The cashier in WH Smith paused for a moment handling my purchase. Only for a split-second, but long enough. "I'm looking forward to it, but I'm not sure about Anakin having a padawan…" he said. "I know what you mean," I replied as he handed me my change, "but I've got a lot of faith in them. I'm sure they'll handle it well."
It's not altogether unusual for a checkout operator and customer to talk briefly about the goods being bought, but when it's a man in his twenties talking to a man in his thirties, and those goods are a Clone Wars sticker album and twenty packs of stickers, there's a nice, geeky glow to the whole thing. As the conversation would suggest, this was before the release of the animated movie, and by luck or judgement it appeared that the pair of us were going spoiler-free (although the smaller comparative crew-size for an animated feature means fewer staff, fewer leaks and fewer spoilers surfacing online, anyway).
What made me ponder was this caveat my fellow geek raised; The guy was 1) a Star Wars fan, and 2) more importantly, a Prequel-era fan. There'd already been a rift in 1999 where a sizeable proportion of old-schoolers felt they couldn't embrace the new movies. Could the same thing be happening again in 2008? Was there about to be a sub-section of 'PT purists', full of righteous indignation that part of their collective past was being messed with? Could SW fandom withstand another fracture, so soon after the OT/PT one?
The animated Clone Wars movie/TV-series was to be set in an era that had been pretty extensively mined for content already. The original idea had been that Attack of the Clones would show the opening battle of the Clone Wars in 2002, and Revenge of the Sith would show the closing one in 2005. Between those points there would be a cross-marketed schedule of interlinked novels, comics, video games and two hours worth of 2D animated shorts, telling the stories of the main characters as well as introducing new ones, and tracking the progress of the war. Tales from a three-year war, told over three years, so that in 2005 we were revisiting the characters in 'real time', so to speak. And that's what we got, and everything more or less worked with itself. More or less.
There'd been rumblings of a computer animated Clone Wars show since RotS opened in 2005, so it didn't come completely out of the blue, but existing events in the continuity would dictate that one of three things had to happen: 1) the stories previously told in various media would have to be 'compacted' to either end of the war to make room for the new ones to unfold, 2) the duration of the war would have to be expanded to accommodate the new stories, or 3) the 'expanded-universe' content covering the war would have to be scrapped. Since number 2 would require the entire BBY timeline to be rejigged (even if only by a couple of years), and number 3 would be a metaphorical slap in the face to the creators of the content and to the fans who paid money to consume it*1, it's understandable that the powers that be chose option 1. 'The Clone Wars' was to be set, mostly, after the 2003-05 content, with those stories pushed back into the first year of the war.
There were exceptions of course, with some parts leading into Episode III by necessity, and some aspects being overwritten altogether (Asajj Ventress's character trajectory being a case in point).
And then there was the problem of The Padawan. Just how were the storytellers going to implement a student taken on by the central character of the Prequel-Era; given that Anakin's learner is neither seen nor mentioned in Revenge of the Sith, nor in any of the previously published media taking place after the film? Well as it turned out, they just went for it, full-tilt. Ahsoka Tano was introduced in the animated movie, and for the next five seasons of the TV show she interacted with pretty much all of the central characters, WAS a central character, and featured in several pivotal points of the war. Her story arc came to a close in season five (at the time of writing; I won't spoil it - not in this post at least) in a move which explained her absence from Episode III (if not the fact that no-one even talks about her). The way stories are told around the timeline, I'm sure we haven't heard the last of her, but time will tell*2.
So did fandom split over Ahsoka? Well, it'd be untrue to say there wasn't/isn't a vocal section of the fanbase who aren't in completely love with the Togrutan padawan, but their ire seems to be centered more around the characterisation itself than any continuity issues. She started as a well-meaning, if slightly bratty, teenager which seemed out of kilter with established SW character tropes. As the show ran to over 100 episodes, Ahsoka got more development time than many of the movie-only characters; she matured quickly while still remaining under Anakin Skywalker's tutelage, and if you're going to develop a character, you need to start from somewhere.
Over the years since 2008's movie, regular TV/DVD-release scheduling as well as corresponding novels and comics have made The Clone Wars as much a part of the continuity as the six live-action films, and as the lines blur between the large and small screens, "TV" no longer has to mean "expanded universe". In addition to this, Ahsoka's alter-ego, actress Ashley Eckstein, has become a fantastic ambassador for Star Wars (as have the rest of The Clone Wars' central cast), connecting with younger female fans in a way that Carrie Fisher and Natalie Portman were never able to at the time.
There is now a generation of fandom for whom The Clone Wars is 'their Star Wars'. This is how a franchise stays fresh in the gaps between movies.
Evolution is the way forward; embrace it or be left behind…
It wasn't my local WH Smith, by the way, so I never got to check back with the guy and ask him how he got on with Anakin's padawan. I hope he warmed to her, at least.
*1 This entry was a post I wrote several years ago but never got round to publishing. Since then, the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney precipitated the recategorisation of all existing 'Expanded Universe' works into a section to be known as 'Legends'. So not quite the slap in the face I intimated above, but definitely a case of "yeah, but that book doesn't count" when writing character arcs. The oddest thing about it though is that the wipe applied to all Expanded Universe works, not just things written for the post-Jedi era (this, after all, is why the Legends timeline was created - so that The Force Awakens wouldn't have to make allowances for thirty years of novels, comics and games). And over the course of the new Clone Wars series, there were several associated novels and many comics released which naturally fell under the blanket of Expanded Universe. They slot in perfectly with the events we see on-screen; but under the new rules, the TV episodes are 'canon' but the comics aren't. Which would be fine if Lucasfilm planned to write over that period with new content, but they really wouldn't be able to do that without removing the TV show. And under the self-imposed rules of the Lucasfilm Story Group, the TV show is canon. Ah, what a tangled web we weave…
*2 Again, see the real-world chronology reference for footnote #1. Ahsoka has of course re-surfaced in Star Wars Rebels, which will probably be the subject of its own post at some point. That said, it's taken me this long just to get round to writing (well, posting that writing) about The Clone Wars…
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Unless otherwise stated, photos and videos appearing in this blog post are for informational and reference purposes only, and no ownership of copyright is claimed or implied by World Of Blackout. The intellectual and physical copyright of such material belongs to its creators and owners.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.