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Lucas' Inspirations for Star Wars

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 (Edited)

I’ve got a few posts going on TFN about Lucas’ inspirations (literary or otherwise) for SW, but I’m not getting much response from the crowd over there. So I thought I’d cross-post some of the juicier bits and see if you guys were interested in discussing the sources Lucas <span style=“text-decoration: line-through;”>ripped off</span> got his ideas from.

Here goes…

OK, I finally got around to properly reading Dune Messiah and Children of Dune (as opposed to just Googling the summaries ;P ). Now, I’m convinced that the plot of these two Dune sequels was a big influence on Lucas’ development of ESB and the new storylines that emerged there (Father Vader and Luke’s hidden sister).

Be ye warned, there be SPOILERS below…


Dune Messiah is about the crumbling of Paul Atreides’ empire, which he forged at the conclusion of the first book. His concubine and lover, Chani, becomes pregnant, but one of her enemies (Paul’s legal wife, the Princess Irulan) has fed her anti-contraception drugs that make the pregnancy perilous. Chani ends up dying in childbirth; Paul is devastated and feels his life is now meaningless, but, as the specially-bred Kwisatz Haderach, his ability to see the future warned him that this must happen. She leaves behind twins: one boy and one girl. Notably, however, Paul’s oracular vision had only alerted him to the birth of one child, a daughter. (Chani had been examined by medics and knew she was carrying twins, but never got the chance to inform Paul due to her accelerated rate of pregnancy.) The existence of a son takes him completely by surprise–because his son displays from birth the same prescient abilities as Paul himself, and no prescient oracle can “see” the life of another.

Paul, who has had his eyes melted out by an atomic blast in an assassination attempt, gives up his place at the head of the Atreides Empire and his status as the holy Muad’Dib, the Messiah of Arrakis. He wanders into the deep desert, apparently to die…

Children of Dune reveals that both of Paul’s children–Leto II, the boy, and Ghanima, the girl–were in fact born with the innate ability of the Kwisatz Haderach to commune with their own distant ancestors. They possess the wisdom of uncounted ages within adolescent bodies. Paul’s sister, Alia, was also born with this ability from birth, but she has failed to master it: she is now being consumed by the dominant personality of her evil grandfather, the late Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (whom she herself killed as a child).

Leto, Paul’s son, has been having prescient dreams, and he has come to realize that in the far future humanity will ultimately stagnate, leading to its own extinction, if something drastic is not done. Leto realizes that he must create an Imperial paradise, a Golden Age of peace, followed by a catastrophic time of bloody violence and chaos, in order to impart the deep-seated taboo against stagnation that will prevent humanity’s destruction. But to do this, to create this “Golden Path,” he needs to stay alive for thousands of years–and the only way to do that is to merge his body with the larval sandworms of Arrakis, creating a monstrous new hybrid lifeform that is practically immortal.

Leto also knows that Paul Atreides, his father, had realized this horrific action was the only way to save humanity. However, Paul shrank from taking that fearful, necessary step; he preferred to die in the desert, retaining his own humanity, rather than sacrifice himself for the good of the human race. Paul had come to see that prescience itself was a trap: by always knowing and shaping the future, he was doomed to an existence of mind-numbing boredom, which he craved desperately to escape.

Yet Paul is not dead. He returns, under the guise of “The Preacher,” to criticize the worship of Muad’Dib that, under his sister’s leadership, has grown stale and corrupt. In one of the climactic scenes of the novel, Paul confronts his son Leto, meeting him alone in the vast desert, urging him to desist from his course, to walk away from his terrible destiny and fashion a happy life for himself. Leto refuses his father’s temptation, and having failed to dissuade his son, Paul finally accedes to his greater wisdom.

At the end of the novel, Leto and Paul journey to Arrakeen, the capital city of Arrakis, to destroy the corrupt theocratic government of Alia, Paul’s sister. Paul knows that he will not survive the trip, but comes anyway. Leto poses as the guide to the blind Preacher. While Paul creates a diversion upon the steps of Alia’s temple, railing against her corruption, he is slain by her guards, buying Leto the time he needs to enter the palace, rescue his sister Ghanima, and confront Alia (who commits suicide). At the very end Leto becomes the new Atreides emperor, with Ghanima as his symbolic sister-wife, after the fashion of the Pharaohs of ancient Earth’s old Egypt (although, because of his sandworm-induced infertility, Leto has arranged for Ghanima to have children by another man, Prince Farad’n of House Corrino, the grandson of the Emperor Shaddam IV whom Paul deposed in the original Dune).


Whew! OK, where to begin?

We have the story of a tragic hero in Paul Atreides: someone who starts out as a heroic figure with a high destiny, but who fails to accomplish that destiny due to his own personal weakness, only to have his own son fulfill the role that he could not. That sure sounds like Anakin Skywalker to me.

Not to mention Paul’s utter devastation at the loss of his wife, and his failure to predict the existence of one of his children–he’s even maimed and disfigured just at the time his children are born! And when Leto steps up to follow Paul’s vision of how to preserve humanity, Paul tries to tempt him from his duty; the weakness of the father is pitted against the resolve of the son. Of course, Paul finally acquiesces to Leto’s wisdom, even knowingly sacrificing himself so that his son can do what must be done.

