This article originally appeared at Den of Geek UK.
With the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm four years ago, the shutters went down on the cottage industry of Star Wars-related media known as the old Expanded Universe (re-labeled “Legends” canon by the House of Mouse), which had been going strong since the release of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire novel in 1991. While not all of it was great (Chewie gets killed by a moon falling on him), there are a lot of characters and concepts which could be fodder for future standalone films. With the appearance of the EU’s best character, Grand Admiral Thrawn, in the TV show Rebels, the possibility is there that not all of the Legends canon has been consigned to the trash compactor.
One of the least utilized but most iconic elements of the original Star Wars trilogy was the Emperor’s Royal Guard. In their movie appearances (Return of the Jedi and a brief cameo in Episode III), they rival Boba Fett in the “cool-but-useless” department. However, Crimson Empire, a comic book mini-series based around the revenge mission of guardsman Kir Kanos, goes some way toward giving them some swag.
The series takes place after Dark Empire, a mini-series in which the Emperor returns via clone bodies to re-conquer the galaxy. However, this is only a temporary victory —his clones deteriorate, and eventually the Emperor dies for the final time. In Crimson Empire, we learn that Palpatine’s clones had been intentionally sabotaged. This information finds its way to the Emperor’s guards, who are then slaughtered to prevent the secret from getting out.
A survivor of the massacre, Kanos has vowed to destroy those who were responsible for his emperor’s demise. His adversary is Canor Jax, a fellow Guardsman who is behind the conspiracy to kill the Emperor and take his place.
While his backstory would have to be significantly altered, the concept of a rogue guardsman — a Star Wars ronin — is a neat idea. We have not seen any of the events from the thirty years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, so some version of this idea could have some legs. Featuring some great action and a variety of exotic villains, Crimson Empire’s focus on an Imperial anti-hero seeking vengeance and redemption could make for a great change of pace.
A 1995 novel written by Kevin J. Anderson, this mighty tome juggles two different plot lines, either of which could serve as the basis of a movie.
The main plot line involves a conspiracy by the Hutts to build their own version of the Death Star (the titular Darksaber) to challenge the New Republic. This is one property which could mark a real break in tone. Treated as a black comedy, while it features the familiar core cast, Darksaber’s best character is the hapless Bevel Lemelisk.
One of the key designers of the original Death Star, Lemelisk is a brilliant one-off unlike anything in the rest of Star Wars. Life is not great for this guy — he was executed by the Emperor seven times, once for failing to recognize the key failing of the Death Star design — and he is not particularly enamored of his new employers. His struggles to get the project completed are the comic heartbeat of the book. In the end, the Hutts’ cheapjack ways do them in — the Darksaber is so shoddy, the super laser fails to work, and the expensive folly winds up destroyed.
While it’s not as, uh, traditionally exciting as your usual Star Wars fare, Bevel Lemelisk’s frustrations with his hive-minded work force could make for a neat subplot in a future film.
Admiral Daala & Maw Installation
Hidden within an asteroid field, Maw Installation is Grand Moff Tarkin’s super weapons design facility. Its chief claim to fame is that the Death Star was designed there. Such was its secrecy, when Tarkin died, its location died with him, leaving its crew isolated and ignorant of the events of the Original Trilogy until Han Solo and his funky bunch stumble upon the facility.
The Installation is guarded by Admiral Daala, Tarkin’s favorite officer. With only four star Destroyers, she is no Vader-sized threat, but Daala is an interesting spin on the traditional Imperial. More liberal-minded than her predecessors, Daala is the first Imperial commander to actively challenge the Empire’s rules on gender in the military.
Easy to anger, Daala lacks Thrawn’s ability to coolly judge a situation, nor Isard’s political nous. However, her ruthlessness does have its moments of success. After the installation is destroyed, Daala returns in Darksaber (remember those two plot lines?), still intent on defeating the Republic. When she realizes the warlords who control the Empire’s remaining resources are more concerned with attacking each other than the Republic, she has them all executed and takes control of their forces for a final bliztkrieg across the galaxy.
In the 90s, Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston wrote a series of novels and comic book mini-series about the adventures of Wedge Antilles and his two fighter squadrons, the iconic Rogues and the Dirty Dozen-style Wraiths. Taking place following the Battle of Endor and ending after Grand Admiral Thrawn’s death, the series is a great blend of space combat, espionage, and political intrigue.
What makes the series great is the great cast of characters — as well as familiar supporting players like Wedge and Admiral Ackbar, you get Force-sensitive fighter pilot Corran Horn and ex-TIE pilot Tycho Celchu, who defected after his homeworld of Alderaan was destroyed by the first Death Star.
