- "'Gospel,' or canon as we refer to it, includes the screenplays, the films, the radio dramas and the novelizations. These works spin out of George Lucas' original stories, the rest are written by other writers. However, between us, we've read everything, and much of it is taken into account in the overall continuity. The entire catalog of published works comprises a vast history—with many off-shoots, variations and tangents—like any other well-developed mythology."
To understand canon and continuity, the overall Star Wars saga should be looked at as a set of stories written by many different people which "document" past "events." Although some stories are more reliable than others, they all are looked upon as part of the overall "history." It should also be remembered that all of these stories are simply that—stories. There are numerous errors that inevitably arise between the stories simply because different authors have their own ways of telling the story and may not have the time and resources to perfectly align the details. This site deals with non-canon material by putting red text notification above the non-canon items.
The situation can be compared to Greek and Roman mythology, or the stories of King Arthur. The various Star Wars tales are a group of separate but linked stories, and are told by many different authors over a period of time.
Canon and the Expanded Universe
This policy has been further refined and fleshed out over the years. The Star Wars website also details the role of canon, Expanded Universe (or "EU") sources, and how they fit into overall Star Wars continuity. Christopher Cerasi stated, [source?]
- "When it comes to absolute canon, the real story of Star Wars, you must turn to the films themselves—and only the films. Even novelizations are interpretations of the film, and while they are largely true to George Lucas' vision (he works quite closely with the novel authors), the method in which they are written does allow for some minor differences. The novelizations are written concurrently with the film's production, so variations in detail do creep in from time to time. Nonetheless, they should be regarded as very accurate depictions of the fictional Star Wars movies.
- "The further one branches away from the movies, the more interpretation and speculation come into play. LucasBooks works diligently to keep the continuing Star Wars expanded universe cohesive and uniform, but stylistically, there is always room for variation. Not all artists draw Luke Skywalker the same way. Not all writers define the character in the same fashion. The particular attributes of individual media also come into play. A comic book interpretation of an event will likely have less dialogue or different pacing than a novel version. A video game has to take an interactive approach that favors gameplay. So too must card and roleplaying games ascribe certain characteristics to characters and events in order to make them playable.
- "The analogy is that every piece of published Star Wars fiction is a window into the 'real' Star Wars universe. Some windows are a bit foggier than others. Some are decidedly abstract. But each contains a nugget of truth to them. Like the great Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi said, 'many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view.'"
- "Canon refers to an authoritative list of books that the Lucas Licensing editors consider an authentic part of the official Star Wars history. Our goal is to present a continuous and unified history of the Star Wars galaxy, insofar as that history does not conflict with, or undermine the meaning of Mr. Lucas's Star Wars saga of films and screenplays."
In a December 6, 2006 post on the official Star Wars forums, Leland Chee ("keeper" of the Holocron) made this comment in response to a question regarding whether the aforementioned "foggy window" was a window into the "real Star Wars Universe of the Films Only" or the "Star Wars Universe of the Films + EU continuity":
- "Film+EU continuity. Anything not in the current version of the films is irrelevant to Film only continuity."
- "We've stuck to a very clear branding strategy for the past decade. This is Star Wars. Individual movies come and go, as do TV shows, video games, books. They all contribute to the lore of Star Wars, but in the end it is one saga and that saga is called Star Wars. We've wanted to send a clear message to our fans that everything we do is part of that overall saga."
- ―Jim Ward
Canon and games
Things are a bit more complicated with the matter of Star Wars games. The overall scenario and documentation (cutscenes, manuals, strategy guides etc) are proper EU (see C-canon below). This, however, doesn't apply to "game mechanics" and stats.
- Game mechanics are the "artistic license" properties of the game that separate any computer game from reality and serve to make one more playable and enjoyable; for example Kyle Katarn carrying 10 weapons simultaneously, fully and immediately recovering from wounds simply by touching a bacta tank, bodies of defeated enemies disappearing etc., are things not realistically possible. Game mechanics are also some special effects accompanying the use of Force powers, such as sounds and glow surrounding the caster, which never appear in the movies. Health, shield, and Force repository are also game mechanics.
- On a similar note, "artistic license" for the sake of gameplay is often exercised in many Star Wars games which contain adaptations, either in whole or in part, of scenes from the Star Wars movies, especially when the player takes the role of a character from the film. For example, in Star Wars: The Arcade Game the player takes the role of Luke Skywalker during the Battle of Yavin, although the specific events of the game do not exactly match those seen on screen during the A New Hope. During any conflict of canon the respective movie has precedent, though this is rarely an issue.
