Monday, May 6, 2013

Working toward a grand unified theory of the the tonal changes in the Star Wars Expanded Universe

Star Wars, the original movie and original trilogy (123) as a whole, was sort of a singular story.  A comparison arises in my mind because something I've talked a lot about is too: Deus Ex.

Beyond the first level and a bit of the second I still haven't played any of Human Revolution because I don't have money, certainly not enough money to buy a videogame.  In spite of this I have been able to talk about continuity problems between Human Revolution and Deus Ex, to which it is allegedly a prequel.  (They're blatant to the point you can spot at least one thing that makes it impossible for Deus Ex to take place 25 years later on the same planet by looking at almost any still picture released of the game, and they were acknowledged and owned by the HR design team well before the game hit shelves.)

When I have talked about continuity I've been accused of various things.  Venerating the designers of Deus Ex as gods was one, but another one that has come up with surprising frequency is that I would not be satisfied unless the prequel was the exact same game just moved 25 years earlier and with different names for the characters.  That I find baffling.  The story of Deus Ex is one that changes the world in a way that prevents the story of Deus Ex from taking place again.  Telling the same story a quarter century earlier would fuck up continuity to no end.

And that's sort of like Star Wars.  To be consistent with the original requires a new story to be different from it.  To maintain continuity with Deus Ex any other game set in the same universe needs to tell a completely different story.  That's not all it has to do; that's merely necessary but not sufficient.  But it is necessary.  Star Wars is the same way.

You get that right from when Obi-Wan talks about the Jedi in the first movie.

They're living in what he calls the dark times, they're living in a fucked up galaxy.  And it's pretty damn fucked up.  To the point that in the first movie the rebels who are in theory supposed to be fighting to make things better are actually forced to fight against things getting worse instead.*  But it was not always so.

Obi-Wan reveals that within living memory things were good.  Not just good, but very good.  The Jedi guarded peace and justice within the galaxy for over a thousand generations in The Old Republic.  First off, so far as I know we haven't had a single generation in which peace was guarded in the history of this planet.  Second, a thousand generations is a long damn time.

A thousand generations is longer than all of recorded history here in reality.  Multiple times over.  Now I think that that introduces some world-building (galaxy-building?) problems** but that's the story being told.

And in many ways I think that's what allows for the extreme idealism present in Star Wars (the original movie and the original trilogy) in spite of it being set in an extremely fucked-up galaxy where an evil oppressive government ruled the entirety of civilization and thought nothing of blowing up planets.

The extreme fucked-upness was an aberration.  Steady stable sustained good times were the rule.  In the original movie you learn that The Empire rose to power during the lifetime of Luke's father, in Return of the Jedi the Emperor is killed off along with his single greatest symbol of power in front of the assembled Imperial fleet.  During Luke's lifetime (and still during the lifetime of Luke's father.)

The Emperor, the cause of these aberrant dark times, was in power for all of one generation.  One generation of extreme bad times balanced against a thousand generations of extreme good times.

Going by the original trilogy there is absolutely no reason to believe that things wouldn't go back to the steady stable sustained good times.

That's the hope that's present in Star Wars.  Fix this one thing and everything will be good for a basically unimaginably long time.  That's pretty extreme idealism.

But that means you don't get to tell the same story again for at least (over) a thousand generations.  Otherwise the hope of the original is dashed.  It turns out to be a false hope, and the idealism shatters on the rocks.

Instead you have to tell different stories.  Specifically it would go like this: Stories of guarding peace and justice, rather than fighting to establish them, under a benevolent and extremely stable government.  Or stories that have nothing to do with that sort of thing (not all stories can be about Jedi) but are set in the same universe during the same period of sustained good times.  The fall of that government, the good times along with it, and the rise of the Empire.  The original trilogy.  Re-instituting the Republic and rebuilding the Jedi.  Stories set during a new period of sustained good times.

There's nothing wrong with these stories, and I think they could be quite interesting.  But they're different stories.  Sustaining good times is very different from fighting to get back to them.  Building a good government is different from overthrowing a bad one.

You don't get to have more stories of blowing up superweapons or needing to overthrow governments unless it takes place in what should be the relatively short period of mopping up after the Emperor is killed and before the Republic is fully reinstated because reversion to the mean, in the universe of the original trilogy, means that once the cause of the aberrant bad times is gone things will, or at least should, go back to stable good times.

So that's the thing.  You can't tell the same story again because the idealism and hope of the original rests on the idea that the story will not need to take place again.  Once the immediate problem (the Emperor and the Empire) is dealt with everything will be good for a very, very, very (over a thousand generations of very) long time.  If you try to tell the same story again what you do is make it so that the default is no longer over a thousand generations of peace and justice being guarded but instead much closer to the fucked up state of the galaxy shown in the trilogy itself.

Tell the same story again twice and you're really pushing things from idealism to cynicism.  Do it three time and even more so.

But by telling the story again and again you're actually not telling the same story anymore because the repetition itself changes the story.

Evil had to triumph for Star Wars to take place.  To rehash the same story evil needs to triumph again.  To rehash the same story repeatedly evil has to triumph always.  Even if every story ends with good beating back the the repetition of evil triumphant to set up those stories shifts the setting from a thousand generations of good times being the default scenario to one where good times can never last for long and evil will always be triumphant given time.

