Abandoned Universe: What Could Have Been

ST_Lightsaber

The Star Wars Expanded Universe has grown quite large over the years, containing everything from comics to novels to video games. Most of these entries exist within the same continuity, a notable few do not, and some linger somewhere between the two in a sort of state of canon limbo, waiting for day that executive judgment comes and their fate is decided one way or the other. All of these stories share at least one thing in common, however: they were published.

They were released and distributed to, paid for, and read by legions of eager (and occasionally less-than-eager) fans. But what of those tales that never quite made it into circulation for public consumption? Those that made the leap off the drawing board, but still fell short of the printing press in the end? It’s true that there are likely countless proposed and discarded concepts of which we will never hear, but a rare few proved sufficiently promising to be formally announced and yet still failed to see fruition.

In today’s feature, we will examine several of these uncommon cases in which stories were revealed and dangled in front of our eyes before being suddenly snatched away and left as mere obscure historical curiosities.

Mandorla

Nomi Sunrider, the only known Star Wars character to have her surname at the center of a trademark dispute.

The only known Star Wars character to have her surname at the center of a trademark dispute.

Set to star Tales of the Jedi’s Nomi Sunrider (recently renamed Nomi Da-Boda by the MMORPG The Old Republic, the Sunrider surname possibly once more a casualty of vehicular homicide perpetrated by a territorial Jeep), Mandorla was to be the debut entry into the Star Wars universe for Alexander C. Irvine, author of the award-winning 2002 novel, A Scattering of Jades.

Advertised as “a standalone hardcover novel set in the time of the ancient Jedi Knights,” the tentatively titled Mandorla was intended to further explore the relationship between Nomi and her daughter, Vima, as they dealt with a threat posed by the Sith and the Mandalorians several years prior to the storyline of Knights of the Old Republic.

Originally to be released in October 2010, the novel was first pushed back to February 2011, then to December 2011, and then September 2012, before ultimately being confirmed cancelled on February 29, 2012 due to “changes in direction and concepts in the overall publishing plans.”

Imperial Commando 2

Nothing says “black ops” quite like bulky body armor white as snow.

Nothing says “black ops” quite like bulky body armor white as snow.

Unique among the never-weres and could’ve-beens of the Expanded Universe, Imperial Commando 2 was not to be a standalone story or the start of a new series, but rather was to be a continuation in the popular series of novels that started with noted science fiction author Karen Traviss’ Republic Commando, and a direct sequel to what would turn out to be her final contribution to the franchise, Imperial Commando: 501st.

The story would have brought a measure of closure to the unlikely band of Mandalorians and Clone Troopers brought together over the course of the previous novels, dealing with their struggles against Palpatine’s newly-risen Empire and its attempts to exert control over the environmentally-inconsistent world of Mandalore, as well an even-more-violent-than-usual splinter faction of Mandalorians known as the Death Watch.

Originally set for a July 2010 release and framed as the author’s last addition the Star Wars universe, it was first pushed back to November 2010, and then experienced a significant setback when Traviss withdrew from the project over unresolved issues with the publisher. The novel was then rescheduled for a February 2012 release with a new author, but in the end the novel was announced to have been officially cancelled on July 19, 2010.

Since then, Traviss has gone into considerable detail on her official website regarding how the plot might have gone had she been able to see it through to completion, including the development of a cure for the genetically-programmed accelerated aging of the clone troopers and the fate of most of the series’ main characters as they disappear in order to evade persecution by the Empire.

Blood Oath

I can't decide which is less practical: the desert hermit robes, or the conspicuous stomach-baring biker leathers? I'm torn.

I can’t decide which is less practical: the desert hermit robes, or the conspicuous stomach-baring biker leathers? I’m torn.

A side story starring the mononymous Zekk, one of the young Jedi Knights originally created for the aptly-named Young Jedi Knights series of young reader stories and the perpetual romantic runner-up in the Sisyphean competition that is Jaina Solo’s love life, Blood Oath was to begin where the last novel in Legacy of the Force’s nine-book cycle left off – with the unfortunate Jedi left stranded in space in damaged starfighter.

In the course of his attempts to rejoin his comrades, he would have been drawn into the chaotic aftermath of a failed assassination attempt on the ruling Queen Mother of the Hapes Consortium, Tenel Ka, made by the Imperial Remnant’s Moff Council. The attempt would have exposed an “ancient secret” that posed a significant threat to the Hapan people, leaving Zekk with little choice but to do what he could to avert disaster, even without the aid of his fellow Jedi.

Also appearing in the novel would have been the twin sisters Taryn and Trista Zel, near-identical cousins of the Queen Mother who had debuted in Invincible, and later returned alongside Zekk to make several appearances over the course of the next nine-book cycle, Fate of the Jedi. Originally set for an April 2009 release, Blood Oath was pushed back first to December of that year, and then to April 2010 before being officially cancelled in August 2009 after author Elaine Cunningham (who previously wrote the New Jedi Order’s Dark Journey) was unable to submit a manuscript due to events beyond her control.

The events of the novel may have found their way back into canon, however, after vague references were made to Zekk’s disappearance and mysterious involvement with the Hapan sisters between the end of Legacy of the Force and their reappearance in Fate of the Jedi.

Escape from Dagu

Shaak Ti and Artel Darc, seen here in the most uncomfortable poses since Jacen Solo crotch thrusted his way onto the cover of Destiny's Way.

Shaak Ti and Artel Darc, seen here in the most uncomfortable poses since Jacen Solo crotch thrusted his way onto the cover of Destiny’s Way.

