Analysis

Five Stories With Premises That Don’t Fit Their Settings

In an ideal situation, the world and plot work together to create the story. Some storytellers build the world first and then see what plots fit within it. Others craft a plot and then build a world around it. Both methods are valid, as long as all parts of the story can coexist in harmony. But sometimes, storytellers end up with a world that doesn’t fit the basic premise the plot relies on. What does that look like? I’m glad you asked!

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Travel back with me to a time when VCRs were still all the rage,* the internet was only kind of a thing, and slayers ruled the airwaves. Buffy’s premise is simple: the slayer must stand alone against the forces of darkness, and there’s only ever one slayer. This is so important that they put it in a voice-over before every intro in the first season.

This premise informs the entire show. Buffy is the chosen one, the only one who can protect people from vampires and demons. Even having friends is considered weird by slayer standards, and most of them only play a support role. The rare cases where Buffy actually has combat help are extreme exceptions. Angel is a one-of-a-kind vampire with a soul.* Faith is an unheard-of second slayer. That’s about it.

The problem here is that the Buffyverse is just stuffed to the brim with vampires, zombies, demons, ghosts, rogue androids,* and evil sorcerers. Just in Sunnydale, there are more enemies than Buffy could possibly fight even if she did nothing else. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

Worse, we know these threats aren’t limited to Sunnydale. Heck, Sunnydale isn’t even the only Hellmouth. What do all the people elsewhere in the world do with no slayer around? We might assume they’d find ways to defend themselves, but that seems unlikely given how impotent Buffy’s human friends are shown to be against even low-level threats. It’s like if Buffy were the world’s only doctor, and we’re supposed to believe that she can make a meaningful impact on global health.

The conflict here is that the plot relies on Buffy being the only one who can do anything about supernatural problems, but the world is designed to produce endless numbers of them. To solve this problem, the story needs to go one way or another. Supernatural threats can be rare, and it’s Buffy’s job to fight them alone, or she can be one of many people battling to keep the darkness at bay. She could still be the best in that second scenario, but she wouldn’t be alone.

2. A Darker Shade of Magic

Cover art for A Darker Shade of Magic.

A Darker Shade of Magic is a cool bit of portal fantasy set across multiple iterations of London. The book’s key theme is balance, specifically a balance of magic. The idea is that either too much or too little magic is bad. The ideal amount of magic gives you power but doesn’t overwhelm you.

The book uses its multiple Londons to illustrate this theme. Black London is a world where magic took over completely, and it’s so dangerous that it had to be sealed off from the other dimensions. White London isn’t quite that bad, but it’s still pretty dystopian, with sorcerous dynasties constantly overthrowing each other in devastating coups. Then there’s Red London, which is doing just fine with the proper amount of magic. Finally, Grey London has no magic at all.

So what kind of hellscape is a London completely lacking magic? Why, it’s our London of course, from the real world, late in the reign of King George III.* Hang on a minute, how does that work? Georgian London was certainly no picnic, but it’s got nothing on the constant bloodshed of White London or the complete devastation of Black London.

So at worst, we’re looking at a situation where too much magic is a death sentence, and no magic at all is somewhat bad. And that’s assuming that Red London actually is measurably better than Grey London. There’s not really much evidence that it is, other than simply having magic, which is shown over and over again to be incredibly dangerous. Maybe Red London has some kind of magic healthcare system or spells that conjure free bread for everyone, but if so, it’s entirely offscreen.

This isn’t a balance. The most generous interpretation is that magic is potentially useful, but you need to be really careful not to use too much of it. Alternatively, magic could easily be viewed as akin to an addictive narcotic: fun to use but so dangerous that you probably shouldn’t risk it. Either way, it’s clearly not the balance between no magic and too much magic that the characters keep insisting on.

If one end of the balance is total destruction, the other end has to be just as extreme. That was always going to be tricky with the real world involved, since it’s famous for having no magic at all, but that’s what needed to happen in order for this story’s plot to work.

3. Enterprise

The Enterprise Crew on their first planet.

Like many Star Trek shows before it, Enterprise is a story of exploration. Our heroes venture bravely out into the unknown, boldly going where no one has gone before. There’s just one problem:* This show isn’t exploring an uncharted frontier or a distant sector of space. Instead, it’s focused on exploring the immediate area around Earth, which is apparently super crowded with space-faring civilizations.

