From the story in A New Hope (and from this other question), it seems quite clear that Darth Vader was originally not meant to be Luke’s father.

On the contrary, Vader seemed to be the primary antagonist, while the Emperor appeared to be a distant figurehead, essentially being controlled by powerful generals. If so, then it seems unlikely that the eventual ending of Return of the Jedi was the one planned at the time of A New Hope. Is anything known about the original plans for the stories in episodes 5 and 6? (If there were any.)

EDIT: This is not a duplicate of Out of Universe, was Vader always planned to be…?. I am not asking if Vader was always Luke’s father, I am asking what was originally meant to be the entire plot - not just Luke's parentage - in episodes 5 and 6.

  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Out of Universe, was Vader always planned to be Luke's father?
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 9:23
  • 3
    It is not a duplicate. I'm asking what the original plan was.
    – Gaussler
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 9:26
  • 7
    Based on the answers in "Out of Universe, was Vader always planned to be Luke's father?" it doesn't look like this question is answered by it.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 10:25
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    Boy meets girl, girl goes off with Han Solo instead, boy destroys galaxy-spanning Empire to vent rage. I’d watch that. Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 17:32
  • 2
    Something, Something... Darkside? Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 11:16

1 Answer 1


The original draft of The Empire Strikes Back was written by sci-fi novelist and short story writer Leigh Brackett. She was hired by George Lucas to make a screenplay out of a rough story outline that he supplied.

Here is Brackett's original script, unedited by Lucas or others:

Tragically, Brackett died one month after completing this draft. The draft was heavily revised twice by Lucas himself and then given to Lawrence Kasdan, who changed the direction considerably.

In the original Brackett treatment of Lucas' story idea, there is a climactic lightsaber battle between Luke and Vader in an "orbital city" over "Besspin" (the genesis of the well-known Cloud City and Bespin).

What follows is a summary of pages 114-121 in the script:

  • Vader squarely defeats Luke after Luke chooses not to use his anger (and hence the Dark Side) against Vader, although Luke felt brief instances of darkness in himself and is disturbed by them. Vader senses these instances.
  • Then the scene turns surreal, with Vader towering over Luke and some kind of burning star field behind them as part of an elaborate Force illusion.
  • Vader then plucks stars from the sky and throws them at Luke. Really.

He tosses a handful of stars over Luke's shadowy form, where they run over him like sparks.

  • Vader impresses upon Luke the magnificent power of the Dark Side and beckons Luke to be re-trained in ways of the Dark Side. He claims that they can eventually "rule the galaxy together". Luke prefers to die. So they fight some more.
  • Luke turns off his lightsaber at the moment that Vader is about to strike, causing Vader to fall forward. Luke then jumps down the shaft to the bottom of the city.

There is no mention of Vader being Luke's father and Luke's hand is not severed. Another large difference is that Han is not frozen in carbonite. Also in this draft, the Emperor remains simply a distant figurehead whose likeness is never revealed, as in A New Hope.

The film ends on a rather anticlimactic note, with Han and Lando leaving to convince someone by the name of "Ovan Marekal" to join the Rebellion and with Luke staying with Leia. (Han and Leia are now in love and have a tearful goodbye.)

As for the third film, there are the usual various claims that Lucas had story ideas fleshed out for three, or six, or nine, or twelves films, etc. etc. from day one. But I can find nothing concrete regarding his pre-ESB plans for the third film in the original trilogy. Once ESB was released in its final form, it of course nullified whatever tenuous plans he had originally.

(In contrast, there is a lot to say about the development of Return of the Jedi — or rather "Revenge of the Jedi" as it was originally titled — after ESB's release and hence after the Vader-Luke father-son storyline had already been established.)

  • Very interesting! Do we know anything about the plans for the following film?
    – Gaussler
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 18:32
  • @Gaussler : Thanks! Nothing concrete about the next film --- I suspect that Lucas' original ideas dissolved quite quickly after the final draft for ESB was completed.
    – Praxis
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 18:42
  • But at what point does Vader become Luke's father? Surely we want to be looking at the immediately preceding draft rather than the original?
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 17:55
  • @OrangeDog : That wasn't the question though. The question was, "If Vader had not been Luke’s father, what would the plot of the Original Trilogy be?"
    – Praxis
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 19:55
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    @colmde : Those are murky waters, as some dispute George Lucas' statements on the origin of the name (for instance, his assertion made in 2005 that it came from "Dark Father") as a retcon of whatever the actual origin was. You can read all about it in the answers to this question.
    – Praxis
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 22:41

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