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Early Draft Of ‘Empire Strikes Back’ Reveals Alternate ‘Star Wars’ Universe
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Week of Geek: The Empire Strikes Back 30th Anniversary

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes BackAn early draft of the screenplay for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, written by late science fiction author Leigh Brackett, has been leaked online. Brackett wrote the script based on a story outline by Star Wars creator George Lucas, and submitted the draft to Lucas just before she died of cancer in March of 1978.

Apparently, Lucas didn’t like the direction of Brackett’s script, but she did receive screenwriting credit, along with director Lawrence Kasdan, for the 1980 sequel to Star Wars.

The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite movie of all time, and while I think it’s perfect as is, I couldn’t help but wonder what if?. So, I read the script and let me tell you, not only would Empire have been so much different if Brackett’s script was used, but so too would the history of the entire Star Wars universe! Reading this script was like getting a peek at an alternate Empire universe. I’m a big fan of the Star Wars expanded universe, so I would have loved to see some of the elements of Bracket’s version make it into some of those books.

Check out some of the details from Brackett’s script here below.

– On the Rebel base, Leia talks to Han about his stepfather, an extremely powerful man named Ovan Marekal.

– After Luke escapes the Wampa cave, Obi-Wan doesn’t appear to him with the message to go to Yoda on Dagobah.

– There’s no banter about going out to rescue Luke; instead, Han and Leia lead a search party to find Luke and they do so quickly.

– While Luke is in sick bay, he describes the snow creatures that attacked him (what becomes the Wampas); Commander Willard asks him if he thinks these snow creatures pose a threat to the Rebel base, and as it turns out, they are attacking it at that very moment! There’s no sexual-tension exchange between Han and Leia. And Leia doesn’t plant that incestuous kiss on Luke… just then, but when she returns to visit him later on, the script says that we see them “in the midst of a tentative, and very tender love scene.” Ooh!

– There’s an Imperial city-planet known as Ton Muund, which is the center of the Empire. The first time Vader appears in the film, he’s in his quarters there finding out the location of the Rebel Base.

– As Darth Vader and his troops prepare to invade the Rebel base, Vader mentioned Luke Skywalker by name, saying how Luke used the Force to help him target to destroy the Death Star.

– Later, the snow-creatures return and attack the base with a plan to rid the Rebels from their planet for good. This is what prompts the discussion of the Rebels’ evacuation, which leads to Luke sensing a dark disturbance in the Force (which is Vader and his men about to invade).

– Dagobah is referred to as the Bog planet and Luke is comatose as he approaches it, thanks to Vader Force-choking him from afar. There he meets a “frog-like” creature named Minch (Yoda). Bog was a training center for young Jedi, and that’s where Obi-Wan trained. Later on, Minch demonstrates a Jedi duel, calling upon Obi-Wan (“By the Force, I call you!” Minch says, summoning Obi-Wan) to be his opponent.

– While the Millennium Falcon is in the asteroid field, Han kisses Leia; she kisses him back at first then goes to smack him (something she did too on the Rebel base). Han then demands to know if she loves Luke.

– Darth Vader has pet gargoyles.

– Lando Calrissian is known here as Lando Kadar and his family were refugees of the Clone Wars. He was an “honest smuggler,” according to Han, who had “gone respectable on a world called Hoth.” As they approach the place, it is a world “shrouded in clouds.” Han tells Leia that Hoth means “cloud.” When they arrive, a group of white-haired, white-skinned “tall, noble-looking warriors” with pneumatic dart weapons comes at them. We find out later that these are the native White Bird clan of the Cloud People.

– Princess Leia’s alias on the Hoth/Lando planet is Ethania Eredith, the daughter of a smuggler who Han found stranded on an unpleasant world.

– Luke is finally able to summon Obi-Wan, who brings along Luke’s father! His father asks if him if he knows about his sister (the draft has the name Nellith, but it’s crossed out a few times and replaced with “sister”). His father says he can’t reveal her name for fear that Darth Vader would read Luke’s mind and find out about her. Luke then takes the oath of the Jedi Knight; afterward, Minch says Luke’s real test [of resisting the Dark side of the Force] will come from Vader.

– Leia suspects that Lando is a clone; he later confirms that he is a clone of the Ashardi family, that his great-greatfather wanted many sons, so he had clones of himself made. Lando says after the Clone Wars, there aren’t many of them left. Before the wars, he’d see his own face on many people in the street and that it gave them a “sense of oneness, of belonging.” Later, when he betrays Han and Leia, he’s not remorseful at first.

– Vader knows that Luke is in love with Leia, so he is going to use her to get to Luke.

