Spoiler Alert: Abrams’ Star Wars Is In A Galaxy (Really) Far, Far Away

"The Force Awakens" takes place thirty years after "Return of the Jedi," and Lucasfilm has left fans in the dark about what happened in between

C-3PO had 30 years to become less annoying and.... nope. — (Lucasfilm)
Dec 25, 2015 at 11:22 AM ET

A lot of stuff (apparently) went down between “Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi” and “Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” but nobody knows how the Empire mutated into the First Order, or how the rebels are still the underdogs. And we don’t know if this time-jumping saga will ever return to fill in the gaps with another blockbuster cinema release. Also: Who is Snoke and where did he come from? Wasn’t the Empire losing after the second Death Star was destroyed? And hang on, what the hell happened to Luke Skywalker?

Vocativ analyzed 38 years of “Star Wars” films, television shows and other fan fiction/expanded universe media using data from Wookieepedia. We visualized the canonical Star Wars content going back as far as Episode one, and saw a gaping galactic chasm in the 30 “Galactic Standard Years” between when the 1983 release “Return of the Jedi” was set and when “Awakens” hit theaters.

Director J.J. Abrams was so determined to make his own version of “Star Wars”and not simply a re-hash of George Lucas’ original series—that he set “The Force Awakens” 30 Galactic Standard Years (each of which has 368 days, for the unacquainted) after “Return Of The Jedi,” and a long, long time since the official Lucasfilm timeline went dark. The result was a movie quite different from the one George Lucas intended (which featured children in the lead roles much like “Episode I: The Phantom Menace”) and set much, much further in the future than any other official Star Wars materials released during the almost 40 years since “Jedi.” But what happened in between?

Around 180 items have appeared in the non-canon “Star Wars Legends” series, formerly known as “Expanded Universe,” set during that dark period, including novels, comic books and video games, but none of them count in the official “Star Wars” timeline and don’t explain what happened prior to “Awakens.” The only other canon media to offer further information about the period between “Awakens” and “Jedi” is “Before the Awakening,” a 240-page children’s novel released December 18, which offers new information on the lives of the three protagonists, Finn, Rey and Poe, and reveals that the First Order is an extremist branch of the Empire. Among myriad other unexplained spoilers, it remains unclear what became of the Empire we knew and loathed, and which of its members may have founded the First Order. Fans may be offered a new hope on March 29, 2016, with the release of a canon novel, “New Republic: Bloodline,” set six years prior to the latest installment in the mega-franchise.

Until then, it’s anyone’s guess how we got to where we are now.