The rebels thought they’d be safe on a near-uninhabitable world in the Hoth system. They thought wrong. They were tracked down via Probe droid and Vader’s intuition. They soon found themselves fighting for their lives and on the run, yet again. Let’s take a look at some deleted Echo Base and Hoth Battle moments.
THE IMPERIAL PROBE DROID
The Imperial probe droid has always been one of my favorite Star Wars droids. It has fantastic design with a segmented body, multiple antennae, and a big spying eye. I love the insect-like creepiness it has about it and the way it hovers around like a ghost. Unfortunately, the probe droid (or “probot” as it’s sometimes called) didn’t get much screen time.
Storyboard images illustrate a scene where, while snooping around Hoth, the probe droid decides to take shelter when the weather proves to be too much. The text on the bottom of all three storyboards from Scene #27 reads:
EXT PLAIN OF HOTH – DUSK
The dark, evil probe robot moves across the frozen floor of the Hoth plain. The wind is beginning to pick up, and snow starts to cake on the front of the robot. It stops, hovers, then drops to the ground. Several probes emerge from its metal hull and a dome shaped force field around the robot begins to glow. Eventually, the force field becomes a solid shape and is quickly covered with blowing snow.
THE DEATH OF GENERAL VEERS
General Veers wasn’t originally supposed to make it off Hoth according to early drafts and the novelization.. One of the Rebel pilots (Hobbie, according to the fourth draft script) crashes into General Veers’ cockpit window, taking down the huge walker.
Here is an excerpt from the Episode V 4th draft by Brackett and Kasdan:
INT WALKER NO. 1 – COCKPIT
CLOSE-UP VEERS inside Walker No. 1 cockpit. He speaks over the com-link as he studies various readouts.
…yes, Lord Vader. I’ve reached the main
power generators and I’m destroying them now.
The shield will be down in moments.
You may start your landing…
Veers looks out the cockpit window.
EXT BATTLEFIELD – HOTH
FULL SHOT of Hobbie’s speeder, Rogue Four, as it races over camera right at the head of the oncoming walker.
INT WALKER NO. 1 – COCKPIT
OVER THE SHOULDER of Veers and his pilots as the speeder crashes into the front window.
He’s going to…
Impact, huge explosion.
EXT BATTLEFIELD – HOTH
FULL SHOT of Walker No. 1 with head exploding and frying into a million pieces.
EXT BATTLEFIELD – HOTH
FULL SHOT Walker No. 1. After a few moments the headless walker topples over on its side in a cloud of snow.
We can surmise where this scene was originally supposed to fall: right after General Veers talks to Vader’s hologram. The strange thing is that if the scene had played out as written above, the generators would never have been destroyed (by Veers, at least). In the film, Veers clearly destroys them but according to this script excerpt, he’s killed before getting the shot off.
Remember that AT-AT whose head explodes in the film; the one that Luke takes down by tossing a grenade into its belly? Ask yourself this. Why would the head explode from a grenade in the gut? Was that shot of the walker’s head exploding originally intended to be Veers’ walker?
The answer appears to be yes, according to a deleted scene that appeared on the Blu-ray set. In this incomplete scene, Veers destroys the generators and then a speeder crashes into the head of his walker.
While we’re talking about the AT-AT Luke destroyed, we might as well note that in the 4th draft, the walker in question wasn’t supposed to topple over as it does in the film, but instead just stand there. Check out this 4th draft excerpt:
EXT BATTLEFIELD – HOTH
3/4 REAR LOW ANGLE SHOT of the giant Walker No. 2. It stops in mid-step. A muffled explosion is heard, then the insides of the giant walker come blasting out every conceivable opening. It sits dead in its tracks, smoking like a locomotive.
EXT BATTLEFIELD – HOTH
LOW ANGLE MEDIUM SHOT of Walker No. 1 as it advances at camera, going slightly right to left. The smoldering walker that Luke just blasted stands dead in its tracks in the background.