Star Wars began with evil having triumphed and all that was good and right in the galaxy being in a state of existential peril.  If you're not willing to branch out and try new and different stories you need to keep going back to that.  By keeping on going back to that you snuff out the hope that was present in Star Wars because the hope was that this situation would pass.  And once passed stay in the past.  It wouldn't happen again and again.  Because it wasn't the usual state of things.  It was a dark exception to the rule that the usual state of things is, hands down, good.

And I think that's part of the problem.  People weren't willing to let it go and try new kinds stories set in the same universe.  If you've read the "Tales from..." series of books you know that everyone in existence was either Hero or a Villain on a pretty much galactically significant scale all around.***  Smaller more personal stories didn't really get told much.  And even on the occasions when they were told there was always another superweapon coming down the line.  Or, if not a superweapon, an invasion.  Or, if not an invasion, internal corruption that screwed things over in a way external threats never could.  There is always something bad coming, no matter how good of an end an individual story might seem to have.

More than that, almost always something worse.  Which I think comes from a desire to differentiate works when combined with the desire to not really try much of anything new.  If all that is good and right in the galaxy is always in a state of existential peril, if evil is always turning out to be triumphant so that it will need to be overthrown by the underdog, if you're telling the same story again and again, how do you distinguish things?  It basically seems to come down to, "How bad it is this time?" and the answer always ends up being, "Worse," because if the answer is, "Well, not as bad as last time," it's treated as retreading the same territory.

Mind you it doesn't have to be.  The thing is, to distinguish the stories by more than degree of badness requires originality.  Which some EU authors do have.  As you'd expect they're usually the ones you find doing the smaller scale more personal stories instead of the "The Galaxy Is At Risk (again)" stories.

So instead you tend to get things like Newer Better Space Nazis (now with organic technology!) that via their death toll make the old space Nazis seem not nearly so scary by comparison.

You've now got stories set a century down the line.  Are they stories about what it's like when you're 100 years into those good times we heard about in 1977 that the original trilogy was to return things to?  No.  Not a fucking chance.

They're stories that by their existence show that the hope and idealism of the original was nothing more than a pipe dream because, turns out, rather than returning to the previous "over a thousand generations of good times" standard, a new standard of, "The galaxy is really fucked up and never stops being that way for long," has replaced the old standard that the characters of the original trilogy hoped in their idealism that they might return to.

And in this way the Expanded Universe has forced itself to go more and more to the cynicism side of the scale.  Nothing good ever lasts, nothing bright ever stands the test of time, the only constant is that evil will always be with you and war will never end.  "This, too, shall pass," doesn't apply to the general fucked-upness of the galaxy.  Or, if it does, applies to the bad as slowly as it did the good (maybe in over a thousand generations things will start to default to good again.)

And once you've driven from the extreme idealism of, "Fix this one thing and everything will get better and stay that way," to, "It never stays that way; get used to war without end," it's probably unsurprising that things went from campy fun to the equally unrealistic but completely opposite end of the spectrum: grimdark.

The currently longest gap between, "Even worse than last time," in the EU after the original trilogy takes place is merely an artifact of the fact that the books that don't skip into the future have yet to catch up to the comic books that skipped 100 years into the future.  The next no-timeskip book won't be out until July and will only venture one year closer to the comics.  Thus there's currently a 78 year gap during which the only things that are known are that: at the beginning of the gap things really sucked and were tending toward darkness, at the beginning of the gap it was foreseen that another great war was coming down the line within the generation, for the entirety of the gap and then some on both sides of it evil with a slow plan to take over the galaxy was prosperous and successful in its efforts (slow plan coming to completion is what the timeskip comics are about), hatred seethed among the worlds of the theoretical good guys so much that, given an excuse, they'd tear civilization apart just to settle scores almost a hundred years old (the beginning of them being given this excuse is what marks the end of the gap) and stuff like that.  (I'm getting the info off a wiki, so any more intricate details can't really be included.)

Hardly the visceral hope present in the original trilogy that once the problem at hand was dealt with everything would return to an extended period of peace and justice.


And I think that's really it.  If you're not willing to try new and different (and the galaxy at peace where justice was the default rather than the exception that the original trilogy implied was to follow would be new and different for Star Wars) basically the only thing you can do to distinguish yourself from what's come before is to push a bit further in the same direction.  Star Wars was originally the story of the dark times, so as people push in that same direction it becomes the story of the darker and darker times.  The threats get bigger, the blows get more significant, the death tolls rise, the heroes become less pure in their goodness, and everything slowly marches from, "Idealistic campy fun," to, "Grimdark all the time."

No one can ever meaningfully improve things because if they do then that's a push back.  Back toward the less dark setting one had to pass through to get to the point things are in the story.  And that's something people telling the same story but pushed further (over and over and over again) won't do.

Even if every book ended with a happy ending (which... they don't) there would be no way for the overall universe to not get darker and darker as each new venture had things worse and worse.  Hope has to be killed off when you can see that, even if things seem to end well, what comes next will be even worse than whatever was just overcome.

The original trilogy's idealism can't really survive that.


And I still don't think I've hit a grand unified theory as I probably haven't covered half of what was in this thread, which is what made me want to put things together to start with.  I wanted to put things together because when taken separately things that actually go together can seem contradictory.

