Worlds Aplenty: Welcome to Planetville


One of the staples of the starfaring genre of science fiction has always been the presence of distant, foreign worlds, usually home to alien species but at the same time also conveniently capable of sustaining human life without any sort of environment suits or breathing masks. They’re right up there alongside faster-than-light travel, aliens that look suspiciously like people painted in funny colors with antennae taped on, and a questionable-at-best grasp of the laws of the physics.

In this, Star Wars is little different from any other similar franchise: in fact, many undoubtedly owe a great deal to it in terms of inspiration. While it may not have invented the concept of worlds consisting of a single, uniform environment, it undoubtedly popularized it to the point where Tatooine and Hoth have become the iconic desert and ice planets.

While the Original Trilogy kept the nature of the worlds it visited fairly simple, likely due more to a limited budget than anything else, the Prequel Trilogy revealed an entirely new array of diverse and captivating environments to us. The galactic capital of Coruscant was, as accurately described by the aptly-nicknamed “Captain Obvious,” one big city. The stormwracked ocean planet of Kamino gave rise to the titular army in Attack of the Clones. Revenge of the Sith further upped the ante by adding far more worlds than any movie before it: Mygeeto, Felucia, Saleucami, Kashyyyk, Cato Neimoidia, Mustafar, and Utapau.

Most of these were not visited for as long as the crew might have liked and left a great deal still on the drawing board (the crystal planet of Christophsis from The Clone Wars is based on one of a number of abandoned concepts, and Kashyyyk was at one point imagined with a Venetian influence), but they still served their general intended purpose of giving the Clone Wars that sense of scale that Galactic Civil War couldn’t quite achieve within the technological limitations of its time.

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A Case for Starting Over, Part VI: Happily Ever After

Chewie-Luke-Leia-and-Han-han-luke-and-leia-24048896-1600-1121Over the course of this series, we’ve examined many aspects of the Expanded Universe and how they might be improved by a potential (hard or soft) reset of the franchise’s accumulated continuity: the rebellion’s struggles to establish its legitimacy in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi, the long-term prospects of the New Republic and the Imperial Remnant, the recent dysfunctional nature of the New Jedi Order and its failure to reach the (rather low) bar set by its predecessor, and the universe’s persistent inability to let go of the torch and let it conclusively pass to a new generation of heroes.

Most of these topics have been fairly broad, dealing with overarching plots and themes that involve entire arrays of characters and span dozens of books and several decades – both in- and out-of-universe. For our final act, however, we’ll be coming down from our bird’s-eye view and taking a more personal approach at evaluating the paths our heroes’ lives have taken since they last appeared on-screen in 1983.

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Wedge Antilles: On the Origin of Heroes


As heroic journeys go, Star Wars has always stood out as a particularly memorable one in many ways. From its unique blend of science fiction aesthetics and fantasy themes to its focus on the perspectives of two utterly ordinary utility robots, inspired by the peasant-protagonists of Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, the saga has never been reluctant to take risks and experiment in ways that others would hesitate to even consider.

This willingness to gamble on the unknown carried over to the Expanded Universe, which, true to its name, recognized the potential profit in telling stories about more than just what Luke, Han, and Leia were up to between the movies. In fact, one could say that it has taken the concept of tie-in work to extremes, going to extraordinary lengths to craft detailed backgrounds for and make use of seemingly insignificant characters on countless occasions, most prominently in the case of the only rebel pilot to appear throughout the entire Original Trilogy: Wedge Antilles.

Unlike his initially more important comrade-in-arms, Biggs Darklighter, Wedge Antilles was not an old friend of the main character. Unlike Luke Skywalker, he was not blessed by the Force. Unlike Princess Leia, he had no royal or noble blood running in his veins. Unlike Han Solo, his transportation of choice was nothing more than a common starfighter, and he was no renowned figure in the galactic underworld. Wedge Antilles was, quite simply, a perfectly ordinary human being. And yet, despite his utterly unremarkable nature, he survived the attack on the first Death Star where so many others perished.

It would have been an extraordinarily simple thing for his role in the saga to end there, along with the likes of General Dodonna and Vanden Willard. It’s difficult to say whether it was by intentional design or mere whim, but the character returned in The Empire Strikes Back, and then lived to fight again in Return of the Jedi, where he enjoyed the privileged position of flying into the heart of the second Death Star alongside Lando Calrissian in the Millennium Falcon.

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Infinities: Unlimited Possibilities


One of the greatest strengths of the Star Wars Expanded Universe has long been its adherence to the concept of a single (more or less) ironclad canon, in which all works are considered to be equally true and valid and any addition made to the franchise must respect those works which came before it and, in turn, must be respected by those that come after.

In terms of constructing and maintaining a logical and consistent vision of events occurring beyond what was covered by the films, it is almost impossible to heap as much praise upon this approach as it deserves. To tie together so many stories on such a scale, written by so many different authors over the course of so many years, it can be said with certainty that no comparable franchise exists. That is not to say, however, that there are no sacrifices that come with a system as strictly regulated as this one.

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Antagonism: Heroes on Both Sides


As one might surmise from the name, Star Wars is fundamentally a story of conflict. As is the case with most such tales, the plot is driven primarily by two major opposing forces: the Galactic Empire and a certain ragtag band of rebel heroes (and, in the prequels, the Separatists and the Republic). Each side is represented onscreen by a cast of unique and memorable characters, but it is also worth noting that being unique and memorable does not necessarily equal being interesting, especially when we’re talking about the antagonists.

People will long remember Darth Maul, not for any clever characterization or witty dialogue (of all the main antagonists of the saga, he might have the least dialogue of any), but because he wielded a double-bladed lightsaber and had horns growing out of the top of his head. In fact, for all that the saga is trumpeted as the rise and fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, its approach to villains and their villainy is often ham-fisted at best and cringe-inducingly cartoonish at worst.
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