Expanded Universe

Talking Thrawn with Hyperspace PodBlast

Introduced in Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel Heir to the Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn, the white uniformed, blue-bodied and red-eyed humanoid, has always been my absolute favorite Star Wars character. Knowing how much I adore the famous Chiss (the name for Thrawn’s species), Shelby and Bryan from Hyperspace PodBlast invited me to join them in a recent episode to discuss not only my passion for the Expanded Universe character, but my thoughts on Grand Admiral Thrawn’s new role in the Disney canon. Have a listen to our chat down below, and be sure to head over to Hyperspace PodBlast to hear this and other great Star Wars conversations! Oh, and be sure to follow Hyperspace PodBlast on Twitter @hyperspace_pod

 

Star Wars Without End

I spend a lot of time pondering the internals of the Star Wars universe – the characters, events, factions, spaceships, philosophies, etc. – but I also spend quite a bit of time thinking about the Star Wars franchise in general. These days, it’s hard not to think about the trajectory of the franchise since Disney – which purchased the franchise from the original creator/owner George Lucas in 2012 – has been announcing and releasing new content left and right. Movies, TV shows, novels, comics, video games, and more are adding to the already rich trove of stories that populate the universe, while an endless line of new merchandise in every shape and form pops up on a seemingly daily basis. Plus, Disney is building two different Star Wars-themed lands where fans can enjoy “being in” the Star Wars universe.

As a lifelong fan of Star Wars, the fact that the franchise is going strong definitely makes me happy, but this also comes with a catch – too much of a good thing isn’t always great. While I am excited there are new Star Wars stories being told and merchandise being sold, there is also a certain amount of burn out that also comes with all of this. Admittedly, it is a bit odd for me to say this since I maintain this site devoted to Star Wars, but it is also the truth – at times, being a Star Wars fan can be utterly exhausting.

Some of this Star Wars exhaustion is a natural symptom of over-indulgence, a symptom which necessitates moving away from the franchise for a while so I can enjoy it more fully another day. Having a site like this where I write about Star Wars certainly adds to this particular form of burn out, and at times, I have to step away from the computer or notebook, giving myself time and permission to not even think about Star Wars.

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I’ve never been to a Star Wars Celebration, the so-called “ultimate fan experience,” and have little desire to attend one. Perhaps someday I will if I’m feeling adventurous and want to put my crowd anxiety to the test.
Photo Credit : Lucasfilm/Disney

On the other hand, some of this burn out is just a general fatigue associated with having to maintain interest in such an expansive franchise, one that is not going to stop growing anytime soon. Just as I look up at the night sky and have difficulty processing the vastness of space, a similar feeling of being overwhelmed hits me when I think about the vastness of the Star Wars franchise, a vastness that encapsulates past, present, and future. While I can appreciate all that Star Wars has to offer, providing fans of every type with something they will love, on a personal level, the more Star Wars grows, the more exhausted I’ve become trying to keep up with it. 

And so, I have found myself trying to reconcile my lifelong exploration of the “galaxy far, far away” with the continued growth of the franchise and the gambit of ways it is making me feel: overwhelmed, exhausted, burnt out, and at times even uninspired and bored. In other words, I have found myself for some time now in the rather peculiar position of trying to decide how I will continue being a fan of the franchise (talk about first world problems). What do I mean by this? Well, it means I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my relationship with the franchise in general, and the content of the Star Wars universe in particular. It means that because I do not have an endless supply of time, energy, and money – especially money – to devote to a fictional universe that will probably still be growing when I am on my death bed that I have to decide which aspects of Star Wars I will continue to participate in/enjoy and which parts I am just uninterested in/do not feel are worth the effort.

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Most people know that I’m obsessed with Grand Admiral Thrawn, but I’m also a huge fan of Admiral Natasi Daala who first appeared in the Expanded Universe novel Jedi Search.
Photo Credit: Lucasfilm/Del Rey

In truth, this isn’t an entirely new approach to the way I engage with Star Wars. We all have our personal preferences and gravitate towards certain things, and I have always been the type of person who likes parts of Star Wars more than others. Even before George Lucas sold the franchise to Disney I was selective about how I participated in the franchise, what merchandise I bought, and yes even which stories I gravitated towards. For example, I can honestly say that while I am well versed in the stories of the now Expanded Universe (EU; now officially called Legends…bleh), there are some Expanded Universe stories I have never touched and know almost nothing about. Case in point: The Old Republic online game. Perhaps one day I will get around to playing The Old Republic or checking out those EU stories I haven’t read, or maybe I won’t.

