Like it nor not, Star Wars has been through something of a reboot. Many people haven’t notice and will never notice, but for some of us it’s like losing an old friend. Hundreds of books, comics, and video games in an expanded universe have been rendered non-canon to make way for a new era of stories. However, such an act comes in the light of getting an entirely new universe full of new movies from talented directors and smart producers… so it’s hard to get too upset.
And, let’s face it, there were a lot of bad Expanded Universe stories. A lot. However, there were some really, really good ones that deserve not to be forgotten. In the interest of fairness, we’re going to avoid all the post-Return of the Jedi material, as it’s very obvious that the new direction for that time period simply can’t co-exist with the old one. But what about the stories set before that time? There’s no reason why some of them can’t return to the fold, especially when they’ve done so much to flesh out the universe already.
Here are our picks for the stories to restore.
1. Shadows of the Empire
If we’d have to choose one story to rescue, it would be the story that chronicled the missing year between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi: Shadows of the Empire. There are numerous reasons, including its fantastic villain in Xizor, Luke’s excellent character arc transitioning him between movies, Darth Vader’s story of searching for his son while trying to save him from a death mark, and that somehow it all manages to completely feel equally like both movies it’s set between.
But more than the story itself, the reason to keep it as canon would be the fanfare that surrounded its arrival in 1996. Paving the way for the eventual release of the Special Edition, Shadows of the Empire was a book, a soundtrack, a video game, a comic series, and an entire toy line. In fact, one of the main ships of the story, The Outrider, was digitally inserted into the skies of Mos Eisley in the Special Edition of A New Hope. The ship itself was rendered canon and an interior was on display at the most recent Star Wars Celebration.
Shadows of The Empire was a movie release without the movie. It became such a big part of Star Wars that ignoring it just feels wrong after all the effort that went into it. And really, at the end of the day, it’s just a really good story.
2. Knights of the Old Republic
Speaking of great stories, Bioware’s Knights of the Old Republic is a game that manages to tell a classic Star Wars tale while making it all seem fresh again. The characters are rich, the world is familiar yet new, and it has a twist that rivals Luke Skywalker’s parentage bombshell in Empire. All that, and it’s set thousands of years before the movies… so what harm could it do to the new canon?
3. Darth Plagueis
The book is already kind of an unofficial part of the present canon, since it’s been referenced in the new canon novel Tarkin. Not only does it provide fantastic characterization of Palpatine, but it also fleshes out his machinations that span across the Prequel era, culminating in him becoming Emperor in Revenge of the Sith. C’mon, Disney, you’ve pretty much confirmed these events anyway… just give us a nudge.
This might be the best Expanded Universe novel out there. It turned Mace Windu into a bad ass Jedi version of Samuel L. Jackson into a bad ass fully fleshed out character. Essentially Heart of Darkness (or Apocalypse Now, if you prefer) meets Star Wars, it features Mace Windu venturing deep into a jungle planet wrecked by guerilla warfare to find his old padawan Depa Billaba, who has apparently gone insane. Aside from being an extremely well written book, it features a fantastic characterization of Mace Windu that elevated the character far beyond what we saw in the films.
Plus, the story is fairly self contained… which means it really wouldn’t conflict with anything else. Yes, Billaba has been named Kanan Jarrus’ master on Star Wars Rebels, but it’s so vague the events could easily be connected with no trouble.
5. The Han Solo Trilogy
So well written they feel like an extension of the films, the three Han Solo books of The Paradise Snare, The Hutt Gambit, and Rebel Dawn have almost been taken for granted as the character’s back story for more than a decade. They follow a young Han Solo as he enlists in the Empire, leaves after meeting Chewbacca as an Imperial slave and freeing him, then wandering the galaxy with his new pal until they become the pair of anti-heroes we meet in A New Hope. In the worst case, it could be turned into an animated show, but this back story is too good to not at least steal from.
6. The Force Unleashed
While not the best story on the list, is does have some very strong moments. Much like Shadows of the Empire, The Force Unleashed was also something of a movie without the movie. There was a video game, a novel, a comic, and a toy line. It also told a pretty well executed story of Darth Vader’s secret apprentice who went from a socially unadjusted Jedi hunter to a Rebel who embraced the Light Side of the Force. Oh, and it features Sam Witwer as the lead… and anything with that guy in it needs to be canon. He’s just that cool.