Continuity, Canon and Apocrypha

Despite admirable efforts by Lucasfilm and its licensees in recent years, not all fiction which bears the STAR WARS label is consistent in spirit and factual detail. The need to resolve conflicts of continuity and choices about the canonical status of STAR WARS material is unavoidable. Below I describe the principles employed to resolve these difficulties as a basis for my STAR WARS Technical Commentaries.

Primary Evidence: Canon

The STAR WARS films are the only primary reference. With the exception of only a few minor points, they are indisputable. This is not a merely personal opinion; it is the explicit policy of the Continuity and Production Editors at Lucasfilm. They are interviewed in STAR WARS Insider #23:

What's 'gospel' and what isn't?
'Gospel,' or canon as we refer to it, includes the screenplays, the films, the radio dramas and the novelisations. 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.

Therefore the films and their adaptations are canon, meaning that they take precedence in essentially all matters. Any other form of unfilmed STAR WARS fiction may be official, meaning that it is subordinate to canon and is required to be consistent with other official works. Issues relating to these secondary sources are described below. Works which do not have the blessing of Lucasfilm Ltd (which is not the same entity as LucasArts) are unofficial and cannot be given consideration.

The above continuity policy has been reaffirmed very recently in the introductory pages of the STAR WARS Encyclopedia by Stephen J. Sansweet. His terminology includes absolute canon for canon, and quasi-canon for the secondary and lower official material. He avoids the use of the official non-canon term more commonly used by fans: apocrypha. This may have something to do with the religious pejorative undertones that some readers perceive. However this site uses the more common terms for the sake of brevity. The terms are well understood by most online commentators on science fiction and fantasy literature, and no religious connotations are intended.

Like all films, the STAR WARS movies contain errors of a technical nature, which are unrelated to the spirit and substance of the story. Bloopers emerge unexpectedly from the idiosyncracies of the film creation processes. From the viewpoint of the creators of the film they are unintentional and unwanted. Actually being in the film does not make them a truly "real" part of STAR WARS. Judgements about the internal reality of the STAR WARS universe must correct for the bloopers.


Secondary and Further Sources.

Where they do not conflict with the spirit or fact of the canon, other sources are considered. These sources themselves must be sorted according to an order of precedence. First are the film novelisations and the radio dramas. This material is acceptable where it adds to or simply reiterates what is known from the films. Where they conflict with the films they are in error (except in cases where the film has an obvious blooper). Otherwise the secondary source is in error, and cannot serve as a basis for judging the internal reality of the STAR WARS universe. Such contradictory materials may be of little worth other than as entertainment. According to STAR WARS Encyclopedia, movie-based secondary sources are very close to canon status.


Next in precedence are most of those materials which are based in the time period spanned by the films. This includes the classic-era products from West End Games, the Williamson Classic STAR WARS comics, several of the republished Devilworlds comics, STAR WARS Holiday Special, the TIE Fighter computer games and Shadows of the Empire.


Following these sources, I rank the stories which are outside the time span of the films but which are of sufficiently limited scope or are otherwise of a nature which does not impinge upon the facts of the universe known in the films. These sources include the Lando Calrissian Trilogy, Han Solo Trilogy and the comic This Crumb for Hire.

Next in precedence are those works of fiction which are set outside the time frame of the movies. Tales of the Jedi comics and all post-Endor novels and comics are included in this category. The further they depart from the filmed STAR WARS era, the more likely they are to contain inaccuracies of fact or distortions of historical emphasis.

Next are those miscellaneous items which have serious or fundamental continuity problems. Here I include Splinter of the Mind's Eye, some of the North American Marvel comic series and the Droids cartoons and comics. In postings to STAR WARS newsgroups author Andy Mangels has suggested that these stories should be regarded as garbled history, like the delerious dreams of Luke Skywalker when he was in a bacta tank. Some elements of these stories can be sanitised and brought into the fold of respectable STAR WARS but many of the surrounding historical details must be discarded or adjusted.



Only reject existing material where absolutely necessary. Story elements must have genuine continuity problems to justify discarding them; material shan't be thrown away simply because many people hold it to be repugnant or embarassing. The STAR WARS Holiday Special is a prime example. If a source is uncomfortable or incongruent at face value, it is often possible to add background circumstances to alter its significance and give a more realistic perspective.

Sources should be treated with a view towards unifying everything to give a coherent and concise internal reality to the STAR WARS universe. Wherever phenomena can be explained in several different ways, the theory to be favoured is that which requires the simplest and fewest postulates, and which entails the least ad hoc changes in time. Wherever possible, real physical principles must be applied for the assessment of theories. Common phenomena in technological and natural features of STAR WARS should have common causes.


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