"Star Wars is extremely idealistic" and "Star Wars requires triumphant evil" seem sort of contradictory until you put them together to get, "In the original trilogy triumphant evil was presented as a single exception to the rule that peace and justice can be maintained for multiple times longer than actual recorded human history and thus if evil's only triumph was dealt with steady stable sustained good times would return, which is an extremely idealistic stance to take."  Which is true, and I think tells you a lot about how the original trilogy was able to do what it did.

Anyway, the first two words in the title are, "Working toward," so the fact I didn't get there isn't too much of a problem.


* The movie is about them not getting blown up and making it so the Death Star, which wasn't there last week, isn't there next week.  Those two things sort of go together since the Death Star was the thing that put them at risk of being blown up.  The movie doesn't end with them making strides toward restoring the republic but instead with them surviving.

** Specifically either technology has been completely stagnant for a very long time, or I kind of think a group that's been spanning a galaxy for a thousand generations would have better tech.  There's a reason that when I did a thousand generation thing I set it in a period before the rise of civilization.  That's a place where I can realistically believe that there would be a thousand generations of relative stability.  After civilization gets kicked off I don't see things remaining stable for a thousand years, much less a thousand generations.

*** It was this observation that led to the creation of the, so far as I know never finished, parody "The Jedi Who Sucked" which can now only be found on the internet archive.


  1. I think what's worse is that Lucas himself broke the concept that the dark times were an anomaly with the prequels. Both the Republic and the Jedi have failed before the Emperor rises to power.

    Now, I don't know how influenced by the EU he was when he made the decision to show the Jedi as a pack of self-righteous asses who couldn't spot a Sith under their noses and were fine with slavery, or when he decided that it was a good idea to present the Republic as mired in bureaucracy and unable to protect itself. I do know that the prequels leave one wondering what in blazes Obi Wan was talking about.

    In some ways, that's more of a problem than the EU authors keeping the galaxy broken after the original movies, because it means that the original movie's hopefulness was based on a lie or at least a misconception.

    Of course, all of the Old Republic era stuff just makes Obi Wan more of a liar (or more misinformed, confused, what have you) since it's very clear that the galaxy has always been a mess. (Though the Jedi generally come off a bit better than in the prequels. On the other hand, how could they possibly come off worse than in the prequels?) I like some of the Old Republic era stuff (in part because it's a better time than what we see from the prequels), but it raises a lot more questions about the galaxy than just why the tech is stagnant and the galaxy seems unchanged in 3 to 4 thousand years.

    1. Lucas himself broke everything in the prequels. It's like he was trying to get bingo on the "contradicting what had come before" card and somehow forgot that you don't need to hit every box, just one line's worth.

      I mean I know that Obi had his whole "a certain point of view," BS* but is there anything that the original movies say about the past that isn't contradicted by the prequel trilogy?


      * Though an argument has been made that that comes from Lucas changing ships midstream while making the original trilogy since there's evidence to suggest that, "A young Jedi named Darth Vader ... betrayed and murdered your father," was originally meant to be true from rational points of view.

      It definitely makes for a better story the way it ended up, and Star Wars as we know it would be unrecognizable if Vader weren't Luke's father, but it's worth noting that it may very well be the case that the idea of a "Jedi Truth" is because they needed to retcon the fact that the original plan was for Vader and Luke's father to be different people and so Obi-Wan treated them as such.

    2. Come now, there must be something he didn't break. *thinks* Or, then, again, maybe not. *sigh*

      It's such unnecessary breakage, too. I can't think of any of the retcons that improved the story in any way. It's almost like he wrote the prequels from vague memories of the originals. How long ago was stuff supposed to have happened? What were people's relationships? When did they die? Eh, looking it up's too much trouble.

      I prefer to explain Obi-Wan's "from a certain point of view" nonsense with the assumption that he'd been half telling himself the story he told Luke for the past twenty years. That he was so upset at what Anakin became that he separated Anakin-his-friend from Vader-his-enemy in his head.

      Then again, the Empire Strikes back also has Yoda suddenly treating the future as set when Luke wants to go save his friends. Jedi seem rather predisposed to be jerks.

      (Funny thing is, there is a way to make Vader Luke's father and have Obi-Wan not be lying. Luke and Leia's mom simply had relationships with both, and Obi-Wan didn't know. Best version of this would be if Anakin, Darth, and [L&Ls mom] were all Jedi apprentices, good friends, and ten-twenty years younger than Obi-Wan. For a "family friendly" explanation, [L&L's mom] thought Anakin dead at some point and comfort ended up in the bedroom. Personally, I think them having an open relationship would be better (or have had a threesome at some point). The prequels of this version involve the adventures of three young Jedi and mean one could come up with way better ways that Darth thinks [L&L's mom] is dead, and - especially if you downplayed any love triangle thing (or didn't have one at all) - a potentially more interesting start of darkness. Or at least interesting stuff runs through my head.)

    3. I think there're probably many ways Vader could have been made Luke's father without Obi-Wan having to have been lying.

      For example: Obi-Wan did have a pupil named Anakin Skywalker and another one named Darth Vader, Vader did betray Skywalker, but the whole "and murder" thing didn't go down as he had hoped. In the anger-fear-hate storm that followed realizing he'd been betrayed an injured Skywalker turned to the dark side and killed Vader using it.