Paul wanted to escape the trap of being locked into prescience, of always knowing the future, feeling his own life stagnate. Leto, however, accepts that he must submit to the destiny of the “Golden Path” in order to free the rest of human civilization. Anakin’s failure is portrayed in much broader strokes–he became an embodiment of evil, the black-robed Darth Vader, someone who actively attacks the noble ideals he once championed–but in both cases a hero has failed of his purpose. Similarly, both Paul and Anakin try to tempt their sons from the path of duty. And both of them eventually accept their sons’ greater wisdom, sacrificing their own lives as a result.

(To say nothing of Anakin’s status as the prophesied “Chosen One” from the prequels, conceived by the will of the Force and destined to “bring balance.” Compare this to Paul’s Kwisatz Haderach status, as the end product of generations of Bene Gesserit breeding, designed to produce a super-being with powers of ancestral memory and prescience…)

There’s also the fact that the “Luke’s twin sister” plotline is obviously pulled directly from Children of Dune (but with the twist that the twin children were separated at birth). The novel came out in 1976–too late to impact the development of ANH. But Lucas definitely read it before thinking about the storyline of ESB… and I think it may have influenced his thinking about the character of Father Skywalker.

Here’s a significant quote from Children of Dune, a scene where Paul’s mother Lady Jessica is providing Bene Gesserit training to Prince Farad’n on Salusa Secundus:

“Shall we start?” [asked Farad’n.]

“It would’ve been better to begin this when you were much younger,” Jessica said. “It’ll be harder for you now, and it’ll take much longer. You’ll have to begin by learning patience, extreme patience. I pray you’ll not find it too high a price.”

Now compare this to Lucas’ early notes for ESB dialogue, where Luke speaks to his Jedi teacher Bunden Debannen (known as “Buffy,” AKA the precursor to Yoda):

Luke: Will you teach me?

Teacher: It would’ve been better to begin this when you were much younger. It’ll be harder for you now and it’ll take much longer. You’ll begin by learning -------------, extreme -------------.

Lucas’ verbatim dialogue-“borrowing” from other sources also happened in the ANH scripts: compare the first draft, where Lucas put Piter de Vries’ declaration “We’ve gained a true advantage” from the original Dune into the mouth of Governor Crispin Hoedaack of Alderaan; or even the third draft, where Luke and Ben Kenobi consider the meaning of the words “Good morning” in a conversation originally written by J.R.R. Tolkien for Bilbo and Gandalf in The Hobbit.

Interestingly, the page of ESB notes with the dialogue from Children of Dune is also the page on which Lucas wrote “He was a Mynoc, Human-computer. (Vader?)Mynoc in this context is obviously a riff on the Mentats of Dune, who are also “human-computers”: that is, people trained to use their brains for ultra-powerful logical analysis, since their society has outlawed “thinking machines.”

Noteworthy is that Lucas at first scribbled down another, slightly longer word in place of Mynoc, and then blotted it out completely–did he write Mentat and then decide he couldn’t borrow the term so nakedly?

“That Darth Vader, man. Sure does love eating Jedi.”

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Here's a bit more....

Consider this quote from Lucas' late 1977 story conferences with Leigh Brackett.

Vader walks down the hall--these long, narrow steel corridors, very gray--and he goes into a gray room. It's all steel and there at the end of the room on a throne is a gray, macabre, cold steel box and it's the Emperor. The Emperor tells Vader to get Luke--he is the last of the Jedi and must be stopped.

The Emperor is hidden inside a "cold steel box"? Funnily enough, this also suggests a Dune connection.

By the end of Children of Dune, Leto II is the undisputed Emperor, but he is already beginning to mutate into something beyond human. Except for his face, his entire body is covered in the flat gray patches of sandworm larvae that have become a second skin to him. This melding of human and sandworm grants Leto extraordinary physical power: he can run far faster than any normal person, break open the strongest of steel doors, kill heavily-armed guards with the slightest of motions. But Leto's physical transformation is just beginning: he suspects that he will, in about four thousand years' time, become something utterly monstrous, at which point he must finally die.

Nor is this all. In Dune Messiah we meet Edric, a Spacing Guild navigator, whose job piloting ships through "fold-space" requires him to be immersed constantly in prescience-giving spice gas. As a result, Edric has mutated into a bizarre semi-fishlike creature, and lives his entire life floating inside a tank of gaseous spice:

Scytale looked at the Guild envoy. Edric swam in a container of orange gas only a few paces away. His container sat in the center of the transparent dome which the Bene Gesserit had built for this meeting. The Guildsman was an elongated figure, vaguely humanoid with finned feet and hugely fanned membranous hands—a fish in a strange sea. His tank's vents emitted a pale orange cloud rich with the smell of the geriatric spice, melange. [...]

The Guildsman stirred and his voice rolled from the glittering speaker globe which orbited a corner of his tank...

Young Paul had noted this possibility of spice-induced mutation in the original Dune:

"I'm going to watch our screens and try to see a Guildsman."

"You won't. Not even their agents ever see a Guildsman. The Guild's as jealous of its privacy as it is of its monopoly. Don't do anything to endanger our shipping privileges, Paul."

“Do you think they hide because they've mutated and don't look ... human anymore?”

“Who knows?” The Duke shrugged.

Combine the idea of a mutated Emperor with a mutated Guild Navigator, and you might get some monstrous creature hidden in a "cold steel box" as Lucas envisions here.

Also, the scene where Ambassador Edric is formally introduced to Emperor Paul Atreides jumped out at me:

Alia peered down from her spy window into the great reception hall to watch the advance of the Guild entourage. [...]

