No sooner has Alien Day come and gone than the next sci-fi movie themed day arrives. Both the Alien and Star Wars franchises are very dear to me, with Star Wars being my first true obsession – I was born the year that the first Star Wars movie was released, and the very first memory I have of going to the cinema is of my experience seeing The Empire Strikes Back on the big screen, when I’d just turned three years old.
Star Wars has always been there for me – despite a post-Return of the Jedi lull in which the only new Star Wars fiction came in the form of two Ewok movies and the Droids and Ewoks cartoons, the Star Wars TTRPG by West End Games was a thrilling way to keep experiencing adventures in a galaxy far, far away. Interestingly, most of the planets, species names and other incidental details were created and became canon thanks to the TTRPG, which is fascinating to me; the fact that so much lore was added due to the detail in a pen-and-paper, niche – by the standards of today, at least – roleplaying game absolutely blows my mind.
In 1991, the post-ROTJ Timothy Zahn novels exploded interest in the saga again and kicked off the expanded universe properly. The novels and licensed comic books from Dark Horse were what kept us fans going until the release of the original trilogy Special Editions in 1997 (which, despite their issues, were still a great way to experience the original trilogy on the big screen – a first for me for both A New Hope and Return of the Jedi).
Then of course, the Star Wars prequels arrived, starting in 1999 with Episode One: the Phantom Menace – bringing fully new Star Wars experiences to the big screen for the first time since the 80s.
Since then, the popularity of Star Wars has never really waned in the same way it did post-Return of the Jedi – a time where it felt like we’d never see any more Star Wars movies, let alone a prequel and a sequel trilogy. Movies such as Rogue One and Solo have added to the lore even further, with great TV shows such as The Clone Wars, Rebels and The Mandalorian offering a much more expanded dive into the universe than we ever hoped was possible outside of the books and comics at one stage.
Special mention must go to 1996’s Shadows of the Empire here, which was conceived as a multimedia ‘movie without a movie’ – with a novel, a comic book, a video game, toys and even a soundtrack. Video games were, of course, another area where Star Wars was kept alive in thrilling ways throughout the times where no new movies or TV shows were being produced, with incredible entries such as the PC X-Wing and Tie Fighter games, first person shooters such as Dark Forces and Jedi Knight as well as the aforementioned N64 game Shadows of the Empire were all glimpses into corners of the universe we hadn’t properly explored on film.
Of course, we’re now in a very different place with Star Wars. The Skywalker Saga, as it’s recently been christened, has come to a close (somewhat controversially, for some people) and it’s not certain where the movies will take us next. Given that Disney are not likely to sit on their multi-billion dollar, hugely popular franchise for long without giving us more movies, I can’t wait to see where we go next. As we’ve seen with The Mandalorian, the universe is much more than the closely intertwined events of The Skywalker Saga would make it appear – and I hope we start to explore much more of it, with more new characters, the next time we get a chance to.
Until then, may the force be with you. Always.
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