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Emblem of the First Order
|Founded||After the Battle of Jakku in 5 ABY from remnants of the Galactic Empire|
Snoke (until 34 ABY)
Kylo Ren (since 34 ABY)
|Key people||Kylo Ren|
New Republic (dissolved)
The First Order is an autocratic military dictatorship in the Star Wars franchise, introduced in the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Formed following the fall of the Galactic Empire after the events of Return of the Jedi (1983), the organization has amassed its power in secret over three decades. In The Force Awakens, the First Order is commanded by Supreme Leader Snoke and has begun executing its plan to depose the New Republic and reclaim control of the galaxy. The Knights of Ren are a mysterious group of elite warriors within their ranks, led by Kylo Ren. It is the canonical counterpart of the Dark Empire.
Critics and fans have noted the use of imagery highly reminiscent of Nazi Germany for the First Order in The Force Awakens, including a sequence mimicking the 1935 Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will. The Force Awakens writer/director J. J. Abrams said that the First Order is inspired by the theory of ODESSA, which involved SS officers allegedly fleeing to Argentina and other countries following the aftermath of World War II.
|Use||Faction wide banner and ensign|
|Design||Plain dark red banner with a black emblem in the center: a 17-pointed starburst inscribed inside a hexagon, both red framed in black.|
According to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary (2015) and the novel Star Wars: Aftermath (2015) by Chuck Wendig, after the Galactic Empire was defeated in Return of the Jedi at the climactic Battle of Endor in 4 ABY, thousands of worlds rose up to join the Rebel Alliance and destroy the disorganized Imperials, who fell victim to warlordism. The Alliance formally reorganized itself as the New Republic, and retook the Core Worlds, including the galactic capital Coruscant. One year after Endor, the remaining Imperial Fleet made a final, massive attempt at a counter-offensive which came to a climax at the planet Jakku, the biggest battle in the war since Endor. Ultimately, the Imperial counter-offensive was decisively defeated. The remaining Imperial forces were pushed back to a handful of sectors on the fringe of the Outer Rim, containing only a small fraction of the galaxy's population and industrial base. These sectors were a heavily fortified final redoubt, and the New Republic deemed that they posed too minor of a threat to justify the high cost in life that liberating them would require. The New Republic forced the Empire to settle for the Galactic Concordance, a humiliating armistice agreement which imposed strict disarmament plans and punishing reparations on the remaining Imperials.
Over time, elements of the Imperial Remnant reorganized itself, becoming a firmly entrenched and isolationist hermit kingdom, and spent the next three decades instigating a "cold war" against the New Republic and gradually rebuilding its military strength, secretly re-arming in violation of its armistice agreements. The vestigial Empire secretly expanded from its original few sectors (in the galactic north), aggressively pushing into the Unknown Regions (the unexplored swaths of territory in the galactic west) to seize new undeveloped worlds there to supplement their resource base, as well as build new shipyards and industrial infrastructure far away from the eyes of the New Republic.
The 2016 novel Star Wars: Bloodline explained how this faction officially reorganized into the "First Order", and that this final transition only occurred about six years before The Force Awakens. By that time, the New Republic Senate had become divided into two parties: the Populists led by Leia Organa, who wanted to decentralize authority, and the Centrists, who wanted power to remain concentrated in a strong central government. Many of the Centrists were former Imperials who admired the old Empire for bringing order to the galaxy, and who feared that without strong central control the New Republic would become as weak and ineffectual as the Old Republic. Ultimately, many Centrist worlds seceded from the New Republic to reunite with the holdout Imperial remnants on the fringe of the galaxy, and formally combined into a new government called "the First Order". First Order conspirators publicly revealed that Leia was in fact the daughter of Darth Vader, severely harming her political standing among the remaining Populists.
