This Star Wars: Ahsoka article contains spoilers.
Three episodes into Ahsoka and the stage is set for an epic showdown millions of lightyears away from the known galaxy. Lady Morgan Elsbeth is building the Eye of Sion, a massive hyperspace ring unlike anything we’ve seen in live action before, so that she and her band of dark siders can travel through the Pathway to Peridia to find Grand Admiral Thrawn. It’s the first time we’ve heard of Peridia, even if former Jedi Baylan Skoll has heard the Jedi fairytales, but the existence of another galaxy beyond the one where the rest of the saga is set has huge implications for the future of Star Wars.
But it’s not the first time Star Wars has suggested there’s more to explore outside of the galaxy far, far away. In fact, the very novel that introduced Thrawn in 1991, Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, also planted the seeds for later Expanded Universe stories about deep space and extragalactic exploration as well as the alien races that live beyond the Outer Rim. And there’s no question that the Outbound Flight reference in Heir to the Empire is also a huge influence on Ahsoka and its quest to reach Peridia.
Although Outbound Flight is only mentioned in Zahn’s novel, and doesn’t actually play a huge role overall in the events of Heir or the rest of the Thrawn trilogy of books, it was more fully fleshed out in his later work, especially in the 2006 Prequel era novel of the same name. In essence, the Outbound Flight Project was a Republic exploration mission that set out for the farthest reaches of space in an attempt to reach new civilizations beyond the known galaxy and establish new colonies. It failed miserably despite the involvement of dozens of Jedi Knights, including Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, but it did indirectly set the stage for Thrawn’s future role serving the Empire.
While these Zahn books aren’t considered canon anymore, Ahsoka is clearly borrowing elements of the Outbound Flight story, down to the very design of the Eye of Sion, a ring-shaped vessel outfitted with multiple hyperdrives not dissimilar to Outbound Flight’s construction — six dreadnaught ships attached to a central fuselage. And interestingly, the Dark Jedi-like Baylan is also clearly inspired by Zahn’s mad clone character Joruus C’baoth from Heir. The original Jorus was a Jedi Master who led the Outbound Flight mission, so the fact that Baylan’s about to embark on this extragalactic journey is another purposeful nod to Zahn.
But more important than the easter eggs and references is the way Ahsoka could use Peridia to further open up the Star Wars universe in the same way Heir did in 1991. Published almost a decade after the end of the Original Trilogy, Heir essentially kicked off a decades’ long push to tell fresh stories that introduced brand new locations and a huge cast of Star Wars characters beyond those seen on the big screen. It’s how we got fan favorites like Thrawn, Mara Jade, Jacen and Jaina Solo, and countless others across books, comics, and the games (Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors, looking at you!). By taking the first steps into the New Republic era, Heir introduced a sandbox for creators to shape whole new Star Wars sagas that in several cases were just as good as the adventures of Luke, Han, and Leia at the movies.
With so little currently established about Peridia, outside of its implied connection to the Nightsisters of Dathomir, this new galaxy could offer a similar blank slate on television for future creators to tell stories that don’t involve mandatory trips back to Tatooine or Coruscant, or battles between Republics and Empires. In fact, as was the case in the old Expanded Universe, we might find that something much worse than the Empire is waiting for our heroes in deep space.
Star Wars: Ahsoka is streaming now on Disney+.