Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and Canon

Splinter_of_the_Minds_Eye

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster was the first book published based on the movies. Cover art was by Ralph McQuarrie

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye often pops up when people complain about contradictions in the Expanded Universe.

However, people perhaps aren’t noticing the publishing date. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was written before The Empire Strikes Back, and is the story Lucas considered doing if Star Wars initial movie had not made enough for the rest of the movies. The ‘official’ Expanded Universe did not begin until a decade later.

The story tells of one of Luke and Leia’s adventures. En route to convince planetary leaders to support the Alliance, they are forced to crash land on the wild world of Mimban. The muddy swamp hides an Imperial mining colony. They sneak into the colony searching for a way offworld and encounter Halla, a Force Sensitive who has found out about a treasure: the Kaiburr Crystal, which increases the Force power of the user. Figuring out they are not locals, they reach an agreement, help her find the crystal and she helps them escape the planet. Unfortunately, they are side tracked and taken prisoner by the Imperials, who fortunately have no idea who they have. Not so fortunately, the Imperial in charge calls higher authorities…and word reaches Darth Vader.

Misconception:

There are some serious misconceptions taking place about this book. The biggest one is that Luke and Leia had an incestuous relationship here. In fact, the closest they come is Luke watching Leia sleep and being tempted to kiss her. In fact, most of their behavior, after the movies, comes across very much like sibling squabbles. Luke’s temptation to kiss her is no more contradictory than the kiss she gave him in A New Hope for luck, before the swing across the chasm, or her kiss in Empire in an obvious attempt to annoy Han. There is certainly no evidence of anything physical beyond that. And at the time, neither knew of their relationship. Alan Dean Foster’s style isn’t toward romantic encounters in detail in any case. Nor is it common at all In Universe to detail physical romantic encounters.

A Dark Horse Comics graphic novel adaptation of this book basically skips the whole temptation bit, and adds in Admiral Piett and a mention of Vader thinking of Luke as his son. This brings it more in line with the rest of the Expanded Universe and movies.

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is considered part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe canon, and the worlds of Circourpous (the intended destination) and Mimban are mentioned elsewhere, as are the aliens involved. Both Halla and the Kaiburr crystal go largely unmentioned elsewhere, except the brief factoid that Luke tested a piece of the crystal in a lightsaber and that the powers of the crystal diminish the farther it is from its temple. The kaiburr crystal (yes that was the spelling) was mentioned in early drafts of the scripts in the Making of Star Wars books.

Consistency with the later published official canon:

Leia kissing Luke did happen in the movies, as I mentioned before. Once for luck, once to make Han Solo jealous. Nothing in the book goes beyond that.

Obi-Wan apparently directing Luke’s actions is a reasonable link to the movies. While his Force ghost does not appear, Luke instinctively replies once ‘I’m Ben Kenobi’ when fighting Vader and more than once ponders how he sometimes feels someone else directing his actions. Given Obi-Wan’s earlier speaking to him and later appearance in the movies, this is believable that he was helping guide Luke’s Force connection. In later stories such as Allegiance, by Timothy Zahn, Obi-Wan directly gives him advice and directions.

Darth Vader, while appearing a bit ‘off’ from his movie appearance with his ‘toying’ with the heroes is actually also consistent with later stories. As Anakin, he toys with his enemies in Approaching Storm (also by Alan Dean Foster). He also has a tendency to pursue other objects like the Kaiburr crystal, including the Bota entrusted to Jax Pavan in the Coruscant Knights series, as well as a special stone Anakin himself had given Jax. He also pursued the Murr Talisman in the Empire/Rebellion era comic series in the Vector cross over. His harshness with subordinates that fail him is legendary, the only difference here being he uses his lightsaber rather than the Force Choke.

Spoiler
Vader actually loses his arm to Luke’s lightsaber in this. However, Luke does note there is no blood. Since Vader’s arm was already largely replaced by a prosthetic at this point, its not a real contradiction either…his pursuit of the Jedi may well have cost him his limbs repeatedly by now, in any case.

Leia picks up Luke’s lightsaber and fights Vader at one point in this. Given no one knew Leia was Luke’s sister at this point, it makes it an unintentional but welcome hint that maybe the Force is with her. Leia’s Jedi training doesn’t come until the stories after Return of the Jedi, starting at Heir to the Empire but interrupted repeatedly until the Dark Nest Crisis by Troy Denning when she completes it. Leia also flies a Y-Wing in this, suggesting her skills as a pilot. And in later Dark Horse comics she is again shown flying a fighter.

Artoo and Threepio also are in the story, with their usual bantering. While its likely a coincidence, it’s perhaps a foreshadowing one that Vader is able to simply turn them off at one point. This could be due to simply his skill with droids and machines, subconscious recognition on his part, or even some command leftover from their ownership by Anakin that kicked into play.  A coincidence almost certainly…but one that fits.

 

 

Han Solo Trilogy by Ann Crispin Continuity

The Paradise Snare coverThis is one of the most amazing trilogies ever regarding continuity. Han Solo’s story is followed from his childhood taken in by a thief to right before A New Hope.

It explains many things never seen but clearly implied by the movies. Less a case of how it influenced future stories and far more the case of how it seamlessly interwove stories previously published into its story, giving the history behind things later in the chronology.

We have how Han learned to understand Wookiee as well as Hutteese. Where, how and why he learned to fly starships. How he was a respected officer in the Empire and went to a smuggler with a Wookiee with a life debt at his side. Of course, it also tells us how he won the Falcon. We even see him dump a shipment of spice that led to his trouble with Jabba. What got Han in so much trouble with Lando that he feared he might hold a grudge. We see his first brush with Rebels here and why he might have been so concerned about getting paid.

This story interweaves multiple characters and threads from the rest of the Expanded Universe. It also expertly weaves around Han Solo adventures by Brian Daley that occurred in the Corporate Sector, even giving why he went there in the first place.

Influence on later stories:

Han’s Alias: Jenos Idanian, was later used by Corran Horn in I,Jedi

Togorians. The feline species later shows up in Knights of the Old Republic (comic) Knight Errant ,Jedi Apprentice, Republic (comic), Shatterpoint, Dark Times,  Tatooine Ghost, Thrawn Duology, Survivor’s Quest, New Jedi Order, Dark Nest, Crucible.