      Then he stole Vader's identity for whatever reason. I can think of several reasons that would work.* This could play into the idea that you become what you use darksidiness to kill present in Empire and Jedi.**

      Anyway, Obi-Wan doesn't realize this (until death opens up an entirely new perspective) and took everything at face value. Vader betrayed Anakin, the only one to come out alive was someone calling himself Vader, thus Vader betrayed and murdered Anakin.


      I think there's an argument to be made that Yoda isn't so much treating the future as set as convinced that Luke isn't ready and thus reaching the reasonable conclusion that if Luke goes he'll die, which would seriously screw over everything the others had worked for.*** But even though Luke isn't ready (he loses, badly) Luke survives and thus Yoda was wrong.

      Not treating the future as set, but treating his beliefs about what outcomes can reasonably be expected as definitive.

      When you're convinced someone will die if they do something and trying to talk them out of it, it's not necessarily unreasonable to leave out the, "But I'm not one hundred percent sure because the future can turn out in ways we don't expect, donchaknow."


      * It was a way of severing ties with his past as he moved into his future on the other side.

      He didn't want to have to face everyone he once cared about knowing that he fell to the dark side. Noble death seemed a better ending to the story of Anakin Skywalker.

      Vader had been an important figurehead within the growing empire movement and it wasn't expedient for the Emperor to say, "Hey, Vader's dead, but that's ok because I've got his killer as my new apprentice."

      The first on the scene after the fight, which left Anakin too weak to put up another fight, were Imperials. Pretending to be Vader saved his life and, while the Emperor knew who he was via the force and whatnot, the name stuck. (Works particularly well if you assume that the fight between the two is what left Anakin more machine than man.)

      So on. So forth.

      ** In Empire you had the cave where Luke had a vision of what he thought was Vader but turned out, after he struck it down, to be himself. (This was after Luke ignored being told he wouldn't need weapons and entered the cave armed. One wonders what vision he would have gotten if he'd gone in unarmed.)

      In Jedi you had the entire ending on the Death Star. The Emperor was pretty well convinced that if Luke gave into his hate to strike Vader down that would force Luke to the dark side and make him the Emperor's new apprentice. Effectively becoming the new Vader, just not so damaged.

      *** Luke shows up and dies. Everyone else tries to rescue Han without Luke and they fail. The Rebel Alliance is now without the leader of their assault on the Death Star (without whom they would't have broken off, thus would have smashed straight into the shield) and without the leaders of the strike force to turn off the shield, the rebels are just generally screwed.

    4. Oh, I like your solution to the Anakin/Vader problem! That's even better.

      Luke shows up and dies. Everyone else tries to rescue Han without Luke and they fail. The Rebel Alliance is now without the leader of their assault on the Death Star (without whom they would't have broken off, thus would have smashed straight into the shield) and without the leaders of the strike force to turn off the shield, the rebels are just generally screwed.

      Except that, if Luke listened to Yoda and didn't go... we might end up at nearly the same place. Take Yoda's option at face value, Vader kills Han, Leia, Chewie, and 3PO. (Or even if he still gives Han to Boba Fett.) Leia, very important to the rebellion, is gone - massive morale loss. No strike team leader. And, potentially no assault leader, since who knows how Lando would've reacted to that and if he'd have survived, or, even if he did, if he'd have joined the rebellion.

      Granted, Vader could also have gotten tired of torturing them, handed Han off to Boba Fett (except probably not in Carbonite, so he's probably still dead, unpleasantly, at Jabba's hands). And leaves the others with Lando and a garrison. Which might still result in them leaving to rescue Han, though they only escaped Bespin because R2, who was with Luke, reactivated the hyperdrive.

      And then there's the fact that Yoda was doing a terrible job of convincing Luke to stay. (Yoda is not good with people.)

      Aw, crap, it's worse than I remembered.
      (from IMDB)
      Luke: Will they die?
      Yoda: [closes his eyes for a moment] Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.
      Luke: I've got to go to them.
      Yoda: Decide you must, how to serve them best. If you leave now, help them you could; but you would destroy all for which they have fought, and suffered.

      That's what bothers me - we go in one sentence from "always in motion is the future" to "nope, I know, you'll doom everthing." Also, as far as I can see, he's just making stuff up. He's not saying "you'll fail and die with them," he's saying "you might help them, but it'll screw everything up." WTF, weird swamp dude?

    5. Annnd, fuckity fuck fuck fuck. I just did something stupid and lost my comment. Thankfully I did save a copy of it into a text editor, unfortunately it was not a recently updated copy.


      Also I like your idea of:
      Luke: You said he betrayed and murdered my father.
      Obi: Well I'd been telling myself that lie for so long, it was easy to tell you too.

      as an interpretation for what actually happened in the movies.

      "Certain point of view," is just the flimsy excuse he's constructed for himself to justify lying to himself and Luke.


      This is mostly going from memory, but then I went back and looked some things up, which caused me to shuffle a couple of things to get the order right. The fact that I had to shuffle those things puts into doubt the things I didn't look up. Oh, well.

      The story according to the original trilogy from mostly memory:


      Yoda trained Obi-Wan.

      Obi-Wan met Anakin when Anakin was old enough to be a gifted pilot, say around Luke's age or older. I don't think the original trilogy ever states how, if at all, Luke (and therefore Anakin) was related to Beru and Owen. If we assume that they really were Luke's aunt and uncle then one of them must have been a sibling of Anakin or [nameless mother].

