It’s amazing to think that there was once a time when a successful Star Wars movie wasn’t a sure thing, but before the first movie hit theaters in 1977, George Lucas wasn’t taking any chances. In case the film wasn’t a huge financial success for the studio, Lucas had a backup plan for a sequel with a smaller budget called Star Wars: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. This would allow Lucas to continue tinkering with his universe without breaking the bank.

Obviously Star Wars was a massive hit, which allowed for The Empire Strikes Back to have a huge budget, but here is a synopsis of the potential small budget sequel Lucas had in mind, courtesy of Screen Crush:

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.

The movie would have even left out Han Solo because Harrison Ford wasn’t under contract for a sequel and would likely be too expensive to bring back. In 1978, Lucas hired Alan Dean Foster to write the Splinter of the Mind’s Eye novel in the hopes of eventually turning it into a screenplay. The novel was still released, but at that point it was well known that it wouldn’t be the basis of a movie.

What’s most disturbing about the plot is that Foster had no idea that Luke and Leia were meant to be related, so there was some uncomfortable sexual tension between them as shown in this passage:

Awkwardly pressed up against him, the Princess seemed to take no notice of their proximity. In the dampness, though, her body heat was near palpable to Luke and he had to force himself to keep his attention on what he was doing.

Yikes.

You can still track down the novel and Dark Horse’s comic book adaptation of this story. So if you’re morbidly curious about what could have been, be sure to check it out.

[via Screen Crush]