How Hera Syndulla saved Star Wars


I was a middle-aged man who left Star Wars behind because it was no longer for me. Hera Syndulla was a Twi’lek pilot out to save the Galaxy from oppression.  What could a Rebel pilot teach a lapsed adult fan? Quite a bit actually.

It has been seven months since the final episode of Star Wars: Rebels aired. Though there certainly hasn’t been an absence of new Star Wars related material in the meantime, Rebels holds a special place for me as a fan.

I enjoyed Solo: A Star Wars Story and tune into each new episode of Star Wars: Resistance, but I find myself scouring new projects hoping to see any of the wonderful Rebels characters return; especially Hera Syndulla.

I need to step back a little bit here before I go on, and take you all to where I was as a Star Wars fan in 2012. I warn you , it was not a pretty picture. I was someone who had seen the Original Trilogy first run in theaters at an age that ensured those films had a profound effect on me. When the Prequel Trilogy came, I had to admit they did not do for me at age 30 what the OT did for me at age 10, but why should they? The good news was they had moved my kids the same way the OT moved me, so I was at peace with that, and open to enjoy the new films through their eyes.

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What I did love at that time was Genndy Tartakovsky’s 2003 Clone Wars animated series. They were short and fun. I could enjoy them with my son and daughter. I looked forward to more. What came instead was The Clone Wars in 2008.

From Ziro the Hutt to Ahsoka Tano, I saw characters who felt completely out of place in what I saw as the Star Wars galaxy. I was only able to get through a few episodes and I couldn’t take it any more. I was done. (Spoiler alert: I was terribly wrong, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)

So I tuned out. Sure, I would go back and watch MY old Star Wars, but the new products weren’t for me. I mouthed off about them. I acted like a gate-keeper. In short, I was insufferable. More time passed, and the Disney acquisition happened, and I was pretty sure that meant more Star Wars too childish for me to relate to, so I stayed checked out. And then I saw her.

There was a short preview to the new upcoming animated series called Rebels and I was immediately intrigued by how it seemed to channel the old Ralph McQuarrie concept art of the OT. This particular episode was called “The Machine in the Ghost” meant to give an introduction to the new characters. I was immediately hooked.

A new ship in “The Ghost” that felt like a classic piece of Star Wars design; the music and space action that could have come right out of The Empire Strikes Back; but most of all, Hera Syndulla, the master of the Ghost, not just as Captain, but as a pilot who could throw her freighter against Imperial TIEs and blast them at will. I wanted to know more about her.

When Rebels debuted in October 2014 I was there.  Though I could tell the show was meant to be about the two Jedi characters, I was in it for Hera, and every time she was on screen, masterfully voiced by Vanessa Marshall, she shined. Captain of the Ghost, and quietly helping foment a larger Rebellion against tyranny; what’s not to love?

SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 21: Vanessa Marshall attends 2018 WIRED Cafe at Comic Con presented by AT&T Audience Network at Omni Hotel on July 21, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for WIRED)

As the season drew to an end, I was looking forward to the coming The Force Awakens in theaters but a friend mentioned to me that Hera’s father was actually in The Clone Wars. I had rejected that show however, so there was no reason to go back.

But Hera’s father was there.  Oh, and the Rebel contact code-named “Fulcrum” who was hiding just at the edge of Rebels’ first season turned out to be (shudder!) Ahsoka Tano. The warrior who descends the Ghost’s ladder for that reveal seemed a long way from the character I had considered the annoying little Padawan Tween years before.

So I resolved to try again and see what The Clone Wars really had to offer. I discovered that I had been an idiot.

I had rejected something that on its surface didn’t immediately speak to me as a man pushing 40 and had missed out on the best piece of character development any Star Wars project has ever done. Having initially told people that I would only watch TCW if Anakin killed his Padawan (and yes, I cringe to think I once believed that), I was a grown man holding back tears when she walked out of the Jedi Temple in season 5.

Photo Credit: [Star Wars Rebels] LucasfilmAnd there were the amazing sagas of the various Clone characters, in particular Echo and FIves. The friendship between Obi-Wan and Anakin, which I felt the Prequels had overlooked; more importantly the slow descent of Anakin toward his dark fate. Not only did TCW prove to be great, it made the PT a better story for me.

So, a few months later when the first of the sequel films debuted, I was there, with my now adult children, and we loved it together and continue to love what has come. I now get to sit with my granddaughter and watch Forces of Destiny. I was even able to get her an Ahsoka doll for her fourth birthday, and as I understand she hasn’t put it down yet.

All of this new joy I have been able to experience as a Star Wars fan in a family of Star Wars fans I owe to Hera Syndulla. That character helped me realize the essence of Star Wars is in its heart, and sometimes a heart may need time to tell a story. The characters telling that story may not look like me, or act like me, but that’s OK. Drawing in a wide audience means more people with whom I can share that essential Star Wars feeling: hope.

I suppose it isn’t that Hera Syndulla saved Star Wars; she saved my fandom from my own shortsightedness. And that took the heart of a hero.

Thanks, General Syndulla.

Next. Dave Filoni reveals Star Wars Rebels could have ended differently. dark

What character made you a fan? Who do you hope to see again in the future? Comment below!