After a lengthy dry spell, welcome back to Escape Pod, our recurring series in which we choose one thing from Legends and argue for its inclusion in the new canon.
When Obi-Wan Kenobi first stated “if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine”, there was next to nothing explaining what that actually meant—even after we’d heard his voice in Luke’s head later in the movie. The rest of the original trilogy implied certain things when Obi-Wan was followed by Yoda and even Anakin Skywalker, recipient of that original warning, in apparent life after death. The prequels provided the first evidence that it wasn’t just a standard Jedi thing, but rather something that had to be proactively learned, and The Clone Wars finally spelled out the whole deal by showing us Yoda’s own Force ghost training just four short years ago.
Our own Mark Eldridge recently did a deep dive into the lore—and more importantly, the principles—of existence beyond death and what it means. In his conclusion, he stressed how important said principles are to the core messages of the franchise:
…the Force ghost mystery takes us to the heart of Star Wars: the selfless choice or the selfish, letting go and finding enlightenment or clinging on and causing suffering. Future filmmakers may be tempted to introduce a form of “dark side” immortality, but should resist the thought, because it would fatally undermine the value system at the heart of a series which was designed to teach these lessons to children.
That’s no hypothetical concern, either. With more than three decades passing between the first time we saw Obi-Wan vanish and when we finally received a full, official explanation, countless fans grew to adulthood without those answers, many of them ultimately creating Star Wars stories of their own, and without a full understanding of this subject, the Expanded Universe was rife with immortality. Most famously, in one of the earliest “modern” EU stories, Palpatine himself returned in a cloned body six years after his death at Endor. » Read more..
For most of season two of Star Wars Rebels, it was hard to miss the signs that things were building towards an explosive conclusion. Not only was it explosive, but the season two finale shook things up in a major way. What looks (no pun intended) to be the biggest game changer is Kanan being permanently blinded after his duel with Maul. Granted, it’s entirely possible this injury will be fixed by next season (after all, medical technology in the Star Wars universe is capable of some pretty amazing things) but I’m hoping that it stays permanent. For one, it would be especially great on the representation front to show that physical limitations don’t mean you can’t still be a hero.
But secondly, it presents the perfect opportunity for a fun nod back to the Legends timeline. If Kanan is going to learn to cope with his newfound blindness, he’s going to need help. He can manage for the time being through intense concentration in the Force, but he probably won’t be able to maintain that level of concentration 24/7. And that’s where the Miraluka come in.
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Moral relativity is hard to do in Star Wars, because it’s a tale of good versus evil. However, sophisticated storytelling expects that things are rarely black and white. Add in the influence of fans, and it’s not surprising that villains end up being quite popular in Star Wars. The Galactic Empire is probably one of the most popular villains in fiction, and so it’s easy to see why there’s an interest in presenting the Empire as a little more nuanced than purely evil. This always runs the risk of whitewashing Imperial atrocities, or presenting the “good Imperial” – the person who is certainly not a Rebel, but also not a bad person. We’re personally always suspect of the idea of the “good Imperial,” because while we very much enjoy reading about Imperials we also don’t want to sacrifice the theming of the Star Wars saga.
The new Star Wars canon has done a good job addressing this issue so far, from realistically portraying how people end up buying into the Imperial system in Lost Stars, to exploring the loss of innocence and seduction of evil in the Servants of the Empire series, to examining the mindset of an Imperial Security Bureau agent in Rebels. At the end of the day though, the people who stick with the Empire are usually either delusional, corrupted, or participants in the Imperial system – at least those who are involved in furthering its goals. But not always. There are certainly the rare Imperials who serve with honor and distinction, and try to refuse the worst orders – even if they’re not “good” compared to the heroes of the saga, they might be good by Imperial standards. But there are also those who realize their decency isn’t compatible with Imperial service, it’s these people we want to talk about today: Imperial defectors.
