Back in August, Star Wars Insider published the definitive Top 20 memorable moments in all of the Expanded Universe.
At least, how they saw it.
The article was accompanied by more than one request for readers to send in their own top moments, so I started up this blog in order to do just that. It may have taken me another two months or so to actually do it, but what can I say – this baby clocks in at almost 4,700 words! I have a sneaking suspicion that even the official article isn’t this long. In any event, here goes…
20. “The Empire will always strike back.” – Force Heretic I: Remnant
Sometimes it takes nothing more than a good talking-to to make a moment great. Readers have loved Gilad Pellaeon longer than almost any other EU character, but what is perhaps his greatest moment was not given to us until a couple years ago, near the end of the New Jedi Order series. Vong commander B’shith Vorrik scores a resounding victory at Bastion against Pellaeon, now Supreme Commander of the Imperial Remnant’s forces, then moves on to Borosk, snapping at Pellaeon’s heels. Thanks to added support from the Galactic Alliance, Pellaeon calls Vorrik’s bluff, and – while directing the battle from a bacta tank, it should be noted – picks up a transmission from the Vong command ship for the sole purpose of gloating. Taunting the disgraced commander as he flees the system, Pellaeon utters a line twenty-three years in the making: “You may win the occasional battle against us, Vorrik, but the Empire will always strike back.”
19. “Where is the rest of your speeder bike?!” – I, Jedi
Fresh out of the Jedi Academy, and equipped with a shiny new lightsaber built from the handle of an old speeder bike, Corran Horn is out on his own and looking for his kidnapped wife. Along the way, he finds himself up against an army of pirates led by Shala the Hutt. After spending an extended amount of time spreading rumors amongst the pirates of a vengeful Jedi ghost, be is finally lured into a confrontation at Shala’s HQ. Unbeknownst to both Corran and Shala, one of the Hutt’s subordinates is aiming to kill both of them. A laser-flechette bomb goes off in the crowded room, incinerating everyone but Corran, who uses his unique ability to absorb and reroute energy with the Force to keep his body intact.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for his clothes. Exhausted to the point of collapse, bearing nothing but his birthday suit and his lightsaber, Corran struggles to make his way through the town of Vlarnya and back to his hideout. Unfortunately, he is spotted by two townsfolk out for a late-night stroll. Trying desperately to hide his lightsaber and explain his circumstances, Corran is suddenly set upon by his good friend Elegos A’Kla. Mindful of the audience, Elegos takes Corran in a moment, and then proclaims: “There you are! Drunk, again!” He grabs the lightsaber from behind Corran’s back and holds it up for all to see. “So, where is it? Where is the rest of your speeder bike?!”
Okay, so maybe it’s not a very consequential moment. Certain things just stay with you.
18. “Call me Thrawn.” – Mist Encounter
It’s been a week since the declaration of the New Order. Imperial Captain Voss Parck is chasing a group of smugglers led by Booster Terrik through the Unknown Regions. Terrik manages to take cover in the jungle of an empty and anonymous world, but Parck is hot on his tail. A detachment led by Colonel Mosh Barris is sent to the surface, and it looks like Terrik’s time as a free man may be over, until strange things start happening to Barris’ unit. A stormtrooper goes missing, only to have his armor recovered sans body. A patrolling TIE fighter crashes amidst the trees. Explosions rip through the Imperial camp. And amidst it all an empty single-person dwelling is discovered out in the wilderness.
Behind these ingenious attacks is the Chiss expatriate Mitth’raw’nuruodo. Smuggling himself aboard Parck’s Star Destroyer, the alien agrees to be taken back to the Empire for training by a thoroughly impressed Parck, though there is the small matter of that bizarre name. “Call me Thrawn”, the alien says. A mind of Thrawn’s caliber, Parck feels, is just what the Empire needs.
