September 22, 2023

The famous vessel from the Expanded Universe story Shadows Of The Empire returns in Star Wars Rebels

In the aftermath of the sudden and shocking sale of Lucasfilm Ltd to the Walt Disney company, a ripple effect spread throughout the Star Wars universe that had unprecedented consequences for the entire saga. The highest profile occurrences manifested with the cancellation of The Clone Wars television series which ruffled many a feather amongst the devoted fan base as well as the categorical disbanding of the Expanded Universe which was discarded as a series of non-canon events. The sudden disbanding of the expanded universe narratives did not sit well with many fans due to the majority of them embracing such stories in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi.

We were forced to endure a sixteen-year interval between the original and prequel trilogies and the stories of the expanded universe were all we had to satisfy our thirst for more content. Two of the most popular stories from this lucrative anthology were the Thrawn series, where the sinister Grand Admiral Thrawn assumed command of the remnants of the Empire and the forever admired chronicle of the Shadows of the Empire.

The amazing novel, written by author Steve Perry was a sublime fan favourite depicting the events between the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Before the concept of the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was mooted, Shadows was regarded as the first anthology story to take place amidst the story of the original trilogy, a template that has now been officially embraced by Lucasfilm.

The notion that such a phenomenal story had been discarded from the canon narrative upset many a fan including myself however, with the arrival of Star Wars Rebels the landscape has gradually begun to change. Whilst sat amongst the stunned audience at the Star Wars Celebration Europe Rebels panel, we were treated to the first trailer for the third season which not only confirmed the resurrection of Grand Admiral Thrawn but also hinted at the return of a relic from the Shadows of the Empire story.

The relic I speak of is the famous vessel commanded by the unswerving pirate and smuggler Dash Rendar, a new character written in a similar fashion to the legendary Han Solo. In fact, Dash Rendar and Han Solo were revealed to have a long and lucrative history that dated back before the events of the Empire Strikes Back. Their exploits even unfolded amidst the backdrop of the battle of Hoth, where Rendar had made a delivery of armaments to the small band of struggling rebel heroes taking refuge within the ice caves of Echo Base. Our beloved Han Solo desperately tried to coerce the resilient Rendar to join the Rebellion in their struggle against the Empire, but the reluctant pirate preferred his life of freedom and decided to evacuate the system in the onset of Imperial invasion.

However, with Han Solo captured and being incarcerated inside his carbonite prison, Luke Skywalker reached out to Rendar and his beloved droid co-pilot Leebo, and called upon his relationship with the ensnared captain of the Millennium Falcon.

And so, Dash Rendar joined the Rebel cause and utilised his stunningly modified Corellian YT-2400 light freighter named the Outrider. The famous ship was modelled in similar fashion to the Millennium Falcon and featured the trademark saucer-shaped hull, which Rendar had been reported to have reinforced with titanium armour. The cockpit and main escape pod were attached to the starboard side of the saucer with the docking hatch and another escape pod relocated to the port side.

With the freighter being adored by the steadfast Star Wars fan base, a Hasbro toy version was released alongside the Power of the Force range of action figure and vehicles and swiftly gained an abundant cult following. With its popularity undeniable, the vessel was inserted into the special edition sequence of A New Hope during Luke Skywalker’s arrival at the Mos Eisley spaceport that sent the fans into raptures. The look of the Outrider was designed by Doug Chiang, who also worked on the designs for the Star Wars prequel trilogy films and imparted the craft with its visual awesomeness.

But with the takeover of Lucasfilm and the sudden forsaking of the expanded universe, Shadows of the Empire slipped into anonymity, its future shrouded in uncertainty. Until the legendary Dave Filoni confirmed live on stage that the craft was indeed set for a triumphant return to the screen in Star Wars Rebels season three and allowing it to re-enter the stories of canon.

Unfortunately, Dash Rendar and his beloved droid companion Leebo were not as fortunate and remain on the periphery of Star Wars lore but the Outrider class freighter is back in the most delightful way. During the episode titled “Iron Squadron” a trio of new characters made their debut whilst in command of a modified version of the famous Outrider.

Sat in the pilot’s chair was the young commander named Mart, the nephew of the rebel supremo Commander Sato who demonstrated a nerve of steel approach whilst dealing with the forces of the Empire. Despite the character’s wooden and stereotypical persona, he was gifted the ability to pilot the freighter in the most subliminal way and just having the opportunity to see an Outrider class vessel actually fly outside of the computer game platform was a delight.

Finally having the chance to see the Outrider flying across the screen in a Star Wars canon event is a monumental and pivotal moment. Not only does it symbolise the resurrection of certain elements of the expanded universe but it opens up a world of untapped resources just waiting to make a triumphant return.

With both Grand Admiral Thrawn and the Outrider returning to our screens, the potential for other fan favourites to return is a tangible reality, one that could boast the resurrection of characters like Mara Jade. The dark apprentice who went on to become wife to Luke Skywalker, would be the worthiest of characters to earn a rebirth amidst the ranks of the Star Wars universe and take her rightful place amongst the annals of official canon.

But in conclusion, I like many of fans around the world am rejoicing at the return of the Outrider, a vessel that I have longed to see in an official capacity since the Shadows of the Empire novel was released in 1996. I have fond memories of jumping aboard the craft during the Nintendo game version of the story and attacking Prince Xizor’s space installation, an experience that still holds a special place in my fandom.

Whether or not Dash Rendar or Mara Jade return, the power truly lies in the hands of Dave Filoni and his amazing team at Lucasfilm Animation and if one thing is certain, these guys are indeed championing the cause for the fans.

I await the next the arrival of the next rabbit out of the hat with baited breath. In the meantime, we all have the remainder of Rebels season three to enjoy as well as the amazing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story set for release on December 15th in the UK.

My midnight screening in 3D IMAX is booked…is yours?

I look forward to sharing it with you and as always…

May The Force Be With You…


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