With the release of Attack of the Clones in 2002, the Expanded Universe saw the addition of a considerable amount of Clone Wars-related tie-in material. Escape from Dagu was to be one such novel. Originally set for a March 2004 release, the story was to be authored by William C. Dietz, best known in the franchise for his Dark Forces trilogy of novellas starring the exceptionally-popular protagonist of the video game series upon which they were based, Kyle Katarn.

Escape from Dagu was to feature one of the new Jedi Masters introduced in Episode II, Shaak Ti, as a prisoner in a Separatist labor camp full of captured Republic soldiers on the swamp world of Dagu. Opposing her would have been one of Count Dooku’s many minions, the dark Jedi Artel Darc, as he sought to apprehend another prisoner in possession of vital information that could turn the tide of the war against the Republic.

Ultimately, Escape from Dagu was cancelled and replaced in the lineup by Sean Stewart’s Yoda: Dark Rendezvous. Despite its untimely demise, however, the novel’s events do still hold some sort of place in the overall continuity, as they were loosely referenced by the HoloNet News feature in Insider magazine before it was determined that it would not see publication.

Knightfall

Take away the context, and you've got the cover to Embrace of Pain, a Yuuzhan Vong romance novel. Totally a love triangle going on there.

Take away the context, and you’ve got the cover to Embrace of Pain, a Yuuzhan Vong romance novel. Totally a love triangle going on there.

Despite the considerable number of entries in the New Jedi Order series, there still remain more works that went unpublished. Foremost among these is the Knightfall trilogy, which was to consist of three novels, titled Jedi Storm, Jedi Fire, and Jedi Blood. Set between Balance Point and Star by Star, the trilogy was to be authored by Michael Jan Friedman, known for his extensive work in the Star Trek franchise. Its existence first revealed by its cover artist in June 2000, Jedi Storm was set for a February 2001 release, its story to feature the continuing adventures of astrophysicist Danni Quee during the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, alongside a mysterious new Jedi Knight called Jorallen, as they pursued a Yuuzhan Vong priestess responsible for the abduction of a number of Force-sensitive individuals.

Elsewhere in the galaxy, the novels would have explored the willingness of the common people to hand over the Jedi to the Yuuzhan Vong in exchange for their worlds being spared by the crusading alien invaders, and the efforts of Luke, Han, and Leia to protect the Jedi from the threat posed by these collaborators. Unusually for an unpublished novel, Jedi Storm was actually completed prior to its cancellation, which was due to a change in creative direction and a desire to reduce the number of New Jedi Order novels in order to make more room for material related to the new Prequel Trilogy films. Knightfall‘s place was later taken by the Edge of Victory duology, authored by Gregory Keyes.

Alien Exodus

No matter how weird you think this is going to be, it's going to be weirder.

No matter how weird you think this is going to be, it’s going to be weirder.

Among all the Expanded Universe’s unrealized projects of which we are aware, Alien Exodus is perhaps the most unusual. In 1994, Robert J. Sawyer, author of the novel Flashforward which was adapted into an ABC television series in 2009, was requested by his publisher to write a trilogy of novels detailing the distant past of the Star Wars galaxy. These books would have featured two major plots woven together: the first, Alien Exodus, would have dealt with the liberation of slaves from the domination of the Varlian Empire, a vast interstellar hegemony ruled by a race of massive insectoid aliens.

The second storyline, titled Human Exodus, would have served as a distant prequel to Alien Exodus, set on an early 25th century Earth closely resembling the world that appeared in one of George Lucas’ most prominent early works, THX 1138. The protagonists of Human Exodus – Dale Hender, Paxton Solo, and Antonia Corelli (along with five thousand others) – would have fled the tyrannical government of Earth aboard an improvised colony ship destined for Alpha Centauri, which would then have been transported back a long time ago to a galaxy far, far away when it encountered a wormhole beyond the borders of our solar system.

Once there, the humans would have encountered many alien species familiar to our eyes, including Rodians, Bith, and Gamorreans. The first world they discovered would have eventually been named Corellia, in honor of Antonia Corelli after she died at the hands of Rodian slavers. Dale Hender would have been the ancestor of the protagonist of Alien Exodus, Cosmo Hender, who would have gone on to be posthumously remembered as “the Skywalker” by the slaves that he freed.

Sawyer withdrew from the Alien Exodus project when it was determined that the trilogy would be unable to use the alien races that appeared in the Original Trilogy, resulting in the reassignment of the novels to author Deborah Chester. She then rewrote the story to feature entirely new species of aliens, and unlike most entries featured in this article, her stories did see publication. The Golden One (1997), The Crimson Claw (1998), and The Crystal Eye (1999) were published as the Alien Chronicles series under the Lucasfilm brand, but without any direct association to the Star Wars universe. Sawyer later made his 10,000-word outline and 12,000 words of sample chapters freely available on the internet as fan fiction.

5 comments

  1. ceiranharmony says:

    brilliant, I still miss we’d get them all, especially Alien Exodus and Blood Oath!

  2. laura dallas says:

    I would like to read Blood Oath, but that proposed cover was just too ridiculous.

  3. Great article – I would have read all of these, no hesitation, and it’s sad they were cancelled. The one novel we do need, though, is a focus on Talon Karrde – other than his short role in Greg Keyes’ TNJO books, he’s disappeared. :-(

  4. Arnold Corso says:

    Karrde’s been in a few other books in brief cameo roles, but I agree it’s a shame such a good character hasn’t been utilized more extensively.

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