Star Wars never truly showed the heyday of the Jedi in the movies. In the Original Trilogy, the Jedi had already been driven to the brink of extinction, while the Sequel Trilogy showed how Luke Skywalker had failed to train a new generation of Knights. Our best look at the Jedi Order of old is in the Prequel Trilogy, but it quickly becomes clear that those movies are about the fall of the Jedi and not a golden age for the heroes of the light side.
Only now is Star Wars canon officially designating an era where the Jedi are at the height of their powers. Stronger, more in tune with the Force, and more assured than we’ve ever seen them before, the Jedi of the High Republic era are what Jedi are supposed to be.
The High Republic line of books and comics, which will debut on Jan. 5, is set a couple of hundred years before The Phantom Menace. The team of storytellers who will explore this era includes Charles Soule, Claudia Gray, Justina Ireland, Cavan Scott, and Daniel Jose Older.
“This is a hopeful, optimistic time,” Lucasfilm publishing director Michael Siglain told StarWars.com. “When the Jedi are good and noble, and we want to reflect that in their characters while still giving them enough depth and dimension so that their individual personalities and idiosyncrasies shine through.”
There’s still plenty we don’t know about this era, its heroes and villains, and the state of the galaxy, but here’s a guide to the basic setup of the story:
When is it set?
According to Wookieepedia, the High Republic era began around 232 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin) and seems to lead into the Fall of the Republic, which began in 32 BBY with The Phantom Menace and the rise of Senator Palpatine/Darth Sidious to the office of Supreme Chancellor.
This is a time when not all planets are yet under the jurisdiction of the Galactic Republic and there’s still a frontier to explore. There are parts of the galaxy that still have a “Wild West” quality to them.
“[The High Republic] is also a time of galactic expansion in the Outer Rim,” Lucasfilm vice president of franchise content and strategy James Waugh explained in a press release. “So expect there to be rich tales of exploration; charting out the galaxy, meeting new cultures, and discovering what pioneer life in the Outer Rim was like.”
The High Republic era follows two major moments in galactic history, the Fall of the Old Republic and the Dark Age that engulfed the galaxy after the Old Republic was destroyed. While the Old Republic era was explored extensively in the now non-canon Legends continuity, its canon counterpart is still a bit of a mystery. Some of the story beats are similar, though.
The Old Republic era was a time when the Jedi and the Sith commanded armies that numbered in the thousands. But long wars with the Sith and the Mandalorians caused the Old Republic to collapse, leaving star systems in chaos. This Dark Age was likely the moment when the Sith were at the height of their power.
Eventually, the Jedi defeated the Sith in a final battle and the galaxy’s planets reorganized to form a new Republic. We don’t know how long this “modern” Republic has been in existence by the time of the High Republic, but we assume its been quite a few years since a Sith lord posed a threat to the galaxy.
Who are the heroes?
In the official guide to High Republic characters, Lucasfilm emphasizes that the Jedi of the High Republic aren’t as dogmatic and limited as the ones in Obi-Wan Kenobi’s era. Their clothing is finer, white and brown robes accented with gold.
The greatest hero of the day is Jedi Master Avar Kriss, who is working on the “frontier” of Republic space. “She always tries to see the good in people and situations, and never puts herself first,” reads her description on Star Wars.com. “She is invigorated about life on the frontier and the challenges it brings, and is an inspiration for those who work with her. She is compassionate, not dogmatic, and always ready to sacrifice herself over others. Avar Kriss is the best of the best.”
Avar is a mentor to Keeve Trennis, a “firebrand” Jedi who has only been a Knight for a few weeks at the start of the series. They’ll brush shoulders with other Jedi Masters, the humorous Twi’lek Loden Greatstorm and respected teacher Stellan Gios, as well as Knights such as the teenage Vernestra “Vern” Rwoh, who used to be Stellan’s apprentice.
We know that Yoda is also alive during this era, at a spry 700 years old or so, and possibly already holds a leadership role within the Jedi Order. But we don’t know if he plays a part in this particular series.
Who are the villains?
The villains were key to figuring out what the team of storytellers wanted The High Republic to be about. “What scares the Jedi?” asked author Cavan Scott at a brainstorming session. The answer, according to StarWars.com, is “a band of anarchistic marauders known as the Nihil.”
Described as “Space Vikings,” they raid planets across the galaxy. Perhaps inspired by stories like Mad Max, the standard look of the Nihil features a lot of apocalyptic-looking space helmets and armor.
There have been some hints that Nihil operate outside conventional hyperspace travel rules, but what exactly this means has not yet been confirmed. At some point in their history, the Nihil burned down large swaths of a “paradise planet” called Negelnam, including its famous library. No official information about the main members of the Nihil group or its leaders has been released yet.
But what about the Sith? We know that one member of the Sith, Darth Bane, survived the final battle with the Jedi and established the Rule of Two that allowed the villains to operate in the shadows until the rise of the Empire. The timing of the High Republic era means that not only has Darth Bane already passed way but Emperor Palpatine hasn’t yet been born. The Sith exist, but they’re in hiding. Palpatine’s teacher Darth Plagueis may be present somewhere, trying to find the key to immortality, but this Sith lord doesn’t aspire to more than keeping the Sith Master-apprentice chain going for generations.
The Great Disaster
An event known as “The Great Disaster” provides the backdrop for the series and seems to be the inciting incident that opens the story. We know little about what the Great Disaster is except that it caused ships all over the galaxy to snap out of hyperspace at once. This event likely caused a lot of devastation in space.
Hyperspace and the mapping of hyperspace routes are an important part of the exploration aspect of the series. A space station known as the Starlight Beacon space station is key to the events of the High Republic line. Starlight Beacon serves as a space lighthouse in the Outer Rim constructed to guide ships in the centuries before hyperspace navigation was as accurate as it would become 200 years later.
Trennis and several other Jedi are stationed at the Starlight Beacon at the beginning of the High Republic story. We’ll have to wait and see how these characters and the station itself are affected by the Great Disaster.
The High Republic Easter Eggs
Although the High Republic era takes place hundreds of years before the film saga, it’s still possible we’ll see the same kind of references that pop up in most Star wars stories. As mentioned before, Yoda is alive in this era and might be the best way to connect the high point and the decline of the Republic. Siglain hinted at some other connections in a blog post. Look out for “the Starros and San Tekka clans,” he said.
So who are they? Both are family names Star Wars may be familiar with as they refer back to minor characters from other parts of the saga. Lor San Tekka is the more well-known of these references: he’s the old man Poe Dameron meets in the opening scene of The Force Awakens. Actor Max von Sydow plays this devotee of the Church of the Force, a religious sect that worships the ancient energy field. Lor San Tekka has also been described as an “explorer.” It’s possible his traditions could have been passed down from family members who were Jedi or worked closely with the Jedi Knights of the High Republic.
Starros is an even deeper cut, referring to a side character from Marvel’s Star Wars comics. Sana Starros is a smuggler who works with Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Imperial-aligned archaeologist Doctor Aphra during the Galactic Civil War. She has a prickly relationship with both Solo and Aphra due to past betrayals. Her possible connection to the High Republic and the Jedi is less obvious than Lor San Tekka’s, but it fits nicely into the Star Wars storytelling tradition of exploring different generations of the same family. The entire film saga focused on the Skywalkers and the Palpatines, so it’s no surprise that other families are getting the same treatment in the books and comics.
Star Wars: The High Republic begins with the adult novel Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule and the middle-grade novel A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland in January.