My Top 10 Changes To The Star Wars Expanded Universe

Prologue: In light of this week’s news about Disney acquiring Lucasfilm Ltd. and the possibility of a Star Wars sequel trilogy, I feel a strange optimism about where things might go for the saga.  I know my opinions as listed below aren’t and may never become canon, but the chance that at least some of them could be is very, very interesting.

I’ve talked a lot before about what I would do to fix the Star Wars prequel films and I’ve also expressed my issues with the recent string of Expanded Universe novels (namely, everything since the New Jedi Order series).  So I figure I might as well talk about what I would have done if Lucasfilm had given me a budget, an editorial and research staff, and the chance to define a new generation of heroes for the Star Wars universe.

10. The New Republic Simply Becomes “The Republic”

Copyright © 1992 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

It’s minor, but this is something that’s bugged me all throughout the Expanded Universe: the New Republic keeps calling itself the “New” Republic (and later on, changes it to the inherently silly and bland “Galactic Federation of Free Alliances”).  Why not just be “The Republic”?  If the official name of the Rebellion was “The Alliance to Restore the Republic,” and it’s been proven you’ve defeated the Empire and even wrote up a peace treaty, then why not be truly legitimate?  You’re the Republic now.  It’s time to govern.

9. Make Lando Calrissian The New Chief of State For The Republic

Copyright © 1980 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

It started off as a kind of running joke throughout the EU that Lando is always starting up some crazy new get-rick-quick scheme, though he’s never one to exploit others for the sake of making a profit.  At first, it was funny and a good way to set up Lando providing resources to the heroes.  But now it’s old and tired.  And if Lando really is “‘respectable” now, then why not run for office?  He’s a successful businessman, a veteran general, and has a record of integrity that’s hard to beat.  Plus, it’d be hilarious to watch him run circles around some of the less scrupulous politicians in the Senate given his background as a former smuggler and con artist.

8. Han And Chewbacca Join Talon Karrde’s Intelligence Bureau

Copyright © 1994 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

Following the peace treaty signed between the Republic and the Empire, ex-smuggler Talon Karrde decides to start up an intelligence service specializing in keeping both governments in touch to avoid any further armed conflicts.  Given the stealthy nature of the intelligence business, this seems like a nice way for Han and Chewbacca to stay active despite being more or less “retired.”  While Luke and Leia are off being Jedi and looking after the government, Han and Chewie are still getting into trouble on behalf of the Good Guys.  Only instead of being smugglers, they’re covert operatives who’ve grown more dangerous with age.

And yes, I realize that I would not be killing off Chewbacca and retconning everything Han went through in the New Jedi Order.  But I’m okay with that.  It’s Han and Chewie.  They’ve got plenty more adventures left in them.

7. Anakin Solo Trains Under Corran Horn; Jacen Solo Trains Under Luke

Copyright © 2001 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

With the New Jedi Order series, we seemed to lose some of the characterization that Anakin and Jacen Solo had in their respective Junior Jedi Knights and Young Jedi Knights series.  Anakin was an adventurous, puzzle-solving whiz kid, and Jacen was a courageous but sensitive animal lover.  While Jacen’s temperament makes him a good pick to apprentice under his Uncle Luke, I think Anakin needs someone with more of his kind of experience… someone like Corran Horn, Jedi Knight and former CorSec detective.  This would mean that Anakin can bolster his natural problem-solving skills with Corran’s criminal investigation training, turning himself into an uncanny hunter.

And it’s also worth pointing out that Jacen Solo doesn’t need to fall to the dark side, especially if he’s just going to be a blatant ripoff of Anakin Skywalker.  I could see Jacen turning because of his empathy being used against him, a kind of dark side “infection” that he would need to be cured of by his siblings.  But no, that’s much too creative a concept…

6. Jaina Solo Enlists With Wraith Squadron And Trains Under Mara Jade

Copyright © 2012 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

One of my biggest disappointments in the current EU has been Jaina Solo–not because of her gender or her talent as a pilot, but because no one seems to have a clear view of her character.  I was initially excited when she was written to be apprenticed to her new aunt Mara Jade Skywalker, but this was quickly dropped in the NJO series and everything thereafter.  I figure the best way for her to get a solid Mara Jade-style training and fulfill her role as an ace pilot is to have her join Wraith Squadron, a Republic fighter and commando unit assigned to critical missions.  She seemed to shine as a character when she was paired with such colorful personalities during the Enemy Lines duology, and she’d be learning all the best take-down moves from an ex-Imperial assassin.

