Since Disney bought Lucasfilm and relaunched the Star Wars franchise, it has seemed that the “prequels” — Episodes I-III of the Skywalker saga — were the red-headed stepchildren who came with the marriage to George Lucas. Not outright de-canonized like the “Expanded Universe” (now “Legends”) of tie-in fiction, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were at least set aside, as the producers of the new sequels and “anthology” stories sought to capture the spirit of the sacred Original Trilogy that started it all. It’s not hard to see why, but it has been hard for many “universalist” fans to accept.
With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the non-episodic spinoff film coming Dec. 16 that is set just before Episode IV — A New Hope, that appears to be changing. The new Saga interlude tells the tale of the Rebel spies who obtained the Death Star plans so central to the original film’s plot. In the past week, actor Jimmy Smits, who portrayed Alderaanian Senator Bail Organa in Revenge of the Sith, spilled the beans on CBS’ The Talk that he will reprise the role of the man who adopts Princess Leia.
Considering we’ve already heard that Rogue One segues directly into A New Hope, it’s not unreasonable to speculate that we may see a scene in which Bail bids farewell to his adopted daughter as she smuggles the stolen data tapes aboard consular ship Tantive IV for her fateful journey to bring Obi-Wan Kenobi out of exile.
Their parting is final: Bail is presumed dead along with the rest of the population of Alderaan as a demonstration of the Death Star’s power.
I’m hoping that Smits is just being discreet when he describes his appearance in Rogue One as a “cameo” and “small part.” It would be great to have an expanded role for the senator, who showed he was no typical decadent Republic politician in Revenge of the Sith when he tried to single-handedly charge the burning and besieged Jedi Temple, led a personal rescue mission off Coruscant to find any surviving Jedi, and spirited Masters Yoda and Kenobi to safety when their plan to stop the Emperor’s coup failed miserably. On top of all that, he’s the man who inspired Leia to become the noble leader she remains in Episode VII — The Force Awakens and beyond.
Rogue One is already stuffed with colorful characters, new and old: We know that Genevieve O’Reilly, who played Senator Mon Mothma in Revenge of the Sith but was relegated to the cutting-room floor of DVD extras, has again been tapped to play the serene Rebel Alliance leader (originally portrayed by Caroline Blakiston in Episode VI — Return of the Jedi), and James Earl Jones will of course return to give voice to Darth Vader in his prime.
And it’s already clear that Rogue One is mining more than the holy trinity of the Original Trilogy, with the return of a significant character from the Clone Wars TV series attached to some serious star power in Forest Whitaker. Now it’s reassuring to see high-profile elements of the big-screen Prequel Trilogy making their way back into the fold.