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Star Wars: The Force Awakens vs. Expanded Universe

Contributed by Josiah Murphy (guitarist for Why They Came). Their latest release, The Scarecrow EP, is available on iTunes. Watch their Star Wars themed music video for “Echo Three to Echo 7” at the bottom of the page!

Josiah and his old pal, Boba Fett!
Josiah and his old pal, Boba Fett!

I’ve had Star Wars in my life since before I could retain memories. I can’t recall the first time the saga was shown to me… It’s just always been there. I grew up pretending that I was a hero fighting along side my heroes. Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2, and 3PO were my friends who I could always go to another world with no matter what I had going on in real life. I’ve incorporated Star Wars into every aspect of my life. (Just ask my closest family, friends, and band mates… it’s kind of a problem!)

Anyway, I’m the guy who waves his hands in front of automatic opening doors and has enough Star Wars clothing to wear something different for weeks at a time. I have Star Wars tattoos, and I collect toys that I never open. Not a day goes by that I can’t find a way to reference Star Wars to something I’m dealing with. I think you’ve got the picture.

When I was ten, maybe eleven, I discovered that there was more to the story than just A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Way more! There were novels that sent my heroes to worlds I’d never heard of, people I’d never seen, and adventures I’d never dreamed of. There was an Expanded Universe.

Flash forward to the year 2015, going into what is now 2016. Disney/Lucasfilm have taken those stories that I have been reading for years and de-canonized, re-branded, and re-marketed them as Legends. We now have a whole new timeline of stories being spearheaded by what will probably be the highest grossing film of all time, The Force Awakens

You can hear me weigh in on the new film in greater detail on the “Nothing But Star Wars” episode of The Bad Apple Records Podcast, but for now, here is a list of the top 5 differences that stuck out to me while watching the film.

Warning: Obvious spoilers ahead.

1.) Luke Skywalker

LEGENDS: In the original Expanded Universe, Luke is unsurprisingly the Grandmaster of the New Jedi Order. Hundreds of Jedi are serving under Luke, protecting peace and justice for the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances (formerly the New Republic). He found love and married a fellow force-sensitive human named Mara Jade. They had a force-sensitive son who would end up becoming a Jedi as well. His name is Ben Skywalker, named after Luke’s beloved mentor and friend Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi.

THE FORCE AWAKENS: When we briefly meet Luke in the final minutes of the film, we know very little about his life other than the fact that he attempted to train a new generation of Jedi that sadly (all?) met their demise at the hand of Luke’s nephew and fallen apprentice, Kylo Ren (Ben Solo). We do not know if he had a family, but there are theories that Rey could be his daughter. He’s exiled himself at what is believed to be the very first Jedi Temple.

2.) Leia Organa

LEGENDS: Leia Organa Solo is someone who has had her fingers in many pies since the events of Return of the Jedi. She would pursue her Jedi training, but it would always be interrupted by constantly being pulled into politics. Though she would eventually complete her training, she also would serve as Head of State (basically the same thing as a supreme chancellor) for the New Republic. After relinquishing that title, Leia would occasionally act as an ambassador for the government. She is married to our beloved scoundrel and first-shooting smuggler, Han Solo. They have three Jedi children (though at the time of the Disney buyout, only one of them is still alive). Jacen and Jaina are the oldest, and in the tradition of Star Wars, they are also twins. Anakin Solo is the youngest son and died during the Yuuzhan Vong conflict. Jacen, like Ben Solo (Kylo Ren), fell to the Dark Side and was ultimately killed by his twin sister Jaina. Jacen also had a daughter named Allana who ends up being adopted by Han and Leia after Jecen’s death. Though Leia and Han’s marriage has its rough patches, they stuck together all the way through the final novel released in the Legends timeline.

THE FORCE AWAKENS: “General” Leia Organa is the leader of The Resistance. There is a Republic established come the time of TFA, but it appears to be destroyed or crippled (time will tell) by the First Order and its Starkiller Base. It’s revealed that she had a son with Han and that they named him Ben Solo (who later became Kylo Ren). She and Han appear to have been married for a time, but when we meet them in the film, they are estranged due to their son falling to the dark side. She is obviously force-sensitive as shown in the prior films, but she has not undergone any type of formal Jedi training. Little else is know at this point about what she has been doing between the original trilogy and TFA.

3.) Han Solo

LEGENDS: In the Legends universe, Han has a fun history! His origins have been told as far back as his childhood and all the way through his marriage to Leia. It is never stated when or how he dies because that had not yet been written when the Disney buyout took place. So, fortunately, we don’t have to suffer through his death in two timelines. As stated with Leia, they have three kids and later on adopted their granddaughter. Han, not being force-sensitive, is jokingly known for his luck and somehow escaped every debacle (usually with help from his force-sensitive family… but hey, luck is luck). Sadly, the Solo luck ran out on a couple occasions with the death of his closest friend, Chewbacca, and later the death of his youngest son, Anakin. Later, their other son Jacen falls to the dark side and is killed by his twin, Jaina.

THE FORCE AWAKENS: When we first encounter Han in the new film, it’s obvious that luck is not something he is known for. He has not had possession of the Millennium Falcon for a while, and he can’t seem to keep himself out of debt to lowlife gangs. We find out that he has a son who just so happens to be Kylo Ren. We learn that his son’s fall to the dark side had a huge part in the crumble of his and Leia’s relationship. Finally, he and Leia are reunited, but that moment is not long lived when Han is killed by his son. Thus ends the story arc of one of history’s most beloved characters. It is yet to be seen what impact his death will have on the series, but his death clearly sent ripples through the force as Leia appears to sense his death. It also appears, at the end of the film, that Luke has felt the death of his long time friend, furthering the guilt that Luke most likely feels for Ben Solo falling to the dark side under his tutelage. Rest in Peace, you scruffy looking nurf herder. You will be missed.

