Pretty much any TV show, movie, or book with a mystery element and an online following will spark discussion, dissection, and predictions across social media. And with the online popularity of shows like Game of Thrones, Mr. Robot, and Big Little Lies and vast, sweeping universes across Marvel, DC Comics, Harry Potter, and Star Wars, fan theories have gone mainstream.
They’ve been facing something of a backlash in the past year or so, particularly in the wake of Westworld’s success and the premiere of the Twin Peaks revival on Showtime. But as new as it might feel in the grand scheme of the internet, theorizing has been going on decades before it was cool.
Lucasfilm Story Group creative executive Pablo Hidalgo, who helps keep track of Star Wars canon, shared a glimpse into what some fan theories looked like in the heyday of old-school Star Wars fandom: a time back when fan still had to wait years to see how the original Star Wars trilogy ended in movie theaters.
According to Hidalgo, the issue of Fantastic Films Collectors Edition he shared was published in December 1980, seven months after the theatrical release of Empire Strikes Back. (The issue isn’t available online but there is a copy available to purchase on eBay.) Fans still had nearly three years until Return of the Jedi, which gave them plenty of time to try and work out how the trilogy would end. And although it’s certainly possible this kind of collective theorizing occurred in the years-long gap between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, the latter gave them the ultimate entryway into the rabbit hole with the father of all cinematic reveals: If Darth Vader is Luke’s father, what else could be hidden in the Star Wars films?
Hidalgo shared photos of one typo-ridden article that posited that Luke Skywalker is a clone (well before a Luke Skywalker clone existed) and that Boba Fett is Luke’s real father, not Darth Vader, who may or may not be one of Luke’s clones. (It’s a bit hard to follow.) The article also tied the fall of the Republic to the fall of Rome and called Obi-Wan Kenobi a clone of Jesus Christ. Other pages stated that Boba could be a nickname for Roberta—making Boba Fett a woman—and that Boba Fett is the “other” that Yoda referred to when he said, “There is another.” (It actually turned out to be Leia Organa.)
Granted, Return of the Jedi and other future Star Wars properties make a lot of these points moot, but it would fit right in with the speculation fans are sharing across places like Reddit, Tumblr, and Twitter. And it’s a fine precursor to other internet (but pre-social media) theory hunting grounds that Lord of the Rings, the original Twin Peaks, and Lost helped shape—not to mention the theory that Boba Fett is a woman reappeared organically in more recent years.
The pages Hidalgo shared from his Fantastic Films issue offer an insightful window into an era of Star Wars fandom that viewers—many who were born well after the original trilogy’s theatrical release—never experienced. While the author of this article was eventually proven wrong multiple times over, it’s fascinating to see that fan theorists back then were asking the same kinds of questions we’re asking now ahead of The Last Jedi, particularly with the mystery of Rey’s parentage and Snoke’s possible secret identity—and just how far back the obsession with Boba Fett goes. A bunch of wild theories never ruined Star Wars.
And in the end, Boba Fett didn’t really have that big of a role to play: After he handed a carbonite-frozen Han Solo over to Jabba the Hutt, Han (now revived) accidentally (and unceremoniously) knocked Boba Fett into a Sarlacc Pit on Tatooine. But don’t worry, fans have plenty of theories about how he could’ve possibly gotten away.