With the possible exception of the lightsaber, the most iconic aspect of the Star Wars saga is its starships. When audiences first saw the Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing from a massive Imperial Star Destroyer, it was apparent that the Star Wars universe was going to show starships of a different sort when compared to other science fiction. Instead of retro-looking rocket ships or silver saucers, ships were incredibly detailed, showed wear & tear, and set the pace for all science fiction movies to follow. Just as the Prequel Trilogy of the past decade showcased designs that were intended to appear as the precursors to the famous starships of the Original Trilogy, the new ships of the Sequel Trilogy should be their logical successors.
While I have no doubt that the good folks at Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic will create some incredible new starships, they would do well to look to the Expanded Universe for inspiration as well. Nearly two decades of novels, comic books, and video games have produced hundreds of incredible designs that would fit perfectly into the Sequel Trilogy or spinoff movies. Therefore, I propose the following five vessels from the Expanded Universe that should have a place in Episode VII.
THE TOP FIVE
1. The E-wing Starfighter
The toughest act to follow for the Sequel Trilogy will be the X-wing starfighter. Easily one of the most recognizable ships of the Star Wars saga, the fighter was the personification of the Rebels’ war fighting efforts. While it may be tantalizing for the creative minds behind Episode VII to use this fighter, the Expanded Universe already has a fighter that would serve as a great follow on to the X-wing. First shown in the comic miniseries Dark Empire (which was so loved by George Lucas that he gave copies to the staff at LFL one Christmas), the E-wing assault starfighter would be the perfect frontline weapon of the new Republic. With a nose and main fuselage that evokes the X-wing’s lines but more angular and possessing a pair of bent wings, it hearkens back to both the famous Rebel fighter and the ARC-170 of the Prequels. With three laser cannons and a powerful number of proton torpedoes, the fighter is the GFFA version of the F/A-18 Hornet, capable of dogfighting and assaulting larger targets.
Admittedly, the E-wing has a tough row to hoe. The EU tried on several occasions to make the craft the New Republic’s primary fighter, only to be repeatedly ignored and replaced by the ubiquitous X-wing. The fighter, for better or worse, is so iconic that few EU authors are brave or creative enough to retire it. Instead, we have literally gone through a dozen or more variants of the X-wing. Hopefully, the only X-wing in the Sequel Trilogy will be used by an aged Jedi Master Luke Skywalker out of nostalgia. Either way, whether as a primary fighter or in support of the X-wing, the E-wing fighter can and should be in Episode VII.
2. The TIE Defender
The sleek and deadly TIE Defender, for a generation of fans who grew up in the early 1990′s, was either the ultimate weapon or an opponent to be feared. First introduced in the Lucasarts game TIE Fighter and later incorporated into the X-wing game series, the TIE/D Defender was the Imperial equivalent (and some would say superior) of the Rebel X-wing. Faster than even the A-wing interceptor, armed with four laser cannons, two ion cannons, and a pair of concussion missile launchers, this shielded Imperial fighter was wicked and deadly. Fortunately for the Rebels, the craft was expensive and barely put into production by the time of the Battle of Endor, ensuring that the vessels never became the mainstay of the Imperial fighter corps. Despite this, elite squadrons of the Imperial Remnant used the craft successfully during the Yuuzhan Vong invasion depicted in the New Jedi Order series and during an Imperial succession crisis in the Fate of the Jedi series.
The exact state of the Empire in the Sequel Trilogy is one of the big questions that many fans will want to see answered in Episode VII. Should the new movie take a cue from the Expanded Universe and have a remnant of Imperial forces still active, the TIE Defender would be the perfect fighter for them. In a reversal of their fortunes, the Empire would lack the resources to afford the seemingly endless supply of disposal TIE Fighters. Like the Rebels of the prior generation, the Empire’s remnants would need a powerful, tough, and shielded craft to make up for their deficiency in numbers. The TIE Defender would fit the bill.
