One of the frustrating things about running an op-ed blog instead of a news blog is, you occasionally have to set aside what you’re most excited to talk about in favor of the thing that’s most fully developed. In this case, I’m writing these words within hours of the announcement of the first standalone Star Wars film, Rogue One, but it’s way too soon to have anything worthwhile and intelligible to say about what’s basically just a title at this point. If you’d like to see me talk about why this appears to be great news, you can head here to see me make the case for a Red Squadron novel about a year ago, or stay tuned to Tosche Station Radio, where I’ll be a guest next week for just that reason.
Moving on—the other weird thing about this piece is that I couldn’t quite decide whether to bill it as an Expanded Universe Explains or an Escape Pod, for reasons that will become clear shortly. For starters, though, let’s talk about Taanab. Originally referred to, of course, in Return of the Jedi, the “Battle of Taanab” was a conflict that for some reason involved civilian (and scoundrel) Lando Calrissian back before he got mixed up with the Rebellion. When he was awarded the rank of General despite seemingly no military experience, he speculated that Alliance leadership must have heard about his “little maneuver” at Taanab. » Read more..
The Inquisitor. The first Star Wars Rebels character the audience ever saw teased. The new bad guy in the building. The nameless Inquisitor appears as a merciless Jedi hunter on His Imperial Majesty’s service, wielding both considerable political power and a ridiculously kickass lightsaber and getting his orders straight from Lord Vader. The Inquisitor was actually the first new character in the new Star Wars canon, at least from a certain point of view. But this formidable darksider didn’t appear out of thin air: he’s actually an updated version of a very old Expanded Universe concept, of an old Expanded Universe character, even. So, where does he really come from? The concept of an Imperial Inquisition started as a completely unrelated one-off reference that over time would slowly morph from a sort of political police into a true army of the Emperor’s dark minions, not unlike the Knights of the Sith from the early Star Wars drafts.
The Imperial Inquisitors first appeared on the old West End Games roleplaying game, like most good things with the Expanded Universe (I’m just kidding –okay, I’m not). The first time we heard anything about Inquisitors was in the pages of one of the first books to try to describe the galaxy’s minutiae, The Star Wars Sourcebook (1987), and not even in a “Powerful Darksiders of the Empire” section or anything memorable like that. No, it was under “Assassin Droid”, where we can read an apparently random anecdote about an assassin droid that crashed a shuttle against the Imperial palace of Weerden, killing someone called “Lord Torbin, the Grand Inquisitor”. This character, later given the full name of Laddinare Torbin, was indeed our first Imperial Inquisitor, but the way the sourcebooks described him didn’t have much to do with the creepy dark side enforcer of Star Wars Rebels fame. » Read more..
As I’ve noted previously, the current batch of Expanded Universe Explains topics has focused not just on general questions about the Galaxy Far, Far Away, but specifically on the areas that were overexplained—events referenced or implied by the films that were then, by virtue of their movie connection, explained multiple times in the EU. The granddaddy of all of these, any EU fan will tell you, is the very first one: the theft of the plans for the Death Star.
While literary portrayals of the event weren’t abnormally common (like most things prior to A New Hope, early novelists actually treated it with a certain careful reverence), if you played a Star Wars video game at basically any time in the nineties, odds are good you had the plans in your possession at some point—almost as good as the odds that you eventually blew the damn thing up yourself.
It’s almost impossible to present a coherent timeline of the myriad versions of the story that exist in what is now the Legends continuity; I’m going to do my best, but it should be noted that where events flatly contradict each other it’s generally accepted that there were multiple sets of plans floating around that only formed a complete picture after being assembled. Whether Artoo had all of them during ANH or just one piece is also debatable. » Read more..
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. » Read more..
Now that we’re officially living in a post-reboot Galaxy Far, Far Away, one could be forgiven for thinking my EU Explains series isn’t really relevant anymore. I, however, think no such thing. I love the Expanded Universe largely because of the context and depth it gives to the many ambiguous bits in the movies—the spice mines of Kessel? Bothans?—and even if it can no longer be entirely relied upon to bear out in future content (which, let’s admit it, was always the case), even the most oft-contradicted sources present a fascinating superposition of possibilities for those bits, and will almost certainly be sprinkled into the new canon here and there; likely even the Sequel Trilogy itself.
Understanding the possibilities, I think, is just as valuable as knowing things for certain. To that end, for the time being I’m going to capitalize on this lack of certainty and begin exploring topics that even the EU was never quite sure about—the bounty hunter(s) on Ord Mantell, for example, or how the Rebels got a hold of the shuttle Tydirium. I may even untangle the myriad tales of the Death Star plans. But first… » Read more..