It’s kind of taken for granted within the larger Star Wars mythos just how the Death Star ended up being built, but the new Rogue One prequel tie-in novel, Catalyst, finally lets us in on just how Supreme Chancellor (and soon-to-be-Emperor) Palpatine’s machinations on both sides of the Clone Wars led to the most destructive weapon the galaxy had ever seen up until that point.
Luckily, you don’t have to read a single word of the book to find out why. Like it’s own little opening crawl, author James Luceno’s book begins with a brief epigraph to set the stage for the story before the first standalone Star Wars movie.
For years, the Clone Wars have raged across the galaxy. Countless worlds have been ensnared in the conflict between the Galactic Republic and the Separatist army led by the devious Sith Lord Count Dooku. While rumors spread that the Separatists are nearing completion of a superweapon, fear grips the Republic. In response, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine has tasked a secret team of researchers with perfecting a battle station for the Republic: the Death Star.
This twisty tale could be confusing for both casual fans and Star Wars diehards alike. It almost makes it sound like the Republic made a second superweapon to match the one built by the Separatists, and yet in reality Palpatine is playing both sides to create the dreaded Death Star.
In Attack of the Clones, Separatist leader Count Dooku (who is also in cahoots with Darth Sidious, aka Palpatine) sways the other Separatist elites against the Jedi by promising the completion of the Death Star, saying he must bring the plans back to his master on Coruscant. But his master is actually Palpatine, who is keeping up a ruse as the leader of the Republic against the Separatists.
Essentially, Palpatine is using the fear on both sides of the Clone Wars to ensure that someone will help him build the Death Star. Using that in-fighting, the Republic wins the Clone Wars, turns into the Empire, and voilà: the Death Star becomes the thing that will motivate Jyn Erso and the Rebels in Rogue One.