Thursday, May 11, 2023

Let's celebrate the 40th anniversary of Return of the Jedi!

It's hard to believe Return of the Jedi came out 40 years ago!

The movie opened on May 25, 1983. It's the third and final movie in the original trilogy. I still remember seeing it as a kid. The movie ran for a long time and got a rerelease in 1984, so that may have been when I saw it. Seriously, I was not very old, but I still remember the rancor and the big space battle at the end.

Jedi is my favorite Star Wars movie. I once argued with a middle school teacher about it being the best of the Star Wars movies. He was convinced that honor belonged to The Empire Strikes Back, and while 13-year-old me disagreed, 42-year-old me can at least see where he was coming from. "Favorite" doesn't always mean "best," and people can certainly make an argument that the original Star Wars (or A New Hope, if you prefer) is the best of the three. 

A couple stories about the movie. First of all, we didn't own a copy of it for a long time. I remember a Friday pizza night when my family went to the video store to rent a movie and came out with Return of the Jedi even though we'd already watched it several times. I'm pretty sure this whole thing exhausted my mom, who was probably thinking NOT AGAIN when her sons plucked Jedi off the shelf.

Yes, Mom, we wanted to see it again. Because it is the best Star Wars movie.

Or at least our favorite.

The movie premiered on a local network affiliate some years later. My brother was having eye surgery in Indianapolis at the time, and my parents were away to be with him, so I was with my grandmother for the weekend. I was all amped up to see the movie, but more importantly, I had a fresh VHS tape in my grandmother's VCR so I could record it and watch it over and over (so long, video rental fees!). 

Disaster struck. 

I hit record, but the VCR didn't respond. As I freaked out, my grandmother finally called my uncle, who calmly informed us that you had to hold down the record and play buttons at the same time in order to get her VCR to tape something. We missed the opening crawl and Vader's arrival on the second Death Star. My taped-off-TV version of Jedi started with with Threepio and Artoo walking to Jabba's palace.

I finally got proper home releases of all three movies for Christmas in 1991 or 1992. The "uncut" version of Jedi finally had the opening crawl and Vader's arrival ("Perhaps I can find new ways to motivate them"). It was also missing awkward splices from skipped commercials (the old pause-record method), station logos, and the "edited for television" disclaimers.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the other Star Wars movies, Del Rey released anthologies featuring forty stories, one to commemorate each year since release. The A New Hope version came out in 2017, while the Empire version came out in 2020.

This year, it's Return of the Jedi's turn.

I would love to say I have a story in the anthology, but I don't have that kind of clout or renown. Still, I decided to write a few stories of my own. These are pure fanfiction, nothing more. While I keep up on Star Wars, I've not read every comic and novel in the Disney era. Thus, I chucked out Star Wars canon. A few things are nods to the old Legends continuity.

Will the stories conflict with something established elsewhere? Probably. Do I care? Not one bit.

I had several ideas! Probably not enough to write 40 individual stories, but you never know. I finally settled on writing six of them...since Return of the Jedi is Episode VI. 

Here are the summaries:

A Whole Case of Trouble.
Lando Calrissian, working deep undercover in Jabba's palace to lay the groundwork for Han Solo's rescue, encounters a stylish spacer with a big problem and a rare, expensive case of liquor.

Many Bothans Lived.
A Bothan spymaster's network uncovers plans for a new Death Star, setting off a calamitous series of events.

Terror Bears.
 An elite group of stormtroopers, cut off from Imperial forces during the Battle of Endor, tries to outwit fearsome jungle warriors with grisly results.

The Fall of Palpatine.
As he plummets toward apparent oblivion, Emperor Palpatine reflects on his failed plot to destroy the Rebel Alliance once and for all with a daring gambit above the forest moon of Endor.

TurncoatAn Imperial spy embedded within a Rebel squadron loathes everything about her wingmen until the Empire reveals its true nature.

An Older Code. An Imperial technician on the Executor recognizes a shuttle carrying an older code, a clear violation of protocol. Why does no one seem to care? Didn't they finish the Imperial-mandated security training?