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The Star Wars expanded universe (formerly branded as the Star Wars Expanded Universe or SWEU) encompasses all authorized media and officially licensed Star Wars fictional material. The expanded universe includes books, comic books, video games, toys, television films and other assorted media. Any media directly produced by Lucasfilm is considered official Star Wars canon: the Star Wars films, the Clone Wars TV series and the Rebels series.
In April 2014, Lucasfilm announced that all previously released expanded universe content would be declared non-canon and rebranded as Star Wars Legends. A new company division, Lucasfilm Story Group, would ensure from then on that all forthcoming comics, books, games and other media were non-contradictory to the films, other canon media and each other. Given they are part of a similar story, however, content and characters based on Legends works may appear in the new "storytelling approach".
Unlike the films, which are set over a span of over 66 years, the Legends branded expanded universe takes place over 37,139 years in the Star Wars Legends universe. The earliest work involving the expanded universe chronologically is the Dawn of the Jedi comic series, whose earliest events take place 37,000 years before the films. The latest content on the timeline is the Legacy comic series, which is set at most 138 years after Return of the Jedi.
The Galactic Standard Calendar was the standard measurement of time in the Star Wars galaxy. It centered around the Coruscant tropical year. The Coruscant solar cycle was 368 days long; with a day consisting 360 NET degrees (or 24 standard UTC hours). Numerous epochs were used to determine calendar eras. The most recent of these calendar eras used the Battle of Yavin (i.e. the destruction of the first Death Star) as its epoch, or "year zero": BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin), and ABY (After the Battle of Yavin).
The timeline below uses the in-universe BBY dating system, based on the years before and after the Battle of Yavin featured in A New Hope. The earliest date in the Expanded Universe as a whole is 13,000,000,000 BBY, which serves as the year the universe was created.
Set before the rise of the Republic and first mentioned in the Knights of the Old Republic, this era saw the Rakata, a bipedal species from the world of Lehon in the Unknown Regions, establish an empire using the Dark Side of the Force. The Rakata would eventually come into conflict with the Je'Daii, precursors to the modern Jedi, who studied and used both the Light and Dark sides of the Force equally. The Je'Daii would appear approximately 46,453 years BBY according to the preview issue of Dawn of the Jedi, which states that their origins are ten thousand years before the actual story arc took place, while the first page of the graphic novel after the book's title page would declare that the story itself takes place 36,453 years prior to the Battle of Yavin. This era ended with the collapse of the Rakata Empire and the establishment of the Galactic Republic in 25,053 BBY.
In this era (set thousands of years before the films), the Jedi are numerous and rule the galaxy, serving as guardians of peace and justice. The Tales of the Jedi comics series takes place in this era, chronicling the immense wars fought by the Jedi of old, and the ancient Sith. The Knights of the Old Republic series and the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic takes place during this time, as well as the Darth Bane series. The Sith Era also takes place during this time.
Set in the time around the prequel trilogy this era takes place after the seemingly final defeat of the Sith. In the waning years of the Republic, the Senate was rife with corruption and scandal, and saddled with a bureaucracy so immense that effective governing of the galaxy was nearly impossible. The Sith Lord, Darth Sidious, secretly orchestrated his rise to Supreme Chancellor under the guise of Senator Palpatine and personally engineered the Clone Wars. He promised to reunite the galaxy under a New Order, and killed the majority of the Jedi. The Phantom Menace takes place in the year 32 BBY, Attack of the Clones and The Clone Wars film in 22 BBY, and Revenge of the Sith in 19 BBY.
With the Old Republic gone, an outcry of resistance begins to spread across the galaxy in protest to the new Empire's tyranny. Cells of Rebellion fight back, and the Galactic Civil War begins. This era begins with the Rebel victory that secured the Death Star plans, and ends after the death of Emperor Palpatine high over the forest moon of Endor. The Rebellion starts to reform itself into a body of government, first as the Alliance to Restore the Republic, and later the New Republic. The original trilogy takes place during this era. Specifically, A New Hope takes place in 0 BBY, The Empire Strikes Back in 3 ABY, and Return of the Jedi in 4 ABY.
Having defeated the Empire at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance must now transform itself from a militant resistance force into a functioning galactic government. As Imperial territory is reclaimed, the New Republic suffers growing pains, having to fend off insurrections, Imperial loyalists, crime lords and wayward warlords. Also, Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi, begins to rebuild the Jedi Order and train new apprentices.