Guildsmen moved across the tile pattern like hunters stalking their prey in a strange jungle. They formed a moving design of gray robes, black robes, orange robes—all arrayed in a deceptively random way around the transparent tank where the Steersman-Ambassador swam in his orange gas. The tank slid on its supporting field, towed by two gray-robed attendants, like a rectangular ship being warped into its dock.

Directly beneath her, Paul sat on the Lion Throne on its raised dais. He wore the new formal crown with its fish and fist emblems. The jeweled golden robes of state covered his body. The shimmering of a personal shield surrounded him. Two wings of bodyguards fanned out on both sides along the dais and down the steps.

Besides the Edric/early-Emperor connection I noted above, we also see Paul Atreides wearing "jeweled golden robes of state." Likewise, in Leigh Brackett's script, the Emperor was "draped and hooded in cloth-of-gold" though his face was invisible.

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Something to further the Paul Atreides/Anakin Skywalker connection....

In Dune Messiah, Emperor Paul is presented with a ghola (clone) of Duncan Idaho, a trusted friend and mentor who died saving Paul's life in the first book. The Duncan ghola was produced from Idaho's corpse by the Tleilaxu, a culture of genetic manipulators whose tampering with nature is universally regarded across the Galaxy as dangerous and even (given the prohibitions of the Butlerian Jihad against computers) blasphemous. (The Tleilaxu have perfected the creation of Face Dancers, shapeshifters who can alter their bodies to any appearance, of either gender, but who are therefore sterile.) Late in the novel, a subliminal order from a Tleilaxu agent, telling the clone to assassinate Paul, produces a tension between the old flesh and the new mind, shocking Idaho into regaining his original memories.

The Tleilaxu attempt to use this knowledge to manipulate Paul. They anticipate that his beloved concubine Chani will die in childbirth. Therefore they ensure that not only does Paul know her flesh can be revived in ghola form, but also that her old memories can be unlocked and restored. So Paul can have his dead beloved restored to him--but only at a price: the Emperor must hand over the true control of his Empire to the Tleilaxu, becoming their willing puppet on the throne. Or, he can abdicate and give them direct control over the Empire. Either way, he must leave his realm in the grip of the nefarious Tleilaxu.

Paul kills one Tleilaxu envoy, the Face Dancer Scytale; though he is blind, he is guided by the prescient vision of his newborn son. But another envoy, Bijaz, remains alive, and Paul no longer has the strength to resist the thought of reunion with Chani. He is forced to have Duncan Idaho kill Bijaz: "As you love me, do me this favor: Kill him before I succumb!" Blind and heartbroken, Paul abandons his empire and his godhood, taking refuge in the emptiness of the deep desert.

Obviously this has huge parallels with the story of Anakin in ROTS (as ultimately completed). Paul is tempted to give up his entire Empire to the Tleilaxu, letting their evil schemes control the fate of the known universe, for the sake of his beloved Chani's life. In the end, he is not strong enough to resist this temptation himself, and must lean on the help of a trusted friend. Anakin faces a similar situation with Palpatine's offer, but he of course succumbs to the lure of the Dark Side.

This is also interesting when we consider that the "Anakin turns evil to save Padme" plotline was only added to ROTS in reshoots well after principal photography; the initial cut of the film featured an Anakin drunk on power, corrupted and crazed by his use of the dark side of the Force. In that version, the Dark Side invaded his mind like a drug, increasingly poisoning his thoughts. But Lucas decided when editing the film that this didn't work: he had to give Anakin a compelling reason to want to join forces with Palpatine... while still being a good person with noble intentions. It's quite possible Lucas once again turned to Dune for inspiration, since he'd already drawn somewhat on the character of Paul Atreides for shaping Anakin in the OT.

BTW, apparently in 1977 DC Comics published a short-lived comic book reviving Jack Kirby's 1971 series New Gods. Lucas seems to have been something of a Kirby fan (like Darth Vader, Doctor Doom from the Fantastic Four comics wears a mask to hide his hideously disfigured face, plus full armor and a cape). I have to wonder if this new series jogged Lucas' memory of Kirby's plot, which pitted the heroic New God Orion against his evil father Darkseid. Combine that with Children of Dune, which came out around the time of principal photography on ANH.... do we have the inspirations for Father Vader in these two sources?

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Postscript: I just finished reading God Emperor of Dune (released in May 1981).

The central character of the novel is Leto II, the titular God Emperor. By this point Leto has grown into a monstrous creature, a giant sandworm-human hybrid, resembling an oversized gray slug. His human face remains visible at its head, encapsulated within a gray cowl of sandworm-flesh, but his internal organs have vastly mutated (his brain, for instance, is now a series of linked nodes distributed throughout his segments).

Leto retains humanoid arms and hands, now covered over with the external gray sandworm-skin, but his feet and legs have atrophied into vestigial flippers. He travels by means of a special large cart with anti-gravity suspensors, and frequently receives others while sitting on a raised dais. However, he can move his worm-body with surprising speed, and more than once in the novel we see him using his bulk to crush humans beneath him. He retains all of his prescient abilities and knowledge of his ancestors' lives, and he is reckoned even by his enemies to be the most fearsome and intelligent creature in the universe.

Dare I say.... Jabba the Hutt?

