LOOSE CANON

Coming Soon to a Cinema Far, Far Away

Justin B Rye 04 May 15

This page contains spoilers for a series that first hit movie theatres closer to the outbreak of World War II than to the present day.  Any fans of Star Wars planning to write and complain should please try to bear in mind that the whole thing is only a fantasy story.

—1—
Dead C: Scrolls

I was idly looking through some junk files on my oldest backup CD one day, and would you believe it turned out to include an archive salvaged from an antique hard drive somebody rescued from a skip in the mid‐nineties?  And lost amongst the OS/2 .INI files, an item that looks as if it started out as a scan of a (mostly) typewritten text, a long time ago.

LOOKING FORWARD TO THE STAR WARS SEQUELS
A Fantasy Review by Alan Dean Imposter

(draft article for the 79 issue of the ’zine)

Introduction

Remember, guys, this is the film reviews section, not the books column! We reviewed Superman: The Movie in its own terms as a film, not an issue of the comic book--we will be reviewing next year's Star Trek film without paying attention to any jumped-up fan-fic like Spock Messiah that contradicts it--and what I am discussing here is the imagined universe presented in the film STAR WARS. If you want to know about the spin-off novels, that is Kev's department! I have been making a deliberate effort to avoid reading any of that stuff, as even Kev admits that they are "non-canonical." The Marvel STAR WARS comics are improvising their own continuity as they go along, while the book Splinter of the Mind's Eye was written with the specific intention that it could be disavowed as a "what if" as soon as they were sure they would be producing a big-budget sequel, and as for the infamous Holiday Special, the only way that could fit into the same creative vision is if Captain Solo blew his reward money on Space Cheese and that was his nightmare. The sole official source we can trust to give us information that will remain authoritative in the sequel(s) is the original movie itself.

So, then, we're going off the rails from the start: our author is setting himself up as a sort of Star Wars fundamentalist, who takes it as axiomatic that the primary source material is inerrant gospel truth, and who rejects all the apocrypha, marginalia, and associated folklore as lacking in scriptural authority.  This religious metaphor isn't very metaphorical, since it's where the idea of “canon” comes from in the first place.

Despite this apparent obsession with authenticity, the author is of course a sockpuppet, and the pseudonymous by‐line is an in‐joke.  When the book of the film came out in 1976, it claimed on its cover to be “STAR WARS: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, by GEORGE LUCAS”.  In reality it was ghost‐written by SF author Alan Dean Foster, who went on to author the licensed sequel “Splinter of the Mind's Eye” (in that case under his own name rather than as a pseudepigraphical forgery).

It's common knowledge that the original movie somehow omitted to mention midichlorians, but you may be surprised to discover how much else was left out, from X‐wings to Sith to the planet Tatooine.  It's obvious that George Lucas didn't have all the details of the prequel trilogy clear in his head back in the mid‐seventies; it's less well known that he didn't have any particular destination in mind for the plot beyond the destruction of the Death Star.  Yes, he had a notebook full of half‐baked ideas that hadn't made it into the final draft, but if there was going to be any kind of follow‐up, he was thinking in terms of a cheap one based on Foster's novel (which he'd had little direct input into).  Even after it became clear that he could afford something bigger, he didn't try to write it himself.  And if he had picked someone different to script “The Empire Strikes Back”, or if that person hadn't been terminally ill at the time, the whole saga could have ended up unrecognisable while staying entirely consistent with everything that had been shown on the big screen so far.

For a start, the movie that came out in 1977 didn't get retroactively renamed and renumbered as “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” until after the 1980 sequel had introduced itself as “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”, and even then the numbering was only in the title sequences – the 1983 movie posters were for “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” (without the confusing Lucasian mathematics).  If things had gone otherwise, we might easily have ended up taking it for granted that the movie that started it all was “Luke Skywalker 1: Star Wars”.

—2—
Rays and Rocketry

Genre

At its heart STAR WARS is a throwback to the swashbuckling 3Ø's genre of Interplanetary Romance ("romance" in the fantasy-story sense) complete with beautiful princess and blaster-toting space pirates. They had hoped to get the rights for a Flash Gordon flick, but failing that it was easy to fake up a substitute. If this makes it sound unoriginal, remember that the Flash Gordon strip started as a cheap Buck Rogers knock-off! Mind you, the space adventure serials STAR WARS is referencing mean nothing to today's children, so it can only be for the grown-ups' benefit.

Nobody expected George Lucas's pet project to be the US summer blockbuster of 1977 – 20th Century‐Fox had been pinning its hopes on “Damnation Alley”, a movie that demonstrates how a good original story plus a big special effects budget can still equal a giant mutant turkey.  “Star Wars” on the other hand may accidentally have been the first great demonstration of the principle that it doesn't matter whether children have any reason to want remakes and sequels and reboots: it's their parents who pay for the movie tickets, so rehashing the stories that worked a generation ago is always a safe bet.

GADGETRY

The props in space opera may look like technology, but it is wisest to take them as set dressing and not worry all that much about, for instance, why anyone would bother installing clunky little elevator cars on the Death Star when they could turn off the artificial gravity in all those unfenced bottomless chasms.

STAR-DRIVE: our only informant on how hyperspace behaves is the unreliable Captain Solo, who uses nonsense units every time. And what kind of drive are they using for those in-system dogfights?

OTHER TRANSPORT: just as clothes in the STAR WARS universe never have visible buttons or zips, there also appears to be a basic stylistic rule against wheeled vehicles. Transport always means antigrav, or tank-tracks, or bizarre beasts of burden, to the point where you begin to wonder whether we are going to discover that jeddai-knights went into battle on giant mecha-camels...

Maverick spellings like “jeddai” are a side‐effect of Mr Imposter's stubborn refusal to recognise as real any non‐celluloid evidence source.  The names of the main characters may have appeared on screen in the end credits, but the word “jedi” didn't.  Until it became part of the title of Episode VI, Lucas was still at liberty to change his mind about its official spelling, as indeed he did about various other words (such as “droid”, “Hutt”, and “Wookiee”, which the book of the film spelled as “'droid”, “Hut”, and “Wookie”).

Alas, this faith in the original text as the definitive source of absolute truth is misplaced.  The cast list in the 1977 credits gave See Threepio's serial number as “C3PO”, one word, but being presented before the audience in foot‐high letters wasn't enough to set this in stone as the canonical form – the hyphenated version rapidly became standard in all the spin‐offs, sequels, and re‐releases.

Not that we're meant to think anybody in this story actually speaks a language that's written in the Roman alphabet…

'DROIDS: short for "androids," a misnomer unless R2-D2 was from a planet of tripodal dwarfs. Luke may be shocked by the bigotry of the barkeep in Moss-Icely, but he takes 'droid ownership for granted. Is that because he grew up beyond the reach of the Empire's legal system, or is treating intelligent, self-aware entities as fettered chattels 1ØØ% normal in this society?