With the Jedi Knights now over one hundred strong the New Republic has signed a peace treaty with the remains of the Empire. The galaxy is finally enjoying a peaceful respite from decades of war. It's in this era that a horrible alien menace invades the Republic from beyond known space. The Yuuzhan Vong lay waste to entire worlds in their scourge, as depicted in the novels of The New Jedi Order. The Dark Nest trilogy falls at the end of this era. The mysterious Killik encroach upon Chiss-controlled space, inciting a three-way war between the Chiss, the Killik Hive, and the Galactic Alliance, with Jedi falling in on all sides.
Having reached peace with the Yuuzhan Vong, the newly formed Galactic Federation of Free Alliances (commonly referred to as Galactic Alliance or GA) struggles to keep itself working as a single government. But many threats from inside are joined by a danger that comes from the remains of the Dark Side, that threaten to give rise to a new Sith Lord more powerful than Darth Vader or Emperor Palpatine. The new Jedi Order created by Luke Skywalker faces a new era as the heirs of the Skywalker legacy grow up. Jacen Solo has partnered with a nemesis from Luke Skywalker's past, Lumiya, who has promised him only if he becomes the next Sith Lord will he be able to bring peace to the galaxy. The Legacy of the Force novels are set at this time. Following the culmination of the Legacy of the Force novels, a series titled Fate of the Jedi begins, involving Luke as he tries to correct the blemish left on the Jedi Order by Jacen Solo. This is followed by the book Crucible. Much later in this era, as suggested by the title, is the Legacy comic series. Set one-hundred thirty years after the films, these comics follow the story of Cade Skywalker, a descendant of Luke Skywalker, who has to confront a resurrected Galactic Empire under the control of a new Sith Order. Volume 2 follows the adventures of Ania Solo, a descendant of Han Solo, as she wanders the galaxy trying to stop the plots of the evil Darth Wredd.
A radio adaptation of A New Hope was first broadcast on National Public Radio in 1981. The adaptation was written by science fiction author Brian Daley and directed by John Madden. It was followed by adaptations of the next two films in the original trilogy: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
The radio adaptations were notable for including background material probably created by Lucas but not used for the films. Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams reprised their roles as Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, and Lando Calrissian, respectively; John Williams composed an original score; and Ben Burtt, who designed the sound for all of the Star Wars movies, did the same for the radio adaptations.
In 1983, Buena Vista Records released entirely original Star Wars audio drama, Rebel Mission to Ord Mantell. Like the radio adaptations of the films, Rebel Mission to Ord Mantell was written by Brian Daley.
For more than a decade, Rebel Mission to Ord Mantell was the only Star Wars drama not adapted from a feature film. Then, between 1995 and 1998 more than a half dozen audio dramas were released as audio tapes and CDs. These audio dramas were adapted from Dark Horse comic books, and include: Tales of the Jedi (1995), Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina (1995), Dark Empire (1996), Dark Empire II (1996), Empire's End (1997), Dark Forces (1998), and Crimson Empire (1998).
Adaptations of the prequel films have not been made at this point.
Star Wars-based fiction predates the release of the first movie, with the 1976 novelization of A New Hope (ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster and credited to George Lucas). However, Foster's 1978 novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, was the first Expanded Universe work to be released. Some of the earliest SWEU material was contributed (in trilogies) by science-fiction writers Brian Daley (The Han Solo Adventures) and L. Neil Smith (The Adventures of Lando Calrissian) in 1979 and 1983, respectively. In addition to filling in the time between the movies, this additional content greatly expanded the Star Wars timeline before and after the film series.
Star Wars fiction flourished during the time of the original series (1977–1983), but slowed to a trickle afterwards. In 1991, however, Timothy Zahn's celebrated Thrawn trilogy debuted, sparking a new interest in the Star Wars universe. Since then, several hundred tie-in novels have been published by Bantam and Del Rey. The books have covered most key timeframes in the Star Wars universe, but most works have focused on the time period following Return of the Jedi and on the events of the Clone Wars. Select books have helped fill in the gaps between the original trilogy movies (e.g., Shadows of the Empire, Death Star, Tales series).
Other notable books in the series include the X-wing series by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston, the Jedi Academy trilogy and Young Jedi Knights series by Kevin J Anderson, the Republic and Imperial Commando series by Karen Traviss, and the multi-author New Jedi Order, Legacy of the Force, and Fate of the Jedi Series.
Marvel Comics published a Star Wars comic book series and adaptations from 1977 to 1986. A wide variety of creators worked on this series, including Archie Goodwin, Howard Chaykin, Al Williamson, Carmine Infantino, Gene Day, Walt Simonson, Michael Golden, Chris Claremont, Whilce Portacio, Jo Duffy, and Ron Frenz.
