I was born in 1982, five years after the release of the original Star Wars (later renamed A New Hope). I don’t remember exactly when I saw it for the first time (I always tell people I was 4 years old), but I remember that after I saw it, I couldn’t stop rewatching it. And soon after, watching The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi helped to set in stone my love for all things Star Wars. Though the universe George Lucas created with the original trilogy has expanded and evolved over the past four decades, I’ll always remember the 1980s as my favorite Star Wars decade.
When there was only the original trilogy
Growing up in the ’80s was a formative time for me, of course, but it was also a time when Star Wars was just the raw beauty of the original trilogy. Don’t get me wrong. There’s so much about how that story continued to evolve in the hands of Lucas and others over the years that I love, but there are times when I miss the experience of only knowing the original trilogy and wondering with childhood excitement what Anakin Skywalker might have been like before he became Darth Vader, before the prequels ended all speculation. I miss wondering what would happen next for Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie, and imagining the possibilities — before the sequel trilogy crystallized all possibilities into a single story that largely left what happens to the original trilogy characters after Return of the Jedi unexplored in favor of a story about mostly new characters. I miss believing that Darth Vader’s sacrifice at the end of Return of the Jedi meant that the struggle Luke and Leia found themselves a part of was truly over.
A time for speculation
When Return of the Jedi closed out the original trilogy, there were so many possibilities, so many plot threads that could be explored. Of course, every Star Wars fan and I in the 1980s wanted more, but there was also a sense that this thing that George Lucas created was already perfect as is. A sense that no one would ever be able to improve upon it. In fact, the endless speculation was one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a Star Wars fan in the 1980s.
The Star Wars story continued to develop beyond the original trilogy in the 1990s with Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy, which was a fun exploration of what might have happened after the original trilogy (though relegated to non-canon status in 2014 after Disney purchased Lucasfilm and rebranded the Expanded Universe as Legends). And the late 1990s and early 2000s brought us George Lucas’ official story of how a young slave boy named Anakin Skywalker grew up to become the ruthless Darth Vader. Then came The Clone Wars animated series, Lucasfilm’s acquisition by Disney, and the sequel trilogy and new television shows, novels, comic books, and more.
A developing canon is an endless struggle between questions and answers
There’s so much about it that I love. And yet, with each new story told in the Star Wars universe, it seems like one more opportunity to speculate about what might be dies. In fact, it often seems like Lucasfilm is committed to filling in every gap left by George Lucas in the original trilogy until no mysteries are left.
- How did Darth Vader find out Luke was his son?
- What happened to Luke’s severed hand?
- How did Lobot get his cybernetic implants?
- How did the rebels get the Death Star plans?
- How did Han Solo and Chewbacca meet and get the Millenium Falcon?
- How did Luke become so much stronger and more confident between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi?
These and many other questions have either been answered or are in the process of being answered by books, comics, and other Star Wars media.
I love having new stories to read and watch in the Star Wars universe. It seems like I have a new Star Wars book to read every month, and I enjoy every single one. But I do miss the endless speculation when there was only the original trilogy, and that is why the 1980s will always be my favorite Star Wars decade.