Disney’s The Force Awakens is a lovesong to Star Wars movies of yesteryear, and in many ways the new film plays out as a tribute movie, bringing back all of the best bits from the original trilogy. Many elements of the movie’s plot, visual design style and character arcs are directly inspired by the adventures from the first Star Wars movie from 1977 and its direct sequels, giving fans a big dose of sci-fi nostalgia.
Outside of the original movies, though, the creators behind The Force Awakens were also able to draw on a wealth of Star Wars stories from other media, including books, comics and videogames that were created to tell further tales in the Star Wars "Expanded Universe." While these supplementary tales are not canonically linked to the new movie, there are plenty of similarities between classic stories and Disney’s latest blockbuster. Some of these appear to be deliberate references, while others are examples of great minds thinking alike.
It’s interesting to see where The Force Awakens drew its inspiration, and what similarities exist between other stories. These links also give fans of the new movie a few excellent places to see more of the same within the Star Wars universe. With that in mind, here are 10 Elements of The Force Awakens That Were Taken from the Expanded Universe – but be warned if you’re worried about spoilers for the new movie and various other Star Wars stories, as there are plenty of heavy spoilers throughout this list:
*Warning: Star Wars 7 Plot Spoilers Ahead.*
11 Kylo Ren’s Mask (Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic)
When Kylo Ren’s character first appeared in promotional material for the new movie, longtime fans of Star Wars were quick to spot the similarities between his design and a famous Sith from the Old Republic era of the Expanded Universe. BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic, which won several Game of the Year awards following its release in 2003, was the first appearance of the fan favorite character Darth Revan, a brilliant military strategist who nearly toppled the Republic 5,000 years before the rise of the Galactic Empire.
The visual similarities are striking – Kylo Ren’s mask looks very similar to the Sith mask worn by Revan, suggesting that the design team behind the new movie wanted to give tribute to one of the most beloved Dark Lords in the Expanded Universe. While it’s not yet confirmed that Revan’s adventures exist in the same canon as The Force Awakens, some fans wonder if the Knights of Ren share any connection to the Order of Revan that appears in BioWare’s ongoing online multiplayer RPG, The Old Republic. It could just be a coincidence, but their names are strikingly similar.
10 The Quest for a Star Map (Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic)
The driving plot point of The Force Awakens involves newbie droid BB-8 entrusted with a partial map to Luke Skywalker’s location, in a setup that directly mirrors the R2-D2 escort mission of the original 1977 movie. Beyond that, the idea of an incomplete star map has been used before, and is possibly yet another reference to the Knights of the Old Republic videogame.
In the game, the player is tasked with travelling to various iconic Star Wars planets to locate star maps, which when combined together provide a guide to finding a mysterious "Unknown World," later named Rakata Prime. The maps in the game look very similar to the map to Skywalker that appears in the movie, and the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary has confirmed that Rakata Prime is part of the new Star Wars canon, leading some fans to speculate that that Luke’s quest to find the first Jedi temple has taken him to the final planet from Knights of the Old Republic.
9 A Stormtrooper 'Traitor' (X-Wing Rogue Squadron: Blood and Honor)
One of the most compelling new characters introduced in The Force Awakens is Finn, the Stormtrooper who chooses to abandon the First Order after combat turns out to be less fun than sanitation work. The Expanded Universe is full of former Imperial soldiers joining the Rebellion – even Han Solo’s old backstory involved time as an Imperial pilot before he fell in love with the smuggler lifestyle.
One of the most interesting stories featuring a defecting Imperial comes from the X-Wing Rogue Squadron comic series. One storyline tells the tale of a formidable Imperial pilot, Baron Soontir Fel, as he chooses to turn traitor and join the Rebellion. He’s not made to feel quite as welcome as Finn is in the Resistance, though, and some of his new crewmates are unhappy serving alongside someone who has shot down many of their allies. The story’s full of political intrigue and shows a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the Empire, as it explores a lot of the political infighting, and the after-effects of Alliance victories.
