Timothy Zahn on Star Wars Legends aka The Expanded Universe

Star Wars Author Timothy Zahn, best known for the famous Thrawn Trilogy, Outbound Flight and the Canon novels Thrawn and Thrawn: Alliance recently shared his thoughts on the issues with the old Star Wars Expanded Universe now branded as Star Wars: Legends.

When Disney purchased Lucasfilm back in 2012, it was quickly announced that there would be new films for the Star Wars universe, beginning in 2015 with Episode VII that would be first film of the Sequel Trilogy. But before that the newly created LucasFilm Story Group (headed by Pablo Hidgalo) had to decide on the fate of the Expanded Universe. A universe of books, comics, games and more that had been telling the story of Star Wars for 37 years to that point.

Ultimately the decision was made to rebrand the Expanded Universe into “Legends” to make room for the new canonized stories. According to George Lucas, the Expanded Universe was never canon and allowed creative freedom in the many books, comics, video games, etc.


“I don’t read that stuff. I haven’t read any of the novels. I don’t know anything about that world. That’s a different world than my world. But I do try to keep it consistent. The way I do it now is they have a Star Wars Encyclopedia. So if I come up with a name or something else, I look it up and see if it has already been used. When I said [other people] could make their own Star Wars stories, we decided that, like Star Trek, we would have two universes: My universe and then this other one. They try to make their universe as consistent with mine as possible, but obviously they get enthusiastic and want to go off in other directions.”

– George Lucas, from an interview in Starlog #337

“Once Vader dies, he doesn’t come back to life, the Emperor doesn’t get cloned and Luke doesn’t get married…”

– George Lucas, from an interview with Total Film in 2008

While the rebranding of the Expanded Universe might have disappointed some fans, with some over zealous (and slightly unhinged fans going as far to create Anti-Disney/Star Wars Pages like: “Disney’s Star Wars movies are fanfiction. Long live the Expanded Universe” and “Ignoring Disney’s Star Wars Canon” in retaliation to the Story Group’s decision. Most fans understand the reasons behind the rebranding, with even famous Legends writer Timothy Zahn understanding and agreeing.

 “The biggest problem I think with the Expanded Universe was it got so big and so complex,” Zahn says. “It was hard, not only hard to keep track of everything, but hard to find someplace where you could put a story and hard to find something that hadn’t been done before.”

– Timothy Zahn

The rebranding of the EU to Legends would have been inevitable anyway, given that George Lucas’ treatments for a Sequel Trilogy (similar to LucasFilm) would have greatly differed from the Expanded Universe. For instance, the absence of Jaina, Jacen or Anakin would effect so many Post Return of the Jed Stories/Events. Effecting the Thrawn Trilogy, Dark Empire, The New Jedi Order Series, The Dark Nest Series, Legacy of the Force Series and many more.

Speaking of Solos. George Lucas’ also had written in his treatments the death of Han Solo, by none other than his and Leia only child who had fallen to the Darkside. And that wasn’t the only major Character from the Original Trilogy to die in his treatments. As it was also revealed that Luke Skywalker himself would have met his end in Episode IX (not VIII) in Lucas’ treatments.


The new Canon has during it’s short life time has reintroduced many things from Legends, from Characters to Planets, Ships/Vehicles and events appearing in the new books, comics, games, shows and even the new Star Wars films. I would highly recommend checking out Alex Dameron’s channel Star Wars Explained for more insight on what has been reintroduced thus far, along with similarities. Such as the Imperial Remnant that was introduced in Zahn’s novel Heir to the Empire, for example, which marks many similarities with the First Order that debuted in Episode VII: The Force Awakens. A similarity he has brought up before:

“I don’t want to say that they were deliberately thinking about me when they did this, because a lot of the stuff they’re doing is just logic. If we chase some of the Empire out into the Unknown Regions, the logical thing is for them to build up and then come back. It’s not necessarily inspired; it’s very easy parallel development as well.”

– Timothy Zhan

A major example of Legends material becoming canon is the incorporation of Grand Admiral Thrawn, one of Zahn best known and beloved creations, who debuted in the animated Star Wars Rebels. Additionally, Zahn also created the two new Thrawn novels to chronicle the rise of masterful tactician during the rise of the Galactic Empire.

Star Wars – Thrawn: Alliances is out now. And given the official release of the Cast for next year’s Star Wars: Episode IX there are already rumours floating around that Richard E. Grant may be portraying an older Thrawn in the upcoming Episode. But that is a rumour, and nothing more at this time. (Though given that Grant is usually typecast as a villain it is understandable, but could be nothing more than wishful thinking).

Connor Heggie