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Remembering that time E.T. served in Star Wars' Galactic Senate
Three members of E.T.'s species make a cameo appearance in The Phantom Menace — and there's both lore and a behind-the-scenes story.
E.T. first appeared in theaters 40 years ago this month, but never forget that the Extra-Terrestrial made another appearance a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. E.T. — or more accurately, members of his species — made a cameo appearance in Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace. It’s a brief cameo, one that originated because Star Wars director George Lucas was returning a favor that E.T. and Indiana Jones director Steven Spielberg did for him. And, this brief cameo was expanded into new lore that, presumably, is no longer canon since Disney bought Star Wars and de-canonized much of what had come before.
In the ‘80s, Spielberg dropped little Star Wars Easter eggs into several of his movies as a way to shout out Lucas, his friend and collaborator. R2-D2 and C-3PO appear in some Egyptian hieroglyphs in 1981’s Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the bar in the beginning of 1984’s Temple of Doom is named after Obi-Wan. The biggest Easter egg came in 1982’s E.T., though, when E.T. sees a kid dressed as Yoda trick-or-treating on Halloween and starts to follow him “Home.” John Williams, who scored both E.T. and Star Wars, even dropped in a little of his Yoda theme to really sell the moment.
So, when 1999 and the first of the prequel trilogy came around, Lucas owed Spielberg a cameo in return. It occurs in the scene where Queen Padmé Amidala calls for a vote of no confidence against Chancellor Valorum, head of the Galactic Senate. After she calls for the vote, there’s cheers and outrage amongst the various representatives in their little pods. One pod is filled with three very familiar-looking aliens.
As far as the movies go, this is the extent of E.T.'s appearance in Star Wars, though it did lead to some fun fan theories that E.T.’s various abilities in the ‘82 movie were merely him using The Force. However, various supplemental materials add a bunch more information.
The lead senator is named Greblieps — “Speilberg” spelled backward. Author James Luceno coined the name in his 2001 novel Cloak of Deception, which serves as a prequel to The Phantom Menace. The book, like everything in the once-vast Expanded Universe, is no longer necessarily canon following Disney’s purchase of Star Wars and subsequent rebranding of everything EU as “Star Wars Legends.” However, Greblieps appears to still be the character’s canon name, as he was name-dropped in a 2019 episode of the YouTube series The Star Wars Show.
In the lead-up to the release of Attack of the Clones, a series of in-universe news briefs titled HoloNet News appeared both online and in the Star Wars Insider magazine. These news briefs were full of extra bits of connecting lore and little jokes, and most of what we know about Senator Greblieps came from these briefings — briefings that aren’t considered canon anymore but are still quite fun. According to these HoloNet News briefings, Greblieps wanted to launch an extra-galactic expedition. Since Star Wars takes place in a galaxy far, far away, the assumption is that E.T.’s trip to Earth was this very mission. It’s a little joke rather than hard E.T. or Star Wars canon, but it’s pretty funny.
In less happy news, another HoloNet News revealed that Greblieps was one of the senators who Imperial Intelligence arrested and charged with conspiracy and treason for helping to plot the Jedi coup.
A 1984 Marvel Star Wars comic featured a character named Braxas, an information broker who used a wheelchair and kind of looked like E.T. by way of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. While Braxas may or may not have intentionally been drawn to resemble E.T., whose hit movie had come out just a couple years before the comic, Braxas was retroactively considered to be a member of E.T.’s species after The Phantom Menace. Then, after Disney bought Star Wars, Braxas was no longer canon at all.
E.T.’s species in Star Wars are called Asogiana, so named for their home planet Brodo Asogi. The name of the planet, however, is not mentioned in any Star Wars movie nor in E.T., and instead comes from a 1985 book that’s supposedly a sequel to the movie, E.T., the Book of the Green Planet, by William Kotzwinkle. Brodo Asogi is just one of many translations of “Green Planet,” according to the book, and it’s the one Star Wars Legends canon adopted and derived the species name from. (There are aspects of Book of the Green Planet that are contrary to the Star Wars canon, though that’s not unexpected seeing as the book was written 15 years earlier with no connection to Star Wars.)
All of this is a lot of work for what’s really just a brief, blink-and-you-miss-it cameo, but for many Star Wars fans, diving deep into the weeds of minute, confusing, and contradictory canon feels like home. And, we all know how E.T. feels about home.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is currently streaming on Peacock.