The Galactic Empire: Another Side, Another Story 

The Galactic Empire: Another Side, Another Story 
Inferno Squad | Battlefront II

“Hope can not save them!” – Iden Versio

Warning: Potential spoilers for various novels including Aftermath: Empire’s End, Lost Stars, and Inferno Squad.

When I was a kid I knew one thing was true about Star Wars– the Rebellion was good and the Empire was bad. It truly was a cut and dry issue for me. If you had told me back then that there could be decent or honorable folks in the Empire, I’d have told you you were crazy. That said, it’s funny how our beliefs and ideals change as we get older and we realize not everything is black and white. 

Recent Star Wars media has been exploring what it’s like to serve in the Empire and I believe it’s actually been a great boon to the franchise. Let’s explore this idea a little more, shall we?

Grand Admiral Rae Sloane | Star Wars: Aftermath

“We need to demonstrate martial ability. The Empire is a hammer striking down disorder, not a knife slipped between unsuspecting ribs.” – Rae Sloane

While the old Legends Expanded Universe definitely had what TV Tropes dubs “villain episodes,” (e.g. Darth Bane, Darth Plagueis) the new canon has had enough purely Imperial-focused stories for me to start thinking that it’s intentional. Off the top of my head we’ve had Lost Stars, Lords of the Sith, Thrawn, Marvel’s Darth Vader (2 series total) the recent Battlefront II tie-in Inferno Squad and a number of short stories. That’s a lot of material in the span of 3+ years!

Now I know a lot of old-timers will say “why can’t we go back to a time when the good guys were good and the bad guys were bad?” We could, sure, but a little concept called character development suffers when you offer villains that are one-dimensional, mustache-twirling caricatures. Morality in real life can be a complex issue, so why shouldn’t modern fiction follow this same trend?

I think there’s a very good reason to include sympathetic Imperials in the Star Wars franchise. It is entirely possible to have good intentions and still fight for a cause that isn’t just. The new canon has had a good spread of both well-intentioned extremists and run-of-the mill Imperials (or some who blend both categories.) Most of these Imps simply believe that the Rebels are anarchists and terrorists looking to destroy their way of life. 

Ciena Ree from Lost Stars is a good example of this mentality. She was born on Jelucan —  a backwater Outer Rim planet that (in her eyes) the Empire raised to prominence and technological modernity. She joined the Empire because she felt it was the right thing to do. Of course, she later realized that truly honorable people were a rarity in the Imperial ranks and she struggled to rationalize atrocities such as the destruction of Alderaan. The conflict within herself and with her heel-face-turned Rebel boyfriend made for an excellent story.

Grand Admiral Rae Sloane is very similar in that she had a childhood incident which inspired gratitude toward the Empire. Unlike Ciena, Sloane’s belief in the true Empire never wavered despite her bearing witness to the destruction of the second Death Star and seeing dishonorable acts committed against the fledgling New Republic by her former boss, Gallius Rax. Sloane carried these ideals with her until well after the Battles of Endor and Jakku and she became a key player in the founding of the First Order.

Cover for Inferno Squad

Finally, I’d like to mention Iden Versio, the star of Christie Golden’s recent and excellent novel Inferno Squad and also the playable character for the upcoming Battlefront II‘s (yes, Imperial-focused) campaign. Iden shares similarities with Ciena and Rae in that she is very pro-Imperial and laser-focused on her goals. However, unlike those two, Iden was actually born into the Empire and its way of thinking through her father, Admiral Garrick Versio. If you’re planning on playing through BFII’s canon post-Return of the Jedi story, I would definitely recommend picking up the aforementioned novel. (In the meantime I’ll just keep looking forward to Iden and Luke’s meeting as teased in the trailer. Talk about an antipodean clash of ideals!)

I really didn’t want to make this a character analysis piece so I tried to keep the previous segments brief . That said, I did want to illustrate how it is possible to have “heroic” archetypes on the antagonistic side and still have them be relatable human beings. Maybe it shows how much I’ve evolved as a person that I really enjoy these Empire-centric stories as much as the traditional good guy tales.