- Background information given in the RPG sourcebooks such as biographies, stories, blueprints, etc. is proper canon. Stats, on the contrary, are considered game mechanics. Stats include details such as weapon damage, speed, and character attributes (strength, intelligence, dexterity, health points etc).
- In mission and quest solving, canon is assumed to be the fullest and best outcome possible of each mission/quest available as given in the briefing or scenario. Kyle Katarn, Keyan Farlander, Maarek Stele, Jaden Korr, etc. never failed their quests. Although the player can avoid some optional quests, Wookieepedia assumes that those heroes managed to complete all the "available" feats.
- Problems can arise with customizable options such as the species or gender or alignment of the main character, until Lucasfilm releases a definite answer on this.
So far all game characters with customizable gender, except Meetra Surik, have been canonized to be male.
- In side-choosing games such as the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series and Dark Forces saga where the player has the choice between light side and dark side, as of yet, the light side ending has been verified as canonical by Lucasfilm in all games.
It is not known however if it does impose additional restrictions on the secondary story and the outcome of any individual alignment-defining sidequest or choice in the game since they are not strictly set. For example the protagonist of KOTOR canonically followed the light and helped the Galactic Republic destroy the Star Forge but that doesn't mean that he didn't kill Bendak Starkiller or that he didn't join the GenoHaradan (both dark-aligned options in the game).
However, Wookieepedia articles assume that the player picks the light side choice for all scenarios; therefore, even the secondary choices and events pertaining to the dark side or triggered by relevant choices, are considered non-canon.
- On the other hand, ambiguity is maintained when it comes to alternative choices and solutions to puzzles with the same outcome. For example in KOTOR, the fate of droid C8-42, or the responses to Rutum, is up to the player; although dark side options can be excluded according to the above, there are still several neutral or light-sided options possible to choose from; and none of them can be taken for sure to be the 'true' one.
- In-game events and characters that are 'triggered' when the non-canonical gender or alignment is selected are non-canon as well. For example Hanharr is not considered to have followed Meetra Surik, since Hanharr joins the player only in the non-canonical Dark Side outcome of the game.
There are however some exceptions when an external canon source, such as an encyclopedia or Guide, state it as happening, like for example that Brianna joined the Jedi Exile. In the game, Brianna joins the player only in the non-canonical male identity. In that case, the game is inconsistent to the canon and falls under the "game mechanic" logic.
- Battlefront games have both a Campaign and an Instant Action Mode among others. While the events in the campaign, including those that only appear there, such as the Battle of Kamino and the existence of X1 and X2, are considered canon. However, Instant Action allows players to create and replay battles in non-canon means and contain obviously non-canon gameplay elements, such as Luke Skywalker fighting during the Clone Wars.
George Lucas and Star Wars Canon
- "After Star Wars was released, it became apparent that my story—however many films it took to tell—was only one of thousands that could be told about the characters who inhabit its galaxy. But these were not stories I was destined to tell. Instead they would spring from the imagination of other writers, inspired by the glimpse of a galaxy that Star Wars provided. Today it is an amazing, if unexpected, legacy of Star Wars that so many gifted writers are contributing new stories to the Saga."
This quote from an interview in the August/September 1999 issue of Star Wars Insider is also notable:
- "Part of the job of the director is to sort of keep everything in line, and I can do that in the movies—but I can't do it on the whole Star Wars universe."
In July 2001, Lucas gave his opinion on the matter of what is canon in Star Wars during an interview with Cinescape magazine:
- "There are two worlds here," explained Lucas. "There's my world, which is the movies, and there's this other world that has been created, which I say is the parallel universe—the licensing world of the books, games and comic books. They don't intrude on my world, which is a select period of time, [but] they do intrude in between the movies. I don't get too involved in the parallel universe."
- STARLOG: "The Star Wars Universe is so large and diverse. Do you ever find yourself confused by the subsidiary material that's in the novels, comics, and other offshoots?"