17. “Maybe we have a big garden.” – Shadows of the Empire
While the relationship between the films and the EU has grown enormously in recent years,Shadows of the Empire was the one that started it all. A story set between Empire and Jedi – it was almost too good to believe. Sure, we’d already seen lots of stories set during the span of the films, thanks to the Marvel comics, but never before had the EU played such a supportive role in mapping out the continuity. This is best exemplified by the capture of the Suprosa, a “freighter” carrying “fertilizer”. In reality, the ship was the heavily-armed bearer of technical data for the second Death Star. After sparring verbally with the captain over the Suprosa‘s true purpose, Luke and his fighter unit engage the freighter and manage to disable it, but at heavy cost to their own ships. After all, many Bothans died for that information.
As an addendum to this entry, I should mention that part of what’s made the scene stick with me so long is its two video game appearances – one, naturally, in the Shadows console game, and another absolutely perfect reconstruction in the flight sim X-wing Alliance. Never before or since have Star Wars gaming and literature been so flawlessly integrated.
16. “I know a good way to warm up.” – Republic Commando: Hard Contact
After a grueling day trekking across Qiluuran farmland, newly-minted Jedi General Etain Tur-Mukan and Clone Commando Darman are settling in for the night; cold, beaten, and exhausted. Ever the soldier, Darman grabs some sticks and suggests a duel as a good way to get the blood flowing again. Etain reluctantly agrees, and what follows is, for me, the most powerful moment in the book that catapulted EU neophyte Karen Traviss to fan-favorite status.
As the friendly and brief duel unfolds, Darman attempts to build up Etain’s confidence as a leader, while trying to reconcile this fragile and uncertain young woman with the Jedi warriors he’s been bred to revere, and Etain tries to reconcile the fearless and competent warrior she sees before her with the ten-year-old child she senses within him. It’s a short and subtle scene, yet it encapsulates the tragedies of the Clone Wars, not to mention the characters themselves, in a way few other moments have.
15. “What makes you think we were ever after Valorum?” – Cloak of Deception
An anti-corporation “terrorist group” known as the Nebula Front has been striking out at the Trade Federation, hoping to diminish its power along the Rimma Trade Route. The Republic agrees to intervene, prompting rumors of an attempt on Supreme Chancellor Valorum’s life, and Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi are dispatched to investigate. As all the players assemble on Eriadu for a Trade Summit, fear that the Front may have smuggled renegade battle droids into the midst of the Trade Federation’s ruling Directorate leads to the enactment of elaborate security measures. An impenetrable shield is set up to separate the Trade Federation delegation from the rest of the summit, and all seems well as our heroes close in on Havac, the Front’s leader.
In one of the few big twist endings to be seen in the EU, Havac reveals that Valorum was never the target at all. Sure enough, the Federation’s battle droids – supplied in actuality by Darth Sidious – suddenly turn on their masters and obliterate them, while everyone outside the shield can only watch. As a result, Nute Gunray was left alone at the top of the Trade Federation’s food chain, where he was promptly given orders by his master, Lord Sidious, to blockade a defenseless Outer Rim planet called Naboo.
14. “Takes a con man to know one.” – Infinities: A New Hope
The best thing about the Infinities concept – the whole point of it, really – is that it gives us the opportunity to view the GFFA in ways that would normally be impossible. Too often, in my opinion, it was used merely as a Get Out of Continuity Free card, serving no purpose to the storytelling other than eliminating some research. Occasionally, though, an Infinities story achieved its apotheosis; teaching us something about the characters that we would never have known otherwise, and thus, altering our perception of them even in the canon stories.
One of the best examples of this came early on in the Infinities retelling of A New Hope. Luke is forced to bring Han and Chewie to Dagobah with him, and when Yoda pulls the expected “I’m just a crazy little troll” scam, the one that so befuddles Luke, the well-traveled Han Solo is quick to see past the great Jedi Master’s ruse – “this guy’s Yoda!” I’m reminded of what Pablo Hidalgo said (on these very blogs) about Yoda climbing up on Chewie’s back in RotS: it’s a moment I hadn’t even realized I’d always wanted to see. And thanks to Infinities, I saw it.