Scott Weller wrote in that Julian Glover (Veers) informed him in an April 2004 e-mail that the death of General Veers “wasn’t scripted, let alone filmed, which led to speculation that he would appear in the next film.”
On June 20, 2001, Starwars.com added the following to the facts we know for sure:
In the original script of The Empire Strikes Back, Veers perished when his walker was rammed by a snowspeeder. The scene never made it into the final film, and as such, Veers’ life was spared. He appeared in early draft scripts of Return of the Jedi, though his character does not return in that film. Producer Robert Watts, who had a cameo appearance as an AT-ST pilot in Jedi, has once said that his character was actually General Veers, but it seems doubtful that Veers would have such a demotion to a simple pilot.
The AT-ST was supposed to have a bigger role in the Hoth battle, but some technical difficulties got in the way. Here’s a great quote from Joe Johnston found in Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays explaining how the AT-ST came to be and why its role was reduced:
Well, the big thing that didn’t end up in The Empire Strikes Back was the two-legged walker, but it did end up in Jedi. You get a brief glance of it in Empire, but there was a shot, a POV from one of the snowspeeders; the speeder is attacking the walker and passes right over its head. Unfortunately at the very end, we were under a deadline and were literally up all night shooting this scene. Someone didn’t tighten up the backing of the painted sky, and no one noticed it. The next day in the dailies, you could see the background slip, and it slipped about eight inches half-way through the shot…It just fell, which completely ruined the shot.
But the two-legged walker was never in the script; George had not asked for it. It was just something that I thought: Hey, wouldn’t it be neat to have a little scout walker, like a two-legged thing? I imagined it to be a vehicle that would provide support for the four-legged ones, something that’s quicker and more lightly armed. I built the prototype from model kits just as a desk display, and then the animators took that and cut it apart and attached the pieces to an armature. It happened almost overnight, and it didn’t quite make it into Empire in the way that it was intended to, but we saved it and used it extensively in Jedi.”
Starwars.com also mentioned the AT-ST:
The AT-ST was first developed for The Empire Strikes Back, and the miniature developed for that film has a number of cosmetic differences to the finals produced for Return of the Jedi. Though the scout walker appears briefly in the Battle of Hoth, it was intended to be in at least one more scene. A diving snowspeeder would soar over the AT-ST while firing at the craft. During the filming of the stop motion animation, the painted sky backdrop shifted, and the shot was ruined.
Here’s what the Behind the Magic CD-ROM says about the scene:
Toward the end of filming for Empire, the filmmakers attempted to record a shot of the AT-ST from the point of view of one of the snowspeeders. In the shop, the speeder passes over the walker’s head while firing at the craft. Unfortunately, the painted sky in the background slipped during filming, an accident that went unnoticed until after the shoot. Later, the crew realized the mistake, but they did not have time to reshoot the scene and it was dropped from the film.
Included are some interesting shots of a fallen “mystery” AT-AT with some rebels running around it. These pictures, though I can’t be certain, are believed to be from the advertising campaign for the SNES Super Empire Strikes Back video game. Michael Hendershot explains:
I just watched the EMPIRE earlier today and this doesn’t look like either of the two AT-ATs that were felled by the rebels. I think that Wedge toe-cables the first one but its legs fall nothing like shown in this photo. Rebel troopers cheer and a commander of sorts shouts, “Come on!” and waves his men forward. The AT-AT is then hit with Snowspeeder blasts on the top and explodes. The second walker loses its head from the grenade that Luke tosses in it and falls to it’s right so that AT-AT can’t be this pictured AT-AT either.
I think that the other three of the five AT-ATs were visible when Veers took out the shield generators. (Of course, if Hobbie ever did Kamikaze into the head of Veers’ walker, this couldn’t be the one either.) Perhaps there were originally supposed to be 6 AT-ATs?
As pictured here, this walker looks just a bit too small in the relation to the troops. Of course, I’m assuming that this photo is from a composite shot and not a full size construction. This image was originally a 256 color GIF which makes me think it’s quite old to start with. Plus the vertical line might indicate a fold out or the center spread in a magazine. Also, the right third or so of the image looks quite different, probably a result of the original scanning. Maybe it was done with a hand scanner and stitched together?
