In the mid-1990s, the coolest, most hardcore Star Wars thing you could get into was the nitty-gritty world of Rogue Squadron. From the X-Wing novels by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston to the ongoing Rogue Squadron comics published by Dark Horse Comics to the iconic 1996 video game for the Nintendo 64, the Rogue Squadron storyline explored a corner of the Star Wars universe only teased in the Original Trilogy.
Focusing on an elite squadron of Rebel (and later New Republic) starfighter pilots, the X-Wing and Rogue Squadron stories were not only like Top Gun in space but also deep dives into what it would be like to work as an X-wing pilot 24/7. Rogue Squadron stories were pure fantasy fulfillment for kids who ever imagined themselves sitting in a cockpit during the Death Star trench run or the Battle of Endor.
Now that Patty Jenkins is set to direct a big-screen version of Rogue Squadron, ‘90s Star Wars fans are about to get exactly what we’ve wanted for a very long time, but the rest of the fandom should be pumped, too. After all, the adventures of Rogue Squadron are a classic part of the DNA of Star Wars.
For fans who are still frustrated about the de-canonization of the old Expanded Universe, which is now known as Legends continuity, the existence of Rogue Squadron is cause for celebration alone. When the title Rogue One was announced in March 2015, many of us — including Stackpole himself — celebrated prematurely, believing that this film would herald the arrival of the beloved starfighter team, and maybe even a cameo appearance from Wedge Antilles. And while Rogue One did feature the return of Gold Leader and some other star-pilot greats from A New Hope, it wasn’t a Rogue Squadron movie at all.
But if Lucasfilm is calling this movie Rogue Squadron, then the studio must mean it this time, and we might even get some version of the classic Legends stories to boot. Recently, The Mandalorian brought back the Dark Troopers from the game Dark Forces, and also inched one-step closer to rebooting the famous Thrawn Trilogy. Rogue Squadron could, arguably, head in the same direction.
Even if this version of Rogue Squadron exists in a different time frame than Luke’s Rogues or Wedge’s Rogues, some version of those adventures will almost certainly be referenced, since the reason Disney is making a Rogue Squadron movie is 100 percent connected to the popularity of the Legends stories. Judging by what’s going on in The Mandalorian and Jenkins’ movie, injecting more of the pre-Disney lore into the current canon is clearly in the works.
So, what’s at the core of the Rogue Squadron storyline? In all versions of Star Wars canon, Luke Skywalker forms Rogue Squadron with Wedge Antilles after the Battle of Yavin. Basically, Rogue Squadron replaced what used to be Red Squadron.
In The Empire Strikes Back, we see Rogue Squadron primarily during the Battle of Hoth. This is slightly hilarious because in the only onscreen appearance of Rogue Squadron, everyone is flying airspeeders over land, not X-wings in space. And yet, when we think of Rogue Squadron, we correctly think of X-wings.
This is why there’s an X-wing on the Lucasfilm logo for Rogue Squadron and why Patty Jenkins confidently strides toward an X-wing fighter in a short video introducing the movie. In the video, she also discusses how her real-life fighter pilot father inspired her to “one day make the greatest fighter pilot movie of all time.”
So, we’ve got X-wings. But do we need Luke or Wedge, too? Possibly not. In fact, it sounds like the movie takes place decades after Luke and Wedge first formed the squadron to fight the Empire. According to the movie’s official tagline, “the story will introduce a new generation of starfighter pilots as they earn their wings and risk their lives in a boundary-pushing, high-speed thrill-ride, and move the saga into the future era of the galaxy.”
A new generation that’ll move the saga into the future era of the galaxy implies that Rogue Squadron is set to explore the pilots active after the Sequel Trilogy, although that could be open to interpretation. That said, Legends also set a precedent for a new generation of pilots who took up the Rogue mantle 30 years after Luke and Wedge. In The New Jedi Order books (some of which were written by Stackpole), ace pilot Gavin Darklighter led Rogue Squadron, which also included Han and Leia’s daughter Jaina, during the war against the Yuuzhan Vong.
The New Jedi Order series in Legends happened relatively around the same time as the Sequel Trilogy in Disney canon, so it’s possible the new movie could be rebooting some aspects of that part of the classic EU timeline. With the Final Order defeated in The Rise of Skywalker, could a new threat to the galaxy be the reason another generation of Rogue Squadron has to take flight for the Republic?
A fresh, new team of characters has always been at the heart of the Rogue Squadron stories, too. Part of the thrill of the Stackpole books was seeing Wedge put together an elite team of star pilots. The only legacy characters who really had a big impact on the X-Wing novels and Rogue Squadron comics were Wedge, Mon Mothma, and Admiral Ackbar. Essentially, Wedge became a side character while Allston and Stackpole developed the series’ original cast.
The team Wedge created was the thing that kept you coming back for more installments. In fact, because the Rogue Squadron comics took place in a different timeline from the X-Wing novels, you actually got multiple line-ups of the squadron. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Tycho Celchu or Corran Horn need to appear in the Rogue Squadron movie at all. The basic setup of X-Wing and Rogue Squadron allows the Star Wars franchise to bring in new characters all the time.
The galaxy always needs new star-pilots, and the promise of Rogue Squadron is to give us a movie that actually delivers on the title Star Wars with the right mix of nostalgia and freshness. Star Wars is inherently nostalgic by design, but thankfully, because it can bring in so many new characters, Rogue Squadron is oddly forward-facing, too.
Rogue Squadron will hit theaters on Christmas 2023.