As with any Star Wars subject, one of the most important things I had to do while watching Rogue One was to separate what I know from what is now true; separate the Legends continuity from that of the Reboot. While The Force Awakens stripped away a lot of content that always would have been at risk were George Lucas to produce an Episode VII – everything from Mara Jade to Vestara Khai – Rogue One is set in an era that is even more entrenched in our collective memories. Lando Calrissian and Han Solo’s backstories were well set into place before the first stories of the Solo twins as preteens were written, and with them was a host of information about the galaxy at the time, most notably the Death Star.
(Miss my Rogue One: A Star Wars Story review?)
So here are some basics. In the Legends continuity, the Death Star’s components were built in a place named the Maw Installation, near an Imperial-run prison planet named Kessel (this last name all fans of A New Hope should be aware of). The black holes that make doing the Kessel run in only twelve parsecs so dangerous also all but guarantee that only those who have been given access to the navigation code have a chance in hell of getting there – and even then only those skilled at astrogation. Grand Moff Tarkin oversaw the installation, with the help of two underlings: Admiral Natasi Daala, responsible for defense and conjugal duties, and Twi’lek research facilities manager Tol Sivron (apparently Palpatine’s biggest supporter did not share his feelings about women and aliens, at least not when they could be useful to him).
The most relevant individual within the Maw Installation was Bevel Lemelisk, the architect of both Death Stars, among other things that are no longer relevant. Lemelisk was not at any risk of death when the Death Star was destroyed, which meant the Emperor was able to torture him using some pretty extreme measures before setting him to work on the second.
Pretty much immediately, Rogue One challenges these notions. Tol Sivron has been replaced by Orson Krennic, a human with a flair for the dramatic. As Krennic has a military background, it is likely that he has taken over Daala’s role as well, or has several underlings running these two points. (Full Disclosure: I haven’t read any novels related to Rogue One just yet, although I may do. I welcome any corrections or additional information in the comments.) This may not be as big an issue as it seems, as the Maw Installation has been greatly scaled down: it is now simply a single installation on a known (albeit difficult to land on) planet named Eadu.
Bevel Lemelisk has been replaced as chief architect and engineer with Galen Erso, who was so reluctant to continue work that he retired, moved to what appears to be the Outer Rim, and became a farmer before Krennic came and demanded that he assist with the project. Ironically, it was Krennic’s tightening his grasp that gave Erso the opportunity to help more star systems slip through his fingers.
Erso’s role explains something that didn’t need explaining when the novels about the Maw Installation were written: why it took twenty years to complete the project. In the fifteen years after the death of his wife and the less-fatal loss of his daughter, Erso slowed down the project and intentionally placed the oft-criticized thermal exhaust port weakness into the Death Star plans.
From there, we have the construction of the Death Star itself. In Rogue One, this appears to take place above a planet named Jedha (possibly implied to be an origin of the Jedi, especially considering remarks made when the temple in its capital city is destroyed). This replaces the planet Despayre, a name that never could have survived into the reboot era, although it would be nice if the Alliance chooses to rename the planet in remembrance of the Death Star and make it into a rallying cry.
Finally, we get to what is probably the reason why this movie was made. In the Legends Continuity, there were quite a few missions to obtain the Death Star plans, effectively making them into a jigsaw puzzle or scavenger hunt whose pieces were scattered across the galaxy. Leia Organa, Rahm Kota, and Garm Bel Iblis’s factions originally each independently verified the existence of the Death Star, which was consolidated into the single mission on Jedha. Bothans working under the distraction of a Death Star prison riot, Kyle Katarn’s mission to Danuta, and Han Solo’s ex-girlfriend Bria Tharen’s mission to Toprawa all separately collected different parts of the plans, which were eventually transmitted to the Tantive IV. Members of the new LucasFilm Story Team have stated that fixing issues where overzealous and under-supervised writing teams overwrote one another was one of the goals of the Reboot Continuity, and indeed, Rogue One definitively replaces these three separate missions with a single one to
And to close this article off…would it have been so difficult, Gareth Edwards, for Cassian to intercept a shuttle on its way to the spice mines of Kessel instead of a train in the desert? I wouldn’t even be mad if you left Moruth Doole out (although you could easily include him). Such a missed opportunity for a New Hope reference.