In the storyline of the film Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, the Empire and the Rebellion, the old warring factions of the original trilogy, no longer exist. In their place are the First Order and the Resistance, with the New Republic now being the dominant force in the galaxy. Under the leadership of Supreme Leader Snoke, the First Order seeks to restore the authoritarian vision of the now-fallen Galactic Empire, including destroying the Republic, reasserting control over the galaxy, and exterminating any remaining Jedi. This leads them to construct a massive superweapon known as Starkiller Base and support the dark side organization known as the Knights of Ren.
The organization amassed power in secret for three decades following the Battle of Jakku and the fall of the Empire, The First Order are clearly the antagonists of the new Star Wars films, resembling a fascist military junta and clearly invoking Nazi symbolism with their uniforms, militaristic aesthetic, and rallies, including a scene referencing the 1935 Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will. Armed with a massive military machine and emboldened by their recent victories, they are no doubt a force to be reckoned with in the new Star Wars films. But in spite of their introduction in The Force Awakens, little is known about the new political and military faction. Their origins, ideology, and objectives remain a mystery to many.
Here are 15 things you might not have known about the First Order. We hope you enjoy, and may the Force be with you.
15. Formed By Imperial Officers in the Unknown Regions
Officially, the Galactic Empire came to an end when it formally surrendered to the forces of the New Republic after the Battle of Jakku in 5 ABY, ending the Galactic Civil War. High casualties were suffered on both sides, but it would be the last stand for what remained of an Empire which had previously suffered a decisive defeat in the Battle of Endor with the destruction of the second Death Star and the death of Emperor Palpatine and his apprentice, Darth Vader. Facing military defeat and internal unrest, the Empire was forced to surrender and sign the treaty known as the Galactic Concordance.
Almost immediately afterward, Imperial warships began flocking to the Unknown Regions of space, far away from the reach of the Republic. There in the vast unexplored frontier, the First Order would be formed. Many of its leaders are former military officers of the Empire, while others are disgruntled sympathizers of the old Imperial ways who were a part of the political structure of the Republic, but seceded when the conflict between themselves and Republic loyalists became too severe. Others like General Armitage Hux are the children of prominent leaders of the Empire looking to carry on its legacy.
14. Based on the Nazis Fleeing to Argentina
The concept of the First Order was created for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens and was based on Nazi war criminals who fled to other countries (mainly Argentina and Brazil) through ratlines after the end of World War II. According to director J.J. Abrams, the idea was first developed from conversations among the production team:
“That all came out of conversations about what would have happened if the Nazis all went to Argentina but then started working together again? What could be born of that? Could The First Order exist as a group that actually admired The Empire? Could the work of The Empire be seen as unfulfilled? And could Vader be a martyr? Could there be a need to see through what didn’t get done?”
In this way, the First Order would be a new fascist junta that would idolize see their historic task as bringing order to what they saw as the corruption, weakness, and anarchy of the Rebellion and its successor state, the New Republic. First Order imagery, much like the Empire’s aesthetic from the original trilogy, also recalls Nazi uniforms, symbolism, and regalia, with the red, black, and white flag of the Order’s symbol clearly recalling Nazi Germany’s emblem. General Hux mimicking Hitler’s famous hysterical speaking style, and the gathering of Stormtroopers and officers at Starkiller Base is also plainly reminiscent of a Nuremberg rally.
13. Stormtroopers Have New Military Doctrine
The First Order’s military forces include an army, a navy, and Special Forces, all under the command of General Armitage Hux. Its infantry units wear the stark white armor inspired by the Empire’s Stormtroopers, but with their own updated design, including a sleeker appearance and greater joint flexibility. Members of the new generation of Stormtroopers are given unit designations instead of names and are trained from birth to ensure absolute loyalty. But perhaps the most important difference between the military of the former Empire and that of the First Order lies in doctrine.
Unlike the Empire’s inconsistent academy standards and numbing routines, the training of the First Order encourages improvisation and the use of the unorthodox and revolutionary on the battlefield. Vivid training simulations, live-fire drills, and training on capital ships also help create the most loyal soldiers possible. Troopers are also trained in counter-insurgency operations and guerrilla tactics. The First Order lacks the superior numbers and resources of the former Empire, but First Order Stormtroopers are better equipped and trained, making them more efficient and dangerous than their Imperial predecessors.
