Last week sometime during one of the podcasts I listened to that dealt in no small way with the Walt Disney Company's (cough cough) Earnings Call, there was a board of several pundits throwing around various ideas and/or exercises that they thought might invigorate the failing Star Wars franchise. While I think that there was some consensus that excursions to that galaxy far, far away have always worked best on the silver screen, the discussion quickly turned to how a new studio head for Lucasfilm might best incorporate all media in an inclusive strategy meant to kickstart cultural interest. I think what kinda/sorta was mentioned but got glossed over in the chat was precisely how Star Wars pretty much returned from the dead back in the early 1990's and how this orchestrated roll-out works magnificently almost every single time it's tried.
Pay attention, younglings and padawans: this is a brief history lesson.
Believe it or not, our beloved Star Wars faded into near-obscurity not long after Return Of The Jedi (1983) came and went from the box office. Oh, of course, there were home video releases and a few TV incarnations that tickled only a modest fancy; but by the end of the 1980's it seemed as though Luke, Han, Leia, Darth, Chewie, and the whole gang were pretty much forgotten. Also, there was the occasional mention in the press that George Lucas was eventually intending to tell 'the rest of the story,' but fans were given absolutely no timeframe with which we could cling to or hold out hope for more of the same. In practical terms, Star Wars was dead ... only until it wasn't.
This turnabout came, largely, in the spring of 1991 when Timothy Zahn's stellar Heir To The Empire so fantastically catapulted audiences back to these beloved worlds in a hugely successful way. Our original heroes were back in action, battling the forces of evil that emerged long after the fall of Palpatine's Empire; and readers were ultimately treated to what many felt like should have been the Sequel Trilogy instead of what the Mouse House delivered. (No, no, and no: we are not having this argument again, people. I'm just stating facts!) Zahn gave fans a taste of what the future for Star Wars could've looked like, and it was upon this new wave of interest that Lucasfilm expanded its universe with novels, comic books, and games.
Somewhere along the way, Dark Horse Comics also tapped a very fluid vein with the creation of several Rogue Squadron event series. These multi-issue stories were arguably a bit deeper and maybe even more ponderous than the usual comic book fare, enticing readers with adventures that (in no small way) fill in the voids left around many of the larger novels. Several of these characters jumped from the pages of print into full comic's color; and there were even many events explored from multiple perspectives across all media. This was, indeed, a fabulous time to jump aboard the exploding Star Wars universe; and I think this is why so many pundits in fandom these days still harken back to the E.U. (Expanded Universe) as being the franchise's second Golden Age.
(I will say that, having not read all that came out in this time, I'd still agree with those sentiments. There was a lot of really, really, really good stuff introduced into canon -- a mythology that the Walt Disney Company, sadly, excised -- and here's hoping if nothing else you folks might go out and pick something up today to see what you missed. It's quite dynamic.)
Now, the reason I bring this up is that one of the pundits in a podcast I listened to (I believe it was YouTube.com's WDWPro) suggested that Lucasfilm might want to look to the past in order to chart a better path to the future ... and one of those properties might very well be to re-introduce Rogue Squadron. I'm here to say that I strongly agree.
For those unaware, Rogue Squadron came about from Dark Horse with its first issue in 1995, and it ran for what Google.com reports to be 35 issues. While some might not see that as a particular ly impressive run, I could still make a strong argument that Rogue rather deftly stepped into and around a whole lot of what was going on fictionally in the Star Wars galaxy at that time, plucking the occasional character here and there from one of the novels and giving him or her a wider backstory with which to evolve. As imperfect as it may've been executed at the time, Rogue conceptually was a near perfect foundation with which to explore the growing people, places and events. Personally, I think the reason it may not have endured could be that it tried a bit too hard to fit in with other stories when it could very well have branched out on its own as an entirely separate entity. I don't mind a bit of crossover, but you risk offending readers who aren't as involved with Star Wars' emerging timelines by invoking those particulars. Rogue never felt like it was written for the casual fan who just wanted to dip his or her toes in the Outer Rim, and I wonder if that may've worked against it in building a wider readership.
Director and storyteller Patty Jenkins clearly saw the potential around such an extension within fandom, and her quickly greenlit but never materialized film incarnation stumbled and chugged about as well as something juryrigged by wayward Jawas. You can't seriously launch a project of that magnitude and hope for it to be authentically successful without having a rough draft of a shooting script in mind; the idea alone was never going to carry the day, so it's no wonder that her project was inevitably shelved by the Mouse House.
But in the wake of that failure ... could an all-new Rogue Squadron be exactly what Star Wars needs to make a small screen comeback?
While others on the podcast largely dismissed such prospects as Bantha poodoo, I think it could be a grand idea. The X-Wings and its cadre of fighter pilots are probably as remembered and revered from the I.P. as are the original characters. Back in the days of my distant youth, every boy in school wanted to be Luke Skywalker buzzing about the stars in the cockpit of a fighter jet; and certainly the popularity of such films as Top Gun (1986) and Top Gun: Maverick (2022) suggest that audiences might well be equally jazzed by the prospects of flitting about the wide blue yonder in pursuit of bogies and bandits. Maybe a series of modestly produced television series -- the kind of which run about four to six episodes -- might be a way to renew fandom for what could be one more Golden Age in the world that George built.
It's familiar. It's popular. And it's pliable in such a way as it could function on more than a single level. Damn near any story could be wrapped around a team of crack star commandos sent out in service to the Republic and/or the Rebellion.
If you're listened, Lucasfilm, why not encourage audiences to buckle up once again?