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Restricted Expanded Universe

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As a general rule, licensed derivative 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 of the original version. Primarily, because while the original creators might not care for continuity in the source material, they do have an artistic version that they'd rather have maintained in any adaptation. Or that they fear new people will unwittingly spoil Plot Points they had planned, especially if the original is still being published or aired.

One downside of this is that works in the expanded universe 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.

Another reason is to prevent Continuity Lock-Out, as potential fans would have to watch the movie and then read the comic in which the setting is turned upside down to understand the animated series. Which is something most executives are leery of.

A variation of this happens in anime with Filler, which the Shounen commercial juggernauts are infamous for. The non-filler episodes are adapted from the source material, usually a manga, and are part of an overarching plot; the filler episodes are made for the animation and must leave everything as it was before at the end of the filler.

This trope only applies if the Spin-Off is meant to follow the same continuity as the original series (though not necessarily vice versa). It doesn't apply to adaptations that are retelling the story and may feel free to change things as needed.

Sister Trope of No Origin Stories Allowed, when the original creators ban licensed authors from writing about a character's backstory. Compare Fan-Work Ban, it's the fans who are forbidden by the creators to toy with the story. Super-Trope of Doomed by Canon, when certain characters have their fates sealed in all the adaptations because that's how they ended up in the canon. Related to Executive Meddling, when the higher-ups interfere with creative work in either an original work or an adaptation. See also Status Quo Is God, when the continuity of a fictional work tends to reset itself back after each installment.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Mobile Suit Gundam:
    • The 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).
    • However, the manga series Gundam the Origin completely and utterly ignores this (it helps that it's being written and illustrated by the original character designer and apparently has Tomino's blessing) and introduces a chain of events that while similar, are significantly changed and make a whole hell of a lot more sense in some respects. It's from here that a lot of the backstory for the mainline universe can be gleaned (though distortedly). Tomino is not a stickler for continuity; his novelisations and Compilation Movies often change plots around.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: A slight exception is the popular spinoff Gundam SEED Astray, which was intended from the beginning to tie into the anime, occasionally patching up plot holes, and just barely misses being included in the anime itself.

    Comic Books 
  • Adventure Time: Zig-Zagged with this Comic-Book Adaptation. Initially, the comic's writers tried to keep it in line with the show's mythos. As the show's writers were constantly tuning the details of their own worldbuilding, it was hard to play catch up and the comics' creators couldn't really do their own thing. Eventually, they just called it an Alternate Continuity and started playing with the world themselves, with the arc kickstarting this change ending in The Lich getting killed off in particular. As a result, the comic plots are not considered canon to the show's timeline.
  • Gargoyles: Clan Building: A case of Canon Discontinuity and Expanded Universe restrictions occurs in Greg Weisman's 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.
  • G.I. Joe: Averted because the comics can kill people and make changes as long as the relevant action figure or other toy is no longer in production.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW): The comics have to stay consistent with the show's Status Quo, ensuring any major events get wrapped up well enough to stay self-contained.
  • Sonic X: The comics aren't allowed to incorporate characters from the games that weren't featured in the show, nor were they allowed to make any real changes to the status quo.
  • Transformers: Averted in the comics seeing that they are almost always alternate continuities.

    Fan Works 
  • The Basalt City Chronicles: The fanfic is not only an example of this trope regarding its source material, Gene Catlow, seeing that the author goes to the universe's creators for permission for virtually everything he adds, but is also that Verse's Manual.
  • The Wind Done Gone: Alice Randall writes it in African-American vernacular English as an explicit refutation of the limitations imposed by Margaret Mitchell's estate on those wishing to write sequels to Gone with the Wind.

    Film - Live Action 
  • The Hobbit: While one of Peter Jackson's goals was to tie the events of The Hobbit to the The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien's estate refused to grant him access to The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The History of Middle-earth, or the other Tolkien books containing the material required to do so while remaining faithful to what Tolkien had written. As such, Jackson extrapolated and changed a few details, such as the backstory of the Nazgül, in order to make his story work.

  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe
    • The post-cancellation novels and audios make changes and reveal great swathes of history. Much of which has to be ignored after the TV series gets a revival over a decade later. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean it's a retcon, what with the setting having considerable Temporal Mutability. On some occasions, Word of God has confirmed that "everything is canon", we're just seeing different possible timelines. For example, one of the post-revival episodes is an explicit retelling of the novel Human Nature, written by Paul Cornell. Likewise in the case of the Doctor Who Magazine comic strips as well as the IDW and Titan comics have been through it in the revival.
    • On July 5, 1969 —two weeks after "The War Games" aired— TV Comic begins a series of stories where the Second Doctor is exiled to Earth. During this period, the Doctor lives in the Carlton Grange Hotel and becomes a newspaper-headlining celebrity. In "The Night Walkers" (November 8-22, 1969), the Doctor investigates a story about scarecrows that walk at night that turns out to be a trap by the Time Lords so they can 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. So, averted in that case.
  • Halo: The video games are rather light on plot, allowing the Expanded Universe to go hog-wild on it. The multimedia adaptations give characters new backstories and personality traits that are never hinted at in the games; not to mention that they introduce and kill off new characters. They also flesh out the origins of both the UNSC and the Covenant. As a bonus, they add new weapons and vehicles. As a result, the fans regard them as better than the source material. When 343 Industries takes over development duties from Bungie, the Expanded Universe becomes much more integrated with the games from Halo 4 onward, especially regarding the Didact.
  • Star Trek:
    • The comics do this. At one point, even new characters couldn't be used because of fears that they would become Canon Immigrants that required royalties.
    • Also a problem in the novels, although the Star Trek: New Frontier and I.K.S. Gorkon series dodge it by having new crews based on one-shot characters, and the Titan series does by being set after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis.
    • It seems that Paramount has given the writers more freedom in changing the status quo in post-Nemesis stories, as Admiral Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager Ascends To A Higher Plane Of Existence in Before Dishonor.
    • The complete anhilitation/liberation of the Borg in the Destiny trilogy was only possible because new canonical material coming out was deemed unlikely at the time.
    • Star 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 movie continuity (J. J. Abrams) operates under rules so restricted that only prequels to the movie have been allowed to be published so far.
    • Star Trek Online is set in the prime universe post-dating the Hobus supernova from Star Trek (2009). However, due to a confluence of legal issues —the license comes from CBS rather than Paramount—, it 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 or use an Off-Model (the latter of which they've mostly stopped doing). They also have to negotiate separately to use elements from other works in the Star Trek Expanded Universe (although they do often get permission).
  • Star Wars:
    • Writers of the old Expanded Universe, besides following the regular continuity, had to abide by a certain set of rules established by Lucasfilm. Among those revealed to the fans are, firstly, that the protagonists (Luke, Han, and Leia) cannot be killed. Secondly, 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 so but makes mention of Wookiee Jedi rarity. Thirdly, Yoda's species and homeworld cannot be revealed. And fourthly, before the prequels, writers were told by Lucas to avoid writing in that era. This was solved by creating the Old Republic stories set long before the prequels.
    • Vector Prime, the first novel of the New Jedi Order series, is notable for having killed Chewbacca for real. According to the author, the higher-ups wanted to kill off a major Canon character in order to set up an Anyone Can Die atmosphere. The call eventually comes down that Chewie is 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.
    • Star Wars Infinities: The graphic novels are, from the beginning, set in an alternate universe of the original movie trilogy. As such, the authors are free of killing Luke in The Empire Strikes Back equivalent and have him come back as a ghost in Star Wars: Legacy (one In-Universe century after)
    • Star Wars (Marvel 1977): The series isn't allowed to have the heroes meet Darth Vader in case it upstaged anything from later movies.
    • With Disney's takeover of Lucasfilm, all new Expanded Universe stories are overseen by a committee to ensure full continuity with the established canon is maintained. However, there are still oversights mostly caused due to the films being made with little to no input from the Expanded Universe's creatives (most notably, all the worldbuilding tie-in material for the sequel trilogy was ignored in the films due to being written by people outside their production).

