The Fate of the Star Wars Expanded Universe Revealed

The Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU) is one mammoth piece of storytelling expanding the universe of the Star Wars films in all direction, and spanning across different media such as  bookscomic booksvideo games,  and spin-off films and TV series. Apart from including great stories, these have basically responsible for keeping the flame of Star Wars fandom alive before Episode I and since the end of Episode III. Ever since Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise, there have been rumblings about the possibility of the EU being thrown out the window come Episode VII. With the announcement in January that a Story Group was being set up to set up to ensure a single, cohesive Star Wars universe, the future of the EU seemed more unclear.  Now we have confirmation through a recent press release:

In order to give maximum creative freedom to the filmmakers and also preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience, Star Wars Episodes VII-IX will not tell the same story told in the post-Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe. While the universe that readers knew is changing, it is not being discarded. Creators of new Star Wars entertainment have full access to the rich content of the Expanded Universe. For example, elements of the EU are included in Star Wars Rebels. The Inquisitor, the Imperial Security Bureau, and Sienar Fleet Systems are story elements in the new animated series, and all these ideas find their origins in roleplaying game material published in the 1980s.

Demand for past tales of the Expanded Universe will keep them in print, presented under the new Legends banner.

On the screen, the first new canon to appear will be Star Wars Rebels. In print, the first new books to come from this creative collaboration include novels from Del Rey Books. First to be announced, John Jackson Miller is writing a novel that precedes the events of Star Wars Rebels and offers insight into a key character’s backstory, with input directly from executive producers Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg, and Greg Weisman.

Basically, all that is now to be considered as definite canon are the films (Episodes I-IX), The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. While the fears of some Star Wars fans have been realised – count me in when it comes to The Force Unleashed and Legacy – I’m actually pleased with the route they have decided to take. Firstly, sticking to the gamut of post-Episode VI EU would be an unnecessary burden on the producers of the new trilogy, with an adaptation unable to be appreciated on its own without comparisons with the source material.

Secondly, for all its highs and lows, the EU has always been nothing more than licensed fan fiction. A system of different levels of canon was already established, and it’s not the first time there have been contradictions. The fate of Even Piell in The Clone Wars differed from that in Coruscant Nights I: Jedi Twilight, with the former trumping the latter due to George Lucas’s direct contribution to the TV series.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, nothing blue.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, nothing blue.

Moreover, it’s not like the EU is being discarded altogether. An effort is being made to give producers of the newest material access to the EU for inspiration and inclusion, if they so wish. Indeed, the contribution of EU authors has been included and validated in canon media before. The Republic capital planet was named Corcusant in Episodes I-III, just as it was in Timothy Zahn’s seminal Heir to the Empire. The Clone Wars includes a number of elements from the EU, such as Dathomir and the Nightsisters from The Courtship of Princess Leia, and Korriban (known as Moraband at the time) and Darth Bane from Tales of the Jedi and Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, respectively. Even the appearance of Darth Maul in his somewhat controversial return in the series is based on that in the non-canon comic book Old Wounds. Star Wars Rebels will surely have even more of these instances.

A 'New Dawn' indeed.

A ‘New Dawn’ indeed.

Fans both new and old also get to enjoy the EU, as it remains in circulation under the Legends banner. The name itself is both a recognition of the legendary status of the stories among the existing Star Wars fandom and a statement about how they should be regarded. As legends, these examples of the EU are allowed to exist as tales on their own, while appreciating the fact that they are only based on canon events, and should thus not be taken to be hardcore fact. If that’s not a testament to Disney-Lucasfilm understanding the fans’ love for the EU, I don’t know what is. [Compare that with, say, George Lucas’s previous insistence that the original cut of the original trilogy not be released along with his revised Special Editions.]

While the EU has to turn a new page and move on, there is new hope that its future is a bright one. May the Force be with you, always.

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