The Emperor meets with a Spacing Guild Navigator in David Lynch's 'Dune' movie.

Mystery of the Spacing Guild in Lynch’s ‘Dune’ Movie

Unlike Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune' adaptation, the Guild were heavily featured in David Lynch's version (1984). Latter's deleted scenes, storyboards, and scripts uncover an even larger planned role for the Navigators and shed light on the movie's controversial ending.

One of the many changes in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two movie was the complete lack of the Spacing Guild. We had glimpsed them briefly at the start of Dune: Part One and their Heighliners appeared several times, but, for fans of the novel, they were conspicuous by their absence.

… we had to choose to embrace just one aspect of the book, which is the Bene Gesserit plot line. Other elements had to fall away. You could do a whole other film just focused on the mentat or on the Spacing Guild – they would be interesting to see, of course, but we had to choose.

Denis Villeneuve, Sight and Sound – April 2024

For David Lynch however, while the Bene Gesserit and Mentats are featured in his adaptation, it is the Spacing Guild that drive the story forward, from their visit to the Emperor at the start, through Paul’s vision of them prompting him to take the Water of Life, to Paul’s final (and ultimately cut) confrontation with them at the end of the movie.

Indeed, evidence from the movie’s deleted scenes, storyboards, and multiple drafts of its script reveals that the Guild were originally intended to have a much bigger role. Navigators would have been positioned as the primary antagonists to Paul’s journey.

Lynch even introduced the mutated Navigators, who in the novels aren’t “seen” until Dune Messiah, as well as creating First and Second Stage Navigators, representing the progressive mutation caused by the Spice. Heads were created for the latter form, but they were ultimately shown in the movie with their faces simply covered.

Originally Lynch’s Dune was to open with the Fremen Reverend Mother Ramallo providing exposition on the universe of Dune, but in the final film it was replaced with Irulan’s introduction, followed by “The Secret Report within the Guild”, voiced by Kyle MacLachlan!

The Guild then arrive at the palace on Kaitain, and it is clear that despite Shaddam IV being the Emperor of the Known Universe it is the Guild that have the real power. Upon entering the throne room they dismiss the Emperor’s Truthsayer, order the Emperor to share details of his plan, and then command him to have Paul Atreides killed. The Emperor wonders why, but it is something that he dares not ask the Guild out loud.

Later, on Caladan, Paul talks with Thufir who warns that the Harkonnens will still pose a threat on Arrrakis. Paul realizes, however, that the bigger danger comes from House Corrino, but it won’t be until later that he understands that behind the Emperor are the Guild.

The Harkonnens are our enemies, yes…but behind them, I suspect, is the Emperor.

Paul Atreides, Lynch’s Dune

We next see the Navigator when House Atreides travels from Caladan to Arrakis in the heighliner. Although not described in the novel, Lynch spends almost two minutes (and a good chuck on the VFX budget) on the space folding scene.

In the novel the folding of space is done by Holtzman engines, but—after the Butlerian Jihad outlawed thinking machines—humans could not use navi-computers to calculate a safe journey. To paraphrase a Spice smuggler from another sci-fi series –“Folding space ain’t like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova and that’d end your trip real quick, wouldn’t it?”


	He begins to pull and tear a hole in the Universe. Stars like sparks
	and SOUNDS and rings of light appear, along with a roaring WIND.  The
	Navigator swims deep into this hole through the rings of light.  The
	Navigator becomes more and more transparent, until he's lost in darkness.
	The sounds fade.

The Guild Navigators of the novel used their prescience to see many possible futures and chose the narrow path to safety. Things are different in the Lynch movie, with the Navigators appearing to fold space directly, swimming through rings of light before the Heighliner appears in orbit over Arrakis.

It is easy to dismiss it as just Sci-Fi spectacle, however the scene contains several important visual clues for events later in the movie – even if some of the context was later lost in the editing of other scenes.

Both Spacing Guild and the Emperor then disappear for a good chunk of the movie. It is only when Paul and the Fremen have bought Spice production to a standstill that the Guild visit the Emperor again, and threaten him with a life in a pain amplifier unless the Spice flows. We are left in no doubt who is really running the Imperium!

