The Old Republic was the Republic of legend, greater than distance or time. No need to note where it was or whence it came, only to know that… it was the Republic.
The prologue to the novelization of A New Hope, drafted by George Lucas himself and ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster, opens with this powerful statement of the Galactic Republic. For over 25,000 years, the Republic, under the wise rule of the Galactic Senate and the protection of the Jedi Order, expanded galactic civilization and pushed outwards. In the Original Trilogy, the Republic has been dead for nearly two decades, replaced by the Galactic Empire and ruled by a Sith Lord. As Grand Moff Tarkin pointed out, with the dissolution of the Senate, the “last vestiges of the Old Republic” were swept away. Yet, despite the seemingly invincible forces of the Empire and the grip Emperor Palpatine had on the galaxy, there were those that fought to restore freedom to the galaxy. They joined together, beings from countless worlds and species, to form an alliance.
The Alliance to Restore the Republic.
Casual fans know this group as the Rebel Alliance or Rebellion, but that name is itself their charter, to defeat the Empire and resurrect the Republic. In the three movies that compose the Original Trilogy, we see our Rebel heroes destroy the first Death Star, barely escape from the Battle of Hoth, and then go all or nothing at the climactic Battle of Endor. By the end of Return of the Jedi, the second Death Star is destroyed, the Emperor killed, the pride of the Imperial Starfleet is defeated, and Anakin Skywalker redeemed. The movie ends, amid the Rebel victory and countless celebrations across the galaxy, on the precipice of a new era. The Rebels, however, cannot rest on their laurels. Their hard work is just starting. To truly achieve their charter, they must restore the best of the old and forge something altogether new.
A new Republic.
For those of us who grew up reading the Expanded Universe, we know that the Rebels fought a long, hard struggle after Endor. Through all their trials and tribulations, they formed a New Republic. Guided by political leaders like Mon Mothma and Leia Organa and protected by military forces led by Admiral Ackbar and Wedge Antilles, the New Republic ultimately overcame the many attempts by Imperial Remnant forces to topple their fledging government. The story doesn’t end there. It is far longer, stretching all the way to 138 years after the Battle of Yavin. The New Republic is reorganized into the Galactic Alliance, which itself is ultimately nearly wiped out, but for the attempts of freedom fighters no less dedicated to their cause than the Rebels of the prior century. In terms of EU canon, the latest iteration of the galactic government is the Galactic Federation Triumvirate of the Legacy comic series.
The Expanded Universe, for better or worse, has put the heirs to the Rebel cause and their chosen government through hell and back. This has unfortunately caused the original principle and cause of the Rebels in the Original Trilogy to get lost. For the younger generation of fans who grew up on the Prequels and the Clone Wars Animated Series, the Republic is an entity in its death throes, succumbing to corruption and slowly creeping towards it reorganization as the first Galactic Empire. This, when also viewed against the backdrop of real world cynicism towards elected officials, paints a fairly gloomy view towards government in the GFFA1. It is for this very reason that we need to see a different direction in the Sequel Trilogy.
With Episode VII upon us, my thoughts dwell on what sort of government we will see. If these movies are in fact set thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi, one would expect that the Rebels have ultimately been successful in their struggles and have formed a government. If, as this author assumes, the Expanded Universe is not part of the new official post OT-canon, then the future is open and unknown. Were the Rebels ultimately successful in restoring the Republic? Does this new Republic represent the ideals and principles that Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Han Solo, and the rest of our Alliance heroes fought and died for?
If the Sequel Trilogy is going to have a positive and inspirational outlook, we need heroes and a government that are worth fighting for. Therefore, I submit the following five things we need to see in Episode VII:
1. The “Glorious Cause” successful
The term “Glorious Cause” was coined during the American Revolution and used to describe the colonist’s efforts in fighting for independence. The Original Trilogy paints the Rebels and their cause in a similar light. Outnumbered and outgunned against the superior forces of the Empire, the Alliance was in no better position to win than Washington and the Continental Army were in 1776. West End Games, the bedrock that the Expanded Universe was built on, grabbed this theme in a much more direct manner. In the Rebel Alliance Sourcebook, WEG models the Formal Declaration of Rebellion on the Declaration of Independence. In one picture, we see the assembled leaders of the Alliance posed in a near mirror image of the famous John Trumbull painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The later Thrawn Trilogy Sourcebook, also by WEG, continues this theme, having the Declaration of a New Republic evoke the preamble to the US Constitution. In this era of dark themes in movies (ala the Christopher Nolan Batman films or the latest Star Trek movie), the Sequel Trilogy needs to take an entirely different tone. Instead of darkness, we need to see a brighter future in which the Rebels are successful.
2. A new Republic
“We, the Beings of the Galaxy, in order to form a free union of planets, establish justice, provide for the common peace and prosperity, and to secure liberty for all beings, do ordain an establish this New Republic. Let the stars sing! Let the planets shout! Let the Republic begin!”
