Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is set to reveal the true events that would eventually lead to the destruction of the Death Star. Fans got their first look at the film with a recently revealed teaser trailer, but those who have been paying close attention to Star Wars over the years will know that Rogue One definitely won't be the first story about how the Death Star plans were stolen.
There are, in fact, a couple of different versions of how the plans were stolen in the old Star Wars expanded universe. The first came way back in 1981 in an NPR radio drama version of the original Star Wars film. This retelling of A New Hope broke the movie down into 13 half-hour episodes, with the first two episodes actually taking place entirely before the events of the film.
In this version of the heist, a rebel spy simply steals the plans on the planet of Toprawa. Princess Leia arrives on the planet aboard the Tantive IV to pick up the plans, but had accidentally tipped of the Empire in the process. After receiving the plans, the Tantive IV makes a hasty retreat while being followed by an Imperial Star Destroyer, which should sound familiar to Star Wars fans.
Later versions of that story told in books like Jedi Dawn and Rebel Dawn (released in the early 1990s) would expand upon the tale, with Princess Leia's trip to Toprawa turning into a massive ground and space battle. This time around, the plans were acquired from a raid on an Imperial convoy in space as well as the capture of data from various Imperial outposts on the ground.
In orbit above the planet, Rebels ambushed Imperial forces and captured a portion of the plans, resulting in the Rebellion's first victorious space battle.
Once the information was acquired on the ground, the Toprawa rebels needed a way to transmit the plans to the wider Rebellion above. They captured a transmitting facility and held it off from Imperial forces just long enough to transmit the data to Leia. The rest plays out mostly the same, with a Star Destroyer chasing the Tantive IV to Tatooine, where A New Hope begins.
That was the canon version of the story for a long time, but fans of the Lucasart video games may remember the theft of the Death Star plans playing out much differently. That's because the theft of the plans was also the first mission in the Doom-esque Star Wars first-person shooter Dark Forces, released in 1995. Players took on the role of former Stormtrooper and mercenary for hire Kyle Katarn, who infiltrates an Imperial base for the Rebellion and steals the plans singlehandedly. Katarn would go on to become a major figure in both Star Wars video games and the wider expanded universe, eventually becoming a Jedi Knight.
It's all a little confusing, which is precisely one of the reasons Disney disbanded the expanded universe in the first place upon acquiring the rights to the franchise in 2013. That being said, we would be lying if we didn't wish some portions of the old EU tales would make their way back into the existing Star Wars canon.
It wouldn't exactly be difficult to do either. For example, why not have Kyle Katarn be a member of the band of Rebels in Rogue One stealing the Death Star plans? If there's a major battle revolving around the theft of the plans in the movie, why not name it the Battle of Toprawa in reference to the original story? These little things would go a long way toward helping ease the sense of betrayal some die-hard fans of the expanded universe still feel toward Disney.
As it is now, it remains to be seen what, if anything, Rogue One will borrow from the now-defunct expanded universe. For years these early tales about the stolen Death Star plans filled an important void in Star Wars canon. Hopefully director Gareth Edwards can deliver one version of the event, lest even more fans wish they could return to the time when the Battle of Toprawa wasn't relegated to the realm of glorified fan fiction.