Monday, February 26, 2024

Guest Post: The Star Wars Sequel Trilogy Part IV - This Has All Happened Before...



 

 


This Has All Happened Before, And It Will All Happen Again: The Star Wars Sequel Trilogy

 

by Michael Giammarino

 


4. Here There Be Legends: The Plain and Simple Truth About the Star Wars Expanded Universe

 

Star Wars gets strikes from discontented fans for punching up plot points in ancillary material (books, comics, games, even descriptions on action figure packaging) which might go unexplained in the movies. It has even caused those fans to accuse Lucasfilm of "filling in plot holes." The Star Wars sequels get accused of this a lot. A popular criticism of this has been, "If you need to publish a book to make the movie work, then the movie failed." 

 

I don't agree with this attitude at all. 

 

If I go to a movie, and find myself taken in by the movie, it's going to make me want to learn everything I can about that movie once the movie is over. It doesn't mean the movie failed. It means the movie succeeded. It made me interested enough, not only to go deeper inside the story, but to learn a little something about the history of the movie's production, the filmmakers involved, and anything and anyone connected to it. 

 

The same goes for any art form.

 

If I go to an art gallery and find myself drawn to a painting that attracts me, I'm going to want to find out everything I can about that painting, and the artist who painted it. It doesn't mean the painting failed. It means the painting succeeded. It made me interested in the history of that painting. 

 

For the life of me, I've never understood this conceit that the attraction to learn more about any artwork is an indication of failure in that art. Maybe it's because I've always been engaged by the movies I've seen, the music I've listened to, and the books I've read, ever since I was a child, to always want to learn more about the things I like. Sometimes even the things I don't like.  There's nothing wrong with having an informed opinion about something. 

 

I don't think it's unfair for a film or a franchise to impel viewers to seek out more information in order to have a well-rounded understanding of its universe. Filmmakers want their audience to engage with their work. They don't want the work to simply glaze over the viewer's eyes. 

 

Movies always work in broad strokes, and you can only fill in as much informational detail into the story as the pace, structure, and running time will allow. If I may reiterate: movies aren't isolated phenomenon; they're experiential events. It's not just what's on the screen. It's what we bring to it. It's what we take away from it. And it's what we gather from it afterwards. It's what we learn from it. It's also what we learn about the movies from ancillary markets, cast and crew commentary, and film analysis, which can or will inform and alter our experience with the movies the next time we watch them, and could possibly give us a deeper appreciation of the movies in the long run. 

 

But I would also argue the movies can – and do – work fine on their own. Movies either work on their own merits, on what we bring to them, or a combination of the two. And when a movie works on its own merits, those merits may also depend on other subject matter, existing in the periphery of that movie's text. 

 

And you know what? Star Wars has always worked this way. This isn't something that has only happened recently during this new sequel era. It isn't something Disney adopted themselves. 

 

This is Lucasfilm's status quo. This was George's status quo.



 

Since 1976 (because the Star Wars novelization was published in 1976), Star Wars ancillary material (back then we called them movie tie-ins) have always added finer points to whatever we see in the movies. 

 

Following the Star Wars novelization came Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, potentially a cheap  sequel of Star Wars in book form, in case the original film had been a dud financially. 

 

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye reduces our returning cast of characters from 1977's Star Wars down to five: Luke, Leia, Threepio and Artoo crash land on the planet Mimban, where the Empire is mining “Kaiburr” crystals. Luke and Leia have to deal with Imperials and Darth Vader, who, following a lightsaber duel with Luke and Leia (in which he loses an arm), falls into a pit. Luke and Leia depart, but Luke has a sense they have not heard the last of Vader. 

 


 

The Han Solo Adventures book series followed, consisting of Han Solo at Stars' End, published in 1978, Han Solo's Revenge, published in 1979, and Han Solo and the Lost Legacy, published in August of 1980, three months after the initial theatrical release of The Empire Strikes Back. 

 

These were followed by The Lando Calrissian Adventures book series in 1983, consisting of Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu, published close to two months after the initial theatrical release of Return of the Jedi on May 25, 1983, Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Oseon, published in October of 1983, and Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka, published in December of 1983. 

 

This was followed, in pronounced fashion, in 1991, with the emergence of the Expanded Universe. 

 

So, it's a foregone conclusion, after the announcement in 2012 of new Star Wars films, that more ancillary novels were going to be published, whether Disney owned Lucasfilm or not, and they were always going to expand on what the movies give us. It has nothing to do with what anyone might believe the movies failed to accomplish. All the ancillary material does is add depth to whatever information we've already gotten from the movies, miniscule as it may or may not be, and if you choose not to consult any of that ancillary material, the movies can still get their point across perfectly fine without it. But if you do choose to consult the ancillary material, it can help expand your outlook on what happens in the movies with added context. 

 

What kind of added context?