The vast majority of the New Republic's worlds remained intact, but with the exodus of the Centrists its Senate became dominated by the remaining Populists, who favored decentralization and demilitarization, not confrontation. Even after these events, most in the remaining Senate were happy to see the Centrists go, feeling that the new First Order still controlled far too few sectors of the galaxy to ever pose a serious threat to galactic peace. In their view, it was easier to just let the Centrist worlds peacefully leave of their own volition and rejoin the Imperial worlds rather than fight a war to keep them by force.
The formation of the First Order when the old Imperial remnants annexes the Centrist worlds (and the New Republic's lack of reaction to this increasing threat) are apparently a reference to the real life inaction of the Western powers when Nazi Germany annexed Austria and the subsequent Munich Agreement letting Germany annex Sudetenland, both in 1938. According to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary, a reference to this is in the name of the current Chancellor of the New Republic: "Lanever Villecham", which is a play on words for "Neville Chamberlain" (La-nev-er Ville-Cham), Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1938, who famously proclaimed that giving the Nazis what they wanted in the Munich Agreement assured "peace for our time". Villecham is seen briefly in the final version of The Force Awakens but is not identified by name: more scenes with him and the Senate were filmed but deleted for time and pacing reasons.
Through as-yet-unexplained circumstances, the new "First Order" came to be ruled by the mysterious Force-wielder known as Supreme Leader Snoke. At some point Snoke seduced Leia's own son Ben Solo to the Dark Side of the Force, who renamed himself "Kylo Ren". On his turn to the Dark Side, Ben/Kylo slaughtered most of his uncle Luke Skywalker's other Jedi apprentices (with the rest joining him) and destroyed his new academy. Blaming himself, Luke fled into self-imposed exile to search for the ancient first Jedi Temple. Kylo Ren, meanwhile, took on a position as Snoke's right hand within the First Order's military.
With her political standing severely weakened, and the New Republic Senate gridlocked and unwilling to recognize the First Order's military buildup, Leia Organa decides to withdraw and form her own small private army, known as the Resistance, to fight the First Order within its own borders. She is joined by other members of the former Rebel Alliance such as Admiral Ackbar. Publicly the New Republic continues to disavow direct association with the Resistance to maintain plausible deniability, and though the majority of the Senate does not want to intervene against the First Order, several Senators privately channel funds and resources to the Resistance. This state of affairs continued on for the next six years until the events of The Force Awakens. Comic book writer Charles Soule, creator of the 2015 Marvel Comics series Star Wars: Poe Dameron, explained that immediately prior to the events of The Force Awakens, "The New Republic and the First Order are in a position of detente, and while there have been a few small skirmishes between the Resistance and the First Order, it's very much a sort of cold war."
The First Order's handful of sectors simply do not possess the galaxy-wide resources the old Empire used to be able to draw upon, and in addition the armistice treaties with the New Republic put strict limitations on how many ships it could physically build. Therefore, unlike the old Galactic Empire's swarm tactics, the First Order's military has had to adapt to a more "quality over quantity" philosophy, making efficient use of what few resources it has.
The First Order lacked the resources to build and crew thousands of Star Destroyers. While its fleet is a fraction of the size of the Imperial Fleet at its height, on a one-for-one basis its new ships are much more powerful. In addition, they boast thirty years' worth of advances in military technologies compared to the old Empire. As a result, the First Order now deploys starships such as the new Resurgent-class Star Destroyer, nearly twice as large as the old Imperial-class Star Destroyer which it replaced as the mainstay of the First Order fleet. With a naval doctrine that accepted the renewed importance of starfighters within their overall strategy, the Resurgent-class adopted the carrier-centric designs of the Galactic Republic's Venator-class Star Destroyer.
The First Order's TIE fighters, designated TIE/fo, are more advanced than the old Empire's TIE/ln model, and show greater concern for unit stamina and survivability. The First Order's Special Forces use a more heavily armed two-man TIE/sf variant. Visually, their color scheme is reversed from the old Imperial design: the Empire's TIE Fighters have black solar panels on a light grey metal body frame, while First Order TIE Fighters have white solar panels on a dark metal frame.