The poster style photo below of the crashed AT-AT is from ToysRGus.com’s archive and is listed as an advertising poster from LFL Games dated 1995.
Starwars.com posted the original concept for the walkers – the Juggernauts. Originally these tank-like vehicles were to attack the rebel base instead of the lumbering walkers. This concept lived on in the Expanded Universe for a while but was ultimately resurrected for Episode III.
Over at Starwars.com and on the Episode II DVD there are some prequel documentaries that include some classic trilogy moments of interest. In Part 3 of the series called “We Didn’t Go To The Desert To Get A Suntan” there is a brief clip of Luke checking out his X-wing before departing Hoth. You can also see Wedge in the background. Starwars.com once posted another image from this scene with Luke and Wedge shaking hands but it has since disappeared.
Here’s a quote from Jon Knoles in Star Wars Insider, Issue #33 (page 59) talking about the game, Shadows of the Empire for Nintendo 64:
“We knew, for instance, of the scene where a wampa actually broke through into Echo Base and mauled a tauntaun (and possibly some Rebel troops) and a scene where Luke actually took over an auto-laser cannon and blasts a wampa or two. The wampa filmed in this shot looked absolutely hilarious with a big fluffy face and metallic round eyeballs. We saw the picture in a Kodak shoebox Photo CD that Lucasfilm Ltd. provided us with some time ago.”
When does this scene take place in the film, though? In the images, Luke is in his pilot’s uniform. Does this happen on his way to his snowspeeder? The only spot I can place this scene logically is somewhere between the time Luke leaves 2-1B and the time he gets into his snowspeeder to fight the walkers. Maybe he ran into a few Wampas on the way?
If you look closely at the larger picture of the Wampa, you’ll notice that it appears to have just been blasted in the gut and you can see little sparks flying around. Was this the blast from Luke’s cannon?
Scott Weller also pointed out something about the cannon Luke uses. It appears to be part of a transport that the rebels use to get around the base. You can see it in some of the reference pictures of Echo Base. The gun port looks very much like the cannon Luke’s using. Was Luke on the back of that transport when he was firing? Did he get side tracked on the way to his X-wing?
INSIDE ECHO BASE
Echo Base on Hoth is a virtual wonder-world full of great cut scene and promo footage.
Protocol droids are seen throughout the original trilogy but their roles are hardly expanded upon other than that of our trusty friend C-3PO. In the included images, you’ll see C-3PO and another white 3PO droid called K-3PO. He’s listed as a “tactical droid” in the book Star Wars Chronicles.
Take a close look at this snowtrooper’s hand and you will see he has no glove. Take a closer look on top of that black box next to the gun. Is that his missing glove?
The video clip I’m including is a strange one indeed. It’s from a British TV program called “The Risk Business.” He told me that the show is “an economical look at filmmaking, fortunately highlighting THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.” The quality isn’t the best but you can see what’s going on. Some Rebel soldiers appear to be boarding the Millennium Falcon for some reason.
While glancing through Industrial Light & Magic: The Art Of Special Effects written by Thomas G. Smith, I came across a small passage having to do with Episode V. It’s certainly nothing to get excited about, but since the book referred to them as shots that were never used in the film, I figured they deserved a mention. The passage from pages 72-73 reads:
Full-sized models are unwieldy, and often produce disappointing results. For The Empire Strikes Back, a full-sized tauntaun was built and shipped to Norway for use in the snow. Luke Skywalker was put on it and a futile attempt was made to make it look like he was riding a real beast. Not only did it look fake, on several occasions it simply fell over in the snow! The shots were never used in the final film.
C-3PO & R2-D2
As for the R2-D2 shot, this could also be from an Echo Base scene, perhaps from when the Wampas break in or when he leads the Wampas to the containment pen, both of which are also deleted scenes.
If you want to see where my friend Greg Rossiter thinks these scenes fall, check out this page at his site: http://starwars.rossiters.com/tesb_uf41-60.html.