Rogue One has brought us back to our beloved Galaxy Far, Far Away, and in so doing not only introduced several wonderful new worlds, it's also revisited classic concepts, and added so much history and depth to the Death Star and the Rebel Alliance. The reality is, though, that so much of the new galaxy is built on the foundations of what came before: the old Expanded Universe. Let's take a look!
What Was The Expanded Universe?
Long-term fans of the Star Wars franchise will be well aware that, back before Disney purchased the licence from George Lucas for a whopping $4.05 billion, there was a certain something called the Expanded Universe. George Lucas explained the Expanded Universe in his 1996 introduction to a reprint of the novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye:
After Star Wars was released, it became apparent that my story – however many films it took to tell – was only one of thousands that could be told about the characters who inhabit its galaxy. But these were not stories that I was destined to tell. Instead, they would spring from the imagination of other writers, inspired by the glimpse of a galaxy that Star Wars provided. Today, it is an amazing, if unexpected, legacy of Star Wars that so many gifted writers are contributing new stories to the Saga.
Absorbing everything from computer games to comic books to a New York Times bestselling range of novels, the Star Wars Expanded Universe was a force to be reckoned with. But when Disney took it over, they made a hard decision: Everything bar the movies and some other Lucas-directed content, such as the Clone Wars series, was branded a Legend. Until the new continuity referenced something, it was no longer canon.
The issue, of course, was that the Expanded Universe set far too many things in stone. For example, the Star Wars: Legacy comic -- in my personal opinion still unequaled among the ranks of Star Wars comics -- is based over a 100 years after the Original Trilogy ended. Disney needed room to breathe, and room to create. Create they have; they're essentially creating a new Expanded Universe, with comics and novels once again woven into the broader tapestry of the galaxy far, far away, and with #RogueOne as a first spin-off movie!
Welcome To The Galaxy!
This is the Star Wars galaxy. It's a gorgeous spiral galaxy, and the map has many key locations marked on it (it's correct as of #TheForceAwakens). But now compare it to a map from the old Expanded Universe -- one that was published in the "New Jedi Order" novels.
Comparisons aren't easy, but the minute you locate Coruscant, you can work out from there. The new galactic map is clearly based upon the old one, with the locations from Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens placed upon it.
In fact, dig a little deeper into the new Star Wars canon and you realize that the new galaxy far, far away is essentially the same as the old one. Early in the (canon) Star Wars comics, Jason Aaron and Stuart Immomen introduced us to Nar Shaddaa, the Smuggler's Moon, a major piece of Hutt real-estate. Star Wars: Rebels has included arcs based on the planet Dathomir. Both of these locations were created in the old Expanded Universe, and have been portrayed in exactly the same way.
I'd expected the new map of the galaxy to draw on obvious locations, such as Naboo, Tatooine, Dagobah, Hoth, Endor, Yavin, or even Dantooine; I'd not expected references to planets such as Onderon, Kuat, Ithor, or Dathomir. To bring these worlds into the new galaxy is also to import elements straight from the Expanded Universe -- with Onderon (referenced in Catalyst) come the Beast Riders, with Dathomir the Nightsisters. The only reason to use the names of these planets is to establish familiarity between the old and the new; having abandoned the old continuity, Lucasfilm is now importing new building-blocks with which to shape their ongoing narrative.
Of course, this raises some intriguing questions. The Expanded Universe established that the Corellian System has an ancient location known as Centerpoint Station at its heart, a powerful galactic weapon that poses a terrible threat. If the geography of the Expanded Universe has been imported into the new galaxy far, far away, has Centerpoint? The history of the witches of Dathomir is very specific; has their origin narrative been imported along with their existence?
Grand Admiral Thrawn - A Key Figure
Even more excitingly, Lucasfilm is now setting a precedent for important entire characters from the Expanded Universe. Take Grand Admiral Thrawn; created by legendary Star Wars writer Timothy Zahn, Thrawn was one of the greatest villains of the novels. He actually starred in the prequel novel Outbound Flight, and was the subject of an entire trilogy (with a sequel duology exploring his background). Thrawn has played a major role in Season 3 of Star Wars: Rebels.
Fans of the EU will find the portrayal of Grand Admiral Thrawn to be absolutely pitch-perfect. In the old EU, Thrawn was a Chiss, the only alien Grand Admiral -- by virtue of his tactical genius. He gained insight into his enemies by studying their art. Watch that clip; doesn't that look familiar? Even more excitingly, Thrawn's tale is to be expanded on in another novel -- one penned by Timothy Zahn himself, and as much a part of the canon as Star Wars: Rebels or even Rogue One!
A Positive Sign - And A New Hope
Here's the exciting thing: The new Star Wars is very different to the old; before the Disney purchase, only the works of George Lucas were truly canon. Everything else in the Expanded Universe -- from novels to comics to games -- was secondary; Canon so long as George Lucas did not contradict it. So Lucas could introduce a whole new history for Boba Fett in Attack of the Clones, and wreck the Bounty Hunter Trilogy.
In contrast, the new Star Wars has just one level of canon. Everything is binding; whether it's a comic book, an animated series, a novel, or a film. Flourishing under the watchful eye of the Lucasfilm Story Group, this new continuity is becoming fascinatingly complex. Take the character of Saw Gerrera, who is transitioning seamlessly from animated series to movie, and back again.
- Legendary Author Timothy Zahn Is Returning To The 'Star Wars' Canon!
- Star Wars Episode VIII To Reveal The Jedi's Ancient Secrets - What Do We Know About Jedi Temples?
- 'Rogue One''s Saw Gerrera Returning To 'Star Wars: Rebels', Drawing The Threads Of The Franchise Ever Closer Together!
Fans of the old Expanded Universe can relax; the galaxy is still the same, and now we know that the Lucasfilm Story Group is dedicated to absorbing the best elements into the new canon. Ironically enough, under the new approach the likes of Grand Admiral Thrawn will achieve a higher state of canon than ever before; because now they are part of the one narrative, and they will not be contradicted.
What elements of the old Expanded Universe do you want to see absorbed into the canon? Let me know in the comments!