In terms of villains, the series featured a respectable roster of Imperials: the brutal, metal-armed Admiral Krennel, the egomaniacal Warlord Zsinj, and, most formidable of all, the Empire’s Director of Intelligence Ysanne Isard, who tangled with Wedge’s squadron on multiple occasions.
Considering the tone and ensemble presented in Rogue One, a standalone film about the Rogue Squadron in the post-Endor era could be a terrific proposition.
Along with Grand Admiral Thrawn, Isard is one of the few truly formidable non-Force-using villains in Star Wars. So untrustworthy even the Emperor considered having her executed, Isard is as duplicitous as they come. Whether it is blackmail, murder, or a planetary plague, she is willing to do anything to preserve the Empire (and her position within it).
Her lowlights include executing the people who let off fireworks following the death of Emperor Palpatine, orchestrating a coup against his successors, manufacturing a plague to devastate the galaxy, torturing and brainwashing prisoners aboard her Super Star Destroyer Lusankya and, most heinously, killing her own father so she could take his job.
Battling everyone from Rogue Squadron to Vader and the Emperor himself, Isard is a terrific nemesis just waiting for the big screen treatment.
One of the most popular characters of the Expanded Universe. Unlike Thrawn, Mara Jade has yet to make an appearance in the new canon. In Legends, she was the Emperor’s Hand, a covert assassin who would carry out missions that someone more obvious like Darth Vader could not. Obsessed with killing Luke Skywalker for killing the Emperor, Jade appeared in Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire novel trilogy. Starting as Luke’s antagonist, she ended up redeeming herself and helping to save the Republic from Thrawn.
With the new timeline established, and the amount of time that has passed, it is unlikely that the Emperor’s Hand could be adapted faithfully (her marriage to Luke Skywalker is one plot line that will probably never happen). Ignoring the trajectory her character took, Mara Jade remains an interesting and viable character — in some ways, her divided loyalties echo the twisted motivations of Kylo Ren.
One way to go may be found in Timothy Zahn’s excellent comic book mini-series By the Emperor’s Hand from 1998. Taking place following the events of Return of the Jedi, the series deals with Jade as she reels from the death of her master and tries to escape the chaos from the crumbling Empire and atone for the failure of her last mission. Featuring cameos from the Emperor, Darth Vader, and Jabba the Hutt, this mini-series stands on its own as a terrific Bond-style action adventure. Stripped of her ship and gadgets, Jade has to go undercover to bring down a galaxy-wide criminal organization while evading Imperial forces.
Whatever the context, Jade would make a great addition to the new series’ trend of strong female protagonists.
Knights of the Old Republic
Of all the EU properties, this concept might be the best bet. Taking place 4,000 years before the fall of the Republic, it is far enough removed from the other Star Wars movies that filmmakers would not have to worry about making sure they had to tie into a broader continuity.
The range of characters is a treasure trove for future films — from the (various) Sith Wars to rogue Jedi Apprentice Zayne Carrick (think The Fugitive with a Jedi) from the comic. Or they could do something with Darth Bane — the Sith Lord who established the idea that there can be only two Sith at any one time. The canvas is so broad, a couple of different standalone films could probably be mined from the video games alone.
Grand Admiral Thrawn
Sure, he’s in Rebels. But who cares? Thrawn is the biggest badass not named Vader and he manages to be one without a lightsaber or Force powers. A military genius, his talents were so prized by the Emperor that the galactic dictator overcame his xenophobia to make the blue-skinned alien a Grand Admiral. Rather than put his talents to use against the Rebels, the Emperor promptly sent Thrawn to expand the Empire’s reach into the Unknown Regions.
The main antagonist of Timothy Zahn’s excellent Thrawn Trilogy, Thrawn takes charge of the flailing Imperial war machine and almost succeeds in toppling the New Republic. Despite his lack of resources, Thrawn’s ability to predict his opponents’ strategies succeeds time and time again, and he even manages to put the reins on a (deranged) Jedi clone, Joruus C’baoth.
The events of The Force Awakens mean a straight adaptation is out of the question, but who’s to say the wily devil won’t turn up? Considering the First Order’s nostalgia, one could see a scenario where one of Kylo Ren’s flunkies goes into the Unknown Regions after hearing about a legendary figure from the old days… Probably not, but one can dream eh?
Now this look is subjective and (extremely) un-comprehensive. I’ve tried to limit the scope, otherwise we’d be here all day. But that’s what comment sections are for. What were your favorite parts of the old EU? What would you like to see in a future movie?