For space to surface delivery, the First Order is also seen deploying several standard troop transports. Elite units and high value command personnel such as Kylo Ren use the Upsilon-class command shuttle, a stylistic evolution of the old Imperial Lambda-class T-4a shuttle (but without the third fin on top, and now sporting large wings that retract upon themselves on landing).
The Last Jedi introduces several more ships of the First Order. Mandator IV-class Siege Dreadnoughts are larger but rarer than Resurgent-class Star Destroyers, used as orbital bombardment platforms which can functionally wipe out entire planets' population centers (albeit through conventional weapons, just short of being considered super-weapons). Dwarfing even these other vessels are Supreme Leader Snoke's personal flagship and mobile capital, the Mega-class Star Dreadnought Supremacy: a wing-shaped vessel wider than it is long, the size of a small country. Supremacy measures 60 kilometers at its greatest width—equal to about 18 Resurgent-class Star Destroyers lined up end to end.
The Last Jedi also introduces a new starfighter element to the First Order fleet, the TIE Silencer superiority fighter. Much as TIE Interceptors were the next generation fighter starting to phase out the original Imperial TIE Fighters, TIE Silencers are a next-generation fighter given only to the most elite units. Visually they somewhat resemble a cross between a TIE Interceptor and Darth Vader's TIE Advanced x1 prototype, being wider and more elongated, while boasting heavier weapons, shields, etc. to be able to face X-wings head-on. Kylo Ren pilots his own personal TIE Silencer. Their technical designation is "TIE/vn" (because in earlier drafts, the ship was called "TIE Vendetta").
A major plot point in The Last Jedi is that the First Order has developed new "hyperspace tracking" technology, allowing them to continue to chase enemy vessels through hyperspace from one jump to the next (until one or the other runs out of fuel). This technology was first mentioned in passing in Rogue One as another research project the Empire was starting to develop almost forty years before.
The First Order employs a quality-over-quantity philosophy with its soldiers and personnel. Unable to conscript trillions of soldiers to fill its Stormtrooper ranks, yet unwilling to invest huge resources in breeding a rapidly produced clone army (like the original Stormtroopers at the end of the Clone Wars), First Order Stormtroopers are trained from birth, raised their entire lives for no other purpose. First Order soldiers and crews have constantly trained for combat in war games and simulations, making them much more effective one-on-one than the endless waves of Stormtrooper conscripts fielded by the old Empire. First Order Stormtroopers are regularly put through mental indoctrination and propaganda programs, to make sure that they remain fanatically loyal and never hesitate or question orders. Being taken from their families at birth, these soldiers are not even given individual names for themselves but merely serial numbers, such as "FN-2187". This was the name Finn, a defector and Resistance hero, was originally given. His current name, given by Poe Dameron, derives from the FN, which was the only part Dameron was able to remember easily.
First Order Stormtroopers are formally deployed in squads of ten, with the tenth spot reserved for a heavy weapons specialist as the needs of the mission require: usually a heavy gunner, but sometimes also flamethrower troops, or riot troops equipped with energy batons (which are incidentally capable of blocking a lightsaber). The design of the armour of regular and heavy gunner Stormtroopers bears significant resemblances to the design used by the Galactic Empire, such as the helmet visor, nasal filters, and overall shape. However, the filter was extended, among other practical features. According to the famed First Order officer Captain Phasma, not even a Wookiee (the species Chewbacca belonged to) could crush the said armour. Some stormtroopers held high ranks—a significant improvement from the one-rank system of the Empire. These were indicated by the colour of shoulder pauldrons. In the rare instance of a stormtrooper earning the rank of Captain, they often earned a blasterproof cape. Occasionally, they modify their outfit even further—Captain Phasma made blasterproof, chrome copies of all her equipment and greatly improved vision modes of her helmet’s visor. Captain Cardinal, the bodyguard of a First Order founding father, received almost all-red armour from his superior as a sign of trust.
