Disney’s upcoming live-action Star Wars TV series could potentially have some elements that we’ve seen before. Entertainment Weekly asked showrunner Jon Favreau if the series could reintroduce characters like Grand Admiral Thrawn or Mara Jade, and his response was an…unexpected! “We do have conversations.”
Shortly after Disney purchased Lucasfilm, it did away with the long-running Expanded Universe canon that encompassed novels, games, and comics — much to the disappointment of some fans, who had (myself included) invested years in the long running stories and characters it generated.
At the end of the day, it was probably the best decision: the SWEU had a lot of high points, but with the good comes the very, very bad. Like Han Solo drugging and kidnapping Leia to prevent her from getting married to someone else. Or Luke falling in love with a long-dead Jedi Knight whose soul was trapped in a Clone Wars-era warship hard drive (And who later took over the body of one of his students). Or the time that a Hutt cartel built a superweapon that looked like a lightsaber called “Darksaber” (and built it with sub-par labor that meant it didn’t work all that well.) Some things are best left on the shelf, and clearing that all out to give filmmakers a clean slate was probably the easiest thing to do.
But that doesn’t mean that Lucasfilm is leaving those ideas, characters, and stories to gather dust on a shelf somewhere. In 2016, Rebels creator Dave Filoni announced at Star Wars Celebration that he was bringing back a major character to the franchise: Grand Admiral Thrawn, the primary villain in Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command. Over the years, other bits and pieces, like random starships, equipment, planets, and story elements have trickled their way into the official canon — Zahn even returned to write a definitive book about the origins of the character.
Indeed, the latest teaser for The Rise of Skywalker hints at a moment that looks uncannily like one that we saw in Zahn’s Dark Force Rising, leading to speculation that the final film could draw some inspiration from the plot. (Rey is a clone of Luke Skywalker? “Reey”, anyone?)
Speaking to EW, Faveau isn’t necessarily ruling out the possibility that we might see other elements of the EU repurposed for The Mandalorian:
Part of what’s fun to see if we could merge the worlds of the original trilogy, the prequels, the sequels, The Clones Wars, and what’s been considered canon up to this point and what’s been considered part of Legends. I think this show offers an opportunity to bring in all those elements so no matter what your flavor of Star Wars ice cream you like there will be something to enjoy. But you’re asking the right questions.
EW speculates that actress Ming-Na Wen (Agents of SHIELD, Stargate Universe) could play Mara Jade, a familiar character that Star Wars fans would be ecstatic to see join the live-action Star Wars universe — we haven’t seen anything about her character yet. Jade figures most prominently in Zahn’s inciting Thrawn trilogy as an increasingly unwilling Force-wielding antagonist to Luke Skywalker. By the end of the trilogy (The Last Command), Mara is freed from her compulsion to kill Luke (as depicted above by artist Tom Jung) and set loose in the larger Star Wars universe, though her fate is incessantly interwined with Luke. The relationship between the two characters was one of the strongest arcs throughout the run of Star Wars Extended Universe novels, and it was deeply satisfying to see them finally come together in Zahn’s follow-up duology, Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future.
Despite some of its faults, there are a lot of components from the SWEU that could be easily brought back into canon status. There’s Michael A. Stackpole’s X-Wing series, about the adventures of Rogue Squadron, which came with a whole cast of excellent characters, like Corran Horn, Mirax Terrik, Erisi Dlarit, and Tycho Celchu. There’s characters like Admiral Daala (from Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy trilogy, who oversaw some of the Death Star construction — and was Grand Moff Tarkin’s squeeze), Ysanne Isard, the principal, brutal villain in the X-Wing series. If not The Mandalorian, some of these characters or stories would be ideal fodder for standalone projects of their own down the road, or for things like the upcoming Cassian Andor Rogue One prequel show, or the Obi-Wan Kenobi series.
But, bringing back old characters isn’t exactly a straightforward thing: many of the elements of the Star Wars EU evolved over time — the works fit together like a puzzle, and in many cases, don’t necessarily stand on their own. In other instances, there’s a lot of history and baggage with the characters — Mara Jade eventually married Luke Skywalker, for example, something we probably wouldn’t see if she’s brought in somehow.
What, if anything will be brought into The Mandalorian? We’ll find out when the series debuts on Disney+ on November 12th.