This is a serious contradiction to the show’s core premise. We’re supposed to be watching Starfleet’s finest discovering something new each week, but the space they’re traveling through has already been charted by Earth’s many neighbors. The Vulcans alone could have easily provided them maps, though it’s possible they did and Archer just refuses to use them because he hates Vulcans. Even in that instance, the characters should have gotten all the info they needed from one of the many warp-capable species they meet each week.

The writers try to deal with this contradiction by… completely ignoring it, as far as I can tell. Over and over again, we see the characters “explore” an area where countless other species have already been. It comes across more like a road trip than a mission of exploration, and the crew’s complete unreadiness to deal with even moderate problems only compounds that feeling. Seriously, in one episode they beam down to a new planet without doing any checks for toxins and are immediately poisoned. Amazing.

Admittedly, the more-remote explorations of previous Trek series have their own problems, namely that they invoke memories of colonialism, even when conquest is the furthest thing from the characters’ minds. But Enterprise decided it specifically wanted that kind of exploration and then created a setting that didn’t support it.

The easiest way to resolve this would be to simply make the space around Earth less populated. If meeting aliens were a rare occurrence, then the exploration vibe would have stayed intact. But for some reason the writers went with a more Star Wars–style universe, where interstellar travel is routine and a host of aliens gather at every cantina. With that type of setting, the story should have focused on diplomats, not explorers.

4. The New Star Wars Movies

First Order troops assembled for a speech.

Speaking of Star Wars, let’s take a trip to a galaxy far, far away and see how things are going there. The original trilogy’s setting and premise worked really well together. The world has an evil empire, and the premise is rebelling against it. So simple! But now it’s time for a new trilogy,* and the setting has really changed. The good guys won last time, so the evil empire is gone, which means the premise now is… rebelling against an evil empire again?

This puts the new movies in an awkward position. In Episode VII, the characters are rebelling against, or perhaps resisting, something called the First Order. What’s the First Order? The title crawl says it has “risen from the ashes of the Empire,” but otherwise we know basically nothing. Somehow the Republic is supporting the Resistance in fighting the First Order, but it’s not clear in what capacity.

This raises a whole bunch of questions. Why doesn’t the Republic just crush the First Order? Does the First Order hold territory, or is it just a space terrorist organization? Why is it specifically called the “First” Order? In what capacity does the Resistance fight it? Where did the First Order get the resources to construct a seemingly endless number of ships and an even bigger superweapon than the old Empire? There’s no answer to any of these questions unless you feel like reading tie-in novels, and it’ll be a cold day on Tatooine before I do homework in order to watch a Star Wars movie.

Then in Episode VIII, the Republic is completely gone and the Resistance is down to just a handful of ships. They’re also still calling themselves “rebels” even though they’re actually government loyalists. The First Order are the rebels. So now we have to ask what happened to the Republic. We saw a couple of its planets blown up last time, but surely there was more to the Republic than that? It doesn’t even seem like much time has passed, since one of the characters is still in a recovery tank from his injuries in the previous film.

Again, there’s a tie-in novel to explain all this, but the very fact that it needs such a long explanation shows the problem. The Star Wars universe has changed since the original trilogy. It no longer has an all-encompassing empire to rebel against. And yet it was apparently decided that because this is Star Wars, it has to be about rebelling against an evil empire.

5. The Last Battle

Cover art for The Last Battle

If there’s one thing you know about the Narnia books, it’s probably that Aslan is a stand-in for C. S. Lewis’s interpretation of the Christian God, or Lion-Jesus as I call him. For six books, absolute faith in Aslan is critical. Not only do you have to do anything Aslan says without question, but you have to do anything anyone tells you to do in Aslan’s name, since no one would ever lie about Aslan. This is really important to several major plot points. In fact, even hearing the word “Aslan” gives good people a sense of euphoria and bad people a sense of dread.

Then the last book rolls around, and Lewis apparently decided he wanted to do a false Aslan story. If you haven’t read it, all you need to know is that one of the villains engineers a scheme to trick the Narnians into thinking Aslan has returned so they’ll do whatever the villain wants. Based on previous books, you’d expect anyone attempting such a plot to spontaneously combust, but instead it works great. Apparently, Aslan’s supernatural good aura is just gone now.

But wait, it gets weirder. When the King of Narnia first hears about the false Aslan, an adviser opines that this can’t be the real Aslan because the stars would have foretold it. So now there’s a way to get objective proof that Aslan is who he claims to be? We don’t have to take it on faith anymore? Imagine this scenario playing out in an earlier book. Aslan appears, and one of the Pevensies tells him to hang on for a minute, they need to check the stars to see if it’s really him. Those kids would have been disemboweled on the spot.

