Friday, September 24, 2010

Brackett's Empire Strikes Back

All of the posts over at Grognardia about Star Wars have got me thinking about how I might run an alternate Star Wars game, or rather, one of the ways I might run one, since I can think of several. This particular one involves throwing out most of the accretions on to the universe that have come over the years...

I would not throw out everything since Star Wars (Episode IV, if you will) as some might. That would toss out the best movie of the bunch--The Empire Strikes Back. Still though, Empire gives us Vader as Luke’s father which it seems to me (along with Luke and Leia as siblings) one of the biggest dividers between the Star Wars Universe as given in the first film, and the Star Wars Universe of today which emerged in sequels and other media.

Interestingly, earlier this year Leigh Brackett’s 1978 first draft of Empire (which was at that point only the “Star Wars Sequel”) was leaked to the Internet. This was an exciting find as I’m a big fan of Brackett’s Eric John Stark stories and wondered what her version of Star Wars looked like. Lucas has always said he used very little of her script and only kept her name on the final version out of respect (she had passed on by the time the film was released).

Brackett’s script gives a version of Empire that is a bit more pulp space opera that Star Wars--which could be either a strength of weakness depending on one’s tastes. The rebel base on Ice Planet (it isn’t named Hoth) is inside a natural occurring ice structure resembling a castle. Wampas attack the rebel base en masse, and Chewbacca goes toe to toe with one. Lando is a clone, from a family of clones. The natives of Hoth (what we know as Bespin) are known as the Cloud People and ride giant, flying manta-ray type creatures and use dart guns.

There are also more fantasy type trappings. Vader’s castle lair includes small, gargoyle-like creatures flying around. Luke’s training involves sort of psychic contact with Vader where they appear to be giants among the stars. Minch (Yoda) is even more of a crotchety Chuin or Pai Mei-esque character than in the final film.

Then, there are the big differences. Darth Vader isn’t Luke’s father, he’s the man who killed him like Star Wars said. In fact, the script has Luke’s dad appearing in force ghost-form along with Obi-Wan. The central tension of Luke’s battle with Vader isn’t the father reveal, but the concern over whether Luke will give in to the dark side--which he does, in frustration, to try and defeat Vader. Luke realizes his error and backs down, but Vader claims victory from starting Luke down the path. Also, Luke’s sister (Nellith?) is mentioned, and the rivalry for Leia's affections between Han and Luke is more pronounced than in the final film.  Luke almost gets a chance to declare his love for Leia, but there is no carbomite freezing to give Leia the chance to declare hers for Han.

All in all, its an interesting trip into alternate fictional history. It could very easily be the branch point or a sharply divergent Star Wars game.


Unknown said...

While I'm firmly in the camp that believes that Empire was the best of the bunch, this script does provide a *very* interesting take on things. Can't wait to give it a proper read.

bliss_infinte said...

When I was young, I was disappointed with Empire (of course now I think it's a gem among fools gold). I think I was expecting the 'sequel' to be more like the ideas presented in this script. This will be my afternoon reading!

Unknown said...

This was an interesting read, but I have to say I'm glad it went the way it did, even if it led to Ewoks.

Chris Sims said...

That sounds less like Star Wars and more like Flash Gordon.

I'm not saying this is a bad thing.

ze bulette said...

I want to throw out most of the canon when I consider running d6 Star Wars. Like screw that cast and back up a bit, we don't need any of the known characters, the universe would be the same with different personas and potentials up to and including the possibility that you or your lot blow up the Death Star etc.

RPGs with fictional universes already largely written just seem weird.

Trey said...

I can see that, certainly, particular if what one like was the action of the movies.

For my money, though, I don't really see any difference between playing in the SWU and having the "heroes" of the movie out there somewhere than playing in a say World War II campaign and knowing that playing in "real" history means the characters don't kill Hitler. A world is a big place with a lot to do, and a universe even more so.