Tlanda’ Til – Appear later in the New Jedi Order.

Ylesia – the planet is mentioned in various games and stories, and is visited in the New Jedi Order.

Bria Tharen – Han’s former girlfriend and fiance also appears in Underworld: the Yavin Vassilika by Dark Horse Comics.

Chewbacca’s marriage to Mallatobuck happens here. While she was introduced in the Wookiee storybook and the Holiday Special with their son, this is our first true look at events that lead into scenes from Chewbacca, the tribute comic by Dark Horse.

Characters drawn from other stories include:

Salporin and Ralrracheen, (wookiees) from the Thrawn trilogy.

Mako Spince (smuggler), Shug Ninx (mechanic), Salla Zend (smuggler and lover) , Vima Da Boda (former Jedi / fortune teller) – Dark Empire

Kid DXo’ln, Zeen Afit, Wynni and Sinewy Ana Blue (smugglers) – The New Rebellion

Xaverri (stage magician and expert con artist out for revenge on Imperials) – The Crystal Star

Roa and Lwyll – (Smuggler who taught Han the Kessel Run and his wife) Han Solo Adventures (Han Solo’s Revenge)

Durga the Hutt (Rival of Jabba & Black Sun Vigo)- Darksaber and Shadows of the Empire

Thracken Sal Solo (Unwanted Relative) – The Corellian Trilogy

Senator Garm Bel Iblis, Winter (Leia’s aid and intelligence agent) – Thrawn Trilogy

Vuffi Raa (Droid) – Lando Calrissian Trilogy

Dash Rendar – Shadows of the Empire

Vima Da Boda (fallen/lost Jedi/ Vagrant) – Dark Empire

 

Dark Forces & Katarn Influence

dark forces: dark troopersDark Forces: The first video game.

Dark Forces primarily starts life as a video game. Built on the old Dos System, by modern standards its pretty out of date. But this pixelated adventure starring Kyle Katarn (the player) is the first critical movie tie in. That’s because it is Kyle Katarn who steals the primary, complete plans of the Death Star that allows Luke Skywalker to blow it up.
Kyle’s adventure only begins here. The game continues with him tracking down piece by piece the details of the special Dark Trooper project and rescuing General Madine from an Imperial prison.

Dark Forces: Soldier for the Empire Novella and Audio Drama.

This is the story of how and why Kyle ends up going after those Death Star plans in the first place. The son of a craftsman, he went to the Imperial Military Academy at Carida as it was the cheapest way to get an education. He was unaware that his father was a leader of the moon of Sulon’s resistance. His final test as a cadet before graduation was to take a Rebel held asteroid. There, in the chaos, he meets Jan Ors and finds himself unable to kill her. But even as he is on this mission, the Dark Jedi Jerec is pacifying Sulon, the moon of Sullust, framing the Rebels for the deed and Morgan Katarn pays the price.
Kyle himself receives word that his father was killed by Rebels. But on shipping out on leave, he runs into Jan again, who has evidence to the contrary. Kyle, motivated to join the Rebels, agrees to his first mission, an apparent suicide mission to steal the Death Star Plans from a secure Imperial base.
The novella has the added perspective of showing things from Jan Ors point of view as well as Kyle’s. It includes a very important quote, which explains why it seems so many others seem responsible for the Death Star Plans:

The only thing better than a well-laid plan is a well conceived backup plan. Our forces on Toprawa may have a shot at the Death Star plans as well. The problem is, that while the Toprawa plans include the battle station’s hull design and life support infrastructure, the Danuta plans include additional engineering schematics and, if we’re lucky, a complete map to the offensive and defensive weapons impalements. We need both sets to ensure success. – Mon Mothma to Jan Ors.

Influences on the Galaxy:

  • Danuta will appear in the video game Lethal Alliance, where Rianna Saren steals an updated set of the same plans. She does meet Kyle who offers her a job that eventually leads her to join the Alliance.
  • Sullust is mentioned in the movies, but the Sorusuub corporation mentioned here is mentioned in West End games and other books as being a Sullustan company that supports the Empire. The colonists were building there own G-Tap power source to avoid dealing with the company. Sorusuub also builds starships, such as Han Solo’s first ship, the Bria.
  • Meck Odom, AKA Odom Meck, a friend of Kyle’s is a mentioned as being a member of the Bomarr monks. These spiritualists are seen in Galaxy of Fear series, Tales of Jabba’s Palace and mentioned in X-Wing Rogue Squadron as well as DarkSaber.
  • Carida the military academy is visited and mentioned in the Han Solo Trilogy by Ann Crispin, and is  a major player in the Jedi Academy Trilogy.
  • Thrawn, at the time a Captain, is revealed to have served under the Dark Jedi Jerec.
  • Lando Calrissian meets Kyle here on the Star of Empire, and his droid Vuffi Raa (from the Lando Calrissian trilogy) is mentioned though not by name.
  • Phrik: the substance Kyle discovered being mined for Dark Troopers is lightsaber resistant and appears again in Knights of the Old Republic (comic), Darth Plagueis, Republic Commando: Triple Zero, Labyrinth of Evil, Star Wars Galaxies, Scourge, The Old Republic, and the Clone Wars micro series.

Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight Video Game

Kyle KatarnKyle discovers that the dark Jedi Jerec is his father’s killer. Details of how and why lead Kyle (the player) through Nar Shadaa’s city after a data disc containing information. Upon retrieving it, Kyle has to return to Sulon, and find his father’s droid Wee Gee, the only one who can decrypt the message on it. Kyle discovers his Father’s secret and what Jerec seeks: the Valley of the Jedi. He inherits the lightsaber of his father’s Jedi advisor, Rahn and has to go on a quest to find the valley and stop Jerec and his dark Jedi allies from gaining power enough to make him a new Emperor or worse.

Dark Forces: Rebel Agent Novella and Audio Drama.

