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Star Wars | Monkey See, Monkey Shoot: Celebrating Rogue One's Bistan

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a short, stocky, furry, somewhat simian character in a battered space suit. With a thirst for battle surpassed only by his formidable eyebrows, his name was Bistan and he was a corporal in the forces of the Rebel Alliance.

Bistan was not the most memorable of the many stars to brighten the Star Wars firmament and certainly was not the most enduring. He appears only very fleetingly during the final stages of the 2016 film, Rogue One. But his star undeniably shone brightly if fairly briefly. Here, we salute the memory of Corporal Bistan, a Lakaru warrior who during his short time in existence, certainly left his mark.

This article is here to support Databank Dive Episode 1, in which ForceCenter’s Joseph Scrimshaw and Ken Napzok have a ton of fun discussing the same subject.

Give it a listen here 🎙️

Rebel Without a Pause

Let us be clear: despite appearances, Bistan was no ape. To mistake him for a monkey would be an error akin to mistaking the Ewoks for a group of teddy bears having a picnic on the moon of Endor. Like them, Bistan was much less cuddly than he might have looked. Like them, he also developed his considerable fighting abilities in the jungles of his homeworld. In Bistan’s case, this meant the planet of Lakar. During the Clone Wars, the planet had been a source of interest to various pharmaceutical companies. As things heated up, Bistan was recruited by Rebel Alliance Special Forces after his fighting capabilities were first recognized after a skirmish during a mission to steal much-needed medical supplies. Bistan impressed the Rebels by demonstrating formidable dexterity, agility, accuracy, and skill which enabled him to defeat the imperial forces there, despite relying on primitive prehistoric weaponry. These guerrilla-warfare tactics seemed likely to prove readily transferable when used in a more-high technology environment. 

Corporal Punishment

In Rogue One, we see Bistan on screen as one of the crowd, cheering as Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) speaks to the Rebels about her father’s sabotage of the Death Star. The next time we see Bistan it is in the environment in which he seems happiest: in the thick of battle. Specifically, this is the Battle of Scarif, the climactic battle of Rogue One. Bistan appears most memorably leaning out of a Blue Squadron U-Wing and firing at an Imperial walker with a door-mounted M-45 repeating ion blaster in what looks like a scene from a science fiction version of Apocalypse Now. Bistan’s action ultimately weakens the walker’s leg sufficiently to trigger the collapse of the whole thing. But any sense of triumph for Bistan is surely short-lived. The U-Wing is hit by a laser causing the ship to crash and explode, killing everyone on board including Corporal Bistan himself.

Ground Forced

Bistan, was in fact, played by the British actor, Nick Kellington, who amongst other things played Igglepiggle in the hugely popular series for young children, In The Night Garden… This continues the long-standing tradition of kids’ TV stars appearing in Star Wars which stretches back to David ‘Darth Vader’ Prowse’s turn appearances as the safety-conscious superhero, the Green Cross Code Man during the 1970s. Kellington also played Dipsy in the revived Teletubbies and has had small roles in several of the other recent Star Wars films. Coincidentally, the actor Andy Wareham who worked as a stunt performer in the same battle sequence as Bistan also played another regular presence In The Night Garden…, Tombliboo Unn.

There’s no denying Bistan’s appearance on screen is fairly brief. His presence in one of Rogue One’s teaser trailers suggested he might have originally been expected to have had a bigger role which was ultimately dramatically trimmed down.

The Book of Bistan?

In truth, it’s quite possible the true significance of Bistan has not yet been fully recognized. For let us consider: without his enthusiastic and effective contribution to the Rebel cause, the Battle of Scarif might narrowly have gone the Empire’s way. Had the Empire triumphed there, it is possible the ‘new hope’ of rebellion might never have ever been ignited in the first place. Luke Skywalker might never have received Leia’s message and might have spent the rest of his life as a bored, dissatisfied farmer living out a humdrum existence on the desert planet of Tatooine. Old ‘Ben’ Kenobi would have continued to drift further into eccentric geriatric obscurity. Han Solo would have continued his dubious career undisturbed. The Empire would have had no need to strike back, nor would any Jedis have ever needed to return. In short, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that without Bistan, the whole story of Star Wars as we know it would never have gotten off the ground in the first place.

As it is, we should not assume death necessarily means the end for Bistan. There is, after all, a wealth of Star Wars books, comics, computer games, and TV series in production, all set along different points in the timeline of Star Wars.

Bistan has already appeared in Rogue One, the spin-off book Rogue One – Secret Mission, and the mobile game, Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. I’m not saying we should expect any major TV series or films based around Bistan to appear any time soon (or, for that matter, ever). But suffice to say, it seems reasonable to assume, we may very well have not seen the last of him yet.

After all, when did you last see a minor Star Wars character simply fade away?

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Chris Hallam
 is a published author and freelance writer based in Exeter. In the past, he has written for magazines such as DVD Monthly and Geeky Monkey. He provided all the written content for the Star Wars Clone Wars and Smurfs annuals for 2014, and the Transformers annual 2015. He continues to write for Yours Retro, Best of British, and The History of Comics, 1930-2030.

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