Now that the sequel trilogy has concluded, we’re finally getting a lot more clarity as to the timeline of what was happening in-between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, particularly as it pertains to the events and characters of the sequel trilogy.
Thankfully, Pablo Hidalgo’s Visual Dictionary for The Rise of Skywalker places many of these events into different timelines, and I thought it would be helpful to highlight some of them here to compile a more concrete timeline of the events that led up to the Star Wars sequel trilogy.
One important note: Hidalgo orients these dates around the Starkiller Base Incident, as the dates are listed as either BSI (Before Starkiller Incident) or ASI (After Starkiller Incident). So basically, one way to read this is that 0 is when The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi take place, so something that is 30 BSI is something that happens 30 years before the sequel trilogy begins. The Rise of Skywalker takes place in 1 ASI
32 BSI – Poe Dameron born to Shara Bey and Kes Dameron on Yavin 4
30 BSI – The Battle of Endor proves to be the decisive turning point in the Civil War
30-29 BSI – Luke Skywalker briefly trains Leia Organa as a Jedi
29 BSI – The Battle of Jakku provides the final conflict in the Civil War
29 BSI – Ben Solo born to Han Solo and Leia Organa on Chandrila
29 BSI – Luke Skywalker begins his travels across the galaxy
26 BSI – Poe Dameron begins learning how to fly
24 BSI – Shara Bey (Poe Dameron’s mother) dies
23 BSI – Finn born and taken by the First Order
21 BSI – Lando Calrissian’s daughter born
20 BSI – Finn’s First Order training begins
19 BSI – Lando Calrissian’s daughter kidnapped by the First Order
19 BSI – Luke Skywalker agrees to train Ben Solo
19 BSI – Rey born
16 BSI – Poe Dameron runs away from home to join the Spice Runners
13 BSI – Rey left behind on Jakku
13 BSI – Luke Skywalker begins searching for Exegol
13 BSI – Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian track Ochi to Pasaana; Lando stays behind
11 BSI – Poe Dameron leaves the Spice Runners and returns home to Yavin 4
10 BSI – Rey becomes one of Unkar Plutt’s scavengers on Jakku
7 BSI – Poe Dameron begins training at the New Republic Flight Academy
6 BSI – Leia Organa leaves New Republic politics and forms the Resistance
6 BSI – Ben Solo rebels and flees to Snoke
6 BSI – Luke Skywalker journeys to Ahch-To in self-imposed exile
6 BSI – Pryde appointed in command of the Star Destroyer Steadfast by Snoke
5 BSI – Public formation of the First Order as Centrist worlds secede from the New Republic
5 BSI – With the Resistance established, Leia Organa begins searching for Luke Skywalker
5 BSI – BB-8 manufactured
4 BSI – Poe Dameron begins flying with the New Republic with BB-8
4 BSI – Brendol Hux secretly assassinated by his son, Armitage, and Phasma
3 BSI – Poe Dameron and BB-8 join the Resistance
0 – Starkiller Base fires upon the Hosnian System, openly declaring war against the now-shattered New Republic
So there’s the timeline. It’s obviously not complete, and there’s a ton of room for further exploration and storytelling. I’m sure that the time period will be explored plenty in the coming years, but there are several things that we can learn here. I’ll break down a few of the implications as it pertains to certain people.
Luke Skywalker + Leia Organa + Lando Calrissian
Luke’s first apprentice was Leia Organa, who he trained on Ajan Kloss in the final year of the Civil War. This training included Leia constructing her own lightsaber and sparring with Luke, but also included teachings about the Force. This training lasted less than a year before Leia sensed the death of her son if she continued on in this journey, so she gave up her Jedi training and opted instead to contribute in the political realm. Once Leia declined to further her Jedi training, Luke didn’t take another apprentice but instead opted to travel the galaxy, searching for lore and artifacts as it pertains to the Force. These explorations took him to Pillio (where he found Palpatine’s compass) and Vetine (where he found a Force tree) and Ossus (where he found the Rammahgon) and Gatalenta, among various other worlds. Luke accumulated an extensive library of Jedi Scriptures that he wound up taking with him to Ahch-To, as well as a variety of other artifacts.
