“You must unlearn what you have learned”
October 30, 2012. The Walt Disney corporation announces it is buying the Star Wars Universe for approximately half of the money in the world. Five years later they have recovered their investment several times over, and there is no end in sight. Star Wars is alive and well, and under new management.
This new management is as George Lucas himself described it, a perfect fit for the brand, but the transition was not without some casualties. George Lucas had some drafts for episodes 7 – 9 which were put into a safe in a basement and never seen again. Aside from that mystifying move, and even more controversially than disregarding ‘The Makers’ designs, the wider body of supporting material of the Star Wars universe was unceremoniously dumped. The Expanded Universe was no more. Or was it?
The universe began expanding years before Star Wars first screened, with the many script revisions creating and discarding names, characters, and concepts as the collage of ideas gathered during Lucas’s youth was refined into what we know today as Star Wars : A New Hope. If you keep your eyes and ears open you will catch these things as they are re-introduced into canon* from the margins of the scriptwriters notepad. Mace Windu was rescued from an early draft to lead the Jedi order, and the Kyber (alt Khyber, or Kaiburr) crystals and Midichlorians have also been around since those first days. Even Chirrut Imwe’s blessing, “May the Force of others be with you” is a relic of the early drafts, brought back to life.
From the moment Star Wars was introduced to the world, it became popular on a scale unseen before and the demand for more and more of this magical fairy-tale, set in a very realistic universe grew into a worldwide obsession. Who are those characters in the background? What do they eat? What does Hammerhead do when he’s not in the Cantina? Does Leia like Luke, or Han more?
The popularity of Star Wars meant that George was able to consider making a sequel, and one of the early drafts for this was released in 1978 as a novel by Alan Dean Foster, Splinter of the Minds Eye. This was the first work I was aware of in the Expanded Universe (E.U.) and this is where I first heard of the Kyber crystal, because back then it was a one of a kind. This book tells the tale of Luke and Leia crashing on a swampy mining planet and running into trouble with the local Imperials who call Darth Vader to come and take custody of the pair. The story also features the first hint of an attraction between Luke and Leia, years before anyone knew who they really were, which of course looking back is even more awkward than the kiss in The Empire Strikes Back.
With the need for a sequel to what most people regarded as the best movie ever, a grander story was called for and George brought in writers to help create The Empire Strikes Back, and at the time ‘Splinter’ was demoted to a story thought to take place between the two movies. The story had slipped into, and then just as easily out of canon. This change is also the beginning of the complexity that would ultimately end in Disneys decision to eliminate everything outside of the movies.
Continued in part two
*Canon, in terms of a work of fiction, means part of the officially recognised story.