These stories do a great job in convincing me why these characters follow an obviously (to us) evil regime. When information and media via the HoloNet is censored so heavily, of course our Imperial characters will believe that the Rebellion is just a group of rabble-rousers. Perhaps their ignorance only makes them more tragic. That’s what I believe. 

That’s all for now! Hope you enjoyed it! I apologize for the scarcity of my posts the last few months. Life is just crazy lately. 

*Honorable and obligatory mention for Timothy Zahn and the absolutely delightful April 2017 novel Thrawn. I wanted to mention the titular Chiss Grand Admiral with the other Imps that I’ve enjoyed, but I didn’t want to bloat my character mentions. Seriously though. Read it! 

**Ironically the New Republic ended up being nearly as corrupt as the Empire although for completely different reasons. 

Year Three (Part Two)

Spoilers, natch

 

Hello again!

As I mentioned last week, I felt that my post was getting a bit long-winded. I made the decision to cut this topic in half and save the second part for today. Don’t want my readers getting overwhelmed, right?

In the previous session, I discussed the aspects of the new canon (established April 2014) that I liked best. Today, I’d like to discuss brand new characters that have caught my fancy.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the list.


Rae Sloane 

Appearances: A New Dawn (first appearance), Aftermath, various Insider short stories


“I’m Admiral Rae Sloane. You are under arrest for conspiring against the Galactic Empire, long may it reign.”

I never liked the idea that the Empire didn’t employ women in its ranks. I know the Legends EU solidified this fact by stating the Empire was misogynistic as well as xenophobic, but honestly it struck me as being more along the lines “for the evulz” than anything else. When a woman did appear in the old Legends Empire, it was probably because she slept her way up to that position—as was the case with the erratically-written character Natasi Daala.

Thankfully, the reboot has done us all a favor by introducing female stormtroopers and Imperial officers. Sure, the racism and genocide against non-humans is still there (yay?), but it’s nice to see a bit of diversity with our antagonists.

Anyway, on to the character herself. Sloane was first introduced in A New Dawn as the temporary captain of the Star Destroyer Ultimatum. Her mission was to escort Count Denetrius Vidian to the planet Gorse for his thorilide mining assignment. Captain Sloane made enough of an impression to be put in permanent command of the vessel by the end of the story. Come The Battle of  Endor, she’d been promoted to the rank of Admiral and commanded the Star Destroyer Vigilance. Finally, in Aftermath, she was one of the individuals in the secret Imperial meeting on Akiva following the Empire’s defeat at Endor. Here, she was revealed to be in league with a mysterious Fleet Admiral in the Unknown Regions (probably signifying the beginning of the First Order).

Why I like her:

In a sea of cliché, mustache-twirling male Moffs and Imperial officers, Rae stands out because of her personality and code of honor. She serves a Sith-created, corrupt regime, but that doesn’t automatically make her an evil person.

While Sloane is very much a professional, no-nonsense individual, she is shown to care for the officers under her command. However, she doesn’t let her feelings get in the way of her service. Even if she is occasionally horrified by the unsavory acts her compatriots  commit, her duty to the Empire always comes first.

Kanan Jarrus (Caleb Dume) 

Appearances: A New Dawn (first appearance), Star Wars Rebels, Kanan: The Last Padawan (comic)

 

“… It’s true. I’m not sure of my decision to train Ezra. Not because of him or his abilities… because of me, because of who I am.”

During the last days of the Republic, Caleb Dume was just your average Jedi youngster pining for a Master to choose them as their padawan. Eventually he was paired with the enigmatic, coma-awakened Depa Billaba (they made a Force connection while she was in her bacta tank.)

Everything was going great for our young padawan. He had a Master to teach him, he finally got to fight in the Clone Wars like he wanted, and he had a little-brother-style friendship going on with the clones in his unit. What could possibly go wrong?

Well… those nasty clone brain chips activated at the worst possible moment (thanks, Sheev.) Billaba gave her life defending Caleb from their clone unit and he was forced to learn how to survive on his own as a 14-year-old fugitive bereft of the Order he grew up in.

