David: Oh hello, Mistah Filoni. Good morning. Nice, uh, hat you got there. Thanks for this chance, by the way! I’m pitching a light-hearted and completely not meta episode that I’m calling for now “It Rhymes, Like Poetry”. Good, huh?
So, picture this… Cold open! The Ghost crew are escaping a massive cloud of TIE fighters and the ship is in pretty bad shape. Zeb is complaining about doing yet another dangerous job for Vizago instead of sticking it to the Empire, and when things look dire Hera jumps to lightspeed!
Our heroes get to the world of Pantora, where they deliver their load to some funny looking dealer, but they have to wait at least one day until the Ghost is repaired. The kids (Sabine, Ezra and Zeb) decide to head to the city. Pantora is nothing like it was in that animatic from Clone Wars. It’s become very industrial and it’s full of merchandise vending machines, and people trying to sell you things everywhere and… well, it’s all very crazy and, uhm, satirical, for the grown ups in the audience, you know.
Eventually, our three friends get to some small local theater and Sabine is very excited because before painting she liked acting! No, really! Anyway, as I don’t want to bore you… the theater is owned by Mister Papanoida, formerly baron of this planet until he remembered that his real passion was directing small plays and sold the rights to a Ranat entrepreneur. You can do that in Star Wars, right?
In the meantime, Kanan and Hera are having hilarious trouble trying to procure the parts they need, because everywhere they go they sell action figures and things like that. Aaaand… anyway, I see you are kind of frowning, Mr. Filoni, so I’ll make this short: our heroes accidentally find our that the Ranat guy is extremely corrupt and he’s laundering money for the Hutt Cartel. Kanan and Hera try to expose the Ranat’s dealings while Sabine tries to re-ignite Papanoida’s passion for helping people, probably saying stuff about “an artist’s true heart is for his audience” and eventually getting through to him and causing him to lead a crowd of supporters… at the same time that Hera manages to broadcast the Ranat’s shady dealings all around the planet! The Ranat is sent to prison, Papanoida becomes Baron Papanoida again, the Ghost crew escapes before the Empire gets there, and Papanoida says “this is exactly what I intended back in the Clone Wars, but I didn’t have the necessary technology to…”
What? Fired!? Why!?
Jay: My suggestion is Jan Dodonna. Now wait you say, what about Small Universe Syndrome? It’s true, I’m not a fan of it and I was not pleased to see Yoda. I think Dodonna’s a different case though: while he’s a movie character, he’s a character we see in only a single film. In A New Hope, he is clearly an important figure but the audience is not entirely sure why. The EU explained his background in some detail, and an appearance in Rebels can do the same. There’s always a risk of over-explaining things, an issue that the EU ran into as years of development allowed every single character to have his or her own convoluted backstory (culminating in StarWars.com’s “What’s the Story?” feature, where fans competed to write backstories for minor film characters. That was a pretty cool way to get fans involved in the storytelling though, so it’s an exception to the general danger of over-explaining.).
Dodonna’s important in ANH though, and all the rebels seem to know and respect him. That’s good enough for the purposes of a film, and ANH wisely doesn’t spend any time on exposition detailing his importance: it’s all done through context. But Rebels can do something very similar: a brief appearance in a single episode of the show can thoroughly ground the audience in why Dodonna’s an important character, while also establishing more ties to the eventual Rebel Alliance we see in ANH.
In the EU, Dodonna was a decorated fleet officer who eventually retired from Imperial service after realizing the Navy wasn’t the organization he originally served (back when it was the Republic).We’ve seen touches of this already with John Jackson Miller’s work: his short story “Orientation” shows a similar Navy old-timer named Baylo who is disgusted by the changes that have come over the Empire, while younger officers like Rae Sloane — still awesome — grew up under Imperial rule and are very driven. The EU suggested that Dodonna may have spent some years in retirement before joining the Rebel Alliance, but the show could compress his retirement a bit.
Preferably, I’d like the Ghost crew to run into Dodonna while he’s still under Imperial service. I’d like them — particularly Hera — to be a catalyst for all these thoughts he’s already had about how the Empire has lost its way, and perhaps Hera might inspire him about the sense of heroism and service he used to have during the Old Republic. Perhaps he captures them (old guy’s pretty smart and has seen it all) but lets them go after talking with Hera and getting turned around. And who knows, maybe someday Hera could reach out to him when the official Rebel Alliance has started and say “hey, remember us? Well, we started this little Rebellion thing… want in?” That would be awesome.
(Bonus: Jan Dodonna was one of the Navy’s longest-serving and best leaders, along with his pal Terrinald Screed, as detailed in the wonderful Essential Guide to Warfare. Screed is the famous “tiny-minded Imperial twit” (love that turn of phrase) who served as the Imperial antagonist during the old Droids cartoon. I know I’m only supposed to pitch a single cameo, but given that Screed is associated with Dodonna and he’s the main Imperial villain of that famous predecessor to the current Star Wars cartoons… I’d love to see Screed and Dodonna together, perhaps as pals turned antagonists as they decide what to do with the captured Ghost crew.)
