, Vader and Anakin were two different people and Luke was hidden to prevent Empire from locating him prior to Vader murdering Anakin at some point in the pre-history of Star Wars. Vader and Anakin being the same person emerged at some point in 1978 during the development of The Empire Strikes Back.
During the writing of SW:ROTJ, the dialog of Ben was used to shape an new narrative that was true, from a certain one point-of-view, and designed to protect Luke and Leia from the Emperor and their own father. In some ways, it was a retrospectively altered to make sense in both contexts…and it is a nice piece of writing. Again, all of this adds up to the Prequels-before-the-Prequels being a mess based on the context of time period. 

When It Started: When “Star Wars” Became “Episode IV: A New Hope”
When the myth of the complete and spelled out Star Wars saga story penned by Lucas in the early 70’s is discussed, there is another important point that one must remember that directly our discussion of the Lost Prequels: the 1977 film was not originally titled “Episode IV” in the original release on the opening crawl. Fans debate this hotly, but it has been proven that even if George Lucas planned for the inclusion of “Episode IV” in the open crawl, it was not included until the re-released on April 10th, 1981. The first use of Episode “X” on a Star Wars crawl came when SW:TESB was released in 1980 as “Episode V”. For many vintage fans, this was confirmation of more films being planned in the saga. In many interviews I read, the Great Bearded One says that he thought the original 1977 film would not be a success and he did not plan on sequels until it broke blocks around the world and he thought the first film told a complete story and he wrestled with the story for a sequel for a while. 

What was Coming Next: The Prequels or the Sequels?
In a 1980 interview with journalist Bobbie Wygant with some of the cast during the press tour for Empire, Harrison Ford told Bobbie and the audience that the original cast storyarch was done and that new characters would be taking the helm…but he wasn’t sure for which trilogy, the Prequels of the Sequels? This was very common that the time from the interviews I read with Lucas swinging from never making more Star Wars, to making the Prequels, to making the Sequels. I know that Mark Hamill was told by Lucas that the Sequels would be made when the cast was older. In a TV interview around 1983, Mark Hamill said that Lucas asked him if he could play an “Obi-Wan Kenobi type" character at around 2011(!). This means, to me, that Lucas was NOT planning on the Sequels Trilogy until the original cast was older, and the Prequels were first up to bat.

Why Wasn’t the Prequels made in the 1980’s?
When it comes to central argument for my article here that the Prequels would have been much better if that had been made in the 1980’s, there is some solid reasons why it did not happen. The “official” reason stated by the Bearded One himself is due to the special effects technology relationship to the original trilogy. To pull off his vision for the original 1977 film, Lucas was forced to found his own effects studio, Industrial Light & Magic, but it was still not up to his lofty expectations and he always felt if the technology had been there, it could have been a better film.
Throughout interviews, Lucas plainly stated that special effects technology was not up to the level he needed for some pieces of the original trilogy and for his vision of what Episodes I, II, III could be, the technology had to progress. He said plainly that he had to wait until the technology caught up with his imagination. That point came when he saw the Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and that is when groundwork began on the Prequels in 1993 and 1994. Interestingly enough, Lucas cited the technological limits for delaying the production of Willow until 1988. While this is likely the reason why the Prequels were delayed until 1999, there are other reasons that are just as important.
When Return of the Jedi was released in 1983, it came at a critical time for Lucas, his companies, and the entire universe of Star Wars. While various members of the Star Wars family, including Lucas himself, had discussed in interviews of the firm possibility of more Star Wars films incoming in a future timeframe; it was not the path that Lucas wanted for himself. The Lucas of the post-ROTJ era was burned out from the frantic pace of making films back-to-back that were not just limited to Star Wars, along with the messy divorce from Marcia Lou Lucas, being a father to his daughter Amanda, and his various companies struggling for survival all while Skywalker Ranch was being constructed. Lucas had to get himself, his family, and his houses together. One of the factors of the divorce that impacted the companies so much was the dollar figure that Lucas gave to Marcia to just end it there and then: $50 million in 1983 money. In the excellent book George Lucas : A Life by Brian Jay Jones, he really spells out the trauma of the divorce and the strangeness of it all. A good read.
In an interview by Rolling Stone published on July 21st, 1983 around the time of ROTJ release, Lucas had a great deal to say about his (then) present state of mind and the future of Star Wars. He commented that “(Return of the) Jedi almost killed everybody, every department, from costumes to building monsters to the sophistication of the mechanics to the special effects. Everything was very, very hard on everybody”.  Speaking to this, Lucas at the time stated that he was going to “rearrange his priorities”, putting his family first “and the movies second” for a period of about two years.  This was due to Star Wars consuming his life since 1973 where he remarked about every day for a decade being about these films, in one way or another, causing him to miss out on his daughter’s life, putting stress on his marriage to the breaking point. “I don’t have any life of my own”, he said adding that “it’s not going to be owned by Luke Skywalker and his friends”.
By the time Jedi was done and released, he reflected on the impact of these films on his life: “I’ve put up with Star Wars taking over and pushing itself into the first position for too long. I’ve been trying to shove it (Star Wars) back. Every time I kick it down, it comes rearing its ugly head back up again. This time I’ve kicked it down for, I think.” This all means that mentally, Lucas was in no way close to telling the tale of the Clone Wars. When Lucas was more rested and ready to helm another film project, the window for the Prequels or the Sequels was gone. While most believe that since 1977 Star Wars was at the top of its game year-after-year, the times after Return of the Jedi were tough.
By 1985, Kenner had rebranded the toyline “the Power of the Force” due to slowing sales and the perceived end of the Star Wars film series, causing a major engine of the franchise to be downshifted. Adding to this was the lack of success for the Ewok and Droids cartoon series along with the live-action TV Ewok movies. Even if Lucas wanted to move forward with the Prequels around, as the rumors stay, 1988, the market/demand/finical was not there to support it . When asked by Rolling Stone what he planned to do after the two year break, he responded with reinforcing his love of film and interest in being involved with their creation. One of the ways he got himself right after a lengthy break was working on Willow, his fantasy-adventure film that had a genesis around the same time as Star Wars back in the 1970’s. This could mean that the energy that could have been devoted to making the Prequels in 1988 was diverted into Willow and the rumored trilogy set in the fantasy world of Willow. At the close of the 1980’s, there was still no concrete works done on bring the Prequels (or Sequels) to reality.   

