With Star Wars: Episode VII due to come out next summer, and with a recently announced standalone film set for December 2016, Lucasfilm has chosen to clarify which aspects of its “Expanded Universe”—books, comics, video games—are considered “canon” by the powers that be. Turns out, only the six films and The Clone Wars television series, as well as the upcoming show Rebels, count. This means that, while J.J. Abrams and company are free to mine non-canonical events and characters for their purposes, most if not all of what makes up the Star Wars Saga doesn’t count any more (if it ever did).
And in all fairness to Lucasfilm, we can’t blame them. Some aspects of the Expanded Universe got pretty far out there. This isn’t to put down the contributions of great authors like Matthew Stover and Karen Traviss; it’s simply recognizing that, even in a universe with laser swords and psychic powers and walking carpets, there is still a standard for weirdness.
5. Shatterpoint Is Basically Apocalypse Now In Space
Set during the Clone Wars between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, Matthew Stover’s novel Star Wars: Shatterpoint centres on Jedi Master Mace Windu (famously played by Samuel L. Jackson in the prequels) as he attempts to track down and subdue his former padawan, who has gone rogue and drifted toward the Dark Side during the conflict. As Windu ventures through the dense jungles of his home planet, seeing firsthand the physical and psychological damage the war has left in its wake, it becomes clear that Stover’s novel is a deliberate homage to Francis Ford Coppola’ seminal war film Apocalypse Now, not to mention its literary basis, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.
Considerably darker than most Star Wars content, Stover’s novel did not shy away from frankly depicting the details of war, featuring characters such as Liane “Chalk” Trevval, a female Korun soldier who had been sexually assaulted during the conflict. Neither was Shatterpoint Stover’s only attempt at probing the heart of darkness in the Star Wars Saga; his novelization of Revenge of the Sith, released prior to the movie in 2005, unflinchingly describes Anakin Skywalker’s massacre of the Separatist leaders and delves deeper into the young Sith Lord’s psychology than the movies ever did.
4. The Emperor’s Clones
Everybody’s favourite shriveled and cackling despot met a nuclear-powered end at the climax of Return of the Jedi when his—until very recent—apprentice, Darth Vader, tossed him into the second Death Star’s reactor core, supposedly freeing the galaxy from his tyrannical, arthritic grip. But if you think an evil mastermind who could should lightning from his fingertips didn’t have a contingency plan or two, you didn’t know Emperor Palpatine.
In the post-Jedi comic book series Dark Empire, it’s revealed that the Emperor had prepared for a coup/betrayal/old age by creating a collection of clones. Mindless, the Palpatine copies are unable to function on their own—until, that is, the Emperor comes back as a ghost, courtesy of some other Sith ghosts who feel the old fiend deserves a second go at galactic domination. While the Emperor is able to possess a clone body, his plans for a Second Galactic Empire go awry when Luke and Leia—the latter of whom has made good on her Force sensitivity and become a Jedi—defeat him in a lightsaber battle. Not all of the clone forms are destroyed, and Palpatine’s ghost eventually possesses another one of them in Dark Empire II and Empire’s End before meeting his final doom.
3. Darth Maul Survives, Gets Robot Legs, Goes On A Rampage
The heavily tattooed, double-bladed lightsaber-wielding Sith Lord was heavily promoted leading up to the release of Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace in 1999, but critics and audiences were surprised to see him dispatched by the movie’s end rather than become the main villain of the prequel trilogy. But Maul’s popularity was such that being struck down only made him more powerful than anyone could possibly have imagined—in the Expanded Universe, that is.
Maul reappeared in “Old Wounds,” a short comic story written and pencilled by Aaron McBride that was released as part of the Star Wars: Visionaries series. Sometime after his apparent demise at the hands—lightsaber, rather—of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Maul’s upper half was found, preserved, and fitted with a pair of triple-jointed bionic legs. Thirsting for vengeance, he tracks Kenobi to Tatooine, where the older Jedi is hiding in exile after leaving Luke Skywalker with the Larses. A skirmish ensues in which the Sith fights both Kenobi as well as Owen Lars, resulting in the latter shooting Maul to death.
An interesting coda: Maul’s survival—as well as his bionic legs—made it into actual Star Wars canon when he appeared as a major villain in The Clone Wars animated series, teaming up with his brother Savage Opress in a crusade to eradicate both the Jedi and the Sith. So while almost everything else in this list has been effectively annulled by Lucasfilm, robo-Maul remains.
2. Boba Fett Also Survives, Trains Han And Leia’s Daughter
Though he appeared in the original Star Wars trilogy for less than 20 minutes, the armoured and stoic bounty hunter Boba Fett has become one of the most popular characters in the entire saga, eventually warranting his appearance as a child in Attack of the Clones—where it was revealed his father/genetic source Jango Fett played an instrumental role in the creation of the future Imperial army.
Fett is so popular he even appeared after his apparent death in Return of the Jedi, using his jetpack to blast his way out of the Sarlacc’s maw. Nursed back to health by Dengar, a fellow bounty hunter who briefly appeared in The Empire Strikes Back, he returns to his seedy ways. Years later, he is sought out by Jaina Solo, the daughter of Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa, so she can receive advanced combat training in order to fight her twin brother Jacen, who recently became a Sith Lord.
Speaking of that…
1. Han And Leia’s Oldest Son Becomes A Sith Lord
Return of the Jedi ended with Han and Leia as an item, and several years down the line their relationship has borne fruit: fraternal twins Jacen and Jaina and youngest son Anakin, named for his grandfather. Anakin was tragically lost in a battle against the Yuuzhan Vong during the New Jedi Order series, but, hey, at least Han and Leia have two other good kids, right?
Except that the ensuing Legacy of the Force book series, a collaboration by authors Karen Traviss, Aaron Allston and Troy Denning, sees Jacen gradually lured to the Dark Side by Lumiya, a one-time apprentice of Darth Vader and Lady of the Sith. Spanning the course of several books, Jacen’s fall from grace and transformation into Darth Caedus results in the Second Galactic War and the deaths of thousands, among them his Uncle Luke Skywalker’s wife, Mara Jade. His own sister is forced to confront him, and using her aforementioned training from bounty hunter Boba Fett kills him in single combat.
While the Legacy of the Force series is far from the happy ending George Lucas envisioned with Return of the Jedi, certain fans can assured with the knowledge it doesn’t really “count” anymore—unless, that is, J.J. Abrams feels it’s good movie material. We shall see.