"That's no moon. It's a space station." In 1977, the world was introduced to George Lucas's Galaxy Far, Far Away — and right from the start, we were thrilled by the ominous power of the Death Star. That devastating superweapon — a device that could literally destroy a planet with a single shot — has gone down as the stuff of legend. It's no surprise that a second Death Star appeared in Return of the Jedi; the Death Star even got a nod from the prequel trilogy!
This December, Rogue One returns us to the Death Star. What's more, the latest trailer has just revealed that we're about to get a new glimpse into the space station's history!
This stunning and atmospheric trailer opens with the kidnapping of Mads Mikkelsen's Galen Erso. It seems that Galen Erso is a scientist of remarkable ability and, to save his daughter from harm, he agrees to play a crucial role in the development of the Death Star. We already knew that the main plot of Rogue One would kick off with Erso, horrified at the Empire's devastating superweapon, leaking news of a major weapons test to the Rebellion. This is why Felicity Jones's Jyn Erso is such a central character in Rogue One; her ties to her father make her the best operative the Rebellion can possibly send out on the covert mission to steal the Death Star plans.
The Development of the Death Star
The story of the Death Star has always fascinated Star Wars fans. The Sith have always been fascinated by the concept — the Death Star's beam is powered by focusing the energy of Kyber Crystals, in a similar way to the beam of a lightsaber. In Attack of the Clones, George Lucas revealed that Palpatine and Count Dooku were considering the creation of the Death Star before the Clone Wars had even begun.
The old Expanded Universe fleshed out the backstory of the Death Star in great detail. According to the Jedi Academy trilogy, Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin gathered scientists from across the galaxy and secreted them in a secluded research center near Kessel. The research center was hidden in the center of a black hole cluster, making it almost impenetrable unless you knew exactly the right flight path, and it's existence was known to precious few. Some of those scientists, such as the beautiful Qwi Xux, were naive and unaware of the potential destruction that could come from their research. Xux believed that the Death Star would be used to destroy dead planets, enabling easier mining of rare and important minerals. In 2007 we actually got an entire novel, Death Star, that focused on the super-weapon's construction!
When Disney took over the Star Wars franchise, they chose to erase the old Expanded Universe continuity, allowing them to start again. Unsurprisingly, we've already learned a lot about the Death Star's history. In 2014, James Luceno's novel Tarkin revealed the backstory of Grand Moff Tarkin, fleshing out his history and explaining just how he became commander of the Death Star project. Claudia Gray's Lost Stars helped to establish the Death Star as a place in its own right; the young-adult romance novel starred two Imperial officers, one of whom was shaken by the destruction of Alderaan and went on to join the Rebellion.
What Will Rogue One Add to This?
It's an open secret that the Death Star was a difficult project for the Empire; although the Sith had plans as far back as Attack of the Clones, the finished superweapon wasn't ready until the time of A New Hope. It seems that, in their desperation to complete the project, the Empire kidnapped Galen Erso and threatened his daughter unless he chose to cooperate. Erso played his part, but clearly recognized the destructive power of the Death Star. He gave the Rebellion a warning.
Galen Erso is likely to be playing another major role, though; if he was so heavily involved in the design of the superweapon, it stands to reason that he's the well-placed spy who leaks the Death Star plans in Rogue One. This would also explain why Jyn Erso is such a key player in all this; she has some very personal stakes in this mission.
The latest Rogue One trailer looks simply amazing. Powerful and atmospheric, it promises to dive into the darkness of the Empire. This is a tale that takes us back to a time of fear and hatred, with an unimaginable super-weapon about to be unleashed. As the trailer makes abundantly clear, though - there is still hope.
All images: Lucasfilm