This contradiction to the established setting rules gives The Last Battle a stilted feeling that never goes away. For the entire series, we’ve been asked to suspend our disbelief and assume that unquestioning faith in Aslan is always the best policy, and suddenly that’s not the case anymore. And yet Lewis is not ready to abandon his God metaphor, so now the truly faithful just somehow know when it’s the real Aslan and when it’s not. All the characters who think a false Aslan justifies being more skeptical are evil atheists who don’t get to go to lion-heaven. While this certainly exposes a weakness in Lewis’s theological argument, it also creates an unsatisfying story.


Conflict between world and premise can happen for a lot of reasons. Sometimes it’s just poor worldbuilding, something especially common in TV shows that have to create new content each week for years on end. Other times, the world worked perfectly well before, but now the storyteller wants to do something different in a sequel. Either way, the story’s believability plummets.

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Comments

  1. Dvärghundspossen

    Ok so I haven’t read the Narnia books since I was basically a kid, but I’m pretty sure the last book also features “Satanists” by another name. But there’s one guy who was from a specific branch of “Satanism” that actually taught people to be good and kind etc. And then he goes to Heaven at the end, because he was REALLY following God, regardless of the name used.

    This appeals to a parable by Jesus where the important thing isn’t to say that you follow God, but to actually do what God wants. So I get where it’s coming from. But reading this post, that’s also a bit weird, right…?

    • E. H.

      Not to defend the trainwreck that was The Last Battle, but the idea was that someone might adore the Satanic character out of ignorance because they honestly thought he was good (by Lewis-approved standards of goodness, of course).

      This is one part of the book that made a bit of sense to me. The rest was awful, though I like a couple of the other Narnia books and the first and third chapters of Lewis’ Space Trilogy.

      Keep in mind that in the Narnia world, both the Jesus and Satan figures are real, but most people haven’t actually met them.

      Unless someone has access to accurate information or has direct experience, they can easily think that a bad person is good or a good person is bad.

      • Tony

        Yeah, Lewis’s idea seems to be that non-Christians can be saved by following Christian virtues, and that Christians can be damned by not following Christian virtues.

        This is similar to the benevolent appearance of Bacchus and company in Prince Caspian. They’re not of Christian origin, but they’ve become harmless through Aslan’s influence. It’s akin to how Christmas and Easter in the Anglosphere have incorporated some pagan traditions. In contrast, Tash remains a demonic idol because he comes from a cruel empire without influence from Aslan.

        Of course, this gets uncomfortable (like a lot of Lewis’s writing) when you consider that the empire in question is coded as Middle Eastern, but there you go.

        • Sam Victors

          I would question that as Lewis not as a racist but as a man of his time; politically incorrect, condescending, British Imperialism, Hail, Britannia and all that Jazz.

          Still, CS Lewis is an influence of mine, but I plan to make my fantasy world (its Narniaesque but more expanded) inclusive and progressive than static and limited (Medieval/Renaissance Stasis notwithstanding).

          And like Lewis, my fantasy world has a Christ/Messiah figure in the form of an animal, but rules alongside with his Mother (a Goddess/Virgin Mary figure) and other Gods and Goddesses. He is the High King of all the Gods (reflecting my own beliefs as a Christian Henotheist [belief in all Gods but prefers to worship one]), but religion in my fantasy world is not so rigid or organized, rather its more of collection of personal beliefs mixed with rituals and reverence for nature, including libations, honoring the dead, and other old customs.

          The ‘Satanic’ equivalent in this fantasy world is kind of a cross between the Titans (or old gods/giants that warred with the gods) and a perversion of Jesus and the Twelve Apostles; as in the Chief God of this religion (the Satan and Anti-Jesus figure combined) is the ‘real’ god of this religion, and the others gods in his pantheon are minor followers were once semi-humans who have been deified by the followers. The Evil/Satanic religion is also meant to be a parody of American Evangelicalism crossed with Greco-Roman polytheism. The Evil Gods are not deities of classical abstract ideas but of trivial or petty things; for example, Azorateth is the goddess of ladies who lunch, socialites, wifehood, respectability, normality, and social norms; Mardochaos is the god of militarism, machismo, and patriotism; Mamonas is the god of consumerism, commercialism, luxury, popularity, and consumption.

