What a great time it is to be a Star Wars fan. With The Force Awakens now firmly behind us, and its success a resounding return to form for the saga, the prospect of future movies like Episode VIII and this year’s Rogue One, looms on the horizon like the two suns of Tatooine. To say it looks bright would be an understatement.
But what about the future of Star Wars in other mediums, like television? There were rumblings of a live-action television series being developed for years, persisting in some form or another even after LucasFilm was bought by Disney in 2012. Unfortunately, it seems that any development was for naught, and any live action series that may, in some distant future, come to fruition will be a new idea, with a new focus. That’s a shame, considering what has come to light about the abandoned Star Wars television series.
Cory Balrog, director of the God of War game series, recently spoke toVenture Beat about the series. There, he briefly referenced his experience at LucasArts, a subsidiary of LucasFilm, and what he knew about the now-defunct idea, rumored to have been titled Star Wars Underworld.
“[We] started looking at some examples from television and movies, mostly television — television is this great format where people can have a relationship with characters for an extended period of time. During that time, a character can go from one extreme to another. They can go from a character you loathe to a character you love and root for.
Probably the really small beginnings of this idea, the germination of this — when I was working at Lucas, I was allowed to go up to the ranch and read the scripts for the [canceled live-action Star Wars] TV show. It was the most mind-blowing thing I’d ever experienced. I cared about the Emperor. They made the Emperor a sympathetic figure who was wronged by this f***ing heartless woman. She’s this hardcore gangster, and she just totally destroyed him as a person. I almost cried while reading this. This is the Emperor, the lightning out of the fingers Emperor. That’s something magical. The writers who worked on that, guys from The Shield and 24, these were excellent writers.”
While that doesn’t get too far into specifics and opens the door to plenty of other questions, the idea of exploring the origins of Emperor Palpatine via a long-form narrative is certainly an intriguing one. From what we know of Darth Sidious from the movies, the emperor was always little more than a power-hungry madman with brilliant, Machiavellian tactics he used to rule a galaxy far, far away. That a character who so embodies the idea of political evil in the minds of many could ever be sympathetic seems too wild to be real, but Star Wars has always been great about exploring the lines between the good and the bad.
Say what you will about the execution of the prequel trilogy, conceptually there was a lot going on. The fall of Anakin Skywalker was a dark mirror into the trials of Luke in the original series. That thin line which exists between the good and the evil, the Light Side and the Dark Side, was what gave the Star Wars mythos is moral propulsion, cementing the story in the minds of movie audiences.
It makes sense, then, that the live-action TV series would’ve explored the downfall of a young Palpatine and added the same moral grey lines to his character. The added twist of exploring the criminal underground of the galaxy could have propelled the story into new directions only hinted at so far. One can only imagine the excitement of seeing Palpatine attempt to out maneuver the Hutts and their gangster rivals as he moves from bright-eyed young romantic to bitter, power-mad Dark Lord of the Sith.
With any luck, perhaps Disney will resurrect the idea in one form or another. They haven’t ruled out the idea of a live-action series, and from the sound of things this is a series that would be right at home on Netflix, where Disney also relegates the darker stories of their MCU. Could this compete with the likes of Daredevil or Jessica Jones? Possibly, and it makes sense. If not a TV series, it also stands to reason that the idea can be reworked into one of the standalone movies in the anthology series. Either way, it’s an interesting idea that deserves its day in the sun if for no other reason than it would be nice to not wonder what might have been.