Like the Expanded Universe I am already treating the “new Expanded Universe,” the Disney Canon, the same way. While I have done my best to keep up with all of the stories being released, it became very apparent early on that it just wouldn’t be possible to do so. This hardly means I haven’t tried my best, but it does mean that I am well aware there are tales I have missed and probably will never experience. Since I have no interest in subscribing to Star Wars Insider magazine, I miss out on the short-stories that appear in each edition. I have certainly read a few here and there, but otherwise I’ve missed most of them and am not rushing out to read them. This is also true of the discontinued Star Wars Rebels magazine, each issue containing a story in the form of a comic. I’m sure those comics are quite fun, and perhaps I will check them out at some point, but for now I’m just not that interested in going out of my way to read them.

In turn, even of the new stories I have encountered in the Disney canon (and this goes for the EU as well), I’ve absolutely loved some, really disliked others, and have otherwise mixed emotions about a handful. I thought Kevin Hearne’s novel Heir to the Jedi was rather bland, have been underwhelmed by the novels in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath series, felt the Chewbacca comic series left a lot to be desired, and walked out of my first viewing of The Force Awakens asking myself what the hell I had just watched. On the flip side, I really enjoyed playing the now discontinued Star Wars: Uprising video game, absolutely love the Princess Leia and Lando comic series, was blown away by Christie Golden’s novel Dark Disciple and James Luceno’s novel Tarkin, and have really enjoyed the rich layers being added to the canon thanks to the animated show Star Wars Rebels.

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The Grand Inquisitor, introduced in Star Wars Rebels, is now one of my absolute favorite characters. I am hoping he will get his own novel or comic series.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Rebels Season 1, Episode 14: “Fire Across the Galaxy”

But just because I love one particular story or dislike another doesn’t mean I find perfection/imperfection in everything. I might not love Heir to the Jedi but there are some very good moments in the novel, The Force Awakens has grown on me over time, the Uprising game was fun but also incredibly tedious, and even though I am really loving Star Wars Rebels I’ve been a vocal critic of the overuse of the Jedi and the Force in the series. For me, being a fan of Star Wars is not a zero sum game, a matter of either love or hate. Rather, more often than not it boils down to shades of gray, the acknowledgment that stories that I feel are wonderful still have flaws, and those I believe fall short do have some redeeming qualities. 

None of this is to say that my particular reactions/thoughts on each Star Wars story, or my moments of exhaustion, boredom and dispassion with the franchise as a whole, must be globally accepted. My personal fandom is no more or less important than any other fan, and my subjective experiences of Star Wars need not dictate the experiences others have. Besides, I can think of nothing more absurd than being a fan of Star Wars and lording my fandom over others. No, I am far more interested in sharing aspects of my fandom with others, engaging people in rich conversation about Star Wars. By maintaining this site, my hope is to always do just that: share aspects of Star Wars that stand out to me – the good and the bad, inspirational and discouraging – and open the floor for conversation. 

And that being the case, I have to ask: what are your feelings and opinions on the current state of the Star Wars franchise? Am I the only one who has moments of Star Wars fatigue and boredom, or are there others like me who are out there? If you care to share your thoughts and feelings, leave a comment. 

Trailers for The Old Republic

While I have only played The Old Republic MMO sporadically, I have never-the-less been stunned by the incredible cinematic trailers that have accompanied the game. So, I decided to collect them all into one spot so people could watch them without needing to do much searching. Enjoy!


The Hundred-Year Darkness

In Marvel comics Star Wars 009, Luke Skywalker finds himself in dire straits on Nar Shaddaa when he is captured by a towering and oddly muscular Hutt named Grakkus. Knocked unconscious, Luke will wake in the home of Grakkus the Hutt and quickly discovers that this Hutt is a collector of Jedi lore and artifacts. Considering that Luke’s journey to Nar Shaddaa was part of a quest to discover anything/everything about the Jedi Order, it could easily be argued that his capture by Grakkus was the will of the Force. This possibility becomes even more likely when Grakkus commands Luke to use the Force to open a Jedi holocron, giving the young Skywalker until the count of five to do so.

Now, for those who are unaware, a holocron is a small polyhedron that a Jedi (or Sith) uses to store and pass on important information. Activated by a Force-user, once opened a holocron projects a holographic image of the individual who originally recorded it, and this hologram will then provide lessons on the information contained within. When Luke is ordered by Grakkus to open a holocron, Luke’s response comes as little surprise, at least to the reader. He states, “I’ve never even seen one of those things.” Of course, the massive Hutt is unswayed, not caring what Luke has to say. Since Luke admitted his father was a Jedi, carries a lightsaber, and is seeking passage to the  location of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, Grakkus is convinced Luke can open the holocron…

…and the Hutt isn’t wrong.

