When you're dealing with a property as vast as Star Wars, there needs to be some way to keep the various books, games, comics, toys, TV shows (and did I mention movies?) in check. Earlier today Lucasfilm creative executive Pablo Hidalgo, who's basically paid to know everything that's ever happened in every corner of the galaxy far, far away, started releasing pictures of a Star Wars style guide created in 1994 for writers interested in working on one of West End Games' role-playing titles.
Style guides are usually pretty straightforward documents — we have one here at The Verge — that let writers know what stylistic conventions a publication uses, covering everything from tone to the use of commas. But for Star Wars, the style guide also extended to content: what characters, time periods, and stories could and couldn't be used. There are a lot of tidbits in Hidalgo's posts about originality and breaking new ground that are quite amusing when read in the context of The Force Awakens' nostalgia love affair, but given the style guide's date of August 1994 — just three months before George Lucas began writing Episode I: The Phantom Menace — another alternative version of history comes to mind.
What follows is a dramatic imagining of how George Lucas may have penned The Phantom Menace, and how the style guide nearly thwarted Star Wars tragedy.
"not everything or everyone should be from Tatooine" The struggle is real. pic.twitter.com/Lkoir5aPGg— Pablo Hidalgo (@pablohidalgo) March 1, 2016
November 1st, 1994. George Lucas sits down to begin writing Star Wars: Episode I. He drinks some tea, and ponders Anakin Skywalker's origins. Stymied, he reaches for the inbox on his desk. Beneath some old mail and random issues of Field and Stream lies the style guide, with its clear warning: "Not everything or everyone should be from Tatooine." Lucas' fingertips nearly brush the style guide's surface, but then his shoulders slump. "I really need to stop procrastinating," he says, and writes four words on his yellow legal pad: EXT. TATOOINE - ANAKIN'S HOME.
I learned so much about writing Star Wars from this booklet. I'm still quoting this to writers. pic.twitter.com/5p2ScXsZ53— Pablo Hidalgo (@pablohidalgo) March 1, 2016
Lucas has run up against a creative roadblock: Anakin Skywalker is the chosen one, but how can he express just how powerful the boy is? He calls his friend Steven. "Hi, Steve... No, I haven't thought about it yet. I still like the Area 51 idea, but whatever you two guys think... I dunno, I'm just stuck on this Star Wars Force thing with the kid... Midi-what?" He pauses, turning the word over in his head as he unwraps a piece of Hubba Bubba chewing gum. "I gotta go, Steve. Catchya later."
He pops the gum into this mouth and returns to his legal pad: Most midichlorians EVER!
This would have saved a lot of EU headaches has this rule been universal. pic.twitter.com/ojj4dprfoh— Pablo Hidalgo (@pablohidalgo) March 1, 2016
George sits in his office, despondent. He's let his inner circle read the first draft of Episode I, and they all loved it. If there's one thing he's learned from the Special Editions, it's that when all of his people say something is great, it never is.
Lucas turns to his wall, where a framed picture of him and Alec Guinness hangs. "Alec, what am I doing?" he asks. He doesn't expect an answer, and one doesn't come. "Everybody already knows how this thing ends. There's no point! At best it will be tolerable. At worst, it could foul up the other ones even worse. It's not like I had this shit planned out ahead of time!"
Guinness' wizened visage doesn't move. "Maybe I should just call off the whole thing. Make some experimental films again."
A moment passes, then his phone beeps. His assistant. "Mr. Lucas, I've got the marketing department on line one. They've got the research report you requested, and they sound very happy."
The Force Awakens set a new mark in the history of movie trailers: