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Popular series often get adapted into other media than the original — novels or comic books, for instance, made of movies or TV shows. But there's no way Luke Skywalker's going to get killed off in the Star Wars comic note (while he dies early on in the Star Wars Infinities version of The Empire Strikes Back, that's an Alternate Universe; he's eventually shown dying of old age in the prime timeline); generally, licensed alternative media can't kill characters, develop relationships, alter the world, or make any sort of changes that have a chance of messing up the continuity for the original version.
These alternate media therefore can end up running in place and be inferior to the original because of the lack of change. Sometimes new characters to which change can happen are introduced to make up for the problem.
May be avoided if the original series is over. The newer Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics not only can change the status quo, but are written by the series creator. The Doctor Whonovels after the cancellation of the original series made changes and revealed great swaths of history, much of which had to be ignored when the TV series started up again over a decade later. One of the post-revival episodes was an explicit retelling of the novel Human Nature, written by the same guy (Paul Cornell). A similar thing is likely to happen to the Star Wars continuity, now that new films have been announced.
This trope only applies if the adaptation is meant to follow the same continuity as the original series (though not necessarily vice versa). As a result, it seldom applies in the opposite direction — a movie made from a comic book can change anything the writer wants.
See also Status Quo Is God and Doomed by Canon. Compare Fan Work Ban.
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Anime And Manga
The Tenchi Muyo! manga had a big problem with this, since it was a case of Anime First and there were long stretches of time with no new Tenchi anime being published.
A variation of this happens in anime with Filler. The non-filler episodes are adapted from the manga and can advance the plot; the filler episodes cannot. Or, if they do, everything has to go back to the way it was before at the end of the filler.
Dragon Ball Z (The "Journey To Namek", "Return of Garlic Jr." and "Otherworld Tournament" arcs, respectively)
The Mobile Suit Gundam multiverse suffers this in spades. Since the events of the anime are set in stone (and have been that way for up to thirty years), manga and video game expansions almost always deal with an entirely new cast of characters, set off to the side of the anime's events and never directly interfering (though, on some rare occasions, having a degree of crossover).
A slight exception is the popular Gundam SEED spinoff Gundam Seed Astray, which was intended from the beginning to tie into the anime, occasionally patching up plot holes, and just barely missed being included in the anime itself.
Even before Gundam the Origin, Tomino's adaptation of Mobile Suit Gundam completely subverts this trope by actually having Amuro and Sayla in a sexual relationship that wasn't in the series, and killing Amuro near the end.
The Sonic X comics weren't allowed to introduce characters from the games that weren't introduced in the show, nor were they allowed to make any real changes to the status quo.
Writers for Star Wars Expanded Universe, besides following the regular continuity, have to abide to a certain set of rules established by Lucasfilm. Among those revealed to the fans are:
The Big Trio (Han, Luke and Leia) cannot be killed.
Members of certain alien species cannot become Jedi. Even though several Wookiee Jedi characters already exist, no new ones should be introduced. The Star Wars: The Clone Wars series does, but makes mention about Wookie Jedi rarity.
And the complete annihilation/liberation of the Borg in the Destiny trilogy. Isn't it fun to write in a universe where nothing canonical is coming out for years to come?
Trek novels have gone back and forth between Restricted and non-Restricted a couple of times. The novels of the '70s and early '80s tended to give authors a lot of freedom to interpret Star Trek in their own idiosyncratic ways, though the books rarely referenced or built on one another. By the later '80s, Pocket Books' Trek authors began referencing popular novels like Diane Duane's Romulan/Rihannsu books and John M Ford's Klingon epic The Final Reflection, and authors who did multiple novels increasingly carried continuity arcs forward within them, so an overall book continuity gradually began to emerge. But once Star Trek: The Next Generation was on the air, Paramount began restricting the books and comics, forbidding them from referencing anything but the live-action canon, which killed continuity between books. Those rules began to relax in the late '90s, and by now, with all the shows off the air, the books have built up an elaborate, interconnected continuity. However, the new J. J. Abrams movie continuity operates under Restricted Expanded Universe rules — so restricted, in fact, that only prequels to the movie have been allowed to be published so far.
The Mass Effect books have suffered greatly from this. Since a lot of choices are left to the player, the books have been forced to remain neutral on big issues such as the fate of the original council, the Destiny Ascension, who survived on Virmire, what happened to the rachni and humanity's representative as well as smaller ones right down to Commander Shepard's gender.
The BabylonFive licensed novels were apparently under similar restrictions to the Star Trek novels mentioned above, and also serve as a demonstration of why such rules might not always be a good idea, as they frequently contradict each other (for instance, Blood Oath and Clark's Law both mention G'Kar's wife, but she has a different name in each.)
Live Action TV
This happened to LOST, in particular becoming a problem with the Expanded Universe video game — nothing your character does can really affect the plot, so you end up doing various side things to advance your own story, while the show's plot happens offscreen.
Eventually, some studios were able to obtain both licenses, allowing for the games The Battle for Middle-Earth II (and its expansion pack) and War in the North to combine the likeness of actors and location designs with various elements that were Adapted Out from the movies. The general consensus is that (quality of the gameplay nonwithstanding) this allows for a much more coherent Middle-Earth expirience.
