on Sep 10, 2015
We have a wookie with a life-debt. We have giant slug creature that’s named “Something the Hutt” who runs some sort of shady enterprise. Later we have a Jedi council led by a little Yoda guy. We have a doomsday space station, Jedi in brown robes, a spaceship named in the form of “Adjective Bird”Yes, ‘Millennium’ is clearly being used as an adjective in the case of Han Solo’s ship, even though the word is normally a noun. This is not a nit worth picking., a sidekick astromech droid that speaks in beeps, and yet another trip to Tatooine.
They call this the “Expanded Universe” but in a lot of ways it’s more like the “Expended Universe”. All the ideas are worn out and used up. They take something done in the movies and simply repeat it. Why invent new planets when we can keep going back to Tatooine? Why invent new crime bosses or new designs for Hutts when we can just make a never-ending series of Jabba knock-offs? Why create a new alien sidekick when we can repeat the “Wookie with a life-debt” gag?
Having said that, I admit it’s a difficult problem to solve and I think KOTOR actually does fairly well. Yes, they lean on some really iconic, trope-y ideas, but they also invent new stuff. Manaan, Selkath, Juhani, and HK47, are new. The Malak / Revan dynamic is nothing like Vader / Palpatine. Canderous feels Star-Wars-ish and he’s not just a lame copy of Han Solo. The Ebon Hawk looks and feels just right without being a lazy copy of the famous Corellian freighter. Calo Nord looks a bit doofy, but he feels like he belongs in this universe and he’s not a stupid Boba Fett knockoff.
Writing Star Wars is hard. You need to come up with something new and different, but it also needs to nail that particular tone and style of Classic Star Wars. That’s not easy. Partly it’s hard because actually expanding on the work of other writers while maintaining a consistent feel is challenging workIt’s probably more difficult than simply writing something original. Not only do you have all the normal obligations of pacing, plotting, and characterization, but you need to be able to understand and mimic the sensibilities of another author.. The other reason it’s hard is because nobody really agrees on what ingredients give Star Wars its identity. Which explains why so many authors copy the obvious superficial elements of the universe and then totally whiff on the tone.
You could make the case that KOTOR is both more original and yet more true to the original trilogy than the prequel movies are. I realize that sounds sort of heretical to claim that KOTOR is somehow “more Star Wars-y” than real, official, actual Star Wars, but that really is how it feels to me.