The Outer Rim isn’t the limit of the galaxy in the Star Wars universe. We haven’t spent much time beyond the established parts of the map, but the borders of the Unknown Regions are known quantities. Beyond those borders is a mysterious and vast area that’s home to strange creatures and beings we haven’t encountered in canon (with a few exceptions). In Legends, a.k.a. the Expanded Universe, the Unknown Regions were mentioned regularly and figured into the plots of books and comics. They’re starting to come up more in the current storytelling universe.
ScreenRant speculates recent mentions of the Unknown Regions could be important and telling information about the origins of Supreme Leader Snoke (Star Wars Explained has explored this theory as well). We know few concrete details about the character. He’s a humanoid alien and has been around to see the rise and fall of the Galactic Empire. He had apprentices before Ben Solo/Kylo Ren and is familiar with the dark side of the Force. If his likeness is true to the form we saw in holograms in The Force Awakens, he’s not like any humanoid alien we’ve seen before. It’s a big galaxy. We saw lots of aliens in Maz Kanata’s castle we hadn’t seen before. But maybe he’s from beyond the Outer Rim.
Aftermath: Empire’s End told us the Unknown Regions wasn’t easy to travel to. Pilots had to navigate through gravity wells, solar storms, black holes, and worse. To get across the borders and into more roomy space, you had to run a gauntlet of sorts through this obstacle-ridden maze. If you figured out how to get your ship through the hurdles in one piece, you had to be prepared for a lengthy journey spanning months.
Tl;dr: if you want to get into or out of the Unknown Regions, you have to be damn determined and have resources. Oh, and having an ace pilot would probably be helpful.
However difficult it might sound, traversing to and from the Unknown Regions isn’t impossible. Two recent examples come to mind and are of note as we look ahead to Episodes VIII and IX. Let’s start with Thrawn. In the novel, we learned Thrawn is from the Unknown Regions (just like he was in Legends). As a native of the Unknown Regions, Thrawn was part of the Chiss Ascendancy. They seem like a powerful race, but one reason Thrawn came to the known galaxy was to offer his service in exchange for possible assistance from the Empire. He told Emperor Palpatine, “There are threats lurking in the Unknown Regions, threats that will someday find your Empire. I am familiar with many of them.”
Thrawn went on to explain the threats were to the Chiss and to the Empire. He offered his knowledge of the Unknown Regions to help persuade the Emperor to let him serve the Empire. If Thrawn is nervous about a threat? It’s a big deal. This vague enemy could be like the Yuuzhan Vong, but I don’t think I’m alone in hoping that is the opposite of the truth.
Now, let’s fast forward to Aftermath: Empire’s End. Thrawn’s counseling about the Unknown Regions came in handy because (and this is where you should stop reading if you don’t want Empire’s End spoilers) the Emperor and his leaders came up with a contingency plan to rebuild in the Unknown Regions. Palpatine kept a top secret observatory on Jakku and used the location to house technology to map and test a route into the Unknown Regions. After the Battle of Jakku, remnants of the Empire–including General Hux and his father–fled to the Unknown Regions and became the First Order.
Snoke seems rather tied into the First Order business, so it’s possible they ran into him or a friend of a friend while they established themselves in the Unknown Region.
Another key tidbit: in Aftermath (the first book of the Aftermath trilogy), Imperial adviser Yupe Tashu made a comment about the Unknown Regions. He said Palpatine believed the Unknown Regions were the source of the dark side of the Force. Tashu mentioned Palpatine was seeking a way into the Unknown Regions using laboratories at the edge of the galaxy, which turned out to be accurate. Palpatine believing the source of the dark side is in the Unknown Regions doesn’t make it true, but since it’s Palpatine, I don’t know if he’d chase something without a little evidence–unless it meant gaining more power.
Does Snoke have something to do with the source of the dark side of the Force? I don’t think so. I don’t have any real scientific reason for this, but I feel like he’s all talk. However, he could have also been seeking what Palpatine was seeking, which would put him in a place to cross paths with the First Order. Though there presumably aren’t Force users among the former Imperials who make the trip, I can imagine some of them being fanatic enough that they’re determined to carry out Palpatine’s every last wish.
What do you think? Is Snoke from the Unknown Regions? Do you think the area will figure into The Last Jedi and Episode XI? Tell me in the comments.
Images: Lucasfilm, Del Rey