Having counted to five, Grakkus orders his guards to kill Luke, and it is in this very moment that Luke is able to call upon the Force and open not only the holocron that Grakkus holds, but every holocron in the room. Suddenly, Luke and his captor are surrounded by the holographic images of long-dead Jedi, each of them beginning their teachings.

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Holographic images of past Jedi present the information stored within their respective holocrons.

Photo Credit: MARVEL Comics – Star Wars #009

Needless to say, but there is a lot that could be said about this moment in Star Wars 009, especially in regards to Luke and his burgeoning potential with the Force. The thing is, I’m not really interested in digging into every angle or every thought the scene conjures in my mind, in part because this piece would quickly become a dissertation.  Instead, what I really want to share is my “holy shit” reaction to one of the statements made by the image of an unknown Jedi projected by a holocron. That long-dead Jedi states the following:

Once we were brothers in the Force. But from the Hundred-Year Darkness were born the Sith.

When I read that line, I immediately stopped reading the comic because I just couldn’t contain my excitement. There are moments when I am experiencing the Star Wars universe (or another universe I love) when I am overcome with joy and have to let it burst out of me. When that happens, I just go with the flow, and in this case, I stopped reading and called a friend to tell him what I had come across in Star Wars 009.

Why did I react this way? Simple: the Hundred-Year Darkness comes straight out of the Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU).

Mentioned by name for the first time in the Dark Horse comic Tales of the Jedi: Dark Lords of the Sith 3: Descent to the Dark Side (published in 1994), the Hundred-Year Darkness was an ancient, century long conflict between Dark Jedi who were experimenting with forbidden alchemy and the Jedi Order which recognized the danger these Dark Jedi possessed. For the sake of brevity, I will spare you all the minute details about the conflict, but in the end, the Dark Jedi lost the war and their survivors – including their leader Ajunta Pall – were exiled from Republic space. In the unexplored regions of the galaxies Outer Rim, these exiles came across a world named Korriban which was inhabited by a primitive civilization known as the Sith. Worshiped as gods, the Dark Jedi were given the title Jen’ari (Dark Lord), becoming the very first Dark Lords of the Sith. 

With just one line in Star Wars 009, a momentous event from the EU – an event which leads directly to the formation of the Sith and serves as the preamble to ALL of the Jedi/Sith conflicts – was preserved in the Disney Canon. But how much of it was maintained beyond it’s name and the basic facts we learn from the unknown Jedi? Well, that is the mystery, one I have wrestled with since Luke unlocked the holocron. 

In reality, there is no easy way to answer the question, particularly since the mysterious Jedi utters few words about the Hundred-Year Darkness. The first piece of his statement – “Once we were brothers in the Force” – points to a time long before the Hundred-Year Darkness, a time when the Jedi Order was whole. What really makes this line stand out though is that it mirrors a line spoken by the spirit of Sith Lord Marka Ragnos in Tales of the Jedi: The Golden Age of the Sith 2: Funeral for a Dark Lord. Ragnos states “Once we were mighty Jedi of the Republic, brothers in the Force…,” and goes on to describe the formation of the Sith Order. The fact that the two short statements almost perfectly match is, of course, not a coincidence. With the Hundred-Year Darkness first appearing in Tales of the JediStar Wars 009 author Jason Aaron was clearly giving the Dark Horse series a small nod by quoting Marka Ragnos. Admittedly, this raises another interesting question: since the Hundred-Year Darkness has been maintained, does this also mean Ragnos – who lived nearly two millenia after the Hundred-Year Darkness – also exists in the Disney Canon? 

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The specter of Sith Lord Marka Ragnos speaks to his listeners about the formation of the Sith Order.

Photo Credit: Dark Horse Comics – Tales of the Jedi: The Golden Age of the Sith 2: Funeral for a Dark Lord

Personally, I hope he does. Then again, I also hope Ajunta Pall, whom I mentioned previously, is also  maintained in the canon. In large part this is because Ajunta Pall, unlike Marka Ragnos, is an actual participant in the Hundred-Year Darkness and ends up as the very first Dark Lord of the Sith. In my mind, it makes sense not only to preserve the conflict in name, but also specific aspects like characters, battles, and locations. I say this knowing full well that if/when the Hundred-Year Darkness is retold, it will not be exactly the same. This is no more apparent than by the simple fact that the Dark Jedi in the Disney Canon will find their way to the Sith homeworld of Moraband and not Korriban. The planet itself is exactly the same, but the name change ensures that the story cannot perfectly match. 

