In a new interview with George Lucas, TV Guide have managed to extract a bit of news out of the director regarding the much anticipated Star Wars television series rumored to debut by the end of the decade. While the news adds very little to what we've known for the past year or two - that the project is looking for writers, it's happening, it will go for a hundred hours, yada, yada, yada - Lucas does mention that scriptwriting will begin in around one month's time. He also confirms, once more, that the series will take place between the two trilogies, bridging the gap in which the Empire cements its power. Darth Vader and the Emperor will be mentioned, Stormtroopers will appear and peripheral characters will take central roles in a departure from the core film arc of Anakin Skywalker's rise, fall and redemption.
While the possibility of a mostly CG prequel aesthetic and an 'Expanded Universe' style loss of Star Wars' unique feel does worry me, there was a piece of the interview that gave me hope: Lucas is a big fan of HBO's Rome and Deadwood and watches Lost and Heroes on DVD to ensure he doesn't miss anything. Could it be - despite his prequel misfires and apparant cluelessness much of the time - that George Lucas does have some small inkling of good taste?
I think it's important to remember that many of the prequels' failings came from the poorly written romance between Anakin and Padme, the 'polite' political machinations and the overall lack of real danger expressed in the films - that is, until the final half of Episode III. The time period of the TV series allows far more freedom to express the darker side of the Star Wars universe so well represented in the original trilogy. The rebellion will undoubtedly feature prominently, the drug ('spice') trade and bounty hunters will ideally play a role and - despite Lucas saying there are no Jedi - it would be safe to assume the remaining members of the religion (other than Obi-Wan and Yoda) will be wiped out. The Wookiee and Mon Calamari slavery mentioned in Star Wars lore could potentially feed some strong storylines, as could the construction of the Death Star and the rebels' first victory mentioned in A New Hope's opening crawl.
What could have been a case of turning Star Wars into Star Trek - with adventure-of-the-week plots centred around a cliched team of rebels on a ship reminiscent of the Millennium Falcon - may well turn out much more like Lost, Heroes and pretty much everything from the HBO stable, in which loosely linked arcs take centre stage. Recurring characters rather than a soap-style core cast may be the go here and that, I believe, could provide an epic scale and much needed boost to the Star Wars franchise. Much-loved characters need to die, the problems they face need to be as accessible as our own and the drama has to be real. That's what made Star Wars great - the fact we could relate to its core ideals.
Shows like those mentioned also work because of self-imposed rules and boundaries that force creativity. Freedom to do anything you like inhibits that creativity and encourages laziness or - worse - ideas for their own sake (Star Trek's holodeck and time-travel, anyone?). With Lucas referring to the HBO shows in particular, I hope he understands the simple concepts that make them so successful.
Keep in mind, too, that the direction of the series will have a chance to be guided by audience feedback to a certain extent once screening begins. Lucas will not direct - at least not 100% of the time, I would hope - and outside writers are known to be involved. Who knows? Perhaps there might be another visionary the likes of Irvin Kershner on the horizon, able to steer this franchise in a simpler, more classic direction with a focus on character over special effects technology. The show - like Lost, since its producers' landmark deal with ABC - will also have the freedom to end on its own terms, since Lucasfilm will produce it independently and sell it to a network.
As much as I'd hate to set myself and others up for yet another major disappointment, I truly believe this can be done well and with dignity. With solid writing, less focus on CG aliens and maybe some season finale guest appearances by the likes of the Emperor, Darth Vader and Boba Fett, some of the best of Star Wars moments could well be ahead of us yet.
Oh and, if you ask me, the show will benefit greatly if they focus their energy on the end product instead of obsessive secrecy. Did holing up in a soundstage benefit the last three films? No... and yet we still found out almost every spoiler. Just concentrate on the art, people!
Source: TV Guide