(actually, Lucas wrote the very first rough draft of ROTJ in February 1981, before the release of God Emperor of Dune, and in that draft Jabba is described as "a repulsively fat sultan-like monster with a maniacal grin." Perhaps something of the original Sydney Greenstreet influence remains in that description. However, the revised rough draft was not finished until June, by which point Herbert's novel had come out. Presumably it suggested to Lucas the particular "look" for Jabba.)

“That Darth Vader, man. Sure does love eating Jedi.”

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Also, I finally finished the last Lensman book (though I did read them a bit out of order--actually, that's probably the best way). Much discussion follows!

It's obvious that Lucas read E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series some time between Drafts 1 and 2 of ANH. In the first draft, the Jedi were highly-trained samurai-style warriors with superb muscle control and keen fighting abilities (very much based on the Bene Gesserit sisterhood from Dune). In the second draft, however, the Jedi use telekinesis and associated "superheroic" powers. As well, a "Kiber Crystal" suddenly becomes part of the plot in the second and third drafts; in Draft 3 it appears to have been a Force-amplifier carried routinely by Jedi warriors in the old days.

These ideas come from the Lensmen of the Galactic Patrol: a corps of elite officers who, by virtue of their Lenses--powerful crystals issued to each Lensman at the moment of assuming his duties, which provide tremendous powers of mind, plus universal translation and telepathic communication across vast galactic distances--are the chief police officers of the Civilization of the known galaxy. Note the word "police"--it was because of the Lensmen that the Jedi evolved from being solely Samurai warriors, warlord-retainers to a feudal galactic nobility, into the elite police force of a Galactic Republic. After all, the idea of the Old Republic only emerged in the second draft; in ANH Draft 1 there had always been a Galactic Empire, and, though now corrupt, it had originally been benevolent (an idea taken from Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels, wherein the collapse of the Galactic Empire is treated as a Very Bad Thing).

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The Lensmen fight the chief enemy of their Civilization: the opposing society of "Boskone," a totalitarian grouping of worlds ultimately controlled by the Eddorians, an ancient species from another space and time whose greatest lust is for untrammeled power. The Eddorians are entirely evil, extremely powerful mentally, and well-hidden; not their underlings, nor even the Lensmen, know that Eddore's Innermost Circle are the true rulers of all Boskonia. The Eddorians' scheme aims ultimately to take over the rule of two galaxies' worth of planets, so that each Eddorian can be master of his own despotic fief. Fortunately, Civilization has equally powerful allies: the Arisians, the alien race which created the Lens.

Anyone who wears the Lens is incorruptibly virtuous--if the Galactic Patrol's rigorous five-year training of cadets (beginning at age 18) doesn't see to that, the Arisians, who also briefly examine each candidate for a Lens, do. The Arisians' long-term goal is, through selective breeding over hundreds of generations, to create beings even more powerful than themselves, who will be able to wipe out the Eddorians and end their threat to the galaxy. (The names "Arisia" and "Boskone" are significant. In the ANH second draft, the Light Side and Dark Side of the Force are named "the Ashla" and "the Bogan," respectively--an obvious borrowing. The "Bogan Force" persisted into the third draft.)

One of the Eddorians, Gharlane, is principally responsible for retarding the development of Civilization upon Earth, as he has done in past centuries under such guises as Nero and Hitler. In Triplanetary (an originally independent novel that Smith later expanded and rewrote to fit into the Lensman universe), Gharlane mentally "activates" from afar the physical body of Gray Roger, a pirate chieftain whose ships prey on our Solar System's commerce. Much later in the series, in Second Stage Lensmen, Kimball Kinnison (the protagonist) at last meets Gharlane, who is in the guise (physically this time) of Fossten, the humanoid Prime Minister of Thrale (a key planet in the Boskonian hierarchy). The two have a colossal mental battle, which ultimately slays the Eddorian (and also incidentally reveals his physical form). Since only the end products of the Arisian breeding program can perceive the true nature of the Eddorians and stay sane, the Arisians convince Kinnison that he has just defeated a rogue Arisian.

This is extremely similar to the backstory of the Sith--an ancient and purely evil society, wielding immense mental/telekinetic power, which aims to subvert and conquer galactic civilization without ever being detected. Just like the ancient Sith, the Eddorians constantly scheme against each other; on Eddore (or anywhere in Boskonia), killing your superior officer and usurping his position is a widely accepted method of promotion. There's even an analogue to Palpatine: a ruthless Eddorian, millions of years old, who inhabits the seemingly-human form of a political leader, and whose true visage (at least as perceived by Kinnison) is revealed through the effort of a colossal telekinetic battle.

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The novel which introduces Kim Kinnison, Galactic Patrol, begins with his first assignment upon becoming a Lensman. Boskonian pirate vessels have recently acquired a new energy technology which gives them advantages in both speed and defense, though its exact nature is as yet unknown to the Galactic Patrol. Kinnison is put in command of a special, ultra-fast ship, and charged with capturing one of these Boskonian warships, analyzing it fully, and getting this technical report back to the Fleet's Prime Base on Earth. The capture and analysis of the enemy ship goes much according to plan. After locating a Boskonian pirate-ship and breaching his foe's outer hull, Kinnison sends in a battalion of armored space marines to board and storm the opposing craft; they succeed in taking the vessel, despite fierce resistance from the desperate crew, and the technicians go to work. However, a pursuit begins almost as soon as Kim has gotten the plans. The pirates blanket space with a wash of interference, preventing him from relaying the information home via radio. Chased by the enemy fleet, he has copies of the schematics made and distributes them among his crew. They take to the lifeboats in the hope that at least one of them will get back home. Kinnison and Peter vanBuskirk, head of the Valerian space-marine detachment, land on the planet Delgon; after various adventures, they make allies among the native Velantians and soon are on their way home, having captured several enemy vessels that were searching for them. After a quick stop on planet Trenco to repair their malfunctioning faster-than-light drive, Kinnison and his crew finally reach Prime Base, pursued by an entire enemy fleet--which is promptly blasted out of space by the Patrol's mighty weaponry. The plans are safe, and Kinnison earns the rank of Captain for his bravery.

