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1997-1998 - 1999 - 2000 - 2001 - 2002+

SW Could Continue... as Television Anthology

When the final scene fades in Episode III, a little more than four years from now, Star Wars fans will face a bleak future. Never again will there be anticipation of new movies to the saga. Whatever else is to be said will be the province of books and comics, and there's debate on whether those even count in the grand canon of things. And comics may be a fun read, but a four-color panel really can't imitate the thrill of blaster fire like a moving image can.

Maybe it's the historian in me, but I feel cheated a bit. The movie saga covered 36 years of story. But between the Endor celebration and the birth of the Republic, there lies a stretch of 25,000 years of untouched, virgin mythology. What's happened in there? What other places haven't we seen? Who else has a story to tell in that galaxy far, far away?

Two years ago, Scott Chitwood suggested an X-Wing TV show. Previous attempts to put Star Wars on television have been either ho-hum ratings fare (the "Droids" cartoon) or downright bombs ("Holiday Special", anyone?). Could Star Wars really work now?

Two things have happened since Scott proposed that: first, the technology. Now more than ever, a Star Wars show could be brought to the small screen... and it would be a huge success. Once producers would have shied away from the daunting prospect of Star Wars on a weekly basis. Now you need only look at the amount of fan-films made in the last few years to realize that "hey, if these kids can make good Star Wars movies with an inexpensive camera and a PC, a studio can too!" It would really be shameful, I'm tempted to think, if someone had seen the work done by fans and hadn't at least considered in their own minds how Star Wars could be translated to television.

But I don't think an action-oriented show would be appropriate for Star Wars now, for another reason: Star Wars itself has changed. Episode I, whatever you say about it, set the saga's foundation in a true mythic, philosophic tone. There's always going to be robots and laser-swords alongside the roguish scoundrels and kindly aunts, but the humanness of the characters are what people are now going to reflect on most, long after the curtain falls on Episode III. Star Wars shouldn't focus on the trappings, but on the people. Weirdest thing: I didn't cry when I saw Vader turn against the Emperor before seeing The Phantom Menace. Now, after seeing the little kid that Vader sprang from, with the whole tragedy glimpsed like shadows in my mind, I can't help but shed a tear... Episode I has changed things like that.

There should be no more Star Wars movies: that was Anakin's tale. But there's still plenty of story that's wanted to be told, and to be told right. Why not a television series? But instead of being about a single group of characters, what about a Star Wars anthology series, with one or more unconnected stories per episode set in the Star Wars galaxy?

George Lucas has set a precedent already, with The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in 1992. That show used locations around the globe - combined with set design and new techniques in cinematography - to cast young Indy in new tales, meeting everyone from Pancho Villa to Mustafa Kemal along the way. The show was a great success, adding to the mystique and character of Indiana Jones. So why couldn't the lightning strike twice, and do the same for Star Wars?

Could a Star Wars-based series really materialize on the small screen? It could, but Lucas's heart would have to be into it. And from all indications, he's intending to move forward on other projects after the prequel trilogy is in the can. Which is a good thing: Star Wars has defined this artist's life for a quarter-century, and now he wants a new palette to draw from. Personally I can't wait to see what new ideas and images the Flanneled One is going to give us. And Young Indy was one thing: the show was educational as much as it was entertaining? how much of a history lesson could be gained from Star Wars TV?

But if the greenlight were given to a Star Wars series, Lucas would be free of the writing task on every episode, while at the same time allowing himself complete mastery over everything deemed Star Wars. With Lucas at the helm as executive producer, Star Wars television would be a writer's dream? and there would be no lack for writers. Or directors. Or actors: anthologized television has a strong reputation of attracting the finest performers anywhere. A few months ago I saw Charlton Heston in an episode of The Outer Limits: can you imagine Heston as a square-jawed Jedi Master with that voice of his... and a lightsaber?

This isn't to suggest that anything be added to the original saga of Star Wars. Anything up to the end of the Empire as seen in Return Of The Jedi would be fair game, so long as it wouldn't touch upon the main tale of Vader, Luke, or anything else in Lucas's core story. No cameos of Artoo or Threepio unless they came from Lucas's own pen... that's his baby, and he oughtta be righteously jealous of it. There would - and should - be severe limits to where writers could take their stories.

But even within those limits, an immense amount of rich storytelling is possible. Let's say that a Star Wars series, with hour-long episodes, were to be commissioned. Any one episode could be a single 52-minute long story. Or two stories of 24 minutes each. It's possible that three vignettes of Star Wars lore could be done in that amount of time. In an hour block of time could be a story set during the Clone Wars, followed by another taking place thousands of years before. The anthology approach would keep fresh stories in production, with new characters, and would keep Star Wars from falling into stagnation, either as a myth entire or as its own entity on television.

But how feasible could a Star Wars anthology be? The obvious consideration would be the strenuous technical requirements for anything Star Wars: could it be adapted for the demands of the small screen on a regular basis? Industrial Light and Magic met the needs of Young Indiana Jones before computer-generated effects really hit their stride, and the show was a delight to both eyes and mind. It would be even easier today to establish Star Wars with all its wonders for regular television. It's even possible, if it would not be the norm, that there would be stories requiring hardly any special effects: how about a "set piece" between a Jedi and his master, involving no lightsabers or flashy exteriors, but relying on its dialogue to carry the story. It could happen, and it could be stunning. But Lucas would have to want for it. Which again, this might all be wishful thinking.

Star Wars, as an anthology of new stories for the small screen, wouldn't add to the six-film original saga. Nor would a series enhance our understanding of the films in some way. But it would add to the depth and persuasiveness of the mythology. It would be an incredible opportunity for both Lucasfilm and many of today's best writers and actors. It could be done. Should it be done? I leave that to the reader, but I will say this: I'm looking forward to having children in the not-too-distant future. I'm looking forward to sharing Star Wars with them. Star Wars on the small screen would be a way of extending this cherished mythology to them and to all the generations to follow. And it would be a heckuva lot more fun to watch than the mediocre vulgarity that plagues the airwaves. Intelligent, well-conceived television that we're not ashamed to show the kids... who'da thunk it? :-)

Chris Knight
January 17th, 2001

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