In the Legends EU, many prominent Rebel characters – including film characters such as Jan Dodonna, Crix Madine, Biggs Darklighter, and Derek “Hobbie” Klivian – began their careers as dutiful Imperial officers. EU mainstays such as Kyle Katarn, Soontir Fel, and Tycho Celchu also started out as Imperial officers. These officers defected to the Rebellion when they realized that the Empire wasn’t living up to its own honorable ideals, often in response to atrocities they were ordered to commit. Biggs and Hobbie defected almost right out of the Academy, taking their ship – the Rand Ecliptic – with them. Imagine what other defectors flew with them – heroic, goodie-two-shoes aren’t the only kind of people who might’ve left the Empire’s service and we’re missing out on good characters if we think that. Lost Stars and Aftermath both gave us examples of flawed, human Imperial officers who defected to the Rebellion – but there’s such storytelling potential in exploring the different types of people who might come to a realization that Imperial service just isn’t for them.
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In addition to the many existing Legends stories that are ripe for adaptation in the new canon, there are some that, while full of potential, Legends never really got around to telling. One of these is the legend (ha) of the Katana fleet. Dating back to Dark Force Rising, the second book of the Thrawn trilogy, the Katana fleet was a huge force of two hundred Dreadnaught heavy cruisers that went missing
thirty-two forty-five twenty-seven many years before the Battle of Yavin only to be discovered by the smuggler Talon Karrde, and eventually to become a piece in Grand Admiral Thrawn’s game against the New Republic.
The fleet was constructed at a time when the Old Republic’s power had grown stagnant—we knew that much even in 1992—and was meant to symbolize a return to greatness. All two hundred ships had their controls slaved to the flagship, meaning that they could be crewed by a scant two thousand people each (as opposed to the ships’ usual complements of sixteen thousand, or later Star Destroyer crews of more than double that). This way, the Katana fleet represented military might without militarization; the cutting-edge slave-circuit technology meant increased security for the Republic with a bare minimum of its sons and daughters put in harm’s way.
That was the plan, anyway. Upon the fleet’s launch, the crew of the Katana itself was ravaged by a deadly virus that had the fun side effect of driving them insane before it killed them. In their delirium, the crew jumped the Katana to random hyperspace coordinates and brought the entire fleet with them, never to be seen—by the Republic—again. » Read more..
I love the Bantam era, and have in fact written in defense of a whole period of Star Wars publishing that, though ridiculous, is near and dear to my heart. There’s a sizable chunk of us fans who were brought in by books like the Thrawn trilogy and who kept reading even through The Crystal Star and The New Rebellion. Now, we’ve all had discussions about the plot quality, the villain and superweapon of the week, and all the other things we laugh at this whole era for. However, there are many good things. And one of them is the way this whole era handles politics and world-building. A galaxy that’s undergone two major government changes in the last twenty years of history won’t be the most reasonable place, and perhaps it took a publishing era of mixed-up timelines, impressively blundering villains, bizarre technology, and Waru to make it all really feel like Star Wars.
When I first heard that The Force Awakens might have a galaxy in which the New Republic or whatever wouldn’t be fully in power, I was suddenly excited. Even when I was twelve and devouring every last Star Wars book I could grab, I wondered just how the Rebel Alliance had made themselves into a functional government in just five years. How could they have gone from a rag-tag band of freedom fighters to a normal government, complete with bureaucracy enough to make us believe they’d been in power for years? It seemed a bit hard to understand, and seeing the New Republic withstand threat after threat to their rule and always come out unscathed made me wonder. Hearing that the reimagining of the galaxy might not be so secure actually made me feel better about TFA- it’s hard to reconstruct the government of a galaxy no matter what. We see that whatever’s going on between the New Republic and the Resistance and the First Order and whoever else is there, it isn’t very organized. Something happened that created the First Order, something happened that destroyed whatever Jedi were rebuilding, and the New Republic and the Resistance aren’t the same people. There are so many factions, so many layers of politics, and that makes for many stories to be told. Think back on all the different sides of the story in the old EU; we saw many small parts of Empire and Republic and others jockeying for power. It was a complicated mess, and that made for lots of storytelling space and a big galaxy for new problems to arise in.
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