 

The Star Wars novelization, credited to George Lucas but ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster, and titled Star WarsFrom the Adventures of Luke Skywalker before it was rechristened Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, opens with an excerpt “from the first saga,” The Journal of the Whills, giving us pertinent information on the Old Republic, the Senate, the Jedi, and Senator Palpatine, who co-opted the Old Republic to get himself elected Chancellor, then concocted a scheme to declare himself Emperor, exterminate the Jedi and subjugate the galaxy. Basically, this was the plot for the prequels. No one knew anything about any prequels in 1977, though. If you wanted to receive any of this background, you needed to read this prologue. Scenes shot but left out of the film were also chronicled in the novelization. In one scene, Luke rushes to Anchorhead to tell his friends Camie and Laze about the ensuing space battle he noticed above Tatooine, bumping into best friend Biggs Darklighter along the way. As the scene progresses, Biggs admits to Luke his plan to join the rebellion against the Empire. Yet another scene (a scene that was reinstated in the Star WarsSpecial Edition) involves Han and Chewie coming across Jabba the Hutt and his entourage on their way to the Millennium Falcon, in which Jabba threatens Han with a price on his head for dumping contraband. In the novelization, Jabba was just a big, shaggy, humanoid tough guy, as he was in the early, unused footage. It wasn't until Return of the Jedi when he'd be reconceived as a slug-like creature modeled after the actor Sydney Greenstreet (Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon).

 

There are aspects to Star Wars all fans seem to take for granted today, that you really wouldn't know unless you read novelizations, read comic books, collected the action figures, or listened to the radio. 

 

We all know Princess Leia's ship, the one being chased by Vader's Star Destroyer when A New Hope begins, as either the Tantive IV, the blockade runner or the Corellian Corvette. 

 

The ship is never referred to as the Tantive IV, the blockade runner or the Corellian Corvette in A New Hope. It is referred to as the Tantive IV in the Star Wars novelization, West End Games refers to it as a Corellian Corvette, and several marketing materials refer to the ship as the blockade runner. 

 

Sith Lord is very common Star Wars terminology. It refers to a master in the dark side of the Force. 

 

The term Sith Lord never appeared once in the entire original Star Wars trilogy. It almost did. In the senior staff meeting on the Death Star in A New Hope, when Grand Moff Tarkin (whose rank is never mentioned in the film, and we wouldn't know what a Grand Moff was even if it were) announces the dissolution of the Senate, General Tagge (whose name and rank is never uttered in the film) had a line where he would've said, “This Sith Lord  sent by the Emperor will be our undoing,” before saying, “Until this battle station is fully operational, we are vulnerable,” but the line was cut. Until the prequels officially canonized it, the term could be found in novelizations, Marvel Comics, and virtually all other forms of ancillary material, including action figure packaging. 

 


All the fascinating denizens of the Mos Eisley cantina in A New Hope had names. All the bounty hunters Darth Vader hired to track down the Millenium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back have names. Save for Boba Fett, you wouldn't know any of them (at the time both films were released, and for years afterwards) unless you consulted the ancillary materials or collected the action figures. 

 

Vader's flagship is the Star Destroyer Devastator in A New Hope and the Super Star Destroyer Executor in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. They are never mentioned by name in either film. 

 

The novelization of The Phantom Menace gives us a history of the Sith and establishes Darth Bane as the originator of the Sith Rule of Two. 

 

Also in the Phantom Menace novelization is a moment where Anakin comes across an injured  Tusken Raider, stuck under a boulder. Anakin helps the wounded Tusken, sets his broken leg in a splint, stays with him overnight while he recuperates, and even has Threepio translate to him that he means him no harm. It makes for an interesting dichotomy once we get to Anakin's massacre at the Tusken camp in Attack of the Clones. 

 

We even get a much more detailed introduction to the Lars family in the Attack of the Clones novelization.

 

The Revenge of the Sith novelization suggests the way Palpatine's face changes is not due to an effect Force lightning ricocheted off Mace Windu's lightsaber has on the Chancellor. Rather, it reveals Palpatine's true appearance. Once Palpatine disposes of Mace, he tells Anakin, "I shall miss the face of Palpatine, but the face of Sidious will serve."

 


 

Ian McDiarmid confirms this is what happened in an interview with Empire magazine in 2005:

 

"[George Lucas] said this casually, 'You should think of Palpatine's eyes as contact lenses...' So there's Palpatine's eyes and my eyes and that was very interesting. So, in fact, his face, which is the same as mine, was the unreal aspect. My own face was the mask. And then when I get into the mask, that is the evil person - that's the real face.”

 

The question becomes: Do we need any of this information in the films for the films to work? Is it necessary? Is it vital? Not really. It would've been nice if certain things had been included, but the movies still work without their inclusion.  Would it be beneficial to know these things, at least peripherally? Absolutely! 

 

And that's why it's nice to have ancillary material. 

 

Not only that, some of the backstory you'd find in the novelizations also found itself being retconned once the prequels rolled around. In the Return of the Jedi novelization, for instance, Obi-Wan calls Owen Lars his brother, which isn't the case at all once we get to Attack of the Clones

 

So, that's one thing I can say about ancillary material: It is always subject to change. 

 

Like the Expanded Universe. 

 

Roughly ten years after Return of the Jedi was released, George Lucas commissioned a whole new book series chronicling Luke, Han and Leia's adventures following the events of the original trilogy, beginning with Timothy Zahn's Thrawn books: Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command. Dark Horse Comics acquired the comics license around the same time. This Expanded Universe encompassed any form of the franchise that wasn't the movies. 

