Disney+ is making no secret of its massive push to fill the platform with constant big-name projects from the likes of Star Wars and Marvel, and — for better or worse — that plan doesn’t seem to be slowing down. High-profile events like the recent San Diego Comic-Con and Star Wars Celebration gave general road maps for what these franchises have in store, though, one must wonder how much longer the latter in particular can coast off of a timeline that, one way or another, revolves around the Skywalker Saga.
Shows like The Mandalorian proved to be riveting and refreshing tales from different corners of the galaxy that blend several genres, but Lucasfilm is eventually going to have to evolve away from the Skywalker lineage to inject a long-term dose of ambition into the 45-year-old sci-fi fantasy mega-franchise.
Eventually leaving legacy characters to rest
It didn’t get the rapturous critical acclaim that many might have expected and hoped, but Lucasfilm’s Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series was an overall warmly received — if flawed — return of the beloved Ewan McGregor as the titular Jedi Master. And while it’s perfectly reasonable to see long-awaited returns of franchise icons, focusing on such legacy characters has to have some kind of an expiration date.
These characters could still be explored here and there modestly in the different mediums that Star Wars touches, but, to paraphrase an admittedly troubled Darksider’s famous words, the past should be let to die at some point. Perhaps not to such a cynical degree that someone with the issues of Kylo Ren might want, but there are so many gaps between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hopeand between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens that the studio can fill before things start to get overwhelmingly stale.
While seeing the likes of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader get their own isolated Star Wars stories could be tantalizing endeavors, it wouldn’t hurt to start thinking about possible new franchise icons before the old guard is eventually put to rest. The entirety of the sequel trilogy was disappointingly disjointed by the end but, if nothing else, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi did introduce the interesting theme of concepts like grandstanding family names and legacies ultimately not mattering in the here and now.
It’s a shame that that nugget of gold was thrown away by the time J. J. Abrams’ The Rise of Skywalker closed the trilogy, but it’s a theme and lesson that Lucasfilm would do well to take to heart in the coming years. Aside from being unbearably “on the nose,” Rey dramatically taking on the Skywalker name was the final highlight of a trilogy with no sense of identity or self-awareness.
Venturing into the distant past
There are virtually limitless options Kathleen Kennedy and the rest of Lucasfilm have to go beyond the Skywalkers in either direction in the timeline. The first, even if it’s not the most obvious, is going into the distant past. Lucasfilm has already shown they’d be willing in some capacity to do this given its High Republic initiative.
What started as a publishing campaign for novels, YA novels, children’s books, and comic books looks to be trickling onto the screen where Star Wars is primarily known with the likes of Leslye Headland’s (Russian Doll) upcoming The Acolyte. However, and though this could be something under wraps at the studio already, fleshing this era out more in TV or films would be an easy way to have the next “saga” on hand.
That’s why it was somewhat surprising that when this new push was revealed, it wasn’t the next batch of movies to release after Star Wars’ theatrical hiatus. It’s important that pre-established canon isn’t stepped on, but with the High Republic taking place two centuries before The Phantom Menacethere’s plenty of distance away from the Skywalker Saga that original stories and characters could take the spotlight.
Of course, if the studio can make up another original old era in Star Wars canon, it could certainly revisit one that already exists. The Old Republic is a fan-favorite — yet underused — period in the Star Wars timeline, giving rise to some of the most beloved novels, comics, and video games in the franchise now deemed part of the Legends continuity.
Knights of the Old Republic and Knights of the Old Republic II undoubtedly popularized this era in the early 2000s, and while the specifics of these stories’ mainline canonicity are TBD (at least until the PlayStation 5 remake launches), small pieces of history and characters have already been accepted. And since the Old Republic stretches forward and back well outside of those two games, a long-running Game of Thrones-style drama could be engrossing as a serialized Disney+ TV series.
Exploring the far future
Perhaps what would be the most obvious option is to tackle what comes next in the Star Wars universe. It’s understandable that there’s a probable level of apprehension for the heads of a franchise as massive and historic in pop culture as Star Wars when it comes to moving past what fans have come to know and love.
But with that aforementioned embarrassment of riches at the hands of the studio, the boundlessness of a sweeping sci-fi fantasy universe like this practically begs to move onto an entirely new story and collection of heroes, villains, and everything in between down the line.
Admittedly, it’s hard to know right now what that would look like — considering it doesn’t exist yet. Part of that is due to Lucasfilm still playing in the Skywalker or Skywalker-adjacent sandbox, and the other part may be from the daunting endeavor that something like this would entail.
The Skywalkers and everything tangentially associated with them (the Empire, Republic, etc.) will always be a beloved and important piece of lore in Star Wars, but moving well enough past them in the timeline to tell brand new stories while honoring them shouldn’t be impossible. While they deservedly earned a positively-received cult status, it would be a shame if Lucasfilm and company learned the wrong lessons from commercial disappointments like Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Lucasfilm’s Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Mandalorian are available to stream now on Disney+.