Lucas Address the 1988 Episode One Rumor in 1988...
Prior to the wide acceptance and popularity of the internet, the world of rumors, speculation, and fan theory related to the world of film was limited to clubs, newsletters, and the local comic book store. Even mainstream media outlets, like Starlog Magazine or Bantha Tracks dealt with spreading rumors and speculations. There is a string running through film and sci-fi magazines of a rumor that Lucas was either looking or beginning pre-production on new Star Wars films in the mid-1980's. These times were dry ones for SW fans, and they to exist on books, comics, the Ewok live-action TV movies and the two Star Wars cartoons. Fans were hungry for more of that galaxy far, far away. Speaking to the energy behind these "prequel-in-the-80's" rumors was the inclusion of question posed by Starlog Magazine report Bill Warren when he formally asking Lucas about the rumors of him gearing up for film the prequels in a interview in #127 (02/88):
-STARLOG "There were rumors in the industry that pre-production on Star Wars #1 was beginning in January 1988."
-LUCAS: "That is untrue".
This speaks volumes about what was going on at the time in the minds of fans and the sci-fi press and even possibly Lucas in the 1980's. So, if there was some evidence of this, why didn't Lucas begin making the Prequels in the 1980's? There are several concrete answers and some conjecture. During the run-up to the release of The Phantom Menace in 1999, there was all-out press assault of hype concerning the the first new SW movie in 16 years and Lucas stated repeatedly that he had to wait for the technology to catch up to his vision of the world of Star Wars before the Empire and once he had seen the Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, he knew it was time. There is some direct proof of this besides the primary sources. In 1997, LucasFilm was re-release the Holy Trilogy with new special effects to fulfill the vision that Lucas had and he continued to mess with the films since to make them better. It is likely that Lucas knew enough about the Prequels that he could have fulfill his vision with the technology at the time in the 1980's. We also have to remember that Lucas had to found Industrial Light & Magic to accomplish what was be asked for the original 1977 film.

What is with the Crazy 1988 Episode One Rumor?
Was there more than just a fan-crazy rumor of the Prequels beginning some form of production in the mid-1980's? I originally did think that is all there was until I checked out Brian Jay Jones' excellent 2016 bio on the Bearded One: George Lucas: A Life from my local library. On page 342, there is some light shed on the possibility of more Star Wars being explored around 1985 and this could have been vehicle for the rumors of an upcoming Episode I. As stated above, the 1980's were a dark and trying time for Lucas, the Star Wars band, and the whole of Lucas's empire seated at the nearly constructed Skywalker Ranch. While ILM was busy with SFX work, there was no real studio money flowing in due to the lack projects and Lucas himself was still not interested in coming back to the director's chair, but did serve as producer on a number of projects. Another major source of income that LucasFilm depended on was the licensing of merchandise for Star Wars, especially the Kenner toyline. According to figures provided by Brian Jay Jones' book via the Wall Street Journal, the overall sales of Star Wars toys was only $35 million in 1985, a drop of $100 million from the previous year.
Crisis model hit Skywalker Ranch and desperate acts were taken. In Brian Jay Jones writes in his book that Lucas asked Marcia for an increase in time for paying her $50 million over a ten year period due to the lack of funds coming into the LucasFilm companies along with layoffs. At this point, LucasFilm President Doug Norby, concerned that LucasFilm would not survive the year, discussed with Lucas the possibility of creating new Star Wars movies to provide a major injection of cash. However, Lucas refused stating that he was still too burned out from the last 10 years of Star Wars dominating his life and destiny. It should be noted that LucasFilm turned down Kenner's pitch for a new toyline set in the post-ROTJ era at around the same time. It is likely that Lucas may have thought more about diving back into Star Wars via the Prequels at the time and it could be that people talked, spreading the 1988 Episode One rumor that caught on with magazines to sell issues.      

