History of Star Wars is our series where we take a close look at the galaxy far, far away and examine important organizations, locations, and theories that may play into what's ahead in the sequel trilogy and standalone movies.
The Star Wars galaxy is no small place to explore. Think of all the planets we've seen in the films and the animated series. The climate might be similar on some worlds (cough, Tatooine and Jakku, cough), but it doesn't make the map any smaller. Though many locales have been established and inhabited, portions of the galaxy are unexplored. The Unknown Regions in particular stretch beyond civilization. The area could play a role in The Last Jedi or maybe Rian Johnson's upcoming trilogy, so let's take a closer look.
What/where are the Unknown Regions?
The Unknown Regions are just outside the lines of the galaxy we know. Star Wars: Galactic Maps says it's on the westward arm of the galaxy. Its borders are known, and the area is mapped though not carefully explored. It's a place of discovery, believed by some to hold the source of the dark side of the Force.
Don't confuse the Unknown Regions with Wild Space. The latter is largely unmapped and unexplored.
Who's been there?
The appearance of the Unknown Regions in Star Wars stories isn't as uncommon as you might think. The planet Ilum, introduced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, is in the area. The world is home to the Crystal Caves where the Jedi harvest kyber crystals. So, any youngling who participated in the rite of passage called the Gathering has been to the Unknown Regions.
Relevant to the sequel trilogy, the remnants of the Empire became the First Order in the Unknown Regions. Before he died, Palpatine set up an observatory on Jakku that held computers tasked with plotting a route to lead Imperial forces safely through the Unknown Regions. This was part of his contingency plan if the Empire was ever defeated. After the Battle of Jakku, the last Imperial forces went into the Unknown Regions to rebuild. Therefore, Starkiller Base is in the Unknown Regions--and it's probably not their only outpost there.
What is lurking in the Unknown Regions?
The First Order is only one of the threats in the Unknown Regions. One of the reasons Thrawn came to the known galaxy in the early years of the Empire was to secure help against a threat in the Unknown Regions. He first studied the Galactic Republic but didn't think the government would make a sound ally. However, he found a partnership of sorts with the Empire. He offered information about the Unknown Regions and the mysterious threat there to Palpatine in order to secure their assistance fighting it.
In Legends stories, the powerful Yuuzhan Vong were such a threat, but there hasn't been any evidence yet that they'll be brought into the current storytelling universe.
Palpatine certainly became suspicious of the danger in the Unknown Regions, the one Thrawn warned him about or something else. Aftermath: Empire's End details the Emperor's thoughts on it:
"The Emperor was convinced that something waited for him out there--some origin of the Force, some dark presence formed of malevolent substance. He said he could feel the waves of it radiating out now that the way was clear."
This notion was likely fueled in some part by Palpatine's adviser Yupe Tashu. I won't go so far as to say anyone influenced Palpatine, but Tashu's obsession with the dark side and the Sith meant he had an interest in looking for more information. In the first Aftermath book, Tashu says, "Palpatine felt that the universe beyond the edges of our maps was where his power came from." To continue the legacy of Palpatine, he insists they should seek the source of the dark side.
How could the Unknown Regions influence Star Wars stories?
The remaining Imperials who fled to the Unknown Regions weren't hugely concerned with looking for the dark side of the Force. The highest ranking officer, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, wanted only to rebuild a better, stronger Empire. With Palpatine and Vader dead, they didn't have a Force user with them. But, they could have run into Supreme Leader Snoke along the way. Some rumors say he's from the Unknown Regions. Maybe the coordinates from Jakku led them right to the source of the dark side and Snoke, or maybe he was also searching for the location and their paths crossed.
Beyond The Last Jedi, the Unknown Regions could be part of Rian Johnson's upcoming Star Wars trilogy. Those films will take place in an unexplored corner of the galaxy with new characters. So if they mean unexplored literally, the Unknown Regions is a strong contender.
Do you think we'll ever visit the Unknown Regions or even Wild Space? Let me know your thoughts in the comments or come chat with me on Twitter.
Images: Disney, Lucasfilm, Del Rey, Disney Lucasfilm Press
Amy Ratcliffe is an Associate Editor for Nerdist. She likes Star Wars a little. Follow her on Twitter.
Dive deep into more Star Wars lore!
- The history of the Jedi Order.
- How Force trees might tie into The Last Jedi.
- What comes after the Jedi and the Sith.