– When Luke arrives at the Hoth cloud city, the White Clan warriors nearly attack them, but then help him with his encounter with Vader and then try to fight off the Imperial troops.

– When Luke and Vader have their lightsaber duel, Luke inadvertently uses the Dark side of the Force. Later, there’s no reveals or surprises, and Luke isn’t injured. Vader just wants Luke to join him to rule the galaxy. Luke escapes the fight the same way, but when he lands, he sees the Falcon and jumps on it; Chewbacca lets him into the ship. No Leia Force-like ability at play. Everyone escapes in the end, including Han.

– The story ends on the planet Besspin Kaalieda, with the group saying their farewells. Leia is with Han, telling him “come back to me” because she loves him; Han is leaving with Chewbacca to meet with Ovan Marekal like he was supposed to at the beginning of the film. Luke still loves Leia, but now in a different way since he has matured. Luke, Leia, Lando, C3PO, and R2-D2 watch as the Falcon takes off; Luke ignites his lightsaber in salute. THE END.

[My PDF Script]


  1. Very interesting stuff. I’ve always believed it was Brackett’s input that elevated this episode above the later Star Wars films. Despite the differences that can be seen between the first draft and the final product.

    Comment by Somnopolis — May 16, 2010 @ 8:17 am

  2. Empire Strikes Back is your fave movie, and you think it came out in 81? 1980 dude

    Comment by Jamie — May 16, 2010 @ 9:05 am

  3. Fascinating stuff. Most of the alternate ideas I could do without EXCEPT the development of the Luke/Leia romance. The recently released B&W stills from the set of Hoth support that-Luke and Leia kissing in a corridor. THAT makes more sense to me than the hideously ridiculous sibling stuff just thrown in. That made the romantic interest and kiss between L&L look incestuous in retrospect. I’m a ‘hero gets the girl’ type. Even so, Bracketts script would have ended in disappointment for me. Solo?? Pleeease!
    How does anyone fall OUT of love with Luke Skywalker??

    Comment by Melanie — May 16, 2010 @ 11:05 am

  4. Some of this is in the annotated screenplay book that came out in 1997. It’s fascinating to read the what if of these films.
    Great article!!!

    Comment by Jerry — May 16, 2010 @ 11:08 am

  5. @Jamie
    Dude, it’s a typo, cut me some slack. I read a script and 1,100 wrote words about it. Just because I made a typo doesn’t negate it being my favorite movie. But thank you for pointing it out, it’s fixed now.

    I agree, how could anyone fall out of love with Luke!!!? I would have chosen him too.

    Comment by Empress Eve — May 16, 2010 @ 1:14 pm

  6. Thank you! I hate being made to feel like a sicko for thinking that too! It started as a romantic triangle! Just because Lucas disregarded his own plot continuity doesn’t mean it never was! Worst of all was that , in doing so, HE gave ESB incestuous overtones in retrospect. You can’t head characters one way for two films then do a Uturn and not expect it will make a huge difference and make them look either sick or stupid.
    A rivalry between two man for a woman is logical. Making her an instant sibling( and all the dead Jedi look bad for letting it get to the spit-swapping stage before TELLING Luke) isn’t, wasn’t and never will be! Long live Alternative Fan Fiction!

    Comment by Melanie — May 16, 2010 @ 1:43 pm

  7. Thank you! I hate being made to feel like a sicko for thinking that too! It started as a romantic triangle! Just because Lucas disregarded his own plot continuity doesn’t mean it never was! Worst of all was that , in doing so, HE gave ESB incestuous overtones in retrospect. You can’t head characters one way for two films then do a Uturn and not expect it will make a huge difference and make them look either sick or stupid.
    A rivalry between two men for a woman is logical. Making her an instant sibling( and all the dead Jedi look bad for letting it get to the spit-swapping stage before TELLING Luke) isn’t, wasn’t and never will be! Long live Alternative Fan Fiction!

    Comment by Melanie — May 16, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  8. I was all for Han and Leia ending up together when I first saw SW back in July of 1977. I was thrilled when they did, too. Han was major HOT HOT HOT. Luke was was a bit on the whiney side in ANH and ESB. I would have chosen Han in a heartbeat!

    Comment by PonyTricks — May 17, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

  9. I still prefer the original, legendary “STAR WARS” to “Empire”, but being the second greatest movie of all time ain’t half bad. Sure, you can say Lucas has lost it now, but back when he made THIS movie, he had the GUTS to make a sequel to the biggest movie in history with no real ending, our heroes get their butts kicked throughout the whole thing and— he makes the evil Darth Vader into Luke’s father. Considering how much fun the first film was, it was a very bold move—plus it was his money covering most of the cost. This movie still shines today. I could go on, but I’ll just end with a big HAPPY 30th EMPIRE!