This tells the story of Kyle’s journey through the perils of Nar Shadaa, his rescue (again) by Jan Ors and his visions of Rahn which warn him of the dangers ahead. An additional detail one gets from the book is how Weegee ended up with them (the game skips this bit). It also reveals that for all his accomplishments, their is mistrust at the higher echelons of the now New Republic. This is because he hasn’t ‘officially’ joined the Alliance though he works for them. He is not a team player and often goes off on his own.

Dark Forces: Jedi Knight Novella and Audio Drama.

In this we get not only details of Kyle’s arrival on Ruusan, where the Valley of the Jedi lies and his adventures there. Here he faces his worst enemies: not only those who killed his father, but his own desire for revenge which, as a potential Jedi could lead him to the Dark Side. Luke is involved in this, when the Alliance discovers the details of Jerec’s plan, he supports Kyle’s need to be the one to act.
Between book and video game, the book versions are the ‘canon’ versions of events, since one’s choices in game could ultimately turn Kyle either to the Dark Side or the Light.

In Galaxy Influence

  • Ruusan, Valley of the Jedi, will get it’s official backstory in Jedi VS Sith by Dark Horse comics and the Darth Bane trilogy by Karparshyn.
  • Jerec will officially be revealed as a Miraluka Jedi Archaelogist trained by Jocasta Nu before becoming an Inquisitor. He is mentioned in Dark Horse Comics during the Clone Wars era, SkyeWalkers: A Clone Wars Story and during the Empire in Galaxy of Fear.
  • Boc is mentioned as being missed for potential Jedi training due to the watchman Anoon Bondara (Darth Maul Shadow Hunter) being killed. He was discovered too late by Nejaa Halcyon (I,Jedi, Jedi Trial). He was enslaved by Admiral Screed (Droids) before being discovered by Jerec.
  • Nar Shadaa: The Smuggler’s Moon is also featured in Dark Empire and the Han Solo Trilogy by Ann Crispin.
  • Rahn is mentioned as being part of a part of an underground to help Jedi escape the purge that included Halagad Ventor (Skyewalkers: A Clone Wars Story) and Djinn Altis (Children of the Jedi).

Dark Forces: Mysteries of the Sith (Video Game Expansion)

Kyle is training with Mara Jade when the New Republic base is attacked. His (the players) initial mission involves taking on the attackers and infiltrating their main base disguised as an asteroid to stop the attack.
The game shifts here to Mara Jade (now the player) as Kyle has gone on an investigation to Dromund Kaas. When he doesn’t return her adventures involve tracking him down past pirates and other enemies to the Sith infested swamp world, where he has succumbed to it’s Dark Side power. There she has to win him back.

Scenes in the game imply that Mon Mothma now has implicit trust and a need for the services of both Kyle Katarn and Mara Jade. This is the only game in which Jan Ors does not appear.

In Galaxy Influences:

  • Mara Jade is a recurring character in the novels, created in Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy and well into the Legacy of the Force era. She also appears in Dark Horse Comics “By the Emperor’s Hand” and “Union”.
  • Dromund Kaas appears again in Fate of the Jedi series and is mentioned in The Old Republic.

Jedi Outcast

Kyle (the player) begins Jedi Outcast back to his mercenary agent ways. Back with Jan, he is investigating an Imperial outpost. But this leads him to discover the Imperial Remnant is trying to artificially give people the power to use the Force. Running headlong into a fallen Jedi from the Academy, he loses Jan to them. Believing her dead and seeking revenge, he returns to the Valley of the Jedi to regain the abilities he’d walked away from. Then he returns to the Jedi Academy of Yavin 4, where he left his lightsaber. Kyle finds himself once more chasing through familiar locales: Nar Shadaa, Bespin’s Cloud City, Yavin 4, as well as Imperial Outposts and bases. His goal: find out if Jan could still be alive and stop Desann and his allies from creating a Force powered army.

In Galaxy Influence:

  • Ruusan (again) is back.
  • Morgan Katarn’s Force Spirit appears.
  • Luke’s Jedi Academy on Yavin 4 appears just as it did in the Jedi Academy trilogy, complete with a Jedi training course. It will appear again in Young Jedi Knights, Junior Jedi Knights and on into the New Jedi Order era.
  • Cortosis: Kyle discovers they are mining this alloy. In Specter of the Past/Vision of the Future duology cortosis is revealed as being lightsaber resistant. It also is used in the Darth Bane trilogy.

Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy Video Game

Jedi Academy game with Katarn, Luke Skywalker and Jaden Korr (rodian male version)Jaden Korr (the player) is apprenticed to Kyle Katarn who is back, now as a Jedi Master. Some missions are with Kyle, some without. They proceed through Tatooine, Yavin 4, Bakura, Corellia, Hoth, Coruscant, Vjun, Taanab, Byss, Ord Mantell, Chandrila and more. The enemy: the Empire Reborn, led by Tavion. Tavion was apprenticed to Desann in the Jedi Outcast game. Now she too, seeks to give Force powers to an army. But her goal is to resurrect an ancient Sith Lord.

In Galaxy Influence:

  • Bakura is from Truce at Bakura, the novel set right in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi. It also returns in the Corellian Trilogy.
  • Byss is from the Dark Empire comics.
  • Vjun is from the Dark Empire comics and Junior Jedi Knights, as well as being visited pre empire in Yoda: Dark Rendezvous. Vader’s statue is shown here, fallen, just as it is in Junior Jedi Knights.
  • Korriban and the Valley of the Sith is visited in Dark Horse comics Golden Age of the Sith, Jedi Quest series, The Old Republic series, Darth Bane trilogy, Knights of the Old Republic, and Fate of the Jedi era.
  • The ancient Sith Lord Marka Ragnos is from Golden Age of the Sith.
  • Chandrila is Mon Mothma’s homeworld.
  • Jaden Korr gets his own duology: Crosscurrent and Riptide.
  • Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors are seen in a Tales comic fighting the Yuuzhan Vong (canon possibly)
  • In the Legacy of the Force era Kyle is officially a Jedi BattleMaster.