The Rumors of the Connection between Willow and the Prequels
Those of us that were alive when the original Star Wars were released, can remember another Lucas project: Willow from 1988. Originally envisioned as a new film series, the film did not live up to expectations despite not being a flop, but did not stop the studio from cancelling the sequels. We would learn about the fantasy world of Willow via the 1990's books that took place some 15 years after the film. While researching Willow and Lucas, there were dark corners of the internet suggesting that there is a connection to the Prequels and this 1988 forgotten fantasy movie. In these forums, there were opinions about comparing elements of the story to the Prequel trilogy storyline and even suggesting that hints of the original Prequel story were incorporated into Willow. Does this mean that the original idea for the Prequels was a Moses-like story where Anakin is a baby being hidden from an oppressive regime hunting down Force-sensitive babies and then rescued by a local that seeks out the protection of a Jedi Knight to guide the baby to safety to the Republic? Damn…that actually sounds interesting for an Episode One plotline!

Would the Prequels be better if they had been made in the 1980's?
At the very heart of my thesis statement is that IF the Bearded One had committed to the starting of the Prequel trilogy in the mid-1980’s, they would have much better films than the plastic-and-wood three films we did get. To me, the Prequels were like your wife going out and cheating on you then giving you an STD as a souvenir…that’s how betrayed I feel by them by breaking the promise of these long awaited film…but FWS has a whole blogpost on that one coming soon. For some reason the magic of the original films was not reflected in the Prequels and could have been due too much time passing between the original trilogy and the new films that caused ideas to be lost, talent to leave( like Marcia Lucas), and technology to change how films are made. We could have more solid writing, Lucas more willing to work with others on the film rather than being a solely Lucas helmed project, and there would also been a more reliance on more traditional special effects than the dreaded plastic-looking special effects of the films we got…and part of that is due to their overuse to fulfill Lucas’s vision. In addition, the original ideas would have been fresher than they were in the following years, allowing for something closer to the original trilogy with more organic SFX that would have been stylistically closer to the original films. I believe firmly that the accompanying toyline would have been closer to the original line in grandeur instead of their recent lackluster offers outside of the Legos and the Black Edition “toys”.   

Then Came 1994...
In March 21, 1994, Lucas was still concerned about bring the Prequels to reality as he stated to the Wall Street Journal interview with Thomas King that recounted in Brian Jay Jones' 2016 book on page 379. He discussed the high cost of making the films, "over $100 million", and he was still unsure about the emerging CGI SFX technology, despite its rapid pace of development. Only about seven months later, Lucas would begin writing the screenplays for Episode I on November, 1st, 1994 just after getting his kids off to school on a regular Tuesday morning with a pencil and a legal pad. The odd thing is that we have video of this entire event like some sort of vlog.
The rough draft was complete on January 13th, 1995, with script changes and pre-production beginning on a film with the title of Episode I: The Beginning and filming started on June 26, 1997. While the film was finished and released 1999, Lucas had originally set a target date to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the release of the original film, but there was simply too much to do in just three years. At this point, the vintage, misty ideas from the 1970's and the 1980's were either altered, incorporated, or rejected into what we would, horrifyingly, know as Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. 

The Prequels before the Prequels: What We Knew
From the very beginning of the original film, we fans have known there was more to the story than what was unfolding on the big screen. From the very genesis of Lucas’s vision of a modern day Flash Gordon type film in the early 1970’s, the story of Star Wars was never going to be limited to a single film…but that all depended on the success of the first film. After Star Wars and the team behind it had proven themselves, the unfolding of the saga began and then the first information of a “prequel” trilogy started to be discussed in interviews and articles in publications like Starlog. In this section, we will be exploring and explaining the verified information we knew about the major topics, characters, or story points that would be contained within the Prequels. 

