All right, this is my first real blog post on The Sarlacc Pit, So I want to discuss the movie that started it all: Star Was Episode IV: A New Hope. My goal is to use this discussion as a way to set up the state of the Star Wars universe for canon that occurs between The Battle of Yavin (which happens at the end of A New Hope) and The Battle of Hoth (which occurs at the star of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back). To do this, I will divide my discussion into topics focusing on the different factions that exist in this universe and who the key people are. I will then discuss three major events that occur in this movie and explain how it sets up for future canon. I will try to not go into too much detail on any one person or event, as I plan on writing posts that focus on specific characters/events/technologies/etc. on a deeper scale. So without any further ado, let’s dive in.
The Galactic Civil War
The Galactic Civil War refers to that war between the Galactic Empire, the ruling government which formed at the close of the Clone Wars after the dissolution of the Republic by the Republic’s Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, and the Rebel Alliance, a group of freedom fighters (or terrorists depending on one’s view) led by senators who maintained the innocence of the Jedi Order and believed the Empire was an evil establishment and that the Republic must be reinstated for peace in the Galaxy.
The Galactic Empire
Formed 19 years before the events of A New Hope, the Empire is ruled by Emperor Sheev Palpatine. The Emperor maintained rule after the dissolution of the Republic through manipulation of the Galactic Senate. At the beginning of A New Hope, the Senate had been dissolved and in its place the Emperor employed three main methods to keep planets in line. 1. The Emperor appointed Moffs, or regional governors, to oversee different star systems. Under these Moffs were numerous staff and each Moff had access to troops and starships that they could use as they saw fit. All Moffs reported to Grand Moff Tarkin, a trusted ally to the Emperor who truly believed in the Imperial philosophy of order by force. 2. Fear: the Emperor had a massive fleet of starships and control over most technological advancements of the time. The culmination of this technological and military advantage was the creation of a moon-sized space station called the Death Star. This Death Star had hyperspace capabilities, allowing it to quickly move from one star system to another, as well as the ability to destroy whole planets. This military power was generally enough to keep systems complacent, but when military might was not enough to deter rebellion, he had Darth Vader, an intimidating cyborg with powers that many did not understand. He was known to be able to take out entire infantry groups single-handedly, as well as outmaneuver and take down entire fleets of starships by himself. Many considered him a myth, but those that faced Vader and lived rarely decided to oppose him a second time. Almost none were able to oppose him a third time. 3. Manipulation: The Emperor was a professional at manipulating the desires and emotions of those around him. He often selected those who showed promise at an early age (such as Wilhuff Tarkin and Darth Vader) to use as commanders or apprentices. He often advanced those that he could easily control or entice with further advancement to leadership positions, preventing many from revolting in hopes that they may gain more power or wealth.
Key Imperial Figures:
The Emperor: Emperor Sheev Palpatine was the supreme ruler of the Galactic Empire. While he is not physically present during the Events of A New Hope, Palpatine ruled through his apprentice Darth Vader and trusted confidante Grand Moff Tarkin. Unknown to most, the Emperor was a Sith lord (a Force sensitive who uses the power of the Dark Side) who went by the name of Darth Sidious. His use of the Dark Side of the Force helped him manipulate those around him as well as made him invulnerable to many prior assassination attempts despite his ragged appearance.
Darth Vader: “The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.” Another Sith Lord, Darth Vader was once a Jedi Knight by the name of Anakin Skywalker and is (unbeknownst to the thee at this point) Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa’s father. Darth Vader is described as mostly machine and is an intimidating presence even before he ignites his red lightsaber. A strong warrior and an unbeatable pilot, he places all of his faith in the Force, which is believed by most at this time to be nothing more than an old superstition, and his Master.
Grand Moff Tarkin: “Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station.” Fiercely loyal to the Emperor, and a close ally to Vader, Tarkin is a firm believer in the Empire and power through technological advancement. He oversaw the construction of the Death Star and was its commander upon completion. His intimidating presence is enhanced by the fact that Darth Vader appears to follow his command. Tarkin also gets major points by the fact that he was the one who advised the Emperor that the title and position of “Grand Moff” should be created. He essentially made himself an overseer of multiple large sectors of the galaxy, called “Oversectors,” and Moffs. While he is only present in the movies during A New Hope, and for a brief moment in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Tarkin has a rich canon backstory that I look forward to delve into more in future posts.
