Disney’s Star Wars has finally redeemed Wedge Antilles. “Red Two” in the first Star Wars film, X-wing pilot Wedge Antilles became a popular background character in the original trilogy. Wedge became particularly important in the old Expanded Universe, leader of Rogue Squadron, and star of an unforgettable series of novels by Michael Stackpole and the late Aaron Allston.
Unfortunately the old Expanded Universe was rendered non-canon when Disney acquired Lucasfilm, and Disney’s Star Wars has wasted Wedge Antilles. Lucasfilm contacted Denis Lawson to reprise the role for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but a scheduling conflict meant he was unavailable. Tie-in novels have since told Wedge’s post-Return of the Jedi novels, with Wedge playing a prominent role in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy and Rebecca Roanhorse’s Resistance Reborn; Wedge then had a brief cameo in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker as well. But the Disney era Wedge has felt like a shadow of his former self – until now. Lucasfilm has just published The Empire Strikes Back: From A Certain Point Of View, a celebration of the film’s 40th anniversary. This is an anthology of short stories exploring the stories of secondary and background characters in The Empire Strikes Back, and one is a delightful homage to Wedge Antilles.
Written by Jason Fry, “Rendezvous Point” reveals what happened to the Rebel Alliance when they met up again after the Battle of Hoth. Wedge is the main character, promoted because of Luke Skywalker’s disappearance, and Fry’s writing style is wonderfully reminiscent of the classic X-Wing novels by Allston and Stackpole. The plot is a simple one, as Wedge forms a new Red Squadron to deal with a group of pirates whose presence risks compromising the Rebel Alliance’s rendezvous point; pilots are at a premium, and Wedge has no choice but to pick a number of rookies, so it all goes about as well as you’d expect. Fortunately Wedge also has Wes Janson in the squad, and Fry bases Janson’s character entirely on the version from the Expanded Universe. It all feels like a love-letter to the Expanded Universe, and old-school Star Wars fans will be thrilled.
X-Wing Rogue Squadron
Sadly, there is one key difference. In the Expanded Universe, “Hobbie” Klivian survived the Battle of Hoth, and the banter between Wes and Hobbie was a highlight of the X-Wing books. In the new canon, however, Hobbie did not make it off Hoth alive, but instead sacrificed his life to save many others. This had already been established elsewhere, so Fry has no choice but to stick with it; but he plays the hand he has been dealt with real skill, using Wedge and Janson’s grief as a lens through which readers are invited to process the aftermath of the Battle of Hoth.
It’s frankly a delight to read Jason Fry’s story in The Empire Strikes Back: From A Certain Point Of View. Hopefully Lucasfilm take the opportunity to build upon this by commissioning a new X-Wing series of novels, set during the Galactic Civil War and showcasing the exploits of Red Squadron. There’s a lot more to Star Wars than just Jedi, and it’s about time Lucasfilm remembered that.