Franchised media are constantly working on the same handful of marketable concepts that gradually become meaningless as they are over-explained. With a massive franchise, unexplained corners that could hold new and interesting stories are often ignored in favor of the same fan-favorite material.
Russian doll Co-creator Leslye Headland probably isn’t the first designer fans would have placed in the showrunners’ chair for an upcoming Star Wars series, but The Acolyte is on its way. There isn’t a ton of information about the show, and filming hasn’t even started yet, but there is one important detail about the show that clearly sets it apart.
The Star Wars timeline, as depicted in the movies so far, spans approximately 67 years. Time is divided into calendar eras, much like our Common Before Era and our Common Era, known as Before the Battle of Yavin (BBY) and After the Battle of Yavin (ABY). The Battle of Yavin takes place in A new hope, the prequel trilogy begins about thirty years before that, and then the sequel trilogy takes place over the following thirty. The franchise has occupied this relatively brief period, with fairly significant gaps of uncharted territory, but there are almost constant references to times past. If there’s ever another sequel trilogy, the franchise will likely expand further into the future, but there’s so much implied history to explore. Headland’s new series The Acolyte is about to be the franchise’s first dive into the distant past, and it’s a brilliant direction to take Star Wars.
One of Star Wars’ biggest problems is the single-minded, unbreakable focus on a small handful of marketable characters. The entire franchise is tied to the Skywalker family, a line of chosen ones who must play a part in every Star Wars story. Whether it’s the main character role, a mentor-like supporting appearance, or a completely out-of-place cameo, they always have to be there. Other pillars may command attention, but they simply function as separate symptoms of the same problem. There are no Skywalkers in Solo, because this whole movie is an exploration of a different marketable character. Somehow, Luke always makes his way into Boba Fett’s only solo project, no matter how distracting his appearance. The franchise is shackled to them, and the only way to leave them behind is to set a new Star Wars story in a time when the important characters don’t exist.
The Acolyte is set in the High Republic era, a period that has only been given a name and a few details in recent years. The only marketable characters that are likely to be alive at the time are characters with inconceivable lifespans like Yoda. Basically, nothing from this period has been depicted, but a few have been casually mentioned. Fans of the Star Wars movies could reasonably skim through a list of events from the time period and come away with little to no new information. Some fans understand every aspect of the canon, some would claim to know better than the creators. Placing the story in a period that feels like a blank canvas allows a creator to go wild without fear of enraging the fan community’s need for continuity.
Setting is hugely important to any story, but in a universe like Star Wars, there are a few that the franchise can’t help but return to. Almost every entry in the franchise finds time to make landfall on Tatooine, the planet that started it all. Boba Fett’s Book takes place almost entirely on this desert planet. The Acolyte, thanks to its new setting, will likely have no reason to return to fan-favorite spots. Tatooine will probably be completely unrecognizable, just like other famous places like Yavin-4 or Kashyyyk. Whether the idea is Headland’s or someone else’s, it’s a brilliant solution to the biggest problem in Star Wars and franchise media in general. It’s almost playing the game with a handicap, deliberately limiting the franchise’s worst impulses and simplest tricks to create a better project overall.
Marketing has been scarce during The Acolyte, apart from the basic information and the logo, there is not much to say. The big red flag will be ads promising to show the first version of fan-favorite characters and concepts. Hopefully this represents Disney and the Star Wars brand finally doing what every discerning fan has long hoped they would do. Anything with the Star Wars label is guaranteed strong returns on investment, so why not just let creatives do new things with the universe people love. It was only by letting people experiment that someone invented Star Wars in the first place. The Acolyte seems like a huge step in the right direction, hopefully it stays in that direction.
MORE: Ahsoka: Things We Want To See From The Series
Elden Ring’s popularity across all gaming platforms has been staggering, and thanks to a study of its coverage, it can finally be quantified.
About the Author