Welcome to Rogue One Week! With the release of Rogue One, set in the years before A New Hope, we finally get our first standalone Star Wars movie. This week we’ll be analyzing the greater Star Wars universe from every conceivable angle — the storytelling, the merchandising, the mythology, and the fandom. May the Force be with you (while you read).
It took just two sentences, first seen in 1977, to birth what will probably be the biggest blockbuster released in 2016.
Those lines, embedded within the opening crawl of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and not at all about Bothans, form the basis of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which will open on Friday during daylight hours for the general public and late Thursday night for the nerds. (You know it to be true.) Like so many minor-but-memorable moments from the first three movies, that snippet of text gave us a glimpse of a larger universe that gradually got filled in over the decades between trilogies. When Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, those expanded universe backstories — including the first accounts of the battle for the Death Star schematics — were wiped away and rebranded as "Legends," which cleared the decks for a new, even more lucrative canon to take the old one’s place.
Rogue One is the first of what could be a never-ending string of standalone cinematic stories that won’t overlap with the main movies (the ones with Roman numerals). The second so-called "anthology" film, which will explore the origins of the Han Solo–Chewbacca bromance (and star Alden Ehrenreich as Han, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, and Emilia Clarke as someone not named Daenerys), is scheduled to drop in 2018, and the third, which will likely arrive in 2020, has been rumored to be about Boba Fett. ("Boba Fett! Where?")
If Rogue One is successful, Disney will need more movie ideas to keep the Star Wars assembly line stocked. Jason Concepcion and I have scoured the original trilogy for unmined material and come up with some suggestions, which we’re offering for free.
Plot point: "Good luck, Luke. See you at the rendezvous." — Wedge Antilles, The Empire Strikes Back
Elevator pitch: At the Battle of Hoth, the Rebel Alliance escaped almost-certain destruction with minimal losses — until its greatest hero went away without leave.
Ben Lindbergh: When Rebel Alliance leader Leia Organa addressed Rogue Squadron shortly before the Battle of Hoth, her orders were clear: "When you’ve gotten past the energy shield, proceed directly to the rendezvous point."
Every surviving member of Rogue Squadron — heck, even Zev’s and Dak’s dead bodies — made it to the agreed-upon point, except one: Rogue Leader. Alliance military police officer Jarkon Sage had spent most of his life trying to keep a low profile, but he couldn’t stay out of the limelight when he drew the most explosive assignment of his career. When a soldier went missing, someone had to find and discipline him, even if that soldier’s image was plastered on every recruiting poster. Destroyer of the Death Star or no, Sage was still obligated to ask: Where was Luke Skywalker? And where was the expensive military hardware he’d commandeered without permission, thinning the Rebellion’s already reduced fleet?
Skywalker was last seen nodding his acknowledgement when Wedge Antilles told him he’d meet him at the rendezvous. The next thing anyone knew, he’d overridden his astromech droid and jumped to an unknown system. Why didn’t he say something? And worse: What would Sage do if and when he returned? If he let the offense slide in Skywalker’s case, the whole movement would know that the system was slanted in certain fighters’ favor. But if he publicly punished the Alliance’s savior, he might hurt morale more than he helped it. Facing death threats, political pressures, and a crisis of his own ethical compass, Sage would have to decide: Can you court martial a legend?
Base One: Escape From Yavin
Plot point: "It is a dark time for the Rebellion. Although the Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy." —The Empire Strikes Back opening crawl
Elevator pitch: In the wake of the Rebellion’s greatest victory, the forgotten tale of their greatest escape.
Jason Concepcion: Located in an ancient Sith temple on the uncharted jungle moon of Yavin 4 is Massassi Station, call sign: Base One, the Rebellion’s top-secret military headquarters. From here, the Rebels, armed with top-secret plans to the Death Star, launched the audacious raid — using only fighter ships — that shook the galaxy. And it was here, in the main hall of the great pyramid, that the entire Rebel army and leadership gathered to honor Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Chewbacca, the heroes of the Battle of Yavin. The celebration would be short-lived.
