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Star Wars: Inside The Acolyte's High Republic era, from its characters to its timeline, and more

Everything you need to know about the exciting new era of Star Wars before The Acolyte

Star Wars: The Acolyte
Image credit: Lucasfilm

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Star Wars is built on the idea that it all takes place "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....", and now for the first time there's a new live-action Star Wars show taking place a long time before all those other Star Wars movies & TV shows you know.

The Acolyte, a new series set 100 years before Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, will be the first live-action Lucasfilm project to delve into the high-water point for the Republic and the Jedi Order, in a series to show the heights of Star Wars civilization and how the Sith came to power decades before the Empire. This era? The Star Wars High Republic era.

Since 2021, LucasFilm has released dozens of stories across comics and prose novels set in the High Republic, featuring trappings familiar to Star Wars fans — there's Jedi and lightsabers and the Force, hyperspace travel, sinister villains, epic clashes of good vs. evil — but with entirely new characters (mostly) that are largely disconnected from people and events in preexisting stories. Star Wars' High Republic era represents a bold attempt to carve out a new place for stories in the Star Wars universe.

And with the era set to be featured in in a live-action series for the first time, now is the perfect time to get on board!

What is Star Wars' High Republic era?

Cover to Light of the Jedi novel
Image credit: Lucasfilm Ltd

The High Republic refers, in-universe, to a specific era in the Star Wars timeline, one set before the nine-film Skywalker Saga and the various standalone films and streaming series taking place in and around it. It also refers to the real-world publishing initiative by LucasFilm, developed under the codename 'Project Luminous', to tell a variety of stories set in the era across a variety of media and for a variety of ages, from adults to teens to kids.

It depicts the Republic (the ruling body of the Star Wars galaxy in the days before the Empire) at the height of its power, with the Jedi Order supporting a galactic senate and its chancellor which is expanding the Republic and bringing civilization to the far corners of the galaxy. The inciting incident of the narrative involves the destruction of a ship by the violent Nihil — a large gang of space pirates/Vikings who serve as the chief recurring antagonists of the various stories set in this era — while it is traveling through Hyperspace, which causes the remains of the ship to become a series of 'Hyperspace missiles' which emerge into real space and threaten whole systems. As the Jedi subsequently work to limit the damage and discover the true cause of what comes to be known as "the Great Disaster", the machinations and ambitions of the Nihil are revealed to the galaxy, forcing the Republic to face its biggest challenge yet.

When does the High Republic Era take place?

Cover of book Quest for Planet X
Image credit: LucasFilm Ltd

The stories of the High Republic take place hundreds of years after the fall of the 'Old Republic' and roughly 350 to 50 years before the events of The Phantom Menace, the movie which chronologically kicks off the "Rise of the Empire" era and the larger Skywalker Saga. As a visual signifier of the new setting, the Jedi of this time typically wear brighter robes of cream and gold with more embellishments than the traditional drab attire of the Jedi of the Skywalker Saga. They also wield lightsabers with more ornate and elaborate hilts and crossguards.

To date, The High Republic represents the canonical Star Wars stories taking place the furthest back in the Star Wars timeline. Many stories were previously set in even older eras — including the much loved video game Knights of the Old Republic and its sequels — but all of those stories were deemed non-canonical after Disney's acquisition of LucasFilm in 2012.

Where are these High Republic stories being told?

Star Wars High Republic #1 Comic
Image credit: Lucasfilm Ltd, Marvel Comics

The High Republic era has thus far unfolded exclusively in books, short stories, audio dramas, and comics, with a braintrust of recurring authors, including Charles Soule, Cavan Scott, Daniel José Older, Claudia Gray, and Justina Irelans, amongst many others, helping chart its course. The first book in the series, and the one which depicts the Great Disaster and the immediate fallout that kicks off the story, is Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule.

The larger narrative arc of The High Republic is further divided into three phases: Phase I, "Light of the Jedi", kicked off in 2021 (with a prologue short story appearing in Star Wars Insider magazine in December 2020). Phase II, "Quest of the Jedi", began in November of 2022 with the publication of Convergence by Zoraida Córdova, and is currently still unfolding. The third and final phase, officially revealed as 'Trials of the Jedi' began in late 2023.

In addition to the novels and short stories, Marvel Comics has published a handful of comic book series set in the High Republic era. The first, written by Cavan Scott and illustrated chiefly by Ario Anindito and Georges Jeanty, ran for 15 issues from January 2021 through March of 2022.