      If they are related my bet's on Anakin being the one they're related to since they never mention Luke's mother but they both clearly knew Luke's father.

      Owen thought that it was best to keep your head down and stay at home, which was Tatooine. Beru's thoughts aren't stated. Anakin, obviously, disagreed with Owen and went off with Obi-Wan.

      This is presumably during, or in the lead up to, the Clone Wars. The wars aren't described in any kind of detail but we know they're plural (Wars nor War), that Anakin and Obi-Wan fought in them, that Obi-Wan was a general, and that Obi-Wan served with Leia's other father (the one who raised her.) We can also probably reasonably speculate that they represent the Empire's rise to power as before the Empire peace was kept, which doesn't allow for much in the way of wars.

      While they were fighting against the growing power of The Empire (which is, as I just said, presumably the same thing as the Clone Wars), [nameless mother] gets pregnant and Obi-Wan tells both her and Anakin that their children will be at risk because the Emperor will see them as a threat. [nameless mother] goes into hiding under Obi-Wan's protection. Anakin doesn't know where. (Obi-Wan is the master, Anakin is the student, whose mind do you think it's easier for the Emperor to probe?)

      Anakin leaves his lightsaber for his yet to be born kid. (And presumably makes/gets another. LIGHTSABER! Another lightsaber. Not another kid. How the hell did I miss the problem with that phrasing before?) The lightsaber is presumably left with [nameless mother] since Obi is just at much at risk of dying in the wars as Anakin is.

      [Character limit how I despise you. Continued in next two posts.]

    6. Anakin falls to the dark side and helps the Emperor to hunt down and exterminate the Jedi. (This is implied to be a process, not as simple as going into the temple and killing a bunch of kids.)

      Obi blames himself for this. Specifically he blames thinking he could train Anakin when apparently he'd never taken on an apprentice before and, in his mind, if he'd had Yoda do the training things would have turned out better.

      The good side loses. Obi-Wan and Yoda go into hiding as the last of the Jedi. I initially had this in a different spot but, as mentioned, I did end up looking up a few quotes and one of them had me notice that Obi-Wan hadn't used the name "Obi-Wan" since before Luke was born. I figure the name change to Ben happened after the good side lost.

      There isn't, I should note, any indication that Obi-Wan or Yoda knew the other had gone into hiding. Obi-Wan reveals Yoda's location after he's dead which, presumably, gives a Jedi a greater ability to locate old friends. (How he gets from place to place isn't shown, but I'm guessing it doesn't involve a starship.)

      When twins are born to [nameless mother] they're separated for further safety. Luke is brought to Owen and Beru who knew his father and may or may not have been related to him.

      I definitely think this would work better if Tatooine wasn't where they're from but where they'd relocated to.* Especially if they relocated as part of Obi's witness protection agency as a result of being somehow related to Anakin. You'd even get to have that be a big part of why Owen was extremely negative on Anakin running off to join the war.

      Unfortunately, that is not to be. Tatooine is where Anakin, Beru and Owen are indicated to be from.

      Obi-Wan relocates with Luke to Tatooine, bringing Anakin's lightsaber with him.

      At some point [nameless mother] dies and Leia is adopted into the royal family of Alderaan. We can't actually put an order to those two events. Maybe Leia's not-Vader father adopted her after her mother died. Maybe the not-Vader father and biological mother ended up together and that's how she was adopted. (At this point [nameless mother] has either been told the lie that Anakin died or the truth that he turned evil. Either one of those would seem like a perfectly good reason to consider the relationship over and start dating again.)

      What we can say is that since Obi-Wan and Leia's not-Vader father were close, it's probably the case that Leia being adopted by the guy isn't a coincidence. A reasonable guess was that he was involved in Obi-Wan's hiding of [nameless mother], so presumably he and [nameless mother] knew each other.

      Whatever the order of [nameless mother]'s death and Leia's adoption, we know that [nameless mother] died when Leia was old enough to have some memories of her, but not old enough to have a lot.

      [Continued in next post, if you're looking for the footnote look there.]

    7. Based on Luke specifying which mother when he asks Leia if she remembers her mother we can guess that either Leia had another mother or Luke made the wrong call. Again this is something that we can't place an order to. Maybe her father was married when he adopted her, maybe he married [nameless mother] adopting Leia in the process and then remarried after [nameless mother] died. Maybe Leia had multiple mothers at the same time. (Here's one: [nameless mother] reenters the dating pool and ends up with non-biological mother, [nameless mother] dies, non-biological mother starts dating again and ends up with non-Vader father. Here's another: [nameless mother], non-Vader father, and non-biological father were all in a relationship together.)

      So, yeah. Putting the events of Leia's life in order is kind of difficult. What we know is that [nameless mother] lived long enough to be remembered by Leia but not much longer than that. Leia was adopted into the royal family. Leia presumably had at least one non-biological mother. What order these things happened in is anybody's guess.

      Obi-Wan clashes with Owen over Luke. Owen keeps Obi-Wan at a distance and raises Luke on lies because he's worried Luke will take after his father which didn't work out so well for Luke's father.

      Thus Obi is prevented from giving the lightsaber to Luke when he's judged Luke to be old enough.


