Jesse Valencia

Why (and How) Star Wars Should Bring Back “Shadows of the Empire”

Jesse Valencia imagines a Star Wars universe where “Shadows of the Empire” exists and is a standalone film. This is Valencia’s proposal to the Lucasfilm Story Group and his bid to be the one who writes it.

 

I love Star Wars. Every film, every game, every comic and novel. Star Wars has been a part of my life since I was old enough to remember movies, and like many an older Millennial Star Wars fan I would love to see Lucasfilm bring back Shadows of the Empire in some way.

The CG-enhanced original trilogy’s re-release in theatres in the mid-’90s helped set the stage for the franchise’s prequels, but to test out the new LucasArts franchise licenses, Shadows of the Empire was created. There were comics, a novel, even a Nintendo 64 video game. The idea was to make an entire Star Wars story, one that took place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, without making an actual film. Basically, Shadows of the Empire was the closest thing Lucasfilm had ever come to making a standalone, non-episodic film until 2016’s Rogue One.

Once Disney purchased Lucasfilm a few years ago, everything but the official films and television series, namely The Clone Wars, was no longer “canon.” That means every novel, comic, and video game not officially licensed or fully owned by Disney after their acquisition of Lucasfilm no longer applied to the official story, including Shadows of the Empire. There is a rule, however, that characters, planets, and other story elements can be brought into the new canonical universe from the non-canonical (officially titled “Legends”) as long as their presence fit within the context of the new canonical timeline and story. This has most recently happened with another well-loved legend, Grand Admiral Thrawn.

One would think this rule similarly applies to Shadows of the Empire, as no official story exists between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi except for Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure. I have a good theory as to why this is.

Shadows’ main character is Dash Rendar, basically a cookie cutter ripoff of Han Solo who looked and moved like a ’90s action hero. He was a Corellian human like Han, and drove a spaceship similar to the Millennium Falcon called the Outrider. Also like Han, he had a non-human sidekick. That’s probably the lamest thing about the whole thing.

The most disappointing thing is the key plot element where Leia is reduced to the role of damsel in distress as the story’s villain, Prince Xizor, seduces and traps her in his space lair, which of course is blown up à la the Death Star or Starkiller base. Had this movie been made, it would have easily been the worst Star Wars film, but to a twelve-year-old it was awesome.

Moving Target cover art: Phil Noto

In Shadows place now is the YA novel Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure, which is a retrospective narrative by now-general Leia Organa from the recent films (rest in power, Carrie Fisher) about the time she led a group of rebels on a decoy mission to distract the Empire as the Rebellion made safe passage to Endor, where they are based in Return of the Jedi.

This book strongly magnifies the portrayal of Leia as a strong, heroic woman displaying strong military tactics, and thus simultaneously erases the damsel-in-distress archetype as well as the need for a Han Solo cardboard cutout to drive the story’s narrative. That’s what’s really good about it.

What is problematic about it is that the story does not fit so well within the timeline. It is certainly a plausible story that theoretically fits, but there are a couple of things off. The story appears to take place over a period of the week or so leading up to Return of the Jedi, but the key mistake in Moving Target is in its portrayal of Luke. How he appears at the beginning of the book, much like the pilot we know from Empire, is very different from the Luke we first meet in Jedi, which is the same Luke who appears at the end of Moving Target, apparently a fully trained Jedi knight.

When you stack the story and characters of Moving Target between the events of Empire and Jedi now, many questions arise, particularly since the timespan between Empire and Jedi spans over half a year. At the time of Moving Target, Luke would be focusing on his Jedi training, until he was ready to face Vader once again, to try and turn him to the light side of the Force. But what are Lando and Chewbacca doing? What are Vader and Palpatine up to? What about the Bothans stealing the plans for the new Death Star, which Palpatine purposely leaked in order to bring Skywalker to him? None of these questions are answered in Moving Target, which is not a fault in so much as it presents an opportunity.

I propose to bring Shadows of the Empire back but recast Dash Rendar, Prince Xizor, and the situations and events of that story in a new light, one that is synonymous with the Lucasfilm Story Group’s vision and direction for Star Wars, especially since they currently loathe Shadows of the Empire, which is probably due in part to the reasons I’ve mentioned. It is arguably as lame now as it was awesome then. After all, Dash Rendar’s ship The Outrider appears in A New Hope, so Dash is canon, but everything else is not.

So, here’s what they should do, and I volunteer to write it.

