A Fandom Experience | Grand Admiral Thrawn Returns



News outlets, such as Wired, are reporting from Star Wars Celebration Europe that Grand Admiral Thrawn will become canonical to the official Star Wars continuity being one of the first major characters to make the transition from Start Wars Legends (formerly the Expanded Universe). Timothy Zahn’s creation will be appearing in Star Wars: Rebels Season 3 and will also be featured in a new novel out in April 2017.

This has to be one of the cleverer moves from the forces controlling the Star Wars continuity from deep within their mighty think tank at Disney. I think it’s a move that actually takes a lot of courage to make. Disney went to great lengths to create a new mast head retiring the Expanded Universe and relegating decades of material generated across multiple platforms within that construct to the non-canonical category of Star Wars Legends to ensure their playing field to generate new content was as clear and unobligated as it could be. Quite frankly I don’t think it should have been any other way, especially with the feature film ambitions Disney have made clear they have for Star Wars moving forward.

However, it was a bit sad and more than a little depressing to know the journey as end users we took through the vast array of media produced to fill in the voids the six films created would be dismissed to an alternate time-line which would have no barring on future Star Wars properties.

I am not arguing that all material produced for Star Wars Legends was high quality writing, or a fantastic end user experience. It over the course of two decades became quite bloated, and the market place quite saturated, and anytime that happens one can argue that cracks in quality begin to show. This is just as much a subjective observation as it is an objective one. More than one fan forum out there in the interwebs addresses the nuances of these very observations in more detail and rationalization then I care to indulge in. Although, if I could play the role of soothsayer for a moment, I’d caution Disney from repeating the same pattern. We don’t need a deluge of novels and tie-ins to sustain the fan base moving forward. We just need quality products released in a timely fashion which are handled with the delicate care that was used in crafting Episode VII. I understand Star Wars is basically a money printing machine, but the fan base deserves quality not quantity. There are some mysteries and enigmas in the Star Wars galaxy that don’t need to be addressed or explained.

I would propose that it would be a pure lack of common sense to treat Star Wars Legends as warehoused material long forgotten. I believe it still has purpose as a grove of trees ripe with fruit that has produced tasty morsels. If a particular tree has produced fruit that has been succulent and it has satiated its consumers than why not investigate the possible use of that tree as a source for another appetizing appeasement. I am not talking about indolence or lack of resourcefulness in imaginative storytelling. I am talking about selective content mining in search of a vein with impact.

The reason why I believe Grand Admiral Thrwan will earn that impact is for the simple fact that the Star Wars Galaxy was a desolate wasteland of material between Return of the Jedi and Timothy Zhan’s now famous Thrawn Trilogy novels, in which Grand Admiral Thrawn becomes the new “big bad” thwarting The Rebel Alliance.

We did have a couple of things in this desert of a time period but…. I am not counting the Ewok movies, even if they do have a fond place in my heart.

As a future article will address, my hypothesis has always been that Star Wars fans will form their distinctive opinions and unique relationships with Star Wars through both their generational exposure and the mediums in which that exposure manifested. I was making a transition between middle school and high school when Timothy Zahn’s novel hit the shelves. Outside my obsession with West End Games’ Star Wars RPG there was little else out there in the way of new material. If you were resourceful enough you could find Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. You could hunt down back issues of Marvel ‘s comic book series which honestly never felt like Star Wars to me. There was also a newspaper comic strip. There were also some Han Solo and Lando Calrissian novels from the early 80’s. But, all of these items, except for West End Games’ products wrapped up before or just after Return of the Jedi.

There was nothing except loyalty, passion, and the occasional innuendo in the press that perhaps one day we’d get new movies, that kept the spirit of Star Wars alive for me and my contemporaries (well, this and a lot of playing West End Game’s RPG). I have to imagine that anyone from the generation who were able to see the original trilogy in theatres had a comparable point of view and parallel operating experience.

The impact of new material being produced in novels in the form of a continuation of the story of our beloved characters was, and I say this with sincerity, a paradigm shift, for Star Wars fandom. It ignited what I would come to call the Star Wars renaissance which would impact the early 1990’s. Timothy Zahn not only gave us our first new content, like a cool drink of water from an oasis in a desert of naught, but, in hindsight, his Thrawn Trilogy was the catalyst for where we are now. I think a fact that might be overlooked is that if the audience fervor for Star Wars hadn’t met Timothy Zahn’s creation with the respect and acceptance it did, George Lucas could have simply, and possibly correctly so, put the property to bed when seeing no more audience was in tune with the characters and stories he had created. But, in the form of novels we were instead introduced to Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Grand Admiral Thraw met Star Wars fans when we needed him most. He was an inventive and curious new villain who felt like he would natural exist in the Star Wars Galaxy. This is where his impact comes from. After waiting for “something” to happen it finally did, and it didn’t feel contrived or gimmicky.

When we meet him again I imagine he will be a slightly new incarnation of the character for he will have to operate in the new continuity. But, if anyone or anything deserves to be resurrected from Star Wars Legends it would absolutely be him.

I just hope the any further fruit harvested from my proverbial grove of trees is just as discerning and deserving. And, at the risk of raising ire, I am not sure Mara Jade meets the particular pedigree necessary for transitioning to the new continuity.

But, who knows. Maybe she turns out to be Rey’s mom?

Until next time I bid thee love and merriment.

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