13. “Thank you…Senator Palpatine.” – Shadow Hunter
We all knew how it was gonna end, but still…wow. Our hero Lorn Pavan has a holocron revealing the Sith’s plans to blockade Naboo, and he’s got Darth Maul hot on his tail. As he struggles to evade the deadly Sith Lord, Pavan outlives two Jedi, gets willingly frozen in carbonite, and gives away his best friend. Against all odds, and with Maul closing in, Pavan is relieved to stumble upon the one person he believes he can trust: Naboo’s own Senator Palpatine.
It may not have surprised anyone when Maul showed up at Pavan’s door and executed him shortly afterward, but considering how long ago the book came out, this was an impressively overt acknowledgement of Palpatine’s dual identity, as has been only recently 100% confirmed. And it certainly made for a heartbreaking climax.
12. “Sky…Skywalker!” – Vader’s Quest
While for the most part a mediocre story, Vader’s Quest is notable for what is, for my money at least, the definitive “Vader finds out about Luke” moment. Imperial citizens on Centares have succeeded in torturing out of a captured Rebel the name of the pilot who destroyed the Death Star. Vader is not present for the confession itself, but is presented with a recording by Ban Papeega, one of the locals. As they stand by expectantly, Vader plays back the recording: “Sky…Skywalker! Sky…Skywalker!”
Instead of leaving in peace as the locals are hoping, Vader wigs out, destroying the recorder and systematically slaughtering everyone present. He chases Papeega to an aviary, where the bewildered alien vows to keep silent. “I’ve forgotten all about Skywalker!” he shouts, before Vader finishes him. Unfortunately, the birds seemed to have picked up a new word, and Vader is surrounded with the last name he ever wanted to hear again: “Skywalker! Skywalker! Skywalker!” He lashes out hopelessly at the birds with his lightsaber, then takes a blaster from one of his troopers and systematically destroys every last bird, leaving the aviary a flaming wreck.
11. “Explain it to me.” – Rogue Planet
It was a simpler time. Before that big round frame in RotS, even before the Geonosians and their “ultimate weapon”, there was Rogue Planet. Set only three years after TPM, the book can now be recognized as the first in a long line of events leading to that fateful proton torpedo. Amidst intrigue and espionage on Zonama Sekot, a brief scene depicts Raith Sienar and Wilhuff Tarkin casually discussing some of Sienar’s more elaborate designs. Tarkin finds one particularly inspirational: it consists of three impossibly giant spheres, and what seems to be some kind of enormous laser. He’s skeptical at first, but Sienar – while acting as cool as if they were discussing a toaster – convinces him that the station is firmly within the realm of the doable. Shortly afterward, Tarkin presents the design to his master, and claims sole credit.
Two movie cameos and a decade of continuity later, that subtle appearance has turned out to be the harbinger of a vastly reworked timeline for the Death Star’s construction that is only now becoming accepted. Many people were upset with what they viewed as Lucas’ trampling on the groundwork of the EU, but one fact is undeniable: you saw it here first.
10. “Dearest Han…” – The Paradise Snare
Freshly escaped from Garris Shrike and his band of criminals, and experiencing the galaxy on his own for the fist time, seventeen-year-old Han Solo lands a piloting job for the t’landa Til mining operation on Ylesia. Over time, Han meets and befriends Bria Tharen, a glitterstim miner who was drawn to Ylesia by the t’landa Til’s pleasure-inducing “Exultation” – supposedly a religious experience. It quickly becomes apparent to Han and Bria that they are in love, and once Han proves to her that the Exultation is a sham, they narrowly escape the planet together. Moving straight to Coruscant, where Han can finally live out his dream of becoming an Imperial cadet, things are looking up for Han Solo for the first time in his life, until he awakes one morning to find Bria gone, leaving behind only a note explaining that she had not yet overcome the demon of her addiction, and that she refused to drag him through her recovery.
What would have been a touching moment under any circumstances was especially poignant for me: The Paradise Snare was my first Star Wars book. Before the release of the Special Editions early in ’97, I had never seen a Star Wars movie. After eating the films up with a spoon, I started to become curious about the novels. With my fifteenth birthday coming up the following summer, I asked my mother to get me a book I’d heard about called Shadows of the Empire. Mothers being what they are, she got me this instead, along with the promise of the next two books in the trilogy if I was so inclined. Little did either of us know at the time, Rebel Dawn (the third book) wasn’t slated to come out for another nine months. The wait was excruciating, but I comforted myself with the knowledge that there were plenty of other Star Wars books to keep me busy. It comforts me still.