 

The principle here was the same as the principle  behind Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. If George was never going to be able to produce Star Wars sequels, this Expanded Universe would suffice. Let's not pretend otherwise, the Expanded Universe was never what George had in mind for his intended sequels. He kept those ideas to himself just in case the time came when he could use them. Just like Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, in lieu of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. 

 

This has all happened before, you know? And it was all happening again. 

 

In the Expanded Universe, we're introduced to many new exotic villains. Han and Leia get married and have kids. Luke gets married to Mara Jade, the Emperor's personal assassin. The Emperor is cloned. Luke turns to the dark side. And Chewbacca dies when a moon falls on him. 

 

Quite an interesting turn of events, wouldn't you say?

 

Here's the thing, though: 

 

George NEVER considered the Expanded Universe canon. 

 

Not at all. Not even a little bit.

 

The only purpose of the Expanded Universe was to continue the stories of those characters in lieu of possible prequels and sequels. According to the guest editorial Did George Lucas Consider the Expanded Universe Canon? on StarWarsNewsNet.com, Val Trichkov points out, not only was the Expanded Universe never officially spoken of as canon, when Disney bought Lucasfilm and issued a press release saying no new films would be dependent upon anything in the EU, nowhere does it say anything was being decanonized. 

 

And why not? 

 

Because it was never canon. 

 

Trichkov says:

 

Rather than announcing the decanonization of the EU (after all, you can’t “decanonize” what was never canon to begin with), Lucasfilm simply announced that the EU would be rebranded as Legends, and from then on, all novels, comic books, video games, and television shows will be on the same level of canon as the films and The Clone Wars.

 

The misunderstanding that “Disney decanonized the EU” seems to be the result of two factors; people getting their information from second-hand sources (rather than read the press release itself), and the long-standing myth that George Lucas himself gave tacit approval for the canonical status of the Expanded Universe.

 

The argument typically goes; Lucas set guidelines for what not to cover in licensed media (for example; prior to the prequels, authors weren’t allowed to write about Anakin Skywalker prior to becoming Darth Vader). Anything that fell within those guidelines thus received Lucas’ blessing as a canonical part of the Star Wars universe.

 

But to get the most authoritative answer, one would have to seek out the maker himself. 

 

Val Trichkov points out:

 

However, one Lucasfilm employee is very rarely quoted in the above compilation; George Lucas himself. Of the many quotes compiled to “arm [EU defenders] with facts”, George Lucas is only quoted twice; in a foreword to a reprinting of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (where he expresses amazement in the fact that “so many gifted writers are contributing new stories to the Star WarsSaga”), and a foreword to “Monsters and Aliens from George Lucas” (where he doesn’t bring up the EU at all; the quote was about concept art and modeling for creatures described in film/television scripts).

 

In isolation, the quote from the Splinter foreword does appear to indicate that the various stories of the EU do indeed contribute to Lucas’ Star Wars Saga. Had this been the only thing he ever said about the subject, there would be no reason to cast doubt on any of the statements made by those who work in Lucas Licensing.

 

However, this was far from the only statement made by George Lucas about whether or not the EU fit into his conception of the Star Wars universe; Whenever he’s explicitly asked about his views on the EU, Lucas makes it clear that he views the Expanded Universe as separate from the one he created.

 

"There are two worlds here; There’s my world, which is the movies, and there’s this other world that has been created, which I say is the parallel universe—the licensing world of the books, games and comic books.” – George Lucas, Cinescape, July 2001

 

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.” – George Lucas, Starlog, August 2005

 

The “we” Lucas referred to in the Starlog interview likely refers to himself and Howard Roffman, President of Lucas Licensing from 1999 to 2012, as Lucas recounts here:

 

Howard tries to be consistent but sometimes he goes off on tangents and it’s hard to hold him back. He once said to me that there are two Star Trek universes: there’s the TV show and then there’s all the spin-offs. He said that these were completely different and didn’t have anything to do with each other. So I said, ‘OK, go ahead.’” – George Lucas, Total Film, May 2007

 

Keep in mind, this is the same Howard Roffman who had said that the books and games all contributed to the same Star Wars Saga! In private, he assured Lucas that, like Star Trek, the universes of the Expanded Universe and Lucas’ universe would be kept separate, yet publicly, he’s saying that the universes are one and the same. Clearly, there’s some deception taking place, either against Lucas, or against fans.

 

Leland Chee, the Keeper of the Holocron (Star Wars internal encyclopedia manager), who was previously adamant that there was no “parallel Star Wars universes” (in direct contradiction to Lucas’ statements), later conceded that George Lucas’ canon was separate from what he was overseeing with the licensing world.

 

“[Lucas’] canon – and when I say, ‘his canon’, I’m talking about what he was doing in the films and what he was doing in The Clone Wars – was hugely important. But what we were doing in the books really wasn’t on his radar.” –Leland Chee, SyFy’s “Fandom Files #13”, January 2018

 

While many EU fans cite Lucas’ involvement with the EU as evidence for his canonical support, these claims are largely exaggerated, with Chee stating that Lucas “for the most part, was hands off.”