4.) Chewbacca

LEGENDS: Good ol’ Chewie remained the best friend and co-pilot of Han for roughly 25 years after Return of the Jedi. Sadly, he died a hero’s death at the start of the Yuuzhan Vong conflict when the invaders were able to pull a moon down onto the planet Sernpidal where Han, Chewie, and Han’s son Anakin were attempting to evacuate the people. Chewie died saving thousands right before roaring defiantly at the very moon that crashed down upon him. Chewie was survived by his wife, father, and son who we were introduced to in the Star Wars Holiday Special. He also had a nephew named Lowbacca who was also a Jedi.

THE FORCE AWAKENS: When we meet Chewie in TFA, he’s still the same old walking carpet that we remember and love from the original trilogy (not the weird looking one from Revenge of the Sith). Like the other main characters, not a whole lot has been established about their activity since ROTJ. Since it’s never stated in the other films (we’re going to go ahead and assume the Holiday Special is not canon), we don’t know if he even has a family. We do know that he’s still Han’s friend and co-pilot. Some may wonder why he hasn’t appeared to age as much as Han or the rest of the original team, but most do not realize that when we first meet him in A New Hope, he’s already 200 years old! What’s another 30 years? He was obviously there for the birth of Ben Solo, so when Han and Chewie’s roles are swapped from the Legends timeline, and Han is the one who meets his end at the hands of his son, you can imagine the rage and betrayal he feels towards Ben (Kylo). At the end of the film, he’s seen leaving with our new hero, Rey, aboard the Falcon as they go on their search for Luke. We’re left to wonder what’s in the cards for Chewie. Will he too meet his end in this series, or will he live on with the new heroes?

5.) The Government

LEGENDS: After the Emperor is killed, it took much more fighting before the Empire ceased to be the main power in the universe. Eventually Coruscant fell to the Rebellion and the New Republic was formed. The Empire was driven to the outskirts of the galaxy, where it established itself as the Imperial Remnant. The New Republic fought for almost 20 years with the Remnant before a cease fire was finally reached. Peace would be short lived when an alien race known as The Yuuzhan Vong, who are from another another galaxy, invade the the Republic. This war had the most devastating impact on the galaxy, even more so than the Empire. The total death count of sentient beings at the end of the conflict was around 365 trillion. Hundreds of planets were destroyed. During this war, the New Republic government crumbles from the inside and is reformed as The Galactic Federation of Free Alliances. It would take the Imperial Remnant, Galactic Federation, and several other smaller governments working together (along with the Jedi) to finally achieve victory. When we reach the final novel in the Legends timeline, 10-15 years have passed and the galaxy is still recovering from war.

THE FORCE AWAKENS: What we know from TFA is that there is a Republic, and it has established itself on a planet called Hosnian Prime instead of its original prequel location of Coruscant. The Empire eventually regrouped in the far edges of the galaxy and formed what is now called the First Order. At some point, a cease fire was signed which prohibited the Republic from openly engaging the First Order. Suspicion that the First Order was hostile again is what leads to the creation of the Resistance. The Resistance is led by General Leia Organa. In the film, the First Order uses Starkiller Base to destroy Hosnian Prime and its surrounding moons and planets. The Republic and its naval fleet are destroyed! With those events, we’re left with two players on the field. None of the previous planets we’ve visited in past films are mentioned, so we’re not sure the state of the rest of the galaxy (including Coruscant).

I look forward to seeing where the saga goes from here! Meanwhile, I will continue to read the Legends stories that I’ve been following for years. If anyone else is looking to read some great Star Wars stories (even if they’re no longer canon), I recommend the following –

  • The Thrawn Trilogy
  • The New Jedi Order
  • Legacy of the Force
  • Fate of the Jedi
  • Shadows of the Empire
  • Dark Empire I & II (Comic Books)

May the Force be with You… always!

Watch Why They Came’s music video for “Echo 3 to Echo 7” from The Scarecrow EP!

2 thoughts on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens vs. Expanded Universe

  1. Awesome article.
    I read all nineteen books of The New Jedi Order in a row back when I was living in Bowling Green. It was as epic as it was intimidating.

    I was a little concerned, but not surprised, when I heard that they weren’t going to use the pre-existing expanded universe for the new movies. Given the amount of history in the EU, it would have been next to impossible to create a movie that EU fans would be happy with. And, well, most Star Wars fans don’t care, anyway.

    It would have been nice to have some of the characters around, the Solo children in particular, but it’s tough to complain about the new characters that we were given. Kylo Ren is probably my favorite villain ever (but I still love you, Vader,) and the new heroes are all great. (I’m very happy that Abrams changed his mind about killing Poe.)

    Knowing Chewie’s fate from the UE did have an impact on my viewing of the movie. Although there were red herrings planted that made me think that Chewie could die, knowing his fate from the EU made me certain that, once they split up on Starkiller Base, he and Han wouldn’t see each other again. I think that’s why it was a complete surprise to me when Han died.

    Okay, rambling about Star Wars over.

    1. I’d like to add that LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga was paused while I read and responded to your article.

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