This is the fourth post in a daily series. Read about it here and see the list of previous posts here. A new post about “Star Wars” will be posted every day for 40 days leading up to the franchise’s 40th birthday on May 25th.
Part of what made “Star Wars” a massive franchise was that it crossed over several media. The “Star Wars” universe that introduced in the original trilogy was expanded into TV shows, comic books, video games, novels, and more.
For years, those works were all referred to as the Expanded Universe. Lucasfilm and George Lucas had some parameters for it, but the Expanded Universe became an unwieldy wild west, with all sorts of explanations of what happened after “Return of the Jedi.”
But in April 2014, with the film that would become “The Force Awakens” on its way, Lucasfilm announced that not only would the Expanded Universe not be considered canon, it would be rebranded as “Star Wars Legends.”
This was not only smart, but the right thing to do. By divorcing the Expanded Universe from official canon, Disney had flexibility to make more choices about characters’ backstories and futures. Those working on “Star Wars” projects don’t have to feel beholden to an a daunting number of comics, books, and other types of media.
Which is good. They shouldn’t be beholden to the Expanded Universe. And just as importantly, neither should fans.
Outside of the movies and TV shows, the story of “Star Wars” has as many variations as there are spellings for the name Jonathan. The fate (and history) of each character can be fleshed out in these novels and comics, but keeping the details straight is dizzying, in part because of the daunting number of titles. And the individual stories within the Expanded Universe don’t always sync up with each other. Some of the simplest details vary from story to story.
In “Rogue One,” we got to see how the Rebels obtained the Death Star plans. That movie depiction becomes the official version of events. And that’s good because in the Expanded Universe, there were multiple conflicting stories describing how the Rebels got the plans. Those can’t all be canon, because it has to follow one logical timeline. So those were going to need to be edited or changed anyway.
It’s too much to expect fans to keep up with that. When I go see a “Star Wars” movie, I don’t want to have to do homework.
Disney’s excision of the Expanded Universe functions as an equalizer for fans. Whether or not I’ve read all the chronicles detailing the exploits of a Darth WhatsHisNuts introduced in a video game, I have as much idea what’s going to happen in “The Last Jedi” as the person next to me.
Now, I have no problem if the guys next to me discuss who they would cast as as General WhoGivesAshit in a film version of some novel written in 1994. I might eavesdrop on the conversation and add that book to my list of books to investigate. I have liked to know what’s going on in the Expanded Universe so that I know if I’m missing out on anything.
But often, I’m not missing out on anything. Many of the video games, books, and comics in the Expanded Universe meander into weird back stories on things that don’t gel with the overall canon. There was one storyline that had a race of alien Luddites who doubled as religious extremists. There was a comic book character who looked like the love child of The Grinch and the Trix rabbit. And then there was a mountain on Endor, which had the power to cry healing tears.
Get the hell outta here with that. I’d rather have “The Star Wars Holiday Special” be canon than any of that stuff.