All together now... can anyone say "Death Star plans"? The similarity is obvious enough that I hope I don't have to point it out. There's also an interesting parallel to the opening of ANH, wherein a rebel craft is boarded and stormed by hostile, armored Imperial Stormtroopers (a sequence which first showed up in the second draft). The use of two-man lifeboats to dispatch important secret data plans is likewise very similar.

Later on, Kinnison assaults Grand Base, Boskone's major headquarters in our galaxy, in a custom suit of powered, mechanized armor which can withstand deep-space vacuums. (It's possible in the Lensman universe for even spacesuits to reach faster-than-light speeds, through the neutralization of inertia--this is according to the best science of the 1930s.) Not quite comparable to a starfighter, but still...

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As for destroying planets... that comes in the later books. In Gray Lensman, there are two planets which are destroyed by the Galactic Patrol in its relentless war on Boskonia. One, the home of a fortified base headed by Jalte the Kalonian, is destroyed when the Patrol hurls a sphere of negative matter in its path, consuming the world entirely. Immediately afterward, the Patrol's fleet proceeds to Jarnevon, headquarters to the "Council of Boskone"--the home of the monstrous Eich and a major player in the Boskonian hierarchy. This planet is crushed between two entire planets, which are hurled in opposing directions so as to converge upon Jarnevon and wipe it out. The result of so much matter being annihilated is the creation of a second star where Jarnevon once was.

In Second Stage Lensmen, Kinnison promptly realizes that these superweapons can be turned against the Patrol and Prime Base... so they immediately set to work upon creating another superweapon, a laser which harnesses the sun's energy to wipe out any fleet of ships (or even any planets) attacking the solar system. Later on, this technology too is acquired by the enemy--so Kinnison counters by developing an unstoppable technique of crushing enemy planets between two other planets from another dimension, both of which travel faster than light. Fortunately for Earth, this comes very near to the end of the series, by which point the war against Boskonia is almost over.

Here is the inspiration for the Death Star: the destruction of entire planets, and the use of fleet-destroying superlasers, in the titanic space battles between Civilization and Boskone. The first draft of ANH had no Death Star, only a space station used as a headquarters during the invasion of Aquilae. (Just like the Droid Control Ship in TPM.) In fact, the Death Star first showed up in... wait for it... the ANH second draft.

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A quick aside: the uniform of the Galactic Patrol is a space-black-and-silver dress uniform with golden meteor badges at the collar. However, the elite of the Lensman corps, the Gray Lensmen, do not wear this uniform, but instead sport a flight suit of plain gray leather. (Very 1930s--after World War II, leather flight suits disappeared.) Gray Lensmen are not responsible to the hierarchy of the Patrol; they are completely independent agents, with authority to investigate whatever problems, command whatever resources, punish whatever evildoers, as and however they must.

(In Dune, members of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, which was modeled to some degree on the Lensmen, wear plain black robes... a clue to the black outfits of the Jedi in TPM concept art?)

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In Children of the Lens, Eddore finally gets wise to the fact that the Lens of the Galactic Patrol has given Civilization an incalculable advantage. So Eddore does what comes naturally: it develops its own version of the Lens and its own corps of Lensmen. Dubbed "Black Lensmen," they in fact prove to be largely ineffective, because their training (in order to obscure it from the eyes of the Patrol) is done entirely subconsciously. Still, this provides an interesting jumping-off point for a Jedi-Sith parallel.

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There is also a parallel, believe it or not, between Kimball Kinnison and Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader.

Remember those end products of the Arisian breeding program I mentioned above? Kimball Kinnison, and his beautiful red-headed wife Clarissa MacDougall, were in fact the penultimate stage in that breeding program. Their five children--one son, Christopher, and four daughters--are the "Children of the Lens," whose fully developed minds will be able to defeat the Eddorians once and for all. Practically immortal, they will ultimately replace the Arisians as the guardian race of Civilization... but at the moment they are still the very human children of Kim Kinnison.

In Children of the Lens, the Eddorians, realizing at last the threat Kimball Kinnison poses to their rule, set a trap for him: a region of space in which all ships passing through disappear. After the destruction of Ploor (the world immediately beneath Eddore in the Boskonian hierarchy) by two colliding faster-than-light planets, Kinnison, thinking the galaxy is secured, decides to investigate this "hell-hole in space." His children know of the danger to him, but, since any knowledge of the Eddorians would drive him insane, they cannot speak out.

And so Kinnison goes in: and he is trapped. He is propelled across vast numbers of uncountable dimensions, onto a planet in a universe so far beyond our own the Arisians themselves cannot perceive it. The Eddorians place a "binding" or geas upon him, such that Kinnison cannot return to his own universe, unless and until the Eddorian spell-caster has survived in good health for at least fifty years. Not long after this, the Eddorians are finally wiped out by the combined mental might of "Kit" Kinnison and his four sisters, assisted briefly by the entirety of the Lensman Corps. Much to the Kinnisons' surprise, however, their father does not reappear after this ultimate victory.