Scoundrels Review

Star Wars ScoundrelsGoing into Scoundrels one knows 2 things: it’s bound to be a good read, because its by Timothy Zahn. That said, how much it is enjoyed depends on what one is in the mood for. If one is expecting Jedi, space battles, or Rebel vs Empire action, one may be disappointed. If however one is in the mood for Han Solo and his ne’er do well smuggler buddies joining forces for high stakes against dangerous foes, one is in  for a treat.

There are nods to Oceans 11, Indiana Jones and the whole ‘who shot first’ in the cantina scene. Lando returns, Chewbacca is alive and well right by Han’s side, and a few familiar faces from old stories join new ones both to aid and stop Han Solo in his attempt to get money (or credits) to pay off an outraged Jabba the Hutt. The familiar faces plus the opposition are familiar from the rest of the Expanded Universe, including the Black Sun Crime Syndicate. The Imperials are sniffing around too. There is even a brief mention of how Han lost the money he’d been given to the Alliance, before he could repay Jabba the Hutt.

While in places the plot seems to be heavy on someone overthinking things, the fact that the stakes are life and death for failure on both sides means they have reason for being paranoid. Even members of Black Sun don’t want to tick off Black Sun and it’s Prince Xixor. Meanwhile Han is no slouch when it comes to figuring out when not all is as it seems.

It does seem a bit odd to  place it where it is in the timeline. Set after Ann Crispan’s Han Solo Trilogy, when Lando is already ticked off at Han and blaming him for being ripped off. That already explained why Lando might not be thrilled to see him at Cloud City.

Stories like this are where Han shows how smart he is and how able to convince a diverse group of people to function as a team for a common goal. The movies may show his skill with a blaster and piloting, but this is the kind of story that tells you he has what it takes to one day be the General the rebels will need in Return of the Jedi.

 

MedStar 2: Jedi Healer Review & Continuity

Medstar 2 picks up the pace from the first book. Barriss makes a startling discovery about the Bota that brings her to face the real, subtle temptations of the Dark Side. Her questioning is a serious question on what one should do for the greater good.

The drama is high with this one and it just gets more intense. The saboteur is still on the loose and targeting what most civilized species avoid in a war: the medics. The characters are all face to face with their own mortality and concerns about the future. The jokes and camaraderie and shared pain make them easy to empathize with. Love, friendship and lives are at stake and one is a traitor. Here we finally get clues to narrow down who the traitor might be.

This story left me wanting more about the characters and lives the door open for many of them to carry on.

Influence on the Continuity

Introductions

Uli Divinian: male human doctor from Tatooine. He will appear in later stories.

Eyar Maranth: sullustan singer. Will be mentioned in future stories.

Teedle: serving droid

Expanded Characters:

Barriss faces a bigger challenge this time, a temptation new to her.

I-Five faces the slow return of memory on events from Darth Maul: Shadowhunter that will influence his course.

Den Dhur faces the temptation to settle down with a female sullustan. But he also faces the challenge of whether a public’s right to know and his duty as a journalist is more important than danger it could bring to friends.

Jos Vandar has to deal with loss, having his world view upended on top of an attraction not considered acceptable by his people.

Mentions:

Sorcerer of Tund (Lando Calrissian Trilogy)

Falleen (Shadows of the Empire)

Cultural Expansion:

Umbaran people.

Major Connections:

Implied Death Star Superlaser

 

Games, Mechanics and Continuity

Star Wars games have a continuity set in the Expanded Universe.  Some would prefer to assume that they have no canon versions since there are many different endings. There are even some that are determined to believe that game mechanics mean the games contradict any other source and try and use it to give credence to their thinking that the Expanded Universe was all contradictions.

There is no reason the games various endings should be any less fun just because they aren’t the canon version, or why people should get upset that their head canon isn’t true. I’ve played various versions of Knights of the Old Republic, Star Wars the Old Republic and Dark Forces.  I have played male and female, aliens, Light Side…in fact I haven’t played Dark Side much at all even when I played a Sith. I have sampled it. I’m just not very good at it.

The default version is that all games, except for the Imperial side in Star Wars the Old Republic, the ending is the Light Side one. This goes back to Star Wars being about light and redemption as George Lucas established.

RevanRevan of Knights of the Old Republic is canonically male. I have played Revan myself as a female and a male, with various faces. The fact that he was a man was established in the novel of the same name by Drew Karparshyn. The version that later appears in Star Wars the Old Republic is as well. There are different romance options (nothing huge) in both. If you play as female you find out Juhani is attracted to you. This is the first attraction between same sexes mentioned in the Star Wars Universe. Whether it was intentional or a game glitch I’m not sure. But in Star Wars The Old Republic MMO, you actually have missions on the Republic side to free him, held by the Sith Emperor’s power for far beyond his normal life span. You are led on this mission in part by the Exile’s Force ghost. The imperial side mission is to kill him. However, mysteriously, you encounter Revan again later, in game. Or is it him, or an imposter?

SPOILERS.
The Emperor’s power weakened Revan in a way that his dark side ‘split’ on death from his light side. His light side joined the Force. His dark side used it’s power to hold on to life, waging war still against everyone. The goal: reawaken the Sith Emperor in physical form so he could be destroyed at last.
SPOILERS.
During the last expansion, you finally face the Sith Emperor in the Spirit Realm in all 3 of his incarnations. Revan joins this battle.

The Exile with Visas MarrThe Exile in Knights of the Old Republic is canonically female. Again this is shown in the Revan novel by Drew Karparshyn as well in Star Wars The Old Republic as a Force ghost.  I haven’t played this one as a male yet at all, but I do plan to eventually.  There is one companion that changes based on male or female playthrough. Also of course the limited romance options do change.

