If your memories of the original Star Wars trilogy don’t match the films when you see them now, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Lucas’ famous tinkering with his films across multiple releases has altered character development, increased CGI clutter, and sometimes replaced elements of the films for no identifiable reason. The changes are becoming so entrenched that even when we remember that something changed, we can confuse what the change was: “Han shot first” sounds reasonable enough, but the fact is that Han shot only. Greedo never fired in the original cut of A New Hope.
The impact of these edits became apparent to me when I watched an overview of the Harmy Despecialized edition of the movies, a community effort which is striving to restore episodes IV-VI to their original glory. So it was with great anticipation that I dug into those films, hoping to see again some key moments that I was certain had gone missing over the years. Specifically, I remembered Biggs confiding to Luke on Tatooine that he planned to join the Rebel Alliance, wampas attacking Echo Base, and Vader on Hoth, watching the Millennium Falcon escape and menacingly stating “I want that ship.”
But they weren’t there. None of them.
In fact, on watching the movies I discovered yet another discrepancy: I was certain that during the Vader-is-Luke’s-father reveal that Luke yelled “No, it’s not true, I’ll never join you!” But it’s clear that Luke has always yelled “No, that’s not true. That’s impossible!”
It drove me nuts! Why was I remembering the movies so differently? I began to wonder if there had been other versions in the theater for the initial run, but I couldn’t find any corroborating stories that supported that idea. Besides, I was just three years old when A New Hope came out. I did find both the Biggs moment and wampa attack as deleted scenes, but they didn’t look familiar to me, and they had clearly never been part of the movie. Chewing the mystery over in my mind later, it suddenly came to me: maybe these were scenes from the books!
Not novels, mind you. I’m talking about the read-alongs and other children’s books from the time of the movies. Fortunately, these survived my father’s Star Wars yard sale apocalypse. I grabbed my copy of the 1980 Buena Vista Records read-along of The Empire Strikes Back and flipped through it:
I still have the record, but no record player. I’ve since tracked down a version where you can enjoy the book in its original glory. What’s amazing to me is how different the voices are, but in my memories I had nevertheless transposed the dialog into Mark Hamill’s timbre.
After finding one scene, I put the rest together quickly. Here’s Luke and Biggs talking on Tatooine (it’s the lower half of the page from the header of this article.)
And here’s the wampa attack. This one is actually kind of insidious, because the part with ice chips falling onto Artoo-Detoo (looks weird, right? Check out the image below where it was written that way!) is actually in the movie, though in the film it’s used to signify the approach of the Imperial walkers. So I had a real memory of what I had seen, mixed up with the rest of the wampa attack from the book.
Finally, though Vader does tell Admiral Piett, “I want that ship, not excuses,” the line I remember comes from both the read-along and the Scholastic storybook:
You can hear this one in the read-along as well. In my mind, I can see Vader, watching the Falcon blast out of the hangar, his fist clenched as he delivers the line in perfect James Earl Jones fashion. Of course, he does neither in the movie; instead he just watches as the heroes escape.
I’m pretty sure I’ve sorted out all my false memories from the movies and I’ve learned a lot about how fallible my own brain can be when putting together conflicting data. I suppose it’s true what Yoda said in Episode V: “Seagulls… Mmgh! Stop it now!”