- LUCAS: "I don't read that stuff. I haven't read any of the novels. I don't know anything about that world. That's a different world than my world. But I do try to keep it consistent. The way I do it now is they have a Star Wars Encyclopedia. So if I come up with a name or something else, I look it up and see if it has already been used. When I said [other people] could make their own Star Wars stories, we decided that, like Star Trek, we would have two universes: My universe and then this other one. They try to make their universe as consistent with mine as possible, but obviously they get enthusiastic and want to go off in other directions."
Lucas' statements in Starlog were commented on in a December 7, 2005 post on the starwars.com forums by Leland Chee, who maintains Lucas Licensing's continuity database:
- CHEE: "GL is certainly not bound by the EU, though he's certainly open to using things created in it (Aayla Secura and the Coruscant name, for example). On the other hand, the quote you provide makes it sound like the EU is separate from George's vision of the Star Wars universe. It is not. The EU must follow certain tenets set by George through the films and other guidelines that he provides outside of the films."
- "So how did Anakin get that scar, George?" asks John Knoll.
- "I don't know. Ask Howard," says George, referring to President of Lucas Licensing Howard Roffman. "That's one of those things that happens in the novels between the movies. I just put it there. He has to explain how it got there. I think Anakin got it slipping in the bathtub, but of course, he's not going to tell anybody that."
During ShoWest 2008, Lucas gave an interview where he mentioned the difference between "his world", "the licensing world" and the "fans' world":
- Interviewer: "Do you think you'd have other people continue the Star Wars saga past Episode VI or turn some of the other material into films?"
- Lucas: "But there's no story past Episode VI, there's just no story. It's a certain story about Anakin Skywalker and once Anakin Skywalker dies, that's kind of the end of the story. There is no story about Luke Skywalker, I mean apart from the books. But there's three worlds: There's my world that I made up, there's the licensing world that's the books, the comics, all that kind of stuff, the games, which is their world, and then there's the fans' world, which is also very rich in imagination, but they don't always mesh. All I'm in charge of is my world. I can't be in charge of those other people's world, because I can't keep up with it."
Another noteworthy exchange between Lucas and an interviewer appeared in the May 2008 edition of Total Film magazine:
- TOTAL FILM: "The Star Wars universe has expanded far beyond the movies. How much leeway do the game makers and novel writers have?"
- LUCAS: "They have their own kind of world. There's three pillars of Star Wars. I'll probably get in trouble for this but it's OK! There's three pillars: the father, the son and the holy ghost. I'm the father, Howard Roffman [president of Lucas Licensing] is the son and the holy ghost is the fans, this kind of ethereal world of people coming up with all kinds of different ideas and histories. Now these three different pillars don't always match, but the movies and TV shows are all under my control and they are consistent within themselves. Howard tries to be consistent but sometimes he goes off on tangents and it's hard to hold him back. He once said to me that there are two Star Trek universes: there's the TV show and then there's all the spin-offs. He said that these were completely different and didn't have anything to do with each other. So I said, "OK, go ahead." In the early days I told them that they couldn't do anything about how Darth Vader was born, for obvious reasons, but otherwise I pretty much let them do whatever they wanted. They created this whole amazing universe that goes on for millions of years!"
- TOTAL FILM: "Are you happy for new Star Wars tales to be told after you're gone?"
- LUCAS: "I've left pretty explicit instructions for there not to be any more features. There will definitely be no Episodes VII-IX. That's because there isn't any story. I mean, I never thought of anything. And now there have been novels about the events after Episode VI, which isn't at all what I would have done with it. The Star Wars story is really the tragedy of Darth Vader. That is the story. Once Vader dies, he doesn't come back to life, the Emperor doesn't get cloned and Luke doesn't get married..."
Canon in the Holocron continuity database
In 2000, Lucas Licensing appointed Leland Chee to create a continuity-tracking database referred to as the Holocron continuity database. The Holocron follows the canon policy that has been in effect for years, but the capabilities of database software allow for each element of a story, rather than the stories themselves, to be classified on their own merits.
The Holocron's database includes an area for a single-letter (G, T, C, S or N) representing the level of canonicity of that element; these letters have since informally been applied to the levels of canon themselves: G-canon, T-canon, C-canon, S-canon and N-canon. As part of his work with the Holocron, Chee was responsible for the creation of this classification, and he spent the early stages developing and refining them into what they are today.
G, T, C and S together form the overall Star Wars continuity. Each ascending level typically overrides the lower ones; for example, Boba Fett's back story was radically altered with the release of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, forcing the retcon of older source material to fall in line with the new G-canon back story. However, this is not always absolute, and the resolution of all contradictions is handled on a case-by-case basis.
