This Star Wars: Andor article contains spoilers.
Off the back of an action-packed heist on Aldhani, Andor has delivered its finest hour with “Announcement,” which explores the repercussions of the Rebel heist across the galaxy. The Empire is tightening its grip, senators are being watched, and even rebel operatives can’t trust one another as the hammer comes down on Coruscant and elsewhere.
It’s also during one of these scenes on the Imperial capital that Andor drops its biggest callback to the Original Trilogy yet. Despite showrunner Tony Gilroy’s reassurances that Andor wouldn’t just be another Disney+ easter egg show, the more serious, space-set drama has still found ways to reintroduce elements of classic Star Wars but without making them feel like shallow winks at the audience. In Andor, familiarity is part of the worldbuilding and often in service of the story itself. And in general, the nods to the Original and Prequel Trilogies really are kept to a minimum beyond a passing nod to Emperor Palpatine here and a clone trooper there (both references that just make sense based on the story being told).
Take this week’s biggest callback: Imperial Colonel Wullf Yularen, played here by Malcolm Sinclair. Veteran Star Wars fans will undoubtedly recognize this character as one of the first Imperial villains ever introduced to theater audiences watching A New Hope in 1977. This high-ranking intelligence officer of the Imperial Security Bureau first popped up as a background character early in the film. He’s the notably white-coated officer sitting around the Death Star conference room table when Grand Moff Tarkin announces the Emperor has dissolved the Imperial Senate. Played in that scene by a poker-faced Robert Clarke, Colonel Yularen never speaks, never even seems to react to the drama that unfolds when Darth Vader arrives. And we never actually learned a single thing about him in ’77 beyond the fact that he wore a different color uniform than the other Imperial scum.
The reason for this is quite simple: Yularen wasn’t even really meant to be a character of note back in the early days of Star Wars. He didn’t have a name or a job title, and we certainly weren’t enticed to care about his ultimate fate in the movie (he perished when the Death Star exploded). The character really was just a warm body in a chair, and for whatever reason George Lucas decided to dress him in white instead of the standard gray-green. Likely it was a way for Lucas to hint at different divisions and branches within the Imperial war machine. Lucas, after all, is nothing if not a master world-builder.
It wasn’t until the ’90s that this ISB boss was retroactively bestowed a proper name, thanks to Decipher’s Star Wars Customizable Card Game, the official CCG of the galaxy far, far away at the time. The Wullf Yularen card established the first hints of a backstory for the character, and it set the stage for a much bigger expansion of Yularen’s history in the books and comics, and culminating with his many appearances on The Clone Wars animated series as an admiral in the Republic Navy in the years before the rise of the Empire. Timothy Zahn, who wrote the very first post-Original Trilogy novel, Heir to the Empire, even made Yularen a close associate of Grand Admiral Thrawn during the Galactic Civil War.
When Yularen arrives to the ISB headquarters in Andor, it’s to announce just how severe the punishments will be for Imperial dissenters and Rebels in the wake of the attack on Aldhani. It’s these new fascist laws that not only embolden Maarva to rise up on Ferrix but eventually get Cassian arrested at the end of “Announcement.” Unknowingly, Yularen has just dealt a major blow to the early Rebel effort. With Luthen’s biggest loose end now in custody, it’s only a matter of time before Yularen and the ISB learn of the secret project a certain Chandrilan senator has been working on all along.
Star Wars: Andor is streaming now on Disney+.