The Great Unmade? Star Wars: Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye

Imagine if you will, Star Wars hasn’t taken off quite as well as we now know. George Lucas had a contingency plan. He approached writer Alan Dean Foster, who ghost wrote the novelization of Star Wars, to come up with a story that could be knocked out as a quickie screen sequel. That story became the first Star Wars spin-off novel, and later comic adaptation, Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye.

The story of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye follows Luke and Leia after they crash land on the swampy planet Mimban with Artoo and Threepio, on their way to a secret meeting with potential allies. Disguised as miners, (the humans, not the droids!) they attempt to find the way off the planet after discovering the Empire is secretly energy mining there in breach of protocol. Leia believes this will be enough to swing the system into joining the Rebel Alliance. In a bar, they encounter an elderly, Force-sensitive woman, Halla, who shows them a fragment of a glowing stone, the Kaiburr crystal. Claiming that the full crystal will magnify its wielder’s Force powers, Halla promises to help Luke and Leia get off the planet if they help her find it.

Luke and Leia get into a brawl with miners and are captured by Imperials, who also seek the Kaiburr crystal. With the help of their new allies, Hin and Kee, two towering furry Yuzzem (Chewbacca substitutes) locked up for drunken brawling, they manage to escape. But if the Imperials can find the Kaiburr crystal, Darth Vader will become too powerful for the Rebel Alliance to defeat. Luke must get to the crystal first and defeat Vader in order to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

Foster said in 1996 “No one knew what kind of success Star Wars would achieve, and so George, thinking ahead, wanted to be able to utilise props and backgrounds and the detritus of filmmaking in a second film, thereby reducing its cost if necessary. So in writing the sequel, Splinter Of The Minds Eye, I was asked to come up with a story that could be filmed on a low budget. Which is why, for example, the story takes place on a fog-shrouded planet (really cuts down on the need for expensive backgrounds). For the same reason, the modestly expensive space battle I had written was cut from the story. It was, to say the least, an interesting way for a writer to approach a new novel.”

That’s right, Splinter was published as the first spin-off novel in 1978, before The Empire Strikes  Back was made. It never got to the script stage, but the events it portrays, and indeed the relationships, jar somewhat with the canon of the film trilogy. That doesn’tdetract from what is a very entertaining story that would still make a great film, a kind of outer space Romancing The Stone, with a younger squabbling couple, and Halla almost as the Danny De Vito character, playing along for the big prize, but coming good in the end.

Written when it wasn’t certain Harrison Ford would sign on for further films (holding out for a better deal should Star Wars be a success), the relationship dynamic between Luke and Leia is quite different. There is a degree of unresolved sexual tension, Luke holding back because she’s a princess, and he’s just a farmboy, vowing to protect her. Although she seems keen, beneath the facade:

The Princess grew aware of how tightly she was clinging to him. Their proximity engendered a wash of confused emotion. It would be proper to disengage, to move away a little. Proper, but not nearly so satisfying.”

Certainly at this stage there was no inkling that they would turn out to be unlikely long seperated brother and sister, making this deleted scene from The Empire Strikes Back AWKWARD:

The Kaiburr crystal derives from Lucas’ original treatments of Star Wars. Back then it was the Kibir crystal, and was, as in the novel, a means of the Jedi channelling the force. It was an unwieldy device that was later dropped though.  Quite a few of the book’s other ideas make it into the later film series, albeit in a muddled way. Mimban is  obviously very similar to Dagobah. It is clear that Vader and Luke never meet to duel until Empire, but it is implied by Vader’s line then (“Obi-Wan cannot help you now”) that Kenobi helps Luke channel the Force from beyond, as he does in Splinter. Vader hurls Force energy balls at Luke, a precursor to the force lightning used by Palpatine, and Luke is able to bat them back, possibly aided by the crystal splinter. Leia also takes Luke’s place when he is pinioned by debris, although it doesn’t seem as if she is summoning the Force here, as in Return Of The Jedi when she strangles Jabba. She’s just a gutsy broad, also willing to pilot a fighter into a dangerous area to aid the rebellion. The novel also benefited from a superb Ralph McQuarrie cover illustrating their confrontation with Vader. It perfectly matches Foster’s description, as McQuarrie was allowed to read the manuscript first. The heroes faces aren’t in view because the actors hadn’t signed any deals for their likenesses to be used. It is one of his best Star Wars illustrations in my opinion:

The native stone axe wielding Coway tribe our heroes come across in an underground lake system are a more satisfying primitive race than the Ewoks for taking on Imperial stormtroopers. Luke at one point has to challenge the champion. Nearly drowning, he unconsciously channels Ben Kenobi’s Force spirit to lift a rock to dash against his opponents head, winning the fight, and the tribe’s help. A slimy road surface turns out to be a huge, worm-like creature with teeth called a Wandrella, that attempts to eat them. An inspiration for the asteroid cave creature in Empire?

I said earlier that the movie could be read as a version of Romancing The Stone. A very rough template can be seen here also for Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Luke and Leia are a callow Indy and Marion, Vader is Toht, and the Kaiburr crystal is the lost Ark of the Covenant. It seems George Lucas doesn’t throw away good ideas, he works on them and refines them, from a splinter to a complete shining jewel.

Originally posted 2012-10-30 20:23:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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