      That is, off the top of my head and with a few things looked up, the story as it is told in the originals.


      * The reason I think it would work better if it weren't their original home is that Beru and Owen both knew Anakin. If they merely knew each other then that's not so much of a problem (though I still think it's problematic), but if they're actually related to Luke then I think it is a really big problem.

      You see if Aunt May and Uncle Ben are really the aunt and uncle of Peter Parker... wait. That's not right. If Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen really are the aunt and uncle of Luke that gives all of four possibilities:
      1 Beru is Vader's sister.
      2 Beru is Luke's mother's sister.
      3 Owen is Vader's brother.
      4 Owen is Luke's mother's brother.

      Any of those would seem worthy of Vader checking in at some point. Given that they talk about Luke's father but not his mother it implies that we can narrow that down to 1 and 3: One of them is Vader's sibling. That definitely seems like it would make it worth it for Vader to check in at least once, at which point he would notice, "I have a son!"

      If they're merely childhood friends of Anakin then maybe it's not so bad that he never went back to check on them, but even then putting his son with his childhood friends in his childhood home and not even bothering to change son's last name away from Skywalker seems needlessly risky.

      It would work best if either Vader didn't know them or didn't know where they were but neither seems to be true. It's definitely the case that they knew Luke's father. They talk to each other about Luke taking after his father. And it similarly seems to be the case is that Tatooine is where they and Anakin were originally from.

      That's the story we have, which is what I'm trying to list here, so the fact that I think it would be better different doesn't change the fact that Anakin, Beru, and Owen all are indicated to have come from Tatooine and all knew each other. *speaking to myself* Story we have, not trying to rewrite it. Story we have, not trying to rewrite it. *noticing you're still here* Ok, done, you can leave the footnote now.

    8. Of course, when it was originally written that Anakin, Beru, and Owen all knew each other, Anakin wasn't Vader, which is part of the problem. Though I'm not sure if we can be sure that they're from Tatooine in the original trilogy. Beru notes that Luke isn't a farmer, but that's a profession one can have on any planet. It may be that, like the exact order of events in Leia's childhood, the movies leave it up in the air as to whether Beru and Owen are from Tatooine. (I always had the impression that they were, I'm just not sure it's ever truly stated.)

      And I just realized you hit on something else the prequels broke - it is pretty clear that Beru and Owen knew Anakin, not just had met him once under tragic circumstances.

      Also, you're right, I'd forgotten that Yoda is stated to have trained Obi-Wan. Good gravy, Lucas, you really did do the prequels from memory, didn't you.

      The really odd thing is that the story from the original trilogy is better than the story in the prequels. I'm not sure why (unless the from memory theory is correct) Lucas didn't just flesh out what he'd already stated happened. Yeah, sometimes authors get better ideas, but he got worse ones.

      (Though I'm stuck on how much better it would've been if [nameless mother] had been a Jedi, too. Her lightsaber would've been passed down to Leia, except by then the Jedi were snuffed out, etc, while Luke was sent into hiding with his dad's lightsaber. Mostly I think I just noticed that a) it kind of sucks that she was [nameless mother] in the originals and b) there's a real shortage of female Jedi.)

    9. That's what bothers me - we go in one sentence from "always in motion is the future" to "nope, I know, you'll doom everthing." Also, as far as I can see, he's just making stuff up. He's not saying "you'll fail and die with them," he's saying "you might help them, but it'll screw everything up." WTF, weird swamp dude?

      That's worse than I remembered too.

      As are other parts.

      The best interpretation that I could possibly give of the part that you quoted is that we already know Jedi training involves gratuitous lying to the student (witness Yoda's introduction) maybe Yoda was making use of the situation to try to teach Luke that the ends don't justify the means by making Luke think the ends would be better served by a truly shitty means: leaving his friends to torture.

      The problem is, Yoda's serious about the idea Luke should stay.

      On looking up a quote it's worse and better than I remember. Worse because the first line, "Told you I did. Reckless is he. Now, matters are worse," is one I had forgotten about. Standing alone it would do more to destroy the possibility of believing that Yoda was actually siding with Luke on this one than the lines I did remember.

      Better because Obi apparently didn't write Luke off. I thought Obi said, "That boy was our last hope," but apparently he actually said, "That boy is our last hope," thus implying that Obi isn't ready to close the books on Luke just yet.

      Regardless Yoda reassures Obi with, "No, there is another."

      And here's where we again see one movie being made without a thought to what came before even in the original trilogy.

      There being another hope out there was only there because it made it possible Luke could die in his fight with Vader. If Luke was the last hope then he had to live, but if Luke was one of two then he could die while his friends got away, and the other could show up next movie to take his place.

      All well and good and contradicting nothing. It wasn't supposed to be Leia yet. According to at least one person (who didn't cite a source) it was supposed to be Luke's sister, but a previously unintroduced sister who was in training on the other side of the galaxy. That would have been fine.

      Here's where the problem comes in. When Return of the Jedi makes it Leia it means that Yoda has been telling Luke to leave this other hope to be tortured and possibly killed. Leia is one of the people Luke is heading off to save.