Taking the name Kanan Jarrus to hide his Jedi past, he took on many unsavory jobs in an effort to keep himself out of the eyes of the Empire. Little did he know, a chance meeting with a certain twi’lek pilot named Hera would change his life forever.

Why I like him:

I’ll be honest; when I was first introduced to Kanan in A New Dawn, I thought he was kind of a jerk. He was constantly punching people who annoyed him and he only seemed to care about getting paid. However, having been introduced to his backstory in the comics, I now see why he was the way he was in the novel. Watching your beloved parental figure get gunned down in front of you will leave some nasty psychological scars.

Since Kanan has embraced his Jedi heritage once again and aligned himself with a rebel cell, he’s certainly begun to show his more caring side. Despite his feelings of inadequacy while training Ezra, he is very much Team Dad to Hera’s Team Mom — the glue that keeps the Ghost crew together. Freddie Prinze Jr has done a great job voicing him in Rebels and Kanan’s snarky humor is a welcome addition to the show.

Oh, bonus points for looking like a samurai.
Ezra Bridger
Appearances: Ezra’s Gamble (first appearance), Star Wars Rebels, various YA novels.

 

 “I was just doing the same thing you were, stealing to survive.”

A young orphan on the Outer Rim world Lothal, Ezra perhaps shares a few parallels with another Disney street rat. Ezra is initially depicted as a young thief who steals from the Empire to ensure his own survival. Kanan takes note of Ezra’s uncanny agility and informs the boy of his latent Force-sensitivity.

Why I like him:

When Ezra was first announced, his character and design got a lot of flak from the fandom. His blue hair, his energy slingshot, and the soreness over the cancellation of The Clone Wars TV show made for a bad combination. There was also the possibility that this “Aladdin-clone” would be a bratty kid and ruin any chance of the show being serious when it needed to be.

Thankfully, like a real person, Ezra has continued to mature. Ezra has gone from a self-centered survivor to a vital member of the Ghost crew. He is compassionate and brave, but he is not without his flaws. Like any teenager, he is often stubborn and takes unnecessary risks (much to Kanan’s chagrin.)

Intriguingly, it’s been hinted that Ezra’s Force potential may be eclipsing Kanan’s. He had his first brush with the dark side in season 1 and the new trailer hints at further danger for the character. Very excited to see what happens!

Doctor Aphra

Appearances: Star Wars: Darth Vader (comic)


“Thank you, Mr. Lord Vader. Sir? Your majesty? Your illustriousness? Honestly, no idea. I’m a rogue archaeologist, not a protocol droid.”

Archaeologist and droid expert Doctor Aphra is one of Vader’s personal agents during the Galactic Civil War. One of the Marvel comics’ more quirky characters, she quickly proved herself to be one of the Sith Lord’s most useful and loyal assets.

Why I like her:

Remember I said she was quirky? I don’t think that even begins to describe her. Aphra is a perky, upbeat woman who idolizes Vader and likes to reactive homicidal droids. She’s well aware of the fact that Vader will put her down when he has no further use for her (“If I get a choice, the lightsaber right through the neck.”) but she does her job anyway.

Oh and props for owning Triple-zero, the most polite and sadistic protocol droid to ever exist.

“I’m 0-0-0 or Triple-Zero, if you prefer. I’m a protocol droid, specialized in etiquette, customs, translation and torture, ma’am.”

 


Ciena Ree/Thane Kyrell

Appearances: Lost Stars

 

(Note: these are not the official character portraits. However, author Claudia Gray mentioned she had Gugu Mbatha-raw and Sam Reid in mind when she wrote them.)

Thane and Ciena were two kids that hailed from the Outer Rim world Jelucan. Thane was from an upper-class family and Ciena came from more homely origins. Their world was never of any significance to galactic events during the Republic until the fateful day the Empire came.

Long story short, the two youngsters enroll as imperial cadets and experience the Imperial military firsthand. Of course, knowing how corrupt the Empire is, these experiences change the two dramatically.

Ciena stays out of a strong sense of honor and Thane defects to the Alliance to Restore the Republic (Rebellion). Problem is, they’re both still very much in love with each other and on opposite sides of the war.

