SWTOR – Authentic Star Wars but not Canon

For any fan of the Expanded Universe (EU) which consisted of Star Wars material beyond the movies such as books, comics, and games, the announcement made by Lucasfilm last year to clean the slate and start a new canon was a shocker.  But where did SWTOR fall in this new canon?  I’ll briefly describe the EU and its troubles and move onto the new canon and how SWTOR fits in it.

The Expanded Universe

The EU roughly started in 1978 with the release of Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and up to last year, contained thousands of works.  The material spanned the Old Republic era (KOTOR and SWTOR) through to 100 years after Return of the Jedi.  With so many works in the Star Wars setting, Lucas Licensing and their continuity experts did make an attempt to keep one consistent story throughout the content.  However, due to inevitable contradictions, different levels of canon were defined.  “G-Canon” which stood for George Lucas material like the movies trumped anything else.  Next came “T-Canon” that stood for TV material like The Clone Wars.  Following that was “C-Canon” which was basically any material approved in the continuity timeline and should be respected by future authors and contributors to Star Wars.  Majority of the EU was “C-Canon” but “G-Canon” and “T-Canon” were supreme.

The best and most popular example of “C-canon” would be Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy.

First book in the Thrawn Trilogy

The Thrawn Trilogy felt just like the movies, epic story with our favorite heroes from the original trilogy and the introduction of new characters like Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn.  It takes place after Return of the Jedi, so it did not contradict anything from the movies.

While the Thrawn Trilogy was a great addition to Star Wars, not all materials were up to the same caliber.  With most of the EU materials coming after the movies, many new fans who wanted to get into the EU were discouraged by the “required reading” to get up to speed with the latest Star Wars books and comics.  As already mentioned before, contradictions in materials became inevitable as well.  The Expanded Universe was cherished by those of us fans that religiously read each book/comic and played the games, but it certainly was not perfect and clear.

The New Canon

The first major event leading up to the new canon would be Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012.  In addition to acquiring Lucasfilm, Disney stated that it would be planning Episode VII!  Star Wars fans including myself were ecstatic that we’d see Star Wars return to the big screen.  The question among the EU fans was what would happen to the EU materials, particularly those following Return of the Jedi.

The answer to that question came in the form of a blog post on the official Star Wars website and video titled “The Star Wars Expanded Universe: Past, Present, and Future” on April 25th, 2014.  I’ll summarize the main points:

  • All movies (prequel and original trilogy) are canon along with The Clone Wars (movie and TV series).
  • Any of the previous EU material is not canon anymore.  It will be branded as “Legends” instead.  Books and comics would have the “Legends” banner.

    Heir to the Empire with Legends banner

  • In the blog post, post Return of the Jedi material was not declared to be canon in order to allow freedom in storytelling for the new trilogy of Star Wars movies, starting with Episode VII.
  • The first works in the new canon will be John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn and the Star Wars Rebels TV series.  Both have been released as of this blog post.
  • Anything released, including books, comics, and games will be canon.
  • Certain elements from the EU could become canon, but it wouldn’t make that original EU work canon.
  • The Lucasfilm Story Group (see the video for more details) will review each Star Wars work and ensure it aligns with the new continuity.

While it is clearly stated that the post Return of the Jedi EU material is not valid, many fans of Knights of the Old Republic 1 /2 and Star Wars:  The Old Republic clung onto the hope that these games could become canon.  The Old Republic era is thousands of years prior to the movies and has little chance to contradict any new canon material.

Is SWTOR canon?

Ever since this new canon announcement, I have heard countless debates on podcasts and fan sites analyzing whether SWTOR is canon.  For myself and others, I thought it was rather clear cut.  Any prior Star Wars material besides the movies and TV series was not canon, so SWTOR was not canon.  Others felt that since it was not directly announced as not being canon and that the Lucasfilm Story Group was credited in the latest expansion, that SWTOR could be canon or at least partially canon.  SWTOR’s setting thousands of years prior to the movies does minimize any contradictions.