      Now one could argue that it still can fit because Yoda thought that they couldn't have both. Either sacrifice Leia to save Luke or sacrifice Luke to save Leia. So when Luke was going off, in Yoda's opinion to make things worse, he's at least freeing up the one remaining hope who otherwise would be stuck in Vader's trap. Of course that makes Yoda a complete asshole who is apparently valuing having someone who began training already over saved lives and self determination, but when he started advocating against saving one's friends in the first place that pretty well put him into complete asshole territory anyway.

      [And character limit, I still hate you.]

    10. Two other things worthy of note. One is that for some reason it didn't occur to me until spesifically thinking of "No, there is another," that Obi-Wan doesn't know who Leia is. And Return of the Jedi actually deals with that pretty well when Obi-Wan is describing things to Luke. He was the one who recognized that if Anakin had any kids they'd be a threat to the Emperor, but he never says he did the actual hiding thus not contradicting the idea that he could have not known about the Leia.

      Why this is worth pointing out is that I wasn't thinking about that when I listed out the story of the prequels as told by the original trilogy.

      It needs more consideration as to how Obi-Wan didn't know Luke was one of twins and Yoda did. It could be that when Obi-Wan realized that child or children resulting from the pregnancy would be at risk and thus needed to be hidden he called in Yoda, and then Yoda was the one who suggested splitting the pair up when he learned there would be twins, and when Luke was handed off to Obi-Wan to bring to his, I'm going to say "paternal" even though it's never stated in the original trilogy, family he wasn't told that there was another child.

      Thus if Obi-Wan gets caught guarding Luke on Tatooine he doesn't know about Leia on Alderaan.

      The other thing is that I've been assuming that Yoda was afraid that Luke would die, but it now occurs to me that there's probably a better argument to be made that he's afraid Luke will turn to the dark side.

      He seems to be saying that things are worse than if he hadn't trained Luke. If Luke is going to die anyway then it doesn't really matter how well trained he is or not. But if Luke is going to turn to the dark side then the better trained he is the worse things are.

      Also, as I recall but I'm not going to look it up, one of Yoda's arguments against Luke leaving is his experience in the cave, which was definitely more about the risk of the dark side than the risk of dying.

    11. Yeah, in Brackett's original draft for Empire Luke's sister was an ass-kicking female Jedi.

      Something of a change of pace for Lucas, and one of the first things he changed.

    12. Some of my thoughts during reading the discussion. (Continues the list in the other comment.)

      10. Obi-Wan's point of view
      I like the "telling the lie to himself" explanation best. An interesting comment from Obi-Wan in RotJ is:
      [I also thought he could be turned back to the
      good side. It couldn't be done.] He is more
      machine now than man. Twisted and evil.

      The part in brackets doesn't seem to be in the movie, IIRC. An interesting point is that falling to the dark side is thematically linked to getting cybernetic limbs. I don't know why exactly that is the case, but it seems important.
      Vader also says that he must obey his master, which is very subservient for a Sith.
      He seems to somehow have lost his free will and his identity when joining the Emperor. He isn't Anakin in a suit, he is someone else. And he sees himself as someone else. Obi-Wan did not think that his old self would ever resurface, so I would even argue that his certain point of view is not a lie.
      Still, what he didn't say allowed Vader to use that information as weapon against Luke, so he should have told him more.

      11. OK, here is a somewhat strange theory: Vader wanted to protect Luke secretly. He suspected Luke to be on Tatooine, but he did never visit. His hope was that Luke could live a normal life and never meet him.
      But then Luke destroyed the Death Star and Vader found out about his identity soon after. When the Emperor tells Vader that Luke is their new enemy, it is Vader who suggests to turn him (instead of killing him). Vader is also ready to abandon his plan of sending Luke to the Emperor and instead suggests teaming up against the Emperor.
      Not sure if I should believe that myself, but at least it explains never paying a visit to Tatooine.

      12. Yoda's warning
      I always took it as warning against falling to the dark side. I think Yoda's wish for the future is this:

      -Luke's friends are ready to suffer for him if he doesn't fall into the trap; they don't want him to come to their rescue
      -Luke stays to complete his training
      -there are too many possibilities for Han, Leia, Chewie and C-3PO to say what will happen. Maybe they escape with Lando's help, maybe Vader keeps them prisoners, maybe they die,...
      -they are not the rebel leaders, though. Mon Mothma, General Rikan, Admiral Ackbar etc. can carry on without them
      -Luke returns to the Rebels as fully trained Jedi
      -he is ready to confront Vader and kill him

    13. -he is ready to confront Vader and kill him

      I love Yoda's plan. It's a horrible plan, but nice.


      If you're interested in the discussion of the prequel story as described by the original trilogy, I collected and expanded what is mentioned here in another thread.

    14. I love Yoda's plan. It's a horrible plan, but nice.

      more seriously phrased, Yoda and Obi-Wan make it clear in Return of the Jedi that they see no hope for Vader's redemption and that to bring down the Empire, he must be destroyed. (Which doesn't really fit with the Prequels that present Palpatine as the ultimate threat.)

      Do you mean it is a horrible plan in the sense that it wouldn't work or that it isn't the right thing to do?

    15. Do you mean it is a horrible plan in the sense that it wouldn't work or that it isn't the right thing to do?

      A bit of both. It might work, but it's staking a lot (the fate of the galaxy) on might. But moreover it's not the right thing to do.

