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The Wookiee Dilemma

Posted by Dustin on January 17, 2018 at 04:08 PM CST

The article below, "The Wookiee Dilemma" was written by Steve Dunk.

The Wookiee Dilemma

Every dedicated Star Wars fan remembers where they were that day on April 25, 2014 when Lucasfilm and Disney diabolically split the fan base in two. That was the day Star Wars “canon” was created and all materials released prior save the films and television shows, were relegated the “Extended Universe” or “EU”.

In a recent interview with SyFy, Lucasfilm story group member and steward of “The Holocron” Star Wars database Leland Chee, revealed some interesting information regarding the reasons why the EU was dumped from the now canon Star Wars universe. Chee stated one of the reasons the decision was made by Lucas Film at that time was due to the death of Chewbacca in the 1999 novel “The New Jedi Order: Vector Prime”. In the novel, written by R.A. Salvatore, Chewie is killed when the Dobido moon crashes into the planet Sernpidal where he helped rescue Han and Anakin Solo, along with a host of civilians.


This marked the first death of a main OT member and fiercely divided fans, many who thought it was just a cheap publicity stunt to sell more units. The fact is it was a narrative decision, and one that was approved by George Lucas.

Chee would go on to say this…

“Publishing had decided they needed to kill somebody, and it was Chewbacca…Part of that original decision was because he can’t speak and just speaks in growls, he was a challenging character to write for in novels.”

While he speaks the truth, it was an incredibly controversial decision at the time to kill off a very beloved character. This was the wild west known as the Extended Universe of novels which in 2014, were made officially non-canon. This coincided with the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney who had plans for a sequel trilogy along with many other works in development. The inclusion of the EU works, which number in hundreds, would have created chaos with regards to consistency in storytelling and continuity with its characters. It would have made it impossible to start a new trilogy and keep track of all the canon material at the same time, opening the story group up for even more scrutiny from some of the more voracious members of the online community.

So when decisions were being made about moving forward with a new series of films, one of things they looked at was bringing back everyone’s favorite Wookiee, as Chee would state…

“…if you have the opportunity to bring back Chewbacca into a live-action film, you’re not gonna deprive fans that.”

This decision, which occurred before Chee’s time at Lucas Film, makes way more sense than to have to explain the death of Chewbacca off camera. This also afforded them the opportunity to be able to pick and choose which parts of the EU they wanted to include in the new canon, utilizing the best material and discarding the rest. This wasn’t a revelation as the Star Wars story group has always dipped into those deep EU waters looking for inspiration. The most obvious being the rejuvenation and inclusion of one Admiral Thrawn in the popular animated series Star Wars Rebels.


Thrawn was first introduced in 1991 during the “Heir to the Empire” trilogy written by Timothy Zahn, who is considered by most to be the best author from the EU years. There are other examples of course, although not as direct as the Thrawn adaptation, such as the similarities between Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo and EU son of Han and Leia, Jacen Solo.

So, who would have thought at the time that the death of Chewbacca in 1999 would have a ripple effect that would help shape a new series of films 10 years later? Of course the decision was made by committee whose reasons went far beyond that of the death of our beloved Wookiee. But when you step away from the finer storytelling points and look at the big picture, the decision by the group at the time was an ingenious one.

Now, all we have to figure out is why Chewie doesn’t age.

Till next time…MTFBWY.

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