The Binge-Watching Future of Star Wars
I made a promise last week to talk way too much about the insane amount of Star Wars coming our way, and dammit I'm going to follow through. Be sure to check out my last article about all the possible directions (okay not every single possibility, just a few, not even close to the number of directions that are possible, really) that the Star Wars franchise could go.
Buckle up folks, it's gonna be a long one.
One of the for sure things taking place is a Star Wars TV show that would release on Disney's own streaming service, where they are going to gather all their Marvel stuff and retreat from Netflix because Disney just has to have everything for themselves.
Interestingly enough, I just finished listening to an episode of the podcast The Weekly Planet featuring two Australians who are just a delight. They talked about the possibility of Disney not having enough of their own licenses to warrant a streaming service, and certainly not one that will compete with what is already out there. But like the dark side of the Force, they don't know the POWER! *shakes Vader fist. They then realized that they would probably get the service for the Star Wars show alone.
This means there's a lot of pressure on that show to draw an audience and keep them. Even with other ventures Disney will throw our way, it won't be a good idea to get this one wrong because there's more on the line than just the future success of Star Wars live-action TV adaptations.
So what will Disney do?
Don't worry; I'm here to answer that perfectly, and just ignore the fact that all that follows is wild speculation and my completely biased hopes and dreams.
If you read my last article, you already know that I, and many other Star Wars video game fans, would love to see an adaptation of Knights of the Old Republic. It would work well as a multi-season show, I think even better than a movie trilogy, and there's already plenty of lore to pull from specifically for that story.
Before I break down what the seasons in my hypothetical, but probably completely accurate, prediction of a show I have no way of influencing would look like, let's make a good ol' fashioned pros and cons list! Huzzah!
It's fucking Star Wars. You could do whatever you want because most Star Wars fans are going to watch because it's set in the Star Wars universe, and that's it.
Knights of the Old Republic also has the added benefit of being an extremely popular game that has led to very iconic expanded universe storyline. I already talked about how Kylo Ren is a Revan knockoff and the original game inspired a sequel and an online MMO.
Knights of the Old Republic also has a complex and rich political landscape with war, Jedi dogma, the lure of Sith freedom, and the best psychopathic droid there ever was. What's right and what's wrong get very blurred, especially in a story that would follow the Jedi Exile, the main character from the second game. It's far more complicated than 'get rid of this evil and then the galaxy is saved' typical fare. There's even some discussion on the nature of the Force and how the Jedi rely too much on it. Take that away and you have a person that can't cope living without it. Finally, some new complexity to a Jedi narrative.
There's also some great Sith character design, including a Sith Lord who holds himself together with just the Force through his extreme hatred. He looks like some cobbled together mess who has been sliced up by lightsabers a hundred times.
Lastly, it's the prequels we deserved.
The original series is about the Jedi. The prequels are about the sand-hating Jedi. The new trilogy is about the last of the Jedi, who surely won't be the actual last of the Jedi, but still, Jedi. Star Wars is founded on the moral light vs. dark dilemma, via lightsaber wielding warrior monks. And, well, that's awesome. Yet, there's so much more to Star Wars than just that. The original movie is heavily inspired by The Searchers and takes on a wild west, but in space, and sometimes there's Samurai approach. If you lost the Samurai part, you would still have a lot of themes to work with there.
Look at Rogue One. Even though the Jedi crystals play a large part and the Force still gets its moment to shine (not to mention Vader's terrifying finale), the main characters are just normal people. Spies, thieves, sassy robots, just the run of the mill good Joes...and Jyns. And it was great. Fight me, but it was a breath of fresh air to step away, even just a little from that, and still get the X-Wings, blasters, and Star Wars feel.
Knights of the Old Republic would dive us right back into the Jedi vs. the Sith narrative, and even though I previously mentioned that it does something different with this topic (and it does), there are still many notes of the same.
Its popularity in influencing the new trilogy is also a challenge. Revan would have to be redesigned so there wouldn't be confusion with Kylo Ren, and to visually give the character his own feel. In fact, since the story is set so far in the past, there would have to be a lot of style redesign. Obviously, I would be excited to see some new looks for the Star Wars universe but that takes time and budget on new props, sets, models, and the like, instead of recycling set pieces from the movies.
