By the Doctor
I have a lot of feelings about Rogue Squadron. As you’ll know if you read my most recent H.A.R. “Retro Review” on Courtship of Princess Leia (or, perhaps, if you follow me on Twitter @Lemoncakesong), I just finished re-reading the X-Wing series of Star Wars Legends books. And if you pay attention to Star Wars news, you’ll know that one of the potential upcoming live-action projects coming out of the Star Wars media franchise is a film about that most famous of X-wing squadrons: Rogue Squadron. And that’s all we know about it! And we don’t even know that for sure! Since the film’s announcement we’ve been told it was going to be directed by Patty Jenkins, we’ve been told it was no longer going to be directed by Patty Jenkins, the film was shelved, the film was unshelved, the film might still be directed by Patty Jenkins. At this point, details are beyond slim. However, to the best of my knowledge, we’re still expecting a film about Rogue Squadron to happen in some form. And as someone who has loved her some Rogues, I have some thoughts about that.
If you’re not familiar with them, the Rogue Squadron books are a subsection of the X-Wing series of novels that were initially published from 1996-1999 with a final novel added to the series in 2012, as part of the Expanded Universe (or EU, now known as Legends). The series was written by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston, with Stackpole writing five books about Rogue Squadron, and Allston writing four about a different X-Wing squadron, Wraith Squadron, plus a fifth book by Allston, Starfighters of Adumar, which is technically about neither squadron but I think we could categorize more as a Rogue Squadron book than anything, given that it’s about four members of that squadron (Wedge Antilles, Tycho Celchu, Wes Janson, and Derek “Hobbie” Klivian) on a specialized diplomatic mission to Adumar.
Please believe me that when I say I have a lot of feelings about Rogue Squadron, I mean a lot of feelings (I’m a woman of a lot of feelings and a lot of thoughts, ask Berg). I love these books. But it’s not just that I think they’re good; these books and I have a history. They’re comfort reading to me. I cannot tell you how many times I have re-read them since I was a kid, because there was a period of time where I was re-reading them more than once a year. They moved with me from Portland to New Zealand, across a series of moves in Wellington, and back from New Zealand to Portland again. I can recite to you my favorite quote from the series (which comes from one of the Wraith Squadron books [Solo Command] yes, but from a man who more than anything is a Rogue, Wes Janson) “you can’t look dignified when you’re having fun”, without looking at the book for reference. And I could have done that without having just re-read them (again, ask Berg, I quoted it at him before I even got to Solo Command in my re-read, and that was having not read the books in almost a decade [not from lack of love or interest, but grad school ate my life for a while]). And it’s not just that it’s a good quote, it's the meaning behind it. Wes is the squadron prankster, he’s a delightful dork who keeps Wedge on his toes and does things like smuggle in a fake Ewok to keep up his running gag that a new recruit applying to Wraith Squadron is an Ewok (“yub, yub, Commander”). But “you can’t look dignified when you’re having fun” is said to another member of the squadron, Myn Donos, who is dealing with PTSD and grief over the loss of his former squadron, a man who has forgotten how to unclench and enjoy life, to let others in, to not be so concerned with looking dignified. I think people might look at these books and think perhaps “ah, X-wing books, those are just going to be superficial military science fiction” (setting aside the utter inanity of assuming military science fiction is somehow less literary, that’s a subject for a different article); but these books are intelligent, they’re well written, they’re at times poignant (please know that when I tell you I cry every time I read Iron Fist I am in no way exaggerating), they have given us some of my favorite characters in Star Wars literature, and they’re immensely re-readable. I love these books.
So, yes, I have some thoughts on the upcoming film, should we actually get it. And I do want a Rogue Squadron film. But, and this may surprise you after everything I’ve just told you about my love of these books, I don’t want the film to adapt the books. I don’t think they could do it in any way that would add anything to what the books have already given us, and I think it would ultimately be inherently flawed and unsatisfying. First of all, the Star Wars film universe has already diverged so far from the EU that it would be impossible to faithfully make a film out of any of the Rogue Squadron books. Don’t get me started on the fact that technically Hobbie is dead in the canon, that’s one of those things that I acknowledge is a fact of the new canon and choose to prefer the EU as my personal internal truth. Hobbie lives (in the pages of the books). [And yes, I realize that Hobbie doesn’t actually feature in the first four Rogue Squadron books, this is just an example of one of the most egregious differences between canon Rogue Squadron and Legends Rogue Squadron as far as I’m concerned.] Then you get into all the traditional problems of adaptation, of taking characters that have only lived in our heads and committing them to screen. I’m not saying good adaptations aren’t possible, but I think that given the constraints again of not just adapting but of translating Legends into canon, on top of the constraints of adaptation, I’d rather they not. Particularly not, again, after how we’ve seen the new canon deal with aspects of Legends before. Honestly, I think if they use entirely new characters, outside of Wedge Antilles (you can’t make a Rogue Squadron anything without Wedge), that may even be their best option. We know so little about this film, including when in the timeline it’s going to be set, that it’s hard to even speculate about what kind of story I’d like to see in it. But I can say that what I’d like to see is a wholly fresh story, that draws on the spirit of the existing Rogues, that humor, that intelligence, that heart. Remember people, you can’t look dignified when you’re having fun.