Another month, another piece of Star Wars news slowly trickling in – now we know that Episode VII is going to start shooting in May, it seems inevitable that the all-important and much anticipated casting announcements will be made soon. As much as I have remained optimistic about this new trilogy, the upcoming casting announcements still fill me with worry.
Soon we’ll know how many of the original characters are returning and we’ll know the identity of the new ones as well, particularly – if the rumours are to be believed – the offspring of the Original Trilogy’s principle cast. And this is where my trepidation lies, for it is these character announcements that could either make or break the Expanded Universe (EU).
The EU, massively sprawling and beautifully constructed, encompasses every single part of the Star Wars universe that isn’t included in the films. It covers the books, comics, computer games, TV shows and countless other mediums and has been slowly building in size and complexity ever since the release of the novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye back in 1978. And unless it contradicts something shown in one of the six (soon to by nine) films, it is considered to be completely canonical.
Although I’m definitely a fan, I have a bit of a casual relationship with Star Wars. I love the films, The Clone Wars, and Kyle Katarn, but have never read any of the books or the comics.
Yet I still know that Chewbacca dies; I know Luke marries Mara Jade and that they have a son called Ben; I know about Han and Leia’s marriage and their three kids – the twins, Jaina and Jacen, and their brother Anakin; I know about Grand Admiral Thrawn, the Yuuzhan Vong War, Darth Caedus and Natasi Daala; I know about Anakin’s death, Mara’s murder and Jacen’s death at Jaina’s hand. I know all of this without ever looking through a Star Wars novel or comic.
And these are all events and characters that a lot of fans, both casual and hardcore, have grown up with, and are heavily and emotionally ingrained into their minds. They are not stories that are going to be easy to forget or ignore. But that might be exactly what we have to do, because ever since the announcement of Episode VII, fans have been worrying about what the new trilogy will mean for the EU, and if it could undo 37 years of excellently crafted storytelling.
All Episode VII has to do is contradict the events of the novels and comics, and huge portions of the EU will be erased from the Star Wars continuity forever, perminately overwritten by the events shown in the new trilogy. Even the slightest contradiction could bring the whole of the EU crashing down, and that would be a huge loss, both for fans and for the Star Wars universe itself.
I personally would hate to see the stories of the EU undone. I would hate to see that Chewie wasn’t dead, or see Luke married/widowed to a woman who wasn’t Mara Jade, or see Han and Leia with a different bunch of kids. And I know I’m not the only person who feels this way. All over the internet, fans are already waving goodbye to some of their favourite stories, certain the new films will make them null and void.
But it could be so easliy avoided. In the EU, the latest story involving Luke, Leia, and Han is set forty-one years after the events of Return of the Jedi, which isn’t that different from the thirty-two year gap between the releases of Episode VI and VII. So why not set the new trilogy after those forty-one years, taking long established characters from the both the EU and the films and pushing them into a new era? It would be the perfect way respect and expand upon the entire EU and all the work that the various authors and storytellers have produced over the past four decades.
The EU is a massive part of the Star Wars franchise and really should be held in the same regard as the films. All I can do is hope that J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy and co. realise this and don’t deconstruct one of the most brilliantly assembled universes in all of fiction.