A Case for Starting Over, Part II: A New Republic

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When we first laid eyes on the New Republic, it appeared to us as a child just emerged from infancy. We fed it from our wallets and watched it grow with each new entry. We saw it survive and thrive against all odds in a hostile galaxy. We continued to follow the course of its nearly two-and-a-half decade existence until its eventual demise at the hands of the Yuuzhan Vong and its rebirth as the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances. Much has been said about its life and death, but the Expanded Universe has long remained unusually silent on the circumstances of the New Republic’s creation.

To say overthrowing an entity the size of the Galactic Empire is a difficult task would be a significant understatement, but the process of building a new state remains a far greater challenge. Stories such as the X-wing series, the Thrawn Trilogy, and The Courtship of Princess Leia have told tales of the fledgling government’s conflicts against Imperial holdouts such as Ysanne Isard, Grand Admiral Thrawn, and the warlord Zsinj, but these are primarily military conflicts against external forces – a simple continuation of the Galactic Civil War with foes other than Palpatine and Vader.

Certainly, some might see the non-military aspects of the New Republic’s early years as mere political rubberstamping – less interesting than the Senate procedures of The Phantom Menace. I would disagree. The only reason we perceive them in such a way is because so few authors take the time to seriously consider the logical consequences of our heroes’ actions, or the untapped potential in stories dealing with these elements of the universe. Despite the importance such an event would undeniably hold for the future of the galaxy, the only significant mention of a constitutional convention was made by West End Games’ Dark Force Rising sourcebook, which explained that the debates went on for so long that a provisional council had to be established to keep the government running in the interim.

An assembly homogeneous enough to make the Empire look diverse, and even they had their disagreements.

An assembly homogeneous enough to make the Empire look diverse, and even they had their disagreements.

The delegates to the convention of our own world’s United States devised several potential systems of government for their newly-independent nation – imagine just how varied the proposals might be in a galaxy where the representatives come not from different states, but entirely different planets and species. The rebels were an incredibly diverse group drawn from a thousand worlds scattered across the galaxy. A thousand different ideologies, a thousand different histories, and a thousand different cultures, all united by a common enemy. In the absence of that overriding threat, how might their opinions of what form the post-Imperial galaxy should take differ?

Take, for example, Chandrila and Corellia, the homeworlds of prominent rebel leaders Mon Mothma and Garm Bel Iblis. Despite their shared status as Core Worlds, the Expanded Universe tells us that they could barely be more different culturally and politically. The former embraced democracy with a fervor that would impress even the ancient Athenians, while the latter has experimented with periods of monarchy, democracy, and what essentially amounted to corporate dictatorship. Both might have agreed that the Empire must go, but still differ wildly in their opinions of what they should do after it does.

Some might wish to restore the Old Republic exactly as it was, while others, mindful of the lessons of Palpatine’s rise to power, may seek to dramatically alter its structure so as to prevent the rise of another demagogue. As one might expect of a galaxy-spanning insurgency, the rebellion was run by Mon Mothma as an elected dictator with virtually unlimited powers, and it seems inevitable that some might wish to retain elements of that strong central authority in order to more efficiently combat the challenges and threats the New Republic will face in the process of establishing its place in the galaxy.

Many Bothans died to bring us this information, and they'll never let you forget it.

Many Bothans died to bring us this information, and they’ll never let you forget it.

And, of course, no new state would be complete without taking special interests into account. The Expanded Universe has primarily explored this concept through the Bothan species, which managed to parlay its part in obtaining the plans for the second Death Star into political success, eventually resulting in the election of Borsk Fey’lya as Chief of State. Surely, however, the Bothans are not alone in their desire to be rewarded for their contributions to the cause.

The Mon Calamari, the Wookiees, and the Sullustans all provided significant assistance to rebel forces, to say nothing of the losses suffered by the Alderaanians. Many worlds will require economic aid to recover from the damages caused by their resistance to and liberation from Imperial rule, and aliens will desire representation in the new government as confirmation that the New Republic does not share the Empire’s humanocentric perspective.

An even more pressing concern is that it is hardly unusual for a population recently freed from tyranny to desire the blood of its former oppressors as retribution. If the New Republic is to have any hope at maintaining the support of the worlds that suffered most under Imperial control, then it will have to make examples of any ranking Imperial officers or administrators that fall into its hands. There will be war crimes tribunals and executions, the proscription of Imperial symbols and organizations, and former servants of the Empire forever barred from participating in the new government.

But do not let my interest in the realities of a post-revolutionary state leave you thinking that all the New Republic era has left to offer are debates and trials and other mundanities. These elements are all important and should not go ignored, but there still exist countless opportunities to tell the franchise’s traditional stories of heroism and adventure, only this time we also have an entirely new context in which to explore them. The original trilogy is primarily the story of our small band of unlikely heroes, told against the backdrop of a vast galaxy-spanning conflict. The foundation of the New Republic is an opportunity for our heroes to finally graduate and move on to new chapters in their life stories.

Even Wedge Antilles eventually had to acknowledge that he couldn't stay in the cockpit forever.

Even Wedge Antilles eventually had to acknowledge that he couldn’t stay in the cockpit forever.

With victory comes great responsibility. Our heroes spent the majority of the original trilogy as destructive figures, their role being to fight and kill their enemies, to bring about the Empire’s downfall through force. The rebellion’s ultimate triumph was defined by the deaths of Palpatine and Vader and the destruction of the second Death Star. Now is the time for us to see them transformed into constructive figures, who are just as able to devote themselves to creating something positive, and can rise to the challenge of building a new state that will adhere to the principles that they fought for.

