Editorial: Why Disney Made the Right Call Wiping Canon
Now that most of us have seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it seemed like a good time to pan back a bit and take stock of whether the canon wipe was worthwhile or not. Much like opinions on Episode VII, it’s a divisive issue. There are those who are firmly on one side or the other of this debate,as well as those who are conflicted. Even if you weren’t the biggest fan of the film, (I personally loved it and that only increases with each subsequent viewing) a case can still be made that wiping the slate clean needed to happen.
Don’t get me wrong, I was an avid reader and fan of the old EU. There were certainly some amazing stories, including ones that I will always hold dear in my heart. In the end though, they’re exactly that, stories. So, even if they don’t technically count anymore in the grand scheme of things, there’s nothing wrong with picking up a Legends book and finding yourself immersed in that galaxy far, far away. While I do think that the new canon should be considered as such, there really is absolutely nothing wrong with having your own version of the saga in your mind. Just don’t expect everything to line up (naturally).
Certainly, the biggest reason for the EU being ousted shouldn’t be ignored. Disney spent a ridiculous amount of money on the timeless franchise and understandably didn’t want to be beholden to adventures that would limit their storytelling. Yes, they also wanted return on their investment ten-fold. However, I don’t buy the argument that this was the only motivation. They still could have raked in the big bucks without the reset, it just would’ve been a lot trickier. With that being said, this brings me to my first (non-financial) point …
Episode VII Needed to be Accessible to All
Can you imagine how difficult it would have been to decide where in the timeline to begin telling the story, all that while filling in everyone not in the know on the important events that had already occurred? Such an undertaking would’ve required a tremendous amount of exposition and would possibly have alienated new fans. It’s also quite possible that the EU fans would have been unhappy at changes made in adapting say, the Thrawn trilogy.
So much had happened in the EU, which would’ve really tied the hands of anybody trying to create a new story. With the board wiped clean, any fan of the franchise was now afforded the chance to be surprised. Disney needed to be able to keep a hold of their long time fans, while being able to connect with a newer generation. Episode VII did raise more questions than answers provided. However, these will surely be addressed in the coming parts of the trilogy and via books, cartoons, comics, etc. The idea here is that both new and old fans get the feeling like they’re coming in on the ground floor.
It’s understandable that such a massive story, being told by so many different people, would lead to contradictions. George Lucas should always be beloved by the fans for creating this great universe. Yet it’s clear that he wasn’t all in when it came to the books and other forms of media. That’s not to say he had no interest, he just didn’t put everything on the same level, hence the tiered-canon.
Of course, as the story gets longer and the moving parts grow in sheer number, it will become increasingly difficult to keep everything cohesive and tied up in a nice bow. The difference this time around is that there is a specific group dedicated to just this. One that seemingly has greater creative control than previous iterations of the Star Wars storytelling brain-trust. This makes a huge difference. The fact that they are enormous fans also is incredibly important. People tend to be more effective at what they do when they love it.
To be fair, the old EU actually kept most inconsistencies in check and used some clever retcons to clear up the few that did exist. Most of the glaring ones were actually created by Lucas himself, in the sense that he didn’t behold himself to the EU when making the Prequels. Nor did he seem to look over his own scripts from the OT carefully enough when writing the PT, for that matter. Some of the big ones include Obi-Wan seemingly not recognizing Artoo, (since retconned in the YR novel re-telling A New Hope) Leia having memories of a mother who was only alive for mere moments after her birth (retconned via Leia’s Force-sensitivity in the Princess Leia comic miniseries).
Both The Clone Wars and Clone Wars cartoon series also led to a bulk of the contradictions, having characters die off more than once. This list includes both Even Piell and Adi Gallia. The Nightsisters were vastly different and even wiped out on the show, despite the fact that they ended up appearing in The Courtship of Princess Leia.
In the end, this is probably the weakest of the points, considering how well such a wide array of writers were able to keep the narrative consistent. A lot simply comes down to timelines being a bit off. As of this moment, there are no glaring contradictions. Only time will tell if that remains true. The major takeaway here is that Lucas was the source of a lot of these occurrences, as he clearly made the stories he wanted, without giving much weight to the novels and other forms of media. With people such as Pablo Hidalgo, who is essentially a walking Wookiepedia, I have no disturbing lack of faith.
This is another reason that may not seemingly hold much water over time. Heck, some would even make said argument now. There were some really fantastic stories in the EU. Surely what is considered a good story and a bad one is strictly a matter of opinion. While, I’ve heard many a fan bemoan the quality of the New Jedi Order series, I personally, really enjoyed it. Another series that is perhaps on the more loathed list would be the Jedi Academy trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson.
There have already been quite a few gripes directed both A New Dawn and Heir to the Jedi‘s way. Realistically, when you churn out as many stories as the old canon did, (and the new canon is quickly making up ground) you’re bound to find at least a few rotten eggs.
The brightest beacon of hope in the whole canon change is that there is now a more influential, dedicated group to ensure that everything remains on the same level and fits into the big picture. This was probably the biggest failing of the EU. The main go to guy to solve any issues was Lucas and it became clear that while he respected the other stories being set in the galaxy he created, tying them into the onscreen media wasn’t at the top of his list. That’s not saying he went out of his way to push them down a rung on the ladder, it’s just that he wasn’t worried about fitting them in.
That being said, he certainly borrowed a lot from the EU, including the names of several planets (Coruscant and Kashyyyk among them). Now we have a group that lives, eats and breathes all forms of Star Wars at the helm … and that makes at least this fan very happy. Not every Star Wars fan is going to have the time or desire to consume every single piece of canon available. The ones that do however put all the time and money into this passion, deserve to have a cohesive story.
Connected Universes are the Thing Now
We’ve certainly seen it with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and now we’re beginning to see it with DC as well. Connected universes are fun and it’s been proven that they can be done in a way that both rewards the hardcore fans, while not alienating the more casual ones.
For instance, the Marvel films are tied in with several TV series, in addition to comics. I’ve only actually seen the films so far and feel none the worse for wear by missing out (for now) on the rest. Yet, if I feel withdrawal symptoms, I could always add to the experience by digging into more stories that tie in, enriching my overall experience.
I’ve really enjoyed the new material that Disney has been churning out since the big change. After seeing the Force Awakens, it’s very clear that while my overall time in the GFFA has been enhanced, nothing was lost had I not read the novels or seen Rebels. The easter eggs that might come along are a nice present for those that have the dedication to go the distance.
Again, I wanna make it clear that I did enjoy the old EU. I’ve read at least 40 books from this era. In the beginning, I was a bit surprised at the drastic change. However, after some thinking and getting to be immersed in the new canon, I’m happy with the decision. My main concern at the time was how much world-building was going down the drain. Then I thought about The Clone Wars animated series and remembered how much was made canon there.
How much less exciting would TFA have been had it just been a redo of Heir to the Empire or had to follow all the serpentine turns the novels had taken? Would there have been the same sense of wonder or surprise? I, myself don’t think so. How about you? What glaring inconsistencies did you notice from the Legends stories? Was the canon wipe really worth it? What stories did you love in the EU? Despise? Which characters/stories should Disney mine or reuse in the future? What’s your take on the new canon so far? Sound off below in the comments below.