This week Star Wars fans are eagerly anticipating the latest addition to the film franchise: Rogue One. Set alongside the other chapters, the new addition explains the events leading directly up the original Star Wars, later entitled “Episode IV – A New Hope.” The focus is on the backstory of the Death Star’s construction and the Rebels responsible for the leaked plans ending up in the hands of Princess Leia aboard the Tantive IV.
But, we all know this already.
By now, toys and books explain the characters and planets, plot summaries litter the Internet, and geeks have analyzed the trailers with a fine-toothed comb for every secret. We’re aware of the tale of Jyn Erso, daughter of a scientist who worked on the Death Star, who is recruited by the Rebel Alliance. The trailers show us the rag-tag group of soldiers and criminals she labels “Rogue One” and leads on a mission to recover plans to the space station. While there are plenty of details to fill in, the basics are already out there.
What most don’t know is how the story might have been told.
When Disney discarded the “Expanded Universe,” 35 years of material from books to comics to games, they decided they’d make their own stories about “what happened.” Yet, they can’t escape what came before, as these “Legends” remain out there, fueling geek debates and late night sessions of Star Wars RPGs. That’s why we’re here, to reflect on the differences between the new movie and the stories that came before.
All New Characters
Other than power players behind everything, consisting of Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, Wilhuff Tarkin, and Darth Vader, the cast is almost entirely made up of new material. Saw Gerrera is the main exception, and the first time a character originating in the Clone Wars series was translated to the big screen. Several other characters were introduced in Catalyst, the companion novel to the movie released earlier this year, including the Erso family and Orson Krennic.
This change means that viewers will never be introduced to Garm Bel Iblis, the third founder of the Rebellion alongside Mothma and Organa, let alone Vader’s secret apprentice, Galen Marek. Several popular EU characters are now gone, like smuggler Kyle Katarn and rebel pilot Keyan Farlander, both of whom would go on to become Jedi during their adventures. Lord Tion, Bria Tharen, and Havet Storm, were just the icing of interesting characters that could have been.
Even sadder are those who already exist in canon but were passed over in lieu of the new cast. Raymus Antilles, the loyal servant of the Organa family, would not have his time in the sun despite appearing in Episodes III and the IV. The early days of Biggs Darklighter would also be ignored, relegating him to Luke’s friend, a fiery death, and tons of pop culture references. A young “Admiral” Ackbar and Han Solo would also have been seen, but that will be no more… although, the latter will get his time.
A Single Mission
While the movie visits several worlds, it seems to focus on a single mission involving Jyn Erso’s group. To be fair, that’s perfect for a movie, as the EU would have required an entire mini-series involving multiple unrelated incidents. Originally, the Rebel Alliance didn’t acquire the plans in one grand mission but instead pieced it together from a variety of events.
The movie would have to start with the imprisonment (and escape) of the Rebel leaders from the partially-constructed facility. More information would involve a raid on Vergesso (led by the elder Antilles) and espionage on Ralltiir. And that would just cover the Rebels learning of the space station’s existence and capabilities!
The first copy of schematics would come from a prison uprising on the Death Star itself, followed by intercepted transmissions (thanks to stolen Imperial satellites). These would be stored upon the Tantive IV (couriered by none other than Biggs) and sent in a convoy that was defended by Red Squadron. Simultaneously (and completely unrelated), Kyle Katarn’s rag-tag group would steal additional plans from a research facility on Danuta, and would also pass them on to Leia. The redundancy wasn’t done, however, as Rebels in Toprawa would ambush an Imperial convoy and capture even more plans, before giving them to… you guessed it, her royal highness.
Of course, unless you think all of these groups just handed them off to Leia, there was another incident first. Apparently, the plans (or some of them?) had been transmitted to the mining colony of Polis Massa, where a huge skirmish between Rebel and Imperial forces occurred. It was from here that the plans finally made it to the Tantive IV. The Empire was not unaware of this treachery, however, as they ISB alerted them to the final location and the Emperor himself discovered the codes had been leaked by one of his Moffs. Death was swift for the traitor Kalast and many Bothans before Vader was sent to stop the schematics once and for all.
New and Old Tech
One of the things I love the most is the starships and vehicles of the Star Wars universe. The new movie will contain classic favorites like X-wings, Y-wings, TIE fighters, Rebel Transports, and Star Destroyers, plus AT-STs and an even bigger variant of the AT-AT. Also, we’ll get to see new additions like the U-wing, TIE striker, and Delta-class shuttle, plus the Ghost (or a similar light freighter) on the big screen for the first time. With even more starship and vehicles than the lamented Episode VII, fans (and merchandisers) will be very pleased!
Yet, a couple of favorites will not be seen, and that’s a shame. The biggest loss will be the Moldy Crow, Kyle Katarn’s trusty HWK-290 light freighter. Even if Katarn couldn’t have made it, having Erso’s crew piloting that starship would have been a great addition. Similarly, the Rogue Shadow was an iconic ship that could have used an official introduction to the new canon. Of course, the lack of Darth Vader’s apprentice (not to mention its name) would have made it a hard sell.
An Improvement over the EU
While it’s true that fans will miss out on a lot of interesting material, the convoluted story of “how the Rebels acquired the Death Star plans” in the EU will not be missed. All too often authors ignored previous material and presented their explanation for how things ended up on the Tantive IV. By just eliminating all that noise, Disney allowed its writers to come up with a unique story that will hopefully enhance the rest of the franchise.
Don’t get me wrong, as I still think this would have been the perfect time to introduce EU characters. After all, it’s not like they haven’t done that before and it’s a nice nod to the hard work (and fascinating ideas) of all those who came before. Still, even if there are no easter eggs or minor appearances, Disney might have chosen a simpler path that tells the tale so much better.
Or, at least we’ll find out this coming weekend! (Or sooner, if you want to read PCU’s review!)