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"Retcon is retroactive continuity—the science of making stuff fit and getting better stories out of it."
Karen Traviss[src]

Retroactive continuity—commonly contracted to the portmanteau word retcon—refers to deliberately changing previously established facts in a work of serial fiction. The change itself is referred to as a retcon, and the act of writing and publishing a retcon is called "retconning".

When George Lucas re-edited the original Star Wars trilogy, he made changes directly to the source material, rather than introduce new source material that contradicted the contents of the previous material. However, the Star Wars prequels qualified as "new source material," and many fans have pointed out instances which apparently retcon elements of the original trilogy.

Although the concept is far older, the term "retroactive continuity" was popularized in 1983 by DC Comics writer Roy Thomas, and the shortened form "retcon" by Usenet in the late '80s.[1]

Star Wars moviesEdit


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  • In Episode IV, Ben Kenobi told Luke Skywalker that his father was betrayed and murdered by a pupil of his, Darth Vader.[2] Episode V reveals Darth Vader to be Luke Skywalker's father.[3] In Episode VI, Obi-Wan explained to Luke what he meant by telling him that Vader murdered his father, informing what he said was true, "from a certain point of view", since the Anakin that Obi-Wan remembered fondly "was destroyed" when he fell to the dark side of the Force, and therefore no longer considers him "Anakin" (this is supported by Obi-Wan only calling Vader "Darth" in Episode IV and not by his real name). While the in-universe explanation holds up fairly well, whether or not this was actually a retcon out of universe is one of the most hotly debated topics concerning the original trilogy.[4][5][6][7][8]
  • In the original release for Episode IV, Han Solo proceeded to preemptively shoot Greedo, while in later re-releases up to the Disney acquisition, it was shown that Greedo shot first and missed Han by inches while Han shot back, with Lucas later claiming that Greedo always shot first in spite of the shooting script stating otherwise. This infamously resulted in the Han shot first controversy among fans.
  • In Episode V, Ben Kenobi's assertion that Luke was the last hope[9] could either mean that he was unaware of Luke's and Leia's relation, or that he did not believe Leia could take Luke's place. In Episode III, he was present when Padmé gave birth to Luke and Leia, and even helped arrange for Bail Organa to adopt Leia. One possible explanation could be that, at the moment, Obi-Wan only saw Luke as their last hope since Leia was being held prisoner by the Empire and the hope that Yoda was referring to was that he sensed a possibility that Leia might be able to escape (which does happen later in the film).
  • In Episode VI, Leia told Luke that she vaguely remembered how her mother looked,[10] though in Episode III, Padmé died soon after giving birth to them. There has been some debate whether Leia was talking about Breha Organa, her foster mother, though stated that Leia was indeed remembering Padmé, though it's now unclear if this is canonical or not.[11] It should be noted that when illustrator Iain McCaig was assigned to draw concept art for Breha, he gave Breha all of Amidala's traits in an attempt to explain how Leia remembered her mother's smile.[12]
  • In the novelizations of Episode VII and Episode VIII, as well as the visual dictionary for Episode VIII, Snoke is established to be a Dark Side user with no connections to the Sith, who had previously seen the rise and fall of the Galactic Empire. It was also stated in the novelization for Episode VIII that Darth Sidious had sensed Snoke shortly before his death, coming to believe that Snoke would succeed him as the leader of what would become the First Order. Episode IX instead states that Darth Sidious had created Snoke and had been directly responsible for the events that resulted in the rise of the First Order and the corruption of Ben Solo to the Dark Side.

