I want to take a moment and share a couple thoughts I’ve been having about the fateful planet of Alderaan.
When we are first introduced to Alderaan (in Episode IV: A New Hope) it is the home world of the one and only Princess Leia. Which in and of itself is enough of a reason for us to care about it’s fate, but beyond that we know nothing. We don’t know what it looks like, whether it’s a rocky planet or a lush planet, whether the people get along on Alderaan. Do some people side with the Empire and others with the Rebellion? The fact is, in those early moments of A New Hope, we know so little about Alderaan. Therefore, the fact that an entire planet is destroyed is tragic, yes. But we are not deeply invested in Alderaan itself.
Jump ahead to the prequels and the Clone Wars and Rebels and the comic books and the many novelizations both canon and legend that are out there. Some are chalk full of information about the mysterious planet of Alderaan. And just like that, years later…posthumously, we come to care for it quite a lot.
We see what it looks like in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. We know more about Bail Organa and the upstanding man he is. The kind of man who would take an orphaned Leia and raise her has his own. The kind of man that believed in the Jedi to the bitter end. The kind of man that died on the planet of Alderaan that sad day when Governor Tarkin chose to use it as an example to keep the galaxy in line.
It’s no longer a mysterious planet, it’s a tragic, ill-fated planet. Obi-Wan sensing that not only an entire planet full of people had been killed, but an old friend as well means that much more when we start to see the whole picture.
In some story telling, we may be treated to the whole picture from the get go. Like say…starting at the beginning and working through to the end, but not with Star Wars. No, we start in the middle of the story. Not knowing about Darth Vader and his past as Anakin Skywalker, hero of the Clone Wars. Not knowing about Alderaan, the peaceful planet with the beloved Bail Organa on it.
The more the picture broadens, the deeper we understand. The more we care. It’s what I love so much about Star Wars. It’s what keeps the expanded universe going. It’s what makes it so interesting.
I’m currently reading Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel with my Goodreads book club, in preparation for Rogue One’s release on Thursday night. It deals directly with the creation of the dreaded Death Star and we learn that there are other planets that were sacrificed in order to create that monstrous weapon. Another poignant reason to remember poor Alderaan. I went back and watched A New Hope with this brand new information on my mind and it made the destruction of Alderaan so much more tragic and unbearable.
Alderaan…you went too soon. And we didn’t understand at the time or care as deeply as we do now…in the aftermath. But yes…now we know!