Rebels: the Empire is back

The Inquisitor

The Inquisitor

Within 12 months we will see the first episode of Star Wars: Rebels, a new animated TV series following in the footsteps of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Dave Filoni, Lucas’ protégé on The Clone Wars, will act as executive producer along with Simon Kinberg (who is consulting on Episode VII) and Greg Weisman.

What’s interesting about Rebels is that it further reflects Lucasfilm’s push to return to the aesthetic of the classic Star Wars films. In their own words, Rebels takes “direct inspiration from the original trilogy” and is set roughly five years before the events of the three original films. The look will be based heavily on Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art produced for the original trilogy; at least one design, however, is being based on an early Joe Johnston concept. Perhaps most geeky of all, Kenner’s Imperial Troop Transport toy will finally find life in the Star Wars canon by being featured in Rebels, some 35 years after it first appeared in supermarkets.

The story background for the show seems to reflect ideas present in one key deleted scene in the original Star Wars: Biggs tells Luke that soon his uncle will be “merely a tenant, slaving for the greater glory of the Empire” and that even an insignificant planet like Tatooine faces this threat. Rebels tells the story of another Outer Rim planet: Lothal, whose appearance is familiar to anyone who has perused McQuarrie’s concept art. The citizens of Lothal initially embrace the security offered by the Empire but soon find themselves either recruited as stormtroopers or TIE pilots, or sent to work for Sienar Fleet Systems, building the Empire’s TIE fighters.

And then there’s… the Inquisitor, who under the instructions of Darth Vader, helps to hunt down the remaining Jedi Knights.

Kenner's 1979 "Imperial Troop Transporter"

Kenner’s 1979 “Imperial Troop Transporter”

If I had to guess at a story, I’d say a lone exiled Jedi Knight joins forces with a small band of disaffected Lothal citizens (the crew of the Ghost), and over the course of the series, this group becomes part of the larger, emerging Rebellion. I’d also put money on the series culminating over five seasons in a climax that involves the theft of the Death Star plans—that’ll be the major payoff for anyone who has been a Star Wars fan since day dot.

If I’m right, we’ll get to see the formation of the Rebel Alliance, first in microcosm, then in macrocosm. We’ll see the impact of the Empire on the day-to-day lives of ordinary people. And we’ll see the background described in the opening scroll of Star Wars itself.

It’s a brilliant idea for a series and a great way to get a new generation interested in the milieu of the original trilogy. It’s also a great way to get Star Wars old schoolers back on board.


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