  • Babylon 5: The licensed novels are under severe restrictions in regard to the treatment of characters, Plot Points, and setting. Therefore, 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.)
  • Mass Effect: Bioware has stated that the official continuity is what happens to the player. Because of this, derivative works 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 exceptions are thus, appropriately vague. The second and third novels reference the Council, but do not specify if it is the original, human-led, or human-only. Retribution and Inquisition state that Anderson leaves the Citadel in disgust at the Council's refusal to acknowledge the Reapers, but do not specify whether he's the Councilor or Udina's aide. Word of God has since said that Udina is the Councilor and Anderson was his aide, he is even stated to be an admiral in Retribution, this has more to do with plot reasons for future novels and games however.
  • Wing Commander: Novels that are built around canon characters from the game, particularly Jason "Bear" Bondarevski (first introduced in the Wing Commander 2 Expansion Pack Special Ops 1), are heavily restricted in terms of not altering the main continuity. For instance, the Landreich, a vague analogy of the early United States (IN SPACE!), is created specifically so William R. Forstchen has someplace to play that won't break anything in the "core" universe of the games.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The Tolkien Estate gave Amazon the rights to adapt material from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but not directly from The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The History of Middle-earth or other Tolkien books except on a case to case basis, and at the same time Amazon cannot simply remake the stories that the Warner Bros./New Line movies directed by Peter Jackson covered. The Amazon show focuses on the Second Age (as opposed to the Third Age, where the main story of the LOTR and Hobbit books and movies are set) where the vast bulk of Tolkien's writings concerning the period is in other books, but Second Age events and storylines are referenced more vaguely as background lore within the main text of LOTR and its appendices. And so the show has a great deal of expansion and its own take on the background lore of LOTR, not necessarily following what Tolkien actually already wrote elsewhere. As stated by the showrunners:
    J.D. Payne: We have the rights solely to The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, the appendices, and The Hobbit. And that is it. We do not have the rights to The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The History of Middle-earth, or any of those other books.
    Patrick McKay: There’s a version of everything we need for the Second Age in the books we have the rights to. As long as we’re painting within those lines and not egregiously contradicting something we don’t have the rights to, there’s a lot of leeway and room to dramatize and tell some of the best stories that [Tolkien] ever came up with.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: During the Infinity Saga, the TV shows and other tie-ins had no major impact on the movie continuity — the closest things have come is that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. filled in some non-essential gaps for Age of Ultron. While Marvel eventually strengthened the connections in the Multiverse Saga thanks to Disney+ streaming projects, they've given a couple explanations as to why it hadn't really happened before then:
    • Movie audiences haven't necessarily watched the shows and will need to be brought up to speed, which could necessitate an Info Dump that may disrupt the story.
    • TV production is much faster than movie production; either a movie has to make a guess at where the shows' plots will be when it releases, or the TV writers could be constrained by what a movie script has already established. Some examples of these continuity issues:
      • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was considered to have been in a rut and stalling for time while waiting for the Winter Soldier plot twist to hit. Years later, Season 5 had wrapped up, complete with its plot tying into Infinity War, when it received a surprise renewal; and the showrunners had no idea when the next season would air. Since they couldn't risk the possibility of spoiling Endgame should the series air first, they had to ignore the Infinity War references and claim that Season 6 was still set prior to Thanos' attack.
      • Any series not featuring movie characters is plagued with questions of "how does this tie in with the latest movie events?" For the Defenders shows, the answer always ended up being "this is a little ways into the past, and the movie hasn't happened yet"; and they ended before they caught up with the unavoidable impact of Infinity War. Runaways and Cloak and Dagger still haven't given answers as to why the events of Infinity War haven't been seen yet, though in the former's case an Extremely Short Timespan can account for not yet catching up to that point.
    • The TV side of the universe finally gets recognized in Endgame, as Edwin Jarvis from Agent Carter makes a cameo. It helps that his show was already over, and a period piece set in the late 1940s to begin with, so nobody has to worry about the appearance affecting TV continuity. Other series have also been given nods in the Multiverse Saga, with Daredevil receiving a full Revival and its leads (Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk) making appearances in various other projects.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Avatar Legends The Roleplaying Game: Should a game session strictly adhere to canon, players will limited in their choices. For example, some of the listed techniques haven't been invented yet during some eras a game could be set in (e.g. Metalbending, Bloodbending, Aang's Air Scooter etc.). Secondly, one can't play an Airbender during both the Hundred Year War and the Aang Era. And thirdly, a lot of villains during the Hundred Year War, such as Ozai, Zhao, or Long Feng, are bound to remain Greater Scope Villains due to the Gaang defeating them in canon.

    Video Games 
  • Lost: In the video game Expanded Universe, 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.
  • The Matrix Online: The game features in its first chapter as Morpheus eventually commits terrorist acts against the Machines, demanding that they return Neo's body. That character goes so far as to create "code bombs" to reveal the Matrix code even to people still jacked in and not ready for such a revelation. Then he is Killed Off for Real by a program known as the Assassin.
  • Perfect Dark: The series leaves a large gap 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. Those also change the backstories of Daniel Carrington and Cassandra Devries by placing them into a relationship.
  • Super Mario Bros.: Nintendo's iconic franchise has been reported to have an IP-overseeing committee that dictates certain guidelines that outside studios working in Spin Offs of the series are obligated to follow in order to keep it consistent with the mainline platformers. In particular, the introduction of original characters is very restrictive nowadays—a turnaround from entries around The Noughties and before, when such a practice was more prominent.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The video games have long faced restrictions from two opposite directions because the licenses to adapt original literary works and Peter Jackson's movies were sold to separate studios. On one side were the games unable to use any of the designs, lines or actors from the movies even when they were very well-known and liked (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Hobbit (2003), The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings Online). On the other side were the games unable to include anything at all that was not explicitly referenced on-screen in the movies, severely limiting available plotlines (The Two Towers, The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, The Battle for Middle-earth). And of course, nobody at all has the rights to The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, placing events and characters exclusive to those books permanently off-limits.
    • 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 experience.
    • 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 cannot 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.