COMMS: signals can travel faster than the speed of light--that tracer on the Millennium-Falcon would be pointless otherwise--but there is no sign of space-age tele-communications media. The rebels cannot just put the crucial battle station blueprints in a tachyonic telegram, when Luke is away from home he cannot keep in casual touch with his folks via some kind of Sci-Fi hand-held communicator and while there are flickering animated volumetric displays, no televisions are evident. Board games are the best entertainment a starship can offer, and even the saloon has live music instead of a holographic jukebox! The Empire may be keen on propaganda, but we have no inkling how they disseminate it.

LIGHT SABRES: traditional Interplanetary Romance drew from the fantasy sub-genre of Swords and Sorcery, with its barbarian heroes triumphing over evil magic, but in the STAR WARS universe the "wizard" is also the swordsman! The concept for this weapon goes right back to the stories in 3Ø's pulp Sci-Fi magazines, like Edmond Hamilton's Kaldar series with its "lightswords." The rename is strange considering that they lack the ornate hilt and single curved edge of a sabre...but whatever the name, in effect they are magical Japanese katanas in space. That is, symbolic weapons used more for ritualistic duels than for pitched combat--the battlefield role of mediaeval samurai, when they still had one, was as armoured horseback archers or, later, spearmen.

OTHER WEAPONS: Ben Kenobi disparages blasters as "clumsy" and "random," but unlike the weapon he gets into lethal bar brawls with at the drop of a hat they do at least have a stun setting. Then, that homing missile which blows up the Death Star is a "proton-torpedo," which must be on loan from the USS Enterprise.

THE DEATH STAR: the named characters only ever call it a battle station, leaving it to faceless extras to mention this nickname. Meanwhile Darth Vader's scorn for "this technological terror" echoes Kenobi's comments, with even less trace of justification. Its combo-beam is a wild piece of cartoon F/X, in stark contrast with the realistic way Aulduran is shown blowing up in a proper 3D-symmetrical explosion with no 2D "falling" debris...

The 1997 Special Edition superimposed a two‐dimensional ring of fire, of the sort made fashionable by “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”.  I'm just grateful that they haven't released a new version reprocessed for teal‐and‐amber‐o‐scope.

ALIEN RACES

The spectacular range of tavern patrons, astounding our farm boy hero, is a neat reveal after the drab, human-populated streets.

I've seen other reviews that said this, too, but George Lucas must have disagreed with them all, as he again went out of his way to spoil the effect in the Special Edition.

But while there are many alien races in the setting, they occupy different positions on the scale of citizenship status:

5) Sand-People: unintelligible primitive natives(?), seen as faceless, dangerous vermin even by wise old Ben Kenobi.

4) Jawas: competent to maintain complex machinery but still regarded as little more than jibber-jabbering wildlife.

3) Whookeys (IE Chewbacca): acknowledged as named individuals, but still not subtitled and maybe not quite full citizens.

2) Spaceport aliens, EG Grido the bounty-hunter: wear clothes, have their own subtitled argots, and count as people.

1) Darth Vader: gets to order around members of the imperial military (in English), though he may lack an official rank.

This may be a matter of Travelleresque "major race" status: Chewy's race only get around the galaxy on vessels designed for humans, while Vader's people must have starships of their own.

These days, everybody takes it for granted that the reason Darth Vader is a hulking armoured asthmatic is obvious: he's a heavily cyborged invalid with artificial lungs and built‐up platform legs, “more machine now than man”.  But that quote's from “Return of the Jedi”; this wasn't established in “Star Wars” (by, say, a glimpse inside the armour like the one we get in “The Empire Strikes Back”) for the simple reason that it wasn't part of his initial character design – it's just a retrospectively imposed justification for his cool costume.  All the other tall or short characters in “Star Wars” were nonhumans, and while we saw a couple with breathing apparatus for hostile atmospheres, there were none with prosthetic limbs.  Seventies Doctor Who fans might have noticed a clear resemblance between the Sith Lord and the Ice Warriors (or more particularly their Ice Lord rulers): big, wheezing extraterrestrials in biomechanical environment suits with samurai‐style helmets.  “Sith” even looks like an Ice Warrior word!

Not that we're meant to think anybody in this story actually belongs to the species Homo sapiens

METAPHYSICS

Kenobi's special abilities are "mind tricks" based on "an energy field created by all living things," not mutant superpowers. After all, Luke makes a good start on learning how to sense and manipulate the Force, and if it was impossible for Captain Solo to do likewise then his scepticism would be meaningless!

The shift from a model where becoming a Jedi is implied to be a straightforward matter of martial‐arts‐style training to one where Force users are a closed caste of genetically privileged superbeings (with an innate magical talent absent in muggles like Han) was a side‐effect of the story's growing obsession with the midichlorian‐positive Skywalker bloodline.  This kind of conceptual drift is a common problem in long‐running serials where everything is being made up by a relay chain of scriptwriters, but it's a little odd to see it here.

Han's unbelief is particularly inexplicable if (as per “Revenge of the Sith”) the knights of the Jedi Order were all still running around using the Force in broad daylight when he was a youngling, while Chewbacca fought alongside the most powerful of them.  Unless maybe Chewie got a memory‐wipe at the same time as Threepio?

The Force tricks shown so far fall into two main categories: PSYCHIC COERCION (used by Darth Vader on an insolent Commander and by Ben Kenobi on a storm-trooper) and INTUITIVE CLAIRVOYANCE (used by Vader to detect Kenobi and by Skywalker to pick a moment to fire--if it works against machines it has to be more than mind reading). Kenobi's vanishing act is an unrelated third technique, surprising Darth Vader, which implies further exotic powers might be available, but it is a subtle and low key power set even so. Vader cannot detect that Leia is lying about the base on Dantueen, or do Force-assisted back flips, or tail an un-bugged vessel through hyperspace, or use telekinesis to shove 1-man fighters around, and Kenobi cannot communicate with Luke via telepathy, or at least not while he has other options.

The most impressive display of Forceful precognition must be Darth Vader's scheme to get the rebels to lead him to their base, which works even though they were not looking for Princess Leia--they wound up on the Death Star by dumb luck. But for a precog in a fantasy melodrama there is "no such thing as luck."

We saw in the sequels that Vader was strong enough in the Force to throttle people over a viewscreen, deflect blaster bolts with a wave of his hand, and feel his son's presence at astronomical ranges.  And yet apparently his clairvoyance was so feeble that he spent hours mind‐probing his own Force‐sensitive daughter without getting the slightest extrasensory twinge.

