Last week’s “Force Friday”* wasn’t just about the release of new Star Wars toys. It also heralded the start of “Journey To The Force Awakens,” a planned series of stories detailing the 30 years between Return of the Jedi and the new film. Here’s everything we know so far about the formative years of Disney’s new Star Wars canon.
Warning: The following information is gleaned from the newly released novels Aftermath and Lost Stars, as well as the young adult novels Moving Target, Smuggler’s Run and The Weapon of a Jedi, today’s release of Marvel’s Shattered Empire #1, and the upcoming video games Star Wars: Uprising and Star Wars: Battlefront. Suffice to say, there are plenty of major spoilers for those products below, especially the two main novels. [*This post originally ran on September 9, 2015.]
The Rebel’s victory at Endor may have been portrayed in Return of the Jedi as the killing blow of the Galactic Civil War, but it was far from it. The Empire was deeply wounded by the loss of the second Death Star as well as the Emperor and Darth Vader, but surviving and fleeing Imperials quickly clamped down on any galaxy-wide celebrations or thoughts of rebellion.
The victory parade at Coruscant’s Monument Plaza was cut down by Imperial Police, and just as quickly as talk of the Empire’s doom spread, equal talk from the Empire that not only had the Emperor survived the battle of Endor, but that the Rebels had been wiped out altogether, spread to combat the news.
The Rebels knew this, however. Following the celebrations at Bright Tree village, Rebel intelligence discovered an Imperial holdout still active on Endor—one hastily liberated by the Rebels, but which lead to the discovery that the Empire were trying to clamp down any talk of their victory on the forest moon. The Alliance quickly sought to counter Imperial propaganda; both Admiral Ackbar and Leia Organa delivered recorded speeches on the Holonet (the Star Wars universe’s galaxy-wide transmissions service—think the internet, but with holograms!) as a declaration of the Empire’s defeat at Endor, and that the war to free the galaxy is far from over:
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.
Bonus fun fact—The Force Awakens’ Poe Dameron was likely conceived during the celebrations at the end of Return of the Jedi! His parents, Shara Bey and Kes Dameron, both fought in the ground and space battle at Endor and are protagonists in Shattered Empire.
As news got harder to control, and rebellious uprisings across the galaxy harder to put down, the remaining Imperial governors in power got increasingly desperate—none moreso than Adelhard, the governor of the Anoat sector (home to locations like Hoth and Bespin). Adelhard rallied what was left of the Imperial Navy under his command to construct a blockade around the entire star system, stopping citizens from leaving (and potentially joining the emboldened Alliance), clamped down on communication, and sent Stormtroopers out on the streets. The idea spread across the Empire, as the Imperials no longer attempted to combat the Rebel threat but instead simply shut down and holed up.
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.
As the Empire locked itself down, the Rebel Alliance swept into action—but no longer as the Alliance to Restore the Republic. With Mon Mothma’s homeworld of Chandrila free from the Empire’s grasp, the Alliance was dissolved shortly after the Battle of Endor and reformed into the New Republic, a new Senate ushered in at the capital city of Hanna.
Mon Mothma took on the role of Chancellor of the New Republic, and although its charter was largely based on that of the Old Republic—right down to the fact that Mothma still had many of the Emergency Powers granted to Palpatine during the height of the Clone Wars—unlike the former Republic, the new Senate was democratically elected to serve on Chandrila, rather than a delegated position. The very first meeting of the Senate includes over 100 senators from across the galaxy.
Despite the ongoing hostilities between the New Republic and the Empire, Mon Mothma’s primary goal upon the opening of the Senate was to demilitarize the New Republic as quickly as possible. The majority of the Chancellor’s emergency powers were stripped immediately, and plans were made (despite disagreement from sections of the senate) to eliminate 90% of the New Republic’s army and Navy, which was headed up by Admiral Ackbar. Instead of entirely removing that military power though, the funding went instead go to bolstering the planetary armies of the New Republic’s member worlds, with the remaining New Republic armies kept as a peacekeeping force stationed at a new academy on Chandrila to train recruits.
The New Republic’s call for its own demilitarization came hand-in-hand with its numbers being vastly increased by a swathe of Imperial captures and defections over the year following Endor. With the Empire largely in chaos as Moffs backstabbed each other, attempting to consolidate power and declare new Emperors (at such a regular occurrence the announcements have lost all meaning), the New Republic’s forces swept across the Galaxy and won victory after victory against Imperial forces.
Several Moffs and Generals defected, relinquishing not just themselves but their Star Destroyers to the New Republic. Naboo was liberated, and defended from three consecutive sieges as the Empire sought to own the homeworld of the Emperor as a symbolic victory—as was Geonosis, after a failed attempt by Imperials to restart the Separatist Droid factories housed there. Many planets seceded to the New Republic or were earned by victory in battle, including even ultimately Coruscant, the Imperials routed down to their final garrison on the Empire’s capital.
A remnant of Imperial Forces including the Ravager, the last Super Star Destroyer in the Galaxy, converged on the Outer Rim planet of Akiva in an attempt to stabilize the remaining factions of the Empire together, as much of the Outer Rim was still occupied by Imperial Forces. This holdout in particular formed into an “Imperial Future Council,” which was divided as to whether the Empire should turn their back on the Emperor’s devotion to the Dark Side and become a force for Order, or whether to continue the Emperor’s Dark Side teachings and hunt down its ultimate power, allegedly hidden on the outskirts of the galaxy. But before any real progress could be made, Akiva was ultimately liberated and the remnants of the Imperials scattered once more.
