Star Wars: Episode VII — the treatment, part 1

My son Sam (6), if I haven’t mentioned it before, loves Star Wars. He’s watched all six of the movies numerous times (Episode III is his favorite, followed by Episode II), owns over a hundred action figures (many of them hand-me-downs from Dad) draws pictures of the characters every chance he gets, and has recently completed a movie (which Dad is now editing — it has, I’m afraid, many longueurs). It was inevitable that he would turn to writing scenarios for imaginary Star Wars stories. I don’t have the heart to tell him that he could probably make good money at doing this work.

Tonight’s bedtime conversation:

SAM: Dad?
DAD: Yes?
SAM: You know what would be better?
DAD: What would be better?
SAM: If, at the end of Episode IV (A New Hope, or Star Wars, to peopleover 30 years old), if instead of Luke Skywalker shooting a photon torpedo into the Death Star? If instead he shot down a TIE Fighter and the TIE Fighter crashed into the exhaust port instead and set off the chain reaction.
DAD: Yes. You are correct, that would be better.
SAM: And in Episode VI (that is, Return of the Jedi)?
DAD: Yes?
SAM: Well, actually, Episode VI is good the way it is.
DAD: You think so?
SAM: Yeah. Except —
DAD: Except?
SAM: It would be cool if, instead of the rebels blowing up the reactor in the middle of the Second Death Star? If, like a million Star Destroyers and Super Star Destroyers crashed into the Second Death Star.

I cannot tell you how much these little conversations make my heart burst with pride.

As a service to my loyal readers, allow me to offer a version of this story with proper spelling, punctuation, and a few small textual notes:

1)”As the second Death Star explodes, the Dark Trooper arrives in a TIE Fighter at a Battleship, with lots of Troopers. There is a menace named Darth Black.”


The “Dark Trooper” is a reference to the bad guy of the unplayably outdated video game Star Wars: Dark Forces. Sam has never played this video game, but he does have an action figure of the Dark Trooper, who looks like this:

By “Battleship” he is referring to a Star Destroyer. “Darth Black” is not a typo but a new character, a heretofore uncelebrated Sith lord.

Sam completed the first page of this story after school one day and was hugely excited by it, as was I.

SAM, pen in hand: What should I write next?

DAD: Well, what happens next? It’s the end of Episode VI, the second Death Star has just exploded, that’s a great beginning. Now I see you’ve got a Dark Trooper who survived the explosion. That’s also a great idea — the Empire has just collapsed, the Emperor is dead, but there are all these millions of soldiers who worked for him — what are they going to do? What are their loyalties? Are they being hunted by rebels, do they form their own army, what do they do? And here I see you’ve got a new character, this Darth Black — what does he want? What makes him a menace? And who’s saying he’s a menace? A menace to whom?

SAM, visibly distressed: Just tell me what to write…

And then, moments later, he was off again, no help needed from me.  And, as you will see, he utterly ignored every helpful suggestion I made, a decision that makes my heart sing.  (I have since learned that, when he wrote the first page, he didn’t actually know the meaning of the word “menace.”)

2) “As, waiting, Darth Black calls the Imperial Spy. All troopers are in position, and as the Imperial Spy sets up his troopers, a figure arrives in the distance.”

As the proud father, I note that Sam has already mastered the technique of always pitching a story in the present tense. I also note, with some interest, that he begins two pages in a row with the word “as.”

The geography of these scenes, however, is confusing, and doesn’t get better.  I think the Imperial Spy and Darth Black are on two different space ships, but I could be wrong.

The “Imperial Spy,” for those who don’t speak Star Wars, is this guy:

A minor character from Episode IV, without any proper dialogue, he has nonetheless captured Sam’s imagination. You never know what’s going to do it I guess.

3) “It was Qui-Gon Jin. The Imperial Spy saw his lightsaber was red. He went up to the Imperial Spy. He [stood] there. The Imperial Spy called Darth Black.”

