Star Wars Episode VII's Clean Slate
Ron Seifried | On 26, Apr 2014SPOILER ALERT! All printed material released by Lucasfilm that takes place after the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, is now NOT part of the official canon of the Star Wars universe. That’s 23 years, dozens of novels, paperbacks, games and action figures that have been essentially tossed into the Death Star trash compactor, crushed along with the one-eyed Dianoga creature and released into space to float away with the other garbage. The only official canon as of right now will be the feature films and television series. Some elements from the Expanded Universe may appear in the sequels or other projects, but the story lines and characters will be reissued under the new “Legends” banner for those interested in purchasing expensive fan fiction. Read the official press release here From a business and creative perspective, this makes sense. Lucasfilm now has a 30+ year blank slate between Return of the Jedi and Episode VII to create new worlds, aliens, heroes and villains, without being boxed in by a very complicated expanded universe created by an eclectic group of sci-fi writers. This has been hinted at for since Walt Disney purchased Lucasfilm in October 2012, and it gained serious traction a few weeks ago with the rumored casting of Peter Mayhew reprising his role of Chewbacca, a main character killed off in the EU. The Expanded Universe began in the early 1978 with the publication of “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye”, a spin-off novel from the first movie and a series of Marvel comic books. Its popularity witnessed a revival in 1991 with the Lucasfilm publication of “Heir to the Empire” the first in a trilogy written by Timothy Zahn that took place five years after “Return of the Jedi.” The “sequel” novel to the original trilogy, focused around the Rebel Alliance attempt to rebuild a galactic government but runs up against a rogue Imperial Grand Admiral and his cloned Jedi Master. The novel and its sequels quickly landed on the New York Times Bestseller List and spawned years of books, first from Bantam and later from Del Ray. There were some well written books, and there were plenty of weak ones, but the message the fans got was that these story’s were officially approved by Lucasfilm with strict guidelines from Star Wars creator George Lucas on what can and cannot be addressed in the novels. But Lucas stated to Starlog magazine: “I don’t read that stuff. I haven’t read any of the novels. I don’t know anything about that world. That’s a different world than my world. But I do try to keep it consistent. The way I do it now is they have a Star Wars Encyclopedia. So if I come up with a name or something else, I look it up and see if it has already been used. When I said [other people] could make their own Star Wars stories, we decided that, like Star Trek, we would have two universes: My universe and then this other one. They try to make their universe as consistent with mine as possible, but obviously they get enthusiastic and want to go off in other directions.” The mixed messages continued when certain elements of the EU appeared in the Special Editions and the prequels. The name and geography of the capitol planet Coruscant was lifted from Zahn’s trilogy and the Outrider ship piloted by EU character Dash Rendar was inserted in the Mos Eisley segment of the Episode IV Special Edition. Lucas even liked the look of blue Twi-lek Jedi Aayla Secura so much from a cover or a Dark Horse comic, that he added her character in Episodes II & III. Dozens of other minor crossovers appeared in the prequels, leading to fanatic’s speculation that the EU was canon, despite Lucas saying otherwise. Lucasfilm properties have been maintaining a complex internal database for years called the Holocron, with multi-levels of categories specifying what level each project resides in.
- G (George Lucas) canon is the one true storyline, including the final releases of the six films (Greedo shoots first!), the novelizations of the films, the film radio dramas, scripts, and any material found in any other source from Lucas himself, published or not. One has to presume with the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney, this may now include unpublished material for J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy or whoever is in charge at Disney.
- T (Television) canon, which includes the animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and the upcoming “Star Wars: Rebels.” and the as yet unaired live action Star Wars TV series. This level does NOT include the Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars series of mini-episodes.
- C (continuity) canon refers to the Expanded Universe set before and during Return of the Jedi and all published work under Walt Disney.
- L (Legends) canon refers to the recently discarded Expanded Universe books and comics set after Return of the Jedi that were published before the new Walt Disney publications. No word if this separate “Legends” brand of books will continue, but they should now be considered an Alternative Universe (AU), but elements from the AU may appear in future official films, TV series and publications. What we do not know right now is what is canon before the events of “Return of the Jedi,” including all Clone War, Knights of the Old Republic and Original Trilogy-era publications.
- S (secondary) canon refers to the older, less accurate works, including the 1980’s Marvel comics, “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye,” most of the “Star Wars Holiday Special,” the Star Tours attraction, the online roleplaying game Star Wars Galaxies.
- N continuity material is also known as “non-canon” material, but this really includes anything less than the films, TV and new publications moving forward. Lego Star Wars and Infinities label releases fall in this area.