As I noted last time, rather than discontinue this series in the wake of the reboot of the Expanded Universe, I’m taking the opportunity to explore some of the areas where a reboot could do the most good; namely, events referenced in the films that have since been explained…and reexplained…several times. Some of these events are outright mutually exclusive, but most are just redundant, making stray bits of story only peripherally related to the films into sisyphean tales of lost and found and lost again, fighting and reconciling and fighting again, and of course, the long-distance relay race otherwise known as the theft of the Death Star plans. But first…
20. How did the Rebels steal the Imperial shuttle Tydirium?
A lot of the bigger inconsistencies in the EU were the result of the harsh dividing line between the old material that came out during and shortly after the Original Trilogy, when continuity was less of a serious concern, and the “modern” EU that started with Tim Zahn in the nineties. The theft of the Tydirium, however—probably by virtue of its placement in Return of the Jedi, and thus near the end of most of the early EU—wasn’t even mentioned until 1994, and was subsequently re-told twice more over the next decade or so.
That first version of the story, ironically, is easily the most scurrilous and forgettable. To hear him tell the story, the young Rebel pilot known only as Starter was nothing less than a one-man army; single-handedly fighting off a large group of bounty hunters (why were they hunting him? who knows) including IG-88, Dengar, and Zuckuss before finally being taken captive by no less than Boba Fett himself and delivered to Darth Vader—who he promptly locked in his meditation chamber, subsequently escaping in an Imperial shuttle he then delivered to the Alliance.
While this is of course the silliest version of the story, for once the author, Peter Schweighofer, seems in on the joke, and apparently meant it as nothing more than the tall tale of a braggart—meaning the true story would remain untold for another five years. In the flight simulation game X-Wing Alliance, one of my favorite things, you play another young pilot named Ace Azzameen, whose family’s shipping company is reluctantly drawn into the Galactic Civil War in the wake of the Battle of Hoth.
Most of the game is spent alternating between Rebel Alliance missions, flown in the usual assortment of X-wings and B-wings and so on, and family missions, typically flown in one of the Azzameens’ freighters—including the Sabra, a less-awesome version of the YT-1300 freighter most know as the Millennium Falcon. Near the end of the game, the lines get blurry and both the Azzameen freighters and Ace’s siblings Aeron and Emon start playing more direct roles in Rebel activities. When the Bothan spies Ace escorted earlier in one of the best missions ever inform the Alliance of the pending Death Star II, the plan to infiltrate the Endor bunker begins taking shape and Ace is tasked with transporting General Madine’s strike force onto Imperial Outpost 327, where they will steal the Tydirium and, importantly, its clearance codes.
One fun thing about this mission is that it offers a very clever, very subtle suggestion of where the name Tydirium comes from: once you’re docked with the outpost and the adorable handful of pixels that makes up the commando unit runs off, scrolling through the several other shuttles parked in the area reveals names like Mercurium, Xyridium, and so forth—apparently this whole batch of shuttles was named for various theoretical elements and ores. This was later confirmed in a Wizards of the Coast roleplaying supplement about Kyle Katarn, which specifically namedropped “tydirium” as an ore.
Anyway, things get hairy for a minute there, but ultimately the Sabra and the Tydirium get away thanks to a timely arrival by Rogue Squadron. Interestingly, another roleplaying scenario was written sometime later called “Stealing the Shuttle”, and actually uses the XWA mission as the basis for a story about the strike force itself.
Everything would’ve been hunky-dory if not for the intervention of another video game, Rogue Leader, just a couple years after XWA. This time, Wedge Antilles, the titular Rogue Leader, has to sneak into the Imperial Naval Academy on Prefsbelt IV and steal the shuttle himself, while you fly cover. While the game is notable in that there are a number of different ways the mission can play out depending on what time of day the game system’s clock is set to and whether you choose to meet a handful of side objectives, the story itself is pretty unremarkable—Wedge goes in, causes a ruckus, and flees.
So that mission seems at a glance to exist in direct opposition to the one in XWA, and indeed, a retcon was attempted by the book Complete Cross-Sections, which claimed that only the codes were stolen in XWA, not the actual shuttle—but since these were the days when Star Wars didn’t reboot, Holocron Keeper Leland Chee eventually decreed that both stories had happened as presented, and that XWA’s theft was first. In other words, the official story of the shuttle Tydirium in what is now the Legends universe is that it was stolen from Outpost 327 and escorted away by Rogue Squadron, only to be reclaimed by the Empire almost immediately and taken to Prefsbelt IV, where Wedge would then break in and steal it all over again. The shuttle was then flown to Endor and checked in under its real name, and Vader’s feelings notwithstanding, raised no red flags whatsoever. Go figure.