Then again, it doesn’t HAVE to perfectly match. While I would personally love for not just Ajunta Pall but all the Dark  Jedi to be returned in the new canon, chances are that just won’t happen. And frankly, that’s okay. In just two sentences in Star Wars 009, the mysterious Jedi establishes the most important facts about the Hundred-Year Darkness, points I have already mentioned. Otherwise, in the Disney Canon, how the Hundred-Year Darkness unfolds is really open ended. For example, whereas the Hundred-Year Darkness ends in the Expanded Universe with the Battle of Corbos (depicted in the featured image), perhaps the final showdown between the two Jedi factions will take place on another world in the new  version of the conflict. Honestly, either way is perfectly fine by me; two versions of the Hundred-Year Darkness simply means two versions to enjoy, learn about, and analyze. 

Still, it’s certainly possible that the Hundred-Year Darkness never receives a new treatment, at least beyond small references here and there. At the moment, Star Wars storytelling is focused primarily on the period surrounding and following the Original Trilogy, and the galaxy’s ancient history might remain relatively vacant of new stories for years to come. However, the seeds of that ancient history have been planted in small and subtle ways – such as the reference to the Hundred-Year Darkness in Star Wars 009 – and I really hope those seeds end up blossoming into full-fledged stories down the road.

But until those seeds do blossom, and even after they do, you’ll find me continuing to explore and enjoy the ancient history in the Expanded Universe. 

So, What’s Luke Been Up To?

Guest Talker: Michael J. Miller

In the months leading up to the release of The Force Awakens, one of the most prominent questions on everyone’s mind was – Where is Luke Skywalker? He wasn’t in any of the trailers. He was shockingly absent from the poster. We only heard his voice, narrating a slightly altered version of what he tells Leia about his family and the Force in Return Of The Jedi. Speculation was rampant. And there were even those (apparently the ones who’d never watched Star Wars or totally missed the point of the whole narrative) who were insistent that Luke had fallen to the Dark Side and perhaps was even Kylo Ren. Now, all those questions have been cleared up. But the most important question for me still remains. And I hope I get an answer worthy of the mythic hero of Star Wars.

The answer to this question is important because, to put it simply, Luke is important.  Luke Skywalker is the hero of Star Wars. Yes, it’s Anakin’s story but Luke is the force (no pun intended) of redemption that allows Vader to do what must be done. If Anakin is the savior, Luke is the redeemer. And both of them are necessary to bring balance to the Force. So we know where Luke was at the end of Return Of The Jedi – happily celebrating a major victory with his family and friends, while the redeemed Force ghost of his father looks on with Obi-Wan and Yoda. And we know where Luke is at the end of The Force Awakens – doing his mystic hermit thing on a not-so-easily-accessed lake front property in utter isolation. Even R2 was left behind. His hand hasn’t been cared for (presumably), leaving the synthiflesh to rot away and expose the metallic hand underneath.

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Celebration taking place behind him, Luke looks off towards the Force ghosts of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and his father.

Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

The question I need answered (the question I am so, so scared won’t be answered with the clarity and detail it absolutely needs) is what has Luke been doing in the thirty years since the Battle of Endor??  One of the major faults I have found with the Disney Canon is that (with few exceptions) it gives us no real worthwhile details. It’s all painted in broad strokes. We are left struggling to fill in almost as many gaps during those thirty years as we had before The Force Awakens was released. Disney seems to perpetually tell stories set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, stories (more often than not in my opinion) having little to no significant impact on the saga, while ignoring the gaping holes in the timeline Star Wars fans want to know about.

The major exception to this rule would be Claudia Gray’s beautiful and brilliant new novel, Star Wars: Bloodline. This was the first novel I’ve encountered since Disney took over that gave me the thrill I almost always found with the old EU. It gave a detailed look at the Star Wars galaxy. It expanded on what was in the films in a way that made logical sense.  And the expansions were helpful and felt necessary. Also, she gave us both a picture of Leia that was organic and dynamic as well as new characters who were exciting and seemed to naturally fit in the Star Wars universe. Ransolm Casterfo is the first new character I’ve found in the Disney Canon who seemed as complex and integral to the Star Wars universe as characters like Pellaeon, Natasi Daala, and Talon Karde did the first time I met them.