A second series, also called Star Wars High Republic, launched by October 2022, again by Scott and Anindito, as well as artist Andrea Broccardo. Additionally, Marvel has published a handful of miniseries, including High Republic: Trail of Shadows and High Republic: The Blade, in support of the main series. IDW, the comics publisher holding the license for all-ages Star Wars stories, is also publishing a High Republic Adventures series aimed at younger readers.

This all enters a new stage as the Disney+ show Star Wars: The Acolyte shows this era for the first time in live-action.

Who are the High Republic main characters?

Picture of Jedi Burryaga from High Republick
Image credit: LucasFilm Ltd
Obviously, in a narrative this sprawling being told in so many different places, there is a large swath of characters involved, many of which move in and out of the story and different media (with a supporting character in, say, one novel becoming a regular fixture in the comic book series, and so forth). Before we dive into the Acolyte, some notable Star Wars High Republic characters include:
  • Avar Kriss: an exemplary Jedi whose investigation into the Great Disaster alongside Elzar Mann earns her command of the Republic's critical Starlight Beacon outpost.
  • Elzar Mann: A close friend of Avar Kriss who remained a Jedi Knight long after his peers were promoted to master, despite his affinity for rediscovering old Force abilities.
  • Stellan Gios: The "polestar" and voice of reason between Kriss and Mann, and the former master of Vernestra Rwoh, a star of the middle age High Republic novels.
  • Marchion Ro: The Eye of the Nihil, Ro is responsible for triggering the Great Disaster and essentially serves as the storyline's Big Bad.
  • Chancellor Lina Soh: The well-meaning, progressive chancellor of the Republic at the time of the Great Disaster, who hopes to unite the galaxy — and bring the Outer Rim fully into the fold of the Republic — through a series of great works, including the creation of the Starlight Beacon and the Republic Fair on Valo.
  • Keeve Trennis: The newly promoted Jedi Knight Keeve is the point-of-view character for the first volume of the High Republic comic book series.
  • Sskeer: The gruff one-armed reptilian Trandoshan (the same species as bounty hunter Bossk), Sskeer is the former master of Keeve Trennis.
  • Burryaga: A fan favorite Wookiee Jedi, Burryaga has appeared in multiple High Republic stories for all ages, crossing from books aimed at the youngest readers to the adult novels.
  • Porter Engle: Once considered the greatest swordsman amongst the Jedi, in his older years Engle semi-retired to become a cook at an Outer Rim Jedi outpost. The miniseries High Republic: The Blade chronicles his adventures as a younger man.
  • The Drengir: A race of carnivorous, amorphous plant-like beings with a collective consciousness which seek to spread through the galaxy, the Drengir frequently serve as a central antagonist in the High Republic comics.
  • Yoda: He's 900 when he dies in Return of the Jedi, so of course Jedi Master Yoda is around during the High Republic. Still a master of renown and reputation, he's not quite yet the revered figure he is in the Prequel Trilogy.

Why does the High Republic matter?

The Acolyte
Image credit: Lucasfilm

Set hundreds of years before anyone from the Star Wars movies & TV shows is around (give or take a Yoda) and with no live-action or animated movies or series to its name until The Acolyte, it can be easy to dismiss High Republic as irrelevant to all but the most diehard fans of Star Wars and its wide ranging print publications. Fans with long memories might even consider it to be little more than a rehash of the Shadows of the Empire initiative (which saw a novel set between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi published in the late '90s and supported by an action figure line, a video game, a comic book adaptation, and even a soundtrack), albeit on a larger scale.

But LucasFilm is clearly invested in this era, having already released dozens and dozens of stories set in this time period and slated to publish dozens more. References to characters and events in the High Republic are starting to show up in stories featuring more familiar characters (such as a story in the Star Wars comics set after Empire Strikes Back which sees Luke, Leia, and Lando finding an old Nihil "path engine" and getting stuck in the "No Space" through which they travel). The upcoming streaming series The Acolyte is set in the High Republic era as well, as is the highly anticipated Star Wars Eclipse video game.

Whether LucasFilm is setting up the High Republic to serve as the backdrop for its next batch of films, or simply as a way to create a new setting for Star Wars stories in a place more removed from the well-trod ground of the Empire/Rebel conflict, it seems clear the era isn't going away anytime soon. Now might well be the best time to jump on board and check it out, for risk of being left in the dark when it explodes even further.

Confused? Dive into the mythos with our Star Wars watch order.

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