My goal is absolutely to get it as close to the 1977 version as possible, with two caveats: 1) There is no such thing "THE 1977 version" and 2) I can only do the best with what I have.
To point 1, no two prints look alike (not even two prints struck the same day from the negative), there is no consistency among home releases and the original elements no longer serve as any kind of reference source. So THE look of the original 1977 defies any absolute definition. I make my color and exposure choices based - as anyone has to, now - on best guesses, but those guesses are exhaustively researched, revised, and guided by decades of familiarity with the aesthetic.
To point 2: I am not looking to improve the film, add things, or revise shots. There are two ways this becomes hard to stick to - one is when it comes to certain types of damage on the film. Very rarely can I say with absolute certainty that a particular piece of damage is "original negative damage." Say it's one of those white spots we see in some shots, one that shows up on every print that's ever been struck (that we've SEEN). Should that be preserved? Even then, I can't say that white spot was on the original negative as it first came out of the camera after shooting. And if it wasn't, then it's not original negative, it's damage/dirt/dust. Even if it happened on the way from the camera mag to the developer, it's not original negative. It was shit floating in the air. And finding some clear definition for where in the process shit on the negative is good shit and where it's bad shit becomes random and insane and arbitrary. What, one hour after filming is good shit, but if it showed up two days later while striking IP's it's bad shit? It's impossible to say, I mean literally impossible. So in this case, I've decided to follow my own definition, which asks the question: Is it IN the scene, or ON the scene? If it's on the scene (physically on the emulsion of the negative), then it goes. Nuked from orbit; the only way to be sure. If it's something that's IN the scene (a crewmember in the shot) it stays. It is, technically, much more likely that any true definition of THE 1977 version - the one on the original negative as it came out of the camera - is much closer to my cleaned up version than not.
The other way it's hard to stick to this principle stems from the fact that I am attempting to compensate for working from prints. Prints are not the negative. They lose information in the generational copy. Even Tech IB, which is MUCH closer to the original negative than normal prints, is still not representative of the negative either. To compensate for this, I pull data from multiple prints, and from adjacent frames, in an attempt to build up new complete frames with all the data originally lost in the dupe. Sometimes this process inadvertently improves some elements of a shot - for example, stabilizes some elements or improves flicker. In the former's case, we know for sure the shot has been improved, in the latter case, we're not so sure - these are old prints, after all; perhaps the flicker is print-based. Wherever possible, I try to mitigate any accidental improving of elements which are byproducts of my process. In truth, it's a small percentage, and I've decided they're acceptable compromises compared to the extreme gain in quality. So in this case, in pursuit of the negative, we take 100 steps forward, 1 step back. I already do my damndest to mitigate this. What I can't, I live with.
But in the final analysis, I feel that my version can absolutely be said, with clear conscience, to be representative of "the" 1977 version, and not a revision, whereas the SE sure as shit cannot.