Qui-Gon Jin, of course, died at the end of Episode I. His appearance here, therefore, counts as a major revelation. Close readers will note the color of his lightsaber — only Sith’s lightsabers are red.

At this point, I had to ask what Darth Black looked like. Sam replied that Darth Black was the brother of Darth Maul, had the same horns growing out of his head, and had black skin. I imagine him having the same kind of wild face-decoration as Darth Maul (that is, I think it’s a decoration) but in a kind of black-on-black pattern instead of red-on-black, which, I’ve got to admit, is a whole lot more cool.

4) “Suddenly Rebels [a]re surrounding the two figures [by which I think he means Qui-Gon and the Imperial Spy]. They [take] out their guns. Suddenly, Qui-Gon jump[s] up in the air and kill[s] all the rebels. He [is] a good fighter. He [Darth Black] [is] impressed.”

I have to say, for a six-year-old, having the red lightsaber pay off with a stunning plot twist of Qui-Gon turning out to be evil, is truly inspired.

5) “Darth Black heard about the Jedi [that is, had heard of Qui-Gon Jin, and, by extension, knows that he is supposed to be dead]. He calls him over [calls who, and from where, is unclear]. The Imperial Spy got in his ship. The Jedi [Qui-Gon] snuck in after him. He flew to the battleship [the same battleship as the Dark Trooper?]. He got out. The Jedi snuck out too. He [the Jedi, Qui-Gon] explored. Someone saw him. He [the someone? The Imperial Spy?] [brought] him to Darth Black.”

6)”Darth Black ask[s] where they found him [that is, Qui-Gon]. ‘He was walking around’ [replies someone]. ‘Maybe he [is] the bad Jedi I[‘ve] heard about’ [says Darth Black]. ‘What Jedi?’ [asks the someone]. The Imperial Spy walk[s] past. He [sees them talking] [that is, he saw Darth Black talking to the someone]. Suddenly a ship arrived in the distance.”

Again, I’m a little confused about who Darth Black is talking to and what role the Imperial Spy plays in all this, but this much is clear: Qui-Gon Jin is alive, and evil, and he’s looking to join the ranks of a Sith lord who has, somehow, survived the collapse of the Empire. If you’ve got a better idea for Episode VII, I want to hear it.

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18 Responses to “Star Wars: Episode VII — the treatment, part 1”
  1. gdh says:

    I had almost forgotten about Dark Forces. It was the First Person Shooter game I was allowed to play (en lieu of DOOM, as it lacked the blood, chainsaws, flesh-eating demons, etc.) It was a damned good game though. In the first mission, you are the guy who steals the Death Star I plans prior to the first (fourth) movie. And in one of the later missions you rescue an Crix Madine Imperial defector who shows as an extremely minor character in the movies. Such minor details made it thoroughly engrossing to a 10 year old who’d seen the original trilogy several dozen times.

    The game spawned a bunch of sequels that went off in a completely different direction. In Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, the erstwhile mercenary protagonist becomes A Jedi Knight, and from then on the sequels were called Jedi Knight II, Jedi Knight III, etc. with the original Dark Forces moniker nowhere insight. Which is a shame, because it was a great game. (I remember the darkened sewer level as the first time I was genuinely frightened by a video game)

    • planettom says:

      I found that being swept through the sewers in DARK FORCES on an empty stomach was a good way to get motion-sick. I had to go lie down after playing the sewer levels!

    • Todd says:

      I would still enjoy playing Dark Forces, except it won’t load onto my 21st-century computer — I get all the graphics but no sound. Same thing for Doom and even Quake.

      The “Hoth” level was where I spent many dozens of hours of my life and became sick to death of that “wind” sound effect, which no sticks out as plainly as “The Wilhelm” whenever I hear it in a movie.

