Even fans who are well familiar with the Star Wars theatrical films may find their eyes glazing over at the mere mention of the Expanded Universe. That term is generally used to encompass the voluminous Star Wars fiction created outside of the seven canonical films in a variety of media: novels, mainly, but also comic books, video games, toys, and made-for-television projects. A new article by George Dvorsky in Gizmodo explains “how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly huge [this universe] really is.” In fact, according to the article, an international team of researchers based in Switzerland have been poring through hundreds of pages of Wookieepedia data and using computer-generated graphs to keep track of all the myriad characters and intertwining timelines. The results are stunning. A color-coded chart showing the connections between 7,500-plus Star Wars characters, for instance, ends up looking almost like a Jackson Pollock painting, except done in neon paint on a black velvet canvas:
The project has generated more prosaic charts as well. A breakdown of characters by species shows that Star Wars has an even more dramatic diversity problem than the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences, with humans snagging nearly all the plum roles and Bothans and Wookiees woefully marginalized.
As coldly statistical as this endeavor might seem, some of the charts have a strange, ethereal beauty all their own. A multi-hued graph showing “how communities of characters interact together,” for example, resembles a particularly elegant spirograph creation.
As the article points out, this meticulous, time-consuming Star Wars project is not as purely “indulgent” or frivolous as it might initially seem. There are some practical applications here. Like what? Well, the programs created to sort through the Wookieepedia data may one day “be used to perform historical and sociological research, along with other scientific research interests.”