Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mistakes of the Past

As I have touched on briefly in previous posts, one of the continuing plot points in the Expanded Universe is the rather short-lived nature of the New Republic. I suppose that it all began in Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire novels—when Fey'lya, the Bothan politician, was portrayed as a power-hungry manipulator who somehow managed to get into a position of power within the New Republic. His behind the scenes machinations threw a big wrench into the battle to stop Grand Admiral Thrawn. Near the end of this saga, he was discredited publicly by his own words, broadcast without his knowledge to the entire fleet. His true selfishness came to the forefront. All of this was actually pretty great from a story standpoint. He was a 'good guy' but also a villain—which makes him one of the most frustrating types of villains. It also makes it all the more rewarding when he is finally taken down. 

But I have a feeling that it was Fey'lya's success as a villain that started a trend that I truly detested in the following Star Wars Novels. I mean, here it was only three years into the New Republic and we see the kind of self-serving corruption that brought the Republic down in the first place. This kind of political blunder seemed to me to ensure that Fey'lya would be effectively politically neutered. I mean, when you look at how small things can take down politicians in real life—an act of cowardice and corruption like this is a career ender. And yet it didn't take much time at all (a couple decades according to the novels) before Fey'lya became the Chancellor of the New Republic itself and presided over its utter downfall—brought about by his own ineptitude and prejudices as well as treason and corruption within his government. 

As I've stated previously, this all felt so tediously repetitious and downright uncreative to me—especially after seeing the fall of the Old Republic as shown in the prequel trilogy. It seemed especially stupid due to the otherwise heroic nature of the Star Wars galaxy. Here you have a New Republic that was paid for by the blood of true idealists and replaced a system that was shown to be irrevocably evil. And we are expected to believe that it doesn't even take ONE generation before the whole system is so corrupt and screwed up that it can no longer function. It seemed like a slap in the face to all the heroes of the Rebellion—an attack on their character almost that they would so easily forget the lessons of the past and allow them so easily to repeat themselves. 

Corruption in a representative government is inevitable (unfortunately), but you would think that after such a hard-won victory, the people in charge of putting the Republic back together would be especially sensitive to the same bad things happening all over again. There are ways to check and balance such corruption, and it seems to me that those steps WOULD be taken by the people involved. And yet, as shown in the novels, it felt like everyone ignored the lessons of history and just picked up with the Republic right where they left off—resulting in its collapse.

Call me an optimist, but I'd like to think that the Rebellion and Fall of the Empire was a wake up call to the entire Galaxy. In my mind—and for the purposes of the story the Star Wars movie saga seems to tell—the New Republic should have presided over a new Golden Age. The ideals of the Old Republic would have been refreshed by the 'blood' of all the patriots and idealists who died trying to recover them. They would MEAN something again on a personal level, as would the freedom that the Empire had taken away for some 20 years. And yet, that isn't what we see—and it disappointed me.

I realize that turmoil makes for a more exciting setting, but to me, it is a dis-service to the Saga and its characters to basically say that all their trials and travails were for naught. The vision of a safe, healthy New Republic was ultimately a pipe-dream that will never come to be. For me, that is just a downer that smacks of the 'gritty realisim' that  Star Wars is NOT known for, but which some writers keep trying to inject into it.

All of this is why, in my own Star Wars campaign, I have diverted completely from 'canon' after the Jedi Academy novels. Yes, I have included a new threat that does battle with the New Republic, and yes, the New Republic is hard-pressed to stand against it, but it isn't due to the failings of the Republic government or organization, but rather it is because the Aliens (Nagai) are THAT dangerous of a threat. I realize that adventure in a galaxy bereft of a crumbling and failed New Republic is going to require more creativity on my part. But I'm willing to go that extra mile instead of treading the same ground as the prequels again—as all the novels seem so keen on doing.


  1. Rolo,

    I agree with your assessment. Though I suppose there are many historical references where a rebellion led to a republic which collapsed in short order, it does seem like the efforts of the heroes, told in such a sweeping tale, would all be for naught in such a quick period of time. Fey'la could just be the Republic's version of Alcibiades (from Greek history). Not only are there the main heroes, but a corps of heroes that would not let all they worked for just go up in smoke.

  2. In real life, governments collapse after Rebellions all the time (look at the French). But Star Wars just isn't 'real life'. Its a space fairytale. Why can't it have a happy ending—well, at least for a century or so.

  3. *Thank you*.

    The more I hear about the EU as it goes on, the less I want to see/read of it. Seriously, do you get the feeling that a lot of the authors really don't like Star Wars?

    If our d6 campaign ever passes the Rebellion/Thrawn eras, the Vong will get sucked into a black hole on their way into the GFFA. That should be a pretty big improvement, right there....

  4. Sometimes I DO get the feeling that certain authors don't like the Star Wars setting. It feels to me a lot like the whole 'spin' that hollywood directors seem to want to put on a story—to make it THEIR story. That's fine and dandy when you do something completely original. But when you build off of someone else's success and imagination, then you should at the very least RESPECT that source material, not just twist it to suit whatever 'original' idea you come up with.