Serialized Star Wars comic strips, featuring original material written by Roy Thomas, also appeared in Marvel's late-'70s youth-oriented magazine Pizzazz. As the earliest of these strips were published before original material began to appear in Marvel's Star Wars comics (which began by directly adapting the 1977 film) and before publication of Splinter of the Mind's Eye, these strips hold the distinction of being the first Star Wars material in print that was not adapted from one of the films.
Star Wars was also a daily newspaper comic strip from 1979 to 1984. Among the creators were Goodwin, Williamson, and Russ Manning. Dark Horse has also published the newspaper comic strip in a collection entitled Classic Star Wars.
In the late 1980s, Marvel announced it would publish a new Star Wars comic by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy. However, Dark Horse Comics published this story — titled "Dark Empire" -instead, when Marvel's license on the Star Wars property lapsed. Dark Horse has gone on to publish a large number of original adventures set in the Star Wars universe. These include: Star Wars Republic, Star Wars Empire, Star Wars Tales and Star Wars Tales of the Jedi. Dark Horse has also published the Marvel series in a collection entitled Star Wars: A Long Time Ago. In addition, the company has reprinted several Japanese manga-interpretations of the films, including Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by Yoshiki Kudo and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi by Shin-ichi Hiromoto.
After The Walt Disney Company's acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012, it was reported that Marvel, which Disney bought in 2009, will once again be distributing Star Wars comics once Dark Horse's contract expires. It was later confirmed on January 3, 2014 that Marvel will, in fact, be publishing the Star Wars comics again in 2015 ending Dark Horse's publication of the series that began in 1991. The new comic series include one set after Episode IV and before Episode V, penned by Jason Aaron, as well as ones focusing on the exploits of Princess Leia, Darth Vader, and Kanan (a character from the Star Wars Rebels television series).
Since 1983, over 120 video games have been published bearing the Star Wars name, beginning with Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back published for the Atari 2600 by Parker Brothers. Other early titles include the Star Wars Nintendo Entertainment System game (published by JVC) and three other titles for the Atari 2600.
Atari produced arcade games based on the original trilogy, beginning with Star Wars, a rail shooter that used vector graphics. The second game, Return of the Jedi, was based on the third movie and used more traditional raster graphics. The final game, The Empire Strikes Back, was a remake of the first game and based on the second movie.
Star Wars has also opened the way to a myriad of Space-flight simulations that take the space wars of the saga in a more serious manner, teaching the player to fly various Star Wars universe starfighters like more traditional Modern Aircraft flight simulators. The first among these were X-Wing and its two expansions, B-Wing and Imperial Pursuit, dealing with the Rebellion's side of the war, taking place in the period right before, and up to, the destruction of the first Death Star. The second was TIE Fighter, dealing with the Empire's starfighters at the time before Episode VI. Both games were released for DOS and Macintosh. TIE Fighter also had two expansions, "Defender of the Empire" and "Enemies of the Empire". In addition, both the original X-Wing and TIE Fighter games saw two collector's edition releases (one for DOS and another for Windows 9x) which featured enhanced graphics quality and added missions. Newer simulators are also available, with X-Wing Alliance in the lead.
The first Star Wars first person shooter, Dark Forces, was introduced by LucasArts in February 1995. Telling the story of Kyle Katarn, Imperial soldier gone mercenary, the game featured a little over a dozen levels where the player explored various original and familiar settings. Featuring an original and interactive soundtrack by renowned game composer Clint Bajakian using the iMUSE sound system, along with state-of-the-art graphics, the game succeeded in capturing many gamers' imaginations. The 1997 sequel, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, was notable for having a few cut scenes which were made up of live-action footage of certain Expanded Universe characters, including Kyle Katarn.
Rogue Squadron was a cross-platform title on Nintendo 64 and PC which allowed the player to experience a more arcade-action version of the same gameplay in X-Wing and TIE Fighter. The game consisted of piloting several different Star Wars vehicles through missions on planet surfaces and in space. Rogue Squadron saw two sequels, both on the Nintendo GameCube system.
Star Wars: Rebellion allowed players to compete in the Star Wars universe on a larger scale, focusing more on the strategic aspect of handling (or defeating) a rebellion, with resource management and agent-allocation, as well as large-scale conflicts between entire fleets of starships.
Knights of the Old Republic by BioWare, Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords by Obsidian Entertainment are recent additions to the SWEU, and take place in the Old Republic era, right after the Mandalorian Wars.
Other games are: Battlefront, Battlefront II, Battlefront Renegade Squadron, Star Wars Battlefront Elite Squadron, Galactic Battlegrounds, Republic Commando, Episode III: The video game, LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Star Wars II, Jedi Outcast, Jedi Academy, Star Wars Galaxies, and Empire at War. Also released were Rebel Assault and Rebel Assault II which are considered by many to be more interactive movie than actual video game.
