"Kessel has always been last on my list of places in the galaxy I'd like to see."
Kessel was a planet located in Kessel Sector, in the Outer Rim Territories, near Hutt Space and the dangerous celestial bodies of the Maw. It was a prison world, and was home to the galaxy's largest spice mining operation. Under Imperial rule, slave labor was in extensive use.
The planet had a single moon called the Garrison Moon, which was destroyed by Tol Sivron using the Death Star Prototype.
"We'll be sent to the spice mines of Kessel, or smashed into who knows what!"
The misshapen, asteroid-shaped planet had a barren, rocky landscape. The atmosphere was very thin, with most of the air being provided by factories on the surface. Ancient tombs and ruins, possibly of Sith origin, dotted the landscape, haunted by skeletal avians. The prison had been established in these inhospitable settings. There was a single large settlement on the planet, Kessendra.
"Fear is as much a part of life on Kessel as spice or air. Control it and you'll do fine."
Kessel was the only source of glitterstim spice, a valuable drug used both therapeutically and recreationally. During the Galactic Republic's time, the prison was administered by the Colicoids.
Later, the prison was controlled by Imperial Warden Commander Dewt Kluskine. Several prisoners rose to positions of power under him as trustees. The most powerful of these was Moruth Doole, who gained effective control of the spice trade by manipulating the Warden's accounts. Doole engineered the assassination of Kluskine by a Wookiee prisoner named Gyylghrard, and eventually seized control of the mines himself.
Galactic Republic programs have been administered to educate inmates on how to re-enter society upon release. Prior to the Clone Wars, Kassar Forge was one such teacher in this program. Even after the inmates took control of the planet, he voluntarily remained on the moon, eventually marrying Myda, one of the former inmates, and having multiple sons and daughters, including future Rogue Squadron pilots Lujayne and Inyri.
Shortly after the execution of Order 66, a small Jedi conclave was called in one of the abandoned mines of Kessel by Shadday Potkin in a futile attempt to lure Darth Vader into a deathtrap. The plan ultimately failed and all the Jedi who attended were killed.
During the Galactic Civil War, Wedge Antilles became a prisoner and slave at one of the Empire's Spice mines, after being captured near the Imperial Enclave on Kile II. He was scheduled for termination, and was being transported by train to a death camp, but the timely intervention of Luke Skywalker and Rogue Squadron allowed him to make a last-minute escape. A few days later, the Rogues returned with Rebel General Crix Madine and a task force of commandos, who used Wedge's knowledge of the prison camps to quickly rescue a large percentage of the slaves working for the Imperials. Tyber Zann was another prisoner here, but he escaped during a prison revolt he caused, thanks to his lieutenant Urai Fen.
A skirmish at Kessel during the Galactic Civil War.In 0 BBY, the Imperials kept several massive communication satellites in orbit to maintain control over the prisons, to permit passage through the system, and to coordinate ship landings. One of these satellites were guarded with a Victory-class Star Destroyer, two Acclamator-class Star Destroyers, two Tartan-class patrol cruisers, and multiple squadrons of TIE fighters, TIE interceptors, TIE/sa Bombers, and a single squadron of elite TIE defenders. The Zann Consortium had an opportunity to corrupt this spice world by destroying a communications sattelite with IG-88, two Crusader-class corvettes, two Vengeance-class frigates, and four full squadrons of StarViper-class starfighters.
Admiral Ackbar almost became a new inmate at the prisons on Kessel after he was captured by Boba Fett and turned over to the Imperials. Over Kessel, however, the Star Destroyer Ackbar was being held upon was intercepted by the elite Renegade Squadron, commanded by Han Solo and Col Serra. The squadron fought their way through TIE fighters and numerous stormtroopers aboard the Star Destroyer to rescue Ackbar, which they did successfully.
Kessel had not suffered from an earthquake in so many eons they did not know what one was, until Imperial Captain Bzorn used the Ion Ring Ship to torment the planet with groundquakes and cyclones, trying to force the Rebels on Kessel to surrender to him. Professor Renn Volz, creator of the Ship, eventually refused to help Bzorn continue the devastation of the planet, despite the fact that his daughter, Mira Volz, was (supposedly) being held hostage. In reality, Mira had escaped from the Empire. She recruited the help of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, and they rescued her father, who destroyed the Ion Ring Ship.
Shortly after a battle of liberation on Kashyyyk, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Lando Calrissian and other rebel heroes arrived on the planet and successfully freed Wookiee slaves there, as well as preventing the deactivation of some air purifers.
Kessendra was administered by Grand Moff Bertroff Hissa, and was known for its grandiose colosseum. After the Battle of Endor, Hissa set up the mutant Trioculus as the new Emperor, in opposition to Ysanne Isard on Coruscant. He was defeated by the unintentionally combined efforts of Isard and SPIN.
Sometimes after the death of Trioculus, the staff of the Imperial Correctional Facility lead by the prison's administrator, Moruth Doole revolted against the Imperial garrison, overthrowing the guards and successfully taking control of the planet, installing Arb Skynxnex as his number two. After the revolt, Doole discovered a dead rancor in the prison which obviously hadn't been fed. He regretted the death of the rancor as he planned to feed the Imperials to it. Instead, he sent them to the mines but tortured the former head of the prison and froze him in carbonite, displaying it in his office.
The commissioner and his guards kept more than half of the planet under their control until 11 ABY. During this period, the planet was defended by squadrons of TIE Fighters, X-Wings, Y-Wings, Lancer-class frigates and Carrack-class cruisers and various other craft. It was during this period that Han Solo, Chewbacca and Kyp Durron made a successful escape from the planet into the Maw.
Under the New Republic, the planet had no slaves. A legitimate spice mining business was run by Nien Nunb, who was installed as administrator around 13 ABY by Lando Calrissian, who had purchased the mines. Mara Jade was also involved with running Calrissian's business, at least for a time. Nunb employed craniopods, blind, sentient insectoids who thrived in the underground tunnels.
Kessel was also rumored to be a chunk of rock from the Maw Installation before the Maw was created. Unfortunately, no proof has been given to this connection.
Behind the Scenes
The first appearance of Kessel in the draft scripts for A New Hope was as "Kissel" in George Lucas's notes accompanying the Journal of the Whills, Part I as a potential name for a planet. The "Kessil system" contained Utapau in the rough draft, which also mentioned a character named Grande Mouff Tarkin who led the Kesselian Dragoons. In the revised fourth draft, Han Solo first made a reference to the "Kessel Run".
Kessel, as depicted in The Second Kessel Run, was a lush, idyllic world containing the Giant Fungi Forest. How this depiction, along with the equally hospitable vision depicted in The Glove of Darth Vader, is to be reconciled with the current desolate depiction of the world has yet to be determined, though it may have to do with the Imperials running the atmosphere factories at greater output than Moruth Doole.
In Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed Kessel is portrayed as a spherical planet, whereas other official sources portray it as a potato-shaped planet. In The New Essential Chronology, Kessel is mistakenly portrayed as a greenish-blue, lush-looking spherical planet.
In-universe, Kessel is often likened to Hell (for example, the use of "Kesseled" as equivalent to "damned").