Kinnison is trapped in a netherworld, undetectable to any individual in our own space. The Arisians fear that he is lost forever, and that for the other Kinnisons to search for him would result in their loss as well, bringing to naught the toil of untold millennia. But the awesome mental power of the Children of the Lens, working as a single unit, defying the Arisian order to desist, and amplified by the mind of their mother Clarissa (the only female Lensman in all of the series), at last discovers the universe where Kinnison is hidden. Their minds and their love draw him back to our own space-time, to physical reality, and to the arms of his family.

How is that similar to Anakin Skywalker? Well, check out this passage of early notes from The Making of ESB, where Lucas first considers the notion of Vader being Luke's father:

"Somewhere the good father (Ben) watches over the child's fate, ready to assert his power when critically needed. Father changes into Darth Vader, who is a passing manifestation, and will return triumphant. Luke travels to the end of the world and makes sacrifice to undo the spell put on his father. He succeeds and happiness is restored."

(emphasis mine)

According to this early concept, Anakin's descent into evil and transformation into Darth Vader was the result, not of his own hubris and lust for power, but of an evil spell (i.e. binding) put on him by an outside agency. Luke, of course, would have to travel to "the end of the world" (just like the Kinnison children) to break the spell, at which point Anakin (like Kimball Kinnison) would be restored in the flesh to his loving children.

I've talked before about the similarity of Anakin to Dune's Paul Atreides, but the comparison of proto-Father-Vader and Luke with the Kinnisons of Children of the Lens is also extremely interesting. Imagine a SW trilogy where Vader was evil because he had been bewitched by Palpatine!

Incidentally, we also see here an idea which resurfaced in Lucas' early ROTJ drafts: that of Anakin coming back to life physically, in the flesh and completely healed, after his redemption. I suppose that idea worked much less well when he actually died than if he were merely released from a powerful enchantment.

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One last amusing connection: the original four novels in the Lensman series, as serialized in the late 1930s and early 1940s, were Galactic Patrol, Gray Lensman, Second Stage Lensmen, and Children of the Lens. Triplanetary, also originally serialized, was first written as an entirely separate novel. When Smith republished his serial stories in book form in the 1950s, he also revised them: integrating the four original Lensman novels and Triplanetary into a single canon. Naturally, this required changes to the text of all five novels, which have never been officially republished in their original serial versions (although Triplanetary's serial text is now public domain). To make the transition even more seamless, Smith wrote a prequel novel, First Lensman, dealing with the foundation of the Galactic Patrol a few years after the events of Triplanetary.

Sound like any creators we know?

“That Darth Vader, man. Sure does love eating Jedi.”

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(good for you, anyone who read all that in one go)

Feel free to mention stuff I haven't yet brought up--Kurosawa, Flash Gordon, you name it--I'd love to have an opportunity to discuss this sort of thing with like-minded fans who don't mind "pulling back the curtain."

“That Darth Vader, man. Sure does love eating Jedi.”

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There are some nice easy to tick comparison charts here.

I can see why Herbert wanted to pursue the matter.

I still think Star Wars could have been just as much fun without the more obvious Dune rip-off bits.

Dune is such a good story it really deserves better than either adaptation (and I kind of like Lynch's film) or the shoddy sequel/prequel set chucked up after Frank died.

The blue lightsaber was clearly inspired by Sting (the Hobbit's blade not the really awful Feyd).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Dp2OfIT_M

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Hey ATM! I'd for sure have some things to say about all of this. Good finds btw! Maybe in a couple days though, a bit pre-occupied with other things. Forget trying to get good discussion at TFN these days, I think most posters with anything of substance to say only go there once in a while unfortunately.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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Bingowings: You're definitely right about the connection of the blue lightsabers with Bilbo's Sting--and Vader's red blade with the Balrog's sword--but that was added in post-production, when the blades were given a rotoscoped glow.

In the ANH first draft script, Lucas describes protagonist Annikin Starkiller's "laser sword" as glowing red in color. No other colors are ever described, so I assume it was going to be like in the Marvel ANH comic, where every lightsaber blade is red.

The word "lightsaber" doesn't appear until the third draft; until then they're just called "laser swords." Presumably the new coinage was borrowed from Edmond Hamilton's short story Kaldar, World of Antares (reprinted in an Ace paperback collection, Swordsmen in the Sky, in 1965).

The story is a fairly cliche ripoff of the Barsoom series, but it does feature a very interesting weapon, the "lightsword." This is actually a physical sword with a real blade, but when the user grips the hilt, the blade glows with a brilliant white light and is charged with a deadly energy. Any physical contact at all with the charged blade basically means instant death.

Interestingly, though, the header illustration in Swordsmen in the Sky depicts the lightsword much more as a SW-style laser blade. I'd guess Lucas encountered this story between writing the second and third drafts--so between January and August 1975?

During the actual filming of ANH, the crew attempted to realize the lightsabers' glow in-camera using specially-treated electric sticks. Of course, this failed miserably. However, the idea at that point was that all lightsabers glowed white, just like Hamilton's "lightswords." So Ben and Vader would both have white blades during their duel. The different lightsaber colors--blue for good guys, red for bad--were only conceived in post-production, when Lucas realized he had to improve on the mediocre original saber effects.