The novel also left us with some MAJOR question marks in regard to Luke Skywalker. (If you haven’t read Bloodline yet, this paragraph and the next contains minor spoilers about moments Luke is mentioned in passing in the novel but doesn’t address anything that’s central to the plot of the book.) You see, Bloodline is set six years before The Force Awakens. Granted, we only get glimpses of what Luke’s been up to since Return Of The Jedi. But it doesn’t seem like he’s been doing much. He and Ben Solo are bouncing around the galaxy doing…something. 

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The cover of Star Wars: Bloodline.
Photo Credit – Del Rey

A discussion in the Senate sees Lady Carise Sindian remark, “Princess Leia spoke of her brother, the famous Luke Skywalker, who has been little seen in the public sphere for many years now.”  Then Tai-Lin Garr replies, “Since the Rebellion, Skywalker has lived a private life.  He has asked no more of the New Republic than any of its other citizens, nor have we just cause to ask any more of him than the substantial service he has already given.”  So the last of the Jedi decided to…retire?  He’s road tripping with his nephew?  Whaaaat??     

Judging from the little information the new Disney Canon has provided us, Luke is apparently completely disconnected from the New Republic and almost entirely cutoff from his family.  We can infer then IN THE PRECEEDING TWENTY-FOUR  YEARS he didn’t rebuild the Jedi Order.  So, I ask again, what was he doing?

The final conversation Luke has with Yoda before his death on Dagobah makes this even more confusing.  As Yoda lays down for the last time he tells Luke, “Twilight is upon me and soon night must fall.  That is the way of things, the way of the Force.”  His final words to Luke are, “Luke…when gone am I, the last of the Jedi will you be.  Luke…the Force runs strong in your family.  Pass on what you have learned. Luke…there is…another…Skywalker.”  The literal final instruction Yoda – the Jedi Master that Kenobi told Luke to find to complete his training – gave Luke was to pass on what he had learned And the Disney Canon wants us to accept that Luke’s response was, “Nah.”  I don’t buy it.  It doesn’t make any sense.

Luke wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. He spends much of the Original Trilogy trying to become a Jedi Knight like his father.  In A New Hope, Obi-Wan taught Luke, “The Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy before the dark times, before the Empire.”  So he knows that the Jedi were an order who protected people during the Old Republic before Vader and the Emperor wiped them out.  He finds Yoda, completes his training, is instructed to pass on what he’d learned, and THEN DOES NOTHING FOR OVER TWENTY YEARS. 

Why??  Again, it makes no sense and a legitimate answer must be given. 

This story must be told and it must be told with a depth and intimacy to rival Claudia Gray’s depiction of Leia in Bloodline. A few lines of exposition (and maybe a few flashbacks) in Episode VIII aren’t going to cut it for me. Luke Skywalker is too important a character for that! We need to understand why he turns his back on everything he was, everything he did, and everything he was instructed to do.

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The cover of Jedi Search, first book in The Jedi Academy Trilogy. 
Photo Credit – Del Rey

As I watched Yoda’s death scene in Return Of The Jedi a few more times, I wondered if perhaps Disney wanted us to buy that Yoda told Luke to pass on what he learned to his family alone. You could make the argument, from the phrasing, that Luke could have interpreted it that way. But we know this isn’t the case. In The Force Awakens, Han tells Rey and Finn that Luke was bringing up a new group of Jedi when Kylo Ren cut the order apart and Luke took off.  We know that there can’t be that many Skywalkers around.  So, in the six years between Bloodline and The Force Awakens, he was (finally!) training new Jedi.  But the question remains, why did he wait?  What was he doing??

In the Expanded Universe, Luke spent much of his time after the Battle of Endor learning everything he could about the Jedi to rebuild the Order. By seven years after Endor (in Kevin J. Anderson’s “The Jedi Academy Trilogy”) Luke was taking his first tentative steps in recruiting new Jedi and training them on Yavin 4.  Yes there were problems.  There were ups and downs. But Luke was passing on what he had learned and trying to restore the Jedi to the galaxy. Why isn’t he doing that in the Disney Canon?  Why isn’t he advising the New Republic in any role?  What could possibly be going on that’s more important than all of this?