No mention here of the “Dark Side”, which was after all never alluded to in Darth Vader's boasting about “the power of the Force”, or during his sparring with Kenobi; the one and only time it was referenced was the line “Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force”.  Since this was the first time anyone had mentioned the Force at all, Kenobi had to explain what that was; but the rest of the sentence was treated as self‐explanatory, so the natural interpretation for it in context was “he was corrupted by the negative influence of arcane superpowers” (just as you might say “he was seduced by the dark side of his role as an undercover agent”).  The sequels turned this offhand figure of speech into a matter of dogma: the Force literally has two opposed and incompatible aspects, one for heroes and the other for villains – though it's not as if the Dark Side is destructive while the Light Side confers healing powers; they just determine the colour of figurative hat you're entitled to wear while committing your acts of mayhem.  The dualistic reinterpretation makes it unclear what it is that “binds the galaxy together” and so on: the Force in general?  Just the Light Side?  Or maybe that whole speech was allegorical?

The fuzzy platitudes eventually settled into the ideology that being passionate about combatting evil is a moral flaw and that the only people who can be trusted to police the universe are the affectless psycho killers of the warrior élite!

—3—
Contracted Universe

Galaxy

Kurtz and Lucas get a lot of credit from weak-minded mainstream reviewers for making sets like the Millennium-Falcon look lived in and authentic, unlike previous cinema spaceships. Yeah, all those spotless sets in Solaris, Silent Running, Dark Star...

If you're used to modern Lucasfilm accounts of the Star Wars phenomenon, it can be surprising how much more prominent Gary Kurtz's name tends to be in seventies versions.  He had been Lucas's main collaborator for “American Graffiti”, and was the producer for the first two “Star Wars” movies (even coming up with the title “The Empire Strikes Back”), but then left due to creative differences over the direction of the plot.

So far, we have seen a limited sampling of this galaxy: 2 military bases, and 1 planet on the fringes of civilisation. We have no clue what life is like in conformist pro-imperial star systems...there may be entire worlds full of 'droids, or sexy amazons, or hammer-headed aliens, or sexy hammer-headed 'droids.

THE GALACTIC EMPIRE

The Empire is an Axis-style militaristic dictatorship staffed by traditional English-accented war movie fascists, though for once this does not indicate that they are speaking in German! Instead of the feudal Barons and Earls and Counts you might expect in an "Empire," its leaders are Generals, and Commanders, and Regional Governors, who show nothing but contempt for royal titles, and refer to His Imperial Majesty without ceremony as "the Emperor." We know that they were keen to eliminate the rump Senate, and given the chance they might do the same to the imperial throne.

The Emperor proved to be the archvillain of the whole series, but he was barely mentioned in the original movie – it was announced that he had dissolved the Senate, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything more than that the decree bore the current sovereign's official signature.

In spite of the movie's title, the conflict is a limited insurrection that the Empire may well rate as a mere local police action, with the rebel underground behaving more like a covert civil resistance movement than all-out revolutionaries. At the start the Alliance is supposed to have won a battle, but Governor Tarkin seems unconcerned about any direct impact from this--he is only worried about the leaked Death Star blueprints.

The glimpse of the Death Star in one of the last scenes of the prequel trilogy implies that the project had already moved into the construction stage before the fall of the Republic.  This suggests the possibility that the espionage tactic adopted by the rebel faction in the Senate was to wait for the paperwork to be automatically declassified.

THE REBEL ALLIANCE

It is far from clear just what sort of political system the Rebel Alliance is fighting for. Calling themselves that rather than (EG) the "Loyalist Coalition"--even though their leadership includes members of the true, constitutional galactic government--implies that they are uninterested in legitimising their struggle by representing themselves as a restored Old Republic. That half-forgotten regime must have crumbled into some kind of corrupt feudal monarchy too thoroughly and too long ago for it to be realistic to claim continuity with it.

Kev tells me there’s a scene dropped from the film at the last minute but kept in the book, where one of the rebel pilots is an old pal of Luke’s and another knew his dad. Cutting this evidence that the galaxy has a maximum population of a couple of dozen was a good callfingers crossed they keep this in mind or we’ll end up discovering that the imperial Prime Minister is Han Solo's ex-wife!

As a matter of fact the rebels were so understaffed that the final crowd scene was largely populated with cardboard cutouts!

Alas, the Star Wars universe has shrunk even further in hindsight, to the point where we now know that the first scene of the first movie featured not only the right‐hand man of the evil Galactic Emperor but also the robot that man built, the robot he won his first space battle with, and his daughter.  When the robots escape to what happens to be his home planet, they bump into his son, who as a result triumphs in an eerily similar space battle.  Nobody in the movie ever notices this gargantuan coincidence, because of course none of those connections between the characters existed as of the time the scene was filmed; they were invented years or in some cases decades later.

These days we'd call such changes “retcons”, but back in the seventies, superhero comics fandom had yet to come up with this abbreviation for “retroactive continuity”.

LUKE'S HOME WORLD

A nameless planet of no significance, emphasising our everyman protagonist's humble origins. Darth Vader sees it the same way, departing at the earliest opportunity to leave the pursuit of the vital files to a detachment of random troopers. When C3PØ asks its name, all we learn is "If there's a bright centre to the universe, you're on the planet that it's farthest from!" And no, it is not called "Arrakis," there is no resemblance at all.

Confusing fictional setting and shooting location, the fans seem convinced it’s “Tataouine”. The good thing is this is never going to matter for the sequels, because there is no logical or dramatic reason for the action to backtrack to there, as Luke even points out

That's right, we heard the name “Alderaan” some twenty times, but when it came to the planet that the movie spent most of an hour on, we were given no indication that it had a name at all.  Lucas's intention had been to call it “Utapau”, but somehow or other that failed to make it into the finished script, and instead Luke's homeworld came to be known by the name of a city in southern Tunisia.  However, the first and last time that name was actually spoken in the original trilogy was in the final scene of “The Empire Strikes Back”, and even then we were given no hint that “the rendezvous point on TAHdo‐WEEN” (as Luke pronounced it) was somewhere we'd seen before – that wasn't finally established until the opening crawl of “Return of the Jedi”.

AULDURAN

"Aulduran is peaceful, we have no weapons!" declares Princess Leia--so what were her minions shooting back with? Why was her Aulduranese father the one giving Kenobi his orders during the Clone Wars? And did Aulduran have an occupying imperial military administration that Governor Tarkin was happy to slaughter along with the civilian population, or does the Galactic Empire allow notorious hot-beds of sedition a startling degree of self rule?

YAVVYN

The rebel hideout is on a moon of the giant red marble planet Yavvyn, no more than hours away from Aulduran, even for the Death Star--hence Darth Vader's line "This will be A DAY long remembered." So how did the Empire not find it just by checking out the nearest few systems to the known dissident stronghold? I would have guessed that this setting must feature a traditional Sci-Fi network of charted jump routes, where this one is secret, but that conflicts with Captain Solo's claims that his "navcomp" needs to calculate a safe course for each jump on the fly...

Compare the travel time for the Nameless to Aulduran jump: a day or so at most, even though Aulduran is a major world while Nameless is a backwater with (EG) no source for in-warranty farming robots. How does that happen? A trade route like that should be crawling with merchants and tourists and cargo ships!

