By: Evan Gregory
Dear Expanded Universe fans, this is my first article on the site or ever for that case, and since this is my first I thought I’d briefly introduce myself. I’m known on YouTube as HolocronKeeperEvan, where a large portion of my videos are focused on Clone Wars era content, I’ve spent the last five years doing research in regards to continuity regarding the era and trying to establish a cohesive timeline where there was none before. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to dedicate to what would be a thirty-six-part article series detailing the entire war from beginning to bloody end…at least not yet, maybe someday. Instead, I’m going to start on a nine to fourteen-part article series on Star Wars: The Clone Wars in regards to connections, contradictions, and retcons from the show to the novels to the comics and games, In order to educate the Expanded Universe fans out there that there are answers to the issues that plague the Star Wars Legends continuity. So buckle up and join me on this wild and perhaps controversial ride.
Origins of the Show
Star Wars: The Clone Wars, is a show that is beloved and hated by so many within the Star Wars fandom. One that took Lucasfilm in a new direction away from the films of Lucas' Star Wars Saga, to a time of War, the background of the series spawned from the conversation between the late Sir Alec Guinness's Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi and Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker.
"You fought in the Clone Wars?"
"Yes, I was once a Jedi Knight The same as your father."
"I wish I'd known him"
"He was the best star pilot in the galaxy and a cunning warrior."
"And he was a good friend."
These words would form the backbone of who the characters of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are when Lucas began developing the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, mostly for Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Between those movies, there was plenty of Expanded Universe material to flesh out the conflict of the Clone Wars in the dramatic lead-up to Revenge of the Sith. Fans affectionally recall this conglomerate of storytelling called the Clone Wars Multimedia Project. Lucas Licensing with its product partners at Hasbro, Del Rey, Dark Horse, Scholastic, and Cartoon Network and its internal departments such as LucasOnline and LucasArts contributed to it 7 Adult Novels, 7 Junior Novels, 7 Short Stories, 43 Comic Issues, 2 video games, and 1 TV Show. There is a misconception about other material within such as Labyrinth of Evil, Secrets of the Jedi, The New Droid Army, Galactic Battlegrounds: Clone Campaigns, Battlefront 2, Clone Wars Adventures, and last but certainly not least Republic Commando novels (besides Hard Contact). Although most of that had come from Lucas' influence on these novelists, comic writers, and game developers none came directly from Lucas himself.
Lucas envisioned something more focused, something new, and something that had his guiding hand with one hand on the wheel something as far back in his mind as before Revenge of the Sith had been released to the public. That was a Star Wars episodic television series aimed at a wide appealing family demographic, although he tried in the mid to late 1980s with two episodic television series with mixed success with 2D animation production company Nelvana on Star Wars: Ewoks and Star Wars: Droids: The Adventures of C-3PO and R2-D2, he was at the time engaged and rather preoccupied with his growing family then he was as hands-on as he wanted to, the two shows failing commercially with Droids ending after a single season and TV special and Ewoks doing the same after two with the competition with another show now famously known as The Care Bears Family a show also created by Nelvana and aired on ABC essentially held the same demographic. It wasn't until Genndy Tartokovsky's successful attempt at reviving Star Wars on television with Star Wars: Clone Wars on Cartoon Network there was an opportunity for Lucas himself to once again try his hand at a Star Wars television show. Lucas viewed the micro-series as essentially a pilot for what his show would be. In 2003 Lucas would found Lucasfilm Animation with a focus on digital animation and 3D technology. He was still impressed and amazed at what the technology had done for his Prequel Trilogy and knew that this would be the future. One which he was right about. According to an article Lucas originally wanted Gendy Tartokovsky to helm the new animation arm of Lucasfilm, as it was he himself who was impressed by Gendy and Cartoon Network's Samurai Jack to allow him to create Star Wars: Clone Wars. Eventually, relations between the two broke down due to disagreements over whether he could do feature films or not or merely just the Star Wars television projects, as Lucas felt it was perhaps too risky, (which would indeed turn out to be true) but Lucas was adamant that Television was the "future" for Lucasfilm, not film. Since then numerous people began working in the early stages of getting the animation company up and running such as Jim Morris, Gail Currey, and Catherine Winder.