Rocky: Let’s invite a bit of Legends into the new canon once again and give Thrawn his own standalone episode. We’re in the perfect spot in the canon- Thrawn was busy in the Unknown Regions, leading missions against threats to the Empire. For that matter, Thrawn’s very existence was kept as something of a secret, one of many secrets that the Emperor had about just how he was keeping the Empire intact. Because Thrawn is supposed to be hidden and mostly unknown, it would be the perfect place for him to make a cameo! We’ve had a few big-name villains show up already, and letting another make a cameo will make for a good episode. It seems that one of the hallmarks of Rebels is using established characters from the Star Wars universe while still keeping the focus on the Ghost crew themselves, therefore allowing lots of space for various powerful Imperials to drop in. Especially with the rebellion on Lothal becoming more high-profile, some more prominent Imperials might not be out of place.
We can start an episode somewhere in the space outside of Lothal; our Rebels do travel a bit, and with rebellion escalating across the galaxy, perhaps they’d like to get away from Lothal for a bit and work somewhere different. And out there in the Unknown Regions, they run into this brilliant tactical genius and art lover, some sort of well-placed but well-concealed Imperial officer. Shenanigans ensue, and our heroes make a very narrow escape. We might even get some nice platitudes about military theory and exotic art. Of course, no one would quite believe stories from some faraway part of the galaxy about an Imperial officer who isn’t human and keeps a very low profile, but it would at least be a good story. Best of all, getting to canonize one of Legends’ most-loved villains? Continuing on the trend of tying old and new Star Wars together.
Ben W: The most obvious candidates for inclusion in Rebels are either the The Clone Wars original characters, EU fan favorites, or movie characters. I’m going to spring a surprise on everyone and say not a single candidate, but rather a group: the Imperial Youth (or some less-auspiciously titled group).
It was established way back in the classic Marvel series that the Empire ran a youth-oriented training program of some sort, Shira Brie graduated from it, along with thousands of other Imperial agents, spies, and potential Inquisitors. We never actually saw it in operation (at least to my recollection) but we got hints and ideas about it from Shira, Mara Jade and others, with the idea that the exceptional and Force-sensitive are taken at a very young age and trained to be absolutely loyal to the Empire and absolutely unstoppable in the field. Rebels has the perfect opportunity to not only show this, but even make it work within the story.
Zare Leonis’s sister is, or was, Force sensitive, this was established in Jason Fry’s Servants of the Empire books. Having her and possibly her brother be spirited away to a program like the one that spawned the two most well-known Emperor’s Hands would not only make sense within the context of Palpatine’s plot to have Force sensitive spies at his disposal from TCW, but also give that story arc some more on-screen development instead of relegating it to the (albeit exceptionally good) books. One episode is all they would need, wherein the Ghost’s crew receive a distress message from Zare and go to rescue him, only to walk right into a school full of youths being trained to near-fanatic levels of loyalty to the Empire.
Another positive development this would have for the show is to have a foil to Ezra introduced who is his own age and likewise being trained in the Force, but aligned with the Empire instead of the fledgling rebellion. Having two Force-sensitive teens clash and conflict on the different philosophies they have been taught and different ideologies and worldviews they possess can make for great drama and character development. Exactly who that foil might be can be left up to storyteller’s discretion, though I would not be opposed to one of our favorite red-headed spies appearing in the role as a hat-tip to the older fans.
Mike: While Rebels has made excellent use of all its guest characters, my favorite cameo of season one was definitely Lando—throwing a known quantity into the middle of the cast was a great way of mixing up their dynamics and testing the existing relationships. So while I’d love to see Garm Bel Iblis make his canon debut on this show—and coming across another rebellious senator could be a fun way to revisit the events of the Gall Trayvis episode—I’m gonna go with another EU favorite of mine and say Booster Terrik.
While the original Booster of 4 BBY was still just a run-of-the-mill smuggler, I’d love to see him show up in something closer to his later role of harried quasi-legal kingpin. It looks like season two will start out leaning pretty hard on the nascent Rebel Alliance organization, so it’d be great to see the gang later forced to work with a similarly-sized group without all those pesky morals. Think of Adelai Niska on Firefly—however much Booster’s edges might soften one day, at the Empire’s height he’d be quite the ornery sonuvabitch, and it’d be great to see our heroes, Hera especially, struggle with that most Firefly of dilemmas: work for a guy we can’t stand, or go without food this month?
Furthermore, while we don’t yet know everyone’s full backstories, sometimes I think the Ghost crew as conceived is a little too conveniently idealistic in their anti-Imperialism. The tension between breaking the law for moral reasons and breaking it because it’s convenient (and because you’re damn good at it) is one of Star Wars’ most interesting undertones—hell, it’s Han’s entire reason for being—and with Kanan expressing some clear doubts about the group’s mission in the preview material we’ve seen, I think this season spending more time in the Vizago/Lando/Booster realm of dirty dealings would lead to a lot of great story fodder—while ultimately reminding Kanan of why he’s really fighting.
One last thing—while a lot of possible cameos like Dodonna, Mon Mothma, Wedge, etc. don’t leave a lot of room for redesigns, Booster is a great opportunity to play with a toy from the Legends box without needing to be too slavish to the details. Rebels has done such great things with its human diversity that it’ll be a shame if later seasons end up overrun by the original trilogy’s pantheon of white dudes—so making Booster a person of color would be one way of offsetting that as the show (perhaps inevitably) comes to feel more and more like ANH.