All Luke Skywalker, last of the Jedi, does post Return Of The Jedi in the Disney Canon is…fight for shrubbery??  In the (weirdly lackluster) conclusion to Shattered Empire, our first new canon look at life post-Endor, we see Luke Skywalker and Lieutenant Shara Bey infiltrate the highly secure Imperial base on Vetine…to save two trees. They’re important I guess?  Luke says of the trees, “These are all that remain of the tree that grew in the heart of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant.  The Force is with them.” And they are clearly important enough for Luke to risk his and Shara’s lives by invading this facility three months after the Battle of Endor. But they’re also important enough for Luke to just randomly and spontaneously give one away to Shara so she could plant it in her family garden??  What?  So Luke redeems his father, fights for a shrub (a shrub we never hear about again), and then does absolutely nothing

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Luke, stands before the remains of the Tree that grew in the Jedi Temple.
Photo Credit – MARVEL Comics; Star Wars: Shattered Empire, Part IV

We’re supposed to believe that the man who destroyed the first Death Star, who became the last Jedi Knight, who learned from Yoda, who redeemed Anakin Skywalker so balance could be restored to the Force just walked away?  He did nothing. For over twenty years. He was just sitting around…waiting?  Why?  WHY? 

The cynic in me believes it’s because Lawrence Kasdan remains pissy that Lucas didn’t use the darker ending he wanted for Return Of The Jedi.  As is well documented, Kasdan wanted Han Solo dead and Luke, so broken by his ordeal, to fade into the mist like Shane at the end of the famous Western of the same name.  Lucas didn’t go that route (in part, I’d argue because he understands the purpose of myth and what lesson Star Wars was supposed to be teaching us) and Kasdan has been open about his displeasure with it.  Well now The Force Awakens rolls around and look what happens!  With Kasdan helping with the writing duties Han Solo dies (admittedly, in a powerful moment that I feel served the character and the story well) and Luke Skywalker has disappeared only to be found out in the wilderness alone, not unlike a wounded gunslinger haunted by what he’s had to do (something that doesn’t fit his character or the tone of the end of Return Of The Jedi at all).

Cynicism aside, this is still a MAJOR question that needs an appropriate answer.  There’s no logical reason Luke Skywalker hasn’t been active in the galaxy since the Battle of Endor.  And every instance he’s shown up in the Disney Canon has only served to make his absence and apparent apathy more confusing. So, when the time comes, I hope we get a story that honors who Luke Skywalker is. The relevant question for Episode VIII is no longer Where is Luke Skywalker? but rather What has Luke Skywalker been doing for THIRTY YEARS that is more important than rebuilding the Jedi?  The answer, whenever Disney decides to give it to us, better be damn good.  Luke Skywalker as a mythic hero, and we as Star Wars fans, deserve nothing less. 


Check out these other Guest Talker posts by Michael Miller:

The Nature of Hero

The Seduction of the Dark Side

A Man in Debt to a Hutt

     

Imperial Profile: General Veers

“Com-Scan has detected an energy field protecting an area of the sixth planet of the Hoth system. The field is strong enough to deflect any bombardment.” – General Veers

While he only appears in a handful of scenes in The Empire Strikes Back (ESB), General Maximilian Veers has always been one of those peripheral Star Wars characters who absolutely fascinates me. In fairness, I have a Star Warsie fascination with all of the characters in the franchise, but there are some who really stand out and captivate me, and Veers is definitely one of them. 

So what exactly is the reason for my interest in the character that Julian Glover brought to life in ESB? Well, much of it boils down to the scene in which Veers informs Lord Vader that the fleet has moved out of lightspeed. Standing before Darth Vader, General Veers exudes the poise and self-confidence one would expect from an Imperial officer.  There is no hesitation in his voice as he provides Vader with a situational report, his articulation crisp as he describes the “energy field protecting an area of the sixth planet of the Hoth system.” While he is caught off-guard by Vader’s criticism of Admiral Ozzel, there is no sense of fear as he explains Ozzel’s decision to “surprise” the Rebels. When Veers is ordered to prepare his men for a surface attack, he acknowledges Lord Vader as any commander would his/her superior. In short, what this exchange says about General Veers is clear: he is a clear cut example of military professionalism.  And this professionalism is on display as he leads his elite Blizzard Force into battle of the icy planet.

As I noted in a previous post – Imperial Walkers on the North Ridge – General Veers opts to march his forces across an open tundra in a frontal assault, doing so without any aerial or artillery bombardment of the entrenched Rebel enemy. While this tactical decision may very well defy the logic of warfare, I’ve never felt that Veers actions in the battle are brash or ill-conceived. Rather, I imagine General Veers meticulously planning the battle beforehand, choosing his strategy with care and the input of his commanders. In turn, leading from the front in his Imperial Walker – Blizzard One – he can react much more quickly to the ways in which the battle might change. True, leading from the front is also a great way to get yourself killed, and we see his Walker hit by enemy fire during the fight. Yet, in the scenes where we actually see him throughout the Battle of Hoth, his commanding presence is apparent, a stern determination plastered on his face. This is a man, a General, who knows precisely what he is doing and will see things through to the very end. 