 

Despite being the moderator of all Star Wars lore, and having once argued in favor of the EU being part of Lucas’ world, Leland did not work very closely with Lucas himself, unlike Dave Filoni (supervising director on The Clone Wars, and Lucas’ padawan learner):

 

“I did not have direct contact with George about Star Wars continuity. Dave Filoni, who worked on Clone Wars, definitely did. So for me, the spirit of George’s work is what’s in the films, and it doesn’t go too far beyond that.” –Leland Chee, SyFy’s “Fandom Files #13”, January 2018

 

Which would make Dave Filoni better equipped to relay Lucas’ true feelings about the EU:

 

For me and my training here at Lucasfilm, working with George, he and I always thought the Expanded Universe was just that. It was an expanded universe. Basically it’s stories that are really fun and really exciting, but they’re a view on Star Wars, not necessarily canon to him.That was the way it was from the day I walked into Lucasfilm with him all through Clone Wars, everything we worked on, he felt the Clone Wars series and his movies were what was actually the reality of it all, the canon, then there was everything else. So it wasn’t a big dynamic shift for me mentally when there was this big announcement saying the EU is now Legends. I’m like, ‘Okay, well, it’s kind of the same thing to me because that's the way I work.’” –Dave Filoni, ComicBook.com, September 2017  

 

In 2019, on The Star Wars Show, Dave explained further:

 

“It's a funny thing having been here a while and actually telling Star Wars stories.  I'm in a very odd, unique position, which is that there's this notion that everything changed when everything became Legends, and I can see why people think that, but you know, having worked with George, I can tell you that he made it very clear that the films and the tv shows were the only thing that he considered canon. That was it. So everything else was a world of fun ideas, exciting characters, great possibilities, but the EU was created to explore all those things, and I know and I fully respect people's opinions. But from the filmmaking world that I was brought into, the tv series, the films, were it.  They were set in stone. So it was not a big change for me when Lucasfilm was saying everything was Legends status now. I'm, like, yeah, that's what I’ve always understood. It's all Legends status. But what I've been able to do on Clone Wars is the same thing George was doing in the prequels. Which is… Aayla Secura. Aayla Secura is pulled out of the comics and now she's walking around the Jedi temple. In Clone Wars there were several things from the Expanded Universe, that, you know, we need a gang… we need another kind of mafia group, not just the Hutts. Okay… Black Sun. What about Black Sun? Let's look at that. That exists. And I've always leaned towards the… if we're going to create something, we should check to see if it existed already for the fans. Because it has way more value if we bring that in. Why would I just replace it with something new? So if we're going to do an Admiral, if we're going to do a big military leader, yeah, I could create a new guy, sure. But what about Thrawn? Thrawn is great. Thrawn is a character we all know. Thrawn has a lot of credibility. So then you ask yourself: Is it right to use him, and can we use him in a way that's similar to the books? Or are we using him and is it going to go all the way into left field? And there have been times when we've wanted to use things from the EU, and I said, yeah, but we can use it that way, so I'm not going to use it and change it. I don't want to use it and do something that's completely different. That's rude. 

 

But for many devoutly passionate Expanded Universe fans, this is hard to accept. 

 

 A conspiracy theory, common among EU purists, claims that the reason Lucasfilm employees, such as Leland Chee, began backtracking from their previous assertions (that Lucas’ world and the licensing world were one and the same) is due to a deliberate misinformation campaign by Disney and Kathleen Kennedy, to sweep the EU under the rug.

 

However, weeks before the Disney deal was announced, and before Kathleen Kennedy officially became President of Lucasfilm, Del Rey published “The Essential Reader’s Companion”, a reference guide that summarized all Expanded Universe books in chronological order. In it, author Pablo Hidalgo reiterated what Lucas had been saying all along:

 

The most definitive canon of the Star Wars universe is encompassed by the feature films and television productions in which George Lucas is directly involved. The movies and the Clone Wars television series are what he and his handpicked writers reference when adding cinematic adventures to the Star Wars oeuvre. But Lucas allows for an Expanded Universe that exists parallel to the one he directly oversees. […] Though these [Expanded Universe] stories may get his stamp of approval, they don’t enter his canon unless they are depicted cinematically in one of his projects.” – Pablo Hidalgo, Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion October 2nd, 2012

 

George has also been quoted by other sources about how he differentiated between the films and the EU:

 

And now there have been novels about the events after Episode VI, which isn’t at all what I would have done with it. The Star Warsstory is really the tragedy of Darth Vader. That is the story. Once Vader dies, he doesn’t come back to life, the Emperor doesn’t get cloned and Luke doesn’t get married… -- George Lucas, Flannelled One, 2008

 

TV Guide: Yet novelists have written “Star Wars” sequels using the same characters and extending their stories.

 

George Lucas: Oh, sure. They’re done outside my little universe. “Star Wars” has had a lot of different lives that have been worked on by a lot of different people. It works without me.” -- George Lucas, Flannelled One, November 2001 — TV Guide interview

 

“Q: Do you supervise the development of all the off-movie stories? After all, Star Wars exists in books, comics.

