Escape Pod: The Katana Fleet

katana-beliblis

In addition to the many existing Legends stories that are ripe for adaptation in the new canon, there are some that, while full of potential, Legends never really got around to telling. One of these is the legend (ha) of the Katana fleet. Dating back to Dark Force Rising, the second book of the Thrawn trilogy, the Katana fleet was a huge force of two hundred Dreadnaught heavy cruisers that went missing thirty-two forty-five twenty-seven many years before the Battle of Yavin only to be discovered by the smuggler Talon Karrde, and eventually to become a piece in Grand Admiral Thrawn’s game against the New Republic.

The fleet was constructed at a time when the Old Republic’s power had grown stagnant—we knew that much even in 1992—and was meant to symbolize a return to greatness. All two hundred ships had their controls slaved to the flagship, meaning that they could be crewed by a scant two thousand people each (as opposed to the ships’ usual complements of sixteen thousand, or later Star Destroyer crews of more than double that). This way, the Katana fleet represented military might without militarization; the cutting-edge slave-circuit technology meant increased security for the Republic with a bare minimum of its sons and daughters put in harm’s way.

That was the plan, anyway. Upon the fleet’s launch, the crew of the Katana itself was ravaged by a deadly virus that had the fun side effect of driving them insane before it killed them. In their delirium, the crew jumped the Katana to random hyperspace coordinates and brought the entire fleet with them, never to be seen—by the Republic—again.

Historically, I’ve made an effort to choose Escape Pod topics not just because I like something but for what it adds to the larger tapestry of Star Wars. One of the earliest topics was Ania Solo, who I certainly never expected to literally become canon, but because she was a great type of character for Star Wars to focus on—and in Rey, I would say that at least some of the hopes I expressed in that piece were ultimately realized.

In the case of the Katana fleet, though, I just think it’s a really fun premise, and something Star Wars hasn’t really done before: an inconceivable naval disaster. Think of it as Titanic in space. As the upcoming Han Solo spinoff will presumably demonstrate, not every major Star Wars story has to be war-driven. The Katana fleet strikes a perfect balance between epic stakes and “average person” storytelling—like the Titanic, it requires no great enemy beyond dumb luck. Its players are the larger galactic population, hungry for something to be proud of, and the Republic’s vestigial armed forces, eager to prove their utility after hundreds of years of irrelevance.

And in an era when the restraints of continuity aren’t quite as tight, the Katana fleet is a hugely versatile story. As a novel or a spinoff film, you could set it in the same late Old Republic period, sure, but you could also set it during the Empire and make the virus the work of renegade rebel agents. It could even be set during the early years of the New Republic—spearheaded by a more militaristic faction of the NR, and upon its disappearance it would just be one more reason for the galaxy’s severe demilitarization.

While I’d especially like to see the fleet’s disappearance in story form someday, a loose adaptation of its rediscovery in Dark Force Rising is also possible. In fact, like the Battle of Taanab, I think it would make a great story for Star Wars Rebels. The gradual accumulation of a fleet has been a big part of the past season, and rumors spreading to the Rebellion from Vizago or Hondo of the existence of a large fleet of cruisers that requires minimal crewing would be just the kind of thing they’d send the Ghost crew to investigate. In the original story, the recovery of the fleet was almost entirely completed by Thrawn, with only a small number of ships going to the New Republic—so a scaled-down Rebels version of the story could be not unlike “A Princess on Lothal” or “Homecoming”, with our heroes only managing to secure one or two ships so as not to put the Rebellion in too strong of a position too soon.

Why not shoot for the moon, though? Let’s return to the sequel era—after the destruction of the Hosnian system and much of the Republic fleet, the Resistance is going to be desperate for new ships to fight the First Order with. While one theory I’ve been playing around with is that lots of the old Rebellion-era capital ships may still be serving among local forces and recallable in the event of an emergency, the Republic’s situation seems tenuous enough (just like in the Thrawn trilogy) that two hundred rusty old Dreadnaught cruisers could be enough to swing the balance of the war to one side or another. And what better primer could there be for a Katana-specific film or novel than an initial appearance in Episode VIII or IX?

3 comments

  1. Eric Brown says:

    And in my sequel era fan fic, Poe and Finn, in searching for the Katana, fleet come across a blue skinned alien with glowing eyes who is a military genius, who agrees to come and fight with them against the First Order….

    … I want Chiss good guys.

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