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Thursday, 30 July 2015

Star Wars: The Deleted Scenes #8: Reunion with Biggs

Reunited: Luke Skywalker and Biggs Darklighter 
at the Rebel base

In the last instalment of our series looking at the deleted scenes of Star Wars, we come to Luke's tragically brief reunion with Biggs Darklighter.

Today's deleted scene is one that was restored to Star Wars for the Special Edition in 1997 and remains in the official versions of the film today – but only after being subjected to a shameless bit of cheating to make it fit in with the sequels.

The scene takes place at the Rebel base, as the Rebellion's pilots prepare to take off and battle the Death Star. As Luke Skywalker touches his star fighter in disbelief at where his adventures have taken him, a voice calls out to him. It's his old pal Biggs Darklighter.

Together again: Luke and Biggs

The return of Biggs

In the film as scripted, we would, of course, have met Biggs back before, on Tatooine. By this late point in the story, the audience might almost have forgotten about him and Luke's other friends. But what a neat payoff, for them to meet again when they have both, improbably, become Rebels. Their reunion is fleeting, though, and Biggs is to die in the assault on the Death Star.

When the Special Editions of the original trilogy were released in 1997, it was a surprise to see that George Lucas had decided to reinstate this scene. Without the set-up of the scenes with Biggs and Luke's other contemporaries on Tatooine, it seems odd to make a big thing of the pair meeting on Yavin. And yet it did come as a welcome little bonus for fans who had long known about the deleted Biggs scenes. As I've said before, we first generation fans almost felt we had seen them, because we knew them so well from the comic books, the novel and the radio drama.

To put this scene back in the film, however, required a bit of trickery on Lucas's part.

In the original scene, after Red Leader (Drewe Henley) joins the pair and asks whether Luke can handle his star fighter, he tells Luke that he once met the boy's father. The line, as scripted, was: "I met your father once when I was just a boy. He was a great pilot. You'll do all right." 

By the 1990s, Lucas clearly thought this line would not be consistent with his latest ideas about how Luke's father became Darth Vader. So, he cut part of the dialogue, and have Red Leader skip to: "You'll do all right."

Lucas decided to disguise the edit by the non-too-subtle CGI ploy of having a Rebel walk in front of the camera at the appropriate point, as you'll see in the YouTube video above. Never mind that Artoo-Detoo suddenly appears to be about a foot further off the ground than in the previous frames. It's not the most elegant piece of tinkering.

Star Wars' deleted scenes: should they have stayed deleted?

So, at the end of our look at the deleted scenes of Star Wars, have we seen anything that really should have stayed in the movie? I don't think so. In fact, looking at these scenes shows how artfully Lucas edited his film.

The Biggs scenes are the most interesting sequences, dramatically, among the deleted material, but it isn't hard to see why they were dropped. They would have slowed down the narrative in the first half of the movie. What's more, these scenes represented an awkward compromise between the way movies traditionally introduce their heroes in the opening reels and Lucas's offbeat idea of telling the story through the eyes of a pair of lowly characters, the droids.

Lucas was nothing if not an excellent editor, and in the deleted material, we can see him honing his story well, dispensing with things that are repetitive or extraneous. Surveying what he left out only confirms how skilfully he shaped what stayed in. 

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