On September 16, 2008, LucasArts released Star Wars: The Force Unleashed which bridges the events from Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, to Episode IV: A New Hope. The game centers on Darth Vader's secret apprentice, called Starkiller, who goes out to destroy the last of the Jedi. A sequel, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, was released on October 26, 2010 that follows Starkiller as he attempts to exact revenge on Vader following the events of the first game. Both games received a novelization treatment released alongside them that expands on the events of the game and ties them in to the larger Expanded Universe.
In the fall of 2008, it was announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic (an MMORPG) was being developed by BioWare for the PC, it is intended to be a sequel to the successful Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) games, also produced by BioWare. Fans of the series were told to expect The Old Republic to be KOTOR 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9...alluding to the massive content the game is supposed to be planned to launch with.
The early development of the Star Wars Expanded Universe (SWEU) was sporadic and unrefined, particularly because there was so little official material for the creators to build on. For example, the "Expanded Universe" is generally considered to have begun with Alan Dean Foster's February 1978 Star Wars spin-off novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye (although technically it began with Marvel Comics' Star Wars #7 in mid-January 1978). This novel drew inspiration primarily from an early draft of the Star Wars script and was conceptualized as a possible filmed sequel. Furthermore, while George Lucas was given sole writing credit for the original Star Wars novelization, Alan Dean Foster actually ghost-wrote it, contributing heavily to the Universe in the process. While he worked on the novelization, he was given a copy of the working script and a tour of the production.
Much of the early SWEU material from the early 1980s contained analogies to the real world, rather than embracing the holistic fiction of the Star Wars films. Much of this material now seems rather detached from the rest of the SWEU.
A turning point was reached when West End Games began publishing Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game in 1987. In order for players of the roleplaying game to create new adventures, West End Games needed to provide supplemental material describing the Star Wars universe in previously unknown detail. For example, the Aurebesh alphabet was originally a random piece of set dressing in Return of the Jedi. Stephen Crane copied those symbols and turned them into a complete and coherent alphabet (which would later be used in the feature films). Developing details like this in a consistent fashion turned West End Games' Star Wars products into a de facto reference library for the Star Wars universe, to the point where Lucasfilm actually sent copies of the game supplements to other SWEU developers to use as source material.
Shortly thereafter, in the early 1990s, Bantam published Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy. Widely publicized as the "sequels which were never made", Zahn's novels reignited Star Wars fandom and sparked a revolution in Star Wars literature. Around this same time, Dark Horse Comics acquired the Star Wars license and used it to launch a number of ambitious sequels to the original trilogy, including the popular Dark Empire stories.
All this development began to feed back on itself: West End Games was producing roleplaying supplements detailing the material from Dark Horse's comics and Zahn's novels. Novelists and comic creators were using West End Games' supplements as reference material. Sequels to the novels were being published as comics and vice versa. The scope of the Expanded Universe grew at a prodigious rate.
To date, the bulk of the Expanded Universe has detailed the Star Wars universe after the end of Return of the Jedi. Numerous topics, including the rise of the Galactic Empire, the personal histories of Anakin Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine, and the Clone Wars had been declared off limits by George Lucas before the development of the prequel trilogy.
It was decided in the late 1990s that using the Empire as the villains had become repetitive and monotonous. Hence a new threat, the Yuuzhan Vong, was introduced in The New Jedi Order, more specifically, in the first book of the series, Vector Prime. Vector Prime proved controversial, as it marked the first and only time a major character from the films (Chewbacca) was killed off in an Expanded Universe work.
Before the release of The Phantom Menace Lucasfilm specifically prohibited development of the time period before A New Hope in the Expanded Universe (except the Tales of the Jedi series which took place thousands of years before the movies).
Attack of the Clones, on the other hand, introduced another conflict. Aside from being explored in comics and novels, the Clone Wars would be given their own animated series Star Wars: Clone Wars, which would serve to lead up to the release of Revenge of the Sith.
2008 saw the introduction of a new animated television series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. This series, consisting of 6 seasons and 1 film, greatly expanded the Star Wars universe, and was well received by critics and fans alike.