My theory: Nameless→Aulduran→Yavvyn is downhill all the way & return trips take weeks

It's a bad idea to start thinking about this, because you end up noticing the cinematic timewarp in Episode V – Luke voyages to a remote planet, undergoes a training montage Jedi apprenticeship, and returns, while everyone else somehow gets from Hoth to the cobbled‐space Anoat system and then to Bespin in a matter of days (Leia doesn't even get round to changing out of her arctic survival gear) without the benefit of a working FTL drive.

GALACTIC HISTORY

The plot of STAR WARS was filched from a Japanese period drama or "jidai-geki" and padded with magic samurai, so instead of a Space-Caligula we should perhaps expect the current occupant of the imperial throne to be a Space-Hirohito: a symbolic head of state lending legal legitimacy to some shadowy War Council. Constitutional technicalities are crucial when your galaxy-wide administrative bureaucracy is made up of robots!

Kev agrees with me on this one: the book‐of‐the‐film states he’s a powerless figurehead

The classic trilogy never gave “the Emperor” a name.  The prologue to the 1976 novelisation described a “Senator Palpatine” becoming President, then Emperor, and eventually a puppet of his own bureaucracy; but even if that politician was a canonical part of the backstory, the Emperor we met might have turned out to be his grandson, “Padishah Emperor Melvin III”.

The back-story seems to require that the baddies rose to control of the galaxy in 2 long stages--hence Kenobi's reference to the Republic as "Before the Dark Times, before the Empire."

My guess of 50 years may still be too short for things to fade from public memory, if this is a culture that includes cyborg librarians or sapient sequoia senators or techniques for freezing people for easy STL transport. 50 years may not be enough for news to get from one end of the galaxy to the other!

Some sort of long timescale was still being implied as canonical as late as the end of “Return of the Jedi”, when the unmasked Darth Vader was played by a 78‐year‐old.  The prequel trilogy makes a mess of this, along with all the rest of Kenobi's flashback exposition – it emerges for instance that Anakin only ever met Uncle Owen once (after he had already become a Jedi), never intended Luke to inherit his old lightsabre, and died at the age of 45.  As for Ben's claim that Vader murdered Luke's father, that was famously exposed as a lie within the original trilogy.  George Lucas has been known to claim that this spectacular twist was planned from the outset… which may be true “from a certain point of view”, but he's something of an unreliable source himself when it comes to film history.  It's generally accepted as a fine example of a successful retcon.

THE OLD REPUBLIC: ~25,ØØØ to 5Ø years ago?
This former monarch-free regime is mentioned twice, giving little basis for the belief it was a progressive democracy--compare the Roman republic, with its Senate of wealthy nobles. What kind of utopia needs samurai with mind control powers for a police service? We learn 3 things about it:

o Its space-paladins gave it "over 1,ØØØ generations" of "peace and justice"--so it was old in both senses of the word!

o Its senate council survived into imperial times, and

o Only white-bearded Kenobi and maybe Governor Tarkin show any evidence of remembering this "more civilised age".

THE DARK TIMES: ~5Ø to 2Ø years ago?
We have no clue why or how the Old Republic collapsed--feuding senatorial warlords followed by the rise of House Organa and the first Emperor? But whatever the reason, the jeddai were in eclipse, like the samurai caste in Meiji era Japan, and their Galactic Patrol function was lost.
At some point this exploded into the mysterious "Clone Wars." That name suggests how it is that a military junta took over: some leader had emerged that the factions were all prepared to stop fighting and swear allegiance to, but mere moments after his coronation he was assassinated by an unidentified terrorist, so when the Minister for State Security revealed he had taken the precaution of arranging for a backup copy, the Starfleet threw its weight behind his regency. Since then the succession has been stuck on repeats of the same child Emperor--every time one dies of that tragic wasting disease that teenage clones always seem to get, they just xerox off a new one! Mind you, how hard would it be to install a phony, in a universe with androids and holograms and telepathic hypnosis and for all we know soulswappers and brain-transplants and even shapeshifters?
The Clone Wars went on for long enough to count as plural, with Ben Kenobi serving under Leia's father and using the nom de guerre "General Obi-Wan." The Jeddai Corps gathered new recruits including Luke's father before its ultimate destruction due to the treachery of one of Ben's pupils.

Actually, even hostilities on the scale of the Hundred Years War or Second World War don't get plural names – the ones that do are conflicts like the Apache Wars, which are rarely named after the victors.  A screenwriter familiar with westerns might take this to imply that the Clone Wars were a series of campaigns against some troublesome tribe of clones; and as it happens, such a writer was Lucas's first pick to script the sequel.

THE EMPIRE: ~2Ø years ago to long ago "present"
Ex-jeddai-knight Kenobi escaped to bring baby Luke home to his surviving kin and live in the wilderness. The Corps is a matter of legend now, few show any sign of recognising a light sabre, and Darth Vader's attachment to the "ancient religion" of the Force is seen as ridiculous even though only a fool would dare to deny its efficacy...
Or was the Republic toppled by “clone” invaders (from the Clone Dimension!)? Kev’s theory is, it was an imperial clone armybut that makes less sense: cloning is just a hi‐tech way of conceiving delayed twins, & lumbers you with all the faff of raising your infantry from infancy instead of letting your bazillions of citizens do it the simple old‐fashioned way & then conscripting the best suited. If you want monoculture legions of identical soldiers, use robots!

But the prize for all‐time best fan theory still has to go to the idea that Ben “Obi‐Wan” Kenobi took part in the Clone Wars because he came out of vat OB1!

—4—
Retcon of the Jedi

Dramatis Personae

The cast list is so short there are only 2 characters we can be sure will be in the sequel, and a bare half dozen probables!

C3PØ, AKA "See Threepio"

The existence of torturebots rules out any idea that 'droids have Asimov circuits, and R2-D2 displays disobedience and disrespect for the law. However, C3PØ has an attitude of utter subservience to his creators, even exclaiming "Thank the Maker"--with the subtext that he is hard-wired to worship them! Plus for some reason he is programmed to talk in a prissy, affected, effeminate style that makes people underestimate him. But is effective communication not supposed to be his speciality? If it turned out "he" was a raging homosexual...what could that mean?

It does at least offer an alternative explanation for that robophobic barman: for all we know he might be objecting to C3P0 & R2–D2 not because they’re ’droids but because he thinks they’re a couple

CHEWBACCA, AKA "Scooby" "Chewy"

They seem confident they can tell what he is saying, but it is never important enough for subtitles, they never consult him on his personal politicoreligious philosophy, the space-mafia never bother putting a price on his head and he is ineligible for any medals. He is in effect a housepet who can use a blaster rifle. (& modelled on the Lucas family dog)

JABBA

A character who almost but not quite made it onto the screen: a scene where the mobster appears in person to threaten Solo was filmed but then replaced in the final cut by the one with Grido the bounty hunter. That was a wise move, because if this planet is where Jabba lives then Solo looks a pillock for coming here without the cash. Save that scene for another planet in one of the sequels!

