Long before we got The Mandalorian on Disney+, George Lucas wanted to bring Star Wars to live-action television. He commissioned dozens of scripts for a series set in between the time between Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Now, for the first time, we can see what that show might have looked like. A series of clips shows a finished scene and the making of test footage for the show called Star Wars: Underworld. Interestingly, this series shares a lot of technical similarities with The Mandalorian, specifically that Lucasfilm tried to use technology that allowed for real-time visual effects rendering. Only instead of projecting the setting onto large screens on the set, the Star Wars: Underworld test footage shows a giant green-screen stage with the finished product added after-the-fact.
What Was Star Wars: Underworld?
Image via Lucasfilm Ltd.
After finishing up the prequel trilogy, Lucas seemed to sour on movies as the medium for Star Wars stories. There is, of course, The Clone Wars whose final season will finally see the light of day on Disney+. Lucas and Dave Filoni fleshed out what happened between the final two prequel films. However, because it was animation, the budgetary limitations were not as stark as they would have been for Star Wars: Underworld, despite how good the test footage looks for 15 years before the age of prestige TV.
Lucas hired a group of writers to work on the series. First, he asked for 25 scripts and then, because he was “having fun,” he asked for 50. He told the writers to not worry about budget. He wanted them to go as big as possible with the stories. Thus, they developed stories featuring legacy characters like Boba Fett, Darth Vader, Saw Gerrera, and others. There was even supposed to be a story arc featuring young Han Solo, Lando Calirissan, and Chewbacca. (This would essentially have been what Solo: A Star Wars Story was: the intro of all these characters and how Han won the Millennium Falcon.)
There was even a story arc about Palpatine, and his lost love: a gangster who broke his heart when she left him. Cory Barlog, director of the last God of War video game, said that the story made him sympathize with the evil Emperor of the Universe. Lucas hoped to do 100 episodes of the series, but he imagined they could eventually do as many as 400 episodes. Except, there was a problem: the budget.
What the Star Wars: Underworld Test Footage Shows
Image via Lucasfilm Ltd.
Yet before they filmed these stories, Lucas found out what a fatal flaw he committed telling the writers to ignore budget concerns. Just like with The Clone Wars, he planned to start with a feature-length introduction which then leads into the series. So, he had that movie finished and 50 scripts. However, Lucas and his team couldn’t figure out a way to do the series justice for anything less than $50 million an episode. Reminder, this is in 2005, long before Game of Thrones or The Crown sent television budgets into the stratosphere.
Still, the Star Wars: Underworld test footage shows that they got pretty close at that time. The scene shows what appears to be Rebels trying to transmit some kind of message in the lower levels of Coruscant. The protagonist, a woman in shoes that don’t seem very practical for space-action, has to escape from Stormtroopers and spy droids in the air. After the finished sequence, you can see the behind-the-scenes perspective of the footage. While it doesn’t quite rise to the level of The Mandalorian’s production value (a cool $15 (or so) million per episode), it does look better than anything on television in 2005.
What do you think of the Star Wars: Underworld test footage? Do you wish Lucasfilm produced this series? Share your thoughts below.
Featured image via Lucasfilm
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.