        • Dvärghundspossen

          Ok you misunderstood me – it makes perfect sense on its own that actual virtues matter more than which label you put on your religion, at least when you mislabel it out of honest ignorance. But reading this post on how the actual NAME of Aslan is super important elsewhere in the book series, it gets a bit contradictory.

          • E. H.

            Sorry for the misunderstanding.

            Yeah, the series didn’t have very consistent rules or worldbuilding.

            Sometimes the ramdom, whimsical nature of it could be charming, other times frustrating (especially with inconsistent moral judgements in a religion-based world).

  2. Passerby

    I’ll jump in, because I’ve just read “A Darker Shade” recently. It’s been repeatedly stated that no human is completely devoid of magic, and even Gray Londoners have a bit of it in them. According to Kell’s beliefs, which I think we can take as in-verse truth, people are born from magic and vanish into it when they die.

    When we put it on a scale, we have:

    4 – Black London
    3 – White London
    2 – Red London
    1 – Gray London.

    If 2 is the perfect balance (and yes, it is heavily implied that people in Red don’t go around hungry, it’s mentioned that buildings go up and down in weeks as people see fit etc.), then Gray (1) is the counter to White (3). You can live in both, but both are worse compared to Red. White is also under influence from Black, hence it’s worse than Gray – but it didn’t use to be that way. The actual counter to Black (4) isn’t Gray, it’s void (0). No magic = no life.

    Now, the worldbuilding of “A Darker Shade” definitely isn’t perfect, there are other things that are weird. E.g. Why would English ever be used as the royalty’s language in Red? Makes no sense. If anything, the rulers of Gray would use the language of Red as their ‘royal’. Or you could just settle for English in all four Londons, and it would work just fine (since they used to be connected closely).

    But for all the problems, the basic concept of Londons isn’t one of them.

  3. Cay Reet

    I did buy the Buffy idea then – barely – and it makes no sense once you sit down and think about it. I mean, if a relatively small city like Sunnydale (despite college, military installation, and sometimes a honking big castle) has a huge number of vampires, demons, and other baddies living there (hellmouth or not), then how are things going to be in really big cities? Not only places like L.A., Chicago, or New York City, but also places like Paris, London (Spike, after all, is British, Angel from Ireland), Tokio, Sydney, or Moscow? For every supernatural baddie, big cities are perfect, because it’s much easier to kill someone, since a lot of people won’t be missed. I’m pretty sure that supernatural baddies are not confined to the US or neighbouring countries like Canada or Mexico. That there’s only one slayer pretty much suggests that, slayer or not, the majority of mankind is doomed (DOOMED! I say).

    Also: I could program a VCR, even set it up and put in all the stations, not only program it to record. But then, I do have a secret superpower to make electrical devices obey my every whim (well, most of the time).

    • E. H.

      Seems like there should have been regional Slayers.

      Even if they can’t work together directly because they’re too busy protecting their own turf, just reference the idea and a very obvious problem is resolved. They could share information, too.

      • Cay Reet

        The whole Watchers organisation would also make a lot more sense that way – organizing the slayers worldwide, making sure potential slayers are found and trained, keeping the threads in hand.

        • Cannoli

          Not to mention financially supporting the Slayers. If they can pay their Watchers, why not the ONE GIRL per generation who is their raison d’etre?

          Why not be in a position to tell Buffy “You don’t need to jump through the school’s hoops to finish high school or college, you have a six figure income for life just for being the Slayer”? What about the distractions of her home life and her job? She should have a council security team guarding her house, a registered nurse, if not a doctor, in residence, along with a housekeeper, personal weapons technician, cook and nanny/personal tutor for her sister. If they can insert their personnel into Sunnydale High when Buffy moves there on short notice, they should be able to put a bodyguard trained in recognizing supernatural threats into Dawn’s school, just so Buffy doesn’t have to worry about her being taken hostage. Buffy should be able to concentrate on Slaying exclusively, with down-time being just that, a chance to decompress & recharge and shake off the PTSD, instead of fitting Slaying in around having to earn a living and take care of a house and juvenile sister.

          If nothing else, you’d think the Council as portrayed on the show, a group of rich old white men obsessed with controling young girls, would leap at the chance to make their slayers dependent on them, so they can keep her in line by threatening to revoke her material comforts.

          But then, how could they have their demons-are-real-life-problems cake and eat it, too?

