Star Wars: Episode IX will end the Skywalker saga when it premieres this December, but how different could things have been if George Lucas' initial vision came to pass? When the original Star Wars movie broke box office records and received widespread critical praise, it became apparent Lucas would be able to move forward with his planned sequels. During his time with the franchise, the exact number of installments Lucas wanted fluctuated (some days it was nine, some days it was twelve), but Star Wars was always meant to be a multi-part series.
More than four decades after audiences were first introduced to the galaxy far, far away, they'll finally get to see the conclusion of the classic story that's defined the franchise from the very beginning. Obviously, a lot changed over the years, and the Episode IX J.J. Abrams made is quite a departure from what Lucas had in mind. In fact, if Lucas stayed on this course, even the original trilogy would have drastically changed.
George Lucas' Original Star Wars 7 & 8 Plans
During an appearance at the Sci-Fi Expo in Plano, TX in 1999 (via TheForce.net), producer Gary Kurtz (who worked alongside Lucas on the first two Star Wars movies) detailed what Lucas had in mind for the overall saga. The timeline for this predates 1980, so these are the earliest concepts Lucas was toying with. Unsurprisingly, Lucas' original sequel trilogy existed more as brief outlines rather than fully-formed ideas. The gist of it involved following Luke Skywalker's life as a Jedi Knight, though not much else is known beyond that. Obviously, this greatly deviates from the actual sequel trilogy, which revolved more around a new cast of characters and depicted Luke's last days as a bitter old man filled with regret. From the sound of things, Lucas was planning on showing audiences what a fully capable Luke could achieve.
Lucas' initial Episode VIII continued the story by introducing Luke's sister. This would be an entirely new character (not Leia) arriving from a different part of the galaxy. So even before the days of The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas was intrigued by the notion of expanding the Skywalker family to include another one of Anakin's offspring. Since this idea never made it past the developmental stages (Leia, famously, was reworked to be Luke's twin sibling), there isn't much information available that fleshes this mystery sibling out (i.e. her backstory, level of power, etc.), but this still would have been interesting to see. The Star Wars movies barely touched on Leia's Force abilities - with her flying scene in The Last Jedi being the most notable example. There was potential here for Luke to have an equal in Jedi abilities, perhaps pushing him past his perceived limits as he continued to grow. And, this would have set up an epic confrontation in the trilogy finale.
Luke Finally Faces (And Defeats) The Emperor
Before we get into Lucas' initial draft for Episode IX, we have to examine his original plan for the remainder of the classic trilogy. Per Kurtz, The Empire Strikes Back was more or less what we eventually got, with only minor sequences that had no real bearing on the plot cut. Return of the Jedi was a completely different animal. Among the key developments in Lucas' first Episode VI were Leia being elected "Queen of her people," Han Solo dying, and Luke living alone after battling Darth Vader. It goes without saying that a lot changed in the three years between Empire and Jedi, with Lucas restructuring the movie to serve as the finale of the trilogy with a more upbeat conclusion. He infamously clashed with Kurtz over the new direction of the film, which led to a falling out between the two.
If Lucas had stayed on his initial path, Episode IX would have marked the first physical appearance of the Emperor. Palpatine made his big screen debut via hologram in The Empire Strikes Back, but Lucas saved the ultimate reveal for the very end. In a way, this makes a lot of sense. The Emperor was always the big bad of Star Wars, so only his downfall could bring the story to its proper resolution. Again, details about what exactly Lucas had in mind are slim (particularly because things went in a drastically different way), but based on what we know, the story would likely involve Luke and his sister teaming up to take down the Emperor together. It wouldn't have been out of the question for one of the siblings to have been tempted by the dark side, adding some drama and intrigue to the proceedings.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019