Why Star Wars Episode VII Should Be Heir To The Empire
By Melissa Lord
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there were people who wondered what events would transpire after Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, now that the second Death Star has been destroyed, Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine are dead, and the Rebel Alliance has won the Battle of Endor. It was rumored that George Lucas had already come up with another three stories that could be made into movies. There were other stories, of course. Novels that had been written about what happened between Episodes IV and V, Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster, and what adventures Han Solo and Lando Calrissian had before the movies. But what would Episode VII be like? When will they make another movie? And then I read a preview on the inside back cover of another Star Wars book for a new novel by Timothy Zahn called Heir To The Empire. It said coming June 1991, the events 5 years after Return of the Jedi.
In June 1991, Heir To The Empire was first published. It was the first book in a trilogy of novels that would continue to tell this story. The other two books are titled Dark Force Rising and The Last Command, with all three being New York Times bestsellers. They explain how the last Grand Admiral, named Thrawn, reorganizes the remnants of the Imperial Fleet and teams
with the Dark Jedi C’baoth to create a new clone army, defeat the New Republic, and eventually, create a clone of Emperor Palpatine himself. Thrawn also entices C’baoth with having the chance to teach and mold a new Jedi as he sees fit, these new Jedi being Luke Skywalker and a pregnant Leia Organa Solo. Zahn writes, “’There are no Jedi left,’ he murmured. ‘The Emperor and Vader hunted them down and destroyed them.’ ‘Not all of them,’ Thrawn told him softly. ‘Two new Jedi have arisen in the past five years: Luke Skywalker and his sister, Leia Organa Solo.’ ‘And what is that to me?’ ‘I can deliver them to you’” (Zahn 53). This proves to be intriguing enough for the Dark Jedi. He wants more information. Zahn continues, ”For a long minute C’baoth stared at him, disbelief and desire struggling for supremacy on his face. The desire won. ‘Both of them?’ ‘Both of them,’ Thrawn nodded. ‘Consider what a man of your skill could do with brand-new Jedi. Mold them, change them, re-create them in any image you chose.’ He cocked an eyebrow. ‘And with them would come a very special bonus… because Leia Organa Solo is pregnant. With twins’” (Zahn 53). Getting Luke to finally cross over to the Dark Side and destroy him is C’baoth’s ultimate goal. With these stories being number one best-sellers, and the events taking place only five years after Return of the Jedi, Star Wars nerds like myself have always known these books to be Episodes VII – IX. And yet that is not what Disney, which now owns Lucasfilm, is going to make.
Just earlier this year, Disney and Lucasfilm announced that they would not be using anything from the Star Wars Expanded Universe for these three new movies. They are referring to the movies as canon, and anything else just doesn’t count, as if the films conflict with those other stories. Almost as if the stories that pre-date these new films never even happened. Darren Franich of insidemovies.ew.com quotes the Lucasfilm press release, “The company for the first
time ever has formed a story group to oversee and coordinate all Star Wars creative development,” the press release explains. “In order to give maximum creative freedom to the filmmakers and also preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience, Star Wars Episodes VII-IX will not tell the same story told in the post-Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe” (Franich). This release killed all hope that old school Star Wars purists would actually get Heir To The Empire on film. Although it could still be made with CG animation and voice-overs, we now know that Heir will never be done in live action. But still people consider these three stories to be canon, even if Disney wants to say they are not.
At the time when Heir To The Empire was published, we had only briefly heard in Episode IV: A New Hope that Obi-Wan Kenobi served under Bail Organa during the clone wars. No one had a real concept of how clones were created. Then it gets explained in Heir To The Empire how cloning cylinders worked. As far as fans were concerned, this was the real Episode VII. Out of all the Star wars comics and graphic novels, these books were the most real because they were number one bestsellers. Ryan Britt says just that in his article, “The 80’s and early 90’s were not filled with a preponderance of Star Wars junk, at least not by today’s standard. Back then, a new Star Wars comic book or novel felt important and special, with the Zahn trilogy being the most legit Star Wars thing of all. Kids playing on the playground didn’t know the ‘expanded universe’ didn’t really count, because at that time the Star Wars universe was still expanding” (Britt). Everything Star Wars was important because stuff was very rare. Something didn’t get released every year. Star Trek had two different TV shows and only released a movie after Star Wars. But this was a time before Facebook and Twitter, so people couldn’t immediately post about how they should make these books into movies. And yet, that perception was still shared by the many who had read these novels. Britt writes, “As far as we were all concerned Heir To The Empire was the totally real-deal sequel to Return of the Jedi. Just look at the cover! It looks like one of the movie posters! And there’s some dude shooting lightning/lasers out of his fingers! Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s real Star Wars” (Britt). That’s what everyone who knew the Heir story wanted. We wanted Lucas to make these into movies. Had there been the technology then that we have today, people could have made this a viral issue.
What Lucasfilm is doing with this new movie is an unknown commodity. Those that have not read Zahn’s novels will say that it’s good that it’s something new that nobody knows about. But even though I know the outcome, I still would like to see Heir To The Empire as a movie. They have the best story that anyone could come up with, and yet they are letting J.J. Abrams go ahead and make the movie he wants. Meanwhile, we sit here and pray that they don’t screw this movie up. After seeing the trailer, I think it will be a decent movie. But still, I won’t be able to help comparing it to Heir after I watch it.
Zahn, Timothy. Heir To The Empire. New York: Bantam Spectra, 1991.
Franich, Darren. The New Star Wars Movies Will Ignore The Expanded Universe, Kind Of. Insidemovies.ew.com. 25 APR 2014. 10 DEC 2014. http://insidemovies.ew.com/2014/04/25/star-wars-movies-expanded-universe-lucasfilm/
Britt, Ryan. How Timothy Zahn’s Heir To The Empire Turned Star Wars Into Science Fiction. Tor.com. 28 FEB 2013. 10 DEC 2014. http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/02/how-zahns- heir-to-the-empire-turned-star-wars-into-science-fiction.