The General Outline of the Entire SW  Saga Laid Out
All the prequel stories exist: where Darth Vader came from, the whole story about Darth and Ben Kenobi, and it all takes place before Luke was born. The other one – what happens to Luke afterward – is much more ethereal. I have a tiny notebook full of notes on that. If I'm really ambitious, I could proceed to figure out what would have happened to Luke”.

-Source: Rolling Stone Interview with George Lucas July 21st, 1983

The Clone Wars
One of the key components of any older veteran warrior character is their service during a previous conflict that colors them and their decisions. This allows the wiser warrior figure to be an experienced teacher to the younger warriors. This idea was mined by Lucas for the teacher of Skywalker, Obi-Wan and Lucas added a veteran background to Obi-Wan’s character via the mysterious “Clone Wars”.  In the original 1977 film, this critical conflict of galactic history is mentioned twice in a single scene and then the Clone Wars are never mentioned again in the rest of the holy trilogy.
This became a central mystery of the Star Wars fictional history and a topic of conversation for years by the fans. Propelling these fan discussions was the painful lack of nearly any information on these wars that involve the Jedi and maybe the “supertroopers”. Even during the development of the Expanded Universe via books and comics, the Clone Wars were ruled by Lucas as a quarantined time period and a forbidden subject for creators. This caused alternations to the Zahn books by order of LucasFilm and there were only very brief mentions of the Clone Wars in the Dark Horse comics and in some of the older Marvel comic series, specifically issue #68. In the 2016 book George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones, the conditions of the book deal between LucasFilm and Bantam Books for the Zahn Trilogy were explained. According to the book, Lucas told Lou Aronica of Bantam Books that the books had to be set in the post-Jedi timeperiod and there was to be no discussion of the Prequels, because Lucas was saving that for himself...even back in 1989 when the deal was inked. Beyond that, there is nothing known about the Clone Wars. While many have placed the fall of the Republic, the hunting down of the Jedi, the rise of Vader, and the death of Anakin all in the context of the Clone Wars…we never actually knew when those wars were fought and if all those key events fell during the same time. So, not even the time period relative to the Battle of Yavin IV was known for the Clone Wars. I know that I am harping on this, but it is amazing when researching the topic of the Clone Wars just how little was known about them prior to 2002.
Why is this? Lucas first mentioned the Clone Wars in the 3rd draft of THE STAR WARS From the Adventures of Luke Starkiller (August 1975) script and it appeared the subsequent drafts as mere mentions that were never expanded on. It is my belief that even Lucas did not know who or what the “clones” of the Clone Wars were until the work started on the script of Episode II. There were some early drafts of TESB in which Lando is a clone, but the concept was abandoned and then there is the abandoned Kenner 1986 toyline that dealt with clone troopers. Rarely mentioned in the history of SW toys is the attempted “Expanded Universe” toyline that takes place after the fall of the Empire: Star Wars: The Epic Continues.
Kenner pitched to LucasFilm a toyline constructed out of holdovers from the previous toylines in 1986 and wrapped these new figures and vehicles up into a new story concerning a powerful post-imperial warlord, Atha Prime, that uses cloning technology left over from the Clone Wars to build an army to fill the vacuum while challenging the New Republic. There was to be remains of the Empire added in as well, who were under the leadership of Grand Moff Tarkin This Atha Prime warlord was also a key figure in the Clone Wars as well and the toyline would have included a “clone trooper” that were the army building figure of the line. It is likely that these clone troopers of The Epic Continues would have been related, by Kenner’s backstory, to the clones of the teased Prequels. This could have been part of the reason that LucasFilm did not approve the new toyline, this was just a bridge too far for LucasFilm. The company was not yet interesting in exploring the post-ROTJ timeframe. Sadly, the rejection of The Epic Continues was part of a string of bad news for the Star Wars universe. In 1986, the Kenner toyline was ended, Droids and Ewoks were done for, and Marvel Comics ended their  Star Wars comics with issue #107. It wasn't until the release of 1991's Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn that the Star Wars started to emerge from the darkness of the Lean Times.

