Six of nine. No, it's not a new Borg character on Star Trek: Voyager. It's six episodes, the number of movies filmmaker George Lucas says will complete his Star Wars saga. Nine is the number of films his loyal fans expected the series to extend to.

Lucas says the current "prequel" trilogy--beginning with the already completed Episode I: The Phantom Menace premiering this spring and ending with Episode III sometime in 2004--will be the last batch of long-ago stories in that galaxy far, far away. (Note: For those of you who think the Millennium Falcon is a predatory bird, the first three films in the series were actually Episodes IV through VI.)

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Lucas says he never intended to make nine Star Wars movies--a surprise to many of the series' hardcore fans, who remember the filmmaker envisioning a nine-part series when the original Star Wars came out in 1977.

"When you see it in six parts, you'll understand," Lucas tells the magazine. "It really ends at part six."

In other words, the whole shebang culminates with the dreaded Ewok dance at the close of Return of the Jedi celebrating victory over the Empire, and the redemption of Anakin Skywalker. (The prequels will focus on how the father of Luke and Leia succumbed to the dark side of the Force and became Darth Vader.)

As the 54-year-old Lucas points out, he doesn't have Yoda's 800-year life span--by the time an Episode IX would come out, he'd be collecting social security. "I'll be to a point in my age where to do another trilogy would take 10 years," he explains.

Then how about letting someone else produce the final trilogy of the trilogy-trilogy? Not likely. "It's my thing," the filmmaker says.

Of course, some fans are taking the news hard.

"Lucas does say that there will only be six episodes, not the traditional nine, which we were raised to believe existed!" lamented one anguished Star Wars newsgroup denizen, expressing a betrayal even greater than when Lando Calrissian sold out Han Solo to the Empire.

"Well, that really makes my f---in' day!" wrote another.

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