These words form the final passage of the Declaration of a New Republic, as written in the Thrawn Trilogy Sourcebook. While part of the Expanded Universe, these sentiments and words would speak well to what the Rebels have established by the time of the Sequel Trilogy. A new Republic is the most logical outcome of the efforts of the Alliance to Restore the Republic. The new Republic, to be worthy of the Rebellion’s costs, should show that the new government combines the best parts of the old with ideals and reforms of the new. Symbolically, the visual of the new Republic Senate, meeting on Coruscant in the old Senate Chambers, would be the perfect way to both connect to the Prequels but show the progress made since. Instead of meeting in a hidden base or on a flagship in deep space, they are now firmly ensconced in the seat of galactic government. It would be a powerful way of showing how the fortunes of the former Rebels have changed since their victory at Endor.
3. Good leaders
The Prequel Trilogy, written during the various scandals of the Clinton administration and the controversial wars of the Bush administration, showed inept, corrupt, and misguided leaders in power, from the Supreme Chancellor down to the various senators. There were people of principle, like Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, and Padmé Amidala, but they were increasingly marginalized. While drawing some real world parallels can add to a story, slavish devotion to them could cause an ugly picture to emerge in the Sequel Trilogy. This is not without precedent, as the last two flagship Star Wars novel series, Legacy of the Force and Fate of the Jedi, have increasingly tapped into modern dissatisfaction with elected leaders. Chiefs of State are portrayed as corrupt or authoritarian. The Senate is shown to be nothing more than a body unwilling or unable to help right the course of the ship of state. Coups and assassinations are the primary form of change, as opposed to elections. Our heroes now spend as much time battling the government they helped form as they do defending it. This has all coalesced into a glum, depressing, and rather unhappy picture of the state of the galaxy.
With today’s increased unhappiness with and decreased trust in elected officials, a story that inspires is needed in the new trilogy. The Sequel Trilogy needs to portray the new Republic’s leaders as well-meaning and inspired individuals. The elements of this are simple. A Chief of State/Supreme Chancellor in the mold of Leia Organa or Mon Mothma. Senators like Bail Organa and the other Republic loyalists that fought until the last days of the Old Republic to maintain liberties. The early Expanded Universe did this well. The New Republic’s ruling council and Senate were composed of various different individuals with varied outlooks and opinions, but they all ultimately worked to make the Republic a better place. Even Borsk Fey’lya, a popular EU antagonist who eventually becomes leader of the New Republic, was far more than a simple caricature of a mustache twirling villain. Episode VII needn’t show the Republic as a shining city on a hill or Camelot, but it does have a chance to remind people of the benefits of democratic government when in the hands of good people.
4. Good relations with the Jedi
For over a thousand generations, so we have been told, the Jedi were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. We need to see the same from the new Jedi in the Sequel Trilogy and how the new Republic interacts with them. A rehash of the Prequels, which is sadly seen in some current Star Wars mediums, is not needed. For those that have read the Legacy of the Force and Fate of the Jedi series of books, it seems that every other book has the relations between the Jedi and the government going from bad to worse. And an aged Jedi Master Skywalker, in the three decades that have passed between the trilogies, should have formed a new order of Jedi Knights. These new Jedi should be paladins of the new Republic. Not slavish in their devotion, but cognizant of their role as the ultimate defenders of peace and justice in the galaxy. So long as the new Republic stands for these ideals, a new Jedi Order should be at the forefront of defending it.
5. A threat worth standing up to and dying for
If the new Sequel Trilogy meets the first four criteria, all that is then needed is a new threat that is worth the attention of our heroes, both old and new. If done right, the sacrifices the original heroes made will have ensured that the next generation is ready and willing to take the torch and man the gates. One of the flaws of the otherwise spectacular New Jedi Order series was its initial premise that the New Republic was now in the hands of lesser leaders and therefore unable or unwilling to cope with the threat of the extragalactic Yuuzhan Vong invaders. We need the opposite in the Sequel Trilogy. A villain that threatens the new government and the Jedi, but who isn’t a villain from within. A conflict that pits the very best of the new government and the new Jedi against a new and dangerous adversary that is bent on their destruction. If done right, we can have both a serious threat that heightens the drama and a government worth the next generation fighting and dying for it.
In this modern era of growing cynicism and dissatisfaction towards elected officials, we need a story that inspires. One that shows a government that is actively working for the greater good. Movies are a powerful medium and reach large audiences. People, young and old, draw inspiration from fiction and apply those lessons to how they interact in the real world. In many ways, this is no different than how we draw inspiration from our own histories. The Sequel Trilogy has a chance to inspire a new generation of fans that there are good institutions worth fighting for. That standing up for a cause greater than your own has meaning.
That is a message we sorely need and I think this new Trilogy can deliver.
- Galaxy Far, Far Away [↩]