News of the destruction of the Death Star reached Emperor Palpatine quickly. Even as the cheers were echoing within Yavin 4’s great temple, the Empire was mustering its fleet for an overwhelming retaliatory strike to wipe the Rebellion out once and for all.
Unlike Admiral Ozzel’s bungled invasion of Hoth a few years later, Imperial Star destroyers managed to exit lightspeed nearly inside Yavin 4’s atmosphere. The Rebels were caught totally by surprise.
To cover the desperate evacuation, and save the Rebellion, a ragtag group of fighters and civilians, led by General Jan Dodonna, volunteers to stay behind at Base One to hold off the Imperial onslaught. None survived. This is their story.
Plot point: "But I was going to go to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!" — Luke Skywalker, Star Wars
Elevator pitch: The civil war caused the destruction of several planets and the loss of billions of lives, military and civilian. But the hidden cost was paid by the galaxy’s small businesses.
Concepcion: At Tosche Station, it’s not unusual for sales to fall through; business is bad. But it’s about to get a lot worse.
It wasn’t always this way. During the mining boom, Rim Lightdimmer and her family couldn’t stock their machine shop fast enough. In those days, the best of days, pioneer families from hundreds of miles around came to Tosche Station to purchase laser fencing to keep out Jawas, vaporators for moisture farming, weapons to defend against Tuskens. No more.
Once it was discovered that the high silicate level of Tatooine’s ores were unsuitable for interstellar shipbuilding, the geo-industry corporations left. Mining facilities the size of cities were swallowed by the desert, their vehicles and gear falling into the hands of Sand People and the hated Jawas. Lightdimmer, desperate to support her family and keep the failing shop open, has been reduced to scavenging in abandoned mines.
Then war broke out.
Now Tatooine was crawling with Stormtroopers. When Imperial investigators discover that key members of the Rebel leadership Biggs Darklighter and General Luke Skywalker held meetings at Tosche Station, they zero in on Rim Lightdimmer and her humble family store.
I Am a Fugitive From a Spice Mine
Plot point: "Hold your fire. There’s no life forms. It must have short circuited." —Captain Bolvan watching the escape pod carrying C3PO and R2D2 fly toward Tatooine, Star Wars
Elevator pitch: Sentenced to the spice mines of Kessel for allowing the Death Star plans to fall into Rebel hands, a former Imperial officer finds a reason to live: escape!
Concepcion: Every night, as he lay in his bunk, his body a symphony of pain, Bolvan asked himself, "What was I thinking?" It isn’t as if the Empire was going to give him a bonus for saving ammunition. Why hadn’t he simply blasted the escape pod into atoms? He couldn’t explain it.
At first, Bolvan considered himself lucky — he had seen what happened to the admirals, even the generals, who disappointed Lord Vader.
But the brutality of the mines quickly disabused him of that notion.
Now, another question is forming in Bolvan’s mind: How can I get out of here?
Plot point: The destruction of Death Star II at the end of The Return of the Jedi likely wiped out all life on the moon of Endor. OR DID IT? #TRUTHABOUTENDOR
Elevator pitch: After the Battle of Endor, the fate of the Ewoks becomes a front in the war between the Imperial rump state and the ascendant Alliance of Free Planets — a war that’s really over the nature of truth.
Concepcion: When the Death Star II exploded in low orbit around Endor, killing all hands on board, it showered the forested surface of the moon with tons of toxic debris, effectively ruining the environment forever. It was nothing less than a war crime. Or so the Order’s psyops division would have the galaxy believe.
