In early drafts, Star Wars was set in the 33rd century in our galaxy. The finished films, however, take place “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” But although the Star Wars galaxy is not the Milky Way, it’s possible that the two galaxies exist in the same universe. The answer lies in a bargain between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg: a cameo by E.T. aliens in The Phantom Menace.
E.T. in Star Wars
In Spielberg’s 1982 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the alien E.T. sees a child dressed in a Yoda costume and says, “Home!” In return for the Yoda cameo, Lucas promised to insert an E.T. cameo into the next Star Wars film.
Sure enough, three aliens of E.T.’s species appear in the Galactic Senate in The Phantom Menace. No sources identify the name of their species, but the novel Cloak of Deception by James Luceno (2001) identifies their home planet as Brodo Asogi and the senator as Grebleips (Spielberg spelled backwards). In the 84th issue of Star Wars Insider magazine, the HoloNet News, an in-universe news feature, mentions Senator Grebleips funding an expedition to another galaxy.
This is all an extended joke, of course, but it raises some interesting questions. First, the name Brodo Asogi comes from the novel E.T.: The Book of the Green Planet by William Kotzwinkle (1985), a sequel to the movie E.T. This suggests that the aliens from Brodo Asogi are in fact the same species as E.T., from the same planet, and not just Star Wars aliens that happen to look like E.T.
But Star Wars is Fiction!
There’s a problem with the idea that the Star Wars and E.T. universes are compatible: in the movie E.T., Star Wars is explicitly fictional. The child wearing a Yoda costume might be excused as a costume that just looks like Yoda, but the movie characters also play with Star Wars action figures.
The only way this makes sense is if, in the E.T. universe, Star Wars is both real and fictional. That is to say, the events in the Star Wars galaxy really happened and are part of the history of E.T.’s race. The Star Wars movies on Earth, however, are just a fictional representation of that historical record -- perhaps an idea planted by other alien visitors to Earth.
This also fits with the fact that Star Wars is set “a long time ago.” The Star Wars galaxy has several small satellite galaxies, but the first known contact with aliens from a distant galaxy occurred when the Yuuzhan Vong invaded in 25 ABY. In E.T. and its sequel, however, travel to Earth seems, if not commonplace, at least not terribly new or exciting. This indicates that if E.T. does take place in the Star Wars universe, it is set in the far future, after huge advances in the technology of space travel.
So Where is Earth in Star Wars?
If we assume that Earth and the Star Wars galaxy are part of the same universe, where are they in relation to each other? According to the tagline for the movie, E.T. is 3 million light-years away from his home planet. As a result, some fans have conjectured that Star Wars is set in the Andromeda galaxy, which is the nearest spiral galaxy to the Milky Way. Whether this qualifies as “a galaxy far, far away,” of course, is another question.
It’s unlikely that any official source will identify Andromeda -- or any other real galaxy -- as the setting of Star Wars. A proposed novel in the mid 1990s, Alien Exodus, would have involved humans from Earth traveling back in time to populate the Star Wars galaxy. But this project was never completed, and Lucasfilm has given no further indication that the Star Wars galaxy exists in the same universe as Earth.
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” is the sci-fi equivalent of “once upon a time.” It indicates a type of story that is as timeless and universal as a fairy tale. There are ways to tie the Star Wars galaxy to Earth; but perhaps they take away too much of the story’s mystery.