Anakin Skywalker in Clone Wars 2003 for XBoxThe Clone Wars 2003 for XBox is an excellent part of continuity. While the ‘Dooku’ in game is said to be a clone, it ties in with Tales of the Jedi era (and to a lot of other stuff that tie to that.)  The Separatists have found a super weapon of the Ancient Sith War, when Exar Kun and Uliq Qel-Droma battled the Republic. The Jedi have to stop it.  You play as Anakin Skywalker,  where you might find out (as I did) that I’m not nearly the pilot Anakin is!  You interact with a holocron and the spirit of Uliq to get clues on defeating the Dark Reaper, which is powered by the Force Harvester., an ancient Sith artifact.  You start off (as I recall) on Raxus Prime, where you get (unfortunately) captured. From there it’s a race to escape the wookiee moon that the weapon is tested on. Following the trail eventually leads you to the final battle: the Dark Reaper.  It’s a tough fight (which my malfunctioning XBox doesn’t much like now.) This would be set in the same era as the Republic: Clone Wars comic books, while Anakin is still Obi-Wan’s apprentice (and ignoring the disruptive Filoni Clone Wars which came later and blew up the entire timeline.)

Games, Mechanics and ContinuityThe Force Unleashed has you play as Vader’s Secret Apprentice. Code named Starkiller, Galen Marek was taken as a child when his Jedi father was slain.  You get to  play this level as Vader.  From then on, you play as Starkiller.  His powers are literally unleashed and amped up in ways we only saw before in Clone Wars ’03 by Genndy Tartakovsky. The book and comic tie in shows the powers are actually more limited than what we see. For instance:  you don’t actually pull the star destroyer from the sky.  Instead you are steering it down because you can’t get out of the way.  You can at best aim it where you want it to land. It’s a very challenging level even on the easy setting and has led to a lot of frustrated players.  (This is in the PC version.  Console versions tended to have the cut scene instead).  The game mechanics are hyped up. You visit various planets including Raxus Prime (again,  as in the one Anakin visited in Clone Wars.)  Starkiller’s mission isn’t ‘Mary Sue’ as some think.  No one for real would want to be raised as he was, raised by his Father’s killer to be a Sith warrior. One look at the scars reveal a hard life.  Raised in chains by Vader the missions he is sent on are to assassinate Jedi. But along the way Starkiller finds his own path to redemption with the help of his pilot, Juno Eclipse, the Jedi he tried to kill, Kota, and his droid Proxy. But confronting Vader and the Emperor is guaranteed to cost him his life.  Can he (and the player) succeed? While there is an ‘Ultimate Sith” version,  the story where Starkiller is redeemed and becomes a Jedi in the end is the canon one, as evidenced by the tie in media. The story does use ‘The Corellian Treaty” from West End Games Rebel Alliance Sourcebook. Bail Organa, Mon Mothma,  as well as Garm Bel Iblis, first mentioned in the Thrawn trilogy by Zahn appear.

There is some question how the Emperor’s knowledge of Bail’s treason ties in with the Radio drama. In the radio drama, Leia goes on a mercy mission and finds a Rebel hiding from an Imperial takeover. He has critical information about the Death Star. This leads her to another planet which triggers fighting there, then home. At this point, she and Bail invite ‘Lord Tion’ (in charge of the  now occupied world)  to dinner to pump him for information on the Death Star.  Did word not get out yet Bail was a traitor? Possibly. Events were moving very quickly at this point.  Also there is a story that Garm’s family was murdered to stop him speaking out.  How does this tie in?  However, a complicated story is not itself a contradiction.

The Force Unleashed 2:  I have not played this yet.  But I do know Starkiller is reborn, either as a clone or in a completely healed, scar free body.  Unfortunately, since this was supposed to lead to a The Force Unleashed 3, it does leave some loose threads that look like continuity errors. Likely they would’ve been tied up in third game. For one thing the first major victory against the Empire by the Rebellion was getting the Death Star plans. So the idea of a successful raid on Kamino would contradict that. But if that successful raid was part of a trap, if it cost more than they initially thought, that would work fine.  That seems likely to be the case as they literally left Vader a prisoner of the Rebels in this!

dark forces: dark troopersIn Dark Forces you always play as Kyle Katarn, a guy. But his features vary from pixelated beardless face (the first game during briefings) to bearded.  Dark Forces: Soldier for the Empire’s artwork in the novella shows him beardless (right after graduating the academy) to bearded (breaking into an Imperial base to steal the Death Star plans.) All games and stories after that show him bearded. While never explicitly stated, one might think a beard a minor detail yet some assume its a contradiction.  Personally I’d say it makes sense that Kyle would grow a beard to go on the mission. He was, as his friend Meck stated in an audio drama, the most famous graduate of their Carida Academy graduating class. The Empire would’ve arrested, if not shot him on the spot. Growing a beard is the least he could do to hide his features. Kyle Katarn’s daring Death Star plan raid is just his first mission. Stopping the production of Dark Troopers is his ongoing quest.

Shadows of the Empire Dash vs Xixor hologramShadows of the Empire is as many know a huge, multimedia event set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  Since Han Solo is cooling his heels in bounty hunter hands, a new smuggler is brought in by the name of Dash Rendar. The video game largely centers around Dash.  Tracking down the bounty hunters who have Han is part of his mission. You get to participate in the Battle of Hoth (where he’s smuggling supplies and hops in a snowspeeder), track down bounty hunters, ride a swoop, and finally infiltrate Xixor’s palace.  The game events in general (particularly in the Xixor’s palace) are not specifically the canon version, although some may have happened.  The book focuses on first finding Han, but then a new mystery crops up: someone is trying to kill Luke.  And it isn’t Vader, who has the higher price on hisLuke’s head for live capture only. This ultimately leads to the discovery that it is Black Sun (and only Vader and Xixor know why.)  The infiltration in book is different than in game  (although the game events could’ve happened in most cases and just gone unmentioned.)   The comic book focuses on things from the point of view of the bounty hunters.  That has one minor conflict: where Luke feels it is Vader trying to kill him, whereas in the novel he is sure it isn’t. (Although his angst at the subject of Vader is pretty accurate either way.) I for one found the game very challenging until I invested in a controller.  Dash kept sliding off cliffs until I did so.