As a heavy siege weapon, the First Order also fields its own evolution of the old AT-series of armored transports, the AT-M6. Dwarfing the older AT-AT, the AT-M6 has numerous design improvements including heavy serrated cable-cutters mounted on its legs—to avoid being tripped up again like AT-AT's were at the Battle of Hoth. These cutters are positioned in such a way that the AT-M6 walks on its "knuckles" instead of the pads of its feet, which—combined with a heavy siege cannon which gives it a hunched-over appearance—gives the AT-M6 an almost gorilla-like profile compared to the more elephant-like AT-AT.
In the film, the First Order is led by a mysterious figure named Snoke, who has assumed the title of Supreme Leader. Like the Empire before them, the Order commands a vast force of stormtroopers. The First Order uses regular and Special Forces versions of the Empire's venerable TIE fighter. Its primary base of operations is Starkiller Base, a fortified ice planet which houses a superweapon capable of destroying entire star systems across the galaxy by firing through hyperspace. The base commander of Starkiller is General Hux, a ruthless young officer dedicated to the Order.
Snoke is a powerful figure in the dark side of the Force and has corrupted Ben, the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa who had been an apprentice to his uncle, the Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. Masked and using the name Kylo Ren, he is one of Snoke's enforcers, much like his grandfather Darth Vader had been the enforcer of Emperor Palpatine during the days of the Empire decades earlier. Kylo is the master of the Knights of Ren, a mysterious group of elite warriors. Kylo and Hux are rivals for Snoke's approval, and the third member of the "commanding triumvirate" of the First Order is the formidable Captain Phasma, the commander of the stormtroopers.
Kylo is searching for Luke, who vanished some years earlier. Snoke believes that as long as Luke lives, a new generation of Jedi Knights can rise again. The First Order launches a preemptive strike on Hosnian Prime, the New Republic's current capital world (as well as Hosnian Prime's Sun and the other planets in the 'Hosnian System' (Hosnian Prime's solar system), as well as the spaceships there), by test-firing the Starkiller weapon. This devastating first strike takes the New Republic completely by surprise, not only killing most of its leadership in the Galactic Senate, but wiping out a substantial portion of the New Republic's core military fleets. This paves the way for a resulting Blitzkrieg of the rest of the galaxy by the First Order, using the disproportionately powerful military it has rebuilt over the past three decades.
Kylo fails to retrieve the map fragment that would lead him to Luke, and the Resistance manages to destroy Starkiller Base moments before it is able to fire on the Resistance base on D'Qar, though Kylo and General Hux are able to escape the explosion.
The Last Jedi follows immediately after the events of The Force Awakens, and the narrative narrowly focuses on the First Order's fleet attacking and chasing the Resistance from their only base (on the planet D'Qar). As a result, the First Order's intended galaxy-wide offensive against the decapitated New Republic is only alluded to in passing – and indeed, has only just begun, given that the events of The Last Jedi itself only span a few days or weeks.
The First Order's main fleet, led by General Hux and Kylo Ren, assault the Resistance base on D'Qar now that they have discovered its location (in a conventional attack, as their original plan to obliterate it using Starkiller Base failed). The Resistance manages to evacuate most of its personnel and equipment from the surface before it is destroyed by orbital bombardment, but then have to fight their way through the First Order blockade. Poe Dameron rashly leads an assault against a Mandator IV-class Siege Dreadnought – one of only a handful of heavy orbital bombardment platforms in the enemy fleet – and manages to destroy it, but at the cost of the entire bomber wing of the Resistance. Kylo Ren then personally leads an assault in his TIE Silencer which destroys the rest of the Resistance fighter wing in its own carrier's hangar bay. Ren hesitates to fire on the command bridge of the Resistance carrier, containing his mother Leia Organa, but his wingmen carry through with their attack, wiping out all of the Resistance leadership (including Admiral Ackbar), except for Leia herself (who, while blown out into space, uses the Force to pull herself back to the ship). Vice Admiral Holdo assumes control of the Resistance fleet while Leia recovers.
