The E.U. is dead. Long live the E.U.
By the time Return Of The Jedi had faded from the movie screens, there was already a library of comics and books to explain every last alien and droid. The West End Games Star Wars roleplaying game became the source of many new planets, people, and organisations and the majority of these were accepted as canon. Strangely, many of the facts and figures from the comics and novels were thought of as non canon – one persons facts about a made up thing were more real (official) than another persons facts about a made up thing. Star Wars had become like an overgrown garden, the flowers were mixed in with the weeds.
To further confuse things, George Lucas declared the movie-less Star Wars movie, Shadows of the Empire to be canon, thereby making it a ‘real’ part of the story taking place between ‘Empire’ and ‘Jedi’. What this meant was that if you wanted to know the whole story, you had to watch two movies, read a book, play a computer game, and then watch Return of the Jedi. This experiment in marketing was revisited when The Phantom Menace was released.
The Phantom Menace’s story was spread across many different sources, including children’s picture and short story books, several computer games, and I swear this is true, a sticker album. The scene where Qui Gonn meets perennial irritant, Jar Jar Binks is a good example of this. Qui Gonn and Binks are running along and Obi Wan appears, being chased by two S.T.A.P’s shooting lasers at him. Obi Wan needs to be rescued and it is revealed in a ‘first reader’ style picture book that he fell into some water which explains why his Lightsaber wasn’t working, and you will note in close up he has wet hair. So now the canon is stretched outside of the movie it is describing and unless you go and buy all these various products you wont ever have the full story.
The varying levels of quality in the stories of the E.U. meant that a lot of it was never going to be seen by the vast majority of fans. There were still some outstanding successes such as ‘Shadows’ and The Heir to the Empire trilogy. The immense amount of goodwill the ‘Thrawn’ trilogy generated, elevated it to a position almost equivalent to the movies themselves and introduced beloved E.U characters Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn. Many fans considered them the official continuation of the story, as if Lucas himself had dictated them to Timothy Zahn from his porch at Skywalker ranch.
Another competing continuation of the story post-Jedi was the similarly popular Dark Empire comic series. This other version of what happened next, tells of a reborn Clone Emperor Palpatine and his attempt to turn Luke to the Dark side which Luke somehow recovers from, almost as if by revealing he had been crossing his fingers behind his back the entire time.
October 30, 2012. Disney announces they have purchased Star Wars, but what they mean is they have purchased the good bits…the cherrys, not the melted sundae. All work on Star Wars games and books was either put on hold, or given a short amount of time to wrap up before the entire E.U. was sent to the basement along with George’s script ideas. Lights out, door locked. Promising game Star Wars 1313 which some have reported as almost finished, was cancelled along with Thrawn and Mara Jade, the New Jedi order, Han and Leia’s three children and the excellent Clone Wars cartoon. All the toys and books were effectively disowned as fanfiction, and shunted sideways into the ‘Legends’ line.
Disney sought to wipe out all the clutter but so much of Star Wars canon has been written in that clutter from the names of the Cantina’s barman Wuher, to famous patron Ponda Baba – so the E.U. is gone and yet lives on. The new canon is intended to be one continuous storyline, uncomplicated or diluted by ill conceived notions like a Force using Astromech. The task of keeping track of every product and idea falls to the Lucasfilm story group.
The story group seem to be fans of the old canon however and some of it is starting to seep through into new canon, such as
- Chewie was dead, but now he’s better – it’s Han who died instead, leaving Chewie to be the galactic version of the loyal dog on his masters grave.
- Black sun from Shadows of the Empire are getting mentioned in new canon novels, can Prince Xizor be far behind?
- The Emperor’s flagship ‘The Eclipse’ from Dark Empire is back in the Aftermath trilogy.
- Grand Admiral Thrawn is back in a novel, glorious Black Series con-exclusive boxset, and also the best season of rebels so far. His reveal at celebration 2016 was met with defeaning applause.
- Theres an un-named character running round Tattooine in Mandolorian armour, can this be Fett out of the pit as we saw in two separate E.U. stories?
- The last Jedi could be hinting at Luke’s possible turn to the dark side, most likely just a tease but it could be an interesting way to go if they are brave enough.
If Thrawn was in, and then out, and now is back in…why not Han Solo at Star’s End, why not Tales of the Bounty Hunters, why not Mara Jade? There’s thirty years between ‘Jedi’ and The Force Awakens they can use to tell those stories again in a new canon way, or just pick out some of the good ones and give them a way out of that basement into our bookshelves and our wallets and our hearts again.