This would also be an expensive TV show to produce, which any Star Wars show would face, but one with ships and lightsabers and big battles makes it all the more straining on the budget. Granted the pocket for that budget is Disney, but still, Disney won't spend so much that they don't get something back in return.
On that note, this story can (and should) get pretty dark in tone and Disney has a way of making those deeper moments seem far more shallow than they should be. Just watch any touching moment in a Marvel movie that gets interrupted by a quick joke from Robert Downey Jr. and you will see what I mean.
One last thing, Knights of the Old Republic is so well known that the major plot points and spoilers are already out there, so, you would have to work hard to make them a part of the story in a new, meaningful way. Although, again, any story that has some material out there runs into this problem, so it's certainly far from a deal breaker. Also, this is a video game adaptation, and that has yet to work very well in another medium.
There's more, but damn this article is running long already! So, here's some quick breakdown to help those who haven't played the game to get us going. Spoilers for said game, if you haven't figured that would happen.
In the game, it's about 3000 years before the rise of Darth Vader. This could be pretty flexible, allowing it to be written in wherever you want to make sense before the prequels. Mace Windo says something about the last time the Sith are around; these events could be what he talks about.
The Republic: Much like the government in the prequels, different look and feel considering its long before the movies, but still a senate with the Jedi helping protect it.
The Mandalorians: Boba Fetts, basically. The different clans of this warrior race unite to take on their greatest prey, the Republic. They prove themselves in battle and are pretty brutal about it.
The Jedi Order: Protectors of peace, so much so they hold back from fighting off the Mandalorians as they attack the Republic protected worlds. They feel something greater is behind this and many within the Order defect to help the Republic fight, essentially saying 'screw you' to the Council.
The Hutts: Fat slugs. I'm sure they are in there somewhere, tossing folks into pits or something.
Revan: Former Jedi who leads the Jedi and Republic forces against the Mandalorians. It's only once he starts offering his extremely kick ass Jedi abilities and tactical prowess that Republic starts slowing the advance of the Mandalorians.
Malak: Jedi bud of Revan. Pretty angry dude.
Jedi Exile: She is a Jedi who leaves the Order to follow Revan and help the planets being attacked by Mandalorians. She would have a name of some kind. (She is your player character from the second game so cut me some slack here). I believe the canon on it now has her named Meetra...come on guys we can do better than that. Sorry to any Meetras out there. But that would be like if Revan was named Chris. Darth Chris? That sounds like a Sith Lord who mixes his lights and darks when he does laundry while leaving all the cabinets open in the kitchen. The scourge of the Jedi!
Bastila Shan: A Jedi who doesn't leave the Order. She serves as a viewpoint of the Jedi who stick to holding back, at first. She has some unique Force abilities that come into play later.
Kreia: Old, the former master of Revan, manipulative, probably gives apples to fair maids in forests. (Probably the most interesting character in Star Wars for me, more on that later).
Yoda: Just kidding, although that little guy is old as hell, so who knows what Disney might try and pull.
The Jedi Exile would be your main character. Her story is such an interesting take on Jedi that involves losing her connection to the Force and seeing the Jedi Order in a new light.
What we need as an audience is a complex antagonist. Revan works so well because he does some things that seem horrible, but there are always reasons. He is a savior and a conqueror. Granted, you may not agree with those reasons but it's much better than Palpatine cackling constantly as a thesis statement.
Disney needs to make this their own story. Video games are set up from a plot standpoint to be played and lived through, not watched. You become the character. Movies and TV have very different pacing, and what is interesting in a game is just boring and repetitive in a movie. Long story short: I rework some plot points for the benefit of the story. Sorry hardcore KOTOR fans.
Season One: The Mandalorian War of Badassery
Of course you show the Mandalorian War, and you blow most of your season one budget in the first fifteen minutes. Show the Mandalorian war droids screaming down out of orbit onto some helpless city, and show the ferocity of the Mandalorians. Those war droids are nothing more than a capsule to hold one Mandalorian in it and allow that fighter to get from space to the ground as quickly as possible. Then show Revan and Malak (the Jedi that will eventually fall to the dark side) save that city so we get a layer of complication when Malak becomes the main villain for a while.