9. “He stole more than that.” – Republic #60: Hate and Fear
Not to toot my own horn (okay, exactly to toot my own horn), but ever since an Insider article came out early in the Clone Wars campaign saying that either Asajj Ventress or Durge would survive the war but be “changed in some way”, I was predicting that she’d be brought back from the Dark Side. Leaving aside how deliciously right I ended up being, clues were few and far between in those early days. We first met Ventress amidst a field of Gungan carcasses during an attempted bit of biological warfare against the Naboo, and her brief but ferocious role in the Clone Wars cartoon certainly didn’t paint her as a terribly sympathetic character either. Not until a year later, shortly after the Battle of Jabiim, did the first glimpse of her humanity sneak through.
Having been captured and assumed dead on Jabiim, Obi-Wan and Alpha the ARC Trooper are revealed to be wasting away in Ventress’ castle on her home planet of Rattatak. Amidst their daring rescue, we are given glimpses of her origin: orphaned at an early age amidst the chaos of her home planet, Ventress was adopted and trained by a marooned Jedi named Ky Narec. She grew strong over the years, but when Narec was killed by the same being who killed her parents, Ventress gave in to her rage and quickly came to rule over a large portion of the planet. Sure enough, Obi-Wan escapes in her fanblade starfighter, and as if losing a second fanblade to a Jedi wasn’t bad enough, he admonishes Ventress for dishonoring Narec’s memory, and takes her former master’s lightsaber with him, leaving behind not an enraged warrior of the dark, but a weeping little girl.
8. “We are lowering the shield now.” – The Last Command
There is certainly no shortage of memorable Thrawn moments out there, as Mist Encounter‘s mention earlier in this list and two other moments on the official lists attest. But for me, the pieces all came together most perfectly in the opening pages of The Last Command. Having drawn New Republic forces away from the planet Ukio – a major producer of foodstuffs in the Abrion sector, the Grand Admiral shows up with the Chimaera and ten Katana Dreadnaughts – an impressive force, but not nearly enough to overwhelm the planetary shield. He demands that the Ukians lower the shield and submit to Imperial rule. Naturally, the natives are less than convinced.
After fair warning has been given, Thrawn orders his gunners to unleash a barrage on the planet, and sure enough, the Chimaera‘s turbolasers seem to punch straight through the shield, obliterating targets on the ground. In actuality, two cruisers, manned by fresh clones, have been smuggled under the shields thanks to Mount Tantiss’ cloaking technology, and positioned to coordinate their fire with the Star Destroyer’s thanks to Thrawn’s insane Jedi ally Joruus C’baoth. Of course, the Ukians hadn’t thought of that. “This is Tol dosLla of the Ukian Overliege”, comes a transmission from the planet. “We are lowering the shield now.”
7. “Always two there are.” – The Essential Chronology
It was the retcon to end all retcons. Back in the late nineties, the Tales of the Jedi comics had given us our first glimpse of the old Jedi Order and its battles against the dark – vast armies, Sith Lords, holocrons, it was all good. Around the same time, one of the most popular Star Wars games ever – Jedi Knight – was released, giving us another glimpse into the ancient times, once again involving huge armies of Jedi and Sith, equipped with Force-attuned superweapons, and it, too, was good. Then along comes The Phantom Menace. It turns out that, by Yoda’s time, the Jedi Order had become as peaceful and introverted as it had ever been, the Sith had been all but wiped out, and there was some strange tenet mandating – and here’s where it really got interesting – that there could be only two Sith at once?