The deleted footage showed Jabba as a rotund Irishman in a shaggy coat – this costume being good evidence that (contrary to Lucas's claims) the idea of using CGI to replace him with a giant slug was an afterthought.  Greedo's subtitles cemented the spelling of “Jabba”, but nobody in the film used his nickname “the Hutt”; early sources gave it as “the Hut”, and for all anyone knew that might have indicated that (like Ben Kenobi) he lived in one.  The subsequent revelation that Hutts are an entire species of fat and greasy stereotypes implies that they were effectively addressing a mob boss as “Tony the Wop”.

The 1997 Special Edition reinstated Jabba's walk‐on part in Episode IV (so some of the dialogue that had been recycled for the scene with Greedo now ends up being spoken twice), but successive re‐releases have gone backwards and forwards on the question of whether Han shot first or whether Greedo was the galaxy's least competent gunslinger.

KENOBI, Ben, AKA "General Obi-Wan" (deceased(?))

Kenobi like any good Gandalf figure is much older than he looks: Governor Tarkin, underestimating the power of the Force, is sure he must be dead by now. He has spent 2Ø years living on Nameless dressed as a local hermit, and tells Luke "your uncle feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damned-fool idealistic crusade, like your father did," which sounds a reasonable concern if Ben has no other motive for hanging around. Given that Luke had been itching for a chance to escape his humdrum life on the farm, Ben might have tried some more active recruitment strategy, except that his precognition must have told him there was no point. (“& ps: no need to bother packing a travel bag”)

We know now that “old fossil” Kenobi was barely in his fifties, and that his outfit (almost identical to Uncle Owen's desert robes) wasn't part of his cover – no, he was wearing the standard dress uniform of the Jedi Order the whole time!  As for the idea that “old Obi‐Wan” radicalised Anakin into a jihadi warrior, that doesn't fit with the prequels at all, even as a lie that anybody has a reason to tell.

These days George Lucas insists that having Obi‐Wan die in the first movie was something he came up with himself, but earlier interviews say this was one of many contributions by his then wife Marcia, who was also the main film editor (earning an Academy Award for her crucial work on the climactic scenes) and the owner of the malamute dog named Indiana.  After the divorce she was largely airbrushed out of the official histories – it's not only fictional characters whose biographies get retcons.

Although he was a "knight," nobody ever addresses him as "Sir Ben," because a jeddai knighthood is not a social rank. It is a vocation that any skilled and committed volunteer could adopt, and one that Kenobi admits he has abandoned:

LUKE:
No--my father didn't fight in the wars, he was a navigator on a spice freighter. (Are we sure about this not being Arrakis?)
BEN:
That's what your uncle told you. He didn't hold with your father's ideals--thought he should have stayed here, and not "gotten involved."
LUKE:
You fought in the Clone Wars?
BEN:
Yes. I was once a jeddai-knight, the same as your father.

Mediaeval knights were heavy cavalry (with heavy sabres!); the hi-tech equivalent seems to be that they are like fighter aces with a samurai-style single combat duelling code and corresponding anachronistic distaste for handguns. Luke's father was jeddai material not because of his ability to bring a knife to a gun fight but because "he was the best star pilot in the galaxy," so more space battle scenes are on the cards. However, the use of tiny single-seater "snub fighters" in the climactic attack on the Death Star was an exceptional tactic--the imperial defences expected them to rely on some kind of normal-sized interceptor that we can hope to see in STAR WARS: Part 2.

The term “X‐wing starfighter” wasn't in the movie; like “Y‐wing” and “TIE fighter”, it started in post‐production as an Industrial Light & Magic in‐house nickname.  But that name was what went on the packaging of the toys, and once the merchandising had made the design iconic it made commercial sense to stick with that, and have Luke go on his pilgrimage to Dagobah (then back, all on one tank of fuel) in a space‐moped…

X‐wings are far from the only thing that people commonly misremember as having always been in the Star Wars universe from “A New Hope” (sic).  The so‐called “Imperial Star Destroyers” were identified in dialogue as plain “cruisers”, the “Tusken Raiders” were only ever referred to as “Sandpeople”, and nobody uttered the words “Anakin”, “cantina”, “Hutt”, “landspeeder”, “Palpatine”, “sandcrawler”, “Sith”, or “Tatooine”.  You'll be relieved to hear that the words “Chewbacca”, “lightsabre”, and “Skywalker” did crop up in dialogue, though only once each; the end credits provided some extra details like Princess Leia's surname.  Then later episodes enshrined the name “X‐wings” in canon while introducing new things for the toymakers to label, such as the “AT‐ATs”, “Tauntaun”, and “Wampa”, not to mention the “Ewoks”, which were never once called that in‐story.

(Oh, and Darth Vader's famous “Imperial March” leitmotif in the theme music – dah, dah, dah, dum‐tee‐dum, dum‐tee‐dum – didn't turn up until “The Empire Strikes Back”.)

ORGANA, Princess Leia

An attractive teenage girl who is at the same time a princess, an ambassador and a wealthy imperial senator, all that on top of moonlighting as a revolutionary. Somehow she expected to go unnoticed wandering the outermost reaches of the Empire when she should have been serving on the Senate--we know it is in session because Darth Vader orders it informed of her tragic "death"!

This detail also tells us that Darth Vader was unaware that the Senate was being abolished until the big news reached his boss.  After all, it's not as if Vader was one of the Emperor's closest personal confidants…

But what is she a princess of? She can hardly be the wife of the Prince of Aulduran (which might make her "Leia, Princess of Aulduran" but would not entitle her to style herself "Princess Leia"). And important as her father may be, if her title derived from being a child of the Arch-Duke of Aulduran Sector I find it hard to imagine Tarkin missing the opportunity to congratulate her on becoming Arch-Duchess. Instead people still refer to Miss Organa as "Princess Leia," so it appears she is a princess of the imperial blood: a grand-daughter of the Emperor, or similar. We can expect this to be a plot point in future instalments!

That bit about “Leia, Princess of…” was also true a few years later of the title “Diana, Princess of Wales” (not “Princess Diana”), and nobody noticed in that case, either.

The beef feminist critics have with fairy‐tale princesses is that they represent social status as something that women can't actively earn: it's purely a matter of being born the daughter of the right man.  Star Wars accidentally subverts this with its eventual retcon that Luke and Leia are both important to the plot only because of who their father is – they are twin siblings.  (And yet when they were cast Mark Hamill was 24 to Carrie Fisher's 19, while the shooting script declared Leia to be 16 – isn't that a little young for a senator?)

