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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  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. A similar thing is likely to happen to the Star Wars continuity, since it has new blank timeframes to fill—indeed, the old Expanded Universe is now an Alternate Continuity known as Star Wars Legends, but its elements are available to authors to re-canonize.

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. A result of this is that other media originating from a film or television show (which are by far spin-offs and expansions) are much more faithful than films or television taking from another source (which are usually adaptations of the same story).

See also Status Quo Is God, Doomed by Canon, and No Origin Stories Allowed. 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.
  • Dragon Ball Z: The "Journey to Namek", "Return of Garlic Jr." and "Otherworld Tournament" arcs were not in the manga and had to reset the situation at the end.
  • 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).
    • 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.
    • A slight exception is the popular Mobile Suit 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.

    Comic Books 
  • The Star Trek comics did this. At one point, even new characters couldn't be used because of fears that they would become Canon Immigrants that required royalties.
  • 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 the old Star Wars Expanded Universe (now Star Wars Legends), besides following the regular continuity, had to abide to a certain set of rules established by Lucasfilm. Among those revealed to the fans are:
    • The Big Trio (Luke, Han, 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 Wookiee Jedi rarity.
    • Yoda's species and homeworld cannot be revealed.
    • 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.
  • 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).
  • Also a problem in the Star Trek novels, although the Star Trek: New Frontier and I.K.S. Gorkon series dodge it by having new crews based off of 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 status quo in post-Nemesis stories, as Admiral Janeway from Voyager Ascends To A Higher Plane Of Existence in Before Dishonor.
      • And the complete annihilation/liberation of the Borg in the Destiny trilogy, a thing that was only possible because new canonical material coming out was deemed unlikely at the time.
    • 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 rules so restricted 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 only exception is the Bad Ending of 2, which is directly contradicted in first issue of the Homeworlds comic series.
  • The Babylon 5 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.
  • Due to concerns of Continuity Lockout, the TV portion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has so far not been able to have any effect on the movies. While shows like Agent Carter, Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are sufficiently distanced from the movies for it to not matter, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is bound by the rule that the Avengers cannot know that Coulson is still alive. This has led to a few cases where Coulson has to remind people who know the Avengers not to tell them about him, and in turn the movies have not acknowledged Coulson's survival even when he could or should logically appear - specifically, Avengers: Age of Ultron has Nick Fury show up with a Helicarrier he had kept hidden, and the following Agents episode established that Coulson was involved in setting it up, but the movie doesn't mention Coulson's involvement at all. This was later changed with the series made for Disney+, due to the fact that those series have direct involvement from the President of Marvel Studios himself, Kevin Feige, unlike the previous series.

    Video Games 
  • Video games based on Tolkien's Legendarium have long faced similar restriction from two opposite directions, because the licenses to adapt original literature 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 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 2 Expansion Pack Special 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 R. 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 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).
  • Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. 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 00's and before, where such a practice was more prominent.

  • The Doctor Who novels and audios after the cancellation of the original series made changes and revealed great swathes of history, much of which had to be ignorednote  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). The Doctor Who Magazine comic strip has been through a similar situation in all eras of the series, and the IDW and Titan comics have been through it in the revival.
  • The Basalt City Chronicles, which is not only an example of this trope for Gene Catlow (The author goes to the universe's creators for permission for virtually everything he adds), but is also that Verse's Manual.

  • 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, comic books, films, etc. 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 became much more integrated with the games from Halo 4 onward, especially regarding the Didact. In fact, the 343I-era expanded universe has even killed off characters introduced in the games.
  • Zig-sagged with the Comic-Book Adaptation of Adventure Time; initially, the comic's writers tried to keep it in line with the show's mythos, meaning they couldn't really do their own thing as the show's writers frequently wrote by the seat of their pants, making it hard to play catch up. Eventually, they just called it an Alternate Continuity and starting playing with the world themselves, with the arc kickstarting this change ending in The Lich getting killed off in particular. The show writers, however, considered the comic as non-canon to the show's timeline.