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Thursday, 21 May 2015

Star Wars: The Deleted Scenes #3: Biggs Darklighter and the Rebellion

Biggs Darklighter confides in Luke in one of Star Wars' deleted scenes

Our look at Star Wars' deleted scenes focuses on Biggs Darklighter – at least the second coolest man in the galaxy.  

The early scenes in Star Wars involving Luke Skywalker's pal Biggs Darklighter (and his less impressive peers discussed in the last post) were never seen on the big screen. 

But somehow these scenes seemed to be part of the Star Wars story anyway if you were a fan in the 1970s, because we saw them in numerous other versions of the story: the Marvel comic, the novelization, the Star Wars Storybook and, later, the published script and the radio series. So although actor Garrick Hagon saw most of his performance left on the cutting room floor, Biggs remained in legend.

Biggs as he appeared in Marvel's Star Wars comic book 
The Star Wars Storybook provided fans with a
tantalizing glimpse of the Luke-Biggs scenes

Here's how this section of Star Wars would have played out, had George Lucas stuck to the script when he was editing the movie: After the scene in which See Threepio is walking through the desert alone and signals a distant transport vehicle for help, the action would have shifted back to the Tatooine settlement of Anchorhead. There, Luke and Biggs are walking among the people and droids. Biggs confides to Luke that he intends to desert his star ship and join the Rebel alliance. Luke feels he can't leave Tatooine while his uncle needs him on the farm. They part, seemingly uncertain whether they will ever meet again.

 The dialogue has Luke chiding his old friend for “getting a little soft in the city”. Biggs says that the Empire has been nationalizing commerce and he warns that Luke's uncle will end up a “tenant, slaving for the greater glory of the Empire”. (Lucas's sympathy for the small businessman – like his father, the office supplies retailer – seems to be coming through here. But is “nationalization” even the right word in an economy that spans myriad planets? Shouldn't it be “galaxization” or something?) 

Incidentally, had the scene remained in the film, it would also have contained the only use of the term “Tusken raiders”. Otherwise, they are only called sandpeople.

Biggs Darklighter – a hero for the 1970s

Another look at the Biggs of Marvel's Star Wars

Biggs could have been designed by a child of the 1970s as the ideal hero.

Look at the man. He wears a cape – the one garment that every child and most adults secretly want. Under the cape is a light-coloured leather jacket  again the kind of thing a boy of the 1970s would want. He has brown leather trousers with a white belt. And to top this ensemble, he sports a moustache. Years later, moustaches would be derided as ridiculous, but in the 1970s they were worn proudly as a badge of manhood. Burt Reynolds, the top box office star of his day, wore won just like it.

Fireball in the UK's Bullet comic.
He could have been the
prototype for Biggs
In fact, for British fans, Biggs looked a lot like a figure who was familiar from comics. Fireball was the the secret agent hero of Bullet, a boys' comic of the 1976-78, a kind of James Bond with facial hair. Bullet was from the same publishing house as the earlier success Warlord and Fireball was its mainstay, with his own fan club whose members received a plastic wallet packed with tips on self-defence and survival in the wild. He looks so much like Biggs that you could believe Lucas was a Fireball fan himself. (By the way, I don't think I would have made this connection had it not been for John White of the websites Between*Wars and Star Wars Age 9.)

All this may not make Biggs quite the coolest man in the galaxy – but he certainly ran Han Solo a close second.

What we missed from the Biggs scenes

The dialogue between Luke and Biggs goes on for quite a while by the standards of a Star Wars scene –  nearly three minutes. It surely would have made the film seem slower. Lucas was almost certainly right to excise it. And yet, in other versions of the story, it works well.

In the novel, where author Alan Dean Foster could tell the story at greater length, it's an effective sub-plot. The same applies in the 1981 radio series, where writer Brian Daley expands on the Tatooine scenes. In Daley's version, Biggs tells his friend that the reason Luke's contemporaries won't accept him is because Luke will one day travel beyond this planet and they won't.

I've mentioned before that first generation Star Wars fans got to know the Biggs materal through the various adaptations of the script (and some will even swear that they saw these scenes at the cinema). The sub-plot became part of Star Wars lore to such an extent that when I see this deleted scene, I'm always surprised to note exactly how it plays out on screen and which elements were exclusive to the novel, the comic book or the radio drama. The radio series, for example, has Luke and Biggs getting into more of an argument about Luke having to cancel his application to the Space Academy. The novel, meanwhile, ends their meeting with a line that stayed with me for years: “There was no need for a handshake. These two had long since passed beyond that.”

Viewed on the Blu-ray, this deleted scene does seem somewhat redundant. But in fairness, it might have seemed more impressive when finished. It was removed before the film was scored, and who knows how it might have played if John Williams had got to work on it. The penultimate shot is a lengthy, wide view of Biggs walking away from his friend, perhaps for the last time.  If the London Symphony Orchestra had accompanied it, it might have become one of the film's most memorable moments.

At this point in the film, we would have cut to the scene in which Artoo is captured by the Jawas. But it would be the last we saw of Biggs – as we'll discuss in a future post.



John white said...

Wonderful article Darren. I consider this one of my birthday presents today! And thanks for the plugs for my webcomics ;)
Moustaches were definitely a thing alright. My beautiful late aunt actually loved Charles Bronson more than any other actor of the seventies! Imagine that? Charles Bronson!
What you say about a reinstated Biggs scene with John Williams scoring is fascinating actually. You know those Biggs scenes in the radio drama are really wonderful and moving. Fine drama.

Darren Slade said...

Thanks very much John. A happy birthday to you.

John white said...