The Alliance to Restore the Republic
Also known as the Rebel Alliance, or simply the Rebellion, the Alliance to Restore the Republic was led by senators Bail Organa and Mon Mothma. Generally the Rebellion has limited success. Their ranks are made up mostly of people who come from planets that have suffered under the Empire, but there is little military experience and even less funding. Many Rebel troops would often start their careers by joining the Imperial Academy, which trains Stormtroopers. After gaining experience and training, these hopeful Rebels would attempt to leave the Academy and join the Alliance, which bolstered the Alliance’s infantries and Navy (Note: in the Star Wars Universe the term Navy is used to refer to starships and Starfighters, not necessarily what one would think of as a Navy in the real world). At the beginning of A New Hope, our hero, Luke Skywalker, tells his uncle he wants to leave Tatooine to join the Academy, most likely expecting to defect to the Rebellion after receiving training and funds to leave his home planet. A friend of Luke’s, Biggs Darklighter, did just this and was an X-Wing pilot for the Rebel Alliance by the time Luke joins the Rebellion. Due to their relatively small size, the Rebellion focused mainly on disrupting Imperial trade routes and assisting planets being oppressed by the Empire. Most victories were small and short-lived, and the Empire continued to rule.
Key Rebellion Figures:
Senator Bail Organa: Bail Organa does not appear in A New Hope, but he is one of the founders and leaders of the Rebellion. Bail Organa was a close friend and senatorial ally to Leia Organa’s mother, Padmé Amidala, during the Clone Wars and adopted Leia as his own after Vader betrayed the Jedi and killed her mother. Most of his support in the early years of the Rebellion was through supplying ships and supplies to soldiers and since his home world of Alderaan was a peaceful planet with no way to protect itself, he played mainly a background role. Bail stayed active in the Senate as a proponent of democracy after the Republic was disbanded.
Senator Mon Mothma: Another senatorial ally of Amidala and Organa’s during the years of the Republic. Mon Mothma stayed in the Senate after the dissolution of the Republic and assisted Bail Organa in bringing together the Rebel Alliance. Again, Mon Mothma does not appear in A New Hope but is afterwards the primary political leader of the Rebellion, so she is worth mentioning.
Grand Admiral Gial Ackbar: Another Rebel leader no seen in A New Hope, Ackbar was a Mon Calamari naval officer and Captain of the Mon Calamari guard during the Clone Wars. During the Galactic Civil War, Ackbar took on the title of Grand Admiral and was the foremost military leader. This helped attract a large amount of support from the planet Mon Cala, which supplied the Rebellion with numerous Mon Calamari star cruisers, which ultimately made up the bulk of the Rebel fleet.
Luke Skywalker: “I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father.” The main protagonist of most canon stories during the Galactic Civil War era. Luke was raised as a moisture farmer on Tatooine by his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. Although his uncle disapproved, Luke was a very capable pilot, known by his peers as the best bush pilot his age due to his skills in flying his T-16 air speeder. After finding a couple of Rebel droids (astromech R2-D2 and protocol droid C-3PO) containing important information for the rebellion, he meets up with “desert wizard” Old Ben Kenobi. Ben tells Luke that he was a Jedi Knight named Obi-Wan in the Clone Wars who fought alongside his father (while either dodging or outright lying to Luke about Anakin’s fate), and asks him to leave Tatooine with him. At First Luke declines, but after his aunt and uncle are killed by Imperial troops searching for the droids, he agrees to leave home with Kenobi to become a Jedi Knight and assist the Rebel Alliance. After saving Leia from the clutches of Darth Vader, he joins up with the Rebel Alliance. There, long-time friend and Rebel pilot Biggs Darklighter vouches for his piloting skills and Luke flies an X-Wing under the call sign of Red Five in Red Squadron during the Battle of Yavin. After destroying the Death Star, Luke stays with the Rebellion as a fighter pilot, taking on missions against the Empire while trying to learn about the ways of the Force, despite the loss of Kenobi on the Death Star.