  • Dash Rendar is no longer a Corellian Han Solo ripoff, but a human man from the planet Fest like Cassian Andor from Rogue One. Their names sound similar, so it is entirely plausible for them to be from the same place. Dash would be of the same ethnicity as Cassian as well, strengthening Latino/a representation in the greater Star Wars I come in part from an Indigenous Mexican-American heritage, and would love to write more of that into a Star Wars story.

Greg and Tim Hildebrandt’s Dash Rendar

Author’s rough sketch.

  • Dash would be a little older than Han or Lando, and would be a disenfranchised veteran of the Imperial Navy. I do not know how many Star Wars authors served in the military, but having done six years in our own military, as a writer and veteran I’d love to explore the military and legal structures of the Empire as they are being implemented throughout the galaxy, as well as help shape the Imperial rank structure, where and how they get and test their weapons, and what the Stormtroopers thoughts are on the war. It would be interesting to see the bad guys humanized in ways that enhance the Emperor’s personification of evil.
  • Instead of being a smuggler like Han, Dash would be a drug trafficker working with the galaxy’s main criminal organization, the Black Sun, distributing weapons, caf, death sticks, and spice to citizens and stormtrooper alike. The military-industrial complex was a central theme to the most recent film The Last Jedi, so it would be interesting to see how a galactic arms trade might interact with its drug trade, as gangs and militias increase their presence throughout the worlds.
  • Instead of wanting to take Darth Vader’s place, it would make more sense for a Prince Xizor to use his influence through the Black Sun to secretly battle for control of the galaxy while working with them. Where the Empire wants order, the Black Sun desires chaos and anarchy, an equal “evil” to the “good” Rebel Alliance.
  • Instead of interacting with the main characters, this revamp, which I call Shadows Reborn, will fill more obscure gaps in the overarching story, allowing the canon to breathe. Also, fans of the original franchise will love it.

Lucasfilm has already shown it can bring back well-loved stories and characters. Shadows Reborn would be written to serve these exact ends. The strengthening of the canon’s mythology, a redemption of a well-loved franchise from the Star Wars Legends universe, and a broadening of diversity within the galaxy far, far away, all within the context of an interesting story or stories which help tie the overall canon together through its various shadows.

As a lover of Star Wars lore for my entire life, such a project would be a dream job. It’s been said it’s nearly impossible to submit a Star Wars novel unless you go through certain channels that are not available to most people, and understandably so, but if you’re reading this, powers-that-be, I’m ready to write it!

May the Force Be with You Always,

Jesse Valencia

 

Jesse Valencia

Jesse Valencia is an actor, musician, writer, and filmmaker from Northern Arizona whose writing has appeared in Phoenix New Times, Flagstaff Live!, and The Big Smoke. He first appeared onscreen opposite Tom Sizemore in the indie crime drama Durant’s Never Closes, and is currently studying screenwriting at the David Lynch Graduate School for Cinematic Arts at the Maharishi University of Management. He plays music with the band, Gorky, who've put out the records The Gork…And How To Get It!, More Electric Music, and Mathemagician. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in Literature from Northern Arizona University, is a veteran of the U.S. Army, and is currently at work on his first feature film.

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One Comment;

  1. GrimalkunOnTheDarkside said:

    The Expanded Universe was never canon. Even Steve Perry, the Author of Shadows of the Empire stated that the EU was never in a video interview, Quotes and link below.

    Podcast Interview with Steve Perry, Author of Shadows of the Empire from the Expanded Universe –

    Interviewer – ‘So what are your thoughts about your book and all the ones that came other than this last year are no longer part of the Official Star Wars Canon ever since Disney took over?

    Steve Perry – “Ohh they never were! Nothing was ever canon other than the movies.”

    The Ritual Misery Podcast with hosts Amos and Kent, 2015

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2569&v=opbMcVJolSA&feature=emb_logo
    ..

    “I get asked all the time, ‘What happens after “Return of the Jedi”?,’ and there really is no answer for that,” he said. “The movies were the story of Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker, and when Luke saves the galaxy and redeems his father, that’s where that story ends.””

    – George Lucas, Flannelled One, May 2008, “George Lucas: ‘Star Wars’ won’t go

    beyond Darth Vader”, interview with Los Angeles Times

    ..

    “And now there have been novels about the events after Episode VI, which isn’t at all what I would have done with it. The Star Wars story is really the tragedy of Darth Vader. That is the story. Once Vader dies, he doesn’t come back to life, the Emperor doesn’t get cloned and Luke doesn’t get married.”

    ~ George Lucas, Flannelled One, 2008

    ..The Expanded Universe was never canon. Even Steve Perry, the Author of Shadows of the Empire stated that the EU was never in a video interview, Quotes and link below.