- G-canon is George Lucas Canon; the six Episodes and any statements by George Lucas (including unpublished production notes from him or his production department that are never seen by the public). Elements originating with Lucas in the movie novelizations, reference books, and other sources are also G-canon, though anything created by the authors of those sources is C-canon. When the matter of changes between movie versions arises, the most recently released editions are deemed superior to older ones, as they correct mistakes, improve consistency between the two trilogies, and express Lucas's current vision of the Star Wars universe most closely. The deleted scenes included on the DVDs are also considered G-canon (when they're not in conflict with the movie).
- T-canon, or Television Canon, refers to the canon level comprising the feature film Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the two television shows Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the Star Wars live-action TV series. It was devised recently in order to define a status above the C-Level canon, as confirmed by Chee.
- C-canon is Continuity Canon, consisting of all recent works (and many older works) released under the name of Star Wars: books, comics, games, cartoons, non-theatrical films, and more. Games are a special case, as generally only the stories are C-canon, while things like stats and gameplay may not be; they also offer non-canonical options to the player, such as choosing female gender for a canonically male character. C-canon elements have been known to appear in the movies, thus making them G-canon; examples include the name "Coruscant," swoop bikes, Quinlan Vos, Aayla Secura, YT-2400 freighters and Action VI transports.
- S-canon is Secondary Canon; the materials are available to be used or ignored as needed by current authors. This includes mostly older works, such as much of the Marvel Star Wars comics, that predate a consistent effort to maintain continuity; it also contains certain elements of a few otherwise N-canon stories, and other things that "may not fit just right." Many formerly S-canon elements have been elevated to C-canon through their inclusion in more recent works by continuity-minded authors, while many other older works (such as The Han Solo Adventures) were accounted for in continuity from the start despite their age, and thus were always C-canon.
- N is Non-Canon. What-if stories (such as stories published under the Infinities label) and anything else directly and irreconcilably contradicted by higher canon ends up here. N is the only level that is not considered canon by Lucasfilm. Information cut from canon, deleted scenes, or from canceled Star Wars works falls into this category as well, unless another canonical work references it and it is declared canon.
Leland Chee continues to answer questions about the Holocron in the Holocron continuity database questions thread at the starwars.com forums.
On August 4, 2004, when asked if the G and C-levels formed separate and independent canon, Leland Chee responded by stating that both were part of a single canon:
- "There is one overall continuity."
In a December 7, 2005 post, Chee commented on how the Holocron is applied to licensees:
- "The Holocron comes into play for anything official being developed for books, games, websites, and merchandise. For anything beyond that, it is simply a reference tool."
In a December 6, 2006 post, Chee contradicted his original statements regarding the canonicity of the Holocron and how it applied to the Star Wars universe:
- "The only relevant official continuities are the current versions of the films alone, and the combined current version of the films along with whatever else we've got in the Holocron. You're never going to know what George's view of the universe beyond the films at any given time because it is constantly evolving."
On a post made on the same day, Mr. Chee stated that:
- "Anything not in the current version of the films is irrelevant to Film only continuity."
This statement confirms the priority of the "current version of the films" over the original versions, as well as the existence of two separate continuities, the "film only" continuity maintained and followed by George Lucas himself, and the "film + EU" continuity that is used for licensed products.
Subsequent questioning over which continuity was "more official" revealed that Mr. Chee favored film + EU continuity, but in the end it was up to the individual fan:
- "You're asking the Keeper of the Holocron, so of course I'm gonna be a bit biased ... The reality is that a huge number of people who have seen all 6 Star Wars films have never played a Star Wars game, visited a Star Wars website, watched a Star Wars television program, read a Star Wars publication, or purchased a Star Wars action figure or collectible. It would be great disservice to discount these people as fans."
Notes and references
- Expanded Universe
- List of C-canon elements in the films
- List of fanon elements in continuity
- Wookieepedia:Canon policy
- Page 2 of the Holocron Continuity Database thread at Starwars.com's Message Boards, where Leland Chee first discussed how canon is handled by the Holocron
- Sue Rostoni on book cover canonicity
- Star Wars Technical Commentaries – By Curtis Saxton
- Canon on Wikipedia
- Star Wars canon on Wikipedia