“Igor! Is it done?”
“It is, master.”
“Look, it lives! My creation LIVES!”
Several months on from the Great Reboot, a set of questions linger over Star Wars fandom: Could the continuity have been made to work? Could there have been an excision point whereby a lesser part would be jettisoned to save the greater? Could the reboot have been avoided? The answers to these depend very much on how flexible you think filmmakers are willing to be and what kind of continuity SW should be.
I cannot say I was of the view it could never be done, but over time, I have become more skeptical and do not think it could be done and work for SW. The same moves would work for other franchises – Marvel/DC superheroes certainly, Transformers would likely pull it off, Doctor Who would find it laughably easy, but none of those are SW. So a further question is: What about SW stops these solutions taking effect? I will examine three excision points, points where a merge could be considered. The questions for each are those outlined above.
1. After Vision Of The Future
For many, this is the logical cut point and it has much to recommend it. The war between the Empire and the New Republic has been settled, by a negotiated peace. The Empire itself is notably reformed from the monstrosity conjured by Darth Sidious and is more an alternative style of government, rather than evil incarnate. The New Republic is willing to respect that so long as the Empire accepts certain rules of free association and change, so has not become what it fought either. Finally, the Jedi have had a modest revival and have successfully mediated minor conflicts and prevented them going further.
However, there is also Mara Jade and her looming marriage to Luke Skywalker. And that’s where this starts to fall apart. If those creating the sequel trilogy want complete leeway, then how to get rid of Mara Jade? There are a number of options here, most of them used by superhero comics. The engagement falls apart, DC did this quite infamously with Batwoman and reaped a deserved whirlwind of scorn for it. Setting up an engagement and then having it fall apart reeks of the worst kind of bad faith. It’s also the move of a very sour soap opera. Due to that, I do not see that working and they’re not going to write in Mara Jade into the ST either, so what looks the best point to cut has just become unviable.
2. After The Unifying Force
Surely a cut could be done here? Not necessarily, as there’s still the Jade problem to contend with, a problem that has added to its complexity with Skywalker spawn no less! But let’s leave that aside to look at the big 800-lb gorilla in the room – an alien race of biotech wielding sadomasochists invaded, destroyed hundreds of worlds and killed 365 trillion at a conservative estimate.
There is the statistical solution: In a galaxy of the size of SW, these figures may appear mind-bogglingly high but are actually a fraction of the whole. There are considerably more worlds intact and beings alive then the statistics suggest. The problem here is that people tend to see statistics as a matter of belief and then tend towards skepticism!
Could it be hand-waved away? It could but I do not see it as a good move to do so. This is all about what kind of continuity SW is to be. Del Rey received a huge amount of flak for sweeping the effects of the Vong invasion under the carpet. They did so because it felt like a breach of the rules that SW signed itself up to, that events matter and have impact. Dark Nest breached that compact with a casual contempt that infuriated many. To do so for The Force Awakens would be a much bigger breach and I don’t think it would be accepted by those who’ve followed the story.
3. After Invincible
This is perhaps one of the most notorious of the EU’s creations. A story that ends with a severely psychotic ex-Imperial placed in charge of the Galactic Alliance. (Galactic Alliance? New name for the New Republic, even SW does governmental re-branding!) What this particular cut point brings up is the problem of dead family members. By the end of Invincible and the series it concludes, Legacy of the Force, Luke’s wife, Mara Jade, is dead, as is Han and Leia’s son Jacen, who went to dark side at Mach V and had to be killed due to gaining Infinite Powah! (TM)
Leaving aside that it’s slap-bang in the time period for the ST, how exactly would anyone be able to merge the stories at this point and have it work? It just is not possible to do so. LotF has made too many radical moves and offed too many characters. It’s probably not enough death to qualify for being Game of Thrones-style SW, but it’s on the road to it.
The Casual Crowd
Even if the EU fans are unlikely to accept a merging due to the attempt creating a bastard continuity, that reeks of illegitimacy and disrespect, what of the casual fans and film audiences? They’ll buy anything, won’t they? It is a very common fallacy to think that film audiences are dumb, or don’t notice clumsy CGI, or idiotic plots or bad acting. Similarly, people will be very invested in the films as SW fans. Expectations for Episode VII will vary greatly, but wanting something that flows logically from Episode VI would likely be a common factor. Some of these people will be aware there was various SW stories done over the years, have those been factored in? If they have, how have they been treated? Ah, well, about that…
So that’s it then. No, I do not think trying to merge Legends with the new continuity is at all possible, but more that it should not be done out of respect to Legends! What each cut point had in common is that the preceding plots and characters would have to buried. Characters would be dismissed to limbo, plots curtailed, never to be returned to. I was following Batwoman when the engagement controversy around DC’s bad faith on it blew up and it soured me on their books considerably, I don’t want to see SW doing similar moves. I can recall reading Dark Nest and being truly irritated by its hand-waving, don’t want more of that either.
If this examination has made the case for anything, it is that Legends should be continued. To me, that would be the more respectful option and it flows logically from creating the Legends tag in the first place – it may be someone, somewhere can weave a killer story that actually defangs the likes of Crucible! While that’s being written Disney can publish a neat little niche product called The Re-enlistment of Baron Fel and have their execs do their best Scrooge McDuck impression of diving into a pool of money. The proceeds from that story alone would generate it, plus annotated editions of Dark Force Rising and The Last Command.
