Unveiled today was the official casting news for "Star Wars: Episode 7," and as you might guess, the internet collectively flipped. But a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the entire saga could've taken a different turn. Before "Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope" was a blockbuster smash, it was unknown entity, and George Lucas had alternate plans for his sci-fi series if it didn't become a behemoth.
The folks over at ScreenCrush recount the entire fascinating tale, but here's the nuts and bolts of it. Fox financed the first "Star Wars" and thanks to the massive box office hit it became, Lucasfilm were able to completely independently back "Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back." But Lucas was smart enough to realize that if he wanted to keep the franchise going, he needed to have an alternate plan in case "Star Wars" was only a moderate hit, a plan that involved writer Alan Dean Foster.
Already commissioned to write the "Star Wars" novelization, Foster was tasked with writing a second book, one that could also operate as the foundation for a cheaper sequel, if required. The result? "Splinter Of The Mind's Eye." What was it about? Here's a synopsis per ScreenCrush:
The plot of ‘Splinter’ is fairly simple. Taking place after the events of ‘Star Wars,’ Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa – along with C-3P0 and R2-D2 – are on their way to an important meeting with representatives of a system that might join the Rebellion. On the way, the two crash-land on a swamp planet called Mimban (Lucas asked Foster to scrap a space battle that originally led to the crash because it would be too expensive to film), where they soon discover that the Empire has a secret mining colony in operation in an effort to find something called a Kaiburr crystal. Eventually the two are discovered, ending with a showdown between Luke and Leia against Darth Vader.
One character missing from the book entirely and only referenced twice (and only once by name) is Han Solo.
So why was Han (and Chewbecca) missing? They weren't under contract for anything after "Star Wars," so they couldn't be used at the time. But Foster was actually glad not to have to deal with them. “It was kind of liberating. The story idea I had in mind focused on Luke, Leia and, in the background of course, Darth Vader. And working a third major character into the storyline would have been a little awkward. It was less that I had to worry about,” he explained.
Well, "Star Wars" became a hit and plans for the 'Splinter' movie were junked, but the book was still published and is part of the expanded universe canon. So until "Star Wars: Episode 7" rolls around, maybe now is a good time to pick it up.