While it makes sense for the Rebel Alliance to be stationed at the iconic Yavin IV base in the fourth and final season of Star Wars Rebels, it was not always the plan. When executive producer Dave Filoni spoke with Comicon.com about the final year, he said the choice was organic, but it also involved a lot of deliberation.
“When you get a bunch of people in a room to talk about Star Wars and the Rebellion it’s not going to be long before Yavin comes up,” he said. “In fact, Dantooine came up quite a bit and we had a lot of thoughts about [setting up a base] on Dantooine instead.” The planet, in Star Wars Legends lore, was the home of a Jedi enclave in the Knight of the Old Republic game series. It was also the location Leia Organa gave to Tarkin and Vader in the original Star Wars in the hopes it would prevent Alderaan from being destroyed. Of course, as fans know, the Empire found the remains of a long-deserted Rebel base when they searched the system.
“Once the movie steered clear of Dantooine and they were more based on Yavin, we thought we should do that,” Filoni continued. “It makes a clear frame of reference – especially for kids watching the movie and kids watching our show, they’ll recognize both things. It makes a better bridge, but I believe — and I’ve just made so many of these now, I can’t remember — but, I believe, when Mon Mothma makes her big speech [in season three], they are actually doing it above Dantooine.”
That organic process also came into play for this week’s episodes, which saw Ezra Bridger and the rest of the Spectres return to Lothal, the planet where their adventures began. From the moment they make planetfall, scenes are filled with callbacks to season one stories. A choice Filoni said made sense once it came up in the writers’ room. “I think it just builds a nice structure to have a before and after,” he said. “And to see how peoples’ lives have worked out.”
One of those updates was the return of Ezra old academy pal Jai Kell (voiced once again by Dante Basco). In the first season, he was a young lad excited to join the Empire and see the galaxy, but now he fights on the side of the Rebels. On a sadder front, Ezra discovered Ithorian bartender Old Jho – whose bar openly defied Imperial rules for years – was now an Empire-sanctioned club run by occasional season one antagonist Baron Valen Rudor.
Though these examples make it clear that Lothal has changed as much as Ezra since he left the planet, Filoni said he wished he had more time to include other season one characters. “We could have even driven the point home further at the end here,” he said, but added, “the absence of Old Jho and his replacement by Imperials is pretty clear.”
The state of Lothal’s environment indicates just how rough things have been since Grand Admiral Thrawn thwarted their last attempt to liberate the planet. “The ground being scorched plays into how the Empire has no interest in taking care of the planet,” Filoni explained. “They have no interest in making this a place livable for people. They are just going to take and take and take from it. The greed and the selfishness of what’s going on is showing everywhere in the way that things are much more of a police state and [the planet] is being just spoiled.”
But there are a few pockets of the planet not yet corrupted by the Empire. In one such arctic region, Ezra finds a heard of lothcats defying the presence of a nearby Imperial base and a seemingly mystical lothwolf.
Wolves offer a special fascination for Filoni. “The inspiration for me begins with a movie called Never Cry Wolf based on the book by Farley Mowat and directed by Caroll Ballard,” he explained. The film, about a Canadian biologist who spends a year in the tundra researching wolves, engendered a life-long fascination for him. “It just really kind of opened my eyes as a young kid to the world and the environment and wolves.”
He noted that in many folkloric traditions, the wolf has a double nature depending on the specific story’s perspective. “They’re often vilified, but sometimes they’re seen as teachers,” he explained. “They have this duality towards mankind and a representation that to me is very similar to the Force. The Force has a dark side and a light side. These animals have stories that seem to have a dark side and a light side. I thought that they made an interesting symbol as far as an interaction with our Jedi characters [went] and what they might think of them. Or what they might think [the wolves] are actually saying to them.”
Over the course of Filoni’s affiliation with Star Wars, he has been known to sketch Clone Wars and Rebels characters alongside wolves, but resisted the temptation to bring the animals into either show. “George [Lucas] and I used to talk about it [during Clone Wars] and he’d tease me about it a little bit.”
Noting that sympathetic depictions of wolves can lead to people trying to adopt them, Filoni was quick to add that wolves do not make great pets. He encouraged viewers fascinated by his rendering of the lothwolf to learn more about real life wolves from The International Wolf Center at wolf.org.
At the same time, he considers the lothwolf a “unique thing I think that we’re doing here” in Rebels‘ final year and something which connects to Ezra’s affinity for lothcats and other animals; an aspect of the character going back to its earliest days.
“It really fit here with the planet and with what we were doing with the environment,” he said, adding that “it’s going to play into a bigger part of the plot” of upcoming episodes. While he would not confirm that Lothal is the final destination of Rebels, he said the ending will reward the audience “for their love of the characters and interest in the show.”
“I think that they deserve a proper ending,” he added.
Star Wars Rebels airs Mondays on Disney XD.