“…you must unlearn what you have learned!” – Yoda, Empire Strikes Back.
There are only a few franchises that I have followed feverishly over the years. Since childhood, Star Wars has been one of them. After renting both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi an ungodly among of times from the video store around age 10, needless to say, I’ve been completely hooked ever since. I have consumed everything Star Wars I could get my hands on; from comics, to novels and of course…video games! I literally soaked it up like a sponge, as I simply couldn’t get enough. The back-stories and side-adventures have come to make up what Star Wars fans lovingly refer to as the “Expanded Universe.”
Problem was; by “expanding” the galaxy of far, far away…things became increasingly more complicated.
There a certainly different levels of Star Wars fans out there. Some (like me) try to reconcile all the different plots and character archs of the EU with the original trilogy. Others have never bothered with any of the extra materials and stick to watching only the sanctioned Lucas films. If you happen to fall into that second category, you may be shocked to find that the story you think you know has changed significantly over the years. For example you probably assume that Boba Fett died in the Sarlacc Pit at the beginning of Return of the Jedi right? Wrong. In a series of Bounty Hunter novels released years later, the EU tells the tale of how he escaped using one of his thermal detonators and was nursed back to health by Dengar (a fellow scoundrel). You also probably think that the Emperor bit the big one when Vader chucked him down that energy shaft on the Death Star right? Wrong again. While he technically did die, he later returns via a secret cloning facility (and even manages to turn Luke to the dark side for a time). These are just two examples, as the Expanded Universe blows these doors wide open. Where things got sticky, is that for years George Lucas refused to incorporate the EU into his works, thus causing a rift. We were essentially left with two sides of the same coin: one universe that existed just as we saw in the films. The other included both the films and the EU. As you can image, trying to make sense of what was considered “canon” is still a long standing topic of debate amongst fanboys.
But with the Disney buyout comes a new day, and thankfully, a new beginning.
It would appear that the NEW Lucasflim (sans Uncle George’s involvement) has decided on a definitive line in the sand for how to move forward with both the film continuity, and the massive amounts of content contributed by other writers and artists. In a recent press release, they have revealed that ALL EU content is now 100% canon moving forward. To paraphrase, their statement reads, “For over 35 years, the Expanded Universe has enriched the Star Wars experience for fans seeking to continue the adventure beyond what is seen on the screen…Now, with an exciting future filled with new cinematic installments of Star Wars, all aspects of "Star Wars" storytelling moving forward will be connected. Under Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy's direction, the company for the first time ever has formed a story group to oversee and coordinate all Star Wars creative development.”
In a nutshell, the lengthy explanation (which you can read in full here) boils down to this: all the new EU from this point on is going to be kept under the same umbrella and not allowed to be splintered off into so many varying pieces. This will allow them to control the narrative of the story and characters in order to ensure that nothing seen in a video game or read in a comic contradicts the new film’s timeline (giving everything a consistent “through-thread”). Unfortunately, this does mean that some of the current EU as it exists today (like most of the Post-Return of the Jedi content) is being thrown out, so as to not interfere with the new script for Episode VII. Sorry…that means no Mara Jade and no Thrawn.
All-in-all I say this sounds like a great move. I know that many of us who grew up with the EU don’t want to see it completely invalidated. But in order to make sense of all this, we do need to wipe the slate clean somewhere. Who knows, I’m sure some of the old EU content will make its way back into the official cannon via the films, games, comics or novels at some point. Maybe the new EU will lead to them undoing that BS about the midichlorians from Phantom Menace.
That alone is worth a fresh new start in my book!