When you gather together a group of super-fans, weird things can happen. And sometimes, when the subject of the fandom is something as vast as Star Wars, you get things happening that even confuse the fans. Take the recent debate over Darth Revan, and the arguments over whether you can be considered a true Star Wars fan or not, based on whether you know this character.
Some of you will be saying, “Oh, yeah, Darth Revan – he’s the best ever! I love that character.”
Others of you will be saying, “Who?”
Let’s dig into this character, and why he’s recently become a source of division in some corners of the Star Wars fandom.
Who is Darth Revan?
For those who don’t know, Darth Revan is a Sith Lord who used to be a Jedi, and then became a Jedi again. So right away he’s pretty interesting, and the method by which we learn his story is particularly riveting. You see, Revan wasn’t introduced in one of the movies, or one of the TV shows, or even one of the famous books from the early Expanded Universe. Nope: Darth Revan’s first appearance was in a computer game – Knights of the Old Republic.
Darth Revan and Knights of the Old Republic
Okay, so I might have lost some of you there. I realize there are some folks interested in Star Wars who’ve only ever watched the films – or maybe even just the Grogu scenes in The Mandalorian. (Though let’s be honest, if your only exposure to Star Wars is Baby Yoda memes, you’re probably not reading this article…)
But yeah… Darth Revan is a character in the Knights of the Old Republic video game. In fact, Revan is the central character – the one you as the player guide through the whole story. You’ll notice that up until now I haven’t even used a pronoun for Revan, because in the game Revan’s gender isn’t even set. As the player you selected your gender, and so Revan would be whichever gender you chose.
Elsewhere in canon – most notably the Expanded Universe novel named after the character – Revan is described as a human male, so for the sake of this article I’ll refer to Revan as “he” but please note this is just my attempt to adhere to currently established canon and I’m totally open to Revan being a woman or otherwise.
Revan and Malak
In the story that played out in Knights of the Old Republic, Revan was a Jedi knight who lived hundreds of years before Phantom Menace who showed great promise and who attained considerable influence in the Jedi Order even in his youth. Revan and the Jedi Council never clashed openly but he used his personal connections with various Jedi masters to influence decisions and get what he wanted. In particular, he gained technical approval from the Council to wage war against the Mandalorians who at that time were threatening the Republic. With his friend and fellow Jedi Knight Malak, he led a Republic fleet into the Mandalorian wars and recovered the mask worn by the Mandalorian leader. Hiding the mask, Revan then chased the remaining Mandalorians into the Unknown Regions of the galaxy, inadvertently discovering the Sith Empire.
The Star Forge
Revan and Malak learn of a super weapon called the Star Force and they complete a quest to recover it. But by now they’ve both been seduced by the Dark Side and they return to Republic space at the head of a Sith invasion fleet, now calling themselves Darth Revan and Darth Malak.
In a desperate battle, the Republic forces, guided by Jedi Bastila Shan, manage to isolate Malak and Revan with a powerful strike team. Thinking all is lost, Darth Malak turns on his dark lord and leaves him for dead. Revan is captured by a Jedi enclave who wipe his memory of all Sith knowledge and rebuild him as a Jedi warrior.
This is where the video game starts, and player-character Revan hacks, slashes and battles his/her way to the Star Forge once again. Along the way he/she falls in love with Bastila Shan, loses her to the Dark Side under Malak’s influence, then brings her back to the Light Side before killing Darth Malak, destroying the Star Forge and achieving victory.
The Expanded Universe novel picks up the story a few years after the events of the game, portraying Revan as a man now married to Shan. He keeps experiencing what he thinks are dreams, or Force visions, that turn out to be his Sith memories returning and he sets out to fight the Sith Empire and its evil Emperor.
Is Darth Revan canon?