The Rebel victory at Endor took the lives of the Emperor and Darth Vader and smashed Imperial military power for over a generation. But the remaining loyalists still had weapons at their disposal. The surviving Imperials, now styling themselves as the Order, took advantage of the galaxy’s decentralized information infrastructure (it is common, for instance, to encounter many people who consider even historically significant figures such as Han Solo to be myths) and poor sourcing standards to gradually erode the legitimacy of the New Republic by the strategic deployment of disinformation. Propaganda is as old as the universe, of course. The Order’s innovation was to seed false stories directly into the info-web which delivered news and information directly to personal data terminals across the galaxy.
The Order’s first piece of weaponized propaganda, "Endor Holocaust," compared the galactic media’s coverage of the alleged "environmental genocide" committed against the native Ewoks with that of the Empire’s destruction of Alderaan. Ignorant of the threat, Leia, Han, Luke, and others who were on Endor after the destruction of DSII, didn’t bother to rebut the stories. By the time they did, by appearing in short video clips with various healthy Ewoks, it was too late. The Order’s shadowy psyops teams had no trouble painting such efforts as conspiracies.
Endor Holocaust was quickly followed by "#YodaHoax," "#JediCrimes," "#WookieYouKnowIt," "#LockUpLando," and many others as the Order’s ability to recontextualize history and truth became ever more effective and scalable. Eventually, Princess Leia was forced to go into hiding after the Order started rumors that she had been carrying on an affair with her brother Luke. It is rumored that Ben Solo, now known as Kylo Ren, became radicalized, in part, by the Order’s disinformation program, tragically paving the way for the Battle of Starkiller Base.
We Don’t Serve Your Kind Here
Plot point: "Your droids: They’ll have to wait outside. We don’t want them here." — Wuher, bartender at the Mos Eisley cantina, Star Wars
Elevator pitch: On the planet farthest from the bright center of the universe, one man and one droid discover what human-cyborg relations really mean.
Lindbergh: For maintenance droid SO-4T5, life was a series of restraining bolts — whether it was wearing one or not. Even when it wasn’t being paralyzed or compelled to perform tedious tasks at the press of a button, it couldn’t go where it wanted. There were too many places with policies that prohibited it from entering.
SO-4T5 didn’t know what made the Mos Eisley cantina so seductive — the place was a dive that served swill (which, of course, it couldn’t drink regardless). Maybe it wasn’t the cantina itself that made SO’s exclusion extra galling, but its criminal clientele. If a human had a death sentence in 12 systems, Wuher was happy to have him — but compliant, hardworking droids still had to stay outside.
Something in SO’s processor snapped after watching a well-behaved protocol droid and its astromech sidekick banished from the bar while their human companions were permitted to lop off arms and fire blasters at bounty hunters. At that milestone moment, SO decided to sit down and be served or be deactivated trying. If it broke the long-standing barrier, it would strike a big blow against droid discrimination. But to open Wuher’s closed mind, SO would have to help him confront his greatest fears: that valuable bar space would be squandered on non-drinking droids and, deeper down, that he would one day be replaced by a bartender droid that could fix a fizzbrew or clean up a corpse faster than he could.
Death (Star) Row
Plot point: "We have an emergency alert in detention block AA-23." —Anonymous Death Star communications officer, Star Wars
Elevator pitch: He was sentenced to death inside the Empire’s most impregnable prison — until someone in the neighboring cell staged the perfect diversion.
Lindbergh: Jarrax Kardon didn’t have any use for political loyalties — with the number of bodies he’d left lying behind him, odds were that whichever side won would want him dead. Say what you would about Palpatine, but the Empire kept the peace, and Kardon was chaos incarnate. That’s how he wound up awaiting execution in cell 2186, detention block AA-23, on level five of this moon-sized monstrosity. For every crime they’d accused him of committing, they’d missed one that was worse.
At first, he spent his time in the cell wondering what they were waiting for. But days before he was due to be executed, a new arrival disrupted the routine. Whoever it was had to be pretty important, because the clank of boots became much more common, often accompanied by an interrogation droid and a deep-voiced leader with what sounded like the world’s worst sinus infection.