      And that even gets into the light side/dark side dichotomy. Ends justify the means is Dark Side thinking. Things probably are more stable under a single ruler than they were under a republic, it's possible that if the Emperor crushed the rebellion the universe would be a better place to live in for a lot of people. The problem is those crushed along the way (not to mention the death of freedom.)

      Leaving the others to torture and maybe-death because it's expedient is not what you should be instilling in someone if you want to keep them on the light side.

    16. I guess you are right, this isn't the light side.

      The following thoughts go into difficult moral choices. Or maybe it isn't, but it seems this way to me.

      Leaving the others to torture and maybe-death because it's expedient is not what you should be instilling in someone if you want to keep them on the light side.

      But what if that is what they want?
      Yoda says "If you honor what they fight for... yes [=sacrifice them]!" This could be interpreted in the way that they don't want Luke to run into Vader's trap. Leia doesn't seem happy when Luke arrives on Bespin and tries to warn him.

      If the Star Wars universe was realistic, it is likely that the Rebel Alliance would have a policy "If someone (including me) gets captured, he/she gets left behind." The Empire would use prisoners to their advantage otherwise.
      Now, a character actually making this choice, with the consequence of the captured characters dying would definitely contradict the tone of the OT.

      I'll get off on a tanget for a moment:
      ESB and RotJ show Yoda and Obi-Wan having already resigned to the dark side's victory in Vader. They don't believe that he can be redeemed, instead the want Luke to kill him. They don't want Luke to risk falling to the dark side when saving his friends, they want him to leave them behind.
      Despite Yoda assuring Luke that the dark side isn't more powerful, they both seem to think it is. In their fight against the dark side they have accepted that the dark side dictates the means.

  2. The impression I get is that, while Lucas liked to talk about having a grand plan, to a large extent he was making stuff up film by film (and when he got the chance to pick the brains of a really good writer, Leigh Brackett, he took it - which I suspect is a large part of why The Empire Strikes Back is the film I enjoy most in the series). So at the time of Star Wars Leia wasn't Luke's sister - that idea simply hadn't been thought of yet.

    I agree with you that the lazy writer raises the scale of the stakes, while the good writer raises the importance of the stakes to his protagonist. In one, the missing dog leads to a gang of terrorists who are going to blow up the city; in the other, the missing dog is one that the narrator really cares about, and the reader comes to as well. (See Spider Robinson's Time Pressure, a flawed book, but one that makes you care about the fate of a glue dispenser in the shape of a moose.)

    As for the universe always getting worse... are you familiar with the background of BattleTech? Every so often, there's peace... briefly. Then somebody does something really stupid and the wars start again. Now, sure, if no more war, no more giant stompy robot action, but wargamers of WWII don't seem to be deterred by the fact that WWII did in fact eventually end. See also the later Honor Harrington books; at one point it becomes abundantly clear that the big space war is in fact over, so everyone starts acting wildly out of character in order to start it again.

  3. And finally I manage to comment on this text as I always planned to do.

    I'll just list my thoughts in no particular order.

    1. Stagnant Technology
    I don't think this is unrealistic. I'd even say that this is likely for civilization in the long term. One day science must have discovered almost everything about the laws of nature. And later, most of the possible uses of these in technology would have been discovered as well. After that you can't do much more than adapting technology to changed situations.
    If you put the technological progress in a graph it would first look like an exponential function and then turn into a logarithmic function. I'm sure there is a function which's graph looks that way, but I don't know what it is.

    This means for example that the Death Star has been possible for a long time, but no one built it because a) it costs a lot of money and b) why the hell would you want to build a Death Star in the first place?

    2. Thank you for writing these thought up. I didn't think of it that way before, but I can totally see it now. The post-RotJ EU did always bug me in some way and you explained to me why.

    3. One big part of the problem is sometimes called Spectacle Creep, explained in this video. The whole story producing industry needs alternatives to that.

    4. Rebuilding and post revolution times can make for some very interesting stories. My favorite epoch in German history is the time after World War I (Weimar Republic). It didn't have a happy ending in reality, but it could have and people were fighting for it.
    (Stargate SG-1 season 9 and 10 should have been like this instead of inventing a new threat, which is the old threat only more Christian and less Pagan this time.)

    5. In that spirit, the next three Star Wars movies should be about the problems of making the new Republic work. This could make for a very different temptation from the dark side than in OT and PT. "I know it is a dark side technique, but creating illusions of security forces would prevent Coruscant from falling into chaos."
    Not much hope for that, though. Sometimes I want to write a script for Episodes VII-IX. But then, I also want to write my version of the prequels and don't manage to do it.

    6. Another example for the phenomenon you observed are the KotOR games. KotOR I is about a war that ruins the galaxy but is finally won. KotOR II deals with the aftereffects of this war and shows how much the galaxy has been ruined. KotOR III should be about rebuilding the Republic (which still allows for an antagonist). But KotOR III doesn't exist and SWTOR jumps ahead into dark times again.

    7. There is one opportunity for the new republic to be even better than the old republic described in the OT. Droid Rights. But the way droids are handled in the Star Wars franchise is a pet peeve of mine. I can go into more detail if you want, though it would be slightly off topic.

    8. If you know any Star Wars stories about rebuilding, please let me know.

    9. There are some things I'd like to say about the discussion above so I will put the rest of the points in a reply.

    So, erm, thanks for reading this wall of text. Thought I had to comment on a text if I like it that much, and then the points kept coming.