Why I liked them:

Because of its YA label, I wouldn’t blame someone for assuming Lost Stars is Twilight in a galaxy far, far away. It is very much not. Thane and Ciena are believable characters with a lot to like.

I think my favorite part of the novel was seeing how the two justify or condemn the actions of the Empire they served. Alderaan is an especially polarizing point for the two.

I won’t spoil the events of the novel because it really is a lot of fun. Check this one out! Oh, and fun tidbit: the derelict Star Destroyer (the Inflictor) on Jakku in TFA belonged to Ciena at one point.
That’s it for today. Turns out I still went on a bit longer than I thought I would. Wanted to mention a few extra characters I liked, but I’ll give them honorable mention below instead.
Hera and Sabine (Rebels), Mister Bones (Aftermath), Evaan Verlaine (Princess Leia)

Prelude to Awakening

Warning: spoilers for nearly every canon post-RotJ story ahead. 

“Be patient. Be strong. Fight back where you can. The Imperial war machine falls apart one gear, one gun, one stormtrooper at a time. The New Republic is coming. And we want your help to finish the fight.” –Leia Organa

Less than one week before Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts in theaters. Can you believe it? This year has certainly gone by quickly.

The purpose of this post is to get others up to speed on galactic events after Return of the Jedi. Remember, even though the old Legends expanded universe covered this time period, we are operating on a blank slate with the April 2014 canon reset.

The following segments are meant to offer a quick glimpse of what happened after Sidious and Vader perished during the Battle of Endor.

 

No Rest for the Rebellion

“Today is a day of celebration. We have triumphed over villainy and oppression and have given our Alliance—and the galaxy beyond it—a chance to breathe and cheer for the progress in reclaiming our freedom from an Empire that robbed us of it. We have reports from Commander Skywalker that Emperor Palpatine is dead, and his enforcer, Darth Vader, with him.

But though we may celebrate, we should not consider this our time to rest. We struck a major blow against the Empire, and now will be the time to seize on the opening we have created. The Empire’s weapon may be destroyed, but the Empire itself lives on. Its oppressive hand closes around the throats of good, free-thinking people across the galaxy, from the Coruscant Core to the farthest systems in the Outer Rim. We must remember that our fight continues. Our rebellion is over. But the war… the war is just beginning.”

–Admiral Gial Ackbar

While Lucas originally intended the ending of Return of the Jedi to depict everyone living happily ever after, the truth is the Galactic Empire did not fall immediately after the loss of the second Death Star. The Empire still controlled countless systems and maintained its iron grip on the galaxy.

Heck, even the victory celebrations seen at the end of VI suffer from a happy ending override. On planets like Coruscant, Imperial police were quick to put down any signs of protest (including firing upon its own citizens in Monument Plaza).

Following the destruction of the Death Star II, the remaining Imperials quickly tried to stop the spread of news relating to the death of the Emperor; they labeled it Rebel propaganda. To counter this, Leia Organa and Admiral Ackbar recorded their own victory speeches and distributed them throughout the galaxy.

In the Anoat system, Governor Adelhard locked down the entire sector and began to use lethal force against those who would dare claim the Empire had fallen. Also, on the remote planet of Akiva, several of the remaining Moffs and Imperial officers held a secret meeting to discuss the future of the Empire after their defeat on Endor.

 

Rise of the New Republic

This is democracy. […] We will not always get it right. We will never have it perfect. But we will listen. To the countless voices crying out across the galaxy, we have opened our ears, and we will always listen. That is how democracy survives. That is how it thrives. […] That is democracy. That is the New Republic. And if you’ll excuse me, we have a great deal of work to do.

–Olia Choko, public relations representative

 

Once the Alliance to Restore the Republic (Rebellion) had liberated Mon Mothma’s home planet of Chandrila, they quickly reformed themselves into the New Republic (a nice nod to the old Legends continuity.) Mothma was made the Chancellor and inherited many of the emergency powers that Palpatine had been granted during the Clone Wars.

The NR senate was also established. However, unlike its predecessor the Old Republic, senators were selected democratically, instead of via delegation. This new senate’s first meeting had over one hundred senators from various liberated and Imperial-controlled planets alike.