Prior to Lucasfilm's purchase by The Walt Disney Company on October 30, 2012, it had already been decided that a sequel trilogy would be made. Much as Lucas had contradicted the SWEU in the making of the Prequels and The Clone Wars, this new trilogy would not tell stories of the Expanded Universe, and instead be completely original. On April 25, 2014, Lucasfilm announced that existing SWEU material would be republished under a new banner, Star Wars Legends without introducing new material to the line, bringing an abrupt end to a number of the stories and plot threads being developed at the time. This resulted in leaving a number of plot threads unresolved, including the beginnings of a conflict between the Jedi and two distinct branches of the Sith which were not bound to Darth Bane's Rule of Two due to unusual circumstances. Also, a new line of material would be published by Disney Publishing Worldwide, starting with Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller, a prequel to the TV show Star Wars Rebels. This would be followed by Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno, Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne, and Star Wars: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp and more. To ensure continuity within Star Wars canon going forth, a close story group has been formed by Lucasfilm to watch over all Star Wars development.
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The Expanded Universe was intended to be a continuation, and an expansion, on the six Star Wars theatrical films produced by George Lucas from 1977–2005. All SWEU material, combined with that presented in the films is meant to function as a complete story. However, to allow this story to function as a whole, it must be kept under in an order of continuity. Lucasfilm holds this of such high importance that a teams' sole job at Lucasfilm is maintaining continuity between Lucas's films, and the SWEU, which is written by many other authors and artists, many times out of order, and with many different ideas. Lucas, however, was free to go in any direction he wishes in his films to tell the story he intends. He acknowledges and supports the works of the SWEU but tells the stories he wants to tell in the six films. When asked in an interview his general opinion on the SWEU, he replied:
George Lucas has also stated that as far as he was concerned the rule of the Sith ended with the death of Palpatine and freedom and democracy were restored to the galaxy with the Jedi's return, as he symbolized this by including the Senate building and the Jedi temple during the celebratory scenes at the end of Return Of The Jedi. He has stated that although he is aware of SWEU literature and welcomes its creativity, he has no part in the resurrection of Palpatine and the Yuuzhan Vong invasions (though this would contradict comments by Tom Veitch that it was Lucas himself who suggested they resurrect Palpatine instead of using the original idea of a Vader impostor in the Dark Empire storyline).
George Lucas retained ultimate creative control over the Star Wars universe up until the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney. For example, the "death" of central characters and similar changes in the status quo must first pass his screening before authors are given the go-ahead. In addition, Lucasfilm Licensing devotes considerable effort to ensure continuity between the works of various authors across multiple companies. Nothing in the Expanded Universe is supposed to contradict the films or any other part of the Expanded Universe. Upon occasion, Lucas's new films, reedited Original Trilogy films, or statements have contradicted existing SWEU material, and several retcons have been used to fix these inconsistencies.
Since April 25, 2014, Lucasfilm considers all official canon to be the seven released Star Wars theatrical feature films, the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated film and television series The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, and every other material released after April 25, unless otherwise stated.
Prior to April 25, 2014, Lucasfilm maintained an internal database called the Holocron for the express purpose of trying to maintain continuity within all licensed products. The Holocron was originally sorted into four levels, reflecting LFL's canon and continuity policies: G, C, S, and N. A fifth level, T, was instituted to comprise Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, as well as a sixth level, D, for Star Wars Detours. It is unknown if the current LFL decisions on canon are reflected internally. Below are the known levels of the Holocron prior to April 25, 2014:
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C-canon elements from licensed creators have been known to appear in Lucas' films. Most of these are brief, cameo appearances, almost taking the form of Easter eggs (which may have been added by animators or others under Lucas, rather than specifically dictated), but others are more substantial:
Lucas has sometimes worked with SWEU media:
Some purist fans rejected the Expanded Universe as apocrypha, believing that only the events in the film series were part of the "real" Star Wars universe. However, elements of the Expanded Universe have been adopted by Lucas for use in the films. For example, the name of planet Coruscant first appeared in Timothy Zahn's novel Heir to the Empire before being used later in the prequel trilogy (although its pronunciation changed) - though the planet itself, under a different name, had existed in a previous version of the script to Return of the Jedi. Also, the Twi'lek Jedi Aayla Secura originally appeared in the ongoing Dark Horse Comics series Republic - apparently Lucas saw the cover which featured her and liked the look of her character so much that he included her in the Jedi battle at the end of Attack of the Clones, played by Lucasfilm employee Amy Allen, and her demise is later shown in the Order 66 Jedi Purge scenes of Revenge of the Sith. These examples sometimes end up confusing the issue, as they have blurred the lines between the Expanded Universe and "his world".
There are two Star Wars spin-off television films: Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor written by George Lucas, but they are not among the six main films in the series, so they are considered to be a part of the Expanded Universe. It has since been clarified that everything that is not one of the nine main Star Wars films, any television show after and including Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and all theatrical Star Wars spin-off films, is part of the Expanded Universe.