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"So what exactly did the kid say that set you off, Col? In all the excitement I missed that."
―Branon, asking Col Takbright what Luke Skywalker had told him during the briefing[src]

John D. Branon was a human male rebel starfighter pilot who was a member of the Rebel Alliance during the Galactic Civil War. While stationed on Yavin 4, Branon was curious to learn what had occurred between fellow pilots Col Takbright and Luke Skywalker during General Jan Dodonna's briefing prior to the Battle of Yavin, which involved destroying the Death Star superweapon with a precise hit from a proton torpedo.

He was later selected to participate in the battle as part of Red Squadron, under the callsign Red Four, by the squadron's leader, Garven Dreis. During the battle, Branon came under fire by a TIE fighter, and was killed when it shot down his X-wing.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Stationed on Yavin 4[edit | edit source]

"Takbright! You still haven’t told us what the kid said."
―Branon, to Takbright[src]

During the Imperial Era, John D. Branon was a young[4] pilot who was a member of the Rebel Alliance during the Galactic Civil War.[2] By 0 BBY,[1] he was respected as a veteran in Red Squadron,[3] stationed at the Massassi Group's rebel base on the moon Yavin 4. [2] He—along with Puck Naeco, General Antoc Merrick, and Red Squadron's leader, Garven Dreis—would lecture fellow squadron member Col Takbright after his hotheaded outbursts.[3] Shortly after the Battle of Scarif, where the technical readouts of the Death Star battlestation were stolen by the Rebel Alliance,[5] General Jan Dodonna assembled the Yavin pilots and briefed them on how they would destroy the superweapon; the pilots would exploit a two meter-wide thermal exhaust port to cause a cataclysmic main reactor failure. The Death Star was rapidly approaching the Yavin 4 and threatened to destroy the base, necessitating its destruction.[2] As the pilots waited in the squadron's ready room to receive their assignments and man their ships, Branon and his fellow pilots discussed the chances of successfully destroying the Death Star with a precise hit from a proton torpedo.[3]

Branon was curious to learn what Luke Skywalker had said during the briefing.

Branon asked Takbright what the new pilot, Luke Skywalker, had told him during the briefing; Takbright replied that he himself had loudly stated that it was impossible to score a hit on a two-meter target with, even with a computer. Takbright then asked Branon if he had the same doubts about the mission, to which Branon was ambivalent. As more pilots entered the room, Takbright told Branon to forget whatever had happened during the briefing. However, Branon was still insistent on learning what Skywalker had said, and Takbright finally relented. After Dreis arrived, Branon was selected to fly in the attack on the battlestation under the callsign Red Four; alongside Harb Binli—flying as Red Seven. They were both chosen to served as wingmen to Major Ralo Surrel, who was given the callsign Red Eleven.[3]

Battle of Yavin and death[edit | edit source]

"I'm hit!"
―Branon's last words — (audio) Listen (file info)[src]

After preparations were complete, the pilots of both Red Squadron and Gold Squadron entered their respective X-wings and Y-wings, and took off from the Yavin 4 base to begin the Battle of Yavin. As the pilots approached the Death Star in the Yavin system, Red Squadron broke away from the formation to draw the Death Star's turbolaser fire away from Gold Squadron as the latter began their attack run in the superweapon's meridian trench. During the battle, the Empire scrambled several TIE fighters to engage them.[2]

Branon perishes over the Death Star.

As the TIEs neared the rebel craft, Branon immediately came under fire by one of the Imperial craft. Attempting to evade the enemy fighter on his tail, he was shot down and killed as his X-wing burst into flames.[2] Branon was the first Red Squadron pilot to be hit by TIE fire during the battle, and most of Red Squadron also lost their lives in the engagement, including Dreis, Naeco, and Branon's fellow squadron members Surrel and Binli.[3] Ultimately, the rebels emerged victorious when Skywalker, who flew as Red Five, managed to score a precise hit on the Death Star's thermal exhaust port and obliterate the superweapon completely.[2]

Legacy[edit | edit source]

"To Dreis, Branon, Porkins, Rue, Dinnes, Naytaan, Nett, Surrel, Naeco,…"
―Skywalker, honoring Branon and Red Squadron's actions[src]

Following the battle, Branon was regarded as a rebel hero.[4] In 1 ABY,[6] Skywalker and fellow rebels Han Solo, Wedge Antilles, Zev Senesca, Derek Klivian, and Chewbacca raised a toast at Mess Hall IV in the Mako-Ta Space Docks to honor the deceased members of Red Squadron, including Branon.[7]

Personality and traits[edit | edit source]