The coming years would see all kinds of effort put into fitting the old EU with the prequels, but this beauty is the one that kicked it all off. Kevin J. Anderson took the battle of Ruusan from Jedi Knight – the one where both armies were destroyed – and made it the pivot upon with the entire timeline turned. We now know that this was the last great battle between the ancient Army of Light and Brotherhood of Darkness, and that the dark side had but one survivor – Darth Bane, straight out of the TPM novelization. Having witnessed firsthand what the Sith’s mad infighting would lead to, Bane decreed that never again would there be more than one master and one apprentice at a given time. That edict would see the Sith through the next thousand years, and laid the groundwork for their ultimate revenge against the Jedi.
6. “Everyone dies.” – The Last One Standing
Abel Peña, co-author of the official 20 Most Memorable Moments article, put it best: nobody has written Boba Fett like Daniel Keys Moran (though, ironically, this moment didn’t appear in that list). In this short story written years before we knew anything at all about Fett’s history, the grand climax of his rivalry with Han Solo played itself out on the planet Jubilar amidst the signing of the Pellaeon-Gavrisom Treaty; the war of Solo vs. Fett was poised to outlive even that of Rebels vs. Empire. Ultimately, however, their brief tussle ended in a stalemate. Each had the other in his sights, and while not terribly keen on firing by this point, neither was willing to walk away. Left with nothing to do but talk, the great warriors spend a moment discussing their strange relationship, and seem to come to an agreement that they’re both too old for this nonsense. Sure enough, they parted peacefully, and would not see each other again for a decade, under far different circumstances.
5. “None shall pass.” – Traitor
Do I even need to explain? Comparisons between Star Wars and mythology are almost laughably common, but only Stover can write a scene so powerful that it actually creates mythology in-universe, in the form of Ganner, the indefatigable Jedi Knight standing between a legion of Vong and Jacen Solo. Having long struggled with his own fears and conceits, Ganner, possessing one of the more solid NJO character arcs, finally takes a stand against his enemies, both internal and external. As Jacen moves to confront the World Brain, Ganner’s final words speak for themselves: “Bring on your thousands, one at a time or all in a rush. I don’t give a damn. None shall pass.”
4. “Defend the city, we must.” – Clone Wars Volume 2
I wonder sometimes if anyone, upon their first viewing of The Empire Strikes Back, scoffed at the idea that little Yoda could possibly lift an X-wing by himself. More likely, practicality was the last thing on their minds; it was, after all, the first time we really believed what Vader said about the ability to destroy a planet being insignificant next to the Force.
How a quarter of a century changes things. Even putting aside for a moment the ridiculousness of arguing over what a 900-year-old telekinetic talking frog could really do, no one can deny that seeing Yoda moving those Trade Federation landers around was extremely cool. Or Mace riding a Droid Starfighter into a dogfight like a bucking bronco. Or any of the other myriad moments of droid butt-kicking we got to see in the second volume of Clone Wars ‘toons. I would be remiss not to mention the valiant work of Shaak Ti, Roron Corobb, and Foul Moudama as well. Master Ti’s desperate last-second fight against Grievous’ guards is one of my all-time favorite Star Wars fight sequences, and the Coruscant set piece as a whole is simply spectacular, not to mention heartbreaking, considering that basically everyone we see the Jedi fighting so desperately to protect is about to turn against them.
3. “What could you hate enough to destroy me?” – Tales: Resurrection
Another gift of the Infinities label to the world of Star Wars literature set out to answer the question on everyone’s minds after The Phantom Menace: could even Vader have taken Darth Maul? In a tale set shortly before the Battle of Yavin, Vader traces Rebel spies to Kalakar VI, where he instead finds himself confronted by a group of renegade dark side adepts and the revived corpus of Maul himself. Feeling that Vader’s Jedi roots made him unfit to stand at Palpatine’s side, they used their dark powers to bring Sidious’ first apprentice back to life and tasked him with the elimination of the tainted Sith. To the surprise of no one, Maul quickly goes to work, using his familiar acrobatics to avoid Vader’s ungainly strikes.
Throughout the fight both Sith are uncharacteristically talkative, clearly trying to unbalance the other through taunts. Maul, after all, was a vessel of pure rage; Vader, who came to the dark side out of something so pathetic as misguided love, couldn’t possibly be stronger than he. As Maul comes up on Vader’s kneeling form to deliver the killing blow, the page unleashes an explosion of symbolism: Vader has skewered his own mechanical body as a means of getting to his opponent. As Maul takes his last breaths, he wonders aloud what could possibly fill Vader with enough hatred to defeat him. “Myself”, Vader answers.
