Its surface long forgotten, the planet Coruscant
is entirely wrapped in an immense sprawling city marked with skyscrapers kilometers high. Urbanized over thousands of years, Coruscant has been the center of government for as long as any galactic citizen can remember. It was the capital of the Republic, and it served as the capital of the Empire. And it had existed in George Lucas
' development of the saga since the earliest script treatments, but did not appear on the screen until recently.
Coruscant finds its roots in the early draft scripts of Star Wars, when the heart of the Imperial capital world was to be explored in a number of scenes. In this early incarnation, the planet is the gaseous world of Alderaan, and the Imperial capital rests atop a floating city suspended among the cumulus clouds. Of course, this version of Alderaan was seriously retooled to become Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back, while the name Alderaan was transferred to an entirely different planet.
When it came time to write Return of the Jedi, Lucas originally envisioned the confrontation between Luke Skywalker and his father to take place on the Imperial throne-world. It was a planet covered by skycrapers and the Emperor's throne room was hidden away, deep beneath the surface, overlooking a lake of molten lava.
The capital world in this draft of Jedi was called Had Abbadon. The screenplay describes a world enveloped by the sickly brown haze of pollution. The only respite from the industrial murk of an urbanized globe is its orbiting Green Moon, a verdant paradise.
Although the planet did not survive subsequent rewrites -- costs and story considerations eliminated all reference to the Imperial capital by the time Jedi was finished, transforming Had Abbadon to the Death Star and the Green Moon to Endor -- early production art remains. Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston did numerous sketches of what a planet covered in cities would look like.
One of these sketches first saw publication in 1987's Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, by West End Games. A whimsical two-page "advertisement" showcased a dream cruise aboard the luxury liner Kuari Princess. Among the port of calls was Imperial City:
"The crowning finale to your Grand Galactic Tour is a visit to Imperial City itself, where you'll spend an entire week of regal splendor in the cultural nucleus of the universe. Experience the finest the galaxy has to offer in the arts and entertainment ... Live the magnificence of The Imperial City -- a once in a lifetime spectacle!"
Although built upon the material developed for Jedi, this book quietly held the first "modern" appearance of the Imperial capital. Over the next few years, the megapolitan planet would thrive and grow in the pages of the expanded universe.
1991 was a landmark year in Star Wars publishing. It saw the debut of Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire, the first spin-off novel to expand the Star Wars story beyond Return of the Jedi. Set five years after the Battle of Endor, Heir reveals that the Rebel Alliance had formed a New Republic to replace the Galactic Empire. This new government ruled from the former Imperial capital world.
Heir to the Empire would be the first story anywhere to use the city planet as a setting. Zahn used the original descriptions from the Jedi scripts as a basis for the planet, though he was responsible for coining the world's new name: Coruscant, a world that literally means "glittering."
Over the next few years, many of the novels and comics would be set on Coruscant. Some described the New Republic's Senate Chambers. Others delved into the deep dank slums far beneath the planet's developed surface. Many of Ralph McQuarrie's original sketches and production paintings -- along with a handful of new ones -- were showcased in The Illustrated Star Wars Universe hardcover book.
In 1997, when Lucas returned to Star Wars to revamp the classic trilogy as the Special Edition, one of the key changes he made was to the ending of Return of the Jedi. What was once an isolated celebration on the moon of Endor would grow into a galaxy-wide festival of freedom. The final stop on that joyous tour would be the Imperial capital world.
The digital artists atIndustrial Light & Magic made real a world of revelers tearing down Imperial statues as fireworks burst in the skies over Coruscant. With the planet set to play a major role in Episode I, the Special Edition ending was a special glimpse at this wonderful world. For Episode I, Lucas adopted the name used in Heir to the Empire, Coruscant. What began as a handful of sketches once set aside, and then became a setting for numerous novels, finally appeared as an unforgettable motion picture location. Or as the original tourism ad boasted, "a once in a lifetime spectacle."
Coruscant will return in Episode II, and new locales of the cosmopolitan planet will be explored in 2002.