It is here that the greatest potential of the New Republic lies. It gives us an invaluable chance to move beyond what we’ve become familiar with and demonstrate that our heroes need not forever remain locked in their original roles to be interesting. Students become teachers, soldiers become generals, and insurgent leaders become statesmen. Some may find themselves moved into entirely different and unexpected fields due to the new government’s critical lack of manpower; a team of commandos might find itself repurposed to combat organized crime on Coruscant, just as starfighter pilots may find themselves assigned to hunt down pirates and smugglers instead of fighting on the front lines against the Imperial Remnant.

The needs and responsibilities of a government are infinitely greater and more varied than those of a resistance movement, after all. In toppling the Byzantine bureaucracy that was the Galactic Empire, the New Republic has created for itself a great many pairs of empty shoes to fill, and likely ones ill-fitted to rebel feet at that. Our heroes will find themselves rising to heights they never dreamed of achieving, charged with protecting and rebuilding entire worlds, and responsible for training the next generation of leaders to ensure that the restored republic continues along the right path when they are gone.

The foundation of the New Republic should not be treated merely as a platform upon which to continue the adventures of the victors of the Galactic Civil War. The end of the Old Republic and its transformation into the Galactic Empire is a pivotal part of the saga, and so too should be the birth of a new state from the Empire’s ashes. Our own history provides us with numerous examples of governments being overthrown by popular uprisings and the struggles faced by their successors, and the creation of the New Republic offers us an unparalleled opportunity to examine their circumstances through the lens of a galaxy far, far away.

Change always brings with it a degree of uncertainty, but the end result can be something amazing, as demonstrated by Legacy.

Change always brings with it a degree of uncertainty, but the end result can be something amazing, as demonstrated by Legacy.

The Expanded Universe has already seen enough civil wars and infighting to last several lifetimes, and so the announcement of the sequel trilogy marks the perfect moment to strike out in a new direction. Rather than endlessly racing from one crisis to the next, we can take the time to thoroughly explore just what it means to live in the universe of Star Wars. Now we can see exactly what the rebellion has been fighting for all this time, and to give them the chance to make good on their claim that it is they who should truly hold the galaxy’s reins in their hands.

5 comments

  1. Michael Lind says:

    This article makes a nice case for telling more politically framed stories regarding the post-ROTJ period, and perhaps for Star Wars in general, but I don’t see how it makes the case for starting over in any way. If anything, it makes the opposite case – by drawing on so many EU references it reveals just how much groundwork the EU had to produce in order to tell even the relatively bare-bones re-conquest/reconstruction storyline it ultimately went with (the New Republic, after all, doesn’t really establish it’s Senate until the after Dark Empire, a good seven years following Endor).

    Without the EU Mon Mothma is a mysterious woman who gives a brief speech and has her name in the credits. Chandrila doesn’t even exist without EU references. The Bothan species doesn’t exist (as mentioned another article in this very site).

    Blowing away the EU means destroying all these things, the huge series of events that tell the backstory of the movies themselves, whether drawing from Lucas’ notes or not. A huge amount of what the EU actually is interpretations and expansions of the small number of characters we see on the silver screen (movie characters are a tiny percentage of the EU cast, yet a massive percentage of its most notable roles). Starting over means all of that is tossed into some nebulous foggy window and every single interpretation can be contested from that point forward.

    It is not as if the stories of the founding of the New Republic, policy wise, with lots of intrigue, could not still be written in the current EU either. Sure there are some constraints, Luke and Han are kind of busy when the major events go down, Leia sort of busy, but a novel could easily be written with Mon Mothma as the lead character (actually, why has this not happened already?) or Admiral Ackbar, or one of several other Rebel or even Imperial notables.

    There’s even a key advantage to doing this within the current EU: this sort of story has a limited appeal. Star Wars, by virtue of that second word in the title, has a certain reputation, and policy and intrigue focused stories have had a mixed reception at best. Any such tales will live and die by the hard-core fans, the kind of people who read and loved the Black Fleet Crisis, and precisely the group most likely to hate Disney for destroying the EU.

    • Mike Cooper Mike Cooper says:

      For my part, I think the big advantage of starting over would be changing the pace of the whole thing—like he points out, seven years before even getting a senate together is nuts. Having just finished the Marvel series, it was weird to see such a focus on assembling planetary representatives almost immediately after Endor, only to pretty much ignore the matter for years afterward. I mean, even the Separatists had a parliament. :)

      • The ability to redefine the pace and tone of the New Republic era is indeed an important aspect. My particular issues with it are less a matter of what the EU did wrong (which later articles will deal more heavily with) than what could’ve been handled better, or expanded upon. While I value continuity for its ability to integrate new stories almost seamlessly into a preexisting framework, I dislike having to do so in order to make sense of prior events. It’s better to take these elements into account when building a foundation than to go back later and try to insert them into the background of the universe with a handwave that they were just doing it offscreen all along.

      • Matthew the Hutt says:

        Actually there was a Senate it just did not have all that much more power and the New Republic was still basically run like the Rebel Alliance, with Mon Mothma as elected head and her Military and Civil advisors calling most of the shoots. Which makes Garm Bel Iblis case just even more understandable.

  2. Nick Adams Nick Adams says:

    Fantastic article, Alexander. Really well done. You touch on some great things that could be (and may be) future parts of your series. Yes, we have the advantage of hindsight, but that is all the more reason to do things much more structure, connected, and defined than they were in the past. I am still very surprised that Disney & Lucasfilm didn’t decide to do a cartoon series set post-Endor but still a decade or two prior to Episode VII. In the right hands, such a series could literally be the vehicle to tell the sorts of stories you want. Early struggles against Imperial Remnant forces, the complexities of forming a government, political events, the transition for some former Rebels to higher duties, etc.

    Anyways, keep up the create work on this series. I look forward to your next entry.

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