When George Lucas created the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, he decided to use sleeker and more sophisticated designs in order to show that the galaxy was more civilized during the Republic than during the Empire.
In a new interview with Vanity Fair, The Acolyte showrunner Leslye Headland says she will push the concept even further in her series that will take place about 100 years before Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace, during the High Republic era.
That’s a great approach and I hope they won’t backtrack during production. I like the aesthetics of the Original Trilogy but it’s boring to see it almost everywhere in post-Lucas Star Wars.
Here’s the part of the interview where Headland talks about the context of The Acolyte:
“Vanity Fair: How do you explain the High Republic to a Star Wars fan who may not yet be familiar with the stories the books have been telling?
The way I would explain the High Republic, and specifically where my show takes place, is that I’m about 100 years before The Phantom Menace. So, a lot of those characters haven’t even been born yet. My question in watching The Phantom Menace was always like, “Well, how did things get to this point?” Do you know what I mean? How did we get to where a Sith lord can infiltrate the Senate and none of the Jedi pick up on it? What went wrong? What are the scenarios that led us to this moment? So that’s what I would say. That’s how I would describe it to my friends, especially my non-Star Wars friends.
One hundred years in our own world is a huge leap. There are unthinkable changes in the span of century. Is that true of the Star Wars world, too? Obviously there are starships, there are lightsabers, but is it a different era technologically in the High Republic?
Absolutely. I mean, I love the fact that George Lucas, when he originally made Episodes 4 through 6 [a.k.a. the original trilogy], you can see that he wants everything to feel like it has this particular type of decay. This is a lived-in sci-fi fantasy world, not a sleek, well-put-together aesthetic. He was really going for something that I think was a bit revolutionary at the time.
When he tasked himself with making the prequels, the way that he decided to address technology and all of those types of things was to make it a much sleeker, better-looking, almost more advanced time. That’s what’s kind of weird about Star Wars. The further you go back, the better things are. “A long time ago” actually becomes more futuristic. So while we are creating this type of world, we’re trying to carry George’s concept that the further you go back, the more exciting and new and sleek and interesting things look.
The way you’re describing it reminds me of the Roman era, a time where that empire was very powerful and fairly technologically advanced. Then that region of the world falls into a period of barbarism, and the Dark Ages follow. Is that similar to what you’re talking about here? Is the High Republic an era of education and advancement and glory, while the Star Wars movies and shows that we know best are from a time of collapse and decay?
Yes. We actually use the term the Renaissance, or the Age Of Enlightenment. There doesn’t necessarily need to be an uprising among people in the expanded regions or in the inner worlds, because everybody’s doing so well. For what I’m exploring, another good analogy might be post World War I in the United States, where we very much got into this isolationist concept of: we’re not helping anybody. We want to protect this particular vibe that we have going. [Laughs.] ‘Vibe’ is definitely not the word they use.
So the leaders of this galactic era would rather ignore conflict or suffering than resolve it?
The High Republic is so golden in so many ways. The Jedi uniforms are gold and white and it’s almost like they would never get dirty. They would never be out and about. The idea is that they could have these types of uniforms because that’s how little they’re getting into skirmishes. So of course my question is like, ‘Well, what else is going on?’ You can’t just end up with George’s Phantom Menace situation if everything is going well.
It has to be going well at the expense of what? What is not being attended to? What are we turning a blind eye to that could lead to the rise of somebody like Palpatine about a century later? Yes, it’s one bad guy, but it’s one bad guy that completely undermines the entire system of government. A lot of other things must have been going on beneath the surface.
And we know the Jedi completely miss this.
[They’re] constantly talking about balance. If the light side is proliferating everywhere, what’s going on with the dark side? How is it manifesting itself? What is it doing to survive? Because it very clearly does later on in the world.
I’ve heard you describe The Acolyte as a mystery. So is that the mystery, what’s below the surface of this glossy world?
Yes—are things what they seem to be? Are things as good as everybody’s saying they are? That’s the big question of any society that has these big booming periods. There is some form of counterculture or some form of underground, whether good or bad, you know what I mean? […]”