 

A: “You know, I try not to think about that. I have my own world in movies, and I follow it.” — George Lucas, Flannelled One, July 2002 — From TheForce.Net

 

Everybody said, ‘Oh, well, there was a war between the Jedi and the Sith.’ Well, that never happened. That’s just made up by fans or somebody. What really happened is, the Sith ruled the universe for a while, 2000 years ago. Each Sith has an apprentice, but the problem was, each Sith Lord got to be powerful. And the Sith Lords would try to kill each other because they all wanted to be the most powerful. So in the end they killed each other off, and there wasn’t anything left.

 

“But anyway, there’s a whole matrix of backstory that has never really come out. It’s really just history that I gathered up along the way.

 

“It’s all based on backstories that I’d written setting up what the Jedi were, setting up what the Sith were, setting up what the Empire was, setting up what the Republic was, and how it all fit together.

 

”I don’t even read the offshoot books that come out based on Star Wars.” -- George Lucas, Flannelled One, July 1999 — Film Night interview

 

“So if we’ll never see it onscreen, what does happen to Princess Leia and Han Solo after they fall in love?”

 

”Han and Leia probably did get married,” Lucas conceded. ”They settled down. She became a senator, and they got a nice little house with a white picket fence. Han Solo is out there cooking burgers on the grill. Is that a movie? I don’t think so.” -- George Lucas, Flannelled One, May 2005 — MTV interview

 

The Expanded Universe was never canon at any point in time. Lucas made it very clear that he was not beholden to the EU, and it was literally a different, parallel Star Wars universe. He did occasionally take elements from the EU, however, peppering them into the canon wherever they might fit, when the need arose. Names, planets, an alien race… that sort of thing. 

 

The Rodian species, from which Greedo is derived, appeared in Galaxy Guide 1, and appeared in George’s handwritten PhantomMenace scripts and Phantom Menace production notes. 

 


The planet Coruscant comes from Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy. Before the Thrawn books, George called the central world of the Republic Had Abbadon.

 

The Aurebesh language form and the Jedi Code come from West End Games. The Hutts being a species rather than a gangster designation also comes from West End Games.

 

There is a Boonta Speeder Race in an episode of the Droids cartoon, “A Race to the Finish,” which is certainly where the Boonta Eve podrace in The Phantom Menace was derived.

 

Prince Xizor from Shadows of the Empire is a spectator at the Boonta Eve podrace. 

 

Ben Quadinaros’ species, the Toong, comes from Droids, and his home planet, Tund, gets namedropped in The Lando Calrissian Adventures book series, and appears in Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka.

 

Shmi, Qui-Gon, Padme, and Jar Jar watch the podrace on a datapad. Datapads were used in Heir to the Empire and have been in other Expanded Universe novels since.

 

Exar Kun, from Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi - Dark Lords of the Sith and Tales of the Jedi: The Sith War comic books, was the first to wield a double-bladed lightsaber. 

 

In The Phantom Menace, Mace Windu refers to the "mystery of the Sith," which harkens back to the video game Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith. In that game, Mara Jade wields a purple lightsaber, as we see Mace Windu use in the prequels, although this was due to a personal request made by Samuel L. Jackson to George Lucas. 

 

Aayla Secura was introduced in Star Wars: Republic: Twilight, released after The Phantom Menace.

 

Action VI transports were established in Heir to the Empire with the Wild Karrde, Talon Karrde's flagship. Action VI transports can also be seen arriving at the Theed Spaceport in Attack of the Clones.

 

Obi-Wan refers to the Rishi Maze in Attack of the Clones. Rishi is a planet introduced in Dark Force Rising. 

 

Jango Fett refers to the swamp planet of Bogden. The swamp planet of Bogden comes from the Droids episode, “The Revenge of Kybo Ren.”

 

Jedi Knights Luminara Unduli and Barriss Offee were introduced in the novels Cloak of Deception by James Luceno and The Approaching Storm by Alan Dean Foster. They appear in Attack of the Clones as part of the team sent to rescue Anakin, Obi-Wan and Padmé.

 

Obi-Wan blocks Dooku's Force lightning with his lightsaber. Luke blocks Joruus C'baoth's lightning in The Last Command.

 

Swoop bikes from Shadows of the Empire turn up in the Star Wars Special Edition. 

 

And those are only a few examples. 

 

Nevertheless, George remained very outspoken about how he regarded Expanded Universe elements. 

 

STARLOG: “The Star Wars Universe is so large and diverse. Do you ever find yourself confused by the subsidiary material that’s in the novels, comics, and other offshoots?”