There are some very early lightsaber effects tests, from pre-production on ANH, which can be glimpsed on one of the Blu-Ray documentaries. They show tests of how to create "in-camera" effects, for blades of three colors: blue, red, and white. Notably, though, there are three test sequences, in all of which the two blades being used by the "combatants" have the same color.

Actually, Ralph McQuarrie's production paintings do show lightsabers of different colors; but since he painted Vader with a blue blade and Deak Starkiller wielding a yellow one, his color choices were definitely at odds with what Lucas would later choose.

zombie: Hi there! Long time no see. (BTW, you really need to update that "Luke's severed hand" article on your site--The Making of ESB added some relevant new info. I'll try and dig up some stuff I've written on it since when I have the time.)

“That Darth Vader, man. Sure does love eating Jedi.”

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I clearly remember one clueless movie critic implying Dune was ripping off Star Wars back in 1984. *sigh*

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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Something else that might derive from Lensman is the notion of relative "power levels" or "stages" of Jedi development/ability.

In the Lensman universe, most Lensmen are ordinary, "first stage" Lensmen. They have tremendous powers of mind, including the ability to use telepathy and to understand any language, but they are dependent upon their Lenses--the special crystals made by the Arisians--in order to use these techniques. A Lensman always wears his Lens upon his wrist, because without it he is powerless. However, in order to remove it without his consent, amputation of the limb is necessary.

Even the Unattached Lensmen--the "Gray Lensmen" who have been released from the hierarchy of the Galactic Patrol and are independent agents, following their own investigations as they see fit--are usually first-stage Lensmen.

Only a few Lensmen ever reach the "second stage" of mental discipline, and these few have been specially bred for it via Arisian eugenic lines. At this level, one gains the ability to control other people's bodies remotely, read unsuspecting minds, use the "sense of perception" to see perfectly without eyes, and even throw terrific mental bolts of force that can kill instantly. Notably, a Second Stage Lensman does not need to wear his Lens to use his mental power. (Even so, Kimball Kinnison feels compelled to wear it, as a mental amplifier of sorts, when confronting the tremendously powerful Gharlane of Eddore.)

The Second Stage powers are gained when a first-stage Lensman returns to Arisia for special training; however, most Lensmen are expressly forbidden from doing this. Kimball Kinnison, the male penultimate of the Arisians' human breeding program, is the first Lensman ever to return to Arisia and achieve the second stage. Later in the series, Clarissa MacDougall Kinnison, his wife (and the female human penultimate) becomes a Second-Stage Lensman as well. In addition, the three penultimate beings from the other Arisian breeding lines also reach this stage: Worsel of Velantia, Tregonsee of Rigel IV, and Nadreck of Palain VII.

Ultimately, the Arisians determine that the human genetic line offers the most potential for creating a third-stage intellect, the only thing which can destroy the Eddorians. Thus, Kim Kinnsion meets and marries Clarissa MacDougall, and their five children (one son, Christopher, and two sets of twin daughters) achieve the third stage.

Third-stage beings can actually generate their own Lenses out of thin air when necessary. They are also the only ones capable of knowing about the Eddorians, and understanding the true nature of the Arisians' grand design, without going insane. The five Kinnison children can unite their intellects into a single entity, the Unit, which gives them unprecedented strength of mind. Born outwardly human, the Children of the Lens are in fact practically immortal, and they possess powers beyond even the Arisians' knowledge.

So we have here a clear hierarchy of intellect "stages," from Stage One to Stage Three. The Arisians and Eddorians are somewhere around the Third Stage; but the Kinnison children surpass them all. Kimball Kinnison, main protagonist of the series, is a Second Stage intellect, but he can never reach the astonishing power his children will possess.

Now check out this quote from George Lucas, speaking to Leigh Brackett in the December 1977 ESB story conference sessions:

"Maybe we should set up some kind of levels of achievement. Ben can say that Luke is now a level 2 and Vader is a 4; 'I was a 6 and the Emperor is a 6, and he's on his way to becoming a 10, which will be a force so powerful in the universe that nothing can stop him. You must stop the Emperor before he achieves the level 10.' Luke has to destroy the Emperor. It does give us a time frame for the future--not only do they have to restore the Republic, but they also have to worry about the Emperor. We're really beginning to set up that situation."

Aside from the use of a 10-level Force power scale instead of a three-level Lensman scale, this is very similar to Doc Smith's conception of mental power levels. Here, though, Luke not only has to raise himself up as high as humanly possible, like the Children of the Lens, but he also has to prevent the Emperor from doing the very same thing.

“That Darth Vader, man. Sure does love eating Jedi.”

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I kind of feel like I'm intruding since I don't have a well thought out response like the rest of you...

I'll keep my response simple, but has anyone seen the movie "Metropolis?"  C3PO looks an awful lot like the female robot.

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HewittYoda: That's totally intentional. As I noted in another thread, C3PO was definitely modeled on the robot Maria from Metropolis.

Since Metropolis is a black and white movie, the Maria robot appears silver on film; likewise, in the first draft of ANH, Lucas wrote that Threepio was chrome-colored. However, the female robot costume was actually painted a bronze color on set--a fact which Lucas must have discovered, because in his subsequent drafts of ANH, he refers to C3PO as bronze in hue.

R2D2 was modeled on the robots Huey, Dewey, and Louie from the film Silent Running--squat, blocky repair droids with claw arms, which talk in C64-style internal-speaker bleepy/bloopy noises instead of normal human speech. The robots on that film were "played" by double amputees within the metal shells. It was concept artist Ralph McQuarrie who decided to make R2D2 cylindrical instead of boxy like the Silent Running robots.

