A Cataclysmic Dawn: Scrapping Star Wars Canon
In 2012, Disney acquired LucasFilm and LucasArts, along with the Star Wars franchise and all its licensed materials. Since then, they’ve shut down LucasArts for all intents and purposes other than licensing, and declared that all material outside of the official film and televisions series (The Clone Wars and Rebels) is no longer part of the official canon of the series. This means decades of books, visual novels and video games no longer form part of the series, despite what inconsistencies it may create in the official franchise.
Whether Disney has looked at exactly what is being cut or decided to take an axe to the Extended Universe in general is unknown, but the in the build-up to the seventh film, now officially named Ep. VII: The Force Awakens, certain cuts may prove beneficial or detrimental to the saga.
Revan’s saga and the Old Republic
A lot of Old Republic lore centred around the character of Revan (Knights of the Old Republic 1 & 2, and Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO), an enigmatic Jedi-turned-Sith-turned-Jedi-again (according to now-redundant canon) who led the Old Republic to war against the Mandalorians (a nomadic race shown best in the film series through Jango and Boba Fett, two bounty hunters who each take the role of Mandalore in their lifetimes) and later the Sith in the Jedi Civil War, before disappearing from known space to fight the Sith Empire.
Although Revan’s choices are largely player-based in Knights of the Old Republic, his canonical character adopts a very philosophical approach to the Force, dabbling in abilities beyond the Jedi code to seek stability for the Republic. Even during his time as a Sith – brought on by mind control by the nigh-omnisciently powerful Sith Emperor – his ultimate goal was to unify the Old Republic and retain the power of the Jedi Order, albeit with different, less restrictive teachings such as those displayed at his Sith Academy on Korriban.
Revan’s legacy extended far further than his story, which in itself is quite a tale. As a Sith Lord, he built the basis Rule of Two – stating that no Sith should ever train more than one apprentice, meaning that the only true Sith Lords in Darth Revan’s reign were him and Darth Malak – the antagonist of Knights of the Old Republic. This rule was later adapted by Darth Bane into the Rule of Two as it exists in the film series, that there must only be two Sith Lords – a master (consistently Palpatine/Darth Sidious), and an apprentice (Darth Maul, Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus and Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader).
Darth Revan wasn’t the only exclusion whose actions would have an effect on the films. Darth Plagueis was a Muun Sith Lord who, even prior to his birth, was being groomed to be part of the Sith. His later master, Darth Tenebrous, needed a strong Force-wielder in order to experiment with “maxi-chlorians”, an form of the Force-granting “midi-chlorians” engineered through the Dark Side to allow him to possess his apprentice and remain alive until he could eventually possess the “Chosen One”, who we know to be Anakin Skywalker.
This plan eventually failed, although it crippled Plagueis’ ability to use the ability of Foresight, and the Muun Sith Lord went on to train Darth Sidious, who would eventually kill him years before becoming the Galactic Emperor and master to Darth Vader. In the film series, he was the subject of the Sith tale “Darth Plagueis the Wise”, the story of a Sith Lord who possessed the power to extend the lives of those around him by manipulation of midi-chlorians – an ability Plagueis mastered and a tale which is by Palpatine used to seduce Anakin into falling to the Dark Side. The tale was of course, manipulated; Palpatine, long Darth Sidious by then, killed Plagueis during off-screen events in Star Wars Ep. I – something we never got to see between Padmé and Anakin’s awkward conversations and the inclusion of Jar Jar Binks.
That’s the extent of his appearance in the Canon universe, but in the now-Legacy universe, he and Palpatine inadvertently caused Anakin to be conceived after attempting to control the midi-chlorians, an experiment which failed and caused Anakin’s conception to Shmi Skywalker. Aside from that, he and Tenebrous set into motion the Great Plan, which would eventually lead to the Galactic Empire – something that’s a bit more than a small deal in Star Wars lore, and told Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas of the cloning facility on Kamino, setting into motion the creation of the Republic’s clone army.
His loss in Star Wars Canon is more than a bit significant, since a lot of relevant backstory is lost by the exclusion of Darth Plagueis, the book and the character – who appeared in numerous Star Wars related visual novels, comics and pieces of literature. Considering the prequel trilogy was already far too sparse on progressive story details, removing what canonically made it all make a relative amount of sense doesn’t seem the most sensible thing to do.