So there’s lots of potential for a fascinating character here: a former Jedi / former Sith / maverick Force wielder with blood on his hands, a mysterious past and more Force power than you can shake a stick at. I can also see how a complex, shades-of-grey character like this would appeal to audiences in the 2020’s far more than the simple black-and-white, good-and-evil that Star Wars originally portrayed in 1977. But is Revan canon?
Are video games canon?
To anyone who played and loved Knights of the Old Republic, no doubt the answer will be a resounding YES! But sadly for them, Disney doesn’t agree. When the Mouse House bought Lucasfilm it declared rather definitively that everything to do with Star Wars except the (then) six movies and Clone Wars was no longer canon. The entire Expanded Universe collection of novels was renamed Legends, and I don’t recall anyone even mentioning the video games. So while I may sympathize with the gamers, by the rules of Star Wars canon, Darth Revan didn’t make the cut.
Darth Revan and Star Wars: The Clone Wars
But… but! Fans will argue that Revan would have appeared as a Sith lord alongside Darth Bane if not for “interference” in an episode in late production.
It’s well known from behind the scenes interviews that this favorite Sith Lord almost made it into an episode called “Ghosts of Mortis” when Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka visited the strange planet Mortis and encountered three beings who personified the Force. In a scene that was eventually cut from the final version, the Son – who embodied the Dark Side – encountered a pair of Sith lords identified as Darth Bane and Darth Revan.
So surely Darth Revan should be canon, since he was slated to appear in a canon episode as an ancient Sith lord? Unfortunately, he was cut from the episode because George Lucas didn’t approve of how the scene was portraying the Force. And I have to say that if George himself stepped in, it’s not “interference” but rather a redirection by the master himself.
Darth Revan returns!
But you have to give Disney credit – they listen to the fans. Grand Admiral Thrawn made the leap from non-canon obscurity to become the major villain of Star Wars: Rebels and even Darth Bane had an on-screen cameo when Yoda faced off against the ghost of the dark lord. Is there hope for ancient Sith lord Darth Revan to do the same?
Apparently, yes – and in the strangest of ways. Many fans missed it, but in The Rise of Skywalker: Visual Dictionary there’s an entry for the Sith troopers of Emperor Palpatine’s Final Order that states how the legions are named after famous Sith lords – and one of those names is Revan. So, it’s not exactly the triumphant return of Grand Admiral Thrawn, but it could mean that Disney intends to let canon stories of Darth Revan re-enter canon soon.
Revan’s fate remains unclear
So the answer to Revan’s canonical status is kind of like the answer to Revan’s gender: ambiguous. There’s no shortage of non-canon events surrounding him that could be worked into new stories by Disney, but even a cursory search of upcoming projects doesn’t indicate much interest in the Old Republic era. Some fans are placing their hope upon the project known as The Acolyte, which should take place during the High Republic but which might reference back to Revan’s war against the Sith Emperor. But so far, The Visual Dictionary is all we have.
When being a fan gets serious
But the question of Revan’s canonicity shouldn’t cause a war within the Star Wars fandom. The opening salvo basically says, “if you don’t know who Darth Revan is, you’re not a real Star Wars fan.”
Now I get that we Star Wars fans do tend to get a little devoted to our favorite character, but I don’t think we need to start being exclusive. You will never hear me say, “if you don’t know who Ahsoka Tano is, you’re not a real Star Wars fan.” But you will hear me often encourage folks who’ve never watched the animated Star Wars TV shows to do so – because they’re awesome, and because they bring to light so many hidden or neglected aspects of that galaxy far, far away. They enrich the story, building upon the base established by the feature films with great power and style.
I confess I haven’t played many Star Wars games. But I’m learning that there’s a whole universe of quality content contained within some of them and that fans love them. And because games are so interactive, you as the player can feel much more invested in the story than a passive viewer watching a movie. So I respect the passion.
Even so… We live on a big planet connected by high-speed internet – a quick search can easily connect you to other fans who share your passion. There’s no need to fan-shame folks who just want to enjoy Star Wars in their own way. (And, Ahsoka rules.)