Star Wars creator George Lucas has often claimed that he’d planned for Darth Vader to secretly be Luke’s father Anakin Skywalker from the beginning. The evidence seems stacked in his favor, too, with Obi-Wan’s tales of Anakin landing just on the right side of ambiguous and Uncle Owen saying he’s “afraid” that Luke has too much of his father in him. Plus, the name ‘Darth Vader’ is loaded with its own meaning, with Lucas explaining that:
“Darth” is a variation of dark. And “Vader” is a variation of father. So it’s basically Dark Father.”
But some obscure cut footage from A New Hope may contradict this. Most Star Wars fans will have seen the deleted scene in which Luke reunites with Biggs Darklighter. Biggs was a friend from back on Tatooine and the pair swap stories before they climb into their X-Wings to take on the Death Star. During this, we briefly meet Red Leader, who has his doubts about Luke’s skills. Bigg assures him that Luke is a great pilot, and that’s that.
However, there’s a rarely seen alternative version that plays out slightly differently (which you can watch here). In this version, Red Leader says:
“I met your father once when I was just a boy. He was a great pilot. If you’ve got half the skill he had you’ll do alright.”
Some think that this proves that at minimum Lucas hadn’t firmly decided that Anakin would be Darth Vader. Personally, though, I don’t see how this line contradicts anything that comes before or after. Presumably, Red Leader knows that Luke’s surname is ‘Skywalker’ and he’s also the right age to have met Anakin during his time fighting in the Clone Wars. We know that it’s not common knowledge what happened to Anakin after Mustafar, so why wouldn’t Red Leader mention to Luke that he once met his father?
However you read this, it’s clear that George Lucas had at least some inkling of where he could go after A New Hope. There are a few rough edges in the Original Trilogy (like the existence of two Death Stars or the late revelation that Luke and Leia are siblings), but by and large it holds together nicely. It’s also a stark contrast to the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, where they famously planned nothing in advance and let the directors wing it. And we all know how that turned out.