          • Wesley

            They did make the slayers dependent on them, in a lot of gross and subtle ways, but the best example is the Cruciamentum in Helpless. As soon as the girl reaches 18, becomes an adult, they take away her powers and put her through an ordeal that will either kill her or reinforce there total control over her life. There’s also a metaphor there about the slayer power being tied to puberty. They want a series of girls who are, in the biological sense, sexually mature, but not adults. Because, you know, council of old white men. Them constantly saying the slayer is their instrument? That’s because they don’t intend to support her. They aren’t her support system, she is their tool. Until Buffy comes along and reject their efforts to isolate her from all her friends and family and render her emotionally dependent on them.

  4. Dvärghundspossen

    Haha, I actually remember the first time I was introduced to a VCR as a kid. It seemed like magic! You could pause a TV show, and keep watching later on! Wow!

  5. mysterylover123

    I think that Buffy was ultimately a show about how no one should ever try and fight all the monsters of the world alone. The series is very critical of the idea of a “chosen one” from the start, and later seasons go out of their way to reinforce the idea that Buffy needs her friends (like, you know, the super-powered witches, the magic expert, vampires, and other slayers) to really achieve anything. This gets reinforced a bunch, like in the S3 episode with the alt!Reality where she never came to Sunnydale and is a friendless, angry loner with no hope, or the S5 episode where Spike flat out states “the only reason you’ve lasted as long as you have is because you have ties to the world”. Also (SPOILER) The series finale involves activating every slayer in the world so there will never be a chosen “one” again. Perhaps setting and premise alone are contradictory, but the key in Buffy is execution.

  6. Kalani

    That last battle one made me laugh so hard. I remember reading it in the fourth or fifth grade and thinking ‘what is this crap’. Honestly the (spoilers ahead) reveal they were dead the whole time just did it for me.

  7. Traest

    It’s poorly explained, but the First Order is the remnant of the Empire that didn’t join the Republic, forming two galactic powers.
    The New Order started amassing soldiers and weapons, which characters like General Leia warned about. The Republic didn’t want to start another war after The Clone Wars and Rebellion/Galactic Civil War (think preWW2 appeasement), so the Resistance was founded.
    After the New Order destroyed the Republics main world’s, it became the sole galactic power, and Resistance becomes Rebellion.

    A bit convoluted to sell toys, tbh

  8. Sam Victors

    As flawed and somewhat problematic CS Lewis and his Narnia books can be, I still like them, perhaps a little more than Tolkien.

    Lewis may have not been the most enlightened or even progressive man, but he did do some things that seem to progressive in our modern sense of the word. He married a Jewish Divorcee, something which his friend Tolkien was against, and in the the Narnia book ‘The Horse and His Boy’ he had an interracial couple in Shasta/Cor and Aravis (something totally uncommon and unacceptable in the 1950s). His Heroines did get stronger and stronger by the next book, but he falls into the dated ‘Masculine/Tomboyish Women are empowering’ feminist school, or as TV Tropes calls it ‘Real Women never wear Dresses’ (this is what old school dated feminism use to be, from what I read). And his treatment of non-white characters is…. complicated (not out of malicious hatred or prejudice, but more out of political incorrectness, condescension and old-school British imperialism (Hail, Britannia and all that jazz).

    In my opinion, CS Lewis was progressing, a bit, slowly. And I’m willing to bet he would have changed more had he lived longer (its not impossible, PL Travers lived long enough to regret and change the dated stereotypes in her children’s books).

    That being said, I too did found the whole False Aslan Affair and manipulation a little too easy to happen. But I also like to theorize that some dark magic was involved (possibly Tash, as he is Narnia’s version/equivalent/avatar of Satan).

    • E. H.

      Oh sure, I think he was a good man for the most part and I like some of his fiction and essays.

      What’s frustrating is that he seems kind of politically naive. Whem he promotes kindness and tolerance, he associates these virtues with very traditional values, while seeming to equate modernity with (often closeted) fascism, communism or a mixture.

      Out of the Silent Planet has a highly anti-colonialist subtext, but he equates imperialism with science and atheism.

