Little-known sci-fi fact: The low-budget Star Wars sequel Lucas scrapped in the 1970s

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Apr 30, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT (Updated)

Back before he knew Star Wars was going to be a massive hit, George Lucas worked up a contingency plan so he could still develop a low-budget sequel if the first film failed. Here’s what it would’ve been about.

Dubbed Splinter of the Mind's Eye, the story was written by author Alan Dean Foster, who had already been hired to pen the novelization of the first film. The plan was for Splinter of the Mind's Eye to serve as the basis for a low-budget sequel if the first Star Wars film didn’t perform well enough to warrant another installment.

The story is essentially confined to one location, and follows Luke and Leia after they crash on a swamp planet (see: cheap sets) and eventually have to face off with Darth Vader at a secret Empire mining colony. Han Solo was not a character in the story, and was only mentioned twice in passing.

Here’s the plot, via ScreenCrush’s synopsis:

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.

Luckily for us, the original Star Wars did gangbusters, so this film was scrapped and Lucas moved ahead with his regularly planned sequels. But Splinter of the Mind's Eye was still released as a tie-in novel back in the late 1970s, so track down a copy to see what could’ve been.

The folks at ScreenCrush have put together a fascinating feature about the project, which is well worth a read.

What do you think? Would you have liked to see this story turned into a mid-budget film?

(Via The Playlist, ScreenCrush)