The “Supercommandos” or “Supertroopers”
One of the biggest mysteries of the holy trilogy was the identity of bounty hunter Boba Fett and where did his armor originality from? One of the earliest pieces of information about the Prequels was told to me by my older brother was that armor donned by Feet was the armor of the Clone Wars-era Stormtroopers. That only deepened the mystery for me about Boba Fett. So, where did this information come from and is it true? This information actually came from LucasFilm itself and it is partly true. The source of connecting the Boba Fett armor to the Clone Wars comes from fifth issue of the old official Star Wars fan club Newsletter, called “Banta Tracks” published in August of 1978. Featured an article entitled “Introducing Boba Fett” was, for many fans, their first viewing of the actual bounty hunter and his iconic armor that wasn’t the animated version from the horror that was the Holiday Special…*Shudder*. In the article from Bantha Tracks#5, it informs us that: “He wears part of the uniform of the Imperial Shocktroopers, warriors from the olden time. Shocktroopers came from the far side of the galaxy and there aren’t many of them left. They were wiped out by the Jedi during the Clone Wars”.
This overall initial design was seen in the Ralph McQuarrie’s original art that depicted these “Supercommandos” in all white armor that was to link them with the Imperial Stormtroopers via color scheme. This all-white version was basically a prototype of the new character of Boba Fett we know today that only existed around 1978. Around this time, the original ideas were scrapped and the new Fett character was given more of a starring role and more personality/look more akin to Clint Eastwood of those Old Spaghetti Westerns. On June 28th, 1978, the costume was film-tested at Lucas’s house with hosting duties by Ben Burtt and film editor Duwayne Dunham in the role as Boba Fett, who sports a Star Wars beach towel cape. After the Bantha Tracks article, Boba Fett made his first public debut in the redesigned armor when Duwayne Dunham donned the armor and marched in the San Anselmo Country Fair parade on a hot day in September 24, 1978.
The concept of these armor-wearing “supercommandos” was reused in the Star Wars Marvel Comics series in issue#68 published in February of 1983 that also introduced the term “Mandalorian” to the world of Star Wars. In one of the few excellent elements of the Prequel films, Jonathan Hales and the Bearded One were able to tie these original 1978 concepts concerning the originals of Fett’s armor into Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. Of course, to me, the idea of the Clone Army of the Republic, the inclusion of Boba Fett's Daddy, and how they were used to kill the Jedi is likely the best ideas in the entire Prequel trilogy.

Owen Lars, Ben Kenobi and Anakin
One of the elements that was destined to be explored by Episode III that was written into the DNA of the saga via the first film was the characters of Owen and Beru Lars. When Lucas created the storyline of hiding Luke on that backwater desert world with the Lars, he established a connection between the original trilogy and the Prequels automatically. This only deepened when he connected Leia to the Skywalkers. What Episode III needed to explain was just how and why the desert moisture farmers were chosen to raise and hide one of the Skywalker twins as well as their relationship to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Prior to SW II: AOTC, there was an explanation: Owen Lars and Ben Kenobi were brothers.
In the novelization of Return of the Jedi by James Khan, the Force ghost of Kenobi directly says to Luke: "So, I took you to live with my brother Owen on Tatooine...". At some point prior to filming ROTJ, this connection was abandoned, just like Vader and Fett being brothers, and later replaced with the Shmi Skywalker marrying Daddy Lars....which is an okay explanation. This original connection between Own and Ben Kenobi open ups the possibility that Obi-Wan Kenobi real name was Ben Lars and that when Jedi enter into the fold, they adopt a nom de guerre like the Dark Lords of the Sith do as well as Popes of the Catholic Church and soldiers of the French Foreign Legion.
However, if we examine the dialog of the original film, we see that Ben Kenobi refers to Owen Lars as "your uncle"and that Lars worried about Luke following in the footsteps of Anakin going on "damn fool idealistic crusade" This means that the waters are still muddled and it could be chalked up to Lucas not planning out as well as original thought and claimed. If we had indeed gotten the Prequels in 1988, it is likely that Owen Lars and Obi-Wan Kenobi would have been brothers, which would explain a great deal.

The Duel on Mustafar between Obi-Wan and Vader  
When Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi squared off in a duel onboard the first Death Star, there were hints of a pervious duel and this was to conclude previous business. It was during this time that fans wondered how Darth Vader became more machine than man, the answers started to come in 1977, 1978 and 1980. The sources for the rumored duel between Obi-Wan and Vader came from both actor Mark Hamil who asked Lucas about his father and the Vader and the man himself.  The first piece of information about a volcano and the duel released to the public came from an August 26th 1977 Rolling Stones (#246)  interview with George Lucas:
What's the story (behind Vader’s suit and breathing)?
It's about Ben and Luke's father and Vader when they are young Jedi knights. But Vader kills Luke's father, then Ben and Vader have a confrontation, just like they have in Star Wars, and Ben almost kills Vader. As a matter of fact, he falls into a volcanic pit and gets fried and is one destroyed being. That's why he has to wear the suit with a mask, because it's a breathing mask. It's like a walking iron lung. His face is all horrible inside. I was going to shoot a close-up of Vader where you could see the inside of his face, but then we said, no, no, it would destroy the mystique of the whole thing. 