R2-D2, AKA "Artoo-Detoo"

Half the plot is driven by an odd misunderstanding of how data storage works: when Princess Leia transfers the Death Star schematics onto R2-D2, it is taken for granted that this must involve removing the datafile from the ship's central computer banks. If she had just copied it, Darth Vader would have remained unaware of the leak, and the Empire would have had no reason to pursue the 'droids, or to slaughter Luke's family.

R2-D2 may be a blatant rip-off of the "drone" robots in Silent Running, or then again according to the 2Øth Century-Fox lawyers, Universal Studios' own Battlestar Galactica may be the one plagiarising STAR WARS--the courts have yet to decide!

It's never been clear to me quite how it is that two acts of intellectual property theft can cancel out so that nobody gets punished for either, but luckily for multinational media corporations that does appear to be how it works.

SKYWALKER, Luke

For all his ambitions of going to "academy" (to learn to read?), Luke has never before got as far as his jerkwater planet's big city. When he is unable to take the all-important R2 unit with him into a bar, instead of staying outside his reaction is to abandon the 'droid in an alleyway in a "wretched hive of scum and villainy." Maybe he was just that desperate for a pint.

SKYWALKER(?), Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru (deceased)

Rubber band characters, who live to hold the hero back, then die to propel him towards adventure. The end credits are coy about their surnames, so which was Luke related to? Is he a Skywalker because his father and Owen Skywalker were brothers, and he has been raised by Owen and his wife? Or are Owen and Beru just his father's brother and sister, living together on the old Skywalker family ranch? Or then again was Luke adopted by his Aunt Beru, who has married Owen Skywalker--in which case for all we know his father's name might have been Jim-Bob Tarkin?

They're known to Wookieepedia as “Owen Lars” and “Beru Lars née Whitesun” – that is, neither of them were biologically related to Luke!  But seventies moviegoers weren't in a position to deduce any of this, and they wouldn't encounter the name “Anakin Skywalker” until “Return of the Jedi” (though twenty‐first‐century revised versions retrofit the name into “The Empire Strikes Back”).

SOLO, Captain Han

Unlike goody-2-shoes Luke, Captain Solo could give the audience realistic concerns about whether he might betray the rebellion, only to prove to be a natural exponent of the Force...after all, he may be cynical about "hokey religions and ancient weapons," but he is a gifted natural pilot who always shoots at just the right moment, and he has the exact same prescient catchphrase as Luke: "I've got a very bad feeling about this." Skywalker may need to learn to trust his gut instinct before he can channel the Force, but training like that would be wasted on Han Solo!

This I suppose would be the noir side of the Force.

TARKIN, Governor Grand Moff (deceased)

It is established that he is a Regional Governor, and everybody addresses him as such, but the credits call the character "Grand Moff Tarkin." Rather than assume that he is a Moff and the STAR WARS universe features Assistant Undermoffs, I for one prefer to imagine that "Grand Moff" is just the name his parents gave him.

Governor G M Tarkin is one of the most senior members of the imperial hierarchy, entrusted with absolute authority over the Empire's new ultimate weapon, and he is the originator of all the evil decisions in the movie--having Princess Leia tortured, blowing up her home world, ordering her execution--so it is odd that he should be so much less interesting than his obedient lackey Vader. He gets his comeuppance, but if he was important to the Empire, and they have cloning technology, there is no reason for Peter Cushing not to get a role in STAR WARS: Part 2!

Not only did Cushing get higher billing than Alec Guinness, let alone David Prowse, who played Vader on‐screen, but James Earl Jones was completely unacknowledged in the original credits, just like all the rest of the voice actors.  In case you're wondering, James Earl Jones isn't literally an Earl – “James Earl” is just the name his parents gave him.

VADER, Lord Darth

The one non-human in either military is working for the side that you might expect would be human supremacists. His betrayal of the Jeddai Corps has earned him a place as Tarkin's trusted henchman, though he seems not to have any formal position--the conference on the Death Star leaves him standing behind his master's chair. In place of a military rank he goes by the title "Lord Vader," but does that mean the empire granted him lordship over some conquered world or is he a noble among his own people?

Kev tells me according to the novelisation he’s a “Dark Lord of the Sith”which implies there is some other kind.  Maybe SW2 will introduce his sister, a Pale Lady of the same domain…

Our renegade reviewer is in no position to guess Vader's connection to Luke, which didn't exist yet.  It hadn't even been decided that “Darth” was an adopted title (effectively short for “Darklordofthesith”); on the contrary, Kenobi introduced him as “a young Jedi named Darth Vader”, and taunted him with lines like “You can't win, Darth”.  The name was assigned to a completely different character in prototype versions of the screenplay, and explained by Lucas as suggesting the word “invader” – the tale about it being a hint at “father” was dreamed up long after the fact.  The idea that the Star Wars saga is largely Vader's story was a major retcon!  It wasn't until his twelve minutes of screen time were already in the can that they even decided to let him survive the final battle so he could come back in a sequel.  His role had grown in the filming largely as a result of the impressive costume – which was originally supposed to be a spacesuit that he was only wearing when we first meet him because he had just spacewalked from one vessel to another.

The word “Sith” did crop up in Alan Dean Foster's novels, as well as in merchandise such as the Star Wars trading cards, but it was never once referenced, let alone explained, in the whole classic movie trilogy!  So for all the fans knew, it might have been correctly pronounced “SHEE”, like the Gaelic word it was based on (“sìth” = “fairy”, as in “bean sìth” = “fairy woman, banshee”).  Then “The Phantom Menace” revealed that at any given time there are always just two of them, and the Emperor was the senior one (a fact everybody mystifyingly forgot to pass on to Luke).  If Vader as the Emperor's apprentice was the lowest ranking Sith in the cosmos, in what sense was he a Lord of them?

WILLARD, General

Who? You might well ask, because General Willard appears just once, with his back to the camera, speaking a few unimportant words to greet Princess Leia to Yavvyn--though in fact the voice we hear is over-dubbed. He has fewer lines and less impact on the plot than Grido or the spaceport barman. Unlike them he gets a namecheck in the film's end credits. They must be planning to give him a more substantial role in subsequent instalments.

Willard was named after the writer Willard Huyck, who had helped out with the screenplay otherwise uncredited.  Early drafts of the sequel did give the General a meatier part, but “Star Wars” was the actor's swan‐song – he died in 1981.

—5—
The Further Adventures of Hapax Legomenon

Ongoing

Rumour has it that the first drafts of the STAR WARS: Part 2 screenplay were written by Leigh "Queen of Space Opera" Brackett--widow of the aforementioned Edmond Hamilton--before she succumbed to cancer. So we can be confident that the sequels will develop the setting in a way that is true to the genre.