Branon was a human male with light skin.[2] Despite his youth,[4] he was considered among the rebels at the Massassi base to be a veteran pilot. He was cautious and was not overly optimistic towards the rebels' chances against the Death Star. Branon also showed an inquisitive side, curious to know what had happened in the briefing room between Takbright and Skywalker—much to the irritation of the former, who likened him to a "nek with a bone." Along with pilot Theron Nett, Branon was sometimes amused by Takbright's temper, though he would also lecture him afterwards and had a silent way of sternly calming the hotheaded pilot down.[3]

Equipment[edit | edit source]

At the time of his death, Branon flew a T-65 X-wing. He wore an orange and white-colored flight suit and a K-22995 light flight helmet colored red and white.[2]

Behind the scenes[edit | edit source]

"Do you mind if we blow you up?"
―Jack Klaff, repeating what George Lucas had asked him when he approached the actor for the role of Branon[src]

The character that eventually became Col Takbright (pictured) was initially believed to have been portrayed by Branon's actor.

John D. Branon was portrayed by Jack Klaff in the 1977 original trilogy film, Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, credited as "Red Four (John 'D')."[2] His surname "Branon" was brought into canon by the 2015 digital trading card application, Star Wars: Card Trader,[4] which originated in the 2006 Star Wars Legends real-time strategy video game, Star Wars: Empire at War.[8] The character was presumed to be named after special-effects supervisor John Dykstra.[9]

According to Klaff, he did not audition for the role of Branon, and received it when a fan of his who also served as a casting director for A New Hope cast a group of people, including Klaff, to play the pilots in the film.[10] When cast for the role of Branon, Star Wars creator George Lucas approached Klaff, and asked him if "he would mind if they blew him up."[11] When Klaff agreed to play the character, Branon's death scene was filmed in a matter of minutes.[12]

During filming, the actor was placed in a cockpit set that rocked around in front of a blue screen, emulating the movement of the X-wing. After filming the scene, a wet cloth was placed over his face to clean the fumes that resulted from the X-wing's explosion.[12] Klaff also claimed that Branon had additional dialogue where he reported his callsign prior to the battle, and had another line that revealed he had downed a TIE fighter before being shot down,[10] but they were subsequently cut from the film.[2]

Some fans believed that Klaff portrayed the character of Wedge Antilles in the briefing room scene, who was nicknamed "Fake Wedge." While Antilles was played by Denis Lawson in the Battle of Yavin scenes, Lucasfilm Story Group member Pablo Hidalgo revealed that the character in the briefing room was not actually portrayed by Klaff, but by actor Colin Higgins.[13] The 2017 short story "Duty Roster," published in the anthology From a Certain Point of View, later retconned Higgins' role as Antilles into a separate character, Col Takbright.[3]

Appearances[edit | edit source]

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Sources[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 The events of "Duty Roster," including the appearance of Branon, take place concurrent to the events of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, which Star Wars: Galactic Atlas dates to 0 BBY.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 "Duty Roster"—From a Certain Point of View
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 ToppsDigitalLogo.pngStar Wars: Card Trader (Card: John D. Branon - X-Wing Pilot - Base Series 1)
  5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  6. Ultimate Star Wars, New Edition dates the Assault on the Mako-Ta Space Docks to one year after the Battle of Yavin, which Star Wars: Galactic Atlas dates to 0 BBY, placing the battle in 1 ABY. Star Wars 43 is stated to take place 20 years after the proclamation of the New Order, which Galactic Atlas dates to 19 BBY. Therefore, the events of Star Wars 45, which takes place after Star Wars 43 and before the Assault on the Mako-Ta Space Docks, must be set in 1 ABY.
  7. Star Wars 45
  8. Star Wars: Empire at War
  9. SWInsider.png "Pirates of the Boards"—Star Wars Insider 95
  10. 10.0 10.1 Ellard, Andrew (2004-01-16). Mr Flibble Talks To… Jack Klaff. Red Dwarf - The Official Website. Grant Naylor Productions. Archived from the original on February 24, 2020. Retrieved on February 24, 2020. "I didn't even audition for it. I had a fan who was a casting director, who was casting Star Wars who knew me and got a group of people together as pilots."
  11. YouTube.png Jack Klaff Standing by. The Red 4 Interview - RS Prop Masters S03E10 on the RS Prop Masters YouTube channel (backup link)
  12. 12.0 12.1 YouTube.png Star Wars 100 Interviews: JACK KLAFF the exploding Red 4 X-Wing pilot on the Sci Fi Central & Pop Collectibles YouTube channel (backup link)
  13. Star Wars Mysteries: Hunting for the Fake Wedge on (article) (backup link)
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