12. Name May Come From ‘Order 66’
Many Star Wars fans have considered the origins of the First Order’s name. While its true meaning remains shrouded in mystery, one fan theory that has gained some traction online is that it’s a reference to “Order 66,” Palpatine’s “first order” as Emperor to exterminate the Jedi. It would make sense, since the First Order rose out the ashes of the fallen Empire and their entire culture is about finishing the work that Palpatine and Vader started, including eradicating the Jedi from existence. This would also explain the purpose of the Knights of Ren as the First Order’s version of the Inquisitors – elite Jedi-hunting units.
Another similar theory is that it harkens back to Palpatine’s “first order” as being the declaration of the Empire with himself as Emperor of the galaxy in 19 BBY. This proclamation abolished the Republic, blamed the Jedi for the start and continuation of the Clone Wars, and announced further militarization and Palpatine’s appointment as Emperor for life; all of these are goals the First Order would find admirable.
11. Not Led By The Sith
Though his ability to use the Force wins Kylo Ren many battles, he is not a Jedi. The enigmatic Supreme Leader Snoke is very powerful in the use of the Dark Side, but contrary to popular belief, neither Ren nor his Master are Sith Lords. When Darth Vader killed Emperor Palpatine and then died himself, the Sith were virtually eliminated due to Darth Bane’s “Rule of Two,” which stated there should never be more than two Sith – a Master and an Apprentice – at any given time. Possible hidden holocrons and records notwithstanding, the Sith can be considered functionally extinct by the time of The Force Awakens.
The Force practitioners of the First Order are the first of a new archetype of Dark Side users that have emerged in the three decades since the demise of the Sith. In fact, they might be more accurately called “dark Jedi,” since the Supreme Leader believes that Kylo Ren is the ideal embodiment of the entire spectrum of the Force, drawn to both the light and the dark and being able to use both equally well.
10. They Covertly Funded Militia, Assassinations, Crime Syndicates, and Republic Senators
After its founding, the First Order bided its time for thirty years while engaging in a Cold War with the Republic. To generate the funds they needed to rebuild the Imperial fleet and rearm in violation of the Galactic Concordance, the First Order backed a paramilitary organization called the Amaxine warriors, a pro-Imperial militia that acted as the financiers and partners of the Nikto crime lord Rinnrivin Di’s cartel. The Order injected billions of credits into the cartel, turning it into a major crime syndicate that engaged in lucrative smuggling, gambling, and piracy operations, with the profits being channeled through shell companies and shadow corporations back to the First Order.
After the First Order’s ties to the Rinnrivin cartel’s criminal activities and the Amaxine warriors were almost exposed by an investigation launched by Senators Leia Organa and Ransolm Casterfo, Arliz Hadrassian, a former TIE fighter pilot who had risen to become the leader of the Amaxine warriors and another First Order proxy, bombed the New Republic’s senatorial complex and killed herself after assassinating Senator Tai-Lin Garr. The Order also recruited several Centrist senators such as Lady Carise Sindian to their cause, acting as paid agents to subvert the Republic from within. After the bombing and assassination, these Centrist elements would eventually motion to secede from the Republic to join the First Order.
9. They Had a Treaty With the New Republic (And Violated It)
The Galactic Concordance to which the First Order was legally bound set strict arms restrictions and punishing reparations. The fact that what remained of the Empire signed the treaty was the reason the hardliners broke off to form the First Order in the first place. The Order would push massive militarization for three decades in the Unknown Regions, building military bases and shipyards to churn out the most advanced weapons and starfighters in clear violation of the Republic’s laws.
The Order built Resurgent-class battlecruisers in violation of the treaty’s articles banning capital ships and ignoring the ban on the First Order’s ability to purchase weaponry. New Stormtrooper forces were mobilized towards the goal of expansions of the army and navy, training on ship-based military academies. They also developed new generations of IT-000 interrogator droids in violation of the ban on the use of torture. Their most blatant violation was yet to come however, with the completion of the Starkiller Base superweapon and the subsequent destruction of the Republic’s capital of Hosnian Prime. This bold move was meant to be the culmination of thirty years of preparation, and the First Order formally declared war on the New Republic.