      • gdh says:

        If I remember correctly, that’s the level that has a hidden room shaped like the head of Max the hyperkinetic rabbitty thing. I haven’t kept up with computer games at all in the last 6 years or so; I wonder if Lucasarts is still putting Max as an easter egg into every game they make, like they used to.

        • Todd says:

          The Hoth level did indeed have a secret room in the shape of a bunny head. Jedi Knight also had a secret room where, if you got to a door before it closed forever, you would find Max inside.

  2. zodmicrobe says:

    This rocks. This entry, for whatever reason, has totally made my day.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Qui-Gon Jin turning evil makes sense completely. He seemed completely fed up with the Jedi Council during Episode 1 because they wouldn’t even listen to him about Anakin until they were practically begged. Their defeat at the hands of Anakin might make Qui-Gon Jin feel like he backed the right horse, just figured it was on the wrong side of the force.

    • Todd says:

      The Jedis, lest we forget, never did approve of Anakin’s training. Qui-Gon simply did an end-run around them. They said no, he said “tough, I’m doing it anyway.” When he dies, Yoda repeats his disapproval to Obi-Wan and Obi-Wan says “Tough, I gave my word to Qui-Gon, I’m gonna train the kid whether you like it or not.”

      The Jedi order, it seems to me, is exactly like Project Mayhem in Fight Club — they discourage anyone from joining, just to test how badly they want it. Everyone is told they are too old to begin the training, everyone is told they’re too headstrong, everyone is told they have too much to learn, and then eventually everyone who sticks with it gets in and becomes an important Jedi.

      • Anonymous says:

        Ah, that did slip my mind that Qui-Gon just said tough crap to the Jedi Council about Anakin’s training.

        That’s a good comparison between the Council and Project Mayhem. I never thought about it that way. I just assumed Yoda saw or had an inkling (feelings rather than visions) of what was coming with Anakin and refused training due to that.

        • Todd says:

          The more I watch the Star Wars movies, the more I become convinced that Yoda has no particular powers — he’s just a dick. He misreads prophecies, can’t tell a Sith lord when he’s the supreme chancellor of the Republic, constantly puts his own ego ahead of what’s best for the people. He tells Luke that he’s too old to begin the training (the same thing he told to Obi-Wan and Anakin, and probably everyone else who showed up) but when Luke returns to Dagobah to prove he’s serious and wants to complete his training, the dying Yoda says “Nah, that’s okay, you’ve already completed it, get outa here.” The whole Jedi thing is a scam, I’m telling you.

      • “The Jedi order, it seems to me, is exactly like Project Mayhem in Fight Club — they discourage anyone from joining, just to test how badly they want it. Everyone is told they are too old to begin the training, everyone is told they’re too headstrong, everyone is told they have too much to learn, and then eventually everyone who sticks with it gets in and becomes an important Jedi.”

        Indeed, it would be way cooler if this was explicitly what was going on. But then perhaps it would be too much like that bit at the beginning of Kung Fu where the kid stands outside the monastery for ages, come rain or shine, until they let him in.

  4. greyaenigma says:

    I was reading the scans first, and noted the red light saber — I qquickly ran through the possibilities: did Sam figure out the red = evil bit? Is Q now evil? Yes, and, satisfyingly, yes. Cool. (The illustration at the bottom of that pag is also nicely evocative.)

    • Anonymous says:

      Pretty cool!

      Todd, you’re a Hollywood insider — surely you can make your kid some kind of deal, like when Bart and Lisa Simpson writes scripts for Itchy & Scratchy?

      (Get him an Alphasmart Neo for christmas, and let him crank out those epics!)

  5. Anonymous says:


    Todd, your son is awesome, and thanks for sharing this. I can only hope my 18-month-old daughter someday becomes as enamored of Star Wars, as opposed to writing out sequel ideas for The Care Bears Movie or some such.

    Also, let’s call this as we see it: Your son, a six-year-old boy, has far better story ideas at this point than George Lucas.