BTW, one other thing that may be of interest: in the ANH third draft, Luke watches TV (and later records a goodbye message when he runs away from home) on a small, handheld flatscreen device. It's clearly modeled on the portable TV sets seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey, during the scene where the astronauts watch their interview with the BBC. (Said handheld TVs kind of resemble modern iPads.)

“That Darth Vader, man. Sure does love eating Jedi.”

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Loving this thread. A couple years ago I was really into researching the various inspirations for Star Wars, sadly I've forgotten a lot of it. I did end up adding the Lensman series to my reading list but have yet to get around to it. Coincidentally, last night I think I might have stumbled something. I was browsing around Netflix when I came across High Noon and this image came up:

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Stepping softly in a danger zone…

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ATMachine said:

HewittYoda: That's totally intentional. As I noted in another thread, C3PO was definitely modeled on the robot Maria from Metropolis.

Since Metropolis is a black and white movie, the Maria robot appears silver on film; likewise, in the first draft of ANH, Lucas wrote that Threepio was chrome-colored. However, the female robot costume was actually painted a bronze color on set--a fact which Lucas must have discovered, because in his subsequent drafts of ANH, he refers to C3PO as bronze in hue.

R2D2 was modeled on the robots Huey, Dewey, and Louie from the film Silent Running--squat, blocky repair droids with claw arms, which talk in C64-style internal-speaker bleepy/bloopy noises instead of normal human speech. The robots on that film were "played" by double amputees within the metal shells. It was concept artist Ralph McQuarrie who decided to make R2D2 cylindrical instead of boxy like the Silent Running robots.

BTW, one other thing that may be of interest: in the ANH third draft, Luke watches TV (and later records a goodbye message when he runs away from home) on a small, handheld flatscreen device. It's clearly modeled on the portable TV sets seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey, during the scene where the astronauts watch their interview with the BBC. (Said handheld TVs kind of resemble modern iPads.)

IIRC, those were referred to as "telepads" in the making of 2001 book, and you can even see IBM logos on them watching the film in HD.

Joel Hodgson has cited Silent Running as one of the inspirations for MST3K.

The Metropolis Maria/Threepio inspiration was acknowledged early on.

http://www.df.lth.se/~ola/Starwars/StarWars/starwars6.html

 

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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No doubt. SW was compared to The Wizard of Oz from the very beginning.

And Lucas is a Kurosawa fan.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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Didn't he just want to make a Flash Gordon film in the first place, but did not have the rights? That was a big influence on SW, especially those opening crawls.

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Bingowings said:

I imagine the two mechanical men of Oz (Tic Toc and the Tin Woodsman) were also an inspiration as well as Tahei and Matashichi from The Hidden Fortress for the droids but I may be wrong...

Yes, GL was inspired by Hidden Fortress to tell the story from the point of view of two seemingly insignificant characters.  This is also where he picked up the frame wipe transition technique.

“In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be “replaced” by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten.” - George Lucas

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Yeah I watched Hidden Fortress recently and a Lucas interview about it. There are other similarities (a princess, etc.) but if I remember correctly Lucas said this was coincidental. He didn't talk about it, but the older hero has a duel midway through and I'm almost certain that was an inspiration (the way it's shot, the soldiers looking on, a prior relationship between the challengers).

Of course Kurosawa's influence was more than just plot points.

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BTW, zombie, if you're reading this: I got your PM (in response to the bit on Luke's severed hand) and tried to send a reply, but your inbox is completely filled up. If you'll delete some messages I'll send it over again.

“That Darth Vader, man. Sure does love eating Jedi.”

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Don't forget the Foundation trilogy. Asimov himself hated SW because he felt it was derivative of his work (like Frank Herbert).

Speaking of Kurosawa, both Lucas and Coppola helped finance Kagemusha back in 1980. I also think that he also got the emperor's theme from Seven Samurai.

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I'd say Foundation was far less influential than Dune on SW, though. You've basically got the general notion of an ancient, once-benevolent Galactic Empire that is now crumbling into chaos; characters named "Bail" and "Han"; and three-dimensional holographic recordings. That's about it.

Having said that, Asimov's "force-blades" from his Lucky Starr juvenile novel series may have been one of the principal influences on the lightsaber. They're basically similar to sabers, except their blades are made of invisible force-fields, and are more the length of a large knife blade. Asimov seems to have imagined the force-blade as ideal for stealthy, brutal attacks, whereas Lucas wanted to create elegant sword-style weapons.

The other major "Asimovian" idea in SW is the presence of sentient robots... but that's not specifically drawn from Foundation, more from Asimov's other short fiction in general. (The Susan Calvin series, etc.)

“That Darth Vader, man. Sure does love eating Jedi.”

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I was looking through some old pulp magazine covers and came across these two images that gave me quite the Death Star vibe.

The first one is a reprint of H.G. Welles The First Men in the Moon and the orb is only a few meters across, however in this cover art it look gigantic, like its looming over the lunar surface. I wonder if Lucas might have seen either of these and been inspired.


Amazing Stories Volume 02 #11 (1928)


Amazing Stories Volume 07 #07 (1932)

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Wasn’t Dune at least partially inspired by King Arthur? Creative people typically consume a lot of material and their imagination are fueled. Maybe all stories are just Beowulf. lol