The Worst Star Wars Sequel Nearly Destroyed The Franchise

By Zack Zagranis | Updated

The Empire Strikes Back is regarded as one of—if not the—best sequels in movie history. Somewhere in the multiverse, however, is an alternate reality where A New Hope bombs at the box office, and George Lucas is forced to make a low-budget follow-up to the first Star Wars. Believe it or not, that low-budget follow-up actually exists in our own universe in the form of the novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, and—hoo boy—are Star Wars fans lucky that A New Hope made bank!

Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye Was Plan B

One of the few things made to herald the coming of the first Star Wars film was a 1976 novelization ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster. Foster’s contract required he also write a second novel that—should A New Hope underperform—could be filmed as a cheap sequel to the first film. The resulting novel was 1978’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.

Fans Should Be Happy We Got Empire Strikes Back Instead

First thing’s first: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is no Empire Strikes Back. It’s not even an Attack of the Clones. The closest comparison you’ll find in live-action is the pair of made-for-TV Ewok movies from the mid-eighties. That’s because, by necessity, the book is designed to be filmed as cheaply as possible.

A Single Location Star Wars Movie

That means a single location, no space battles, and mostly one-on-one combat. It also meant no Han Solo. Unlike Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford had only signed on for one Star Wars movie, meaning that Foster’s pseudo-sequel had to work without Han and Chewie. That’s not to say that Foster didn’t try to do the best with the limitations he was given but the lack of a lovable rogue hurts the story.

The Plot Sounds Like A Fever Dream

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye follows Luke, Leia, R2-D2, and C-3PO on their way to the planet Circarpous IV. A strange energy storm forces the group to crash land on the swamp planet of Mimban instead. While there, they come across a secret Imperial outpost as well as a strange old woman who tells Luke about an artifact known as the Kaiburr crystal that greatly enhances a wielder’s force abilities.

Along the way, there’s mud wrestling, Yuzzem, a giant worm, and finally, a climactic duel between Luke and Darth Vader where the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi possesses Luke’s body to help him fight. No, seriously.

Luke And Leia Flirting Feels Weird After Return Of The Jedi

In the novel’s defense, it’s quite literally the second Star Wars story to officially exist. Pretty much no lore had been established meaning that Foster had to make up a lot of stuff as he went along. The result is a lot of stuff that feels weird and even creepy in hindsight.

For instance, Luke is super horny for Princess Leia. You have to remember this is before even George Lucas knew they were going to be siblings. Still, even if scenes like Luke peeking while Leia is changing her clothes and the two of them play-fighting in the mud weren’t technically icky when they were written, they certainly read that way today. Likewise, the scene where Luke halls off and backhands Leia right in the kisser definitely wouldn’t fly today.

In context, he was pretending she was his servant girl as part of a disguise, but still, he probably could have just yelled at her to get the point across. Meanwhile, the main imperial baddie on Mimban, Captain-Supervisor Grammel, makes what Luke did seem like a peck on the cheek by comparison. When Luke and Leia are brought to Grammel under the guise of “miners,” the Imperial starts kicking Leia until she falls to the floor in pain. Then he kicks her some more.

The Level Of Violence Is Disturbingly High For Star Wars

The general level of violence on display in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is a bit much for a series aimed primarily at kids. In one scene, Grammel even blinds a prisoner by shoving a “recorder rod” into their eye socket. The description reads: “Blood and pulp squirted in all directions as the man collapsed, screaming on the floor.” Yikes.

Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye Would Have Killed Star Wars

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Despite its flaws, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye did add some things to Star Wars lore that remain to this day. It established that lightsabers could function underwater, introduced recorder rods and datapads to the Star Wars lexicon, and even gave us the Yuzzem species. Sadly, none of those things makes Splinter a good book.

Ultimately, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye would have made a terrible sequel to A New Hope and probably would have killed Star Wars as a franchise if it had ever been filmed. Luckily, A New Hope was a hit, Lucas got to make a big-budget sequel, and the rest is history.

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