 

LUCAS: “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.… 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. (Starlog, August 2005)

 

“There are two worlds here,” explained Lucas. “There’s my world, which is the movies, and there’s this other world that has been created, which I say is the parallel universe — the licensing world of the books, games, and comic books. They don’t intrude on my world, which is a select period of time, [but] they do intrude in between the movies.[In their universe. Even in their Universe he did not permit them to do anything that took place at the same time as his things, as his things also took place in their universe] I don’t get too involved in the parallel universe” – George Lucas, Cinescape, 2002

 

And now there have been novels about the events after Episode VI, which isn’t at all what I would have done with it. The Star Warsstory is really the tragedy of Darth Vader. That is the story. Once Vader dies, he doesn’t come back to life, the Emperor doesn’t get cloned and Luke doesn’t get married…” – George Lucas, Flannelled One, 2008 

 

The novels and comic books are other authors’ interpretations of my creation. Sometimes, I tell them what they can, and can’t do, but I just don’t have the time to read them all. They’re not my vision of what Star Wars is.” – George Lucas 2004

 

George was never sure there would be prequels or sequels after the original trilogy. If there were, he had ideas on what they'd entail. The ideas were always going to deviate from what the Expanded Universe covered, at least in most respects. That's not to say George wouldn't cherry pick aspects of the Expanded Universe he decided he liked, or elements he knew the fans liked. He did that liberally, with the prequels and with his animated series. 

 

But major, expanded story elements from the EU were never going to be the overarching stories for the sequels, or elements of the backstory for the prequels. And when Disney acquired Lucasfilm, they wanted to make it clear to fans the Expanded Universe wasn't canon, so they made a public announcement to cement the point, and not only was the Expanded Universe stopped and any new pressings of that cycle rechristened Legends, any new ancillary material released after that would be considered official canon. But ancillary material can be a complicated thing. Sometimes what you read in new canon books isn't always followed explicitly in the movies. I've come to look at it this way: If the books say it, it's ancillary canon. If the movies contradict ancillary canon, it isn't canon anymore. Because the movies will always be canon, while ancillary material is only cannon pursuant to the movies recognizing them as canon. 

 

Trichkov is very explicit about where George drew a line:

 

While it’s true that Lucas included many elements from the EU in the films and The Clone Wars (the city planet of Coruscant, featured prominently in the prequels, was taken from Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy), it’s also true that Lucas ignored large swaths of what the EU established (the very same Thrawn Trilogy established that the clones were fighting against the Republic in the Clone Wars). Jedi Master Even Piel died during the Season 3 Clone Wars episode “Citadel Rescue” (2011), despite appearing in the post-EPIII novel Coruscant Nights I: Jedi Twilight (2008). Most egregiously, The Clone Wars’ portrayal of the planet Mandalore was wildly different from what Karen Traviss had previously established in her then-ongoing Republic/Imperial Commando series of novels, leading to the series’ cancellation, as well as outcry from fans.

 

Whereas Lucas had been very explicit in how the licensing world of the EU was a “parallel universe” from his film universe, George Lucas took a very different attitude when it came to The Clone Wars animated series:

 

This is Star Wars, and I don’t make a distinction between [The Clone Wars] series and the films.” –George Lucas, SciFiNow, October 2011

 

As vocal as George has been about how he viewed the Expanded Universe, and as often as Dave Filoni and others at Lucasfilm have been vocal about how George deemed the Expanded Universe, it all seems to have either fallen on deaf ears, or the fan base congregating on the social media space has just decided not to believe it; as if they believe Disney has forced all of them – including George, who doesn't even work for Disney and is currently retired – to lie and participate in a campaign of revisionist history. The popular opinion on social media has skewed to the conspiratorial perspective, that the Expanded Universe was canon, and Disney just bum-rushed Lucasfilm indiscriminately and decanonized it to spite the fans, who they depend on to keep their jobs. 

 

That's a fascinating perspective… except it isn't true. Because those of us who have been around since the beginning know that the historical record hasn't changed… hasn't been rewritten, either. 

 

In 2019, after The Rise of Skywalker was released in theaters, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Kathleen Kennedy commented on the creative process involved in forging new stories in the Star Wars universe:

 

Every one of these movies is a particularly hard nut to crack. There’s no source material. We don’t have comic books. We don’t have 800-page novels. We don’t have anything other than passionate storytellers who get together and talk about what the next iteration might be. 

 

Pundits, armchair critics, and extremely vocal fans took immediate umbrage with her comment, taking her to task, presuming Kennedy had somehow forgotten there was a treasure trove of ancillary material under the Star Wars umbrella they thought was ripe for mining. What she said has since been mocked and memed to death. And while I think what she said and how she chose to say it was worded rather poorly…

 

She isn't wrong. 

 

There isn't any source material under the Star Wars umbrella ripe for mining. 

 

There's canon material. There's non-canon material. But there's no source material. 

 

And by source material, I mean any ancillary material that is freely available to adapt faithfully and completely as a movie or episodic series. 

 

Are there comic books? Sure, there are comic books. 

 

Are there eight-hundred-page novels? Sure, there are novels. I don't have them all lying out in front of me to clarify their page counts, but there are certainly novels. A veritable ton of them. 

 

But they're not source material.

 

I've already covered how George regarded the Expanded Universe. He never considered the Expanded Universe canon, and the scenarios presented in the Expanded Universe were never what he would have done or what he has done while working on projects within the Star Wars milieu. Judging by what we've heard Dave Filoni and other creatives at Lucasfilm say, there's no indication anyone involved isn't interested in continuing to honor George’s wishes or his philosophy on how Star Wars is treated. Adapting any full novel or full comic in the Expanded Universe verbatim would go against everything George ever wanted Star Wars to be. And by now, it would be impossible to cover anything in the Expanded Universe verbatim, because Star Wars has already begun to forge its new path. 