Even though it’s unlikely that The Force Awakens is deliberately referencing a little-known comic book from the ‘90s, it’s a good place for Star Wars fans to start if they’d like to read another story similar to Finn’s.
8 Han Smuggling Living Creatures (Star Wars Tales: Kessel Run)
The Force Awakens makes a quick mention of the infamous Kessel Run, which, according to Han Solo, the Millenium Falcon can travel in "less than twelve parsecs." Considering that a parsec is a measurement of distance rather than time, there have been plenty of Expanded Universe stories attempting to explain what exactly the Kessel Run is, and how a pilot can boast about its travel distance.
One story from the Star Wars Tales comic is told by a drunken alien in a bar, who claims that a kessel is a large, green, flightless bird. After winning the Millennium Falcon from Lando, Han supposedly embarked on the Kessel Run, buying and transporting large shipments of these birds aboard the Falcon, before discovering that he’d been swindled by a bunch of Lando’s buddies into paying for useless livestock.
The story suggests that the barcrawling narrator is just spinning tall tales to get free drinks, but moving kessels around does sound a lot easier than transporting the rathtars seen in The Force Awakens, even if this version of the Kessel Run story is clearly nothing but bantha poodoo.
7 Black X-Wings (Star Wars: Legacy of the Force series)
For many viewers, one of the most satisfying starships to appear in The Force Awakens is the mighty X-Wing, making a triumphant return to the big screen after being teased with similar-looking but less nostalgic alternatives in Revenge of the Sith. Poe Dameron’s snazzy black X-Wing with an orange tint looks fantastic as it blasts across the sky in sweeping tracking shots, taking out waves of First Order Tie Fighters.
In the Expanded Universe, the Rebel forces quickly move on from the X-Wing when more advanced ships come along – the Dark Empire comics, for example, introduced the E-Wing, which ultimately just isn’t as cool as Luke’s classic fighter of choice.
In the Legacy of the Force book series, black X-Wings are the standard mode of transportation for Luke’s Jedi Order – the special stealth versions of the classic ships are known as Jedi-X models, and are used for being very sneaky in space thanks to camouflage of both the physical and technological variety. Kudos to The Force Awakens for showing a black ship in space that doesn’t instantly get lost in the backdrop, as it’s one of the highlights of the film to see the return of this iconic craft.
6 Living in Imperial Wreckage (Star Wars Tales: Marooned)
In a galaxy as war-torn as the one in Star Wars, it’s no surprise that a lot of military trash gets left behind after big battles. In The Force Awakens, Rey not only lives inside a fallen Imperial AT-AT walker, but also spends her days picking through the wreckage of a crashed Star Destroyer to find junk to sell.
A short story in the Star Wars Tales comic series has several parallels to The Force Awakens. It tells the story of a marooned Rebel soldier and an Imperial Stormtrooper who finally abandons his remote post over a year after the Battle of Endor. The pair bicker a bit at first before working together to get off the planet: neither one of them knows whose side won the war, so it comes as a bit of a shock to the Stormtrooper to discover a rusting Star Destroyer among wreckage in the forest, near an Ewok village.
The trooper decides not to rejoin a galaxy that’s long since ousted its Imperial oppressors, and he instead chooses to live among the Ewoks for the foreseeable future. The final panel of the comic shows him living in an AT-ST walker, smiling as he puffs on a pipe and enjoying the tranquil forest scenery.
5 Missing Jedi Masters (Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords)
The driving motivation behind the actions of both the First Order and the Resistance in The Force Awakens is tracking down Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi Master, who has disappeared into the Unknown Regions of space without leaving a forwarding address. Even Luke’s friends and family haven’t been told where he’s gone, and his poor trusty droid companion, R2-D2, has been set to low-power mode while awaiting Luke’s return.
Fans of the 2004 sequel to the original Knights of the Old Republic videogame will be very familiar with a broken galaxy desperately trying to find the last Jedi. After Revan’s war with the Republic in the first game, the Jedi have almost entirely been wiped out, and players are tasked with searching the remote corners of the galaxy for any remaining Jedi Masters that might be in hiding.