8. They Are Backed By Corporations
In order to exploit a loophole in the treaty restrictions banning the sale of weaponry to the First Order, galactic arms manufacturers BlasTech Industries and Merr-Sonn Munitions, Inc. simply created a new dummy shell corporation called “Sonn-Blas Corporation” so they could operate and manufacture weaponry in First Order territory. Sonn-Blas manufactures most of the Order’s weaponry within the Unknown Regions. Sienar-Jaemus Fleet Systems also produced weapons and vessels such as the Upsilon-class command shuttle and multiple new varieties of TIE fighters as well as reactors, laser cannons and ion engines for the Order. Its army systems division manufactured the widely-used Atmospheric Assault Landers (AAL), which carried First Order Stormtroopers into battle.
Aratech-Loratus Corporation developed the Light Infantry Utility Vehicle and most of the First Order’s ground assault vehicles and walkers. The Resurgent-class capital ship, which had over 3,000 turbolasers and ion cannons in clear violation of the arms restrictions, was developed by Kuat-Entralla Engineering and was specifically designed to resemble the feared Imperial-class Star Destroyers of the Empire.
7. Propaganda Plays An Important Role in Their Culture
The importance of propaganda to the culture of the First Order cannot be overstated. Growing up isolated in the Unknown Regions of space, the citizens of the Order are raised with a version of history skewed in favor of the Empire. Stormtrooper cadets under the leadership of Imperial veterans read approved literature and videos about the glorious past of the Empire and how it was defeated by the terrorists of the Rebellion, who later established the Republic. Morale sessions are mandatory twice a day for Stormtrooper cadets. The recorded speeches of General Armitage Hux are frequently played over the airwaves speaking about the social problems, disorder, and depravity of the Republic.
Current events are also skewed against the Republic, such as the famines on Ibaar and Adarlon, the crackdown on Balamak, and the supposed unchecked advance of alien populations throughout the Outer Rim. The First Order military is also shown as holding massive patriotic functions and military rallies to celebrate its victories. As the result of this constant bombardment of propaganda from the cradle to the grave, many people in First Order space believe that only the Order can save the galaxy from chaos and corruption.
6. Kylo Ren’s Unique Lightsaber Has Ancient Origins
Anyone who saw The Force Awakens knows that the three-bladed one wielded by Kylo Ren of the First Order stands out as unique. Kylo’s unusual lightsaber is reportedly of an ancient design, dating back thousands of years to the Great Scourge of Malachor, a legendary battle between the Jedi and the Sith. Lightsabers of this variety are called crossguard blades or quillions.
Many viewers also noticed from the very first trailer for The Force Awakens that the weapon’s red plasma blades have a fearsome, ragged, unstable appearance. Perhaps symbolic for its creator, Ren used a single cracked kyber crystal to build the weapon, which proved unstable and barely able to contain its power. This led to a focusing of crystal activators which split the plasma stream into two lateral blades and diverts the excess energy produced by the cracked crystal. Emitter shrouds protect the wielder’s hand from the two smaller blades, and this design passes on the distinctive crackling, serrated appearance to all three blades.
5. The Republic Was Not Worried About the First Order
The Republic were indeed aware of the First Order, and it may boggle the mind of Star Wars fans to try and imagine why the threat was ignored for three decades after the Battle of Endor until the firing of Starkiller Base. The First Order largely escaped galactic attention by staying hidden and taking advantage of the widespread belief held by the New Republic Senat that they were a small band of poorly equipped, badly funded and unorganized group of Empire revanchists who posed no real threat to peace. Chancellor Lanever Villecham argued there was no need for war against the Order as long as they followed the terms of the Concordance.
The Republic also massively demilitarized after the end of the Galactic Civil War, dismantling a large portion of their armed forces and battleships. When the First Order tested the resolve of the Republic by violating the accords, prominent members of the Senate voiced concerns, among them the vocal Leia Organa. The Senate dismissed these sentiments as alarmist and warmongering.
