How Does Time Work in Star Wars Actually?
The Big Picture
- The Star Wars franchise doesn’t have a fixed calendar or timeline, making it difficult to keep track of events and their order.
- Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope is considered the center of gravity for the Star Wars franchise due to its historical importance and cultural impact.
- The Battle of Yavin, where the first Death Star was destroyed, serves as a significant event that divides the Star Wars calendar into “before the Battle of Yavin” (BBY) and “after the Battle of Yavin” (ABY).
With Ahsoka introducing the World Between Worlds and other realms of the Force, Star Wars is about to get all “timey wimey” with the possibility of time travel and flashbacks. The series also has lots of ties to previous Star Wars stories, especially the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, so we often need to refer to something in the past to make sense of how things are in the present. For example, when exactly did Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) and Ezra Bridger (Eman Esfandi/Taylor Grey) vanish, and how long have they been missing?
This can be confusing because of this whole jumping back and forth, but there’s an extra layer that contributes to that: Star Wars doesn’t have a fixed calendar or timeline, so there is no single time reference to anchor all these references. You can look at Ahsoka as taking place around 10 years after the end of Rebels, or even further if compared to The Clone Wars. The Mandalorian starts around 5 years after Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi, which, in turn, is set 30 years before Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That’s a lot of going back and forth in the timeline and doesn’t make it any easier when trying to visualize the causes and consequences of key events in galactic history.
What Is the Most Common Way of Measuring Time in ‘Star Wars’?
The best way to start putting order into this timey wimey chaos is to identify trends and the most popular ways of measuring time. The Mandalorian and The Force Awakens may use Return of the Jedi as their reference, and the upcoming series The Acolyte is using Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace in its marketing campaign, but when we take a broader look at how the Star Wars galaxy is structured and how things happen, the inevitable conclusion is that the center is actually Star Wars: Episode IV — New Hope.
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There are many reasons for this, the most important being that A New Hope is the movie that started the whole Star Wars franchise back in 1977, and it isn’t a stretch to say that everything that followed only happened because the first movie was such a huge success. There wouldn’t have been two sequels, a Prequel Trilogy, a Sequel Trilogy, multiple TV series and movie spin-offs, games, novels, comics, and whatnot, if not for A New Hope, so everything goes back to it. Before the Prequel Trilogy came out, the movie was even known as just Star Wars. *The* Star Wars. It’s naturally the center of gravity for the franchise.
Another reason is the fact that there aren’t many people who have never seen A New Hope. It’s one of the biggest box offices ever, a pop culture landmark, and it’s the reference we keep going back to whenever talking to someone who’s not familiar with Star Wars. Sure, Darth Vader’s (David Prowse/James Earl Jones) coming out as Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) father in The Empire Strikes Back may be the most iconic moment in the franchise, but all the rest is A New Hope. “Use the Force,” Darth Vader’s breathing, all the “pew pew!” noises, flying starships, lightsaber sounds people playfully make… That’s where it all comes from, so it’s easier to use it as a reference even for non-initiates, too, because it’s familiar to everyone.
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