    Podcast Interview with Steve Perry, Author of Shadows of the Empire from the Expanded Universe –

    Interviewer – ‘So what are your thoughts about your book and all the ones that came other than this last year are no longer part of the Official Star Wars Canon ever since Disney took over?

    Steve Perry – “Ohh they never were! Nothing was ever canon other than the movies.”

    The Ritual Misery Podcast with hosts Amos and Kent, 2015

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2569&v=opbMcVJolSA&feature=emb_logo
    ..

    “I get asked all the time, ‘What happens after “Return of the Jedi”?,’ and there really is no answer for that,” he said. “The movies were the story of Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker, and when Luke saves the galaxy and redeems his father, that’s where that story ends.””

    – George Lucas, Flannelled One, May 2008, “George Lucas: ‘Star Wars’ won’t go

    beyond Darth Vader”, interview with Los Angeles Times

    ..

    “And now there have been novels about the events after Episode VI, which isn’t at all what I would have done with it. The Star Wars story is really the tragedy of Darth Vader. That is the story. Once Vader dies, he doesn’t come back to life, the Emperor doesn’t get cloned and Luke doesn’t get married.”

    ~ George Lucas, Flannelled One, 2008

    ..

    “There’s this notion that everything changed when everything became Legends. And I can see why people think that. But, you know, having worked with George I can tell you that it was always very clear — and he made it very clear — that the films and the TV shows were the only things that he considered Canon. That was it.”

    Dave Filoni interview on ‘The Star Wars show’ [41.40 mark]-

    https://youtu.be/hcNXPNXOv2A?t=2500

    ..

    “What George did with the films and The Clone Wars was pretty much his universe ,” Chee said. “He didn’t really have that much concern for what we were doing in the books and games. So the Expanded Universe was very much separate.”

    ~ Leland Chee, 2017 – SYFY WIRE

    ..

    “Lucas’ canon – and when I say ‘his canon’, I’m talking about what he was doing in the films and what he was doing in The Clone Wars – was hugely important. But what we were doing in the books really wasn’t on his radar.”

    ~ Leland Chee, 2018

    ..

    “I think people over emphasize the importance of the canon level. The intent of the canon levels was, as the main intent was ‘if someones looking for the ships from a film, they can than use those fields to check for them only in the films,and thus seperate that from what was in the EU. So we can look at it case by case. I think there is an over emphasis of what those fields mean and what they represent”.

    ~ Leland Chee

    “That ‘level of canon’ thus helps in terms of bookkeeping. Those ‘canon levels’ are for the holocron.”

    ~ Pablo Hidalgo

    ForceCast #273: The Galaxy Is Reading – Interview with Leland Chee and Pablo Hidalgo, 2013Starts at about the 1 hour mark so 1:00 – 1:02 mark

    http://www.forcecast.net/story/home/ForceCast_273_The_Galaxy_Is_Reading_154431.asp

    ..

    “But Lucas allows for an Expanded Universe that exists parallel to the one he directly oversees. […] *Though these [Expanded Universe] stories may get his stamp of approval, they don’t enter his canon unless they are depicted cinematically in one of his projects.”*

    ~ Pablo Hidalgo, Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion, 2012

    ..

    “That was one of my mandates, when I began the spin off publishing program it was a sacroscant rule that everything had to relate to each other, be consistant with each other and be consistant with the ‘movies which were canon.’ We were pretty religious about doing that, our biggest problem was a guy named George Lucas, because he didn’t buy into the spin off fiction and the game program and all the ‘alternate universe’ we were creating.”

    “We wanted it to be one universe, we felt strongly that that’s what it needed to be, but George as the filmmaker didn’t want to be beholden to somebody else’s creative vision.”

    So we would have very interesting skirmishes because we had a bunch of stuff that became to the fans pretty much canon about what happened after Return of the Jedi, what different places in the galaxy were called, lots of different things and if he was preposing to do something in the prequels that contradicted that we would have long debates which usually ended at least after the first session with “I don’t care this is what I’m doing”, but after the 4th or 5th session sometimes “Alright ‘maybe’ we can change it this way”

    Now that everything is controled by one central commitee [Lucasfilm Story Group] we can have canon that applies to everything.

    Messing with a Classic—Howard Roffman, Lucasfilm, 2017 interview.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMKHgwH-gY4

    ..

    ”The novels and comic books are other authors’ interpretations of my creation. Sometimes, I tell them what they can and cant do, but I just don’t have the time to read them. They’re not my vision of what Star Wars is.”

    ~ George Lucas 2004

    ..

