Skip to main content

The Expanded Universe Explains, Vol. VIII – Han and Lando

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

The Expanded Universe Explains, Vol. VII

16. What was R2-D2’s backstory pre-Episode I?

Technically, I can’t answer this one, but I’m including it here largely as a curiosity: unless both my memory and Wookieepedia fail me, there is essentially zero information about Artoo prior to The Phantom Menace. He seems to be in pretty good shape when he first appears in the film, so it’s reasonable to conclude that he was a relatively new arrival—but then, the Naboo are notable for keeping pretty much everything nice and polished, so even that’s far from certain.

Interestingly, despite the fact that TPM ostensibly shows him first being put together, there is a bit more information out there regarding Threepio’s pre-saga existence. Before the prequels, in fact, older Expanded Universe sources had established him as being more than 100 years old. This was reconciled with TPM thanks to the fact that he’s already more or less operational—Anakin says he built him, but there’s no indication that he started from scratch. Read More

The Expanded Universe Explains, Vol. VI

yoda escape pod concept

13. How did Obi-Wan know where Yoda was?

First, some background.

Dagobah, while not being at all noteworthy in a political sense, is a fairly noteworthy planet as far as the Force is concerned. It was “discovered” and subsequently forgotten multiple times over the years, and one survey team actually found that life there was abnormally ripe for genetic and medicinal research (remeber Luke’s “massive life form readings”?). Likewise, one of the reasons Yoda chose to hide there was because it was so choked with myriad other life forms that his own Force presence would be largely subsumed and harder to detect. Whether the strong Force signature caused the biological potency or vice-versa is pretty much a “chicken v. egg” situation, so it’s easier to just look at Dagobah as the Amazon rain forest of the Star Wars galaxy—teeming not just with life, but with an abnormal variety of life with abornally unique properties.

One thing that tends to bug hardcore Expanded Universe fans is the unusual amount of important events and/or people on Tatooine—a planet that’s very explicitly stated to be the ass end of space, but is constantly revisited due to its iconic status. Dagobah has a similar problem, relatively speaking, but its role as a major waypoint in the Force-User’s Guide to the Galaxy is, as I’ve discussed before, the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card where coincidental arrivals are concerned. As such, there are a couple options for the origin of the dark-side cave, but the most likely candidate these days is a duel between an errant unnamed Dark Jedi Master and the Jedi Knight Minch—who was sort of a wink-wink, nod-nod stand in for a younger Yoda himself—in 700 BBY. The Dark Jedi was killed, leaving a stain on that location around which the cave eventually evolved. The origin of this story was a reference all the way back in Heir to the Empire to Yoda killing a Dark Jedi there; Lucas gospel, however, maintains that Yoda had never been to Dagobah prior to Revenge of the Sith, hence the stand-in. The death of a major dark-sider leaving a mark like that is pretty standard fare; in fact, one of the more creative fan theories going around in the early days of the prequels was that Naboo would somehow become Dagobah, and the cave was the spot where Darth Maul had died.
Read More

The Expanded Universe Explains, Vol. V

Thanks once again to Pearlann Porter, my endless font of Star Wars questions.

10. Who was the persuader/catalyst for engaging with Luke, Obi-Wan or Qui-Gon?

It was the plan all along. As of Revenge of the Sith, Yoda had already been communing with Qui-Gon for some time, so to what extent Qui-Gon talked him into what eventually became The Plan is hard to say. Also hard to say is how Ben would’ve handled Luke had the droids not shown up when they did—it’s hard to imagine him just knocking on the door one day and trying to take Luke off for training.

But what we can say is that training was definitely in the cards all along. The RotS novelization is indispensable in this area, as it’s the best (and basically only) guide for what’s going on in Yoda’s head at the end of the movie. Basically, after proving unable to best Palpatine in their Senate fight, Yoda comes to the realization—again, having been nudged in this direction by Qui-Gon, in all likelihood—that the Jedi Order that he and Obi represent just isn’t equipped to handle the Sith that Sidious and Vader represent.
Read More

The Expanded Universe Explains, Vol. IV – Rebels Edition

I’m going to do this round a tiny bit differently—while question 9 was indeed directly submitted to me for this series (by my co-worker Peter Zappas), question 8 is more about addressing what I see as a common misconception. Both relate, either directly or indirectly, to topics that will be (or at least appear to be) raised by the forthcoming Star Wars Rebels TV series, so I thought it would be handy to pair them up in one shot.

8. Why would the Inquisitor in Rebels be an alien if the Empire is xenophobic?

This is something that comes up every so often when someone like Thrawn, or Mas Amedda, or the Pau’an Inquisitor previewed a few weeks back, is shown to be flourishing, or even vital, within Palpatine’s Empire.

While I’ll admit it’s not quite as black and white as I’d like it to be, the fact is there’s no direct evidence whatsoever that Palpatine himself had any anti-alien bias, and a lot of circumstantial evidence to suggest that he didn’t.