 

But George has cherry-picked from the EU. Cherry-picking elements from the EU is totally fair because George has done that in the past. And that's why we continue to notice EU elements turn up in new movies and shows. 

 

For instance:

 

Han and Leia's son turns to the dark side.

 

There's a New Republic. In the Expanded Universe, the New Republic remains on Coruscant. In canon, it has moved to Hosnian Prime. 

 

The New Republic turns a blind eye to a radicalized Imperial uprising, in the Expanded Universe and in canon. 

 

Darth Vader’s castle – on Vjun in the Expanded Universe, on Mustafar in the movies and shows, and part of Ralph McQuarrie's unused concept art for decades – is finally canon now. 

 

Luke Skywalker opens a new Jedi Academy, in the Expanded Universe and in canon.

 

Interdictor-class Star Destroyers are seen in Rebels and The Last Jedi. 

 

Gilad Pallaeon, Grand Admiral Thrawn's second in command in the novel Heir to the Empire, appears in Rebels and The Mandalorian. 

 

Rukh, Grand Admiral Thrawn's personal bodyguard, featured in the Thrawn Trilogy of novels, has now appeared in Rebels. 

 

The TIE/D starfighter from the LucasArts video game Star Wars: TIE Fighter has now appeared on Rebels and new canon video games. 

 

Sith world Malachor, featured in Rebels and in canon novels, first appeared in Knights of the Old Republic video games. 

 

A Mon Calamari engineer has been credited with designing the B-wing starfighter, a respectable nod Admiral Ackbar, who designed the B-wing in the Expanded Universe. 

 

In the Expanded Universe, the theft of the Death Star plans was laid out in a series of missions known as Operation Skyhook, which culminated in the Battle of Toprawa in the Star Wars radio dramas, the book Rebel Dawn, written by A.C. Crispin, and the role-playing game Jedi Dawn. This has been simplified by the prequel film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, with the Battle of Scarif. Both battles involve a Rebel team infiltrating an Imperial base, transmitting the plans to an orbiting Rebel ship, and the Rebel team dying before they can escape. 

 

In the Dark Empire comic, Luke astral projects onto the Millenium Falcon while he's simultaneously on the Deep Core world of Byss. This ability is also documented in a book, The Jedi Path. In The Last Jedi, Luke uses this ability to confront and distract Kylo Ren, and dies as a result.

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story dips into the EU quite a bit. Han was a member of the Imperial Starfighter Corps in both Solo and the Expanded Universe. He's reassigned to the Imperial Army in Solo and shipped off to Mimban, named after the planet Luke, Leia, Threepio and Artoo land on in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. Han's mentor in the Expanded Universe, Garris Shrike, inspired two characters in Solo that lead Han along his path: Lady Proxima and Tobias Beckett. Han's successful navigation of the Kessel Run and the Maw in Solo also come from the Han Solo Adventures. In the Expanded Universe, the Maw is a series of black holes, whereas in Solo, it's a single black hole. Han's Expanded Universe love interest, Bria Tharen, seems to have been the basis for not only Jyn Erso in Rogue One, but Qi'Ra in Solo as well. Bria joined the Rebellion, while Qi'Ra joined Crimson Dawn. Bria is involved with the team that steals the Death Star plans on Toprawa, transmits the data to Princess Leia's Corellian Corvette, and dies, just like Jyn. 

 

Palpatine is resurrected into a clone body in Dark Empire, as well as in the sequel trilogy. 

 

The Emperor is the father of a human-Umbaran hybrid in the Expanded Universe, who rejects the Sith and has a child that becomes a Jedi. In The Rise of Skywalker (film and novelization)it's established that a strandcast of the Emperor, a clone treated as a son, named Dathan, rejects the Sith and has a daughter, Rey, who becomes a Jedi and confronts her grandfather, ultimately (and presumably) killing him. 

 

In Dark Empire, Palpatine has been hiding a backup Imperial fringe group, called, appropriately enough, the Dark Empire, on the Deep Core world of Byss. In The Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine has been hiding a backup Imperial fringe group, called The Final Order, on the Sith world Exegol, in the Unknown Regions, where they have built world-destroying Xyston-class Star Destroyers, as opposed to the Eclipse flagships in the Expanded Universe. 

 

Sith acolyte Asajj Ventress (who is now a Dathomir native instead of a Rattataki), the Death Watch terrorist faction, V-19 Torrent starfighters, and reimagined versions of the battles of Kamino and Mon Calamari, have all become canon in The Clone Wars. 

 

Grand Admiral Thrawn, the central antagonist of Timothy Zahn’s sequel novel trilogy, became a canonical character with his introduction in The Clone Wars, and has since become a live-action canonical character in the series Ahsoka. 

 

It is revealed in Dark Empire that Boba Fett survived the Sarlacc pit. Boba Fett's survival is made canonical in The Mandalorian andThe Book of Boba Fett series. 