Han Solo: “Bring ‘em on, I’d prefer a straight fight to all this sneaking around.” At the beginning of A New Hope, notorious smuggler and pilot of the famous Millennium Falcon Han Solo had a large bounty on his head after dropping cargo that he was transporting for notorious Tatooine gangster Jabba the Hutt. Although he has his trusty copilot, a Wookie warior/technician Chewbacca, he seems to be a loner and not prone to making friends. He agrees to transport Luke and Ben to Alderaan in order to make some quick cash to pay off his debts. When they arrive at the former location of Alderaan, Luke, Ben, and Han find that the planet has been destroyed by the Death Star and decide to save Princess Leia, who is being held prisoner on the massive space station. Han helps save the princess in order to make even more money, and transports the princess and Luke to the Rebel base on Yavin 4. He promptly left the Alliance to pay his debts to Jabba, but ended up returning near the end of the Battle on Yavin to assist the Alliance in destroying the Death Star. After the Battle of Yavin he sticks around, hiring out his smuggling skills to the Rebel cause.
Princess Leia Organa: “Someone has to save our skins. Into the garbage chute, fly boy!” Adopted daughter of Bail Organa, Leia followed in her father’s footsteps and was a member of the Imperial Senate at the beginning of A New Hope. While groomed for royalty and political service, Leia trained in martial arts and shooting throughout her life on Alderaan. During the early formation of the alliance, Leia took a much more hands on approach with the Rebellion than her father did, personally handing off supplies to Rebel leaders and assisting in the interception and distribution of Imperial information. She was told of the Jedi and Obi-Wan Kenobi by her father, and was the one who sent R2-D2 and C-3PO to find Kenobi. After the Battle of Yavin, Leia continued to work the Rebellion. Although her homeworld was destroyed, Leia still maintained a leadership position in the Rebel Alliance’s military, often leading missions personally, and never shying away from a blaster.
At the time of the Galactic Civil War, the Jedi are viewed as traitors to the galaxy. Most were killed during Order 66 at the end of the Clone Wars, and any that survived were hunted down by Darth Vader or the Emperor’s Sith Inquisitors. During the height of the Republic, Jedi Knights were peacekeepers, focusing on facilitating negotiations between fighting peoples, assisting anyone who needs help, and learning all there is to know about the mysteries of the Force. The Force is an energy field that is said to surround and bind all living things in the galaxy, and the Jedi and other Force-sensitive people (including the Sith) were able to tap into and use it to give themselves abilities beyond most living beings. During the Galactic Civil War, the Jedi Order had been destroyed, and any Jedi remaining were in hiding.
Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi: “Yes. I was once a Jedi Knight, the same as your father.” A Master who sat on the Jedi Council during the Clone Wars, Kenobi was living as a hermit during the 19 years leading up to A New Hope. After being betrayed by his former pupil, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, Kenobi brought Anakin’s son to Tatooine, to be raised by Anakin’s half-brother Owen Lars. While Owen wanted Kenobi to keep his distance from the boy, Obi-Wan was vigilant in protecting and watching Luke’s development. Kenobi spent most of his time hiring himself out as a body guard to those in need, such as the oft-persecuted Jawas, as well as meditating and training himself to be mindful of the deeper secrets of the Force. After seeing Luke prove to be a capable pilot at a young age, Kenobi knew that Luke was strong in the Force. Therefore, when he received a message from Leia asking for his help, Kenobi knew that it was time for Luke to leave Tatooine and become a Jedi like his father (although hopefully with a little less betrayal this time). Obi-Wan gave Luke Anakin’s lightsaber from when he was a Jedi, and began Luke’s Jedi training onboard the Millennium Falcon. This training marked the only real Jedi training Luke learned from a Jedi master until The Empire Strikes Back (up to this point at least).
Important Galactic Moments:
Now that we’ve gone over the different factions and major players, let’s talk about three major events that have severe consequences for the galaxy, as well as pave the way for future canon.
The Destruction of Alderaan
At the Beginning of A New Hope, the Death Star has been newly completed. In order to display the Empire’s new military might, Grand Moff Tarkin decides to make an example out of Alderaan, a peaceful planet whose political leaders made the poor decision to aid the Rebellion. With one command from Tarkin, and a single blast from the Death Star, Alderaan is reduced to an asteroid field. On Alderaan at the time was Bail Organa, and with his death Mon Mothma became the primary political leader of the Rebel Alliance. Furthermore, with the destruction of her home world and the dissolution of the Sentate, Leia’s role in the Alliance became undefined during the time between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. An interesting side note that I plan to discuss later is that the destruction of Alderaan did not end with the demolition of the planet. After the destruction of the Death Star, the Empire began rounding up and executing any surviving Alderaanians for treason, but that is a story for the future.