Meanwhile, The Lord of the Rings Online is still going strong after seven years and five expansion packs, but its license is limited to The Lord of the Rings and its Appendices only. Rumours are, even The Hobbit material canot be used if it wasn't also mentioned in LOTR as well. This, among other things, prevented the developers from making a proper tie-in to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - players had to revisit Bilbo's path in the "present" days of the War of the Ring instead.
LOTRO also isn't allowed to change the main story in any way, so a lot of the quests don't directly relate to the plot ("Bring Me Twenty Wolf Ears") and those that do are portrayed as being things that help the main characters without actually being able to have a huge impact on the outcome.
As in other things, Wing Commander gets into the act with this, too, in the form of novels built around canon characters from the game, particularly in the form of Jason "Bear" Bondarevski (first introduced in the Wing Commander 2Expansion PackSpecial Ops 1) in activities taking place in the Landreich. The Landreich, a vague analogy of the early United States (IN SPACE), was pretty much created specifically for William Forstchen to have some place to play that won't break anything in the "core" universe of the games.
Star Trek Online, mainly due to a confluence of legal issues. The game is set in the prime universe post-dating the Hobus supernova from Star Trek (2009), but due to the fact that the license comes from CBS rather than Paramount they can only use story details, not visuals. CBS also has veto power over Cryptic's ideas, and they're also restricted in their use of TV-canon characters because, while the character belongs to CBS and is thus usable, the likeness belongs to the actors so Cryptic has to negotiate with them separately* So far they've gotten Michael Dorn, Tim Russ, and Denise Crosby on board for fully voiced appearances by Worf, Tuvok, Sela, and Tasha Yar, and Delta Rising adds three more Star Trek: Voyager cast members. or use an Off Model (which they've mostly stopped doing). They also have to negotiate separately to use elements from other works in the Star Trek EU (although they do often get permission).
Averted in the G.I. Joe comics, which could kill people and make changes, as long as the relevant action figure or other toy was no longer in production.
Likewise averted in the Transformers comics, which are almost universally all alternate continuities.
An odd example regarding Doctor Who: beginning on July 5, 1969 (two weeks after "The War Games" aired), TV Comic began a series of stories where the Second Doctor was exiled to Earth; during this period, the Doctor lived in the Carlton Grange Hotel and became a newspaper-headlining celebrity. "The Night Walkers" (November 8-22, 1969) has the Doctor investigating a story about scarecrows that walk at night... which turns out to be a trap by the Time Lords so they could enforce the second half of his sentence. The scarecrows begin the regeneration process and set the TARDIS controls to dematerialise, leading seamlessly into "Spearhead from Space" six weeks later.
Vector Prime, the first novel of the Star Wars: The New Jedi Order series, was especially notable for having killed off Chewbacca. According to the author, the higher-ups had wanted to kill off a major canon character in order to set up an Anyone Can Die atmosphere; the call eventually came down that Chewie was to be the Sacrificial Lamb based on his sidekick status and lack of dialogue. The original plan was to kill off Luke, which Lucasfilm understandably objected to.
Alice Randall wrote The Wind Done Gone as an explicit refutation of the limitations imposed by Margaret Mitchell's estate on those wishing to write sequels to Gone with the Wind.
A case of Canon Discontinuity and Expanded Universe restrictions occurs in Greg Weisman's new Gargoyles comic. Continuing the beloved series after the end of Season 2, it refutes everything that happened in the Disney-produced Goliath Chronicles spin-off, (sans the first episode and one additional scene) essentially restricting the expanded canon to that comic alone.
The Matrix Online features in its first chapter Morpheus eventually committing terrorist acts against the Machines, demanding that they return Neo's body, going so far as to create "code bombs" which reveal the Matrix code even to people still jacked in and not ready for such a revelation. The aversion comes when he is Killed Off for Real by a program known as the Assassin.
The Perfect Dark series leave a large gap in between the original and the prequel game, leaving the Greg Rucka novels (and comics) to expand and improve the characters and conspiracies of the universe. it also changed the backstories of Daniel Carrington and Cassandra Devries by placing them into a relationship.
The Halo video games are rather light on plot, allowing the Expanded Universe to go hog-wild on it. The novels and comic books give characters new backstories and personality traits that were never hinted at in the games, fleshes out the origins of both the UNSC and the Covenant fully, adds in new weapons and vehicles, introduces and kills off many many characters on its own, and generally is... better, at least as far as plot goes. When 343 Industries took over development duties from Bungie, the Expanded Universe becomes critical to the games starting with Halo 4, as far as the Didact is concerned.
Adventure Time has an... odd strain of this trope. The comic's writers consider the comic canon to the show's mythos, meaning that they (at first) only had small, finicky divergences due to unexpected changes or plot twists in the show. However the show writers don't consider the comic canon and don't take it into account when plotting out episodes. As of late it seems the comic writers have decided to simply go the Alternate Continuity route (like G.I. Joe and Transformers above) and tell their own version of the story (notably beginning by killing offthe Lich).