It wasn't until around March or April 2005 as the Singapore division of Lucasfilm was to be completed in late October of that year that the wheels finally had to start turning and the "End of the Saga" was about to be released to theaters in a few months that Executive Producer began looking for someone to lead this animated Clone Wars project. On February 21, 2005, an instant two-episode hit, appeared on Nickelodeon called Avatar: The Last Airbender. This visually stunning, action-oriented, spiritual-based show similar to Samuari Jack was exactly what I believe they were looking for. Catherine Winder got a hold of the director of the two premiere episodes, Dave Filoni. At first Filoni was adamant that the call was just a prank, as to any notorious Star Wars fan who would just call out of thin air and offer a Creative position within the newly created Lucasfilm Animation to head a TV project for them. Filoni soon realized the validity of the call after a remark made by Catherine that said "I'm going to hang up, and you're going to feel really embarrassed." After which Filoni had talked to her about his love for Star Wars and that he was making a Plo Koon costume to wear for the Revenge of the Sith premiere. Dave was soon interviewed by Catherine Winder and given his portfolio which she was impressed by, then he talked with Gail Currey who was the VP and GM for Lucasfilm Animation. Dave would then meet the man himself George Lucas who was according to him impressed and that "I looked for a talented director who had a passion for Star Wars and understood the world in which it takes place.". After his meeting with George, Catherine offered the job to Filoni. At first, there was skepticism about having a die-hard fan like Filoni was essentially a good choice, such as Justin Leach. Leach then decided after meeting him that he was the one for the job. Rob Coleman who was the animation director on The Prequel Trilogy loved Filoni's creative energy in wanting to create a good project and do the best possible job. Brian Kalin O'Connell the episodic director on the show would remark that Filoni "He understands this universe better than anyone. He understands it as a fan, he understands it as a storyteller, and he's able to balance both-that is a rare, rare, talent."
During the initial planning of the upcoming Clone Wars TV show, Filoni pitched something far different and less evasive to the continuity as established by the Expanded Universe. A series not focused on Prequel Trilogy heroes such as Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi but on a cast of five characters that dealt with black market trade, war espionage, and other adventures on a smuggling ship, A Smuggler named Cad his girlfriend named Lupe, a Gungan named Lunker, Jedi Master Sendak and his Padawan learner a Togruta named Ashla, (the Togruta Youngling in Star Wars: Episode II). The Jedi would aid the Smugglers with their duties a few times in a season with presumably massive events in a season which would require them to defend the peace in war and fight on the front lines. The idea was that during these battles such as Kamino or Mon Calamari that important characters like Anakin or Obi-Wan would appear to aid the heroes briefly. Something that would be less damaging to the overall established continuity at the time. Filoni would work with the lead writer Henry Gilroy who had several contributions to the Expanded Universe himself such as the comic adaptations for Episode I and Episode II, the Episode I character tie-in comics, and Star Wars: Tales on this concept for the show. Lucas however vetoed this idea for the show, instead shifting the focus back to the main characters of the Prequel Trilogy, Anakin and Obi-Wan since those characters had pre-existing appeal, and worked with George directly developing the final idea for the show. Filoni shared that the characters he mentioned got adapted by Lucas into the finalized versions such as Ashla whom George made Anakin's padawan learner renamed as Ahsoka. Others such as Ziro and his son Rotta from the earlier pitch got adapted into Ziro the Hutt the Uncle of Jabba the Hutt and Rotta made into Jabba's son.