    “I like to refer to the Interview with Lucas in the Special Editions.When asked about the novels and what not, he simply says:

    ”Those are another author’s interpretation of what I’ve created, and not to be taken seriously, as far as what is really going on in the Star Wars world.”

    ~ George Lucas

    ..

    “Q: What do you think of the Expanded Universe of books?

    A: “The books are in a different universe. I’ve not read any of them, and I told them when they started writing I wouldn’t read any of them and I blocked out certain periods.”

    ~ George Lucas 2003

    ..

    “I’m not going to do it. I’m too old. I’ve got other movies I want to do. And I don’t want anybody else to do it, so I’ve locked it up so Nobody can ever do it. There may be TV offshoots from people, but the saga itself, the story of the Skywalker family, is over!”

    ~ George Lucas, Entertainment Weekly #785 interview September 24, 2004

    ..

    “Well its possible that maybe an offshoot movie somewhere, about an offshoot character in that world, but not about Luke Skywalker, not about that group of people [Han, Leia, Chewie, etc.]. Or the struggle to bring back democracy to the Galaxy.”

    ~ George Lucas Interview, 2005

    ..

    “What George Saw as Canon”

    “In the old days, George Lucas saw his universe as separate from publishing [EU]. He wasn’t at all interested in connecting.”

    ~ Pablo Hidalgo [Lucasfilm Story Group] 2016

    http://i.imgur.com/6ZOkAau.png

    ..

    Pablo Hidalgo on Lucas and the EU being separate Universes.

    https://i.redd.it/3fpbkocr43q01.png

    “He [Lucas] only considers his movies and TV projects as his universe, and told the Clone Wars writers to only worry about those.”

    ..

    “From Star Wars Insider [The Official Star Wars Magazine] – Issue 77 , Using Dark Empire & The Thrawn Trilogy As Examples. – https://ibb.co/K9PMgH3
    *

    “So do episodes beyond Return of the Jedi exist? Nothing beyond possible story points and ideas, certainly not fleshed out story treatments or scripts. Fans often wonder if Dark Empire or the Thrawn Trilogy were based off those notes or are meant to be Episodes VII, VIII, IX. – That’s not the case.

    Those works are the creation of their respective authors with the guidance of editors at Lucas Licensing. They are not, nor ever were, meant to be George Lucas’ definitive vision of what happens next”*

    ~ Pablo Hidalgo, 2004 – https://ibb.co/K9PMgH3

    ..

    “I don’t read that stuff, I haven’t read any of the novels. I don’t know anything about that world. That’s a different world than my world. But I do try and keep it consistent. The way I do it is they have a Star Wars encyclopedia. So if I come up with a name or something else, I look it and see if it has already been used. When I said other people could make thier own Star Wars stories, we decided that, like Star Trek, we would have TWO universes: My Universe and than this other one. They try to make THIER universe as consistent with mine as possible, but obviously they get enthusiastic and want to go off in other directions.”

    ~ George Lucas, August, 2005
    https://ibb.co/Km1CcNs

    ..

    “There are two worlds here,” explained Lucas. “There’s my world, which is the movies, and there’s this other world that has been created, which I say is the parallel universe – the licensing world of the books, games and comic books.”

    ~ George Lucas, Cinescape, 2002

    ..

    “They’re there to be enjoyed as unofficial Legends. But, as Zahn also points out, the Expanded Universe wasn’t really ever official regardless of what the fans thought.”

    ~ Timothy Zahn, 2017

    ..

    “Those of us writing the EU were always told, all along, from the very beginning (have I stressed that strongly enough?), “Only the Movies are Canon.” Sure, it was disappointing.”

    ~ Kathy Tyers, EU author [Truce at Bakura, Balance Point] Interview, 2018

    http://starwarsinterviews.com/various/authors/kathy-tyers-author/

    ..

    “The terminology of “Expanded Universe” was a careful one; it expanded on the world created in the core stories, but was never officially meant to be Star Wars canon, according to the Maker himself, George Lucas.”

    ~ Dave Filoni, 2017

    ..

    “There is no more clear illustration of the difference between the Expanded Universe and the Star Wars created by George Lucas. The EU is a well of ideas, and there’s what’s on screen. They don’t live in the same universe. Everyone wants to think so, I know… We just need to think of it all as a creative collection of fun ideas separate from what George Lucas has made.”

    ~ Dave Filoni 2012

    ..

    “That’s one of the biggest debates in Star Wars, what counts? The idea of what is canon? When I talk to George I know that he considers his movies, this series and his live-action series canon.”

    ~ Dave Filoni, SW:TCW 2008

    ..

