We’ve reported previously on the numerous changes that ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ underwent during its production. Now, with the movie’s home video release fast approaching, details have become available on what is perhaps the biggest of the film’s changes: The original ending.

Just in case it wasn’t clear by now, this article deals with material that will constitute MAJOR SPOILERS, so if you have not yet seen ‘Rogue One’, you may want to bookmark this article to come back later.

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The phrase “original ending” may actually be a bit of a misnomer, with the “Plan B” being the more appropriate description. You see, the ending featured in the finished film, which sees each of our heroes in turn make the ultimate sacrifice, was always seen by the filmmakers as the natural ending to the story they wanted to tell. But, understandably, they weren’t sure they’d be able to sell Disney and LucasFilm on the necessity of such a grim conclusion.

As screenwriter Gary Whitta explained to Entertainment Weekly:

The original instinct was that they should all die. It’s worth it. If you’re going to give your life for anything, give your life for this, to destroy a weapon that’s going to kill you all anyway. That’s what we always wanted to do. But we never explored it because we were afraid that Disney might not let us do it, that Disney might think it’s too dark for a ‘Star Wars’ movie or for this brand.

So based on that, the first draft of the script included an ending in which at least a few of the cast survived. In this early version, Jyn Erso was a sergeant in the Rebel Alliance (an element still reflected on the much of the character’s action figure packaging, despite never making into the film) who lead a strike force with Cassian Andor (who went by a different, unspecified name in this draft). Reprogrammed security droid K-2SO was present as well, though at this stage the story apparently did not yet include Baze Malbus, Chirrut Imwe or Bodhi Rook. And of course, the ending differed significantly.

Here is the original ending according to Whitta:

The Death Star emerges from hyperspace to lay waste to Scarif and protect the Empire’s secrets by destroying the special weapons facility along with the Rebel incursion.

But this time there was no last-second broadcast of the plans from a satellite tower. Jyn and Cassian were able to escape the surface of the beach world carrying the data tapes.

“A rebel ship came down and got them off the surface,” Whitta says. “The transfer of the plans happened later. They jumped away and later [Leia’s] ship came in from Alderaan to help them. The ship-to-ship data transfer happened off Scarif.”

Darth Vader was still in pursuit and began attacking Jyn’s shuttle as the Rebels tried desperately to transfer the information from the data tapes to Leia’s vessel. Finally, Vader was successful in breaching their shields and destroying the craft.

The audience would have been left fearing the heroes were dead. But as Vader’s Star Destroyer ventures off to chase Leia’s Tantive IV, we would have remained focused on the shuttle fragments floating in the vastness of space.

“They got away in an escape pod just in time,” Whitta said. “The pod looked like just another piece of debris.”

Ultimately, the writers explored every option that would have allowed some of their characters to survive but were unable to reach a conclusion they found as satisfying as the original idea of the team going out in a blaze of glory. Whitta describes this process as the writing gods telling them the cast had to die.

What do you think of this approach to ‘Rogue One’? Do you agree with the writers that the ending of the finished film is more satisfying, or would you have liked to leave the door open for Jyn and Cassian to return? Let us know in the comments!

From director Gareth Edwards, ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ is the first of the ‘Star Wars’ saga’s so-called “anthology films” and follows the team of Rebel spies tasked with stealing the plans to the Death Star immediately prior to the original 1977 movie. The film stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Jiang Wen, Alan Tudyk, and Forest Whitaker.

‘Rogue One’ will be available on digital formats beginning on March 24, 2017, with blu-ray and DVD releases following on April 4, 2017.