The Clone Wars and The Expanded Universe
I think it’s important to say to those reading that the show Star Wars: The Clone Wars is not in fact under the umbrella of the Expanded Universe, it is in fact under the George Lucas Pillar of Continuity according to Keeper of the Holocron, Leland Chee and confirmed by Pablo Hidalgo in the reference book The Essential Reader’s Companion, those at Lucasfilm close to the production of the television show and George Lucas himself. Although this is not to say just because it’s not within the Expanded Universe does not mean it isn’t part of the overall continuity of Star Wars Legends, previously known simply as the Star Wars Universe. It’s simple a reason why the show itself ignored continuity within pre-existing material within the Expanded Universe, it wasn’t in it and thus free from editorial oversight by those at Lucas Licensing who were pretty much in charge of keeping track of continuity. Lucas viewed the EU as a sandbox for creators, and to draw inspiration and ideas from and that’s okay, it’s because of that mindset that pushed against Filoni’s original idea for the show to be more rigid in terms of continuity to the Expanded Universe. I personally don’t doubt Filoni’s credentials as a fan myself, I know many within the community do and that is for them to decide, but I ask those dedicated among you how many have indeed created a full cosplay of their favorite Star Wars character to a Star Wars movie premiere or screening?
Back on topic, that wasn’t to say Filoni and or the other writers did not consult Licensing from time to time, usually in the form of Hidalgo and Chee who were the two EU experts at the time at Lucasfilm. A great example was when they were using the previously established dead character of Eeth Koth, Filoni was told that he had died in Episode II (albeit the character was never clearly visible and only mentioned in Inside the Worlds of Episode II.) Eeth Koth also made visual appearances after that book was published in the comic series General Grievous and even in Star Wars: Clone Wars which was retconned as Agen Kolar. We can only presume that George viewed Koth and Kolar as the same character as he frequently had actors changed between movies due to scheduling and travel issues. Some would end up as newly established characters within the EU, such as Depa’s replacement becoming her sister Sar Labooda. I honestly think it was a Lucas decision as the show was beholden to Lucas and his films and later on in these articles, I will provide more examples of creative control by George, that support this but needless to say, George although detail oriented, and planned things in advanced tended to change his mind on small things and definitely prioritized “his vision” for a product over continuity as evident in the multiple Special Editions of the films under his creative supervision.
Now even though the show isn’t Expanded Universe its other material within it’s multimedia project and later material within the EU everything from novels to comics and video games to reference books, graphic novellas, and short stories. Even though the show itself doesn’t do a great job at linking to the Expanded Universe directly it’s these stories that bridge the gap, most notably The Secret Mission junior novels, The Clone Wars: No Prisoners, and the graphic novellas to name a few. Some of them have some pretty deep cuts to the Expanded Universe all the way back to the West End Games and Bantam eras, which we’ll get into in later articles. Also to state that even though the show admittedly did a terrible job at linking it didn’t ignore things within the Expanded Universe or make ties to it altogether.
Exception to the Timeline and Continuity
Before we go much further in these articles I think a reader should keep an open mind. I’m a firm personally believe that a fictional universe isn’t concrete in it’s continuity and universe, I have yet to find one that doesn’t after so many years that doesn’t have contradictions, retcons, or its timeline adjusted, from Marvel, DC, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Dungeons and Dragons, and Halo. It’s unrealistic to think Star Wars is exempt from this as well, and to those who have a mindset that it is or was perfect, I think it’s a bit delusional. Star Wars even before Star Wars: The Clone Wars came along had at least one semi-hard reset and an event that affected previously established material like what The Clone Wars did. The semi-hard reset came when Bantam Books and Dark Horse Comics ignored what happened in the Marvel Star Wars comics and novels for a time, the novels decision was reversed by later being referenced in later Bantam Star Wars novels, as for the Marvel Comics they are simply on a canonical/non-canonical basis depending upon if individual events within them were mentioned later on. The second was when the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy came out in theaters, a lot of those films contradicted what was previously established in the Expanded Universe up to that point and even concurrent Star Wars comic run by Dark Horse, what happened to that was that those stories were still completely valid but the details that conflicted with the Prequel Trilogy were all but retconned or deemed non-canonical by the higher and later source from George Lucas. It is this later precedent that Star Wars: The Clone Wars follows, in that what it does to conflicting material within the Expanded Universe is merely retcon details and or make them non-canonical, not the entire previously established stories. So for example just because Labyrinth of Evil states that Darth Maul is dead, that statement is now deemed non-canonical within that novel since Season Four it is shown that he indeed did survive his duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi, and we have later Expanded Universe material that expands on his survival and stories post-Episode I with Darth Maul in them. Now, do I agree with all the changes and retcons made? No, of course not you aren’t going to please everybody and unfortunately it’s out of our hands on the final decisions made with official continuity.
