Star Wars: Underworld is a title that evokes what could have been for the Force franchise, planned by George Lucas as the first live-action television series during the few years before Disney’s acquisition – an event that led to the project being tossed into the scrap heap. Now, in a franchise landscape that’s since experienced a Sequel Trilogy, with fans now clamoring for Baby Yoda dolls after The Mandalorian, it appears that footage has surfaced from the Star Wars series that got away!
In what is alleged as a leak, a test scene and complementary behind-the-scenes footage from Star Wars: Underworld has surfaced. While the veracity of the clip’s touted status (said to be from 2010,) has yet to be confirmed (we’re thusly opting not to include it here until a confirmation arrives, sorry), the footage is nevertheless impressive. The planned series, which was to take place in-between the Prequel and Original Trilogies, set itself in the center of the civilized Star Wars galaxy, the city-covered planet – and at-the-time Imperial Capital – called Coruscant, on which the seedier side of the canon, and its “scum and villainy,” was to be explored. The video uploader explains the scene as being from “a two-part episode [that] would have involved Darth Vader descending into the lower levels of Coruscant to personally quell a rebellion. Cool material to think about.”
The footage itself – while Vader-less – is credited to Stargate Studios (Doctor Who, The Orville, The Walking Dead) and Lucasfilm. While mostly raw, it effectively showcases the Blade Runner-esque urban grittiness and unrelenting “Deadwood in space” idea that we’d always imagined for Underworld, exploring Coruscant, which was most notably showcased in 2002’s Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. It also appears to be thematically demonstrative for the long-touted crime series concept, following a hooded female member of the Rebellion who, with the help of secret sympathizers, attempts to smuggle stolen plans off the Imperial-overrun city-planet by procuring a ship; an endeavor that goes pear-shaped quite quickly when some tenacious Stormtroopers (who, characteristically, couldn’t hit a barn door), arrive leading to a scrap with an explosive ending. The clip then cuts to behind-the-scenes footage of the scene, revealing that, save for a few interactive set pieces, it was mostly shot against green screen, utilizing real-time rendering with Virtual Backlot live technology.
The small screen project that came to be known as Star Wars: Underworld went into development as early as 2005, formatted as 42-minute episodes to air on television. Lucasfilm put together a writers’ room – consisting of names like Ronald D. Moore, Chris Chibnall, Matthew Graham, Terry Cafolla, Louise Fox, Tony McNamara, Fiona Seres and Stephen Scaia – who would occasionally collaborate with Lucas at Skywalker Ranch; a process that purportedly produced 50 scripts, with 100 planned. Indeed, the series gained momentum by 2009, as reports surfaced of actors fielding auditions. With the series set to be tied-in with LucasArt’s promising bounty-hunter-centric video game, Star Wars 1313, the TV series seemed inevitable. However, Underworld, like its video game cousin, would become plagued with budgetary issues that kept it on the backlog, from which it would never escape after Disney acquired the property on October 30, 2012 in a $4 billion deal, forever reshaping the franchise.
While Star Wars: Underworld will never likely venture beyond its mythical status, it represented an important step in the evolution of the franchise; one that Disney, notwithstanding its somewhat divisive sequel movies, did manage to follow with The Mandalorian, which effectively brought Star Wars away from the Skywalkers into something more grounded in the “used universe” motif that gave character to the original films.