Here is some random information from other sources about the Dual:

BEN: “We fought ... your father fell into a molten pit. When your father clawed his way out of that fiery pool, the change had been burned into him forever รข€” he was Darth Vader, without a trace of Anakin Skywalker. Irredeemably dark. Scarred. Kept alive only by machinery and his own black will”
-Source: The Novelization of ROTJ

Luke sensed the underlying meaning in Kenobi’s statement, he heard the words as a command. He shook his head back at the vision. “I can’t kill my own father.”

“You should not think of that machine as your father.” It was the teacher speaking again. “When I saw what has become of him, I tried to dissuade him, to draw him back from the dark side. We fought … your father fell into a molten pit. When your father clawed his way out of that fiery pool, the change had been burned into him forever–he was Darth Vader., without a trace of Anakin Skywalker. Irredeemably dark. Scarred. Kept alive only by machinery and his own black will …”
-Source: The Novelization of ROTJ

Luke and Leia’s Mother
One of the forgotten figures in the Skywalker family seen in the original trilogy was the mother of Luke and Leia. Only one scene even has her mentioned, without a formal name, and only Leia knew her. According to the 1981 the making of ROTJ, Lucas directly stated that Leia was going to tell Luke that she was two years old when their mother died. Much is unknown about Mrs. Skywalker in the before-before time, including her vocation, her name, how she came to meet Anakin, the cause of death, and her connection to Alderaan. She only goes into hiding, at the request of Obi-Wan, when Anakin is pulled out of the volcano and they began to fear what will happen to the children and their mother. At this time, the twins are around six months when they split up across the galaxy. Within Leia’s second year of life, Mrs. Skywalker dies for some unknown reason and is taken in by Senator and Viceroy Bail Organa and his wife. There is conflicting rumors that Lucas intended Mrs. Skywalker to be a queen or a senator and could have had a name…but, I could not confirm these rumors with any information. In is interesting that Lucas refers to her as "Mrs. Skywalker".
Here is the actual dialog from ROTJ:
Luke: Leia... do you remember your mother? Your real mother?
Leia: Just a little bit. She died when I was very young.
Luke: What do you remember?
Leia: Just... Images, really. Feelings.
Luke: Tell me.
Leia: She was very beautiful. Kind... but sad. Why are you asking me this?
Luke: I have no memory of my mother. I never knew her.

George Lucas: "The part that I never really developed is the death of Luke and Leia's mother. I had a backstory for her in earlier drafts, but it basically didn't survive. When I got to Jedi, I wanted one of the kids to have some kind of memory of her because she will be a key figure in the new episodes I'm writing. But I really debated on whether or not Leia should remember her."
Star Wars - The Annotated Screenplays, page 291

"When you 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".
-Source: The Novelization of ROTJ

The Hidden Skywalker Twins
When it was revealed that Luke was hidden on Tatooine to avoid the culling of the Jedi and the attention of his fallen father, the last scene of Episode III was created and when Leia became a Skywalker in ROTJ, another piece of Episode III was added as well. In some ways, Lucas was writing and developing the present, future, and past of the Star Wars saga all at the same time, like some sort of time traveling story. After Return of the Jedi, we knew that the Prequels would include the birth of the Skywalker twins and their hiding from Darth Vader and the Emperor. It would also informs us of why Luke was placed on Tatooine and Leia on Alderaan with her mother. Some information does exist. In the 1981 The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi by J.W. Rinzler, there was much said on the events leading up to the hiding of the twins.
According to Lucas himself, Jedi were dying, due to Anakin killing them and his wife knows something is up with her Jedi husband. While she is pregnant, Obi-Wan and Anakin square off and Kenboi throws the battered dark Jedi down an volcano. He thought it was done and over.  Then Obi-Wan learns that the Emperor had fished Anakin out of the lava and his under the care of the Emperor. It is only then that Obi-Wan tells Mrs. Skywalker that Anakin is the cause for the murdering of Jedi and they must protect the Skywalker twins, now six months old, from the Emperor and the newly minted Darth Vader. Obi-Wan believed that the Skywalker twins would set the Force and the galaxy right after what their father had done. They are split up, with Obi-Wan Kenobi watching over Luke on Tatooine and Leia and her mother on Alderaan.

C3PO and R2D2
For years, we fans had been told that C3PO and R2D2 would be the consistent characters throughout ALL of the Star Wars films and this would mean their inclusion in the Prequels. It was believed, at the time, that we would finally see how these two droids met and how they influenced galactic events. Of course, we learned just how C3PO came about and how they met…which was one of the worst elements of the Prequels. Later, during the filming of Revenge of the Sith, Lucas actually said this to animation Rob Coleman about just how important R2D2 was to the saga: “The entire story of Star Wars is actually being recounted to the keeper of the Journal of the Whills—remember that?—a hundred years after the events of Return of the Jedi by none other than R2-D2.”

