So before you read any further I must warn you that I am about to discuss some very obscure Star Wars material, and will be arguing a point that may very well only be important to me. When I say obscure I don’t mean a Wedge Antilles or Bossk level obscurity, think more obscure! I’m talking about a specific character so minor that they only appear on screen for a few seconds and have absolutely no dialogue. On top of that I’ll be nitpicking the details of that characters costume and posit some ideas which may go against the standard conventions for said character. So if you’re not ready for some Star Wars deep cuts then get the fuck out!
Colonel Wullf Yularen.
That is a name which in recent years has become only slightly more recognizable with Star Wars fans. Before that Colonel Yularen was a character with very few background details and even fewer fans who seemed to give a shit about him.
In the original Star Wars (A New Hope) from 1977 Colonel Wullf Yularen appears in a single scene (though further on I will put forth the theory that Yularen actually appears a second time in that film.) The colonel’s only film appearance (though possibly first of two) is during the infamous Death Star Conference Room scene where Grand Moff Tarkin informs his heads of staff that the Emperor has dissolved the senate and later Darth Vader chokes a guy. Sitting directly next to Admiral Motti (the haughty Imperial who gets Force choked by Vader) you will see Colonel Wullf Yularen in his distinctive white uniform jacket.
From the years of 1977 to 1995 the character was left unnamed and without a title or any background information whatsoever. However in 1995 Colonel Wullf Yularen was first named and given a brief biography within the Star Wars Customizable Card Game put out by Decipher. At the time the names and lore text of the cards were considered canon and it was there stated that the colonel was a leader of the Imperial Security Bureau contingent aboard the first Death Star. After that the character found his way into subsequent Star Wars encyclopedias and information tomes that would be published later but little was done to further his biography.
The Colonel Wullf Yularen card was printed in the original release of the Star Wars CCG
It was from this glance of the character of Yularen in the CCG and his concise but interesting biography which really made me a fan. I would often try to include the colonel in my Star Wars decks despite the fact that he was not that powerful and his abilities not all that impressive. This guy was briefing Tarkin on stuff and apparently in such good standing with the Emperor that he’s the one Palpatine sends to ensure everyone is towing the Imperial line.
Eventually in 2006 an action figure of Colonel Wullf Yularen was created in a special boxed set of the Death Star Briefing Room. It was a joyous day for Yularen fans in particular or Imperial officer completeists in general. However despite my personal excitement I was confused by the look of the figure whose uniform was entirely white, which is unlike any other standard Imperial uniform seen in the movies or the books. In the expanded universe books Grand Admirals did wear all white uniforms but were also adorned with golden epaulets and the corresponding double rowed rank insignia.
“Oops looks like my pants got mixed up in Thrawn’s laundry again and his with mine!”
A mystery and controversy had begun.
The controversy lies with the fact that Yularen was clearly defined in the lore as being part of the ISB, the Imperial Security Bureau. The uniform of the ISB would eventually become associated with the black cap, white coat, and black pants which is seen on various officers in various background shots of the first Death Star.
The black/white/black uniform of the ISB was always sort of a mystery because it only ever appears in the first Star Wars movie and is only ever seen on the Death Star. Until it was established as the accepted ISB uniform those Imperials were simply known as “Death Star Officers” or “Imperial Fleet Officers.” Now as stated before Yularen only appears in A New Hope and is only on the Death Star and is later established as a high ranking officer in the ISB. Do you follow me so far?
So with all of that in mind shouldn’t the pants of the action figure for Wullf Yularen have been black, and not white? To me the answer was obvious, and clearly Hasbro had made a mistake. That being said however he is such a minor character and the pants in question are never actually visible while the character is seated at the Death Star conference table. Oh well what can you do?
The issue of the all-white uniform became further compounded when in 2008 a younger version of Wullf Yularen was included in the prequel cartoon series The Clone Wars. In the series Yularen is given the rank of Admiral in the Republic fleet and works closely with Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker as they battle the forces of the Separatists.
Another banner moment for Yularen fans! Who would have thought that we’d ever get more Wullf Yularen! But alas this inclusion in the Clone Wars brings with it further Yularen scandal.
The wonderful Dave Filoni, director of the Clone Wars and it’s followup Star Wars Rebels, has stated that they decided to include the character of Wullf Yularen as a nod to the original trilogy and gave him the rank of Admiral in order to show his rise through the ranks to the position of Grand Admiral, a rank which the show’s creators mistakenly thought the character had attained at the time of A New Hope as signified by his white uniform jacket.