We then cut to Paul’s dream/vision showing the Guild saying Paul won’t take the Water of Life. The audio of their conversation drops, but we can see that they are still talking, and the fifth draft reveals the original full intended dialogue:


	The three Guildsmen walk down the hallway in the darkness.

	Time is running out... soon he will take the
	Water of Life... then we must kill him when
	he enters the Alam.

Here the Guild instead say that Paul will take the Water of Life, but it the last part that is the most revealing “…we must kill him when he enters the Alam.”

The Alam refers to the Alam al-mithal, which is described in the Terminology of the Imperium at the end of the novel as: “the mystical world of similitudes where all physical limitations are removed.”

With this single word much of the film’s imagery of the navigators falls into place – in Lynch’s Dune the Alam is where the Guild travel to through the light-rings, a place where, with no physical limitations, space can be folded.

Paul then takes the Water of Life, and we see a projection of his body flying through the same rings of lights that the navigators passed through – Paul has entered the Alam and is now able, as Paul says, to “travel, without moving” – to fold space.

As late as the seventh and final draft of the script, the Third Stage Guild Navigators enact their plan to kill Paul, and attack him in the Alam – a scene missing from the final film.


	Navigator chewing giant eye and spewing blood and
	light and sounds.  Paul's mouth double exposes over
	Navigator and eye.  The sound from Paul's mouth
	destroys the Navigator and opens the Alam.
	Navigator bursts into a huge light ring and we
	quickly travel through ring after ring and masses of
	liquid stars.  The light increases until it is
	blinding and then in the light...

Paul communicates through his sister Alia, revealing that the Guild are behind everything. This scene still exists as a deleted scene, but with Alicia Witt’s original voice recorded on set, and not replaced with Kyle MacLachan’s voice as Paul.

			(Paul's voice)
		The Guild... they're fighting me in the
		mental worlds.  They're behind
		everything.... They fear the one who will
		come... who will know more... who will see
		more.  The Guild is behind everything.  It's
		not finished yet.... I'm not formed.

In the film Paul’s final encounter with the Guild is very brief, with just a line to the Guildsmen of “You have some idea of what I could do” – alluding to his ability to destroy the Spice, but in the fifth draft Paul projects his mind into the Heighliner to speak to a 500-foot long, worm-like Fourth Stage Navigator!


	Suddenly we are in the Heighliner control room, near the floor in the
	chemical spills.  We move up into the orange gas.  The Third Stage
	Navigators present here start MOANING and SHRIEKING.  They swim off
	and cower in a corner.  We move higher.  THUNDERING begins to shake
	the Heighliner and the moaning grows louder.

				PAUL (V.O.)
		Where are you....  Let me see you or there
		will be no spice.

	We move into very thick gas and there is a ROARING of gas through
	heavy gigantic pipes.  Suddenly we see the Fourth Stage Navigator. He
	is five hundred feet long.  Pasty white.  The head of a Third Stage
	Navigator... the body of a white worm.

				PAUL (V.O.)

	The Fourth Stage Navigator MOANS horribly and his body swishes.
	Pipes wrench apart.  Gas spews and EXPLODES out.

				PAUL (V.O.) (CONT'D)
		You know what I'm about to say is true.... I
		have the power to destroy the spice forever.

	The MOAN is now overpowering and the pipes shooting gas into the mouth
	bend and break out and tons of heavy tubing begin to sag and fall the
	two thousand feet to the floor below.  The giant Navigator MOANS again
	and flips violently.

Having dealt with the Guild all that remains is a knife fight with his cousin Feyd in the physical world, before taking the throne as Emperor of the Known Universe.

Lynch’s Dune infamously ends with rain falling on Arrakis, and this is often ascribed to a divine miracle, with Paul having become a god. Instead we can now interpret this to be Paul using his new ability to transport clouds from Caladan to Arrakis by folding space. To travel without moving. To be in many places at once.

And how can this be? For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!

The various scripts for David Lynch’s Dune, along with many other Dune related scripts can be download from the DuneInfo Script Archive.