The original trilogy has also been affected by the removal of all previous Star Wars canon; flash forward to post-Episode III, when the galaxy is already under Imperial control but not embroiled in the Galactic Civil War yet, and Darth Vader is hunting Jedi. Galen Marek – son of Mallie and Kento Marek and secret apprentice to Darth Vader under the name Starkiller – was a powerful Force-sensitive human trained in the ways of the Sith.
The events of The Force Unleashed, the first appearance of Starkiller, led to the creation of the Rebel Alliance – another organisation which has slightly more than a small impact on the saga – and brought characters such as Bail Organa and Princess Leia into the fight. Marek’s family crest would become the sigil used as the Rebel Alliance’s symbol – used to represent hope against the Empire and signalling the importance of Starkiller’s role in the gap between Episode III and IV.
This may be the first of the canonical absentees actually addressed by Disney who plan to release an array of comic books through Marvel Comics in 2015 and beyond to bridge the gaps between the original franchise’s films and fill out the characters. Currently, there are ongoing Star Wars and Darth Vader series planned, as well as a limited Princess Leia series, which will deal with her in the aftermath of losing her home and family in Episode IV’s destruction of Alderaan. While these are largely planned to bridge parts of the original trilogy, it’s not implausible that we may see the origins of the Rebel Alliance in these comics, especially given their not-so-insignificant role in galactic politics.
Post-film Extended Universe
In possibly the only part of the series I’m happy to see culled, the parts of the Expanded Universe dealing with the events in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Galactic Empire and the death of the Sith are no longer Star Wars canon. The reason behind this is that Expanded Universe content began with good ideas in mind, but over the past 40 or so years has grown increasingly convoluted and incoherent.
Undoubtedly, there are some great stories in the Expanded Universe – many of which only come after the events of Episode VI, but Disney’s erasing of them is not an irreparable loss. What this does allow the remnants of LucasFilm to do, however, is craft their own narrative – their own universe beyond Ep. VI, free from the constrictions of the myriad fixed Legends storylines.
What this also does, probably not by coincidence, is compensate for the huge age discrepancies of the original trilogy’s cast without having to skip relevant events which occurred within their lifetimes – such as Luke’s rebuilding of the Jedi Order, encounters with the disembodied Exar Kun, or battles with the reborn Palpatine and eventual fall to the Dark Side. While the new trilogy may draw on these old stories for ideas, it’s possible that removing them may be to give LucasFilm and Disney’s writers more creative license with the events following the Galactic Civil War.
In many ways, the writers having more creative freedom is positive to the universe, as it allows them to write a story with its own continuity and growth, without having to attempt to force (see what I did there?) their story into a pre-existing universe which doesn’t suit the personnel they have to work with. While it is a shame to lose some of the universe’s supremely deep lore, particularly that which was well-written and complemented the existing universe, but it also gets rid of a lot of the shovelware which has plagued the Star Wars canon for years.
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Where does this leave a galaxy far, far away?
To say that Star Wars is depleted would be unfair – there’s still a huge catalogue of lore, a gargantuan, dedicated fanbase, and some of the best talents in modern film-making involved in Episode VII. Aside from that, the series also has great backing talent in the form of Marvel Comics producing its comic counterparts.
Still, it’s a great loss to the series to lose a lot of the backstory from the prequels and the Old Republic, specifically relating to events which directly led to the scenes we saw in the films. I can’t help but feel that there’s a lot of content, especially before the prequel Republic that could have stayed in the series without becoming problematic to Disney’s vision for the franchise. It feels a bit overzealous to just cut the entire Expanded Universe, when it would have served them better to simply edit it.
If nothing else, however, Disney have the perfect platform to reinvent the platform, and hopefully they’ll curate it as carefully as they have the Marvel cinematic universe. With a Star Wars: Battlefront reboot and The Force Awakens announced for video game and film mediums respectively, a yet unnamed Star Wars project coming from Dead Space developer Visceral Games, and a number of comics spawning into Marvel’s library, the future of the series looks light… and dark.