13 thoughts to “Frankenstein Continuity – Could Legends Have Been Salvaged?”
It still kills me that Dark Nest tried to pretend most of the Vong war didn’t happen and it took until Mercy Kill for a book to finally remember that the war, y’know, happened and embrace the ramifications on a personal level.
While I’ve come to terms with the Legends status, I do think they could’ve easily waved Mara into canon/start it post VotF. She could’ve died at some point before TFA.
Ben, I’m curious as to your thoughts about whether or not DR should have handwaved in books out of Legends that are non threatening to the canon like Kenobi.
Not that you asked me, but as far as I’m concerned Kenobi is canon. The odds of it being contradicted are so tiny that any official declaration to that effect would be ceremonial and nothing more.
Would you perhaps call it… shadow canon? 😛
Double-shadow canon, because it’s Tatooine.
I think the loss of Kenobi is the killer tragedy of all this. Although the news that Rebels is using the character gives a likely reason for its exclusion. That and the spin-off films.
But I’d agree that’s pretty weak. Kenobi takes place over a small time frame, is self enclosed so easily included without any sort of block on creativity by writers. Jettisoning the prequel and earlier material is, to me, far more questionable.
Which in turn raises the Q of whether writers being able to work with other stories shouldn’t be a requirement for a franchise like SW? I think it should be.
I’m really unsure why Mara could possibly be seen as an issue in any way. Ok. Luke Met someone and wanted to get married. If that turns audiences off, then I would be absolutely stunned.
After NJO you at least have the argument of Anakin and Chewie dead and the invasion. Hard to explain, but not impossible.
Would it be easy to do to have maintained most of the EU/Legends? No. But it definitely COULD have been done. You can argue forever whether that is the right or wrong decision. And whether it would have been done well or not. But to argue in any way that it couldn’t be is a huge fallacy.
Where I started from on this is: Would the established EU be worked with by the makers of Ep 7? I can’t see it happening, so in order for the continuity to be worked with, elements are going to have to be hand-waved away or buried – is that actually good for SW? I’m not convinced, but it could be done – the question is at what cost and what kind of continuity would it transform SW into? That’s what I’m exploring here.
There could well be another piece to be done on what could happen if the the makers of Ep 7 had wanted to work with established elements. Hmm, come to think of it….. Give me a couple of weeks!
Yeah, the thing is—they seem to be using a completely different chain of events after RotJ. I don’t even think it’s totally impossible that they might end up using Mara in some form, but even if they did it wouldn’t be the EU Mara—using the essence of the character is one thing; slaving her, and therefore the entire premise of the trilogy, to the EU version of history is quite another.
See “would it be worked with by the makers of Ep VII” is different than “could it”.
Your arguments are good (don’t get me wrong), but they presuppose that the makers already had the plot in mind before looking at the EU. And because George had his drafts already in some ways they did. But it also pre-supposes that they would be completely adverse to altering things in that draft to fit with the EU. Adding in Mara, even if she’s relegated to a Mon Mothma level background character wouldn’t change the plot for example if you set thing after Vision of the Future.
The further you go into the EU, the more concessions need to be made to it to keep ‘legends’.
But I think the debate about what the maekrs of EpVII could have done if they had decided to work with established elements is important. Rather than “new jedi character X” use Valin Horn (or Jysella) who until FOTJ were basically blank slates. Rather than “new starfighter pilot” use Syal.
Most of what they would need to do would make minimal changes to the plot, and not require explanation.
But similarly, it looks like the main characters of the sequel trilogy we’re getting will not be related to the Big3 of the OT. They have stories that intersect them, but aren’t spawned from them. That would actually be VERY interesting if the old EU had been kept. Rather than Star Wars being endlessly about the Skywalker escendents, Jaina, Jacen and Ben could have their adventures paralleled by a new cast of heroes who featured in the sequel trilogy unrelated to the old heroes.
Now that would be very interesting world-building.
There has to be a focus somewhere! This is a big sprawling topic – as you know yourself! 🙂 (I was also trying not to repeat sections of your pieces on it too.)
The key question seems to revolve around expectations of what audiences will and won’t accept, with Disney opting for the most negative and risk-averse way. Is that really so? I’m not convinced.
As to the new characters, too early to say anything definitive, but I’m intrigued by what you sketch out. How about you write up that as a piece while I’m doing the flip side to this?
I may do that. I was actually thinking after reading this (and my earlier comment) and figured out another interesting approach would be after the film is released to watch it and see how much of it could be maintained with little to no change to bee compatible with the EU after ether VotF or NJO.
If Ridley does wind up being a Solo obviously it would be difficult. But based on the characters appearing independent, it would be quite interesting to see how much conflict there actually winds up being with Legends. But that’s a piece for a year down the road.
I’ll have to talk to Cooper and see if we can fit that in without being too ‘fan-fictiony’.
I totally agree on the post-film piece—but maybe do it as a “not a committee” back-and-forth with both of you. It sounds like Sinre over in Lit is also planning to do everything in his power to make it all fit, so maybe you guys could bring him in on it as well.
The only thing I’ve heard (which, admittedly, isn’t much) that seems completely un-retconnable is the notion of Luke being off the grid for ten/twenty/thirty years. Even if he’s been rebuilding the Jedi Order into a form almost identical to the EU’s, having it all done in secret with no one even knowing where Luke is is a hard thing to get around.
Oh, I like the idea, of course someone’s going to have to remember to bring this up in a year’s time, any volunteers?
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