So, talking about this next scoundrel is going to be kind of awkward because since the Disney-Lucasfilm merger he’s been declared non-canonical, but I don’t care. Shadows of the Empire and its new character, Dash Rendar, are real to me. Yes, he was introduced as a kind of emergency back-up Han Solo, but I don’t care. I have fond memories of this book and unlike some of the Star Wars books I’ve read over the years, it still holds up without the nostalgia I have for it and I think that’s part of why I’ve included Dash here. Shadows of the Empire was a multimedia event, with LucasFilm not only telling the story in book form, but also in the comics published by Dark Horse. It also had its own soundtrack and, if you dust off your old N64, you can even play as Dash Rendar.
To me, Dash Rendar is what Han Solo would have been if he’d been born rich instead of being born a scoundrel. Like Han, he was a Corellian, but his family owned a large shipping company that was gutted by Emperor Palpatine after his brother destroyed the Imperial Museum on Coruscant as a result of sabotage by a competitor (more on this competitor later). Dash was training at the Imperial Academy on Carida when this happened so he was summarily dismissed from the Imperial military as further punishment. So, like any military-trained spacer who gets drummed out of the service, Dash became a smuggler and gun-for-hire. Operating from a YT-2400 Corellian freighter (a more advanced freighter produced by the same people that made the Millennium Falcon), Dash and his super-intelligent droid companion LE-BO2D9 (Leebo) made a name for themselves in all sorts of scoundrel-y circles in the galaxy. Dash would run afoul of the Imperials multiple times during his life but shortly before the Battle of Yavin, Dash made his first inroads with the Rebel Alliance when he was hired to protect a pop star who was actually a secret Rebel agent. Even Dash didn’t know this when he took the job, and when he learned what it was, he nearly quit but the money was too good and he hung around and facilitated the delivery of vital data to the Rebel Alliance. Unlike Han, though, Dash didn’t really care much for politics and went back to the fringes of galactic society afterwards, running weapons and contraband throughout the galaxy. Dash apparently had a few somewhat forgettable adventures in the Star Wars comics series that I won’t recount here. I read a summary of them and they sound just a little odd for my tastes, so I’d rather remember the Dash Rendar I met in Shadows of the Empire (and the more recent Shadow Games that’s set before it) than try and understand why Dash did things like fight a sentient starship. Dash bumped into Han Solo a few times during the intervening years, and was delivering a shipment of supplies to Echo Base during the early scenes of Empire Strikes Back. However, when Han was captured by Boba Fett on Bespin, Lando called in a favor with Dash and he jointed their motley crew. Dash found Boba Fett on Gall but their attempts to retrieve Han failed. Following the failed rescue attempt, Leia hired Dash to keep an eye on Luke after Imperial assassins tried to kill him. While on Tatooine, Dash was present when Luke received a message from a group of Bothans that learned the Empire was in the process of building a second Death Star. In a way, Dash was responsible for the Star Wars joke about many Bothans dying to bring the Rebels this information. He failed to shoot down an incoming missile that destroyed a ship full of Bothans during their extraction from the Imperial facility where the second Death Star plans were being developed. While Dash and Luke were retrieving the information on the second Death Star, Leia was making overtures with Black Sun and their nefarious leader Prince Xizor. Xizor took Leia captive after she realized that Xizor was the one trying to kill Luke and not the Empire, at least this time. Luke and Dash teamed up to rescue Leia and the decision to go after Xizor was easy for Dash since it was Xizor’s business, Xizor Transport Systems, that sabotaged brother’s freighter and caused all the Rendar family’s problems. The two managed to infiltrate Xizor’s base on Coruscant and rescue Leia, but the job wasn’t finished with that. Xizor escaped to a space station in orbit around Coruscant and while Xizor provoked the wrath of Darth Vader, Dash decided he wanted revenge as well and attacked the space station in the Outrider. Vader’s super Star Destroyer got the killing shot on the space station and Outrider was caught in the debris field. Though Luke, Leia and Lando thought Dash died, he escaped and went underground for many years, continuing his scoundrel-y ways.
Dash’s creators could have very readily made him a carbon copy of Han Solo, but they mercifully realized that wouldn’t work. He had different motivations, he had different enemies, he even had a different style about him but they also avoided the pitfalls of making him Han’s opposite in every way. However, Dash is definitely still a scoundrel. He became a rogue after he lost everything but when he had the chance to get revenge on the people and groups that took it from him, he had no issue with doing so. That’s not exactly the hallmark of a bad guy, but he’s definitely not a white knight good guy either. His motivations are complicated but they generally wind up putting him on the good side of the spectrum, even if sometimes it takes him a while to get there. However, he’s not one to let his morals get in the way of a payday. Much like Han, throughout Shadows of the Empire, the easiest way to get Dash to do what they needed him to was to pay him. By the end of Shadows, he grew into something more than just a mercenary, but he also didn’t become nearly the idealist Han Solo did after joining the Rebel Alliance. Dash may not be the most original scoundrel, but to fill the scoundrel role in a book set while Han was trapped in carbonite, Dash did his job admirably. Going back and fleshing out his character in another book set before Shadows of the Empire really helped his case and gave him enough character that I think he’s worthy of inclusion on this list.