Five Things the Star Wars Expanded Universe did right (compared to Episode 7)
Is The Force Awakens (Episode 7) good?
Yes. Star Wars made a triumphant reemergence in 2015, and any Star Wars fan owes it to themself to see it. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and effort clearly given to Episode 7, and look forward to the future of the series.
However, the Expanded Universe (mostly composed of novels) - which is no longer canon - created its own interpretation, over many years, of the events after Return of the Jedi. While by no means perfect, the EU did many things right - things the Force Awakens sadly lacked. Today, we'll compare and contrast five excellent aspects of Episode 7 and the newly-named Star Wars Legends timelines! Spoilers ahead for both series.
5. Side characters still matter
Episode 7: Characters such as Boba Fett, Lando Calrissian, Wedge Antilles and so on aren't seen or mentioned. For all intents and purposes, they don't exist. To be fair, movies only have a certain amount of screentime they can use, limiting the number of characters one film can effectively develop, but it'd still be nice to know what happened to our old favorites.
Legends: Fett, Calrissian, and even more obscure characters like Mon Mothma all play a role in the direction the galaxy heads. Does the womanizing Lando ever find the right woman to settle down with? Who was Boba Fett once married to, and why did the relationship sour? The focus of most EU stories remains on the main heroes - Luke, Han, Leia, and their kids - but old fan favorites are given plenty of development too. Fett's development in the Legacy of the Force novels remains one of my favorite Star Wars tales to this day - and he isn't even the main character of that series!
4. Leia becomes a Jedi
Episode 7: Leia, good for her, plays a big role in galactic politics, but still hasn't developed her Force abilities, despite Luke's insistence in Episode 6 that, in time, she would. Shame, since she's got incredible potential, being the offspring of Anakin Skywalker.
Legends: Leia becomes the leader of the New Republic, but eventually resigns and trains to become a competent Jedi Knight. She helps weave the relationship between Jedi and government, all while raising three children (twins Jaina and Jacen, and son Anakin). Whether through diplomacy or Jedi activity, Leia constantly helps better the galaxy.
3. Leia and Han actually work
Episode 7: Leia and Han are revealed as the parents of the treacherous Kylo Ren. His fall to darkness tore the family apart, causing his parents to go their separate ways. They're still shown to care for each other, but in a sort of distant, sorrowful manner.
Oh, and Han dies, so uh.. yea, even if Kylo returns to the light, the Solos will never really get to have their happy family. Leia really is Solo now (sorry, couldn't resist).
Legends: Leia and Han get married, and have three kids whom they adore. However, the couple faces numerous tragedies. Wars break out. Chewbacca meets his end. The youngest Solo child, Anakin, falls in battle. And finally, one of the twins, Jacen, ultimately turns to the dark side and dies without truly reforming. These incidents rip apart Han and Leia's hearts.. but never their love for each other. No matter what evil or despair they face, the pair stay together as husband and wife, and grow stronger though each turmoil.
As a sidenotw, Han and Luke seem much closer in Legends, considering each other best friends and family.
2. Luke rebuilds the Jedi
Episode 7: Thirty years have passed since Return of the Jedi. Luke Skywalker attempted to teach a new generation the ways of the Force. However, his nephew, Ben, murdered the other students and fell to the dark side. Distraught and guilt-ridden, Luke goes into exile, leaving the galaxy to fend for itself.
Legends: Luke spends a few years after Return of the Jedi further training himself and defeating the remnants of the Empire before attempting to instruct new Jedi. He faces many setbacks - struggles with learning how to teach, some students turning dark, new wars threatening the galaxy, etc. - but never gives up. Even after his nephew, Jacen Solo, turns to darkness, Luke recognizes that his new Jedi Order plays a crucial role in the galaxy, and he develops into the strongest Jedi in history.
1. Luke improves the Jedi
Episode 7: Luke's opinions and interpretations of Jedi teaching are, as of this writing, unknown. Would he only take young students, like the Jedi of the Old Republic, or would he exercise more flexibility? Due to his exile, we have little information about his current thoughts of the Jedi. Luke seems to have largely failed in doing as Yoda instructed, passing on what he has learned.
Legends: Luke recognizes that the Jedi of the Old Republic were a force (no pun intended) of good for the galaxy, but had room for improvement. For example, Luke removes the restrictive age limit for students; now adults can be taken in as new pupils. Furthermore, Luke's Jedi Order embraces rather than discourages emotion. Love and family are not only allowed, but encouraged with the new Jedi Order. Luke himself even finds a wife, Mara Jade, and the two have a son, Ben.
Many fans of the Expanded Universe, myself included, believe that Luke's policy of controlled, positive emotion is what propels the new Jedi to a greatness that the Old Republic Jedi lacked. The Luke Skywalker from the Legends timeline faced many challenges, but overcame his hurdles to improve both the galaxy and the Jedi. As much as I enjoy Episode 7, the Luke from that saga has some catching up to do.
The Expanded Universe no longer counts as canon, but that doesn't make its stories any less real. In fact, despite the new timeline, material is still being released under the Legends banner, so fans of the EU need not despair. I like to imagine the Episode 7 timeline and the Legends events as simply two different outcomes of the galaxy. As a certain pointy-eared green Jedi once said, always in motion is the future. Star Wars fans have been gifted with numerous ways to explore the galaxy far far away, and I look forward to seeing the future of the series - canon and otherwise.
May the Force be with you!