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General Veers commands the ground assault against the Rebel base.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Seeing things through is precisely what General Veers does, storming across the enemy positions and finally destroying the generator that powers the shield protecting the Rebel base. Of course, the moment Veers destroyed the  power generator is also the final moment we see him in The Empire Strikes Back and the Star Wars canon. Naturally, given my fascination, I am left wondering what became of General Veers in the wake of the battle. Surely reports of the Empire’s masterful victory over the Rebellion would quickly spread across the galaxy, ensuring that Rebel sympathizers would be disheartened and Imperial loyalists emboldened. I can imagine the general being lauded for his brilliant, tactical victory and valiant “lead from the front” style of command. Granted, this may not have been the first time General Veers received sweeping, public notoriety for his actions, but a victory like the one on Hoth would most definitely elevate his name among the Imperial populace and position within the ranks of the Empire. 

Still, I highly doubt General Veers would allow the public spotlight  to go to his head. No, the man we meet in The Empire Strikes Back does not lend himself to personal aggrandizing and building his public image. Certainly other Imperial officers and officials were the type to do just that, reveling in their accomplishments and pining for the favor of the Emperor and his Ruling Council. But Veers just feels different, and I can’t believe he would be anything but a soldier who is committed to his position and duty, not his personal gain. 

While it is interesting to ponder the sort of notoriety General Veers received after his victory on the icy plains of Hoth, my larger question remains: what happened to him after his brief appearance in The Empire Strikes Back? Well, if the novelization of the movie is to believed, any honors he may have received for his actions were posthumous since he died during the battle when a Rebel pilot crashed into the command module of his Imperial Walker. But, since the novelization doesn’t count as canon we can toss his “death” out the window.

Veers in Dark Empire II
Captain Veers contacts his superiors prior to the Battle of Balmorra.
Photo Credit – Dark Empire II, Issue #1 (“Operation Shadow Hand”)

In a bit of twist, that “death” was also thrown out in the Expanded Universe (EU). Veers makes a handful of appearances in the EU, ultimately being demoted to the rank of Captain and meeting his demise during the Battle of Balmorra (found in the Dark Empire II series). However, in the new canon his post-Hoth story has yet to unfold. Then again, we also know next to nothing about the General in his pre-Battle of Hoth days. Veers does make a small appearance in the Star Wars: Commander mobile game, and we also know from a handful of other sources that he is from the planet Denon, is a husband and father, and had some early military successes on the planets Zaloriis and Culroon III. I should note, though, that these last three points about Veers were originally established in the EU and carried over to the new canon.

Other than these few details about him, the pre- and post-Hoth story about General Veers is just waiting to be told, and I really hope there is a plan to tell it. In fairness, I would be equally pleased if other Imperial officers had their stories expanded, but I am entirely biased in my wish to know more about General Veers. Left to me, Veers would receive a full-fledged novel that, at the very least, would dig into his early military career serving in the Clone Wars, his rise through Imperial ranks, and explain what happened to him not only after Hoth, but once the Empire fell. Plus, a book dedicated to Veers could be similar in many ways to the novel Tarkin, providing not only deep insight into the General’s motivations, but also a more thorough understanding of the inner-workings of the Imperial military. 

But since it isn’t up to me, the best I can do for now is remain hopeful that Maximilian Veers will make some further appearances in the Star Wars canon. Until that happens, I will just continue enjoying his handful of scenes in The Empire Strikes Back

Thoughts on the (One-Armed) Wampa

My Star Warsie preferences more often than not boil down to one thing: my childhood love of the franchise. This is why, for example, I am a die-hard fan of the infamous Grand Admiral Thrawn. Since I read The Thrawn Trilogy over and over as a kid, I naturally became obsessed with the strategically gifted Chiss. And, since I watched The Empire Strikes Back (ESB) far more than the other two Original Trilogy films, the characters, places, events, and creatures from ESB stuck with me. Which leads me to the wampa.