Kyle KatarnIn Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight, Weegee is being used to attack continuity. Weegee is the droid built by Katarn’s father who decrypted both his father’s message and the map to the Valley of the Jedi. Because Weegee is not seen during the escape from Sulon after Katarn gets the lightsaber from him even the Wookiepedia claims a contradiction that doesn’t exist since the novella Rebel Agent has the droid escorting him out. But in game you can see Weegee (just as the novella states) during a cut scene post the escape.  This is no more a contradiction than the game mechanic that lets one man carry an arsenal without a backpack. You also don’t see his lightsaber, E-11 trooper rifle, Bryar pistol, missile launcher, grenades unless you are using them and those are not considered contradictions.

Mysteries of the Sith expansions ties into the end of Dark Forces 2 and the books via Mara Jade.  It also confirms that the canon version of the main game is Light Side since Kyle is still serving the New Republic. The game is set during the years she is with (possibly leading) the Smuggler Alliance. Interestingly Mara is trusted by Mon Mothma in this, although years later Leia no longer does due to lack of contact. Then again, it wasn’t Mon Mothma’s brother she had a passionate need to shoot, left over from the Emperor’s last psychic message. The game has the same mechanics as Dark Forces 2. (Although the underwater parts are even more difficult) The game is later connected to Star Wars The Old Republic via Dromund Kaas. Even though Mara has some training you are starting from nearly nothing in this game in the Force mechanic department.

Jan Ors in Jedi KnightJedi Outcast picks up where the Mysteries of the Sith leaves off,  with a time gap. Katarn, turned off the Force due to his brush with the Dark Side is back to being a mercenary with Jan Ors. He’s lost many of his skills and the player has to earn them back. This game did not have a novella or audio drama alongside (sadly). It goes perfectly alongside the Jedi Academy trilogy and I,Jedi.  A brief cut scene even mentions the original students helping training the next generation of apprentices. You get to go on a brief tour of the Jedi Academy on Yavin, the same Temple we seen in Star Wars the Old Republic and in the Young Jedi Knights books.

Jedi Academy game with Katarn, Luke Skywalker and Jaden Korr (rodian male version)Jedi Academy (the video game) is the next in line, maintaining continuity with Katarn now the instructor. But you can play as male or female or a several different species. Zabrak, Kel Dor, Twilek, Rodian or human (of course) are available. The canon version is a white male human (I find that rather bland.)  Personally my preference was male Rodian or female Zabrak. I don’t find that affects my game play enjoyment any less just because it isn’t canon to the Expanded Universe. In any case the canon version was established in Riptide and Crosscurrent by Drew Karparshyn. Another neat tie in is that Katarn is acting a bit crazy when you visit Vjun. We also see Vjun in Dark Empire (comics), Junior Jedi Knights: Vader’s Fortress. We even see the statue of Vader, toppled. But most critically we find in Yoda: Dark Rendevouz that an entire family went mad there,  on this Dark Side world long ago. The residual effects are still felt, suggesting why Kyle’s attitude might be a bit off!

These of course are not all the Star Wars video games!  I haven’t had a chance to play them all. Sadly it’s unlikely for some that I ever will. Some just are not working on a modern PC.  (Starfighter is not cooperative with Windows 10).  Some just were made for console. One can’t simply buy console’s willy nilly unless one is rich.  (I would love to play Bounty Hunter. Unless they make a PC port, it’s not happening.) But so far all the games I’ve tried have been part of the Expanded Universe, except of course Lego Star Wars saga which is Infinities.  Rogue Squadron, for instance, takes you from the Battle of Hoth clean up to the Battle of Mon Calamari in Dark Empire comics.

 

 

 

 

The Fandom Redemption

Luke with George Lucas kindness quoteThere is a wide variety among Star Wars fans.  There is a wide variety in the characters in its media.  But ultimately Star Wars itself (under Lucas) had one very important theme set:  love, hope, and redemption.   Anakin Skywalker is the central character of the six movies he made and the entire arc goes through  his fall to his redemption.  I question how many realize this, for they seem unwilling to realize it translates to reality and how we can treat other fans.

Anakin’s redemption can guide us in fandom.  In terms of chronological release, Return of the Jedi we get our first real look at Anakin Skywalker.  A fallen, broken man who had once loved someone enough to father a son.  A former Jedi who had once been a great hero and friend of Obi-Wan.  It wasn’t until the prequels though that we found out more. We found out he was gifted from childhood but was still an ordinary child who dearly  loved his mother. He was an anxious teen,  who was forbidden to get attached yet had a secret crush and then a real romance for a Senator.

Contrary to some beliefs Anakin didn’t become Vader on killing the sandpeople. He broke, yes.  Justifiably angry and horrified he snapped, in a way some real world people have.  That didn’t make them Vader either.   In fact,  Yoda certainly knew something had happened.  The Jedi already sensed he had shadows, but were he Vader they would have already known and acted. Anakin was not Palpatine. He wore his emotions on his sleeve. Palpatine was a politician with decades of training to hide or fake them! No, Anakin became Vader when his ideal of the Jedi failed.

Anakin believed as the Jedi taught him that is wrong to kill an unarmed prisoner.  At the least the sandpeople were armed. But he did regret it.  ‘I know I’m better than this’ he said.  When he killed Dooku (at Palpatine’s urging) he said the same. ‘I shouldn’t have done that.”  So while he had an ulterior motive on saving Padme in rushing to Palpatine’s arrest, it was Mace Windu that finally struck the last blow to Anakin’s faith in the Jedi. As far as Anakin knew,  Palpatine was down and unarmed.  Mace was clearly going to kill him.  And so the fall. He knew the Sith were evil, but he also no longer believed the Jedi were good.

Anakin-redeemed-by-LukeSkip ahead two decades and Luke Skywalker, his son confronts him in a replay of his own fight with Dooku.  Only this time he is the Sith, and Luke the one told to cut him down.  Luke displays all the characteristics of the Jedi that Anakin had once believed in. He refuses.  Anakin in this moment is reborn.  After decades in darkness, the light has shown forth.

Being reunited with Yoda and Obi-Wan was the indication that he was redeemed and forgiven. Not due to earning it so much as his act of selfless sacrifice in stopping the Emperor.

Lucas considered this scene,  particularly the death scene, so important that he directed it himself.  What’s more he did it when being hurt by a divorce.

