The latest Star Wars book, The Rebel Files, has just restored an absolute wealth of classic Expanded Universe content into the Star Wars canon. Exploring the backstory of the Rebel Alliance, it carefully weaves ideas, characters, and locations into the new continuity Lucasfilm has built - honoring details long since believed lost.
When Disney purchased Lucasfilm back in 2012, the House of Mouse was faced with an unenviable decision. The Star Wars canon had grown too unwieldy, and it was simply impossible to tell creative new stories while retaining the wider canon shaped by the comics, novels, magazines, and more over the past decades. So Disney chose to erase the old continuity; only the movies and TV shows remained part of the canon, and Lucasfilm was able to start from scratch. Old Expanded Universe content was classified as "Legends."
Since then, though, Lucasfilm has carefully been restoring some of the best bits of the old canon into their new continuity. The most prominent example is undoubtedly Grand Admiral Thrawn, who played a major part in Star Wars Rebels and was featured in a new-canon novel by Timothy Zahn. The latest Star Wars book, The Rebel Files, follows this tradition. In it, Daniel Wallace carefully presents the history of the Rebel Alliance, tying various plot threads together with skill - and even finding time to drop exciting hints. When Hera Syndulla's name is mentioned, Leia jots next to it, "The Hera Syndulla? If only they had known where she'd end up." Along the way, Wallace picks up an absolute wealth of details from the old Star Wars Gamer and Star Wars Adventure Journals. He does so in such a subtle way that it would only be noticed by readers who were familiar with the originals.
Take, for example, Trinebulon News, a HoloNet media company who seem to have leaned towards the Empire. According to notes in The Rebel Files, they've actually become a "shill" for the First Order by the time of the Sequel Trilogy. Tri-Neb was created back in 2001, in an article published in Star Wars Gamer.
The most significant plot element absorbed into the new canon is the Petition of 2,000. Mentioned in the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, this was a petition from 2,000 senators calling for Palpatine to renounce his emergency powers and end the war against the Separatists. Lucas originally intended to reference it in the film, with the idea being that those senators became crucial to the Rebellion, but it got cut; you can still see references to it in the deleted scenes, but they're not canon. The petition's status and signatories have been in a sort of limbo since the Disney purchase, as it's unclear whether details in the old novelizations are still canon or not. Now, thanks to The Rebel Files, the Petition is fully restored. It seems Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, and Padme Amidala first met with the other senators a month before Order 66.
In-universe books like this can sometimes seem a little bland, but Wallace is a skillful writer, and he's done a solid job presenting the emotions that underpinned the Rebel Alliance. One highlight, for example, is a flurry of transmissions between Rebel leaders as they reel after the destruction of Alderaan. Leia jots down some accompanying notes, that can't help but touch the heart. "The mourning is endless," she writes. "My father, my mother, my friends, my city, my world. Every time I fail, I fail them. And no victory is great enough to ever bring them back."
Little by little, Lucasfilm is carefully restoring all the best bits of the old Expanded Universe into the new Star Wars canon. In the case of The Rebel Files, we're dealing with a whole host of details that don't really matter in the grand scheme of things, but will nonetheless bring joy to lovers of the old Expanded Universe.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019