The Leigh Brackett drafts, although never legally published, are now available online for anybody who wants to read a tale where a lightsabre proves fairly useless against a fast‐moving ice‐monster (Han points out it's basically a ceremonial weapon); where Lando is one of the last survivors of the race of clones nearly exterminated in the Clone Wars; and where the ghost of Luke's father tells him he has a sister named Nellith.  Brackett was working from story conferences with Lucas, so it's not clear how much of it was her own invention, but we know at least that none of it contradicted anything he had decided on.  If she had lived longer, Brackett could have fine‐tuned her concepts to meet the film's requirements; as it is, up‐and‐coming screenwriter Laurence Kasdan was commissioned to help rework the script.  George Lucas was generous with the writing credits, and implied in interviews that the big who's‐your‐daddy twist had been Leigh Brackett's idea.  Nonetheless, it didn't actually get written in until a much later draft – late enough that even the Emperor gives the impression that he hadn't seen the memo.

Brackett's script, titled just “STAR WARS sequel”, was positioned as the second instalment of an open‐ended epic serial rather than the downer middle episode in a trilogy of trilogies.  Even the post‐Brackett rewrite was labelled “Episode II”.  But then exchange rate fluctuations during production sent “The Empire Strikes Back” ten million dollars over budget, and dividing the project up into modular chunks helped them secure a bank loan.

All this makes it hard to take seriously the old Lucasfilm PR dogma that George Lucas had a clear plan from the start for where he wanted to go with the Star Wars saga, unless maybe the grand strategy was “milk it”.  When Gary Kurtz walked away from the franchise, the reason he gave was that Lucas had come to care more about selling toys than telling a story.  It may or may not be a coincidence that “Empire”, the one episode where Lucas had least overall control, has come to be generally regarded as the best in the series.

CASTING

I am told there are people who complain about the lack of "racial diversity" in Part 1 and insist there should be some black characters in the sequel. This is as daft as insisting there should be one redhead in every Kurosawa movie. We are not supposed to be spending our time wondering where on Earth some bit-part's grandparents come from--the answer is: nowhere on Earth! So instead of a distracting mix that matches the balance of ethnic groups in California, as if that were where this remote galaxy had been populated from, they are all depicted as north Europeans (and non-gingers at that). It is a convention, like the way they are depicted as speaking English: white people just represent a neutral default. Adding 1 black actor would undermine that simple convention and make it altogether racist.

At least no one can accuse Kurtz and Lucas of sexism! 3 of the most important roles in STAR WARS: Part 1 went to females:

1) Aunt Beru, whose death inspires Luke to accept his quest,

2) Leia, the pretty, strong-willed princess he rescues, and

3) if you take Han Solo's word for it, the Millennium-Falcon.

And that's still a better score than the sequel… in fact it wasn't until “Return of the Jedi” that a female character other than the hero's aunt or sister got to speak on camera.  Fans will tell you that this was an important Rebel leader named “Mon Mothma”, but to cinema audiences she was just “that redhead who appears for a few seconds doing warm‐up for Admiral Ackbar”.

PLOT DEVELOPMENT

LOVE STORY: Luke's first reaction to the hologram was to declare that he had the hots for the Princess. Leia's reaction on seeing him in his disguise was to make a flirty comment on his stature, and minutes later, while he must still be reeking of sewage, she kissed him. This being a U-rated 3Ø's throwback, we can expect it not to rise much above the level of subtext, but it is clear that Han Solo is being set up as the "bad boy" corner of a love triangle competing with the protagonist, which seems a useful source of complications in his motivation. Given that Leigh Brackett's screenplay credits include both The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye we can at least hope for some snappy dialogue.

U certification guidelines: centre‐stage genocideokay, snoggingforbidden

“Splinter of the Mind's Eye” continued to play up the Luke/Leia angle, as did the early cinematic trailers for “The Empire Strikes Back”; it didn't all get retroactively ensquickened until the late Obi‐Wan admitted in “Return of the Jedi” that they were brother and sister.  Why the delay?  If we are to believe the prequels, Kenobi was present for their birth, naming, and adoption; so he should have known perfectly well that the princess in the hologram was Luke's own flesh and blood (while on the other hand he had no evident reason to imagine that Darth Vader survived their last meeting).  Why would he not mention this when he was trying to persuade Luke to take up his father's lightsabre and accompany him to Alderaan?  And why on Dagobah did he need Yoda to tell him that “there is another” potential Jedi besides the boy?  The answer is that this twist was invented remarkably late – Yoda was talking about Anakin's daughter, but it hadn't been settled whether that meant Princess Leia Organa or Nellith Skywalker.

ROYAL RESCUE REDUX: a plot thread where they attempt to get the rest of the royal family out of the hands of the baddies would have several advantages besides showing us an imperial-held world--for a start, infiltration is one of the few mission types where it might make sense to send a psychic, a rogue and someone who knows the layout of the palace on Trantor the ancient former capital world. A "historic" planet would also be a good way to introduce some subplot about Luke needing to return to the place where the Jeddai Corps originated. And the more pear-shaped the mission goes, the closer Princess Leia gets to the succession!

IRON MASK: at the end of Part 1, Vader was marooned in a rebel system in a damaged fighter of a type they were careful to tell us has no hyperspace capability. So we can expect Part 2 to feature Darth Vader as a captive of the Alliance. He is after all the only surviving link to the Jeddai Corps, wearing the nearest thing left to jeddai armour, and once they start the interrogation he's a natural source for back-story flashbacks. Plus of course he gets to set up Han Solo's betrayal fake-out.

SWIPES: the set-up of STAR WARS: Part 1--along with lots of specific ingredients, like the swipe cuts between scenes--is a direct steal of the first half of Akira Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress, which is even name-dropped! This suggests that the sequel should borrow the plotline of some other Kurosawa movie...if any were left. They have all been turned into spaghetti westerns, except for Throne of Blood, his version of Macbeth. Cue Darth Vader in the role of prophecy-spouting tempter.

Kurosawa‐style rainstorms + light sabres = fireworks!

SWORDPLAY: we need to give Skywalker an opponent to practice his light sabre duelling on, but taking on a pro like Darth Vader straight away seems a bad idea. As luck would have it, getting thrown into the arena to fight some lumbering monster with a blaster-proof shell is a routine occurrence in the old serials.

DIPLOMACY: the other traditional thing to do while visiting a dangerous planet is recruit the locals to the anti-Ming Rebel Alliance. If the plan is to keep churning out stories in the setting all through the 8Ø's, STAR WARS could use the same plot device--how else is C3PØ going to get anything useful to do?

GIANT BRAINS: a planet-controlling local computer-God sounds an appropriate sort of adversary for a Force-wielding protagonist. And how can we have an hommage to Flash Gordon without a Professor Zarkov figure, at least for mad-science exposition?

SPACE ACES: the climax of STAR WARS: Part 1 is lifted from The Dam Busters, and here there is no shortage of options for followups. For instance, if the Rebel Alliance is trying to hold newly declared rebel systems against imperial assault, it could recycle the Battle of Britain scenes from Reach for the Sky. For bonus plot points, the "friendly" setting could be Jabba's home world, or indeed Vader's. However, there is a conceptual problem with "battlefronts" in the STAR WARS universe, where a fleet can de-warp right above your central HQ at any moment: "the bomber will always get through!" So the Alliance needs some equivalent of wartime Britain's radar boffins to develop countermeasures...