After a decade of these travels, however, Luke Skywalker agreed to take his second apprentice: Ben Solo. The child, born ten years earlier to Leia Organa and Han Solo, was strong in the Force, but his mother wanted him to train with his uncle because of how much Vader she sensed in him. Luke agreed to train his nephew, taking on an apprentice ten years after his first one. In time, he would accumulate other apprentices as well, which forced him to divert some of his attention away from Ben. In a strange twist of fate in the Force, Luke began training Ben in 19 BSI, the same year a girl named Rey was born.
That wasn’t the end of Luke’s Jedi journeys, however. And one of the most important journeys he undertook was his search for Exegol, which happened six years after he began training Ben Solo. The same year that Rey was left on Jakku, Luke sensed a growing darkness in the Unknown Regions… and he wondered whether a remnant of the Sith had survived. It seems that Luke may have wondered whether Palpatine survived, and he began searching for a Sith wayfinder that would point him to Exegol, an ancient Sith homeworld. Lando Calrissian received a lead about this, and he accompanied Luke on a mission to Pasaana in search of Ochi, a Sith assassin. Unbeknownst to Luke and Lando, Ochi had been tasked by Palpatine to retrieve Rey and bring her to him, but Rey’s parents hid her on Jakku. Luke and Lando tracked Ochi to Pasaana, but the trail went cold. Lando stayed behind to live on Pasaana, and Luke made extensive notes about his search for Exegol.
Years later, as Luke continued to train the next generation of Jedi, Ben Solo was unknowingly continually manipulated by Palpatine, and one night he rebelled against Luke in self-defense. Luke felt responsible for the failure, feeling that he had let down Leia, Han, and the Jedi of the past, and picked up everything and went to Ahch-To.
Around the same time all of that happened (I’m presuming it was shortly before it, as I believe Leia would have sensed Ben’s rebellion and Luke’s desertion), Leia’s political career was ruined and she formed the Resistance, six years before the Starkiller Base Incident. She took seriously the threat of the First Order when others in the New Republic did not, and her cause was given more credibility a year later when Centrist worlds seceded from the New Republic to join the First Order. For the next five years, a cold war would brew beneath the surface until the First Order acted in open warfare against the New Republic, destroying the Hosnian System. Once Leia got the Resistance on solid footing, in 5 BSI, she began searching for Luke, who had vanished. Lor San Tekka would prove extremely valuable in this task.
Somehow, Palpatine returned. While we’re not sure how exactly this happened (since they did shoot some scenes explaining more, I hope more of an explanation will be in the novelization), we obviously know that he did. Additionally, Palpatine says in The Rise of Skywalker that he has died before, so it seems that this isn’t just him straight up surviving the fall but some sort of Sith magic that has allowed him to return. He’s not doing too great when we first meet him in TROS, however, so he is forced to remain in the shadows until the time is right. The galaxy only just became aware of his survival in 1 ASI, but it seems Luke Skywalker may have sensed it in 13 BSI. That’s the same year that he ordered Rey to be brought to him, so what we can conclude is that Palpatine returned at the very least before 13 BSI.
However, if it really is true that Palpatine was manipulating Ben Solo all along (and it certainly seems that way) and that Palpatine created Snoke (which TROS revealed), then I actually think Palpatine probably returned even earlier than 13 BSI but wasn’t sensed or detected.
Lastly, regarding Poe Dameron, we got more information about him in the Visual Dictionary as well. Perhaps most notably, we learned that his mother, Shara Bey, died when he was just eight years old, in 24 BSI. This is a tragic revelation, and it means that Shara Bey only lived six years longer after fighting in the Battle of Endor. I would guess that the loss of his mother had a huge effect on the young Poe, and he ran away from home eight years later, when he was sixteen.
This is important because it helps clarify a point of confusion in the movie. Zorri reveals that Poe was once a spice runner before he left to join the Resistance… but those of us who have paid attention knew that Poe left the New Republic to join the Resistance. So what happened? This timeline clears things up. Poe left home when he was sixteen and spent five years as a spice runner before returning home when he was 21. Four years after that, at the age of 25, Poe went to the New Republic Academy, and he trained there for three years before he began flying with the New Republic. He only did that for one year, until the age of 29, when he was recruited to the Resistance.