The Star Wars Special Editions turn 20 years old this year, and thinking about these much-maligned, much-misunderstood installments to the Star Wars saga got me thinking about how they demonstrate a very important point.
Something you’ve heard me assert over and over is that to George Lucas, the EU was just as canon as his films. Now, people get off on tangents of “he didn’t think the EU was canon because he didn’t follow it,” but that’s absurd. He was the creator. Why should he follow someone else’s ideas? But that doesn’t mean he didn’t consider the ideas he authorized to be just as “true” as the films he made.
Lucas asserted this himself over and over. But actions speak louder than words. Here’s eight times George Lucas went out of his way to reference the EU in his films, demonstrating his belief that it was canon and “counted.”
Honorable mention: Prince Xizor
Did you know that the Prequel Trilogy used more models and miniatures than the Original Trilogy? Despite criticisms that they’re “all CGI” and “CGI heavy,” the PT actually won awards for its miniatures. In one such model, the Phantom Menace crew inserted a Xizor action figure among the filler for the crowd attending the Boonta Eve Podrace. This pretty obviously isn’t intended to be a canonical reference, but it’s fun and so I point it out.
10. Twi’leks and Rodians
Although both species were obviously Lucas’ creation — Rodians appearing first in 1977 (Greedo) and Twi’leks in 1983 (Oola) — they weren’t named until later in the EU. West End Games published The Star Wars Sourcebook in 1987, coining the word “Twi’lek,” and their 1989 Galaxy Guide 1 gave us “Rodian.” published by West End Games. Although neither word is ever spoken in any of the films, George Lucas used the names freely and they appear in production notes and interviews throughout production of the prequels.
(Bonus points: Rystáll Sant, pictured with the Twi’leks and Rodian dancer above, is part Theelin, a species that first appeared in Dark Empire.)
9. Bogden, Muun, Rishi, Tund
These planets all appeared first in the EU in various places — Tund is oldest, from 1983’s Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka — and were used by George Lucas to seed the dialogue with the rich geography we could expect from a galaxy far, far away.
8. Force speed and Force grip
Force-users have special powers in video games, and some of those powers made it onto the silver screen. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon use Force speed to escape droidekas in The Phantom Menace, and Dooku uses Force grip against Obi-Wan in Revenge of the Sith.
“Alien gobbledygook characters” appear in the films, but it was Stephen Crane who designed a legitimate, sensible alphabet with the characters for West End Games in 1994. The DVD editions of the film edit Aurebesh translations into places where English was originally seen, and the PT uses Aurebesh meaningfully as well.
6. Quinlan Vos
In an interview in 1999, George Lucas stated that he wanted the EU to pick up background characters and give them stories. He used Aurra Sing as a specific example — but Aurra Sing had an identity supplied by the film. Jan Duursema asked for permission, picked a random person out of the background, and created Quinlan Vos from him. He got two comic series and some other appearances in the EU before George Lucas picked him up for Revenge of the Sith. Although his scene never made it to filming, Obi-Wan Kenobi still mentions “Master Vos” in a briefing to Anakin.
5. The Outrider
It’s fitting that Shadows of the Empire should have so many references in the special edition: Steve Perry’s work was used to test whether the public was receptive to such a major project as a restored re-release and new trilogy. A New Hope SE is full of swoop bikes, labor droids, and other minor ephemera from Shadows and WEG sourcebooks, but the most notable of all is Dash Rendar’s Outrider, seen flying over Mos Eisley.
4. Double-bladed lightsaber
The first double-bladed lightsaber in Star Wars belonged to Exar Kun. It appeared in 1995, in Tom Veitch’s Tales of the Jedi: The Sith War 3, The Trial of Ulic Qel-Droma. The same weapon then arrived in the hands of Darth Maul four years later in The Phantom Menace.
3. Lightsaber deflecting lightning
Timothy Zahn first considered that a lightsaber could deflect Force lightning and asked Lucas if he could include it in his Thrawn Trilogy. The Maker approved, and the combat move first appeared in The Last Command in 1993. Apparently the Maker approved so much that he had Obi-Wan Kenobi do the same thing in Attack of the Clones in 2002.
2. Aayla Secura
Speaking of Quinlan Vos — Padawans get all the luck, don’t they? Jan Duursema and John Ostrander came up with Aayla for Quinlan’s apprentice and she appeared in Star Wars 19: Twilight 1 in 2000. George Lucas was so taken by the artwork created for her that he created scenes for her in both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
The biggest of all the big tamales: Coruscant. George Lucas had created the galactic capital city-planet for A New Hope, but he called it Alderaan and budget prevented him from ever realizing it on screen. The WEG sourcebooks Zahn was asked to use for canon material simply called the capital “Imperial Planet,” so he chose a word to capture the image of a city planet glittering in the cosmos: Coruscant. The planet first appeared — nameless but known — in Return of the Jedi in 1997, but Lucas vindicated the entire EU as co-canon with his films when he designated the galactic capital Coruscant in 1999. And there was not a Star Wars heart in the place that didn’t burst with pride when we first heard Qui-Gon Jinn say, “I’m taking these people to Coruscant” and we all knew.