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When did George Lucas change Star Wars from a Space Opera into a Saga? Is it a Space Opera now?

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I am interested if anybody knows when George Lucas abandoned his initial idea of making Star Wars a Space Opera? My own guess is between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. And I guess it leads to the question… now with Disney in charge and so many movies in the pipeline. Could Star Wars be now reconsidered as a Space Opera?

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It’s always been a space opera whether he called it that or not. It’s big and often absurd without any actual science fiction elements. A space station that can destroy an entire planet = operatic. This saga stuff reeks of a desperate attempt to force (huhuh) some sense of congruity between the OT and the prequels.

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Not sure I’ve ever seen Lucas call it a space opera himself.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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This is my interpretation:

I agree, I think Space Fantasy is more accurate of what Star Wars is. The term Space Opera comes from the likes of shows like Flash Gordon, Lost in Space etc, where the story seems to go on and on and on… like a soap opera. And initially that was what I think George Lucas was trying to achieve. And then he seemed to abandoned it for a 9 episode saga where by the end of the 9th episode the Emperor would be destroyed. But of course by the completed script of Return of the Jedi he had decided to make ROTJ the final conclusion to the Saga. Now with the new movies Snoke was introduced to fill the role.

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Was Star Wars conceived as a “space opera” at all? I always thought it was a pastiche of pulp fiction and B series like Flash Gordon.

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Only George really knows for sure.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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I didn’t understand what Lucas originally meant by that term.
Like an operatic story in space?
Later on, considering all the twists and turns of the original trilogy, like, “No…I’M your father,” and
“wait a minute, LEIA is my sister??”
Thinking about it some more, I later assumed Lucas meant that Star Wars was supposed to be a continuing soap opera, since the way some of these revelations unfolded felt more at home in day time soap opera, than a saga that was carefully planned out since the beginning.

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No the soap opera phrase is something he said in more recent years. So I guess it was also always part of this original vision.

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GZK8000 said:

Was Star Wars conceived as a “space opera” at all? I always thought it was a pastiche of pulp fiction and B series like Flash Gordon.

Technically, Flash Gordon is space opera. That is a genre that in some form has existed since the beginnings of the science fiction genre. Originally it was called planetary fiction, but it contains all the same elements, just based on a single alien world. That expanded in the 1930’s to multiple planets in one star system and expanded later to multiple star systems (Azimov’s Foundation stories were the first to take it galaxy wide). But the story type has varied very little. All the main elements of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series appear in Star Wars. Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon were hugely popular and planted the spark in GL’s mind. Reportedly he originally wanted to do Flash Gordon, but couldn’t get the rights so he invented his own. The galaxy he created is very much inspired by the greats of the 30’s to 60’s Space Operas like Flash Gordon, Foundation, Dune and many others. It seems he wanted to differentiate Star Wars from 2001 and THX-1138 (more reality based science fiction) and used space opera and then jumped to calling it space fantasy (which, when I’ve found it used as a genre, contains all the great space operas).