What’s more, the player ends up commandeering Revan’s old starship, the Ebon Hawk, which bears a lot of similarities to the Millennium Falcon. The player befriends a lot of Revan’s old companions, who explain that after the war, Revan disappeared into the unexplored fringes of space to fight the "True Sith." The game deals with the fallout of this exodus and how it affects Revan’s friends, including a loyal astromech droid who’s been left behind, in conversations that are incredibly similar to a lot of scenes in the newest Star Wars movie.
4 Anakin’s Old Lightsaber (The Last Command)
Ever since Luke’s blue lightsaber (and one of his body parts) tumbled down off a tower in Cloud City during the climax of The Empire Strikes Back, fans have been wondering where it ended up. In The Force Awakens it somehow ended up in the possession of Maz Kanata, but the new movie isn’t the first Star Wars story to bring back the blade that Anakin Skywalker used to murder Younglings.
Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy, considered by many to be the quintessential Expanded Universe work, was the first story to find a reason for the return of Luke’s old weapon. In the final book in the series, Luke gives it to Mara Jade, a former Imperial assassin who’d just overcome the Emperor’s brainwashing in order to help Luke to defeat his evil clone (it’s a complicated book). Luke and Mara Jade eventually get married, and there are plenty of adventures in the Expanded Universe where Anakin Skywalker’s old lightsaber is used to defend the galaxy from various threats.
3 Starkiller Base and Other Superweapons (The Jedi Academy Trilogy)
Those familiar with Star Wars lore will have recognized Starkiller Base for a few reasons. The name "Starkiller," originally meant to be Luke’s surname in early drafts of Star Wars, has turned up at various times in the old Expanded Universe, including being the title given to Darth Vader’s secret apprentice in the videogame The Force Unleashed. In addition to that, though, there are plenty of superweapons that are very similar.
While the Sun Crusher from the Jedi Academy books is fundamentally different to Starkiller Base (it’s a single, small ship, rather than a giant planetary weapon), it is functionally similar as it contains the power to harness solar energy to destroy entire star systems. In the books, rogue Jedi Kyp Durron steals the weapon, and it’s up to Luke and his friends to track down the Sun Crusher before Kyp does too much damage.
Other notable superweapons in the old Star Wars canon include Centerpoint Station, which is capable of throwing asteroids down onto planets; the Galaxy Gun, which is basically a long, skinny Death Star; and the Star Forge, which draws power from a sun in a similar way to Starkiller Base, but instead uses it to power an enormous ship forge to give its controller unlimited military resources.
2 The Dark Jedi Son of Leia and Han (Star Wars: Legacy of the Force series)
Clearly Leia and Han are bad parents – there’s no other explanation as to why their son always seems to turn evil, no matter which timeline you look at. The Legacy of the Force book series, which tells the story of Jacen Solo’s turn to the dark side, has a story which is very similar to The Force Awakens. Both stories feature a son called Ben (in the books, this name is given to Luke’s kid), and feature a young Solo boy slowly becoming corrupted by power.
In the Legacy of the Force books, Jacen eventually has to cement his journey to the Dark Side by killing a family member (his aunt and Luke’s wife, Mara Jade). She puts up a bit more of a fight than Ben Solo’s father in the third act of The Force Awakens, but the idea of Kylo Ren needing to murder a loved one to progress towards his dark destiny is very familiar. Anyone who’s eager for another story similar to Episode VII should definitely check out the series, as over nine books there’s a lot more space to tell the slow, nuanced story of Jacen’s fall to the dark side.
These ten points are only a few of the various stories set in the Star Wars universe that share similarities with The Force Awakens. While some are almost certainly a coincidence, there’s no chance that the movie’s creators were oblivious to the plot of the Legacy of the Force books or the Knights of the Old Republic games, and while these old stories are no longer official canon, it’s nice to see Disney paying appropriate tribute to the excellent past tales that have helped build upon the cultural legacy of the movies.
Did we miss any of your favorite borrowed plot points or costume designs? What do you think about the new movies reusing older ideas? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.