Something  I have always appreciated about The Empire Strikes Back is how the initial tension in the film is unexpected, coming from a natural cause – an indigenous creature. With little warning other than the agitation of Luke’s tauntaun,  a wampa – Hoth’s apex predator – suddenly appears, launching itself at Luke and his mount. The last time we saw Luke, at the end of A New Hope, he was receiving a medal for heroically destroying the Death Star, but within the first few minutes of The Empire Strikes Back, our hero is incapacitated and being dragged away by a massive snow beast. Absolutely brilliant!!!  The use of the wampa at the outset of ESB is a perfect reminder that the galaxy far, far away, while exotic and exciting, is also exceedingly dangerous. Not even our heroes can prepare for every eventuality and danger that may be lurking, and Luke was certainly unprepared for this ambush.

Wampa 2
The wampa attacks, knocking Luke off of his tauntaun.

Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

But the wampa deserves a lot of credit. Luke may have been caught unaware, but so was his tauntaun, which doesn’t see or smell the predator until it’s already too late. Sneaking up on Luke is one thing but the tauntaun is a different matter. Remember, the tauntaun is native to the ice planet, and are natural prey for wampas. Certainly these snowlizards have evolved defensive mechanisms such as their sense of smell to warn  them of danger, especially important since the wampa’s pristine, white coat camouflages it in the snow. The fact that the tauntaun is caught unaware is proof that the wampa is not to be trifled with, a clear testament to the keen hunting skills of these monstrous beasts. 

I can imagine the wampa stalking the tauntaun, and the strange “thing” on top of it, with incredible stealth, moving closer and closer to its prey. As it moves closer, the wampa observes the body language of the tauntaun and listens the sounds it’s making, gauging whether the snowlizard is aware of impending danger. Realizing that its prey has not caught wind of danger, the wampa sets itself up for a strike, attacking while the tauntaun and the “thing” idle on the open tundra. The ambush complete, the wampa drags the spoils of its victory through the snow, back to its cave.

The Wampa Cave

Wampa
The Wampa hears Luke and moves towards him.

Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

When we see Luke again, after being dragged away, he is hanging upside down inside the cave the wampa calls home. At the same time, off in the distance, we can also hear the wampa and the tauntaun, the former letting out a bloodcurdling howl while the latter cries out in terror and pain. But we don’t just hear the wampa, we also see it feasting, ripping into the limb of (I presume) Luke’s still living tauntaun. Disturbing but pretty cool, especially since we see blood and drool dripping down its pristine white fur. Plus, watching the wampa eat – which was not added until the Special Edition of ESB was released in the 90s – also provides perspective, allowing us to witness how massive and deadly this creature truly is. When the wampa becomes aware that its other captured prey is attempting to escape, and it begins moving to intervene, this new perspective on the wampas size should make us thankful that Luke has his father’s old lightsaber. Or let me say it like this: I’m not entirely sure a blaster would have helped Luke survive.

Yet, survive the encounter Luke does. Freeing himself in the nick of time, Luke is able to awkwardly wield the lightsaber and slice off the wampa’s right arm, causing it to let out a cry of pain and agony. Honestly, I have always felt a feeling of remorse for the wampa in that moment. Its capture of Luke was nothing personal, just survival, a matter of securing a meal. The wampa would hardly starve if it allowed Luke to escape, but why WOULD it let him escape? When it attacks Luke the second time, it certainly isn’t thinking this “thing” will fight back – does anything, other than another wampa, ever fight back? Of course not, but in this case its prey happens to do just that, and as a result the wampa suffers.

Wampa in Pain
The wampa cries out in pain after it is wounded.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

It’s easy to forget that as Luke flees the cave, scrambling his way into the windswept tundra of Hoth, the now one-armed wampa remains behind. At that point, the wampa simply falls out of our minds as the events of the film unfold. However, I can’t help but wonder what happened to it after Luke fled, and I bet I’m not the only one. To be fair, the Expanded Universe novel Darksaber, set many years after ESB, involves Luke heading back to Hoth where he re-encounters the wampa he maimed years before. I won’t go into all the details about this particular meeting, but will say that I never really cared for Darksaber. Still, you should check out the book if you’re curious about Luke’s (non-canonical) second run-in with the beast.

Of course, I do think it reasonable to believe the wampa survived its vicious wound. Chances are it would have needed to change its hunting techniques, but I think our one-armed friend could handle the task. Granted, if the wound did cause its eventual downfall, it would probably be due to a run in with another wampa or perhaps poachers. Still, until I find out otherwise, until some new and official story establishes the death of the one-armed wampa, I’m just gonna keep believing it’s still out there, roaming the cold, windswept plains of Hoth.


This post is part of the Star Wars ComLINKS series. Check out more Star Wars ComLINKS over at Anakin and His Angel.

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