5. Leia Becomes A True Jedi Knight And Ambassador (Finally)

Copyright © 2009 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

Leia Organa Solo is another female character that some authors seem to have trouble deciding where to place.  Half the time she’s in politics, half the time she’s disgusted with politics, and almost all the time she’s Han’s copilot on the Millennium Falcon (just replace “Wookiee” with “part-time Jedi”).  I figure that if she is going to shine, she should focus on her Jedi training as soon as she steps down as Chief of State for the Republic.  And then she might be one of the first New Jedi Order diplomats, since it seems like most of the modern Jedi don’t bother with settling disputes except with lightsabers and mind tricks.  This isn’t to say that she couldn’t be traveling with Han, Chewbacca, and Threepio as well, but I envision her having a more public role as a negotiator.  Maybe as an Obi-Wan type who gets along well with everyone and only kicks ass when necessary.

4. Luke Skywalker Is A Proud (And Working) Father

Copyright © 2007 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

Instead of dithering around for the sake of dramatic tension, I would have Luke and Mara’s son already born and in his early childhood.  I’m not disputing that Mara Jade Skywalker would be a good mother, but if she’s training Jaina and working for Wraith Squadron, she wouldn’t have much time for motherhood.  Plus, I would want to see how Luke balances his fatherhood with his Jedi Mastery.  It would make having a new Jedi Council crucial to his family life, since other Masters could help manage the Order.  And I would love to see how Luke handles being a father considering all the issues he must have after his foster parents’ murder and being Darth Vader’s son.

3. Vigilantes Emerge In The Wake Of The New Jedi Order’s Rebirth

Copyright © 2002 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

One of the more interesting–and yet equally annoying–issues of the current Expanded Universe has been the relationship between the New Jedi Order and the Republic.  While it was taken for granted that the Jedi of old served the Old Republic, the new generation of Jedi Knights are less blindly loyal and more willing to question or disobey their government.  However, in the middle of a war like the kind the NJO series proposes (and in every series thereafter), it seems like the two groups can never work together until the crisis is at its worst.

Instead of that, I would look at the problem a different way.  Instead of the Jedi going rogue in their service to the Republic, what if vigilantes and paramilitary groups arose, inspired by the Jedi’s example?  They’d remember the valiant Luke Skywalker who struck down the Emperor and Jabba the Hutt, and they’d want to do the same instead of abiding by the Republic’s legal system.  It’d be a nice parallel to the concerns of vigilantism in so many superhero tales, as well as an issue that would make Luke and the other Rebellion heroes rethink their usual tactics.

2. Turn The Yuuzhan Vong Into The Equivalent Of The Precursors

Copyright © 2009 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

For the most part, despite being an menace from another galaxy, the fanatical alien warriors known as the Yuuzhan Vong were hardly that strange.  Sure, they had organic technology and a nihilistic doctrine of conquest, but they were easy to comprehend and fight once the Republic and the Jedi got their act together.  And once their war was over, the reconstruction of the galaxy was glossed over and everything seemed to go back to the status quo, which was frustratingly dull.

To really give the new generation of heroes something to tackle, I would have rewritten the Yuuzhan Vong into being descendants of the Celestials.  In the EU, the Celestials are ancient and long-disappeared precursors who built such marvels as Centerpoint Station.  They’re cast in the same mold as the Protheans from Mass Effect and the Forerunners from Halo.  I think this would have been an interesting development: to have the inhabitants of the constantly war-torn Star Wars universe take on an enemy that knows almost everything about them and has powers far beyond their comprehension.  It would be users of the Force against the galaxy’s own Creators, a rage against the heavens that only good space opera can deliver.