Star Wars LegendsEdit


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  • In one 1978 series of strips that was later titled The Constancia Affair, Luke Skywalker's parents were called "Master and Mistress Tan Skywalker." At the time, the Expanded Universe was in its early stages, and nobody knew what the name of Luke's father was going to be, save that the two probably shared the surname Skywalker. The given name "Anakin" was only revealed in the 1983 movie Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi, five years after the release of The Constantia Affair. The name "Tan" was later retconned into a title-rank that was bestowed to exceptionally skilled pilots.
  • Since Episode IV, the Republic was known to have fought the Clone Wars, and the Expanded Universe (EU) added several other conflicts, such as the Great Sith War; but in Episode II, Sio Bibble stated that "there hasn't been a full-scale war since the formation of the Republic." The above-mentioned Ruusan Reformation also handled this discrepancy.
  • In the novelization of Episode VI, it's said that Darth Vader fell into a pool of lava. In Episode III, Anakin doesn't actually touch the lava, but the fumes were hot enough to set fire on his clothes. However, more than a retcon, this idea was most likely altered in order to make Anakin's survival more plausible. In addition, it's revealed that Obi-Wan Kenobi and Owen Lars were brothers, though in Episode II it's shown that they were unrelated (coincidentally, in real-world, Nash Edgerton, Joel Edgerton's (young Owen Lars) brother, doubled Ewan McGregor (young Obi-Wan) and that Palpatine was loved by the Coruscanti (which was further supported by the sourcebook Coruscant and the Core Worlds and its statement that the populace specifically viewed Palpatine as a virtual demigod), while in the Special Edition of the film, it's shown that the Coruscant celebrated Palpatine's death, even bringing down a statue of his.
  • The Imperial capital was originally referred to by writers as "Imperial Center"; when Timothy Zahn introduced the name of Coruscant, the name Imperial Center was retconned to be what the Empire designated Coruscant.
  • Likewise, the capital city of Coruscant was originally called Imperial City; when Coruscant was determined to be an ecumenopolis, Imperial City was retconned to be the designation of that part of the city as opposed to the planetwide city as a whole (which was renamed Galactic City).
  • The name of the Republic's leader was for many years simply the President of the Senate; when the prequels revealed the title to be the Supreme Chancellor, the term "President of the Senate" was retconned to be one of the Chancellor's several official titles (some say that this was the title before the Reformation).
  • In the Jedi Prince series, Kadann and the others were trying to steal power away from Ysanne Isard. Isard is never mentioned in the series—in fact, it's frequently implied there is no Imperial leader other than Trioculus—but this retcon was created to fit the series into the established timeline.
  • The EU established that Raith Sienar gave Tarkin the designs for the Death Star, and that Bevel Lemelisk developed the superlaser; after Episode II revealed that the Geonosians gave the plans to Tyranus/Sidious, it was retconned that the Geonosians developed the details based on outlines given to them by Sienar and Lemelisk. Indeed, the history of the Death Star has become so convoluted that a novel was created on this topic. The novel was, in effect, one large retcon.
  • The show Star Wars: Droids: The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO showed C-3PO and R2-D2 having several adventures in the time between the rise of the Empire and Episode IV; after the release of Episode III showed them to be in the employ of the same people they are with in Episode IV, it has been retconned that the two droids somehow were separated from their owners because of Corla Metonae after Episode III, then returned to them sometime before Episode IV.
  • While A-wings are not supposed to exist before the Battle of Yavin, they appear in the Droids series, which happens between the two trilogies. The identical R-22 Spearhead was then "invented" as a predecessor of the A-wing, in order to explain the appearance of such ships in the Droids era.
  • The title Darth was supposed to be invented in the period of the New Sith Wars until the game Knights of the Old Republic introduced Darth Revan and Darth Malak, who lived 4,000 years before the beginning of the aforementioned period. It is generally assumed that the title was forgotten sometime between, so the tradition was lost. The first Sith Lord to use the title Darth in the New Sith Wars era also constantly shifted into the past: first it was thought to be Darth Bane, then Darth Revan, and later Darth Ruin.
  • Timothy Zahn, in The Thrawn Trilogy, cast the Clone Masters as the opponents of the Galactic Republic in the Clone Wars, as several authors of the '90s considered that the cloners and their clones were the "villains." However, after Attack of the Clones revealed the clones were on the Republic's side, the Clone Masters were retconned into being renegades who did not attack until after the formation of the Empire.
  • The BBY system used in many sources to represent dates in the Star Wars timeline is itself a retcon. It originated as an out-of-universe dating system and, after becoming popular, was retconned into an in-universe system used by the New Republic, et al.
  • Jaster Mereel was originally supposed to be the real name of Boba Fett. However, when Episode II stated that Boba was a clone of his "father" Jango Fett, Jaster Mereel was retconned into a separate character, Jango's mentor and predecessor as Mandalore. It was stated that Boba took the alias in honor of the real Jaster. It was also stated that there were many rumors concerning Boba Fett's identity due to the fact that most people in the galaxy knew very little about him, with Fett having deliberately spread some of them to throw others off his actual background.
  • As revealed in the Marvel Star Wars comics series, Boba Fett was believed to have served with a group of supercommandos from the planet Mandalore towards the end of the Clone Wars. According to reports, only three Mandalorians survived: Boba Fett, Tobbi Dala, and Fenn Shysa. However, it was later retconned that this "Boba Fett" was not Boba Fett at all, but a rogue ARC trooper named Spar who had become obsessed with returning the Mandalorians to their former glory.[13]
  • The rumor mentioned in The History of the Mandalorians that the renegade clone Spar was in fact Jango Fett's son rationalizes Fenn Shysa's claim that, during the Clone Wars, he and the Mandalorian Protectors had served under Boba Fett - who was later shown to have been only 13 at the end of the conflict.
  • Stormtroopers during the Galactic Civil War were rarely indicated to be clones before the prequel films, except in the article Soldiers of the Empire!. Additionally, multiple Expanded Universe sources mentioned normal human stormtroopers (such as Davin Felth and Kyle Katarn) and showed the existence of Imperial academies (such as Carida) which trained normal humans as stormtroopers. Large numbers of clones were later retconned into the stormtrooper ranks. (See also Star Wars: Battlefront II, which established that the 501st Legion was the only stormtrooper unit still made up of Jango clones.)
  • The Phase Zero dark troopers—aging and wounded Clone Wars veterans essentially turned into cyborgs—explain how, while the Empire's first use of them did not occur until after the Battle of Yavin, the Battlefront games include "Dark troopers" in the Imperial arsenal as early as 18 BBY.
  • The character of Quinlan Vos was originally written by George Lucas to appear in Episode III as being one of the many Jedi who were killed during the Order 66. Star Wars: Republic writers inserted the scene in the film's comic book adaptation in spite of their plans to do more stories with Vos. However, when they became aware that Lucas never filmed Vos' death scene, they retconned Vos' death to just a wound, bringing him back, albeit injured, in Republic 82: Hidden Enemy, Part 2.[15]