Science fiction fans have always loved tales of battling technological wizards, and in the seventies the general public was just beginning to find out how vital to the war effort boffins like the Bletchley Park codebreakers had really been.  But the Star Wars setting is so averse to sciencey stuff that its retelling of “The Dam Busters” completely left out Barnes Wallis!  Then in the sequels it avoided ever having to address the issue of how battlefronts work by never featuring anything much resembling a war.  Ace pilot Luke Skywalker and his droid wingman never took part in another space battle, and the Rebel Alliance never made any territorial gains; they just fought desperate rearguards and disastrous raids until the big bad helpfully got himself killed.

V-WEAPON ESCALATION: if you have a planet-killer in the first instalment, doing the same again in the second is an anticlimax--dramatic requirements call for something bigger and scarier and E-E-"Doc"-Smithier in the sequel. Maybe a Starkiller Cannon that the Empire is only just hurrying off the drawing board?

STAR WARS PARTS 3+: Interplanetary Romance may be a nostalgic kind of a genre nowadays, but even in the 3Ø's it was already associated with an elegiac tone, always tending to look back to a mythic era when the planet Mars was still verdant, the precursor races were not yet extinct and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were...you get the picture. The STAR WARS universe has hints that it could go in this direction.

eg: “Splinter” has Luke & Leia questing for a crystal Force‐MacGuffin in an ancient shrine

If the Jeddai Corps has a planet of origin called Arisia dating back to the dawn of the Old Republic then maybe there is a hope of not just winning the civil war but reviving the full glory of the Golden Age? And once you have a rediscovered Forbidden Planet of relics, you can also have the Space Nazis racing them to find the Superweapon of the Godlike Ancients.

What a sad missed opportunity for a thirties‐style adventure fantasy scripted by Laurence Kasdan, with Harrison Ford playing action archaeologist (and demonstrating to an evil swordsman why he prefers to have a good blaster at his side).  They could have called it “Vaders of the Lost Ark”.

Just so long as the series avoids ending with Luke and Leia escaping the galactonihilator bomb by leaping into a teleporter and coming out half-way across the cosmos in the Garden of Eden. Claiming you are doing a deliberate tribute to 3Ø's cliches is all very well, but these are the 7Ø's, and "Shaggy God" endings like that are long past their sell-by date. Likewise we can hope not to see any of the following TOP 1Ø TWISTS TO AVOID:

o In a scene designed to explain Mark Hamill's new scar, the story opens with Luke trying out a jeddai "light-shaving" technique and learning why Ben grew a beard. When Han mocks him, Luke retaliates by shaving Chewbacca and reveals the birthmark proving him the true heir to the galactic throne.

o Invaded by the treacherous Empire, the eldritch hive-horrors of the Zzzo-Vh'yet Union switch over to the Alliance side.

o Leia introduces Luke and Han to her fiance, General Willard.

o The Empire demonstrates how oppressive it is by issuing a 'Droid Emancipation Proclamation designed to crush the rebel worlds that have economies based on robotic labour.

o Luke has prescient visions of apocalyptic holy wars sweeping the galaxy in his name, and swears off the Space Cheese.

o Darth "black knight" Vader loses both arms and legs in a light sabre duel, but insists that it's only a flesh wound.

o Realising they have the only surviving copy of the blueprint datafile, the Alliance starts mass-producing Death Stars.

o After it turns out Ben's disappearing trick was a result of the INSTAMULCH(TM) Corpse-Liquefying Longjohns that space hermits wear to avoid becoming food for space vultures, R2-D2 admits to having played a recording of one of the old man's pep talks over the fighter's intercom system.

o The mice complain Aulduran was demolished 5 minutes before it was due to produce the Question to the Ultimate Answer.

o Luke's mysterious unmentioned mother and Leia's mysterious unmentioned mother turn out to be the same woman.

KEV: hang on to this while I’m at Elstree Studios! I'm going to do a bit of snooping around & get some confirmation for my theories!
doesn’t look like he’s coming back ? keep this on file in case it’s any use when we find a new video reviewer
— Kevin

It seems obvious that what happened was that the poor guy ran into George Lucas, who retconned him straight out of reality.

—6—
The Force Ewokens

The Star Wars “Extended Universe” has developed by far the most complex and elaborate system of categories of any franchise for determining whether a piece of fiction counts as “in continuity” or not; so convoluted that the rule system itself has gone through multiple reboots!  But at the same time, it has also long been the franchise with the loosest canon.

Those seventies Marvel comics?  “Splinter of the Mind's Eye”?  The “Star Wars Holiday Special”?  All of those rank as “Secondary Canon” (or “S‐Canon”), meaning that they're officially true in every detail unless and until something higher‐ranking happens to contradict them (which is why Boba Fett, invented for the Holiday Special, could turn up in the subsequent movies).  Something higher‐ranking like, for instance, the 1992 novel “The Glove of Darth Vader”, which introduces Palpatine's three‐eyed mutant son!  As a licensed spin‐off, that ranks as “C‐ (for Continuity) Canon”, with higher status but no guarantees that it won't be invalidated by some casual reference in a piece of random background fluff invented later for a video game.  Having been established earlier doesn't make things any more authoritative; on the contrary, in this scheme “priority” works backwards.  However, none of these sources can overrule the “Clone Wars” cartoon series, which is another rung higher up the ladder of canonicity.

So what's at the top, then?  Anything in any of the six live‐action movies set in Lucas's personal universe is “G‐Canon”, where the big G stands for George.  Wait, only six?  Are we forgetting “Caravan of Courage: an Ewok Adventure” and its sequels?  Why yes; they were Lucas's idea, produced entirely under his supervision, and they were declared fully canonical at the time, but somehow they have now slipped to C‐Canon or lower.  But apart from that mysterious omission, the rule is that the bits credited to George himself are the Word of God (even if they were only in the shooting script, not the finished cut); and new Special Editions that he endorses override any previous release, because the older he gets, the better his ideas become.  In principle if we could get George Lucas drunk enough to do an impromptu shadow‐puppet remake of the Phantom Menace, that would trump the version we were subjected to on the big screen.

Or at least, those were the rules when I started work on this.  Now that Disney own the rights they are doing another canon reboot, finally vindicating Mr Imposter by jettisoning decades of Extended Universe material.  So if you were about to write and tell me “there's an explanation for that plot hole in the Thrawn Trilogy”, don't bother: it's no more authoritative now than those “Family Guy” parodies.


The moral of this tale is that there's no reason Episodes VII–IX shouldn't be just as much ridiculous space‐operatic fun as last year's “Guardians of the Galaxy”, but anyone who's expecting the sequels to form a coherent and satisfying conclusion to an overarching science fiction epic plotline can't have been paying much attention.