It’s ironic, really. We never would’ve been treated to this wonderful story if it weren’t for the application of an Infinities label, yet when you really look at it (when I look at it, at least), I see no problem with this gem being included in the canon. It’s certainly not the strangest thing we’ve seen the dark side do. Here’s hoping Peña or one of the other continuity heavyweights decides to adopt this sucker.
2. “Oh my God; I’m Revan!!” – Knights of the Old Republic
Here’s another moment that needs no introduction. Beating out Shadow Hunter and Cloak of Deception for the title of Biggest Shock in the Star Wars EU, KOTOR left fans reeling like no game had since Jedi Knight. After hours and hours (and hours) of fighting, exploring, and exposition, you’re finally starting to get a grasp on the period your character is inhabiting: the leader of the Sith, Darth Malak, is using an ancient weapon unearthed by his master, Darth Revan, to churn out warship after warship in his bid to conquer the Republic once and for all. Accompanied by Bastila Shan, the Jedi who defeated Revan, the player is tasked with tracking Malak down and putting a stop to his plans. And best of all, you get to do so in whatever guise you wish: black or white, bald or hairy, male or female.
Little do you expect that the game will have the last laugh, however. Your first confrontation with Malak goes quite badly; you barely make it out of the fight with your life, Bastila is abducted, and the Sith drops a bombshell like no other: Bastila never killed Revan. You, the player, in spite of whatever persona you’ve heretofore crafted for yourself, are Darth Revan – reprogrammed by the Jedi Council and sent out to destroy your own apprentice. The customizable nature of the player character only serves to hammer the point home; the point, indeed of the entire Star Wars saga: we are all susceptible to darkness. No other story has, or ever could, make you appreciate the way of the Sith quite as well as KOTOR does.
1. “When you fall, catch you I will.” – Yoda: Dark Rendezvous
Don’t get me wrong. Stover is very much the man. His handling of Dooku in the Revenge of the Sith novelization is delightfully complex, and a fitting way to say goodbye to the character. Dark Rendezvous, however, is the book that made me care about saying goodbye to him in the first place. Sean Stewart’s flashback scenes in particular served to paint a picture of a brilliant and insightful young Padawan, not yet the easily-despised bigot he would become, but a realistic rendition of one who could become that. Hoping to draw Yoda into a trap, the elder Dooku sends the Grand Master a message sewn with the seeds of redemption, attempting to appeal to Yoda’s benevolence. Naturally, the Master senses the trap, but decides that Dooku’s life, and an end to the Clone Wars, are worth the risk.
Most of the novel is spent getting Yoda from Point A to Point B, and while it does so in a relentlessly entertaining fashion, the reader knows that the real promise of the story will be the inevitable confrontation, and yet it still manages to exceed your every expectation. The usual lightsabering and imminent peril are present, of course, but what really glues your face to the page is Stewart’s absolutely perfect characterization and dialogue. Dooku’s intelligence and rhetoric are not for a moment undersold, yet Yoda consistently runs logical circles around him, proving that he will always be the wiser of the two, and thus, the more powerful. But that’s never really in question here; what really touches you as the reader is the depth of Yoda’s empathy.
During the confrontation, we flash back once more to Dooku’s youth; he is being similarly confounded by Yoda in a sparring competition, repeatedly losing his balance, yet it is not until Dooku’s frustration convinces him to throw a match that Yoda truly defeats him; Dooku, by giving in to his anger, has in reality defeated himself. Yoda points this out to his distressed student, who is almost too overcome with emotion to thank the Master for the lesson. Back in the present, however, things take a turn for the worse, due to the brilliantly-handled arrival of the erstwhile Chosen One. Dooku regains his villainous composure, and retreats to his dark master once again, the sheer tragedy of his fate now fully appreciated. “When you fall”, Yoda had promised him, so long ago, “catch you I will”.