Once the mistake was realized a good old fashioned retcon was deployed which stated that Yularen retired from the Navy at some point after the Clone Wars with the rank of Admiral but was later personally asked by the Emperor himself to reenlist with the ISB in a new position as colonel aboard the Death Star.
However the damage was already done. Despite the relatively unadorned rank insignia of Wullf Yularen (three red squares and three blue squares) along with a preestablished history, the idea that Wullf Yularen was a Grand Admiral at the time of A New Hope had found a foothold within the fandom.
Until now! It is at this time that I would like to present my evidence of precisely how Colonel Wullf Yularen should be depicted and to firmly establish his position as colonel within ISB operations.
First of all as most of us know by now the Expanded Universe was completely wiped out just prior to the release of the newest Star Wars installment, The Force Awakens. That meant that pretty much anything was once again up for grabs in the Star Wars universe and unless something explicitly happened in the first six movies or the Clone Wars cartoon it was no longer considered Star Wars canon.
However the first expanded universe book of this new canon was titled “Tarkin” and documented the rise to power of the titular character. In that book Wullf Yularen made a few very minor appearances and thankfully was firmly reestablished once again as a colonel in the ISB.
So that bit of business is taken care of.
Now for his uniform. A couple of years ago I put together an ISB uniform of my own to wear to conventions, Death Star briefings, or fancy dinners. I figured an Imperial officer costume would be a nice alternative to my much more cumbersome stormtrooper armor. Wanting to do something a bit more unique then the typical grey fleet officer I decided to go with the Imperial Security Bureau look. Black cap, white officer jacket, black pants. As a fan of Yularen I gave myself the rank of colonel and adorned my costume accordingly but I wanted to examine the movie with a fine toothed comb and seek out as many of the ISB uniforms as possible in order to make sure the details of mine were precise. Through my observations I found that there are actually two variations of the ISB uniform in A New Hope. One with the typical imperial cropped riding pants and tall boots and one with a straight leg and dress shoes. Not a huge difference and from all observations my costume was spot on. Below are most of the uniforms appearances in the film.
An ISB agent struts across a hall in the Death Star
An ISB agent walks along with a blue R3 droid in hot pursuit
TWO ISB agents in the same shot!
An ISB agent gets jostled around in the background
An ISB agent delivers some bit of news to governor Tarkin
An ISB agent goes about his business
An Imperial Security Bureau agent missing his opportunity to be a hero
Then as I was going frame by frame looking for ISB officers aboard the Death Star I came across the scene where Han and Luke, disguised as stormtroopers escorting Chewbacca, are awaiting a turbolift to the detention area. In that scene our heroes are passed by a pair of ISB agents. These two agents are actually the clearest examples of the uniform in the movie and as I was examining them I realized something. The officer on the right is Wullf Yularen!
Could that be? Is that Colonel Yularen out and about walking the Death Star corridors? It certainly appears that way to me, despite the addition of the black cap everything is exactly the same down to the rank insignia. Unless there were two actors with the same face and same pristinely trimmed mustache on the set of Star Wars then I had to be looking at what was essentially an unacknowledged second appearance of Wullf Yularen!
Here take a look at the side by side comparisons.
A second appearance by the colonel is completely in keeping with the rest of the film seeing as several of the Imperials from the conference room scene appear later in the movie. Admiral Motti and General Tagge discuss the fate of Princess Leia with Tarkin and Vader after the conference room scene. Chief Bast is seen in several scenes before and after, most notably as the officer who warns Grand Moff Tarkin that the Rebel’s attack against the Death Star might be more dangerous than previously expected.
What this whole long drawn out rant is trying to explain is that Colonel Wullf Yularen wears black pants and it’s irrefutably proven in one quick scene.
With the discovery of that full body shot of the colonel those black pants should now be considered official canon, despite the implications of the white panted action figure. From everything that I’ve researched no one seems to have realized that one quick corridor scene is in fact a display of Wullf Yularen’s full uniform in motion.
So in the future whenever you’re discussing Star Wars or Star Wars Costuming with your friends, family, and colleagues and find yourself in an argument over the uniform of Wullf Yularen or of the ISB in general (as I’m sure happens on at least a weekly basis) feel free to point them in the direction of Mindless Philosophy and I’ll be glad to set them straight!
A piece of fan art in the Clone Wars style which incorrectly depicts Wullf Yularen wearing white pants.
That is all!