      • Cannoli

        But those things were all presented of a piece in the pre-World War 2 era. Regardless of when he wrote or published those books, he was clearly influenced by that time period. The Shoah was not the climax of German anti-semitism, it was the end result of decades of ideas about race and nationality mixed in with misunderstandings about evolutionary imperatives. Robber barons embraced Darwinism as justifying their business practices. Politicians hailed “survival of the fittest” as justifying realpolitik and nationalistic policies, and moral objections, framed as they were at the time in terms of Judeo-Christian values were dismissed as obsolete and out-dated. If you didn’t like the idea of trying to control your nation’s breeding to get an evolutionary jump on the other nations, you were dismissed as some pathetic has-been clinging to the past. If you didn’t like the idea of sending out fleets and armies to seize territory and resources and secure naval bases, per Mahan, you were parochial and provincial. Science was going to solve all the problems and create a utopia and socialism was the scientific way to go.

        Lewis was a follower of GK Chesterton, who opposed imperialism and specifically called out Rudyard Kipling for his nationalistic & imperialistic ideology. Chesterton made a distinction between patriotism and nationalism, and Hitler more or less expressed a similar view, the difference being, which each preferred, Hitler being a nationalist while Chesterton (and presumably Lewis) preferring patriotism.

        Lewis was writing in an environment where the popular opinion and intelligensia were dismissing morality as holding people back and citing science and evolution and Progress and the way to advance. He wasn’t demonizing science, he was rebuking those who used “science” as a talisman, while understanding science as little as “Christians” who use Jesus to justify racism.

        Obviously, people started re-thinking a lot of the ways we look at nationality and race after the Holocaust, but Lewis & Tolkien writing that people in other countries are just as human, that humanity matters more than lineage, was WAY out of step with the times in which they came of age. Remember, in Narnia, the importance of the kings of Narnia is their humanity, not a royal bloodline. When Prince Caspian regrets his descent from a band of rapist pirates, Aslan rebukes him saying that he is a son of Adam & Eve which is a source of pride and shame for kings and paupers alike. The Telmarines who conquer Narnia between the first two books are initially seen as an occupying hostile force, but at the end of “Prince Caspian,” they are assimilated into the new order of the realm. Caspian himself, and the subsequent human population of Narnia is more or less entirely Telmarine. The Telmarines themselves are descended from mixed race unions between pirates and tropical islanders. Your race, your ethnic origins, don’t matter in Narnia, just your species, because the Narnian definition of a human, “son of Adam/daughter of Eve” is one that reinforces the common humanity irregardless of race.

        The fashions of Lewis’ & Tolkein’s day were in opposition to that view, so it’s not really surprising, nor reflective of any real moral flaw, that they push back at the authorities or fashions cited in opposition to their beliefs, anymore than it is bigotry for non-heteronormative types to push back against religion in general, rather than a particular sect using religion as their excuse.

        • E. H.

          That’s true; a lot of evil has been done or justified in the name of supposed progress. And many traditional religions and philosophies have very positive elements.

          It just always makes me feel weird when a progressive in a Lewis story starts advocating (my favorite example) eliminating wild animals and forests on the grounds that they’re useless.

          You can have artificial plants in your garden and mechanical birds. Wouldn’t that be better?

          I can imagine the reaction if they talked like that in any progressive meetings I’ve ever been to! LOL

  9. Laura Ess

    When it comes to BUFFY I think the thing to remember is that it’s a satire/parody of that genre. Much of it doesn’t make sense, but mostly the setting is a platform for dark humour, banter and wackiness (or “wackiness” as Willow would put it). We see a lot of the same sort of stuff in the MCU , which is full of plot-holes but mainly exists to show off the heroes and villains. With Buffy every so often a drak streak would surface and something brutal and shocking would happen just to jolt the audience awake again, like Tara getting shot, or Buffy getting it off with Spike. ANGEL was even more this way, and seemed to constantly write itself into corners, including the series finale.

    With the 23rd STARWARS Trilogy, I think there was a certain constraint in the scenarios because each film in each trilogy “rhymes” with each film in the same positions in other trilogies, as if history in that universe constantly creates similar situations. For example, in the first film of each trilogy::
    * The new hero arises, and come from common stock of the salt of the earth;
    * A mentor/father figures dies;
    * A giant weapons platform is destroyed.
    And in the second film of a trilogy:
    * The main (or secondary) character(s) are separated from the main group for a good portion of the film, with their own issues and dramas;
    * Someone has a part of their body cut in two by a light sabre (Anakin/Luke/Snoke);
    * The good side manages a Pyrrhic victory where survival is the most important thing, and the bad side carries on.

