Now that a new Star Wars movie has been slated for release every year for the foreseeable future, it’s hard to remember back when official Star Wars features were few and far between. Nevertheless, there was once a time when fans were left to fill in the blanks themselves and, once they got a little help from some talented writers, artists, and video game developers, the Star Wars Expanded Universe was formally recognized.
Sadly, that’s all over now that Disney has declared all the existing Expanded Universe stories as non-canon. Not surprisingly, many fans were hit hard by this announcement knowing that some of their favorite characters and plot lines cease to exist or have been deemed irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. While there’s still a glimmer of hope that some of the old Expanded Universe material will make its way into the new movies, we can’t help but feel a little like Princess Leia when she watched the Death Star destroy her home planet of Alderaan.
Losses like this normally take years to get over, so, to help you in your grieving process, we’ve compiled this list of 10 things from the Star Wars Expanded Universe that will be sorely missed.
12. The Gray Jedi
The term Gray Jedi, sometimes referred to as Dark Jedi, had two meanings. It was first used by Jedi and Sith to describe Force-users who straddled the line between the light and dark side without adhering strictly to either. It later came to describe Jedi who had distanced themselves from the Jedi High Council and operated outside the strict rules of the Jedi code. But those who are considered to be true Gray Jedi meet both criteria and don’t feel compelled to carry on any particular Force tradition.
In the movies, once you turn to the dark side it seems almost impossible to come back, since its power twists and corrupts a person almost like a destructive drug addiction. The concept of the Gray Jedi introduced in the Expanded Universe created a new class of morally questionably Force-users who quickly became very popular with fans. Gray Jedi not only got a wider selection of lightsaber colors to choose from, they were essentially free agents in the battle for galactic supremacy—able to go wherever they pleased and lend their talents to whomever they wanted without sullying the Jedi or Sith codes.
Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan’s master from The Phantom Menace, was a notable renegade Jedi who likely would have been considered to be Gray by his superiors, but, since that classification no longer exists as canon, it would appear that the Jedi are now taking a page from the Sith rulebook and dealing only in absolutes.
11. Rogue Squadron
After Luke destroys the first Death Star in the Battle of Yavin, he takes many of the X-Wing pilots from Red Squadron and forms Rogue Squadron. They became the basis for a series of excellent games that help to fill in various gaps in the films, but their best stories came from the X-Wing series of books by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston. In them, Rogue Squadron is depicted as an indispensable force in the liberation of Coruscant after it was freed from Imperial rule. The books were also admired for showing the way the galaxy functions without Force-users pulling the strings from behind the scenes.
Although Rogue Squadron itself is still very much canon, it’s sad to see all their great adventures and triumphs go down the drain.
10. The Yuuzhan Vong
The Yuuzhan Vong were the only species ever to appear in Star Wars that came from another galaxy. They were a terrifying race on a merciless mission to conquer and enslave all other planets and species. They even killed Chewbacca.
In a universe where most of the aliens feel like a contrived reflection of real-world stereotypes, the Yuuzhan Vong—with their detailed bio-technology and natural ability to hide from the Force—were an exceptionally fascinating force of evil.
9. The New Jedi Academy
With Luke Skywalker still alive and kicking at the end of Return of the Jedi, it was only a matter of time before Jedi started popping up in the galaxy again. Well, at least it was in the Expanded Universe where Luke takes it upon himself to rebuild the Jedi Academy.
The return of the Jedi Academy gave people hope that order could eventually be restored and that Jedi would one day reclaim their positions as peacekeepers of the galaxy.
8. Jedi Leia
We all know Leia has the power to use the Force from watching Return of the Jedi, but we never get to see her actually develop the skill in the movie. This aspect begged further development and the Expanded Universe didn’t disappoint, as it saw Leia learn the ways of the Force and become a skilled Jedi under Luke’s training.
Although Leia still plays more of a resourceful diplomatic leader in the books, her path as a Jedi gets steadily incorporated into her character throughout, eventually making her one of the most influentially powerful people in the entire Star Wars universe.
7. Kyle Katarn
Originally created for the Star Wars: Jedi Knight video game series (some of the best Star Wars games ever), Kyle Katarn quickly crossed over into other mediums and eventually almost garnered as much respect within the New Jedi Order as Luke Skywalker. Which is pretty impressive considering he was an Imperial stormtrooper before defecting to the Rebel Alliance. He could easily be considered a Gray Jedi, since he freely used both light and dark side Force abilities and encouraged his students to think of Force powers as mere tools without any allegiance.
Although Kyle Katarn might be lacking the charisma of other Expanded Universe characters like Mara Jade, the fact that he wasn’t really tied to other characters and events in Star Wars gave fans a chance to gain a broader perspective of the various conflicts unfolding throughout the galaxy. Basically, he brings out the Gray Jedi in all of us.