Star Wars CanonEdit

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. Wikipedia:Retroactive continuity. Retrieved on July 19, 2017.
  2. Ben Kenobi: "A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights. He betrayed and murdered your father."
  3. Darth Vader: "No. I am your father."
  4. Novotny, Ben (2013-04-06). Luke, I was not your original father. Archived from the original on April 30, 2013. Retrieved on April 18, 2013.
  5. Vilmur, Pete (2011-01-11). Another 1978 Father Spoiler Discovered. Archived from the original on January 23, 2011. Retrieved on April 18, 2013.
  6. Retcon debate on Wikipedia. Retrieved on April 18, 2013.
  7. Evidence that Star Wars wasn't initially planned as 6 movies? (2002-12-23). Retrieved on April 18, 2013.
  8. Did Lucas know Darth was Luke's father in ANH? ( on April 18, 2013.
  9. Ben: "That boy is our last hope." Yoda: "No. There is another."
  10. Leia: "She was very beautiful. Kind, but...sad."
  11. SWicon Star Wars Q & A on (content now obsolete; backup link)
  12. The Art of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  13. SWInsider "The History of the Mandalorians"—Star Wars Insider 80
  14. The Crystal Star
  15. TwitterLogo Randy Stradley (@Randy_Stradley) on Twitter "In George's original screenplay for RotS, there was a scene where Vos was killed, so we put it in the adaptation -- even though there was more we wanted to do with him. Later, we learned Vos's scene was cut (never filmed), so we decided he was only wounded."
  16. TwitterLogo Pablo Hidalgo (@pablohidalgo) on Twitter "Their meeting was cut from TFA. It made the novel, but novels end up having abandoned threads like that. Which is why when asked if novelizations are canon, I say that those are aways tricky since they're written before the movie is done by someone who hasn't seen it." (screenshot)
  17. Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi
  18. The Rise of Kylo Ren 1
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