Even though the war between the New Republic and the Empire’s remnant was still technically active, Mon Mothma desired the demilitarization of the Republic as soon as possible. She quickly stripped herself of many of the authorities she deemed unnecessary, and stated her intent to remove approximately 90% of the New Republic’s military forces.

While her advisor objected to her demilitarization strategy, her intent was to bolster planetary defenses and recruit peacekeepers that would be trained in Chandrila’s academy.

 

Empire’s final days

 

As the New Republic began to establish itself, the Empire continued to lose battle after battle. Moffs fought amongst themselves and constantly attempted to declare a new Emperor; each occurrence failing. In addition, the Empire continued to lose its members to defection and those who did turn themselves over often handed over their Star Destroyers and other technological treasures.

Palpatine’s death triggered a posthumous command to raze several planets in an act of revenge. Naboo was the most prominent example of this attempted destruction. It was narrowly averted by key Republic figures such as Leia and Shara Bey (mother of Resistance pilot Poe Dameron in TFA)


Luke Skywalker had his own mission during this time. In one of my absolute favorite displays of his power and skill, Luke (accompanied by Shara) infiltrates an Imperial installation to retrieve the last fragments of the Force-sensitive tree that grew in the heart of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant (as seen on the recent animated Clone Wars series.)

Luke gives the extra sprout to Shara and her husband Kes Dameron on Yavin IV (red herring? Foreshadowing for Poe?) and they plant it at their homestead. What about Luke’s sprout? Personally I believe he’ll plant it wherever he reestablishes the Jedi Order (bets on the old temple on Devaron for me; as seen in The Weapon of a Jedi.)

 

The end of a regime

 

“We’re headed toward a large standoff with the rebels. We’re committing a fair portion of the fleet, and if the damned Rebellion wants to stand a chance of keeping that sector, they’ll have to do the same. This promises to be the largest battle since Endor.” –Grand Moff Randd

With its power and numbers dwindling, the Empire tried one last offensive over the desert planet of Jakku. Grand Moff Randd thought that one last show of strength against the New Republic would convince the galaxy that the Empire was still a force to be reckoned with. He was wrong.


The Battle of Jakku was the final death of the Empire. The Empire was in such bad shape that its forces were comprised of barely trained cadets and the sick and injured who could barely fight. Captain Ciena Ree (deuteragonist of Lost Stars) chooses to smash her Star Destroyer Inflictor into the sands of Jakku rather than allow her ship to be taken by a New Republic strike team. Its ruins can be seen in one of the teasers for the new film.

 

End of an era

The Empire never recovered from their second major defeat. After their loss at Jakku, the Galactic Civil War was brought to a final, decisive end. The Imperial remnants signed a peace treaty with the New Republic and the galaxy saw true peace for a time.

The leaders of the NR were not fools, however. They kept their fleets on standby in the event of another Imperial attack. Leia became a general to lead the military forces alongside Ackbar. Han and Chewbacca (as per Aftermath) took on a non-authorized mission to liberate Kashyyyk’s Wookiees from remaining Imperial forces.

As for Luke? I imagine he went on to attempt to recreate the Jedi Order, but Lucasfilm has wisely kept silent on his whereabouts after Shattered Empire.

 

Resurgence of the dark side


In Aftermath, we are introduced to a group called the Acolytes of the Beyond who are collecting dark side artifacts like Vader’s lightsaber. In addition, we are introduced to Tashu, a former advisor to Palpatine who claims that the remaining Imperial forces should seek out a dark side source on the edges of the galaxy.

Are these individuals linked to The Force Awakens’ Knights of Ren? And I wonder if this dark side wellspring is linked to Starkiller Base–a planetary superweapon (capable of destroying entire star systems) under the control of the new villains of TFA. 

What we do know is that a fanatical remnant of the Empire called the First Order hid away in a nebula and they are eager to avenge their predecessors.

That’s it for now! Probably my last entry before The Force Awakens releases. I can’t wait to see it! I’ll share my thoughts on the film later this month.

Happy holidays to everyone and may the Force be with you!

 

 

“Hope is not lost today. It is found.”