The small Resistance fleet manages to escape via a hyperspace jump, only for the First Order fleet to reappear at their location moments later: the First Order developed a new "hyperspace tracking" technology, making it impossible to evade them simply by jumping away. The Resistance ships would simply exhaust their fuel by making more hyperspace jumps, without shaking the First Order fleet, so they continue to flee at sub-light speed (at which they are slightly faster than the larger and more powerful First Order ships). This only forestalls the inevitable, however, as their sub-light fuel at continuous full speed will still be exhausted in a day. This devolves into a siege-like battle of attrition, as one by one the smaller Resistance ships run out of fuel and are destroyed by the pursuing First Order fleet.
Ultimately, Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren trick Rey to come to Snoke’s flagship, the Mega-class Star Dreadnought Supremacy. Ordered to kill Rey, Kylo Ren kills Snoke instead and replaces him as Supreme Leader of the First Order. He offers Rey that they could rule the galaxy together, but she refuses, as he almost returned to the light side of the Force after Snoke’s death. They resume fighting and she manages to knock him unconscious, then escapes the ship. When General Hux arrives, he blames the murder on Rey, and Hux begrudgingly accepts his new rank.
Meanwhile, Poe Dameron stages a mutiny against Holdo, believing she had no plan but to run until their fuel ran out. As it turns out, however, she had a plan, but didn't trust him after the fiasco of his assault on the dreadnaught: she would remain to pilot their last surviving ship (their command carrier, Raddus), while all of their personnel fled in cloaked shuttles to an old Rebel Alliance base on the salt flats planet Crait. The First Order discovered the ruse, however, destroying most of the shuttlecraft. Already determined to lay down her life for the Resistance, Holdo then directs the command carrier on a suicide run, making a faster-than-light jump directly into Snoke's flagship – cutting it in half, and destroying much of the First Order fleet in the wreckage.
With the old Rebel base on Crait hardened against orbital bombardment, Kylo Ren commands Hux to land all of their surviving ground forces to wipe them out: only a few dozen Resistance members are left alive, but Leia is among them, and if they escape they could rally the rest of the galaxy against them. Leia sends out transmissions to allies "in the Outer Rim" begging for aid, but they inexplicably do not appear. Just as the First Order breaches the base, Luke Skywalker appears to challenge them. A full barrage by their artillery has no effect on Luke, so Kylo Ren descends to duel him in person – but Luke easily dodges the attacks of his former apprentice, humiliating Ren as he frustrates himself in empty rage. Ren finally manages to land a hit – only to realize that Luke is not truly present on Crait at all, but in an unprecedented display of his power using the Force, projected his appearance halfway across the galaxy. Luke tricked Ren to buy time for the Resistance to escape the planet, and humiliate Ren in front of his new-won empire – though the strain of this Force-projection is fatal to Luke, and he peacefully becomes one with the Force after he buys enough time for the remaining members of the Resistance to escape.
The handful of surviving Resistance members escape on the Millenium Falcon with Rey. While the Resistance has been functionally destroyed, their one ship contains the seeds to destroy the First Order: Leia and her allies aboard live to rally the remnants of the New Republic in the rest of the galaxy, while Rey saved all of the sacred Jedi texts, to one day give rise to new generation of Jedi to fight the First Order.
Robbie Collin of The Telegraph described the disfigured and skeletal Snoke as a "sepulchral horror" and referred to Hux as "a spitting fanatic of the First Order whose every gesture speaks of utter contempt for, well, everyone."
Critics and fans have noted the use of imagery highly reminiscent of Nazi Germany for the First Order in The Force Awakens, including a sequence mimicking the 1935 Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will. The Force Awakens writer/director J. J. Abrams said that the First Order is inspired by the theory of ODESSA, which involved SS officers allegedly fleeing to Argentina and other countries following the aftermath of World War II. Abrams explained:
That all came out of conversations about what would have happened if the Nazis all went to Argentina but then started working together again? What could be born of that? Could The First Order exist as a group that actually admired The Empire? Could the work of The Empire be seen as unfulfilled? And could Vader be a martyr? Could there be a need to see through what didn't get done?
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