Almost a year to the day after the Battle of Endor, what’s left of the Imperial Navy, under the command of Grand Moff Randd, committed to an offensive over the planet of Jakku. Jakku was sparsely populated and of little tactical worth to the Empire, but Randd saw it as an opportunity: if the might of the Imperial Navy could score a decisive victory over the New Republic, worlds would return to the Empire just as they had turned to the New Republic after Endor.
Instead, Jakku became a costly mistake for the Empire. The largest battle in the war since Endor was a crushing defeat for the Empire, as New Republic forces overwhelmed them with superior tactics and a space fleet of similar scope to the forces committed by the Empire. Capital ships and starfighters from both sides crashed and burned into the sands of the planet as the engagement turned into a land battle—where the Star Destroyer Inflictor was forced to plow itself into the surface, scuttling it rather than allowing to be captured by the New Republic. This is where it remained for the next three decades, as seen in the second The Force Awakens teaser trailer.
The same teaser trailer also implies that the Super Star Destroyer Ravager was lost at Jakku, as the Millennium Falcon is seen being chased by TIE Fighters through what appears to be the wreck of an SSD.
Jakku was essentially the death knell of the Galactic Civil War. The humiliating route of the Imperial Navy led to the Empire signing a peace agreement with the New Republic, with strict borders carving out the areas of space under the control of the two sides. Imperials displeased with the treaty begin to amass a small fleet on the outskirts of the Galaxy, biding their time and preparing to strike at the unsuspecting New Republic.
But the New Republic wasn’t as naive as the Imperials may have thought. After the treaty was signed, and despite her intent to demilitarize the New Republic, Mon Mothma kept AdmiralAckbar’s fleet ready to defend the New Republic at a moment’s notice.
At this point, the heroes of the original Star Wars trilogy went their separate ways. Luke journeyed to the planet Devoran, with the intent of learning the ways of the Force and re-establishing a Jedi Temple there. Leia took a position as General in the New Republic, commanding armies alongside Admiral Ackbar. Meanwhile, Han Solo and Chewbacca headed off on their own—ostensibly on a mission to investigate smuggling rings that the Empire attempts to use to run supplies through New Republic blockades, but they instead head to the Imperial-occupied Kashyyyk to attempt to liberate the Wookiee homeworld once and for all.
But in the year between Endor and Jakku, the presence of the Dark Side slowly began to swell once more. On the planet Taris (a name familiar to fans of the Knights of the Old Republic videogames), shadowy dark side Force users called the Acolytes of the Beyond began seeking out powerful Dark Side artifacts—perhaps linked to the organiztion that ultimately becomes the Vader-obsessed Knights of Ren, one of whom is Force Awakens villain Kylo Ren—and purchase what they believe is the Lightsaber of Darth Vader from a merchant there, leaving an ominous message that they “are not violent. Not yet.”
It’s not just the Acolytes who believe in the power of the Dark Side, though. Lead by a Tashu, a former advisor to the Emperor, a certain sect of Imperial forces believe that in order to regain control of the galaxy, they must hunt down the “wellspring” of the Dark Side, located on the fringes of the galaxy—and meet up with Imperial forces already investigating said power:
We must instead move toward the Dark Side. Palpatine felt that the universe beyond the edges of our maps was where his power came from. Over the many years he, with our aid, sent men and woman beyond known space. They built labs and communication stations on distant moons, asteroids, out there in the wilds. We must follow them. Retreat from the galaxy. Go out beyond the veil of stars. We must seek the source of the Dark Side like a man looking for a wellspring of water.
With Vader-obessessed acolytes and secret Imperials hidden beyond the stars, it seems like the First Order was on the rise almost immediately after Jakku.
Although the Journey to The Force Awakens material released so far has largely dealt with the larger ramifications of events on the Star Wars galaxy, Aftermath features an interesting interlude that heavily implies that a certain fan-favorite character may be returning:
Yes, Boba Fett may be back... or at least someone wearing his armor is.
The interlude features two scavengers on Tatooine discovering a set of Mandalorian armor in a haul in a Jawa sandcrawler, “pitted and picked, as if some with some kind of acid,” alongside wreckage from a luxury sail barge. One of the scavengers takes the heavily damaged, but functioning, battle armor and declares himself the “new lawman of Tatooine.” Although it’s never explicitly stated that the armor is Fett’s, it’s heavily implied—especially as the acid damage certainly sounds like the lengthy, gruesome digestion process of the Sarlacc that Boba Fett fell into in Return of the Jedi. If Fett’s Mandalorian was retrieved from the Sarlacc, did he himself survive, having discarded it? We don’t quite know yet, but don’t be surprised if he did.
There’s still so much more to discover about the time period between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens: the Journey to The Force Awakens material released in the last few days has only covered a handful of years immediately after the Battle of Endor, and there’ll be plenty more to read in the coming months. But we know much more than we did—giving us a surprisingly clear picture of just what the Galaxy far, far away looks like as we head into The Force Awakens this December.