6 ‘Rogue One’ Secrets We Learned From the ‘Catalyst’ Novel

Lucasfilm hasn’t been shy about tie-ins to their slate of upcoming movie releases. Leading into Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we got the first Star Wars: Aftermath novel, covering many of the events that took place in the Star Wars universe directly before the film picked up. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story gets a similar treatment leading into its own December premiere. Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel hit bookshelves in mid-November, and we’ve been pawing through it ever since to extract all the biggest secrets it reveals about its companion film. That all being said, here’s what we were able to learn.

1. Jyn Erso’s parents and why they’re the key to everything

Rogue One - Jyn Erso's mother, Lyra

Jyn Erso’s mother, Lyra | Lucasfilm

Jyn Erso may be the main protagonist of Rogue One, but in Catalyst, it’s her parents, Galen and Lyra, who take centerstage. Jyn’s father is painted as a brilliant (albeit obsessive) polymath, while her mother is an interstellar archaeologist who adheres to the teachings of the Jedi.

Galen’s genius is renown throughout the galaxy as far back as the Clone Wars, making him a valuable commodity. The caveat: He’s a devout pacifist who refuses to use his considerable intelligence to manufacture instruments of war. For Lyra’s part, she’s the grounded, resilient partner who keeps Galen rooted in the real world. Together, the Ersos will hold the fate of the entire galaxy in their hands (for reasons we’ll get to soon).

2. Director Orson Krennic’s background

Star Wars: Rogue One Trailer

Orson Krennic | Lucasfilm

The primary villain of Rogue One, Director Orson Krennic isn’t just your run-of-the-mill evil Imperial. He comes from a modest, blue collar background and clawed his way up the food chain within the Empire. Everything he’s ever achieved he’s fought for tooth and nail, carefully manipulating his way around every adversary. Based on what we’re shown in Catalyst, it’s not hard to see how formidable a foe he truly is, as a master strategist whose singular goal is earning his place as the sole commander of the Death Star.

This puts him at odds with none other than Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, who holds similarly lofty ambitions for himself. We won’t say exactly how, but Krennic maneuvers his away around Tarkin initially, leapfrogging him in the Imperial chain of command as he helps develop the Death Star’s super weapon. All the while, he gets noted pacifist Galen Erso to help build the weapon, without Galen ever realizing what it is he’s actually doing.

3. Galen Erso and Orson Krennic’s lengthy history

Rogue One - A Star Wars Story

Director Krennic and Galen Erso | Lucasfilm

Krennic doesn’t just happen upon the Erso family. As Catalyst reveals, Galen and Krennic’s relationship actually dates all the way back to their days in school together, with the latter acting as the former’s protector on many an occasion. The novel picks up with Galen and Lyra imprisoned on a Separatist planet during the Clone Wars. Krennic is the one who eventually leads the Republic’s rescue mission, safely escorting the Ersos out of captivity.

That friendship only goes so far for both men though. Krennic’s ultimate goal supersedes his relationship with his old friend, as he conscripts Galen into the Death Star project under the guise of renewable energy research. Eventually, the Erso family discovers what they were really working on. They escape Imperial custody under the cover of night, which later has Krennic scouring the galaxy for his metaphorical golden goose. As we see in the frame above from the film’s trailer, Rogue One begins with Krennic finally tracking his former friend down.

4. The Death Star’s construction

Rogue One - Death Star

The Death Star | Lucasfilm

The Death Star wasn’t built in a day. Rather, it took decades of construction, years of research, and saw a series of considerable setbacks along the way. The development of the space station’s super-laser was the most important facet of it all though, evidenced by the events of Catalyst. 

Initially, Galen Erso’s work has him researching the properties of kyber crystals, the living mineral used to power the lightsabers of the Jedi. What he doesn’t know though is that Orson Krennic used his research to build a dish-shaped weapon capable of destroying an entire planet.

In terms of the actual construction of the Death Star, it was initially built by Geonosian slaves, commissioned by Krennic through a deal struck with prequel villain Poggle the Lesser. Catalyst also confirms that the original design of the Death Star did in fact come from the Geonosians, who are shown handing the plans over to Count Dooku in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. 

5. Saw Gerrera’s relationship with the Erso family

Forest Whitaker in Rogue One

Forest Whitaker in Rogue One | Lucasfilm

Fans of The Clone Wars animated series may remember Saw Gerrera from the show’s fifth season. Gerrera is a noted expert in guerrilla warfare, having spent much of his youth battling the Separatist armies on his home planet, Onderon. In Catalyst, he’s the one who helps sneak the Ersos off of Coruscant, later finding them a place to lay low and hide from the Empire. The official Star Wars website also credits him as one of the key forces behind the early days of the Rebellion, so clearly his fighting days are far from behind him.

6. Setting the stage for Rogue One

Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso in Rogue One

Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story | Lucasfilm

So how does this tie in to the events of Rogue One beyond acting as background information? For one, Catalyst wraps up just a handful of years before the film picks up the story. At the end of the book, the Ersos are in hiding on a remote planet called Lah’mu, likely the same one we saw in the opening of the second trailer.

Meanwhile, the Empire didn’t take kindly to Krennic losing the Death Star’s lead researcher, demoting him down from Commander to Lieutenant Commander following the Erso’s escape. Simply put, the Death Star can’t be completed without Jyn Erso’s father, and from the look of it, it won’t be long before Krennic catches up with him. All that sets the events of Rogue One in motion, as Jyn is forced to reconcile her father’s role in creating the Death Star with her own moral compass.

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