The Jedi Exile is a fully-fledged Jedi from the beginning, but she is far weaker than the heroes of the Republic, Revan and Malak. She does what she can to protect the innocent people of this city but can't save them all. This haunts her character over and over as she just can't do the feats some of the other Force-using characters can. I want a real temptation to fall to the dark side. Using the power that supposedly exists on the dark side, so that she could defend more people, seems like an actual tough choice for her character.
The season shows her making decisions as a general in the Republic army, many of which become demons she has to fight as the story progresses. This especially includes the finale of the season where she gives the order to activate a weapon that creates a gravity well, crushing most of the Mandalorian (and some Republic) forces in one swift action.
The weight of all those deaths she feels in the Force destroys her connection to it. She then feels like this is the Jedi Order punishing her for walking away from them to be a part of the war the Jedi are not taking part in. This leads to the complex political landscape of a Republic that needed to take action and Jedi that did not, save for those who abandoned it. Things already aren't so cut and dry.
Meanwhile, Revan falls more and more to using the dark side, although Malak is the one that seems to be falling to a kind of anger-induced violence that sets him at odds with the tactical, methodical Revan.
The season ends with the Jedi Exile being, well, exiled, even though she's the only one that returns to the Jedi Council to answer for what she has done. And in true dogmatic form, they don't seek answers, or thank her for helping stop the Mandalorians, but just punish her.
Season Two: Exile Boogaloo
The pace would slow down as we focused on the Jedi Exile in her exile, coping with her life without the Force. Maybe set this a year or so after the first season, the Republic is in complete disarray as Revan and Malak have turned on the Republic, deciding to conquer it for themselves now that the Mandalorians are defeated. They have amassed a huge fleet of ships, commanded by former Republic admirals, soldiers, and dark Jedi still loyal to Revan. The question is where the hell did all these new ships start coming from? And they can't possibly have that many on their side to man those ships, could they?
Actual Jedi are being hunted by Revan's fallen Jedi and the whole thing is a mess. The Jedi Exile finally decides to take action because what she fought so hard to protect is now being destroyed by the person she once respected even more than the Jedi Order.
We see some Revan and Malak stuff too, where Malak tries to dethrone the much more talented Revan and ends up getting beat over and over again in lightsaber duels. His hatred keeps him stitched together, however, (and yes fans of the original games), you merge Darth Sion and Malak's characters together.
Bastila Shan, a Jedi who did not leave the Order to participate in the Mandalorian War also becomes more of character here as the Jedi now decide they should probably do something about this. She has the unique gift to meditate and aid fellow soldiers through the Force, while demoralizing the enemy forces. Which means she's the most extravagant cheerleader ever, but hopefully there's more to it than that.
The Jedi Exile finds out some stuff about Revan in a very spy influenced story as she pretends to be a Revan army officer. No fallen Jedi can sense who she is because she seems absent from the Force altogether, which complicates her character the more she finds out about this. She finally gets to Revan himself, realizing his ships are mostly manned by droids (something unheard of at this point in the Star Wars timeline). It's a pretty big flaw as she can easily trick the droids and also realizes that she can still Jedi mind trick the shit out of the actual people, revealing she still can use the Force even though it doesn't feel like it's even there.
She corners Revan to get him to explain what he is doing, but the Jedi Order found about this droid flaw as well. Then Bastila and a few other Jedi storm Revan's ship and force him into a fight. Revan then reveals he can tell the Exile everything, but she will need to choose a side. The Jedi and Revan duel a bit, then Malak uses this opportunity to fire at Revan's ship with everything he has, like the big wuss that he is.
In the fray, Revan dies, Bastila escapes with another Jedi, and the Exile steals a ship (the Ebon Hawk) to get out of there before the whole thing blows up. The last shot of this season would be Bastila and the other random Jedi looking down at the lifeless body of a still masked Revan on the floor of their escape ship, but both of them look pretty worried.
Season 3: Actual Knights of the Old Republic
So for those who have made it this far that haven't played the games, these first two seasons are all the backstory of Knights of the Old Republic. This would actually be the beginning of the story within the game itself.
