As Splinter’s of the Mind’s Eye turns 40, we look at the 10 best things to ever come out of that Expanded Universe far, far away…
When a new Star Wars trilogy was announced in 2014, a million voices could be heard crying out in terror. It was the sound of devastated fans discovering that the Star Wars Expanded Universe – officially licensed stories, characters and merchandise based outside of the first six films – had been retconned by Lucasfilm.
Tons of treasured material may no longer be considered canon, but it still exists in the minds of the sweatiest fans, and as a source of reference and inspiration for new Star Wars films.
Forty years after the release of Splinter’s of the Mind’s Eye, the first canonical Star Wars novel –first published on February 12, 1978 and set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back – here’s the best stuff that ever happened in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
Also On Age Of Dad: Why Are Modern Star Wars Toys So Rubbish Compared To The Originals
Knights of the Old Republic
Abbreviated to KOTOR by anyone who knows what they’re talking about, the Knights of the Old Republic game series is the only part of the Expanded Universe (now referred to as Legends) that is still being released.
The MMORPG allows players to make dialogue-based choices that determine whether they belong to the Dark Side or the Light, and the combat is turn-based like other popular games, such as Final Fantasy and golf.
Star Wars Holiday Special
What an absolute travesty it is that we can no longer call the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special official canon. Who could forget visiting Chewbacca’s home world of Kashyyyk for the first time and being introduced to his father Itchy, his wife Malla and his son Lumpy?
There was a holographic hell dance-off that lasts about 20 minutes, and even a random cartoon thrown in there, introducing action figure favourite Boba Fett for the first time. Yes, the Holiday Special was an undeniable banger.
The Thrawn Trilogy
Set after the events of Return of the Jedi, Timothy Zahn’s supplementary three part book series – Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command – introduced the character of Grand Admiral Thrawn, a mean-looking blue bloke and tactical genius who takes control of the remaining Imperial fleets in an attempt to restore the Empire’s order.
Naturally, with the introduction of the First Order in The Force Awakens, this arc has now been binned, and the character of Thrawn himself has been re-purposed for official canon in Star Wars Rebels. But the novels remain one of the most successful additions to the Expanded Universe.
Introduced in the Thrawn Trilogy, Mara Jade was the Emperor’s right-hand woman. A highly skilled, Force-trained assassin, she was sent to kill Luke Skywalker, but once she’d laid eyes on his magnificent green lightsaber, she was powerless to resist his charm.
Luke brought her back to the Light and they eventually married. She is now cemented as a fan favourite and a go-to theory whenever someone questions Luke’s romantic possibilities.
Also On Age Of Dad: Star Wars Spin-Off Movies We Want To See
Shadows of the Empire
Probably the best Star Wars film that was never made, Shadows of the Empire was a major multimedia project from Lucasarts that explored the gap between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
It consisted of a novel, comic books and a video game that, when connected together, felt like you’d experienced a cinematic saga that was definitely better than the prequels.
Even by Star Wars’ standards, bringing back The Emperor after he was definitely disintegrated seems a bit far-fetched. But that’s exactly what the six-issue miniseries Dark Empire did when they resurrected the Sith Lord by way of spiritual reincarnation and cloning.
The comics also detail Luke Skywalker’s temporary shift to the Dark Side, the return of Boba Fett after being swallowed by the Sarlacc, and the first appearance of Han Solo and Princess Leia’s youngest son Anakin Solo. Basically, it gave birth to about half of the fan theories you’ve ever heard.
Dark Princess Leia
Who wouldn’t want a Princess Leia figure that comes with a red lightsaber? And not just one that you’ve taken from Darth Vader and awkwardly stuffed in her blaster-only shaped hand.
The Dark Empire figure is part of the Power of the Force toy line (1995-2000), which also included a dark Luke Skywalker and a Dark Trooper. The latter looked like a piece of rejected concept art from Lost in Space or Flash Gordon or both.
Despite ‘The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis The Wise’ being told by Emperor Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith, James Luceno’s mammoth novel about the character is not considered canon.
It details the origins of Plagueis as a life-force manipulator and his eventual fall at the hand of his apprentice, Palpatine. Leading into the events of The Phantom Menace, it offers readers an insight into Palpatine’s salad days, where he learnt the ways of the Sith and had considerably more hair.
The Solo kids
The new continuity may have decided to call its Solo-Leia offspring Ben, but the idea for the character may very well have come from the Solo children in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
There are clear parallels between Ben Solo/Kylo Ren and Jacen Solo, who also succumbs to the Dark Side of the Force and adopts a silly evil name – Darth Caedus. He’s eventually killed by his twin sister Jaina, while their little brother, Anakin, dies young. A bit of a tragedy all round.
The New Jedi Order
The most extensive story in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, The New Jedi Order spanned a most impressive 19 novels. They followed the adventures of Luke, Leia, Han and Jacen Solo after the events of Return of the Jedi.
Imagine writing 19 books and then being told that none of it counts. But Jar Jar Binks is still canon.