I do think people get up and arms about retcons however, we won’t go into what makes a specific retcon a good one or a bad one, but I don’t think they are inherently bad as what people view them to be. They are there to fix an issue within continuity and that’s a good thing that they can explain and offer an explanation, but to say it’s a band-aid or that it shouldn’t exist, as continuity should be perfect, again I think that’s a bit of a delusion. Yes, you cannot like this thing or that and you’re entitled to your own opinion I just don’t think that retcons should be a blanketed hated thing. This brings me however to the final point of the first part of these articles, which is the Timeline. The Star Wars timeline isn’t entirely concrete especially and most notably the Clone Wars era. Yes Lucas Licensing has its own timeline of events and how everything goes but that isn’t publicly available, we don’t know exactly how they have their Clone Wars era set up, according to Leland after Star Wars: The Clone Wars would finish airing it would be all sorted, unfortunately, we never got that. We can also infer as of the writing of The Essential Reader’s Companion they had not done anything to rectify the issue but only to give us rough new placeholder dates and keep old ones. So according to Lucas Licensing they didn’t even have anything and we can pretty much assume based upon new dates given in The Essential Reader’s Companion and conflicts with Star Wars: The Clone Wars the previously established timeline of the Clone Wars Multimedia Project no longer are considered fully canonical.
Also, People generally go off of what was established in The New Essential Guide to Chronology as the definitive source, and what I’m about to tell you is that they are written from an In-Universe perspective in essence what you are reading is a book that was compiled about the history of the galaxy from within the universe itself as if you were actually in the Star Wars universe. On page xv, at the beginning of the book, there is a section called “Introduction to Students of History” the first paragraph says “History survives only if it is recorded. This was true when Palpatine’s Empire purged thousands of years of records from the galactic archives, and it is even more important today…” and another in paragraph two “Fortunately, new data caches have been uncovered since the HoloNet release of the first edition of this chronicle (Note: The original Star Wars: The Essential Chronology). Holes have been plugged and gaps filled in as untold information on the Clone Wars, the extermination of the Jedi, and the nature of the ancient Republic has come to light.”. These two quotes are there to grant exceptions to later material that should arise if it conflicts with the reference book, This adds to the possibility that the reason why history from later Clone Wars era material or other eras as a whole is because they don’t have all of it yet and could be stored on some other data cache, and the reason it isn’t there and the large majority of the Clone Wars in the first Essential Chronology reference book is because of the Emperor and COMPNOR which is who is in charge of falsifying information and deleting dissenting information and creating propaganda comes from. Which we can go full circle to the famous EU community COMPNOR explanation to overwrite Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which isn’t true. This is what COMPNOR did, it erased records of entire swaths of the history of the Clone Wars on countless worlds, and that is the exception In-Universe why.
So what we have established now is that there is no officially agreed-upon modern timeline of events surrounding the Clone Wars. The best we can do is infer based upon the information presented to us in regards to the show, later reference books, and tie-ins in relation to one another. Personally, I take everything up until Yoda: Dark Rendezvous after of course Republic 71: Dreadnaughts of Rendili, Part 1, and the first half of Clone Wars Chapter 21, which firmly puts a few things into place for Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Anakin Skywalker is a newly promoted Jedi Knight and General, with his signature right eye scar from Ventress, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a member of the Jedi Council, Quinlan Vos is back with the Jedi Order following his infiltration of Dooku’s inner circle, C-3PO has his gold plating, and R2-D2 is with Anakin, and Rex and Cody are out of ARC training and serving under Skywalker and Kenobi. With all this now in mind we can start going down this rabbit hole of reviewing and explaining the connections, contradictions, and retcons that come up within the show itself and the Expanded Universe tie-in material of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.