Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Star Wars and Stagnation

No, no I'm not talking about how it might appear that the longer the series seems to go on, the worse it gets, although that argument can certainly be made.  No, what gives me pause is the recent popularity of the Old Republic series, the old RPG's (KOTOR and KOTOR 2) and the new MMO.

I want to go ahead and make the statement that I have only played a touch of KOTOR and none of the MMO at all.  This is not a critique of the gameplay or even the plot of the games.  All of that is fine.  This isn't even a statement regarding the continuing breakdown of complexity in the expanded universe, where we once had characters like Thrawn that were not simply evil for the sake of being evil and all we seem to have left at this point is new Sith Lord with really stupidly evil name. 

No, I'm talking about the kind of stagnation we talk about when we mention it historically.  To be succinct, what I'm referring to is a state in which a culture ceases to develop in meaningful ways, culturally and technologically.  Culture stagnation generally occurs when no new material is being introduced and instead all that seems to appear is derivative of already existing works.  Technologic stagnation is essentially the same.

So, Star Wars, the prequels and the trilogy, there is an established setting that has a diverse population of humanoid and completely alien life and two different ruling bodies, one a tyranny and the other an ostensible democracy with a single legislative and executive office combined into a senate, so essentially a parliamentary body instead of a separation of powers.  There's a lot of history regarding a body of enforcers that are separate from the government (and apparently derive their authority from a genetic mutation and have no oversight).  Faster than light travel not only exists but is easily obtained by civilians and what is likely to be plasma based weaponry, again easily obtained and common technology.

This is where my problem starts.  The Star Wars setting gives us a huge, interconnected galaxy related through conflict and trade.  Now, if we're willing to set a few things aside, like how does Thyffera supply literally thousands of worlds with a miracle drug, we end up with something not altogether outlandish considering the technology.  Except for one thing.

What is that issue?  Alright, I don't have a problem with the Clone Wars or Galactic Civil War eras, it's the KOTOR era stuff that's causing all the problems.  All of the technology seems to be the same, the FTL, the weaponry, lightsabers, Jedi, everything, it is all the same.  And here's the real kicker, this setting is supposed to be 5,000 years prior to the events of the movies.

So, nothing has changed in 5,000 years except governments.  What is wrong with this galaxy? 


  1. You know, I absolutely adored Knights of the Old Republic and consider it one of my top 5 games ever (and an overall excellent addition to the Star Wars mythos), but I had the exact same thought you did. Five thousand years and really nothing has changed in ... I'll call it the Universe Codex. Same weapons, same FTL travel, government types etc.

    I think if they went further back and explored the advent of FTL travel and early Galactic exploration, I'd be a little better with it. Explore that and it would be a touch easier to handwave the stagnation, but as it stands now it does threaten my willing suspension of disbelief a bit.

    It's one area I think Star Wars could borrow a bit from Star Trek. Examine how technology has changed the society over time.

  2. Actually, the Star Trek comparison is one that I meant to hit on in this and forgot. I suppose that's one of the hazards of blasting stuff like this pure steam of consciousness onto a blank screen.

    But I agree, we have seen a course of about 300 years in Star Trek pass, from Enterprise to Nemesis and there is a clear evolution of technology and relations. In Star Wars, we have a series of established set pieces and they don't change. The Jedi are almost always seen as the 'good guys,' the Sith are always the 'bad guys' and the government, with the exception of one nearly 30 year period, has been a continuation of the same body or at least the same spirit of that body.

    I don't know what other people think about this, but this is kind of terrifying. Heck, I know that in Trek, the Federation is nearly always the good guy, but even within on screen canon we've been shown that there are less than savory elements that add some moral ambiguity to the whole thing. The various cultures of the universe might be tropes of the oldest sort but at least they're varied. Star Wars is just chillingly monolithic in its culture, sure each planet has a quirk, but they all make up one governmental body.

    It's just bloody weird.