This past weekend, the Star Wars Celebration Anaheim – One Big Story Star Wars Canon Panel – finally gave us SWTOR players a definitive answer.  Pablo Hidalgo and Leeland Chee, members of the Lucasfilm Story Group, answers a few questions pertaining to SWTOR.

One Big Story Panel – Lucasfilm Story Group

Here are the pertinent quotes regarding authentic versus canon and the other pertaining to SWTOR expansions / timeline.

Hidalgo: “We talk about canon and we talk about authenticity…there are certain experiences that are tailor made to exist in our world.

I would recommend the reader to look through the full live blog to get the context.  Star Tours was the original context, but the concepts mentioned here are interesting.  I want to bring up the point that the Lucasfilm Story Group does review all Star Wars content for authenticity (does it feel like Star Wars) but that does not mean it is canon.  Star Tours is authentic but not canon.

Are The Old Republic expansions canon?

No — BioWare “has created their own universe that is so fantastic,” we’re not going to change it, says Hidalgo.

The question only states expansions, but clearly SWTOR is not canon.  First definitive answer.

When are you going to explore the Old Republic part of the timeline?

“It’s definitely not off the table.” — Chee

Since SWTOR is in the Old Republic era and there are no plans yet for canon material, SWTOR will not be directly contradicting canon at least.

SWTOR, according to the Lucasfilm Story Group, is authentic but not canon.  The Story Group does enjoy the content from Bioware and certainly reviews the future updates for authenticity.  They will not change anything as long as it does not contradict the new canon.  For us players, I don’t think this will change anything.  The story may not be part of the new canon, but it is still the Star Wars we know and love.

Thanks for reading!  Please let me know your thoughts.

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5 thoughts on “SWTOR – Authentic Star Wars but not Canon

  1. Menzaladoc (@ProgenitorNight)

    So the possibility of a KOTOR or SWTOR era movie is not impossible. That’d be a nice change from the whole Empire/Rebels/New Republic thing. But I wonder if Abrams had did (or been allowed to do) the same thing in Star Wars that he did in Star Trek, create an alternate timeline, if that would have been accepted by the SW fan base.

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    1. r2d2arm Post author

      Not impossible, but I don’t see it happening if the story group will continue to support SWTOR updates. Something set in the Darth Bane era could be possible though!

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  2. Ravanel Griffon

    “Star Tours is authentic but not canon.” – heh, such a politically correct statement! I like the article, although I must admit I don’t care all that much for Star Wars canon personally. And like you say, for me SWTOR will always be “head canon”.

    I was more annoyed with Star Trek going down the “oh, alternate universe, trololol” road with the new Star Trek movies. Somehow I found that just such a cheap solution to do what they wanted. Unnecessary, too.

    On another note, that usage of EU cracked me up. Imagine reading “The US roughly started in 1978…” – I bet you’d blink twice as well reading that. ^^

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  3. mhorgrim

    I think it’s good they made sure it’s not canon. Why? Well it allows Bioware creative license to continue with expansions in it’s own universe without having to get permission for every creative direction they go for. Besides, how can you make canon from players who cannot consistantly take the same course of action for the common outcome? If we did that, it would be an extremely limited and boring linear style game. Canon is great for books and great for movies. Also allowing SWTOR era to be Legends material gives creative license for writers of stories. this is a good thing. I know there are plenty of folks out there that want a lock step historical reference, but in the big scheme of things that would kind of hurt the player base for SWTOR and really put the screws to the game developers. Just my 2 credits..

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  4. Maebeebuzz (@Maebeebuzz)

    Thrawn is the most movie like, I totally agree. And while I was really sad about the whole “Legends” thing, the new books coming out are good enough I’ve lost much of my upsetness. (I still miss Jaina though!)

    It’s also nice to have an official statement on whether SWTOR is cannon or not. I think it would be hard to partner an MMO with cannoncy. It would get confusing very quick.

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