4. The Resistance Was Founded In Response To Republic Inaction
The relations between the Republic and the good guys of The Force Awakens, the Resistance, are mentioned only briefly in the film. The full history of how the two are connected is not explored. As noted in the previous entry, the New Republic didn’t seem all that upset by the emergence of the First Order and their blatant violation of the accords and dismissed many in the Senate who believed the reports of their mobilization for war as alarmists. The Order also bribed members of the Senate such as Erudo Ro-Kiintor by transferring large numbers of credits in secret through the Corporate Sector Authority to ensure inaction.
Frustrated with the Senate’s complacency, Leia Organa used her influence as a Senator and a prominent member of the former Rebel Alliance to organize the Resistance, recruiting many former military officers to her cause. In this way, the Resistance is somewhat of a splinter group that has broken away from the Republic to fight the First Order and acts as a private military force. The First Order seem to believe the New Republic as a whole sanctioned these attacks, though the funding for the Resistance comes from a group of like-minded Senators who share Organa’s concern about the First Order. The Resistance is therefore unofficially supported by the Senate and those hoping to avoid a larger conflict with the Empire’s successor state.
3. The Knights of Ren are its Religious Body
The Knights of Ren were only shown very briefly during Rey’s visions in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The dark side organization operates under the command of the First Order and Supreme Leader Snoke but seems to be mainly commanded by Kylo Ren, whom Snoke referred to as “the master of the Knights of Ren.” Before the events of the film, Kylo led them to massacre the Jedi of Luke Skywalker’s new Jedi Order. The Knights also led subsequent purges against the remaining Jedi and hunted down those with an affinity for the use of the Force, much like the Inquisitorius of the old Empire.
Aside from their love of hunting down Jedi, one of the few things we do know about the Knights is that they are considered the religious body of the First Order. As a member of the Knights, Kylo has no official military rank within the hierarchy of the First Order, but the officers are compelled to tolerate his presence within the military command. Clearly, there is a backstory to be told for the Knights of Ren, and they will reportedly have a substantial role to play in Star Wars: Episode VIII.
2. Captain Phasma’s Armor is Made From A Ship Palpatine Owned
Phasma was the commander of the First Order’s Stormtroopers in The Force Awakens, one of the unofficial commanding triumvirate of Starkiller Base. Phasma is mainly known for being portrayed by Game of Thrones‘ Gwendoline Christie and for her distinctive silver armor worn with the traditional First Order armor weave cape. The polished chromium of her armor reduced radiation, but the Captain primarily wore it as a symbol of power. As it turns out, Phasma’s armor has a much deeper meaning than simply being shiny.
Phasma had her armor polished in chromium salvaged from a Naboo luxury yacht that had once belonged to none other than Emperor Palpatine of the Galactic Empire himself. The silver chromium coating of the yacht ship denoted the high status of its owner (Padme Amidala also owned one), and the armor harkened back to the glory days of the First Order’s predecessor state, a time when the Empire dominated the galaxy. As such, its history projects the power and authority once commanded by the Emperor at the height of his power.
1. “TR-8R” Served With Finn
The character of FN-2199, nicknamed “Nines” (referred to as “TR-8R” by fans before his real name was known) is mainly remembered for tossing aside his gun and shield and using a Z6 riot control baton to fight the lightsaber-wielding Finn. Fans speculated that this scene was not just some random encounter with an ordinary Stormtrooper, but was personal, explaining Finn’s stunned expression and the impassioned shout of “traitor!” New information has become available following the release of the film, and the theory that the two were connected somehow has been verified.
The pair’s history is told in Greg Rucka’s Before the Awakening, the prequel novel to The Force Awakens. As it turns out, Nines and Finn were former squadmates who trained under Captain Phasma and practiced together in combat simulations for most of their young lives. A fiercely loyal soldier to the end, FN-2199 confronted his former comrade-in-arms directly, accusing him of being a traitor to the First Order for defecting from the Stormtrooper ranks. His only line in the film was delivered by veteran Star Wars sound editor David Acord.