    Comment by Dave Grate — May 17, 2010 @ 9:14 pm

  10. Wow… The most interesting thing I found is that Leia suspects/discovers that Lando is indeed a clone. It was pretty unexpected for me since the whole relation Boba Fett/Lando/Cloud City is strong and also caring that Kamino looks a lot like Bespin.

    Very interesting, indeed.

    Comment by chivo1138 — May 18, 2010 @ 8:26 am

  11. Pony: I have to defend Luke here. I’ve heard the ‘whiney’ bs for too long. Okay- a character in a film is supposed to be a teen and he whines ONCE and is FOREVER considered ‘whiney’ despite the fact that he matures and saves the blasted galaxy??
    So lets apply the ‘one line defines the character’ rule to Solo:
    ” Better her than me.” He’s willing to let a woman DIE if he doesn’t get PAID enough to help save her! What woman wouldn’t love to hear that, and of course fall in love with such a cold, selfish SOB, right?
    If Luke is ‘whiney’ forever, then Solo is a heartless, selfish bastard forever! Complaining about chores isn’t the same as being willing to let someone die. If Solo ‘changed’ ( not much evidence that I can see- he was about money afterward, leaving with his ‘reward’ before the DS battle) then this labeling of Luke- the HERO for Sithsake!- has to stop.
    This denigrating of the good, and admiration of the bad in SW is counter to the whole idea of the saga. Luke, in particular, has suffered the most and I find it disturbing and offensive.

    Comment by Melanie — May 18, 2010 @ 9:04 am

  12. This was interesting. Very strange. If Episode V was made this way, I think it would be a little worse. Like I love ESB, but it has a slow moving story arc. Like the Dagobah scence in ESB took forever. Compared to the other five, this one is slow. Still, I like Vader being Luke’s father better. I know a lot of fans like ESB the most, but It’s not my number one. Just for your enjoyment. I will list my favorite SW films: 1-ROTJ 2-ANH 3-ROTS 4-TPM 5-ESB 6-AOTC.

    Comment by TheJediGuy97 — May 18, 2010 @ 9:40 am

  13. @Melanie – And on that note, Han shot first. ;)

    I have always liked ANH as my favorite SW film. It sets the stage for the characters, sets up the pacing, and generally kicked ass. To find out that while you have been stuck in your mundane little farm life, you are actually meant for something greater. That a scoundrel can change, even just a little. It’s really a great launching point that could have taken the story ANYWHERE. The original ESB script would have definitely changed the continuity but I think it would have been… interesting.

    Comment by punkazzINC — May 18, 2010 @ 12:09 pm

  14. A lot would have changed. I think most of the names( Minch!) were improved and in many ways we actually got a better deal with Lucas.( hard to believe I said that!) I remember reading that Gary Kurtz said the original ending for Jedi had the main three heading their separate ways with Leia becoming Queen of her people. Lucas changed a LOT while he was filming. I don’t believe he had it all written from the beginning for a minute.
    Love your site, btw. Nothing like being able to say that G.O.D. agrees with me about Luke & Leia! lol

    Comment by Melanie — May 18, 2010 @ 2:13 pm

  15. How about this for an alternate version of Empire:

    Comment by beaglejuice — May 18, 2010 @ 6:27 pm

  16. I’m in agreement with some others. I’m glad most of those developments weren’t used, but I do see the ‘sister’ twist in the actual films as pointless and unneeded. The connection would have been interesting if Leia remained unrelated, though Luke still could have had a sibling. Perhaps a brother (But not Han). The interesting bit was having the ‘Bog’ planet be an original Jedi training grounds, but it would be counter-intuitive to Minch AKA Yoda being exiled there and in hiding.

    Comment by Matt — May 19, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

  17. @Melanie

    Well said about Luke’s whining, however he too grew over the course of the series, but was a whiney, know it all farm boy at one point ;)

    I love that Vader could have had pet gargoyles.

    Comment by emerginseamonster — May 30, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

  18. When was he called whiney? I thought we’d moved on to Anakin now?

    Comment by Mikasa Pinata — June 3, 2015 @ 12:52 pm

  19. I am in absolute shock that you like The Phantom Menace more than Empire, but to each their own.

    Comment by Kumar Plocher — June 11, 2015 @ 4:57 pm

  20. Star wars probably needs a reboot, one were Luke and Leia are not siblings.

    Comment by FRZ — October 29, 2015 @ 3:12 pm

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