The Trade Federation?

One of most frequently leveled criticism of The Phantom Menace is the economic and political discussions behind the blockade of Naboo by the Trade Federation. What many of us did not know is that Lucas was citing “massive organs of commerce” that helped Palpatine to come and transform the Republic into the Empire. This was mentioned in the 1976 Star Wars novelization by Alan Dean Foster and it could be a hint that the Trade Federation of Episode I: The Phantom Menace was always to be an element within the Prequels that had long been part of Lucas plan to destroy the Republic. 


The Hunting Down of the Jedi
In both the original film and the 1976 Alan Dean Foster novelization, the wiping out of the Jedi was a known event and it is repeatedly discussed in all three films. From the dialog spoken, it was widely assumed that both the Emperor and Darth Vader had a direct hand in the destruction of the Jedi Order and the old Republic and that Lord Vader hunted down the last of the Jedi as the Emperor’s royal executor. In the prologue of the 1976 novelization, the Jedi were wiped out due to “treachery and deception”. But nothing was directly spelled out and we do know that many believed that Darth Vader was the last of the breed, according to what Grand Moff Tarkin said in the first film,
What we did not know and wasn’t spelled out, was how the Clone Wars played into the destruction of the Jedi and the rise of Palpatine until 2002 and 2005. There were hints, though that Lord Vader hunted down and murdered what reminded of the Jedi Order directly in what is now called "Great Jedi Purge". In the first film, Ben Kenobi says: "(Vader) helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights."  In the 1981 the Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi by J.W. Rinzler, Lucas and Kasdan were discussing the events of the Prequels and the subject of the Jedi dying off was bought up. Lucas stated that “lots of Jedi have been getting killed-and it’s because they turn their back on him and cuts them down.

Senator-to-Emperor: the journey of Palpatine
There were two major characters in the original trilogy that were shown at the end of their development and the apex of their power: Lord Vader and Emperor Palpatine. The Prequel trilogy was going to show their journey of Anakin falling to the Dark Side to transform to Vader and Senator Palpatine to becoming Emperor of the Galactic Empire. Laid down in the very earliest canonized information about the Prequels, was the rise of a Senator in the Republic Senate to become in a position to declare himself Emperor, alter the Republic to an Empire and eliminate the Jedi.The central concept of the Emperor being a senator that rose to power comes from 1976 novelization prologue and this was only reinforced by interviews and other material. Lucas stated that he cited leaders like Nixon, Julius Caesar, and Hitler to demonstrate how a democracy can be twisted into an dictatorship regime (sounds a little like today, doesn’t it?) and Lucas went as far as calling it “Machiavellian”. In the 1981 Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Lucas and Kasdan were discussing the events of the Prequels. In this discussing, Lucas says that Palpatine was a politician and was elected to office and via political maneuvering, he took power. When Kasdan directly asks Lucas if Palpatine was a Jedi, Lucas responses with this: “No, he was a politician. Richard M. Nixon was his name.” 

Jedi Master Yoda
One of the critical characters in the holy trilogy was not thought of until the writing of TESB and by this, Master Yoda then entered into the Prequels. In the 1981 Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi by J.W. Rinzler, Lucas and Kasdan were discussing the events of the Prequels. In this discussing, Lucas says this about our little green friend: “Another misconception is that Yoda teaches Jedi, but he is like a guru; he doesn’t go out and fight anybody.” Shocked at this, Kasdan responses with this: “A Jedi Master is a Jedi isn’t he?” Then Lucas retorts, “Well, he is a teacher, not a real; Jedi. Understand that?” Kasdan adds a finer point on this: “You mean he wouldn’t be any good in a fight?” Then Lucas drops the bomb: “Not with Darth Vader he wouldn’t.” That means that some point, Lucas changed his mind and allowed Yoda to deliver the beat down to Count Dooku in ATOC. During my extensive research, I recall reading that one of the reasons that Lucas did not envision Yoda fighting traditional with his lightsaber was to the limitations of special effects.

Obi-Wan Kenobi 
Arguments can be made that the original trilogy was centered on the journey of farmboy Luke Skywalker to fulfilling his destiny of becoming the foundation of a new Jedi Order. In the Prequels, Lucas had made several comments over the years that those films would be more centered on Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin, and Darth Vader. From the very earliest released information on the Prequels and even the private plans of Lucas, Obi-Wan Kenobi was going to be in the Prequel films and have a commanding role. From the dialog spoken by and about Ben Kenobi, we know that had achieved the rank of General and Jedi Knight, knew Anakin before he was a Jedi, and served with Bail Organa during the Clone Wars. From interviews with Mark Hamill and Lucas, we know that he dueled with Vader near a volcano and won the fight, disfiguring the Sith Lord. When Lucas started penning the Prequels in November of 1994, one of the centers of his writing process was exploring the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi thirty years younger during the apex of the Jedi Order. 

Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker
The development of this Dark Lord of the Sith was complex and as more twists than the Stelvio Pass in Italy. At the time of the writing the final drafts and pre-production on Star Wars, Darth Vader was to be a one movie villain, similar to Darth Maul, and was to be a separate character from Anakin Skywalker. When you watch the original film, the dialog spoke by Ben Kenobi to Luke is true, at that time; Vader and Anakin were separate characters. That means, at one time, the Prequels would be including Dark Jedi Vader murdering Anakin and Ben Kenobi dealing out justice to his fallen pupil Vader. That changed at some point around late 1978 or even during filming in 1979. This married the two characters together in all three trilogies and forged one of the most iconic lines in all of film history. At that moment, the Prequels became about how former pupil of Kenobi fell from the Force and into darkness, forever transforming from Skywalker to Vader. During the climax of the third film, Kenobi and Anakin square off, mortally wounding Skywalker forever. "He’s more machine than man now”. 

The Z95 Headhunter and the Victory class Star Destroyer
During the lean years of Star Wars in the mid-1980’s onward, we fans lived on whatever was out there…including the West End Games Star Wars RPG system. Pieces from these sources were incorporated into the lore of Star Wars without these pieces of information become canon later on. Two rumors I heard as a kid was the primary Starfighter of the Clone Wars was the Z95 “Headhunter” and the primary warship was the predecessor to the standard Imperial Star Destroyer, the Victory class.
While later incorporated in one form or another into official canon vehicles over the years, these vehicles of the lean years originated both from the now noncanon Han Solo Adventure novels by Brian Daley and then were placed into the West End Games RPG sourcebooks for the Rebel Alliance and the Empire (which I own both). The Z95 starfighter and Victory class were picked up by the fan community after their being mentioned in these books at the time and incorporated in the official RPG, thus filtering down to all of us over the years. This is an interesting example of how an expanded universe concept was ushered into the official canon in one form or another via the other sources of Star Wars under the lean years.

The Crawl from the 1994 LucasArts Star Wars Screen Entertainment CD-ROM
Back in the heyday of the CD-ROM, screensavers were developed and marketed by various companies and even given away as promotional material. Back in 1994, LucasArts marketed a CD-ROM screensaver with kinds of Star Wars information on it. While I had seen this back in the day, TheForce.net member “Sapno Krei” informed us members of the community that there was an opening crawl that played every 20 minutes that released some information on the Prequels. He typed out the crawl on the thread on the forum:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Good and Evil battled to determine the fate of the Universe. The struggle is chronicled in STAR WARS, nine episodes which depict the reign of the Empire and a small, brave band of rebels who threatened to topple it. 

The middle third of the story was told in Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. We followed a young farm boy, Luke Skywalker, and his commitment to the Rebel Alliance. 

We watched as Luke learned about the Force from Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda, and felt his pain when he discovered that Darth Vader, the most highly regarded commander in the Imperial Navy, was his father. 

The STAR WARS saga actually begins 40 years before Luke has the pivotal meeting with Obi Wan that sends him down the path to his destiny. The first three episodes begin with the friendship of a young Ben Kenobi and Luke's father, Anakin Skywalker. When Ben meets Anakin, he sees that the talented pilot is very strong with the Force and decides to train Anakin in the ways of a Jedi. But the Emperor senses Anakin's growing power, and determined to harness it for the Empire, sways the young Jedi to the Dark Side. Anakin Skywalker ceases to exist, and in his place Darth Vader emerges. 

The new movies will feature all the action of the first three. Much of the drama, however, will revolve around betrayal -- between friends and within the Empire. In this part of the story, things are not always as they seem and you never quite know who the good guys and bad guys are. I plan to start the screenplay for episode one by the end of 1994, and release the prequels by the year 2000.

Next Time on FWS...
This will be the last FWS blog article written by me until sometime in September or October due to moving into our new house and lesson playing for my 6th and 7th grade classrooms. It could be possible that Yoel will author a blogpost during that time, I am unsure of the article that I will return with. It could the article on the Soviet Space Shuttle, Area 88, the FN P90....or? But, rest assured, FWS will return and continue! Stay Frosty!

Something Funny to Easy the Pain...






Some Scans of the Starlog Magazine Articles: