The Cynical Optimist digs up the original two-page outline for Star Wars

With the release of “The Star Wars Saga” on Blu-Ray, I thought it might be interesting to go back and examine George Lucas’s space opera as it existed in early drafts and story treatments before it became the influential blockbuster we all know and love.

The Journal of the Whills, Part I (1973) was a handwritten two-page partial outline for the story that would, after many rewrites and explorations of ideas, become “Star Wars” (1977).

The outline begins: “This is the story of Mace Windy, a revered Jedi-bendu of Ophuchi, as related to us by Chuiee Two Thorpe of Kissel, padawaan learner to the famed Jedi.” It is noted that Chuiee’s father is Han Dardell Thorpe, chief pilot of the renown galactic cruiser Tarnack.

When Chuiee turns sixteen years of age, he enters the Intersystems Academy to train as a potential Jedi-Templer. There he becomes padawaan learner to Mace Windy, a Warlord to the Chairman of the Alliance of Independent Systems.

Windy becomes the victim of a political conspiracy: those who fear that Windy is more powerful than the Imperial leader of the Galactic Empire, some of those being his own comrades, arrange for his replacement and expulsion from the royal forces. Though Windy has been dismissed, Chuiee begs to stay on in his service.

This leads to the even more fragmented story of Journal of the Whills, Part II. Skip ahead four years, where Windy and Chuiee have their greatest adventure. They guard a shipment of “fusion portables” to Yavin, where they are then summoned to the desolate planet Yoshiro (perhaps inspired by “Yojimbo” actor Toshiro Mifune) by a mysterious courier sent by the Alliance Chairman himself. At this point Lucas’s space-fantasy trails off.

Aside from not having a clear beginning, the style of the Journal is inconsistent. Whereas the First Saga (Part I) is expository, written in the past tense with a third person perspective, another known excerpt, from early script drafts, is written in a formatted poetic style reminiscent of religious texts. The excerpt reads as follows:

“… And in the time of greatest
despair there shall come a savior,
and he shall be known as:

— Journal of the Whills, 3:127

Although it has never been confirmed, it’s likely that this excerpt deals with the Prophecy of the Chosen One, as it does make what could be considered references to Anakin Skywalker, or possibly his son.

In his early drafts, George Lucas ostensibly planned to use the Journal of the Whills as a plot device to connect the Star Wars galaxy to our own.

In Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, Lucas explains, “Originally, I was trying to have the story be told by somebody else; there was somebody watching this whole story and recording it, somebody probably wiser than the mortal players in the actual events.”

“I eventually dropped this idea, and the concept behind the Whills turned into the Force. But the Whills became part of this massive amount of notes, quotes, background information that I used for the scripts; the stories were actually taken from the Journal of the Whills.”

In The Making of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Lucas mentions that he intended the stories told in his films to be relayed to a Keeper of the Whills by R2-D2, who would record them in the Journal. This event would take place roughly 100 years after “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.”

The first novelization of “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” was published in 1976 as Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker.

Credited to George Lucas, the novel was actually ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster — who later wrote the first Expanded Universe novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.

In place of the iconic scrolling text from the “Star Wars” film, Foster begins the novelization with an excerpt from the Journal of the Whills describing Emperor Palpatine’s rise to power. Here’s the entire prologue:

Another galaxy, another time.

The Old Republic was the Republic of legend, greater than distance or time. No need to note where it was or whence it came, only to know that… it was the Republic.

Once, under the wise rule of the Senate and the protection of the Jedi Knights, the Republic throve and grew. But as often happens when wealth and power pass beyond the admirable and attain the awesome, then appear those evil ones who have greed to match.

So it was with the Republic at its height. Like the greatest of trees, able to withstand any external attack, the Republic rotted from within though the danger was not visible from outside.

Aided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within the government, and the massive organs of commerce, the ambitious Senator Palpatine caused himself to be elected President of the Republic. He promised to reunite the disaffected among the people and to restore the remembered glory of the Republic.

Once secure in office he declared himself Emperor, shutting himself away from the populace. Soon he was controlled by the very assistants and boot-lickers he had appointed to high office, and the cries of the people for justice did not reach his ears.

Having exterminated through treachery and deception the Jedi Knights, guardians of justice in the galaxy, the Imperial governors and bureaucrats prepared to institute a reign of terror among the disheartened worlds of the galaxy. Many used the imperial forces and the name of the increasingly isolated Emperor to further their own personal ambitions.

From the beginning they were vastly outnumbered by the systems held in thrall by the Emperor. In those first dark days it seemed certain the bright flame of resistance would be extinguished before it could cast the light of new truth across a galaxy of oppressed and beaten peoples…

From the First Saga
Journal of the Whills

I like the idea of R2-D2 delivering this epic account of events to the Keeper of the Whills. In fact, if I were rewriting the prequels, that moment (some 100 years after the Battle of Endor) would be a pretty intriguing way to open Episode I, with our favorite intrepid astromech droid entering a hidden fortress on some long forgotton planet at the edge of the galaxy.

As R2 plugs into an access terminal and uploads the volumes of stories and experiences, we are taken back to where it all began – which in my version would not include Jar Jar Binks or an eight-year-old Christ-like Anakin who builds C-3PO (but that’s a column for another time).

The information in this column was compiled from numerous texts on the making of “Star Wars.” I would strongly recommend reading:

The Making of Star Wars by J.W Rinzler
The Making of The Empire Strikes Back by J.W Rinzler
The Making of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith by J.W Rinzler
Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays by Laurent Bouzereau
Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker by Alan Dean Foster

If you haven’t yet, I would also highly recommend watching Jambe Davdar’s fantastic series of documentaries detailing the creation of George Lucas’s original trilogy of films. You can follow Jambe on Twitter @jamieSWB and subscribe to his YouTube Channel here. Below are links to watch his documentaries in their entirety:

Star Wars Begins
Building Empire
Returning to Jedi

The Motion Poster for The Darkest Hour

Reynolds, Bridges on the set of R.I.P.D