Return of the Jedi Ended With Luke Looking For His Sister
George Lucas' plans seem to have been in a remarkable amount of flux around this time. As Michael Kaminsky notes in The Secret History of Star Wars, "Publicly, Lucas was assuring audiences that all was proceeding according to his long-laid plans, but behind closed doors the story was undergoing fundamental changes with a rapid pace." Lucas was gradually settling on a nine-episode "trilogy of trilogies," with twenty-year gaps between each, and different characters in the starring roles. According to Gary Kurtz, producer of The Empire Strikes Back, the Other - Luke's sister - was intended to be a major character in the original Sequel Trilogy. "His sister was someone else way over on the other side of the galaxy," he explained in an interview with Film Threat, "and she wasn’t going to show up until the next episode." Back in 1999, speaking at Plano's Sci-Fi Expo, Kurtz outlined what he believed the trilogy of trilogies would have looked like:
- Episode I was to focus on the origins of the Jedi Knights and how they are initiated and trained.
- Episode II would introduce and develop Obi-Wan Kenobi.
- Episode III was the introduction and life of Darth Vader.
- Episode IV was Star Wars: A New Hope.
- Episode V was The Empire Strikes Back, largely the final theatrical cut.
- Episode VI would end with Luke confronting Vader and leaving to live a solitary life. Leia would be elected Queen of her people, leaving her isolated and alone, while Han would die.
- Episode VII was to focus on Luke's life as a Jedi, with very little detail planned out.
- Episode VIII would see Luke's sister appear from another part of the galaxy.
- Episode IX would be the defeat of the Emperor, with Kurtz implying that Luke would have been a major part of this final battle.
It seems reasonable to assume that Luke would have been a major figure in the Sequel Trilogy, maturing into an Obi-Wan-style mentor figure for his sister after she appeared on the scene. That arc would see Luke fulfill Yoda's charge to pass on what he has learned, and would also allow him to be part of the climactic final confrontation in Episode IX. Lucas seems to have intended each trilogy to have its own tone and style, and the Sequels seem to have been rather more introspective in his mind. In an interview with Time Magazine in 1983, Lucas stated that the Sequels would be about "the necessity for moral choices and the wisdom needed to distinguish right from wrong." Given the Emperor was ultimately presented as a powerful source of temptation, he would presumably have been goading the Other to fall to the Dark Side, with Luke acting as his opposite.
Leia Became Luke's Sister When Return Of The Jedi Became "The End"
There were probably two reasons why Lucas pivoted away from this idea. The first was that the Star Wars films weren't following the episodic model Lucas had envisioned, where each movie stood on its own, independent from the others; The Empire Strikes Back ended with a cliffhanger that demanded resolution in Return of the Jedi. Tied to that, Lucas had only ever gotten his actors signed up for three films, and it was clear he couldn't simply recast characters like Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. As Kaminsky observes, "Lucas probably realized that if he left the immediate story incomplete at the end of the third film - and so incomplete that the story was only one quarter of the way finished - and he suddenly lost all his actors, he would be faced with a monumental disaster that would be impossible to write around." Although Lucas still dreamed of extending his story, neither the Prequels nor the Sequels were guaranteed, and so he simply had to wrap the story up in Return of the Jedi. Others have suggested Lucas' split with his wife, who'd been heavily involved in the franchise previously, along with other facts, left him disenfranchised with the series and wasn't interested in committing to another trilogy at the time.
That meant tying together all the loose plot threads - including the Other, which had been introduced in The Empire Strikes Back. Leia was the one noteworthy female character, and the film's plot already had to do too much heavy lifting to introduce any major new characters. The simplest and most elegant solution was to reveal that Leia was the Other Yoda had been speaking of, a twin sister Luke had never known about. This also neatly resolved the loose "love triangle" story Lucas had never seemed heavily invested in; with Luke out of the picture as a rival, it made sense for Han and Leia to wind up together. And so one of the greatest twists in movie history was decided.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019