Star Wars needs Timothy Zahn now more than ever.
Following the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983, little happened with the Star Wars franchise (and no, we are not counting the Ewok movies) and George Lucas had seemingly moved on. Fast forward to 1991, and Bantam Books released Heir to the Empire, the first installment of a new, novelized Star Wars trilogy. In it we were introduced to the blue-skinned Chiss, Grand Admiral Thrawn. Star Wars was reborn and author Timothy Zahn catapulted to the top of every Star Wars fan’s must read list. After the publication of Dark Force Rising and The Last Command to round out what we now know as the Thrawn Trilogy, Zahn’s name became as synonymous with Star Wars as was the name George Lucas.
LucasFilm’s first major mistake was in not immediately seizing upon the Thrawn Trilogy’s popularity and translating the novels to film at a time when all of the original trilogy’s major actors could have easily reprised their roles. Instead, Lucas and the studio waited another eight years and gave us the dreaded prequels. To this day many question why.
There is just something about Zahn’s writing style that is so very… Star Wars. He’d perfectly captured each character’s quirks and nuances, seamlessly translating them from film to written page. Of course, he also gave us Thrawn, a character that has grown to such popularity that he is considered a close second to only Darth Vader as the most compelling villain in all of Star Wars.
Following the near riotous response from fans upon learning that the Star Wars Expanded Universe, of which the Thrawn Trilogy was a part, would no longer be canon, writer/producer Dave Filoni smartly brought Thrawn back into the canonical spotlight by making him the primary antagonist in the Star Wars Rebels animated series. Thrawn was back, but still fans clamored for more. Zahn answered with his 2017 novel, simply titled Thrawn, in which we learn of the Chiss Grand Admiral’s past history and follow his rise through the Imperial ranks.
Next month Zahn gives us Thrawn again, this time in Thrawn: Alliances, in which our two favorite villains are thrust together at the Emperor’s bidding. And it couldn’t come at a better time.
With the film studio in turmoil following The Last Jedi and Solo, Star Wars is in desperate need of a grounding force; something to settle fans’ tempers and to remind them that Star Wars is and will continue to be the science fiction stalwart we know it to be. If Zahn’s virtuoso storytelling can’t do that, I fear for the franchise. Now, if we could just get him to start writing screenplays….