3. The MC80B Star Cruiser
Of the starships introduced in Return of the Jedi, none were more eye-catching than the Mon Calamari Star Cruisers of the Rebel Fleet. These cruisers, from a symbolic standpoint, signified how much the Rebellion had grown since A New Hope. Over the course of the three movies comprising the OT, we see the Rebels evolve from a group with a ragtag bunch of starfighters to a force possessing a fleet built to challenge the might of the Imperial Starfleet. Nothing epitomized this new firepower better than the mighty cruisers built by the Mon Calamari members of the Alliance. By the time of Episode VII, the former Rebels will have presumably formed a new Republic and will be the dominant galactic power. To be a credible government capable of defending themselves and their allies, the Rebels would need larger fleets comprised of even more powerful cruisers. There is no better example in the Expanded Universe of this evolution than the MC80B cruiser.
Introduced in the form of the cruiser Mon Remonda in the novel The Courtship of Princess Leia and detailed in the West End Games sourcebook Cracken’s Threat Dossier, the MC80B Star Cruiser was the first of a new generation of Mon Cal cruiser. Unlike the more haphazard and random appearance of the cruisers used at Endor, the MC80B was a streamlined warship optimized for fighting and delivery of firepower. Spade-shaped and wide-bodied, the cruiser was the curved equivalent of the Empire’s Star Destroyer, designed to allow for a wide field of firepower. With a larger number of weapons batteries fire-linked in banks of four, stronger shields, and extra starfighter capacity, this cruiser spearheaded the New Republic’s drive to liberate the galaxy in the five years following Return of the Jedi. This powerful, sleek cruiser would be the perfect embodiment of their victories and a great way to showcase the success of the Rebels in the decades between the OT and Episode VII.
4. The World Devastator
Should the Sequel Trilogy feel the need for a new superweapon, the EU (for better or worse) has plenty to choose from. However, the most fearsome of all was the towering World Devastators of the Dark Empire saga. These monstrous machines would descend on their target world and slowly and methodically devour entire cities. Their molecular furnaces and tractor beams would suck up buildings, starships, and people and convert their elements into usable ores. The World Devastator was also a mobile factory, using the converted ores to construct new fighters, attack craft, and other weapons of war that would be used to further terrorize their targets. The world’s population could only watch in terror as their homes were destroyed. The visuals from Dark Empire, showing the floating cities of the Mon Calamari being destroyed while their valiant defenders fight a losing battle are some of the strongest visuals from the EU. The Mon Cals and their world were ultimately saved due to a technical flaw in the Devastators, but only after they suffered tremendous losses.
When watching Man of Steel a few weeks ago, I was struck by how similar the destruction of portions of Metropolis was when compared to Dark Empire. Whole building literally crumbled and pulled upwards into the sky. Piles of rubble crushed under the might of the Kryptonian weapon that hovers above. Such visuals would be well at home in a World Devastator attack. While the use of a superweapon in Episode VII – IX would have to be handled well to avoid a rehash of the Original Trilogy, the World Devastator would have the best chance of fitting the bill.
5. The YZ-775 transport
What fan doesn’t love the Millennium Falcon? The iconic starship of Han Solo and his first mate Chewbacca is arguably more iconic than any of the starfighters and warships of the Original and Prequel trilogies. Smugglers, pirates, and other assorted fringe characters have long been at the core of the Star Wars saga. One lesser-known vessel from the Expanded Universe is the YZ-775 transport. At 50 meters long, the vessel is about a third larger than the Falcon. The design elements of this vessel are distinctly Corellian–the cockpit, engine arrangement, speed, and armament all being hallmarks of the Corellian Engineering Corporation. The YZ-775 actually can trace its roots to early concept art of the Millennium Falcon by Ralph McQuarrie. That concept for the Falcon was eventually modified and used for the Rebel Blockade Runner (known to EU fans as the CR90 Corellian Corvette). It was also the basis of yet another starship, the DP20 Corellian Gunship. The YZ-775 too is the offspring of that concept art. It is both familiar and unique, capturing the best elements of the old with some sleek new additions. If there is to be a cocky, lovable rogue who is part of the Sequel Trilogy’s band of heroes, the YZ-775 would be the perfect vessel for this character.
