A few days ago I was looking through my copy of J.W. Rinzler’s very excellent Star Wars: The Blueprints. One panel in particular stood out to me after picking the book up again after about five years. The panel shows early work on the sequence where Palpatine appears to a knelling Darth Vader in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. What I found particularly interesting about the early version of the idea is how it may have inspired modern Star Wars from entire sequences in the sequel trilogy’s first installment to the animated series Star Wars Rebels. An idea by production designer Norman Reynolds in the late seventies might have been the key to saving Ahsoka Tano’s life and giving Snoke the body of a basketball player.
Supremely Tall Leader
Reynolds drew several conceptual sketches that showed the relative sizes of the Emperor and Vader: To visually convey his dominance, the former was to be larger, 12 or 13 feet to Vader’s 6 foot, 6 inches.
This is not unlike the idea conveyed in The Force Awakens in which Supreme Leader Snoke is a huge hologram looming over Kylo Ren. Anyone following The Force Awakens in 2015 will recall when official news of his size broke it caused a lot of confusion at the time. Perhaps the desire to implement Reynolds’ idea dictated the discourse on the character earlier on.
Andy Serkis told Empire about his first day playing Snoke and it seemed the emphasis was on his size:
My first day was basically standing on a 25-foot podium doing Lord Snoke without the faintest idea what he looked like… or in fact who he was!
This lead fans to believe Snoke was actually at least twenty five feet tall and since we never officially saw Snoke we assumed he was pretty large as we didn’t know at that point he was a hologram. People Magazine then spoke to Neil Scanlan who cleared it up:
“This character is much better executed as a CGI character. That’s just a practical reality when he’s 7-foot-something tall; he’s very, very thin.”
Of course when The Last Jedi was released all the confusion was cleared up for anyone still confused. However, it seems the initial confusion came about because Andy Serkis was working off this old Norman Reynold’s idea where Palpatine was to be presented as larger than Vader, the biggest baddest dude in the galaxy we knew of in the vintage trilogy.
Worlds Between Worlds
Even more potentially fascinating than Snoke being presented as a large entity looming over a Darth Vader’s grandson is the information Star Wars: The Blueprints offers about how Palpatine might have traveled between locations using portals. This power is the canon is something Palaptine seems to covet and have limited access to. An early version of the concept had Palpatine using said power as an intergalactic Lyft ride.
During principal photography and until fairly late in postproduction, the idea was that the Emperor would enter through a kind of inter-dimensional door. Ultimately, Lucas decided to show only the Emperor’s head as a giant hologram.
Anyone that watched the final season of Star Wars Rebels will recall that it appears the idea of an inter-dimensional door” was something Emperor Palpatine was seeking out and trying to obtain from Ezra Bridger in “A World Between Worlds.” The power itself would have allowed Palpatine to essentially win and have access to different points in time, potentially. Palpatine would probably call such a gift “unlimited power.” We also saw Palpatine using a weaker version of this “gate” power in The Clone Wars The Lost Missions Yoda arc.
What do you think? Did the idea to have Emperor Palpatine use an inter-dimensional portal to appears to Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back end up inspiring The Lucasfilm Story Group, J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan to have Snoke appear as a huge ominous being? Remember that Palpatine does appear larger than Vader in Empire, but it is just his head and no one actually thought he was large because his full form was not revealed at that time. Once we saw Palpatine in Return of the Jedi, we saw he was just a frail old man that used holograms to appear larger than life (unlike that comical moment where tiny Vader shows up in the AT-AT as a hologram). Did Reynold’s concept also inspire the “world between worlds” that allowed Ezra to transverse space and time? It is interesting to consider that one of Lucasfilm’s ideas from the late 1970’s actually saved Ahsoka Tano’s life in the end, a character we all assumed would surely die because of her exclusion from a film in 2005.
I continually find it fascinating how interesting “outside of the box” ideas that went unused for decades become esoteric fun facts that inspire modern writers to implement the ideas into stories with a context that better fits the idea. We often as fans say that they never throw anything out. But I think it has to do with the amount of insanely creative people contributing ideas that just don’t fit that moment and the good ones linger until they find their time to shine.