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
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
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
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? :-)
January 17th, 2001