In a different galaxy, not that long ago, George Lucas planned a gritty Star Wars TV show about scum, villainy, and crime. Though the series never aired, in some ways, the genesis for Rogue One, Solo, The Mandalorian and even one element of The Rise of Skywalker could be found in this shadowy vision of Star Wars.
On Friday, alleged "test footage" from Star Wars: Underworld leaked online. Here's what it might mean, and how it fits into one of the biggest "What Ifs?" in all of Star Wars history.
What was Star Wars: Underworld?
For those who haven't been following every scrap of Star Wars news since the days before Facebook and Twitter, there was a time when Lucasfilm was touting Underworld as the next major story arc after Revenge of the Sith. Lucasfilm developed the project from roughly 2006 to 2012.
Some sources will tell you that development was canceled in 2010, but former Lucasfilm exec Rick McCallum was still giving interviews about the series in early 2012, about nine months before Lucasfilm was sold to Disney. Supposedly, the show was never made due to prohibitively high costs. (Remember: Lucasfilm was still an independent production company at that point.)
Underworld would have taken place after Revenge of the Sith, but before A New Hope,. This would have been a show about crime bosses and bounty hunters, and would have taken place in some of the lower areas of Coruscant. There were many impressive writers involved in this project before it was shelved, including Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica writer and producer, Ronald D. Moore.
In 2017, Moore spoke to Inverse about Underworld and said the series would "have been like The Sopranos." While Darth Vader was "not a major character," Moore said he wrote a multi-part episode all about Vader's "crackdown" on Coruscant's criminal elements. Other plot threads were rumored to include a huge romance for Palpatine, in which a crime lord would have broken his heart. (Some fans still think the origin of Rey's grandmother might be buried in this unused storyline.)
What does the Star Wars: Underworld footage show?
If legitimate, the video leaked by "Stargate Studios" has two parts. The first part is supposed "test footage" depicting an unnamed woman followed by a "surveillance droid." Stormtroopers are hip to this woman sneaking around, and mention "Rebel activity." The woman meets a contact and says she was sent from Malastare.
That's a planet where there was a bunch of pod-racing in some old Dark Horse Star Wars comics. It's also the home planet of the "Dugs,"' Sebulba's species. The whole thing has a very fan-film, faux-Blade Runner feeling, which makes its authenticity seem questionable.
Our hero has stolen plans for an Imperial Star Destroyer, which is cool, but a little weird, since the Republic was openly operating with Star Destroyers at the end of the Clone Wars. The Stormtroopers (whose voices sound crazy silly) try to track her down and decide they're going to jack her speeder. She uses a gizmo that electrocutes them, and a blaster shoot-out follows. The second half of the video is behind-the-scenes footage showing how this scene was made.
Is the Star Wars: Underworld footage legit?
It's tough to say. Stargate Studios uploaded the video with a detailed Google document that supposedly details every aspect of the production, as well as an apparent confirmation the show would have included Darth Vader, the Emperor, Boba Fett, and even Saw Gerrera. (We think that the last one is particularly suspect.)
That said, if this was simply a proof-of-concept for Lucasfilm to demonstrate to investors what they were going for, this could be real. Even so, it by no means proves that this scene would have occurred in any of the episodes. As of this writing, Lucasfilm has not confirmed whether the footage is real, and it's not clear how Stargate Studios got their hands on it.
What's even less clear is, why now? Star Wars: Underworld has been dead for nearly a decade. Why this footage has drifted to the surface at this point is a mystery that may never be solved.
It also doesn't answer the biggest question of all: Would Underworld have been good? Based on this, we're still as confused as ever.