After Episode III was released, the Lucas camp began talking vaguely to the media about ways they planned to continue the Star Wars franchise outside of film. Aside from lengthy novel series such as The New Jedi Order, Legacy of the Force, and the new Fate of the Jedi, Lucas said there would be a new emphasis on graphic novels and television. The first part of this television emphasis is the currently airing Cartoon Network series Star Wars: The Clone Wars which bridges gaps between Episodes II and III and clarifies precisely what it was that made Anakin Skywalker just so special in the first place.
The second part of their television emphasis was said to have involved a live-action television series that I had assumed dropped out of talks because of The Clone Wars going into production. And then a couple of days ago, I read this article on TheForce.net. While the article does say that the live-action series is a while away, it does almost ensure that what was originally reported years ago has not fallen by the wayside.
What I find most interesting about this news, and mind you that this is all my own speculation, is that it could be an hour-long drama. Why is this important? Because 22-minute episodes might work great for an animated series like The Clone Wars, but a serious action series would require the 43 minutes to really work well. I cannot think of a single sci-fi show in a similar vein—Star Trek, Firefly, LOST,
On top of that, the idea of a live-action series could seriously flesh out some holes in continuity for us Star Wars nerds out there. While The Clone Wars bridges Episodes II and III and the Expanded Universe (EU) novels have the post-movies time period covered, there is next to nothing actually written about what happened in the decades between Episodes III and IV. The live-action series would be perfect to elucidate this period of Star Wars continuity.
And if the creators at Lucasfilm did not want to actually throw in lots of the “big name” characters, they would not have to. There are plenty of things going on in the post-Episode III time period that would fill dozens of hour-long episodes. The series could tell the story of young Boba Fett growing into the fearsome bounty hunter we all know and love. The series could tell the story of the Wookiees’ slavery under the Empire. The story of the Jedi who fled and hid after Order 66 and the ensuing Jedi Purge could finally be told. Lots of EU texts mention it, and the movies acknowledge it, but there are few stories from this period actually told. Even without Darth Vader and the other Star Wars well-knowns, the stories waiting to be told are limitless. Not to mention that this series could lean more toward the Original Trilogy time period and draw in audiences who wish to relate to the nostalgia of the OT that simply was not present in the recent films.
Another point—and perhaps the most important one to me, actually—comes not directly from Star Wars itself, but the current sci-fi television climate and how it looks for the next couple of years. Last season marked the end of Battlestar Galactica, next season is LOST’s finale, and there hasn’t been a good Star Trek on for a decade. There is promise with Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse being renewed and ABC’s upcoming V, as well as the Sci-Fi Channel’s two new series Warehouse 13 and BSG-spinoff Caprica, but none of these are sure things. Sci-fi fans don’t have a lot of guaranteed quality programming in the coming years. Even Stargate Universe could be a flop after all the hype and love for the rest of the franchise because it is an untested property.
So this is where the Star Wars live-action series comes in. While the last three movies (four if you count the animated one) have admittedly been far from “guaranteed quality programming,” I feel that the animated series currently airing more than makes up for that fact. The Clone Wars knows what it is and who its target demographic is. If the creators of the live-action series keep those two simple criteria in mind, then I have no doubt it will be successful in providing a sci-fi fans a quality show that won’t have to squander episodes with drawing the audience in (like Dollhouse was forced to do—and failed—at Fox’s behest). I think the folks at Lucasfilm learned a lot from the Prequel Trilogy in terms of what works and what doesn’t in the Star Wars universe.
I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here for sure, and I don’t know if Lucasfilm deserves that from me or any other fanboys out there just yet. I honestly think, however, that the coming landscape for sci-fi fans looks pretty bleak, given that most of the established franchises are gone or on their way out. If there were ever a time that Star Wars could re-establish its place as a heavyweight in the science-fiction industry, this is it. With no major franchises to compete with, a live-action Star Wars series has never had a better time to come into existence. And if the series turns out to be a success, it could very well revitalize the sci-fi television atmosphere, which we all know has lay stagnant for a while. Here’s hoping that the folks at Lucasfilm take the time to do this one right.