Michael Barryte from Belated Media suggests some very simple changes that could have made Episode I the Star Wars Prequel we all hoped it would be. First of all, Lucas should have made Obi Wan the main character, that way, the prequels are about him, and the original trilogy is about Luke, and the over arching story is about Darth Vader. In Barryte's version, Obi Wan yearns for excitement and adventure, and is naive, much like Luke in Episode IV, while Qui-Gon who perhaps remembers darker times cautions him to enjoy the peace. On a routine visit to Naboo which is now Alderaan, because as Barryte points out, we will care much more in Episode IV when Tarkin destroys the planet if we'd actually been there and met some of the people (though not Jar Jar). The learn from some Gunguns (again, not Jar Jar) that the Trade Federation has been invading for a while now, turning what was to be a routine check up into a rescue of the Queen - cheering up young Obi-Wan with the promise of some action and alarming Qui-Gon because the Senate and the Jedi council apparently knew nothing about his.
After the battle they escape with the Queen and subsequently land on Tatooine for parts, Barryte's version has Obi-Wan and Padame accompany Qui-Gon into town (since Obi-Wan is now the central character we wouldn't want to leave him on the ship). Anakin is older, not a mechanical genius and certainly did not build C3P0! Qui-Gon feels the force is strong in Anakin (that's right he senses it - no midichlorians!) and wants to train him - perhaps making Obi-Wan a little jealous. Meanwhile, maybe Obi-Wan and Padame might have a little Han-Leia thing developing, which when Anakin ultimately wins her heart adds another dimension to the void between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader.
Palpatine is now an intermediary between the Senate and the Jedi Council, which allows him to manipulate both and gives him the opportunity to try to convert more Jedi - including the young and impressionable Obi-Wan, who yearns for adventure and is a little jealous of Anakin - to the Dark Side. The big battle at the end is not 4 separate concurrent events, but a single battle on Naboo Alderaan with Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Padame and the Gungans all about to take on the Trade Federation led by Darth Maul. Anakin is still on Coruscant, training to be a Jedi. Like Leia's kiss for luck, Padame tells Obi-Wan to be careful, which gives him confidence that she likes him as he goes off (but not too far) to fight Darth Maul. This gives us a great battle, blasters, droids and a cool lightsaber battle. No need for a space battle here too!
So, As Padame and her crew finally reach the Viceroy and are about to arrest (or kill) him, the Lightsaber battle crashes in, distracting them just long enough for the Viceroy to shoot Padame, wounding her. Obi Wan sees this and rushes to her aid leaving Qui-Gon to fight Darth Maul alone. This way, when Maul kills Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan will feel responsible, and have a worrisome dark-side motive to hunt down and fight Darth Maul (Who does not die!) again in Episode II. It makes it personal. If Obi-wan unleashes his hate to avenge Qui-Gon and Maul still gets cut in half, that only makes his return in Episode II (sporting a wicked pair of robot legs) more shocking, and foreshaddows the "more machine now than man" future for Anakin. In addition, this gives us a long term villain known to the protagonists much like Vader in the original Trilogy (unlike Sidius who remains in the shadows). Luke sees Vader kill Obi-Wan in Star Wars and when they meet in The Empire Strikes Back the stakes are high and very personal. The trick to making a successful sequel or prequel is that there has to be a careful balance of the new and the old and familiar, and like Barryte, I think these history repeating themes could have struck those chords well.
If the film plays out this way, then by the end we have seen Obi-Wan come a long way, he's no longer the Padawan, he's experienced the battle and excitement he was hoping for and it left him grief stricken and wiser. All in all, some really good ideas here. Watch the Video and hear more:
This week, Barryte also published his take on Episode II, which picks up where his version of Episode I left off...
I look forward to his take on Episode III...