Ultimately, Palpatine was a Sith Lord first, a politician second. When one seriously examines his plans and worldviews as related in the books and reference material, you get the distinct impression that Palpatine viewed essentially all living beings as slaves waiting to happen. Per the last volume of The EU Explains, Palpatine’s endgame was to personally rule the galaxy for eternity, and his efforts to stamp out free will and individual autonomy and initiative were a big part of the reason that things fell apart so completely after he died. To suggest that he had special animus for nonhumans, then, is to believe that humans would’ve been in any way better off in his ideal society—when in reality all beings would have been equal in their total subservience and submission to his will.

So why the clear anti-alien bias in the Empire? Well, humans were by a wide margin the dominant race in the galaxy, and exploiting their baser prejudices was a convenient means to an end. Palpatine’s slew of nonhuman attendants in the prequels demonstrates that even if he did find other species distasteful on some level, he was perfectly happy to use them when handy—and in the case of Mas Amedda, even bring them into the fold regarding his true plans for the galaxy.

Palpatine’s real genius, after all, was in using whatever materials were available to his maximum advantage. On one side he had entrenched and influential human families in the Core like the Tarkins and the Tagges, and on the other he had overgrown corporate powers like the Trade Federation and the Techno Union, all owned and populated by aliens. The former were only too happy to help him bring the latter under heel on the assumption that that was all he really wanted—which, of course, was far from the truth.

And then there’s the Inquisitor. The Inquisitorius was conceived as something like Palpatine’s NSA; their existence was known, but their operational details—hunting down the remaining Jedi—were in the dark to almost everybody. If a Pau’an Inquisitor was forced to interact with some bigoted Admiral or Moff during the course of a mission, there’s half a chance he’d have done so without even revealing his status as an Imperial agent. And even if knowledge of a Pau’an Inquisitor somehow got into the hands of an Imperial highly-placed enough to cause Palpatine some degree of embarrassment (though that’s a vanishingly small list, especially by the time period of Rebels), like with the NSA, he’d still have plausible deniability—“Pau’an? What Pau’an? I would never!”

Further Reading: Darth Plagueis, The Dark Lord Trilogy, The Dark Empire Sourcebook

9. Are the stormtroopers in the Original Trilogy still Jango clones, or a mix of clones and recruits?

Well, for one, when the Original Trilogy was coming out, it didn’t really occur to anyone that stormtroopers might have been clones. While evidence can be found if one wants to find it (“a little short for a stormtrooper”, after all, implies a certain biological uniformity), and, hilariously, a low-rent magazine called the Star Wars Poster Monthly published an article about that very subject around the time of A New Hope‘s release, no one officially knew about it. The Marvel comics of the time even had a handful of one-off stormtrooper characters with distinct names and personalities, on the assumption that they were normal recruits similar to those seen in the Rebellion.

This assumption carried on into the “modern” EU of the nineties, with the notable exception of the Thrawn Trilogy—which addressed the subject of clone armies head-on, while not quite lining up with the picture painted by the prequels. Clone soldiers in those books were distinctly not run-of-the-mill stormtroopers; they had different Force presences from regular people, and were largely blank mental slates, if not outright unstable.

Once Attack of the Clones introduced the Grand Army of the Republic, the EU began making slow, deliberate steps toward reconciling the recruit idea (to say nothing of that “Academy” Luke was so keen on joining) with the strong implication that these were the people who eventually became stormtroopers.

For starters, you have to keep in mind the Jango clones’ accelerated aging—by Revenge of the Sith, the original batch was biologically twenty-six; by ANH, they’d have been sixty-four. Hardly fighting trim, right? AotC mentions the Kaminoans keeping Jango around, because they needed fresh samples in order to keep producing high-quality clones; once Jango died at Geonosis, that ship had sailed. So even assuming they started a fresh batch right before the Clone Wars broke out, those clones still would’ve been forty-four by ANH, and probably not fit for the front lines. That’s not to say these guys didn’t stick around (official word is that about a third of the stormtrooper corps were Fetts as of ANH), but it’s likely that they took on more and more leadership roles at time went on—or at least training positions, in the likely event of anti-clone prejudice.

Where Rebels may play into this topic is the possibility of including A) regular recruits, and B) other clone templates. Offhand statements from George Lucas suggest that in his view, once the war was over and the clones were needed less for active combat and more for general peacekeeping, the process of selecting clone templates became politicized, with individuals being selected less for their aptitude and more for knowing the right people. The EU has gotten into this a little bit, but only in the immediate aftermath of RotS, so what exactly things were like fourteen years later (when the show starts) is hard to say. What we can say is that this circumstance, combined with the decreasing effectiveness of the Jango clones and the introduction of the first genuine recuits to the stormtrooper ranks, serves to make the overall lousiness of the Original Trilogy stormies a lot more understandable.

Further reading: Order 66In His Image, When the Desert Wind Turns: The Stormtrooper’s Tale, the Thrawn Trilogy