- "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
John D. Branon was a human male rebel 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 in 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.
Stationed on Yavin 4
- "Takbright! You still haven't told us what the kid said."
- ―Branon, to Takbright
During the Imperial Era, John D. Branon was a young pilot who was a member of the Rebel Alliance during the Galactic Civil War. By 0 BBY, he was considered a veteran by the Massassi Group rebels in Red Squadron, and was stationed at their base on the moon Yavin 4. He—along with fellow pilots Puck Naeco, General Antoc Merrick, and Red Squadron's leader, Garven Dreis—would lecture fellow Red Squadron member Col Takbright after his hotheaded outbursts.
Shortly after the Battle of Scarif, in which the technical readouts of the Death Star battle station were stolen by the Rebel Alliance, 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 Yavin 4 and threatened to destroy the base, thus necessitating its destruction. As the pilots waited in the squadron's ready room to receive their assignments and man their starfighters, Branon and his fellow pilots discussed the chances of successfully destroying the Death Star with a precise hit from a proton torpedo.
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; he revealed that Skywalker used to hunt womp rats in his T-16 skyhopper. After Dreis arrived, Branon was selected to fly in the attack on the battle station under the callsign Red Four alongside Harb Binli, flying as Red Seven. They were both chosen to serve as wingmen to Major Ralo Surrel, who was given the callsign Red Eleven.
Battle of Yavin and death
- "I'm hit!"
- ―Branon's last words
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 while the latter began their attack run in the superweapon's meridian trench. During the battle, the Empire scrambled several TIE fighters to engage them.
As the TIEs neared the rebel craft, Branon immediately came under fire from 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. he was the first Red Squadron pilot to be hit by TIE fire during the battle, and most of the squadron also lost their lives in the engagement, including Dreis, Naeco, and Branon's fellow squadron members Surrel and Binli. During the battle, Branon's death was reported by a control officer back at the Yavin 4 base. The officer's communication log was included in a partial transcript of recordings from the base's war room that was later added to a collection of documents known as The Rebel Files. 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.
- "To Dreis, Branon, Porkins, Rue, Dinnes, Naytaan, Nett, Surrel, Naeco,…"
- ―Skywalker, honoring Branon and Red Squadron's actions
Following the battle, Branon was regarded as a rebel hero. In 1 ABY, 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.
Personality and traits
Branon was a human male with light skin. Shrewd and rigorous, 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." He would also lecture Takbright afterwards and had a silent way of sternly calming the hotheaded pilot down. Like other Rebel Alliance personnel, he realized that the the galaxy would be left in fear if the Death Star continued fully functioning, and hoped that General Dodonna's plan to destroy the superweapon would succeed.
Skills and abilities
Branon was considered by the rebels at the Massassi base to be a veteran pilot. He had above-average intelligence, diplomacy skills, strength, speed, and fighting ability. He was not Force-sensitive.
Behind the scenes
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')." His surname "Branon" was identified in the new Star Wars canon by the 2015 digital trading card application, Star Wars: Card Trader. In the Star Wars Legends continuity, the surname originated from the 2006 real-time strategy video game, Star Wars: Empire at War, and Branon also appeared prior to A New Hope in the 1976 novelization of the film, written by Alan Dean Foster. The character was presumed to be named after special-effects supervisor John Dykstra.
Filming and portrayal
- "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
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. 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. When Klaff agreed to play the character, Branon's death scene was filmed in a matter of minutes at Stage 8 of Elstree Studios, London within the "Interior cockpit with blue backing" set at some point between June 28 and 29, 1976.
Originally, Klaff, whose character's designation was Blue Six in the script, was going to film his scenes with front projection, but Lucas decided to switch to a blue screen, and the character's callsign was changed to Red Four in post-production. During filming, the actor was placed in a cockpit set that rocked around in front of the 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. The character also had additional dialogue where he reported his callsign prior to the battle and exclaimed that he had downed a TIE fighter before being shot down, but they were subsequently cut from the film.
The annotations of special effects photographer Richard Edlund on artist Joe Johnston's storyboards for the film revealed that a pilot named "Chewie" in the third draft had its role divided into both Branon and Wedge Antilles due to the fact that the character of Chewbacca was also called by that name. In the storyboards, Branon is mentioned to have a scar across one eye and adjusted his targeting device during the battle, both of which are not shown in the film itself.
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. 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.
- Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope (First appearance)
- Star Wars: A New Hope junior novelization
- The Odyssey of Star Wars: An Epic Poem
- "Duty Roster"—From a Certain Point of View
- From a Certain Point of View audiobook
- Star Wars (2015) 45 (Mentioned only)
- (First identified as Branon)
- "My Star Wars"—Star Wars Insider 163
- Star Wars Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to a Galaxy Far, Far Away
- Star Wars: Geektionary: The Galaxy from A - Z
- Star Wars: The Rebel Files (as Red Four)
- "The Rise of the Rebellion and the Battle of Yavin" – Star Wars Encyclopedia
Notes and references
- The events of "Duty Roster," including the death of Branon in the Yavin system, take place concurrent to the events of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, which Star Wars: Galactic Atlas dates to 0 BBY.
- Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope
- "Duty Roster"—From a Certain Point of View
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
- Star Wars: The Rebel Files
- 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 (2015) 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 (2015) 45, which takes place after Star Wars 43 and before the Assault on the Mako-Ta Space Docks, must be set in 1 ABY.
- Star Wars (2015) 45
- The Odyssey of Star Wars: An Epic Poem
- Star Wars: Empire at War
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope novelization
- "Pirates of the Boards"—Star Wars Insider 95
- "May The Facts Be With You: Part Two"—Star Wars Insider 95
- Star Wars Helmet Collection 62 (Highlights of the Saga: Leaving Wobani)
- Choose Your Destiny: A Luke & Leia Adventure