Lucasfilm in turn recognized that and it crossed multimedia lines. Here are a few examples:

  • Jedi Uliq Qel-Droma’s fall and redemption are featured in Tales of the Jedi Comics.
  • Cade Skywalker, due to a tragedy that killed his father ends up raised by pirates, becoming a bounty hunter and turning people in, even to the Sith.  His path to redemption is told in Star Wars: Legacy
  • Revan is famous or infamous (depending on your POV) in the video games Knights of the Old Republic and even Star Wars: The Old Republic through a twist of fate.  The canonical story has Revan’s redemption after his fall to the dark,  losing his memory and getting it back.
  • Kyp Durron is introduced in the Jedi Academy novels. He is led to the dark side by a Sith spirit when Luke Skywalker tries to train him as a Jedi.  He performs terrible acts, but is brought back into the fold.

That is every medium and every era of Star Wars!  While not the only theme, redemption and forgiveness certainly is one of the most important. Even in real life terrible people have been redeemed.  It’s rare, but it does happen.

Yet here we are, claiming to be Star Wars fans, and ignoring this incredibly important message.  Assuming that this fan or that fan can not be redeemed, can never be swayed to our side. Slurs are cast like ‘misogynist’ or ‘racist’ or even ‘Nazi’.  Some are true accusations but others are cast simply because someone doesn’t agree with a certain point of view. Often they seem to be cast out by people who don’t even want to listen to see if maybe the perceived insult isn’t what it seems.  But even the ones that may be true ignore the fact that forgiveness and reconciliation are possible.  Most people aren’t Palpatine.  There aren’t many who can say they wiped out a whole planet, plotted and pulled off the destruction of an entire established government, tortured people floating around the internet. In fact I suspect there are none among the fan base. For one thing, they would not root for our heroes. For another they are too busy doing more of the same.

So let’s remember that three of the core things of Star Wars have always been faith, hope, love which in turn to forgiveness of many flaws. If we truly are Star Wars fans, we should offer each other the same grace.

 

Double the Billboard Double the impact

The billboard is back!

Twin Suns Foundation started out as Give Us Legends. This is where the first ever Star Wars billboard requesting new Expanded Universe came from. While it’s intent was misconstrued by the mainstream media and the clickbait fan sites ignored it, LFL knew exactly what it meant.

Cut to years later, the original domain name was hijacked that was on that old billboard but the new one is twin-suns.net and it’s more than alive and kicking. Since it became an officially recognized 501c3 charity, it has already given over a thousand books to children in hospitals, at recreation centers and been invited to Star Wars Celebration (twice!)

Now the latest announcement is a new fundraiser for TWO new billboards! The demand hasn’t gone away. Marvel saw fit to give us issue 108 of the original Marvel series decades after the fact. Star Wars the Old Republic has had the Ossus expansion, a new Dantooine event and we look forward to the new Onslaught event on Onderon. Note that all these locations are worlds originally explored in the Expanded Universe.  If they can give us these, they can give us more comics and novels.

Meanwhile the original excuse, ‘we’re focused on the new trilogy’ is about to expire as of December.

Now is the time. The billboard is already over 25% funded. Get in on the action!  November 31st is the deadline for these billboards to get up next year!
Check out their donate page
And their new billboard details! 

How Ackbar warned me about Preconceptions

Ackbar-ROTJ-storybook

Admiral Ackbar in Return of the Jedi Storybook

I was very young when Star Wars was first released.  I quickly grew to love Science Fiction. I knew nothing of human biases. I grew up in a school with different races and never had a particular problem with any. My fav Sci fi being Star Wars and Star Trek, even classic Battlestar Galactica, none of those shows had any biases. We had female heroes and people of different race.  It never dawned on me it was at all unusual for them to share screen space. But I suppose given when they were made it may have been.  But non humans I’d not thought of much. Star Trek reruns may have been full of aliens, but they were all at that point humanoid. Only when I was older would I understand the messages they taught. No, that job was left for Admiral Ackbar who no one could mistake for a painted human.

I had not seen Return of the Jedi yet when I ‘met’ Ackbar in the form of an action figure. I don’t know how long after it came out I saw it. It seemed from my 12 year old point of view to be forever. I flipped through the story book but tried not to read, only look at pictures. I had no idea who Admiral Ackbar was. Why I assumed he was a villain I will probably never know but that is the side I lumped him with in my play. Maybe its because he just wasn’t very pretty. Certainly most of the aliens outside of Chewie had all been dangerous unfriendlies in Star Wars. Greedo had planned to shoot Han.  The Bounty Hunters had all worked for the Empire. Either way I felt oddly guilty. I felt I’d done Admiral Ackbar wrong.

But I got surprised with Ackbar and was just old enough to wonder.Why HAD I assumed he was a bad guy? I quickly switched him to the Rebel side of my play once I saw him in the movie. He was a Rebel! And he was on the side of my heroes! But I never quite forgot that realization that I had misjudged him. I’d been biased just because he wasn’t human or cute.

Ackbar-tradingcard-topps

Ironically years later I found the Expanded Universe established that he had worked for the Empire, but only as an unwilling slave. Upon being rescued he used the knowledge he’d gained to become a thorn in the Empire’s side. He helped evacuate Yavin. He protected the Fleet. Ackbar cared about his people and always wanted to protect, hence recognizing immediately the Fleet was over-matched in the Emperor’s death trap.

After Endor, as the Rebellion became a New Republic it got more political. That meant he had to fight bureaucrats and politicians who thought they could use the military to gain power. Ackbar refused to throw away lives needlessly. He faced unfair allegations of corruption from allies, being set up and outright sabotage from his enemies. Even in semi retirement he helped protect his people on Dac AKA Mon Calamari from Imperial attack. He also planned protection for Han and Leia’s children when it became known they were related to Vader and the Jedi.

Rogue-Squadron-book with Ackbar wedge and feylya figs

Rogue Squadron by Stackpole features Admiral Ackbar guiding Wedge Antillies overriding bothans who would’ve manipulated them for political power.

All this, from a character who I’d assumed from the action figure was a ‘villain.