Things are looking different though, remember I said it would need to be its own thing. The Exile is involved (she was still in exile at this point in the game), and you would probably have to change up the side characters from the original game for two reasons. One, most are kinda boring. Goodbye Carth. Keep Jolee Bindo, though, because he's the greatest. Two, new characters allow for original game fans to guess exactly who Revan is. Because of course Revan isn't really dead. He just doesn't know he's Revan.
This season sees the Exile getting herself on to the planet Taris, trying to hide from Malek who is hunting for any sign of her newly acquired ship. Bastila makes a comeback, doing strike missions to take down Malak's fleet. She has an expert crew, including a scout who fought during the Mandalorian wars. This scout would have made appearances in season one but has a new actor; you know how these things go.
This season would focus on the revelation that Revan was making his fleet through some dark side powered space factory known as the Star Forge; this includes all the droids in his army. Bastila, the Exile, and this Scout, who realizes he has a connection to the Force as well, lead a team to hunt down the location of the Star Forge. Along the way, the Exile experiences newfound power in her strange void in the Force and receives guidance from a character from the second game, Kreia.
Kreia I work in because she hates the Force, as it turns out, even though she is a former Jedi/Sith. She sees the Exile as a way to destroy the Force, all of which slowly builds as the plot unfolds. She's manipulative and actually focuses on neither light nor darkness which makes her for quite the interesting character. Is she insane for trying to destroy the Force? Or is she on to something?
The season ends with the Scout, now having forged his own lightsaber, being revealed as a mind-wiped Revan. (It was a different actor on purpose! The scout from season one is dead and his identity placed into Revan's brain cuz the Force!) The Jedi Council used their own fairly dark ritual to erase his memory, at least for a short time, in the hopes that he would lead them to the Star Forge before he awoke as a reborn Revan. Now you have a character in conflict with false memories and those of himself as a Sith Lord. Gettin' all Blade Runner up in here.
Season 4: Still Blow Up Something Big, Though
The rest of the story from the game plays out, including some stuff from the sequel that you can just do at the same time. That's the power of adapting something, you see. Oh, Tom Bombadil kills the pace? No problem. Hey gone, merry done.
This season would focus on the temptation of the Exile as she learns more from Kreia, while dealing with her power as her void in the Force seems to absorb the power of those she kills in battle. And she refuses the lure of the dark side because of the power of friendship or something, throw a bone to the Disney execs on that one. (At least for now).
Revan has to deal with the fact that he remembers more and more real memories, as many of his own team have to decide if they hate him or not.
Eventually, everything leads to a battle in and around the Star Forge and Revan must break the will of Malak who seemingly cannot be killed by conventional means.
The important thing here though would be that, even though they destroy the Star Forge, it's not all happy endings (this isn't even the last season). The Exile and Revan are not allowed back into the Jedi Order, despite their dwindling numbers, and Revan, with his full memory, reveals the Sith, thought long gone, are still around, influencing the Republic which is why he wanted to conquer it in the first place.
I told you it was the prequels we should have had.
This could turn into another season or two weeding out Sith from political power and perhaps even the Jedi Council, or what remains of it as the Sith are pretty powerful themselves.
What I would love is the show ending with the Exile rebuilding the Jedi into something greater while Revan still thinks that total control is the only path to peace. He realizes that having too many dark side uses is no good and starts the rule of one master and one apprentice that flows into the main storyline of the Star Wars movie saga.
Damn, that was a lot. (And I have so many details I decided not to bore you with!)
To Sum It Up
The point of all of this is, Knights of the Old Republic represents a Jedi story that's different. It could be the thing that starts other shows as well. The themes are similar to the Star Wars we know and love with just enough going in other directions that it opens the door to other things. That's what you want, the ability to break out of the mold like a glorious Force using muffin coming out of the baking pan...or something. The dark side has cookies, but I have muffin analogies!
And too much time on my hands apparently.
Thanks for sticking around through my Star Wars ramblings! What do you hope to see from the Star Wars live-action TV show? Are there some stories from the expanded universe you love? Let me know in the comments below, because we here at The Porte Port love us some good geeky pondering.
Be on the lookout next week for what will (probably) be my last in this series of Star Wars articles where I talk about what makes Star Wars, Star Wars.
And don't forget my first article on all the upcoming Star Wars things here.
Follow Chris La Porte on Twitter here: @chrismlaporte