The following five vessels didn’t make the final cut, but they are deserving of honorable mention. Each of these starships in one way or another embodies elements that would be well at home in Sequel Trilogy or any of the rumored standalone movies.
6. Dreadnaught-class heavy cruiser
One of the first warships introduced into the Expanded Universe was the fearsome Dreadnaught-class heavy cruiser. When first mentioned in the Thrawn Trilogy, the Dreadnaught was supposedly the main warship of the Old Republic before the rise of the Empire. Many EU fans were disappointed by the lack of the ship in the Prequel Trilogy. If one of the stand-alone films is in fact a Yoda movie as has been rumored, the Dreadnaught would be perfectly at home in a story set during the heyday of the Republic.
7. Dynamic-class freighter
Better known to fans as the Ebon Hawk of the Knights of the Old Republic game series, the Dynamic-class freighter is a design that would be at home in any era. Evoking elements of the Millennium Falcon while still managing to be unique, the freighter is the perfect craft for a wily smuggler, a notorious pirate, or even a rogue Jedi Knight on a mission. Like the Dreadnaught heavy cruiser above, the Dynamic-class freighter would be well at home in a standalone movie set during the better days of the Old Republic and would be well at home alongside the more familiar craft of the Prequel Era.
8. Hapan Battle Dragon
Few vessels introduced into the Expanded Universe are as unique as the Hapan Battle Dragon. These fearsome warships from the Hapes Consortium resemble a pair of saucers connected in the center and linked all around the edges with long pylons. Smaller than the Empire’s Star Destroyers or the Rebel’s Mon Cal cruisers, the Battle Dragon is still a formidable opponent. The dorsal and ventral saucers are ringed with rotating weapons batteries and they carry an array of starfighters and bombers. Their inclusion would also allow the reclusive Hapans, a matriarchal monarchy in the Mid Rim, to potentially figure into the Sequel Trilogy as well.
9. X-83 TwinTail starfighter
The Sequel Trilogy will, almost certainly, in part revolve around Luke’s new order of Jedi Knights. As we saw in the Prequels, the preferred mode of transportation for a Jedi Knight on the move is a sleek, fast starfighter. If the folks at LFL and ILM are looking for inspiration, they need look no further than the comic series Star Wars: Legacy. The Jedi Knights of this era travel in style with the X-83 TwinTail starfighter. The design evokes several GFFA and real-world designs, including the venerable X-wing and the P-38 Lightning of the Second World War. This sleek fighter was used by the Jedi Order during the Second Imperial Civil War/Second Rebellion as portrayed in the Legacy series. Use of the X-83 would also help remove the temptation of relying on X-wings in the Sequel Trilogy.
10. Nebula-class Star Destroyer
From the Republic assault ships at Geonosis to the mighty Imperial-class warships of the Original Trilogy, the Star Destroyer has been an irreplaceable part of the Star Wars saga. Several classes of Star Destroyer have been introduced and used in the Expanded Universe over the past several decades, serving antagonists and heroes, as well as one lucky smuggler. One of the coolest was the Nebula-class Star Destroyer (also known as the Defender-class), which served the New Republic Navy against the remnants of the Empire and threats from beyond the Galactic Rim. Smaller than the Empire’s Star Destroyers and possessing of a more streamlined and sleek profile, the Nebula-class would be perfectly at home in the fleets of a new Republic in the Sequel Trilogy. Having these Star Destroyers serve the good guys would also provide for a great visual contrast, as you would have both the angular Star Destroyer and the curved Mon Cal cruiser serving side by side for the first time.
Regardless of whether we see brand-new starships, some of the older ones, or even some EU designs, one thing is certain. In May 2015, I will be one of countless fans, old and new, who will be anxiously sitting in a theater waiting to see what sort of magic Episode VII delivers. If done right, the new Sequel Trilogy, like its predecessors, will open with a majestic starship soaring through the stars and into our imaginations.