It’s an important lesson and I learned it young. And I learned it from Admiral Ackbar in the form of a classic Kenner figure. At this point I hear and see people on the internet screaming ‘we want more representation for us. Female, races, etc.  But I remember we already had that. I remember those early sci fi shows that were well ahead of the curve. I don’t want more people like me.  If I want to know about humans I can watch the news. I can even just look in a mirror. I want more like Ackbar,  like Boss Nass and yes I daresay even Jar Jar!  Those are the characters that teach us to look beyond mere appearance and make us see ourselves through other eyes,  see our spirit not just out looks. If we want to see ourselves we see ourselves in our mind’s eye we don’t need a movie for that. All we need is a mirror. But seeing ourselves threw another’s eye can be far more educational.

Admiral Ackbar to me isn’t just some shallow background character.  He’s a gateway to a deeper insight. And I do thank him for it.

 

Peter Mayhew A Wookiee’s Legacy Tribute

Chewie head shotPeter Mayhew died at the end of last month on April 30, 2019. His 75th birthday would’ve been on May 19, the same day The Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith came out.   I never met the man but all the reports I’ve heard are that he was a very nice man and a hit at conventions.  His foundation continues to help people and what is that if not an act of love? He poured his personality into making Chewbacca a lovable, believable character. I am still baffled and confused that there wasn’t the outpouring that there was at Carrie Fisher’s funeral.  Sure there were memorials in Star Wars The Old Republic but nothing nearly as huge. Actors behind masks make just as big an impact.  It takes a lot to act in a costume where the character doesn’t speak ‘Basic’ (or English). Everything depends on that body language.

I was too young when I first ‘met’ Chewbacca to analyze his singular situation. Big furry and animalistic, he also helps fly a sophisticated spaceship. He gives every impression that he’ll rip the arms off the droids for beating him in Dejarik (IE holochess as some think of it as).  But he is in mortal terror of the dianoga in the trash compactor! Brave but timid. Intelligent but a beast.  And who wouldn’t want a friend as loyal as Chewbacca on their side?

Some of my fav moments in the movies are Chewie going nuts in defense of his allies.  Fiercely loyal he showed that barring the occasional dianoga, he would let nothing stop him. And watching him go into battle alongside the ewoks was brilliant. They were, as the novelization said,  like little country cousins.

Han Solo's Revenge with Chewbacca

Han Solo’s Revenge with Chewbacca

The expanded universe also has its heroic Chewbacca moments, and it’s Peter Mayhew’s wookiee I imagine on reading. Most of Chewbacca’s stories come alongside Han’s, as is to be expected. My first encounter was Han Solo’s Revenge. Han and he deal handily with the slavers, but separated from Han, Chewbacca must deal with a damaged Millenium Falcon, a not quite crash landing. He has a family of his own as well, a wife Mallotobuck who he proposed to in the tradional wookiee manner. They have one son. He valiantly defends Leia while Han is frozen while they hunt for Boba Fett. He also helps her in the Thrawn trilogy deal with noghri assassins, and in other stories he takes Leia’s kids to the holo zoo, as well as freeing his fellow wookiees from slavery. In the end, Chewbacca sacrificed himself to save Han’s youngest son.  If a wookiee like Chewbacca is gonna go out, it can only be as he lived, protecting his extended family and going out in a blaze of glory. There was a Chewbacca tribute by Dark Horse comics released for the ‘memorial’ of him in the storyline, where the characters remembered him and past events. This included meeting Han Solo, saving Jaina Solo, and saving a group of wookiee younglings from slavery.

One other thing we know is that Chewbacca with Peter Mayhew playing him literally invented wookiees. While the Holiday Special is much maligned, Chewie’s family are the first other wookiees we ever saw. A wife and a son who clearly adored him (in spite of his absentee due to a life debt status). There was a wookiee storybook ,wookiee plush toys and when the Expanded Universe was truly established we got more. We got Lowbacca, his nephew, in the Young Jedi Knights who wielded a bronze/yellow bladed lightsaber. He was close friends with the Solo kids. Zaalbaar in the Knights of the Old Republic introduced us to Chewie’s home planet and found out the ‘Bacca’ was a great warrior and leader in wookiee history. It surely was meant as an honor to Chewbacca. In Star Wars the Old Republic, a wookiee named Bowdaar runs around with the smuggler class character.  And at long last we saw Chewbacca, once more with Peter Mayhew in the suit, help Yoda escape Clone troopers in Revenge of the Sith. See all those wookiees around him? It all started with him!

wookiee army

Wookiee army

While Peter Mayhew may not have gotten the same tribute online as Carrie Fisher, his role had an impact on many generations. He even trained his successor in the Disney movies when he could no longer handle the role. While I for one don’t watch them, the fact that he did that is a sign to me of a great hearted man. If he couldn’t do it himself he could at least help make sure it was done right. He was well loved. Even the International Space station held tribute. The convention he was to attend in May set up his booth in a memorial for him. There were Star Wars tributes in the Old Republic, lacking Kashyyyk in the game, fans gathered on the spur of the moment on Nar Shaddaa and Alderaan on the Star Forge server.  The Expanded Alliance Guild had a party on Nar Shaddaa where people were coming and going for hours. Swtorista had one on Rishi that was streamed on Twitch. Both parties included players using a wookiee disguise terminal and getting group shots. The podcast Rebel Force Radio pulled out all their previous interviews with him and did a special tribute to him as well.

In addition to being in the movies he was a frequenter of the convention circuit, he also showed up as Chewbacca on the Muppet show, and the infamous Holiday Special. He showed up on MTV to finally received the medal Chewbacca had been denied in A New Hope, with Carrie Fisher doing the honors. When the new movies came out, its understandable that he was happy to be in them, but he wasn’t up to doing it all anymore. So he generously trained his successor. While a lot of us are unhappy they rebooted instead of honoring the Expanded Universe. It’s understandable he was glad his character lived (and its understandable fans wanted to see him too.)

In honor of his birthday, the Peter Mayhew foundation  has done a challenge coin with 100% of donations going to his charity. It’s selling very fast! The big lovable man who played Chewbacca will be very much missed by all who knew him, and deserves to be honored for his role even by those of us who never met him.