The Fall of Obi-Wan Kenobi
After observing the remnants of the Death Star’s destructive power, the occupants of the Millennium Falcon, who were there to deliver the droids to Bail Organa on Alderaan, were brought to the space station by tractor beam. In order to escape, Kenobi shut down the tractor beam while Han, Luke, and Chewbacca rescued Leia. While Kenobi returned to the Falcon, Darth Vader appeared, challenging him to a lightsaber duel. Kenobi used this fight to distract Vader from Han, Luke, and Leia’s escape and was ultimately killed in front of Luke. There are a few things to note here. First of all, when Kenobi was killed, his body immediately disappeared. While he is not the only Jedi to do this in canon, he is the first, and it is not a common phenomenon. This displays Kenobi’s strong connection to the Living Force (one aspect of the Force that I will go into more detail with later). Secondly, Kenobi’s death resulted in the loss of Luke’s only source of information about the Force and the ways of a Jedi. For a while after Luke had to take it upon himself to learn how to call upon the Force, which is not a very easy thing to do. Finally, many will note that this lightsaber fight is probably the least intense fight in the saga. While the obvious reason for this is just a lack of direction of George Lucas, or the lack of funding for an intense lightsaber battle, one theory is that this shows the difference in power between Obi-Wan Kenobi, and his former apprentice Darth Vader. One theory posted on Reddit stated that perhaps it was Darth Vader simply toying with Kenobi. This idea assumes that 19 years living as a hermit on Tatooine had taken its toll on the once formidable Jedi Knight and that Vader’s slow and easily blocked strikes were simply making fun of his former teacher. Whichever version of the truth you like, I thought that that was an interesting idea.
The Battle of Yavin
After Han, Luke, and Leia join up with the Rebel Alliance, they learn that the Millennium Falcon had been traced back to the Rebel base on Yavin 4. The Empire shows up with the Death Star ready to destroy the Rebellion and continue to rule the galaxy unopposed. Fortunately for the Rebellion, R2-D2 contains stolen plans for the Death Star, which reveal an overlooked weak point in the construction. A vent that provides an opening large enough to put a proton torpedo through, which would set off a chain reaction large enough to destroy the base. Luke suits up to fly an X-Wing with Red Squadron, and despite attempts by Darth Vader to shoot him down he eventually is the one to successfully destroy the Imperial space station.
This is the culmination of the film and has resounding impacts throughout the extended Star Wars canon. First of all, the destruction of the Death Star was the first real victory for the Rebellion. This represented the loss of a large amount of resources and manpower for the Empire. The competency of the Imperial leadership was suddenly being called into question by the Emperor and the death of Tarkin left a bit of a power vacuum in the Empire. Furthermore, although the Empire did their best to suppress word of their Death Star being destroyed, this was used by the Rebellion to prove that the Empire was not invincible, and worked as a great recruitment tool to bring others to the cause. This battle also marked Luke’s first in-canon moment of tapping into the Force. Under the instruction of Ben Kenobi’s disembodied voice, Luke tapped into the Force, which assisted him in perfectly placing a proton torpedo into the Death Star’s open vent. I think it’s this moment that drives Luke to avidly search out information about the Force and the Jedi. Afterwards he is hailed as a hero of the Rebellion and continues to work closely with the Alliance, while continuing to search for ways to train.
However, this battle was not the end of the Empire. It was a little bruised, but the Empire still had a mighty naval fleet under its command. While the Rebellion had fended off a major threat, the Empire now knew the location of its base on Yavin 4 and they were forced to retreat to the Outer Rim of the galaxy to search for a new planet to establish a base on.
I know this was a long post but thanks for sticking with me! Over the next few posts I currently plan to explore extended canon that you may be less familiar with, but A New Hope provides an excellent setup for the Galactic Civil War era. I don’t expect most future posts to be as long, but A New Hope is a movie that demands a large discussion. Next week I will discuss the state of the Empire after the Battle of Yavin. I will be focusing on a lot of content from the Marvel Darth Vader comic, so if you haven’t read it, feel free to check it out.
Finally I want to give a shout out to everyone who has shown me support in writing this blog. Whether it’s letting me know how excited you are for it, sharing it on Facebook, following the blog on WordPress, or giving me editorial notes. I’m excited to start digging into more of the expanded canon and I want to thank you for joining me on this adventure. May the Force be with you!