1. Give “The Big Three” And The Old Generation Less Screen Time

Copyright © 2000 by Lucasfilm Ltd.

For all my concerns about the New Jedi Order series and all the storylines that have followed it, this is my biggest issue: Luke, Han, and Leia never seem to quit.  It’s less about them as characters and more about them as the Ones Who Save The Day.  The Solo children and the other new Jedi Knights don’t get their own mature novels.  Their parents and older relatives are always in the limelight, always cutting down the Dark Jedi leader or exposing the corrupt politician or negotiating a peace treaty with an ancient enemy.  Everyone else might as well be distantly in the background.

If you’re going to have a “New Jedi Order,” you’ve got be serious about it.  Let the kids take the helm.  Let them make mistakes and earn their own wisdom.  Don’t keep writing them as perpetual hotheaded teenagers when their elders are around.  Let them grow up and get a chance to save the galaxy two or three times by themselves, and let the old heroes of the Rebellion settle down and keep their hard-earned government in place and active just for once.  The Star Wars: Legacy comics understood how to break up a lot of conventions about the Star Wars saga while still respecting them, and in my mind, that’s why it was such a success.

I’m aware that I’m slamming a lot onto these recent character arcs and novel series as produced by Lucas Books, but I don’t mean them any ill will.  I just want to see a little more thought put in, a little less shock value, and, overall, a lot more respect for the audience’s intelligence.

The Prequel Trilogy By Any Other Name: Star Wars: The Legacy Of The Force Series

Copyright © Lucasfilm Ltd., 2006.

This marks my third and final review of a Star Wars Expanded Universe novel series.  Here we can see the culmination of Jacen Solo’s tragic character arc that began in Dark Nest, along with new character conceptions and plots that certainly aren’t like the characters and stories we remember from the old days (and I apologize for how jaded that just sounded, but that’s how hard I’ve been taking these developments).

So here now is Star Wars: Legacy of the Force!

Betrayal, by Aaron Allston

After fighting two hellish wars, peace has finally come to the galaxy… except for some reason the Galactic Alliance decides to become a bully and provoke Corellia into a civil war (but hey, it’s not called Star Peace, now is it?).  Han also decides he’s Corellian now and turns against his brother-in-law, Luke freaking Skywalker (why, exactly?).  Also, Jacen goes investigating the cause of this war, discovers a Sith Lord named Lumiya behind it, and then decides that he’ll become her apprentice because he can be strong enough to bring peace to the galaxy (a vision with no basis in reality whatsoever).  In other news, Wedge Antilles is awesome, delivering incredibly sharp insults to both sides of the conflict.

Bloodlines, by Karen Traviss

Jacen takes over a new secret police force and terrorizes innocent citizens to prove himself worthy of Sith Lordship.  Mara Jade, for some reason, has no problem letting her son help Jacen out.  Luke debates if Jacen’s turning evil or not without actually confronting him.  Also, Jacen ends up killing Boba Fett‘s daughter, so Fett decides not to take revenge on Jacen just yet because that’s just what all his fans would have wanted to see.

Tempest, by Troy Denning

Remember that daughter Allana that Jacen and Tenel Ka secretly had in the last series?  Well, Jacen decides to be a halfway decent secret father and go visit the two of them.  He then proclaims that his parents are dead to him and decides that he’ll sacrifice them in his quest for Sith Lordship.  Apparently, the “rules” for becoming a Sith say you have to kill the thing you love to become powerful, although it’s really more of a way to establish a once compassionate character as a heartless villain.

Exile, by Aaron Allston

Jacen spends an entire book arguing with himself if he’s truly evil and is this all the right path (despite the readers loudly telling him no).  He also sends his cousin, Ben Skywalker, out on a mission to retrieve a Plot-Advancing Amulet from the ancient Sith world of Ziost, whereupon Ben slowly comes to reject his crazy cousin’s visions and prove himself to be a very moral Jedi (although the next two books kind of screw around with this character development).  And then there’s Wedge Antilles, who awesomely calls Jacen out on his new turn for idiocy and evil.

