For all its intense space battles and unforgettable Darth Vader rebel-slaughtering, Rogue One is still ultimately a film designed to answer the oldest plot hole in Star Wars: why did the Empire design a Death Star with a giant exhaust hole on the side? Well, although the Star Wars spin-off went several parsecs to answering that question, it also spawned another Death Star-sized flaw of its own.
In the film we learn that imperial engineer Galen Erso (played by Mads Mikkelsen) created a very handy flaw in the Death Star – chuck a proton torpedo down its exhaust vents and the entire battle station goes boom.
His way of letting the rebels know about this defect that took a decade to design? Sending a message to his daughter Jyn and rebel Saw Gerrera merely outlining there was a fault. He only tells them the Death Star has a vulnerability, leaving the rebel alliance to hunt down the exact details in schematics stored in a high-security Imperial data bank on Scarif.
And although a band of rebel fighters successfully salvaged the plans and forwarded them to Princess Leia, a lot of people died to bring her that information. Not even just Bothan spies, but the ENTIRE ruddy main cast of Rogue One. We don’t mean to blame the death of his daughter directly on her father, but damn, Galen, couldn’t you have just WhatsApped ‘shoot the exhaust points’ instead of being so cryptic?
However, Rogue One director Gareth Edwards told RadioTimes.com Erso actually had a reason for being so closed-lipped in his memo to Gerrera and Jyn: “[Erso] was worried his message would be intercepted and somebody would hear where the flaw was and fix it. His goal was simply to let them know it was possible. He couldn’t just tell them it was the exhaust ports!”
Edwards also said the hologram Jyn sees on Jedha contained much more information before it was interrupted by an attack from the Death Star: “What happens in the rest of that message is obviously cut off, but what I feel it is probably saying is that they had to organise to meet so Galen could tell them how to do it. I think that ideally he wanted to just give the idea that they needed a conversation about it securely.”
So, there you have it: Erso’s teasing message was supposed to arrange a meeting with the rebels, rather than to merely direct them towards Scarif. The Star Wars canon is safe, right?
Well, there is still a problem with this explanation. If Erso was so concerned about getting discovered by the Empire then why send the message at all? After all, if caught sending vague information about a Death Star flaw, Erso must have known Vader could get out the specifics with a spot of mind torture? And if he was going to take a risk to blow up the Death Star then shouldn’t Galen have attempted to blow up the exhaust vents himself or just tell Jyn the whole plan? It doesn’t quite add up.
But hey, Edward’s explanation has still thrown a more plausible plug in this gaping plot hole. It’s not a perfect fit, but as per Star Wars tradition, we could always make a prequel to further seal the gaps. Rogue 0.5, anyone?