What does BBY mean in Star Wars, and why does Andor use it?

There’s plenty about Andor that is unique for Star Wars fans, but one thing in particular really stood out to me from the opening moments of the first episode.

As we see Cassian walking on a dark, rainy night, text appears on the screen telling us that he’s on Morlana One. That’s a tactic also used in Rogue One, telling us which location we’ve arrived at through the name appearing on-screen. I think it makes a lot of sense to use it here as well. But then beneath that text, we get a bit more: in bold blue letters we read “BBY 5.”

So what does that mean?

Let’s start with what it is. BBY means “Before the Battle of Yavin,” and it has long been used as the main way for Star Wars fans to keep the timeline in view. The Battle of Yavin is the climactic battle that happens at the end of A New Hope, as the Rebels launch a successful attack on the Death Star over Yavin IV and destroy the Empire’s superweapon, kicking the Galactic Civil War into high gear. The Star Wars timeline, at least the one that’s most standard and common for fans, is to use a BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin) and ABY (After the Battle of Yavin) dating system. So to say BBY 5 is to say that this is taking place five years prior to the Battle of Yavin. This system has been around the franchise for a long time, but this is the first time it has ever been acknowledged on-screen. So that’s why it’s a big deal for some fans.

Of course, we need to be clear that it is not used in this series as an in-universe timeline marker, because none of the characters in this series have the slightest clue about the Battle of Yavin or that it will happen in five years. So this text is included purely for our benefit.

And that makes sense, given the way Andor will be structured. The series will have two seasons, and the two seasons will span five years. The first season spans a year, and then the second season spans four years, taking us up to Rogue One. All of that means that Andor will take place at different periods of time as we go on, so it makes sense to include a way to help the audience keep track of where exactly we’re at in it. I really like that.

But there’s another dimension to it that comes with the series starting with “BBY 5” on the screen: it’s almost like a countdown clock reminding us of where our story is heading. We’ve already seen the conclusion to Cassian’s story, in Rogue One, and now we’re jumping back five years. Like some shows start with an event and then say “24 hours earlier,” or something like that, this series starts with an event (Rogue One) and then goes “five years earlier.” In that regard, as we see BBY in this series it’s a reminder of the stakes, and where we’re going. What we’re seeing now is how it gets there.

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