Sacrifice, by Karen Traviss

After a lethargic pace thus far, things finally heat up as Jacen takes over the government in a fairly quick coup d’etat, sends his young cousin off on his first assassination, and then declares himself “Darth Caedus” after killing Mara Jade as his “Sith sacrifice.”  Luke kills Lumiya after thinking she killed Mara, then drops into a severe depression that will last for two more books.  Also, the Mandalorians show up, only to contribute nothing except commentary.

Inferno, by Troy Denning

Jacen Solo Darth Caedus tries to further alienate himself from the galaxy by holding a bunch of Jedi students hostage, having the former Chief of State killed, torturing his cousin Ben, and setting the Wookiee homeworld on fire.  By several unexplained flukes, neither Luke Skywalker nor any of the other heroes are ever able to simply walk up and destroy this hideous character.

Fury, by Aaron Allston

Caedus tries to force Tenel Ka to commit the Hapans to war by stealing their daughter Allana.  Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t work.  Tenel Ka teams up with the Jedi to sneak onto Jacen’s ship and steal back Allana, and then destroy a Corellian superweapon just to rub more salt into the Sith Lord’s wound.  Also, Wedge Antilles and Kyle Katarn make a few cameos just to lend their awesome presence to the whole spectacle.

Revelation, by Karen Traviss

Jaina goes to Boba Fett for training on how to fight and kill her brother, rather than to Luke Skywalker or any of the other qualified Jedi Masters she knows.  Fett decides he’ll get his long-put-off revenge by doing this, which leads to Jaina spending the whole book thinking that Mandalorians are so much cooler than Jedi.  Also, Caedus goes to Fondor to nuke it into submission, then watches in surprise as half his fleet starts a mutiny, gets his ass kicked by Mandalorians, and then runs home with his tail between his legs.

Invincible, by Troy Denning

After being so utterly hammered in the last book, Caedus actually starts to become an effective villain.  Then his sister stabs him through the heart when it looks like he might start to show remorse for what he’s done.  War ends, his daughter Allana gets adopted by Han and Leia, Jaina mourns for her dead twin, and a crazy, incompetent female admiral with an eye patch gets elected Chief of State.  The End.

Final Verdict: I was initially very reluctant to start seeing this series after the travesty of Dark Nest.  When I did get around to reading it, I found all my fears proven true, if not exceeded.  It’s not that I truly despise them for their attempt to recast Jacen Solo as a villain, but that there were so many better ways of doing so and I could think of plenty of other characters they could have turned into more effective and interesting villains.  And not only that, but the authors basically copied Anakin Skywalker’s fall from the prequels, so it’s not even that creative.  Karen Traviss also has a tendency to write up the Mandalorians and other soldiers as amazingly epic, while casting the Jedi as arrogant, aloof, and incompetent.  Still, this series did have one redeeming grace…

Wedge Antilles is awesome.  He gets five out of five stars, now and forever.

Bibliography: Allston, Aaron.  Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Betrayal.  New York: Del Rey, 2006.

Traviss, Karen.  Star WarsLegacy of the Force: Bloodlines.  New York: Del Rey, 2006.

Denning, Troy.  Star WarsLegacy of the Force: Tempest.  New York: Del Rey, 2006.

Allston, Aaron.  Star WarsLegacy of the Force: Exile.  New York: Del Rey, 2007.

Traviss, Karen.  Star WarsLegacy of the Force: Sacrifice.  New York: Del Rey, 2007.

Denning, Troy.  Star WarsLegacy of the Force: Inferno.  New York: Del Rey, 2007.

Allston, Aaron.  Star WarsLegacy of the Force: Fury.  New York: Del Rey, 2007.

Traviss, Karen.  Star WarsLegacy of the Force: Revelation.  New York: Del Rey, 2008.

Denning, Troy.  Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Invincible.  New York: Del Rey, 2008.