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.”