 

Dathomir, home to the Sith witches, comes from the PC game Star Wars: Rebellion. It features heavily in Star Wars: Rebels as the homeworld of Darth Maul and Asajj Ventress. 

 

Kaiburr crystals in the Expanded Universe became kyber crystals in canon. 

 

Dark Troopers, introduced in the game Star Wars: Dark Forces, have now been featured in The Mandalorian. 

 

Mandalore, the homeworld of the Mandalorians, first appeared in the 1983 Marvel comic Star Wars #68 and was introduced into canon with “The Mandalore Plot,” the twelfth episode in Season Two of The Clone Wars

 

Beskar, the blaster-resistant and lightsaber-proof Mandalorian iron, was first mentioned in a 2006 Star Wars Insider article, The Mandalorians: People and Culture, written by Karen Traviss. Before that, it was known as Mandalorian iron in the comic Freedon Nadd Uprising. It was first introduced unnamed, appearing as nothing more than Mandalorian manacles, in the comic Tales of the Jedi 5. Boba Fett's armor was previously established as being made of durasteel, but The Mandalorian Chapter 14, “The Tragedy,” retconned the Fett armor into being made of beskar.

 

Force healing first appeared in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. 

 

Force drain, healing ability of the Sith, first appeared in the Dark Horse Comic Darth Maul—Son of Dathomir, Part Four. 

 

Immobilizer 418 Cruisers, which use gravity-well projectors to prevent hyperspace travel, were first mentioned in the Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game supplement The Star Wars Rules Companion, then Heir to the Empire, and was first mentioned in canon continuity with the novel Tarkin

 

Ryloth, the homeworld of the Twi’lek species, was first mentioned in the 1987's The Star Wars Sourcebook. 

 

Holocrons first appeared in Dark Empire.

 

Life Day, the Wookie holiday made famous by the Star Wars Holiday Special, has now been mentioned in canon novels and The Mandalorian. 

 

Mag-Pulse warheads, appeared in the video game Star Wars: TIE Fighter, and have since been mentioned in canon novels and The Force Awakens.

 

Crossguard lightsabers first appeared in the 2002 comic Jango Fett: Open Seasons Issue #3 and the 2004 comic book Republic #61. 

 

Hammerhead Corvettes, basically a Corellian Corvette with a hammerhead, appeared in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and featured in Rogue One and Rebels.

 

Teräs Käsi, a deadly martial art established in the novel Shadows of the Empire, and became the basis of its own video game, Masters of Teras Kasi. 

 

Sovereign Protectors were Palpatine’s guards in Dark Empire and were featured in The Rise of Skywalker.

 

TIE Scouts, hyperspace-equipped TIE fighters, were introduced in Heir to the Empire and made their canon debut in The Rise of Skywalker.

 

And, of course, we're going to notice canon ancillary elements as well. Since they're canon, there's a necessity to maintain a sense of continuity, so referencing ancillary canon is expected and legitimate. 

 

But adapting ancillary canon would be redundant, and there's a good reason why it's redundant.

 

It's redundant because it's already canon. 

 

The argument I hear frequently is this one: Why can't Star Wars do what Marvel does? Marvel Studios adapts the comics all the time! Can't they follow the Marvel model?

 

No. They can't. 

 

Why?

 

Because it's not the same thing. 

 

Marvel Comics aren't part of Marvel Studios canon. That's what frees Marvel Studios up and allows them to adapt comic runs and comic story arcs into their own movies. The comics are separate from the movies, which makes it easier for the stories in the comics to become adaptable material for movies. Star Wars doesn't have that luxury because their ancillary material is already canon. And that being said, Marvel doesn't even adapt the comics faithfully half the time. The movies follow their own path, and when they've decided to cover popular story arcs in the comics in the movies, they tweak those stories to work within the framework of the movies. Because the movies have forged their own path outside of the comics, so when they want to cover something from the comics, it has to conform to the stories already established in the movies. 

 

So no, it's not the same thing. 

 

And besides…

 

Why would Lucasfilm waste the time and money and resources to transfer what's already canon within the Star Wars universe in one canonical form to another canonical form, when it's already part of the canon? Is it somehow not official if it's not a movie or a show? Look, it's as official as it's gonna get -- it's canon. Whether it's a movie or TV show, a novel, a comic, or a video game: it's canon. And unless whatever somebody wants to do in the movies or the shows contradicts what appears in a novel, comic, or game, they’re all going to remain canon. 

 

Is it really so against the grain to read a book, read a comic, or indulge in video games? 

 

A universe as vast as the Star Wars universe should be able to cross over into other platforms. It allows us to engage with what we love, rather than just letting it glaze over us lazily. Eventually it all ties into the movies anyway, so adapting it isn't really an imperative. 

 

Star Wars has always worked this way. This isn't something that has only happened recently during this new sequel era. It isn't something Disney adopted themselves. 

 

This is Lucasfilm's status quo. This was George's status quo.

 

It's ancillary material. Let it stay ancillary material. 

 

We'll touch on ancillary material again moving forward, but for now let's get back to The Force Awakens and Lor San Tekka. 

 

 

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