6. Dash Rendar
Another Expanded Universe character who was made popular in a video game was Dash Rendar. Back in 1996 the Nintendo 64 was kind of a big deal and Dash Rendar was the star of Shadows of the Empire—one of the console’s most popular games.
The story of Shadows of the Empire takes place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, a period of time with very little written about it. Dash Rendar is a scruffy smuggler who essentially fills in for Han Solo, who’s frozen in carbonite. And while the character of Dash Rendar may no longer be canon, it turns out that his ship Outrider still is, as it appears briefly as a CG addition in the 1997 special edition of A New Hope.
5. Galen Marek (Starkiller)
The video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed takes place before the events of A New Hope and features a Force-adept protagonist by the name of Galen Marek. When Marek is a boy, he’s kidnapped by Darth Vader and trained in the dark side ways of the Force to become an instrument to bring down the Emperor. However, Vader’s initial plan fails and he sends Marek, now code-named Starkiller, to go out and gather all the outspoken opponents of the Empire so they can be convinced to work together to give Vader another shot at taking out the Emperor.
Starkiller is yet another character that might be considered a Gray Jedi since, in the end, his conscience convinces him to side with the rebels and he sacrifices himself to save them from an Imperial trap. The escaped rebels then go on to form the Rebel Alliance in honor of Starkiller.
The really fun thing about this Expanded Universe twist is that it would seem the Rebel Alliance came into existence as a direct result of Vader’s scheming.
4. Mara Jade
There were literally thousands of characters to come out of the expanded universe, but perhaps none were so thoroughly developed as Mara Jade. She was first introduced in Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel Heir to the Empire as a competent smuggler and skilled fighter driven by a blinding urge to kill Luke Skywalker.
Before the events of Return of the Jedi, Mara was the Emperor’s primary spy and assassin sent to do his bidding and eliminate his enemies. After the Emperor’s death, she sets out on a mission to find and kill Luke Skywalker, but, over the course of her journey, she manages to break free from the Emperor’s will and choose her own path.
She was such a loved character that she went on to be the Expanded Universe’s most widely used original character. She even became the eventual wife of Luke and mother of his son. Her dynamic character and dry sense of humor gave her charisma rivaling that of Han Solo, and her disappearance from Star Wars has left fans everywhere heartbroken.
3. Knights of the Old Republic
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is arguably the best Star Wars game ever made. It was the first RPG set in the Star Wars universe and couldn’t have been done more masterfully. The story of the game is set nearly 4,000 years before the events of The Phantom Menace during a time when there were hundreds of Jedi and Sith going at each other in an all-out war. It has little concern for the political hearings and round table discussions so prominently featured in the movie prequels.
One of the best things in Knights of the Old Republic was the character Revan—a man who played pivotal roles in the Mandalorian Wars and the Jedi Civil War (both of which are no longer canon in their original form). However, over the course of the story it’s revealed that he is actually a Sith lord who had his memories altered by the Jedi Council.
The well-played-out twist of Revan being a former Sith makes him one of the most complex characters in Star Wars, and his existence proved that the Jedi’s methods weren’t always so pure.
2. Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn
Another one of Timothy Zahn’s distinguished creations, Grand Admiral Thrawn was probably the greatest threat faced by the New Republic in the Expanded Universe. Thrawn was from the Chiss race—a blue-skinned humanoid species—and was a cunning adversary who seemed to effortlessly out-play his enemies through detailed analysis and clever psychology.
His methods of galactic domination were incredibly refreshing considering the previous Star Wars villains relied mostly on “hokey religions and ancient weapons” to maintain an order ruled predominantly by fear. He didn’t make use of any giant super-lasers, or attempt to control people through intimidation; he defeated opponents with carefully laid and expertly executed plans. And for that, his malice will be missed.
1. The Skywalker Lineage
Speculation is still running wild over whether or not any of Luke or Leia’s children will be in the new movies, but even if they are, they almost certainly won’t be the incarnations from the Expanded Universe. In the Expanded Universe, Han and Leia have three children—Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin Solo—while Luke and Mara have their son Ben Skywalker. Each of them have compelling, dramatic stories, with Jacen falling to the dark side and killing his aunt, Mara Jade, while Anakin Jr. dies heroically battling the ruthless Yuuzhan Vong, and Jaina goes on to thwart the Second Imperium and become a Jedi Master.
These characters grew and developed over the course of the Expanded Universe and their lives were slowly revealed to the readers who saw them become Jedis and carry on the Skywalker lineage. The Expanded Universe even provides a glimpse of a distant future taking place 100 years after Return of the Jedi where Luke’s direct descendant, Cade Skywalker is still keeping the Force alive.
If we do get to see any more Skywalkers in the new movies, chances are they will already be gown up so it will be hard for them to impact fans as much as the characters from the Expanded Universe. But we can still hope.