Like millions of others I have seen and LOVED Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As a long time fan of films and games and books, I loved seeing things from or derived from the ‘Expanded Universe’ that were immediately familiar. In fact, everything about this great new entry was awesome … but since then I have realized what it meant to the REST of the Expanded Universe: death.
It was 37 years ago that the book “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” became the first post Star Wars book, based on some early writings from George Lucas, but later declared ‘non-canon’ to make way for the rest of the original trilogy. It remains in print as a book and comic, but is not ‘official’.
Due to the popularity of Star Wars and the universe and characters it created, as well as how things like The Force and Lightsabers sparked the popular imagination, there has been a pretty steady stream of new content through the years. As would be expected, there is a danger in creating fiction that comes between movies or precedes the movies but uses the same characters and settings, so LucasFilms has worked for a long time to help writers develop stories that work within the accepted universe, known as ‘canon’.
Canon is important for any fictional universe as it provides guidance for creating new works without trampling on existing or future ‘official’ releases. This has allowed the Star Wars world to grow incredibly large and rich with characters and settings. Look at this exploration of just the novels as of a few years ago:
But there is something common between Star Wars books and games – most occur in the decades following Return of the Jedi. As such, you can envision a problem: with a new Star Wars movie trilogy coming set in the decades after Return of the Jedi, there was no way that the new movies and existing stories could coexist. So? Disney and LucasFilm announced a simple ‘reset’ – as of right now here is the full set of stories and shows and movies and comics and video games regarded as ‘canon’ in the Star Wars universe:
That is a huge difference! There are tons of awesome stories and characters and arcs that have now been lost to the dust-bin of history. Sure we can still read the books and play the games, but the chance of ever seeing them on screen in any significant way is gone.
Here are my five most lamented losses from the ‘Purge’:
- The Thrawn Trilogy: this is perhaps the best known of the Expanded Universe books, and for good reason! Great stories, great characters and well written (too rare in Star Wars books!). This sprawling trilogy introduced Grand Admiral Thrawn, a supreme strategist who represents the career military leader that wasn’t given much time in the movies. In fact, this series gave Luke Skywalker more development, as well as introducing Mara Jade and other great characters and also the concept of ‘Dark Jedi’ as Force users who embrace the Dark Side without becoming Sith.
- Kyle Katarn: Kyle Katarn first appeared in the 1995 first person shooter game Dark Forces, which remains a favorite of mine to this day. He was then further developed in books and an audiobook adaptation that takes him from Dark Forces into Jedi Knight. He is central to the Jedi Knight series of games, with Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy remaining the best lightsaber combat games ever made. His conflicted nature – he was a graduate of the Imperial academy who joined the Rebels, he was drawn more than once towards the Dark Side, and remained a mercenary and used unconventional tactics.
- The New Jedi Academy: specifically the book trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson, but the general concept as well. After Return of the Jedi, Luke sets up a new Jedi Academy on Yavin IV (the base for the Death Star attack in ‘A New Hope’). Because there are so few Jedi, many of the traditional rules are set aside such as pairing master and apprentice and not training older students. This leads to myriad issues, which are great to explore. We learn more about training, the Force, and so on. The series also introduces a weapon that can destroy an entire system by causing its sun to go supernova, called the Sun Crusher.
- Mara Jade, Talon Karrde, the Skywalker & Solo kids, etc: while it is possible we’ll see some of the myriad EU characters, some doors have already been shut by the first movie. And while I LOVE the new characters we’ve met, I do mourn the loss of these old companions.
- Enemies and Allies: while I’m not a fan of the New Jedi Order book series, it presented the compelling idea that there would come times when the New Republic and Imperial Remnant would find themselves facing an enemy powerful enough that they would need to work together. The whole notion that this isn’t simply ‘good vs. evil’ once it stopped being Jedi vs. Sith was pretty cool. I don’t ever see that happening in the movies, and losing those storylines is a shame.
Of course it isn’t ALL bad … here are five things I am GLAD to see gone!
- Clone Palpatine (and Thrawn): OK, sure – the Emperor had a clone made of himself. After the whole thing with Geonosis in the prequels, why not? But suddenly it became an excuse to not think about new storylines. And really, if the Emperor was smart, he would have set himself up properly and surrounded himself with clones … or something. Then the same thing happens with ‘The Hand of Thrawn’. Please stop.
- Yuuzhan Vong: An enemy who is super-strong, and impervious to the Force? Sure this allows them to present a very long series of story arcs, kill off heroes tragically, and so on … but they lost me long before anything resolved. It didn’t help that many of the books were mediocre and many stories felt really forced, and switching author to author made tracking across story lines hard.
- Force, Force, EVERYWHERE!: In the prequels we learn about how small the number of Force users is in the universe, but in the EU it feels like every book has us stumbling across several new Force sensitive people who are on random worlds doing incredible things. Once in a while it makes sense, but in too many of the books I was rolling my eyes.
What do you think? Are there favorite games or books or characters or stories that you lament losing?