Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Star Wars 30th Anniversary Special - part 29
During the intervening years between "Star Wars" and it's first sequel, "The Empire Strikes Back," the first of what would become known as the "expanded universe" stories began to appear. Apart from the ongoing comic book series published by Marvel, there was also "Splinter of the Mind's Eye," (1978) a sequel novel written by Alan Dean Foster, who ghost-wrote the novelization of the movie. Rumor has it that the story in "Splinter" was meant as an inexpensive film sequel for "Star Wars" if it hadn't been a big hit. This seems unlikely as movies that don't do well, generally don't get sequels.
Another bit of expanded universe material came from an odd source. In 1979, Kenner released the Imperial Troop Transporter, a vehicle which did not appear in the movie, though it resembles vehicles that can be seen being used by the Rebels inside their X-Wing hangar.
The Imperial Troop Transporter doesn't look like much, but as Han Solo would say about his own vehicle, "She's got it where it counts." The vehicle has opening doors in front so that two pilots can be placed in the drivers seats, and six little pockets along the side where additional troops and prisoners can be housed. The black hatch at the rear of the vehicle also opened for the placement of droid prisoners.
Human prisoners could be restrained with two Prisoner Immobilization Units which fit over their heads, and as the instructions stated, were used for brainwashing by the Imperials. You can see one being used on Leia in the box art above.
The vehicle also came with a swiveling radar dish, and laser cannon on the roof. The cannon was surrounded by six red buttons, which when pressed emitted sound effects and dialogue taken from the movie. The complete list of sounds can be seen here in the instructions.
One of the things which made this particular vehicle even cooler was the illustrated story booklet that came with the vehicle, which was like an omitted chapter of the movie, or novelization, explaining that this vehicle took over for the dewback mounted stormtroopers in the pursuit of the missing droids, because it could cover more ground, now that a trail was found to follow. This is also the vehicle that destroyed the jawa's sandcrawler and Luke Skywalker's homestead and aunt and uncle. The vehicle's devastating capabilities were described with almost gleeful malevolence. This really set my imagination on fire, wishing that that scene was included in the movie.
This was the first of what would become an ongoing series of what Kenner (now Hasbro) likes to call their "just off-screen" vehicles and characters; elements of the "Star Wars" movies that weren't actually in the movies, but could have been.