Darth Maul is one of the most recognizable, visually impressive characters to have emerged from the post-Original Trilogy Star Wars films, despite being dealt a dubious fate in his very first appearance in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. However, it seems that the franchise’s father, George Lucas, originally had plans for the double-bladed lightsaber Sith lord that were far grander than getting sliced in half and sent plummeting down a Naboo air shaft.
While we already know various tidbits about Lucas’s original plans for the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, some major new info has dropped in The Star Wars Archives 1999–2005 by Paul Duncan, a 600-page behind-the-scenes tome in which Lucas himself lifts the veil on crucial plot details for his never-realized plans to complete his vision of the franchise. The biggest revelation in the book, via Polygon, is that Darth Maul was destined to not only return in Lucas’s Sequel Trilogy but serve as the overall big bad. Intriguingly, Maul’s main Light Side opponent would have been Leia herself—more on that aspect in a second.
“Maul eventually becomes the godfather of crime in the universe because, as the Empire falls, he takes over,” explains Lucas. Indeed, the way the creator originally intended to bring Maul back to the big screen is a profound revelation in more ways than one, firstly because it tells us that Maul’s eventual cinematic reemergence in Solo: A Star Wars Story—in which he was revealed to be the hidden mastermind behind crime syndicate Crimson Dawn and big boss to Emilia Clarke’s shady Qi’ra—was always the general plan for the character.
Of course, Maul’s journey in the post-Disney Star Wars canon continued to much acclaim. He was voiced by actor Sam Witwer on animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, which led to the subsequent onscreen cameo in Solo. Thus, one might take the idea of Maul’s return for granted, especially since his survival of a seemingly definitive fate has also been adopted in various ways in numerous non-canonical works. Most notably, Dark Horse Comics’ various pre-Disney-era Star Wars titles introduced the general idea that Maul survived being cut in half (and, not for nothing, the fall itself), but was driven insane by the ordeal, left to run around causing chaos with robotic legs, which made him resemble a kind of Sith satyr.
Those Dark Horse comics would have been further mined for the movies, since Lucas’s Sequel Trilogy Maul would have been served by an apprentice in Darth Talon, a female Twi’lek (a “Lethan” with red skin that’s rare for her species) whose body is covered with Sith tattoos similar to Maul’s. However, the character (pictured below) would likely have carried a different backstory than the comics.
First introduced in the non-canon Star Wars: Legacy comics, Darth Talon exists over a century after the events of the Original Trilogy, a graduate of a Sith academy led by Darth Krayt and given the sinister (ultimately unsuccessful) task of trying to turn Jedi family descendant Cade Skywalker to the dark side. In 2011, an eventually-canceled LucasArts video game, titled Battle of the Sith Lords, apparently bore Lucas-approved plans to have Darth Maul team up with Darth Talon, an idea that may have been a manifestation of these Sequel Trilogy plans.
It seems that Lucas’s sequels could have culminated with Maul somehow tangling with Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia Organa, who would have stepped into focus as the mythos’ main hero, and a central figure in the post-Return of the Jedi effort to rebuild galactic civilization. Lucas’s sequel plot details describe a story set in the aftermath of a great war (rather than the retread of one). Thus, it would have centered on the concept of reconstruction, which, as he put it, is “harder than starting a rebellion or fighting a war.”
Leia’s task would have been increasingly perilous, since the Empire’s fall left a sizable power vacuum, which would be filled by the crime syndicate run by the reemerging Maul and evil apprentice Talon. According to Lucas, this storyline would have paralleled world events at the time: the Iraq War, the fall of Saddam Hussein, and the subsequent emergence of radicalized factions to fill the void. Thus, while Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker would have been busy rebuilding the Jedi Order, Leia would have walked a different path by rebuilding the Galactic Republic while battling Maul’s criminal organization, and would have eventually emerged as the Supreme Chancellor. As Lucas plainly put it, “she ended up being the chosen one.”
While a key moment on Rebels seemingly set the (presumably permanent) endpoint of Maul’s rather circuitous post-Phantom arc, the popularity of the character continues to permeate, and it does seem doubtful that we’ve seen the last of him—either in animated or live-action form. This seems especially true with Disney+ having successfully taken the Star Wars franchise to the small screen with The Mandalorian and future serial offerings set across various points in the timeline such as the untitled Obi-Wan Kenobi, a possible Boba Fett series, and a Cassian Andor spy show. It may not be quite what Lucas had in mind, but it’s nevertheless profound.