    “It’s not something we can really worry about, so we don’t. Lots of people have been working on lots of SW extrapolations for the last twenty years, in good faith. There were never any promises from George Lucas or Lucasfilm regarding the acceptance of their work into some wider canon.”

    ~ Peet Janes, Dark Horse Comics Editor, 1998

    ..

    “In the canon debate, it is important to notice that LucasFilm and Lucas are different entities. The only canon source of Star Wars are the radio plays, the movie novels and the movies themselves – in Lucas’ mind, nothing else exists, and no authorized LucasFilm novel will restrict his creativity in any way.”

    ~ Steven Sansweet, Lucasfilm Author – Director of Content Management and Head of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm Ltd.

    ..

    “Steven Sansweet was asked specifically if any of the characters like Admiral Thrawn and so on would make appearances in AoTC or the movie thereafter, and he responded quite clearly that *all the EU material is ”taking place in a separate universe”.* […] there were quite a few nasty mumbles from the audience when he (Sansweet) said what he said.”

    Steven Sansweet, EU Author – Director of Content Management and Head of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm

    ..

    “George Lucas says there has never been any war between the Jedi and the Sith in his Star Wars Canon” – An excerpt from StarWars.com‘s oral history of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace:

    Everybody said, “Oh, well, there was a war between the Jedi and the Sith.” Well, that never happened. That’s just made up by fans or somebody. What really happened is, the Sith ruled the universe for a while, 2000 years ago. Each Sith has an apprentice, but the problem was, each Sith Lord got to be powerful. And the Sith Lords would try to kill each other because they all wanted to be the most powerful. So in the end they killed each other off, and there wasn’t anything left.

    “But anyway, there’s a whole matrix of backstory that has never really come out. It’s really just history that I gathered up along the way. It’s all based on backstories that I’d written setting up what the Jedi were, setting up what the Sith were, setting up what the Empire was, setting up what the Republic was, and how it all fit together I never really got a chance to explain the Whills part.”

    George Lucas’ vision of the galaxy’s ancient times is clearly different from the Expanded Universe. Many wars between Jedi and Sith in the Old Republic era were told in games, books and comics. The current Lucasfilm’s canon didn’t explore this era yet.’

    https://naboonews.wordpress.com/2019/05/25/george-lucas-says-there-has-never-been-any-war-between-the-jedi-and-the-sith-in-his-canon/

    ..

    “I don’t even read the offshoot books that come out based on Star Wars.”

    ~ George Lucas, Flannelled One, July 1999 – Film Night interview

    ..

    Because I”m retiring from this part of my creative life, I’m open to more TV Product. but not more feature films. The story is complete and any other story wouldn’t be my philosophy and views, the books are not the same philosophy as the movies.”

    ~ George Lucas 2003

    ..

    “The dual universe question comes up often. I know George Lucas has mentioned it being two universes, but that’s not how I see it. His vision is definitely not beholden to ours, but ours is definitely beholden to his.”

    ~ Leland Chee, Continuity Database Adminstrator, 2012

    ..

    And what goes in the blank timeline spaces of the Film Only universe – can we never know the history or background of that Star Wars universe like we can in the EU Star Wars universe?

    “Nothing. That’s why it’s film only.”
    ~ Leland Chee, Continuity Database Adminstrator, 2007

    https://ibb.co/3dBN7Sw

    ..

    “It is unfortunate that Karen Traviss is[EU author] moving on because of her opinion that canon is being changed. I guess the big problem is the assumption that her work is canon in the first place.* After working with George on The Clone Wars series I know there are *elements of her work that are not in line with his vision of Star Wars..”*

    ~ Henry Gilroy, TCW series Head Writer/ EU Author [Comics] 2008

    ..

    Dark Empire Introduction – Kevin J. Anderson –

    https://www.reddit.com/r/StarWars/comments/2tg9rk/excerpt_from_kevin_jandersons_intro_to_the_dark/

    *”When you read Dark Empire, or any of the other novels [EU] remember that although Lucasfilm has approved them, these are our sequels, not George Lucas’s.”*

    *”If Lucasfilm ever makes films that take place after Return of the Jedi, they will be George Lucas’s own creations, probably with no connect to anything we have written.”*

    But in the meantime, enjoy these graphic stories, read the novels of Timothy Zahn, Kathy Tyers, Kenneth Flynt, Dave Wolverton, and myself.[Kevin J. Anderson]”

    ..

    “That said, I think George has always felt that the comics were an “alternate Star Wars universe” from the films. I don’t think he ever saw the comics as canon — although he did use them as a resource for ideas and images.”

    Tom Veitch, EU Author, Dark Empire Trilogy 2016

*

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