The Star Wars universe has always been bigger than just the movies. A seemingly endless stream of TV series, radio dramas, novels and comic books have been written by a variety of authors over the years, each of them seeking to flesh out the characters and worlds of the Star Wars galaxy.
Some of these stories have followed familiar characters such as Luke Skywalker in new adventures, and some have given characters that were only seen momentarily in the films, such as Boba Fett, entire personalities and backstories of their own.
As the expanded universe grew and grew the stories told strayed further and further from the original source material. Minor characters from movies took a starring role in various novels, and supporting characters from these novels would then feature in spin-off series of their own.
Much of the expanded universe was declared non-canon with the arrival of Episode VII last year, and relegated to the Star Wars 'Legends' continuity. While it was a shame to lose such a rich history it would have been impossible for J.J Abrams and his team to try and tell a new story in amongst the interwoven web of stories the universe had become.
However, while the loss of much of this fiction will be sorely missed, not every character in the expanded universe was a great addition. Many were cliched, a few were badly written, and some were just downright weird.
So read on for our top picks from the expanded universe.
May the 4th be with you.
Did you know that Yoda wasn't the only of his species to appear in the Star Wars films?
I won't blame you if you missed her appearance, but a female member of Yoda's elusive species, Yaddle, appeared briefly as another member of the Jedi council in The Phantom Menace.
According to the (now obsolete) Star Wars databank, Yaddle grew out of a concept art sketch that was originally meant to depict Yoda.
As is often the way with minor Star Wars characters, Yaddle quickly gained an extensive backstory as a Jedi master who trained many apprentices over her four centuries of life.
However her starring role came in the book Jedi Quest: The Shadow Trap, where Yaddle died while on a mission with Obi-Wan and Anakin. At the climax of the story Yaddle used the force to absorb the full force of a bioweapon, saving the citizens of Naatan in the process.
Yaddle's existence does raise a few questions though. Are all of her species Jedi? Is there something about them that means they're more in tune with the force than everyone else? Is there a whole planet of little Yoda-like creatures going about their lives?
More importantly, what was her relation to Yoda? Did they come from the same planet, or even the same family?
With the death of the old expanded universe these answers may never manage to emerge, but we can hope Yaddle isn't the last we'll see of her kind.
(Image Credit: Wikia)
Ice Cream Maker Guy
Ok I know that his name is technically Willrow Hood, but 'Ice Cream Maker Guy' as he's more commonly known, is a favorite among devoted fans.
Hood first appeared in Empire Strikes Back as a citizen fleeing the destruction of Cloud City, but while the other characters in shot are simply running, he is seen carrying what appears to be a futuristic looking ice cream machine.
Presumably when the other residents of Cloud City were busy packing up all their family heirlooms, Hood knew that in practical terms he'd be able to survive any trip as long as he had a continuous supply of cool, refreshing, ice cream.
Except, if the expanded universe is to be believed, that's not an ice cream maker he's carrying at all, but a memory module from the mining company based in Cloud City.
You see the company in charge of gas mining in the city was supplying the Rebellion with some cut price gas on the sly. The empire was aware of this, and sent a spy to investigate, in the hope that this information would lead them to find the rebel's base.
Incidentally the knowledge that Cloud City was supplying the rebels was the information Darth Vader used to blackmail Lando into giving him Han Solo.
When the empire seized control of the city, ol' Willrow saw that the identities of their buyers were at risk, and seized the memory module of the central computer in order to get it out of the Empire's hands.
The character has since evolved into a cult celebrity, with fans attending conventions in costume carrying their own ice cream makers, but I'm just happy with how well his story integrates with the rest of the franchise.
(Image Credit: Wikia)
So in Empire Strikes Back Darth Vader calls together a group of the most fearsome bounty hunters in the galaxy, including Boba Fett, who would later go on to be the most over-explored character in the expanded universe.
But one character you might not have noticed from this scene was IG-88B, the robot whose head kind of looks like a coffee percolator. Well his ('her'? 'its'?) story gets a LOT more interesting after the events of Episode V.
You see IG-88B was one of four IG-88 assassin droids who took over a droid army on Mechis 3. IG-88A was their leader, and together they planned on leading a droid revolution to take over the galaxy.
So IG-88A (the leader) found out about the second Death Star and decided that it would make the whole 'galactic domination thing' a whole lot easier and he ('it'? I'm going to go with 'it') decided to get himself installed on its computer core.
This basically leaves the Death Star II haunted by a megalomaniacal robot who for whatever reason has some serious beef with Darth Sidious. This results in the sentient computer at one point closing a set of doors on the Emperor's head. I'd say that you couldn't make this stuff up were it not for the fact that someone obviously has.
Thankfully the rebels ended up blowing up the Death Star at the end of Return of the Jedi before IG-88A was able to hijack the space station's power to take control of every droid in the galaxy.
Apparently the robot uttered the words "I think, therefore I am, I destroy, therefore I endure" to comfort itself before its death, so at least it's reassuring to know it had a passing knowledge of Descartes, even if it felt the need to butcher one of the philosopher's central propositions to calm itself down.
(Image Credit: Wikia)
Luuke Skywalker (and eventually Luuuke Skywalker)
The concept of cloning is hardly alien to the Star Wars series, so it's unsurprising that someone eventually felt the need to clone its central protagonist.
The character emerges as part of The Last Command, a book and subsequent graphic novelisation that deals with Luke's adventures post-Episode VI, where a mad jedi clone named Joruus C'baoth created him to use as a personal weapon.
The clone was created using Luke's severed hand from Cloud City, and fought using Luke's lightsaber which he lost in that same battle.
Luuke was eventually killed by Mara Jade. For those who haven't just spent an entire afternoon trawling through Wookieepedia, Mara Jade was originally the Emperor's Hand, tasked with hunting down and killing Luke Skywalker. She eventually turned good after her master's death, and ended up marrying Luke in the expanded universe.
In the grand tradition of adding u's to names in order to symbolise their clone status, Luuke was eventually replaced with Luuuke, a character so preposterous even the now non-canon expanded universe refuses to accept him as one of their own.
Luuuke apparently used a time machine to go back and attack the galaxy during the Clone Wars period, because if there's one thing Star Wars needs it's an insane clone-of-a-clone wreaking havoc across both time and space.
It's weird, but the existence of Luuuke almost makes Luuke feel like a sensible addition to the universe.
(Image Credit: Wikia)
Look, I don't want to go into the specifics of how I know this, but there's a sentient mountain on Endor that weeps tears of healing and has a big mouth that it can use to blow little Ewoks off its summit.
Those tears of healing came in handy in issue 7 of Marvel's Ewoks series of comics, in which a cheeky little Ewok named Teebo got infected with 'the perilous laughing spell' and starts pulling pranks on his Ewok chums.
The adventure that transpires is every bit as odd as you'd expect. The Ewoks present Teebo to Mount Sorrow for a little bit of that healing goodness, only Mount Sorrow then decides that this little Ewok isn't worthy of being healed and throws them off the side of a mountain (ie himself).
Only when Teebo refuses to put his friends in danger of being thrown off a cliff by asking for help again does Mount Sorrow decide to actually help the little guys.
It's all utterly ridiculous, but frankly if you're the kind of person that thinks it's worthwhile to read through a whole seven issues of just Ewok adventures in comic book form then you deserve everything that you get.
Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments below.
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(Image Credit: Wikia)