At some unspecifiable hour — "day" and "night" no longer had meaning — Kardon was awoken by laser sounds and Wilhelm’s screams. Someone was trying to free the prisoner next door. He banged on the door and yelled "Take me, too!" but all he heard was witty repartee. And then the miracle occurred: A stray bolt burned through the lock, and his cell door swung open. He looked both ways and saw nothing but bodies, then grabbed a blaster and ran. This was his final fight for survival: Could he find a way out of the Empire’s most inescapable base while the whole station was searching for someone else?
Plot point: "It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs." — Han Solo, Star Wars
Elevator pitch: When the galaxy’s greatest smugglers meet to test their skills, they’re expecting a race against time. But it’s really a race against distance.
Lindbergh: Smugglers believe in doing business face to face: That’s why Han Solo insisted on paying Jabba back in person when a wire transfer or Imperial PayPal credit could have kept him out of carbonite. So when word spreads of an illegal cross-galaxy race, the most notorious smugglers are eager to enter to prove that they have what it takes to get goods from one end to the other in the least amount of time. Widespread confusion ensues when they discover that parsecs are actually a unit of distance, and that the race is really measuring who can take the shortest route through hyperspace without jumping straight into a star.
Giving the more seasoned smugglers a run for their money is Sorran Dalkiri, a former nerf herder who gave up his honest profession because the constant insults were destroying his self-esteem. His herding experience helps him smuggle in several surprising ways, which ultimately teaches him to ignore the name callers and return to his nerfs, who made him happy deep down. Scoundrels abound and anything goes on this madcap fight to the finish, featuring sabotage, black holes, and Imperial interference. The sequels write themselves.
Plot point: "Many Bothans died…to bring us this information." —Mon Mothma, before the Battle of Endor, Return of the Jedi
Elevator pitch: The story of how the Bothan spynet acquired the codes to Death Star II and delivered them to the Rebellion at the cost of untold lives.
Concepcion: From the dusty outer-ring spice markets of Kessel to the sleek trading pits of Coruscant, it is often said that Bothans can always be counted on to take a side: their own. These furry creatures are renowned for their ability to mask ruthless self-interest under a veneer of gregarious warmth and charm. For millennia, Bothans have traveled the galaxy as behind-the-scenes dealmakers and politicians, steadily accruing great wealth and influence. They are natural-born spies.
Bast Giadet was, in many ways, a typical Bothan — fast talking, cynical, slightly paranoid, and, quietly, very successful. Bast has mining interests spread out across a dozen systems. He can speak 200 languages fluently and he can muddle through conversations in 150 more. Across the galaxy, when Bast Giadet walks into a room, alien businesspeople instinctively check to see if they still have their wallets.
When the galactic civil war erupts, Bast does what Bothans have been doing since time immemorial — looks for a way to make a profit. But when an Imperial purge of the Bothan spynet results in the execution of members of his clan, Bast finds himself in the unusual position of finally fighting for something bigger than himself.
The Boys From Bothawui
Plot point: "The data brought to us by the Bothan spies pinpoints the exact location of the Emperor’s new battle station." — Mon Mothma, Return of the Jedi
Elevator pitch: Don’t believe what you’ve heard about Bothans.
Lindbergh: They were heroes, the historians say: brave Bothan spies who gave their lives to bring the Rebellion the location of the second Death Star. How could they have known what Palpatine was planning? But when El’ya Tritain stumbles upon a cabal of Bothans living in luxury on a First Order world, she starts to wonder: Might Bothans have baited the trap?
If the Bothan spies were on Palpatine’s payroll, they could have leaked exactly what he wanted them to: not only the Death Star’s actual location, but also the false information that its weapon wasn’t operational. Appearing to die in the process would only have made the intel seem more solid.
As El’ya investigates, her suspicion grows that the aging Bothans’ backstories aren’t as innocent as they say. But if she’s dealing with masters of deception, she’ll be in just as much danger as the Rebel fleet that flew into a nightmare at Endor.