    So, anyway, my point is that the scripts are geared towards reflecting this rhyming scheme. Quibbles about where the resources came from for the First Order are not really relevant, because the Empire’s military was so large that even though the Empire fell, there’s way more than enough left over ships, hardware and soldiers to be consolidated by one or more warlord groups.

    • Cannoli

      That doesn’t justify the bad storytelling, though. If you are going to keep that rhyme scheme in mind, it is imperative to the storytellers to make it coherent. It’s like writing a limerick that doesn’t make sense, whose words are not in a comprehensible order and there is no punchline to the narrative of the poem, and justifying your product by pointing that it follows the A-A-B-B-A rhyme scheme and the 7-7-5-5-7 meter.

  10. Laura Ess

    Oops, a few types there. I meant 3rd Trilogy, not 23rd Trilogy, though for all I know it’ll last that long!

  11. Jenn H

    I think the later Narnia books serve as a warning as to what happens when you keep an allegorical tale going for far longer than you should. LWW might have a few theological problems, but it works as a self contained parable.

    The longer the allegory goes, the further it is removed from the source material, which is probably why the Last Battle is a mess. Lewis has to switch from the Gospels to the Book of Revelation, which is one heck of a genre shift. He already killed off his Satan-expy, so he had to use an Ahriman-expy. He made Calormen the stand-in for Gog and Magog, so we end up with a story of a European culture being invaded by a Middle-Eastern one (it was the other way around in the Bible). He hasn’t figured out how someone might tell the difference between Aslan and the Anti-Aslan. His “Good Samaritan” is a Satan/Ahriman worshiper etc.

    So many problems.

  12. Adam Reynolds

    I’ve said this before, but I don’t think I’ve said it here. The Star Wars sequels should have been more like The Legend of Korra. What LOK did right was that none of the conflicts were even remotely a rehash of the original, as none of Korra’s antagonists were firebenders(with the exception of one member of the Red Lotus). Instead Korra faces a range of conflicts that have much more thematic depth in terms of exploring real political issues(and PTSD) in a fantastical setting, while allowing the original set of characters to mostly retire having accomplished something that largely isn’t undone.

    Similarly, it would have been interesting to have a conflict that involves two rival groups of Jedi without either actually being evil. Instead of a conflict that all but ignores the real world implications of a fascist faction because they want to sell stormtrooper costumes.

    • Cay Reet

      That would actually have made them more like the old EU, then. There were few stories where the remainders of the Empire took the main stage – most of the time, it was about problems the empire simply swept under the rug or ignored, but which came up again after it had fallen. Or about parts of the Empire now doing their own thing.

      I agree that shifting the focus and finding a new high-stakes conflict would have been better. That ‘two groups of Jedi’ thing would have worked, I think. There must have been others who survived the purge – and one of them could have gathered their own students, so there would have been arguing about which understanding about the force was the real one.

      Expecting that from Disney, however, was illusional. They want easy stories, stories you can take the kids to, and they want to sell merchandise. The more the new trilogy resembles the old ones, the easier it is to pull audiences back into the movie theatres and sell them all the merchandise.

  13. Mr. Bottle

    I think the Force Awakens (assuming Episode VIII will follow through properly this time) would have benefited more (especially in communicating its premise) from some elaboration on the political situation rather than essentially giving us a 30-year long blank period of which we know nothing.

    The opening crawl could have elaborated on the fall of the Empire as a sovereign entity as well as its survival as an ideology, evolving into the First Order. Instead of pretty much walking the steps of the original trilogy, it acknowledges what happened in that trilogy and provides a reinterpretation of its events.

    Abrams has compared the First Order to irl neo-nazis regaining power. The movie would probably have benefited from some political scenes (not everything in the prequels was bad, guys, don’t be cowards) elaborating the Republic’s refusal to deal with the First Order (whether for pacifistic or treasonous reasons). Leia could have had a larger role here. (And I’m also interested in seeing a Chancellor emeritus Mon Mothma, whatever her role is).

    I do think that destroying the Jedi (again) was a mistake, though, and the audience would have delighted in seeing survivors of a second attempted purge struggling to reform their Order.

  14. Greg S

    I haven’t read “Last Battle” but just reading the stuff on this article leads me to believe Lewis was modelling his story loosely on the Bible Book of Revelation. There’s an Anti-Christ that convinces people to turn away from the “True God” – etc.

    • Sam Victors

      Exactly, Lewis was modelling his Narnia Chronicles after the Bible. And he wasn’t the only one in the history of literature.

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