“Mon Mothma entered the room. A stately, beautiful woman of middle age, she seemed to walk above the murmurs of the crowd. She wore white robes with gold braiding, and her severity was not without cause-for she was the elected leader of the Rebel Alliance.”Return of the Jedi by James Kahn (1983)
When someone thinks of Rebellion leaders, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and especially Princess Leia come to mind. Star Wars merchandise is full of Princess Leia’s form with the words Rebel printed on clothing, mugs, notebooks, etc. And that association is understandable because of her presence in the films. Leia is the first true Rebel leader we meet in A New Hope, and she is leading things in The Empire Strikes Back. By the time we get to the Sequel Trilogy, she is also the leader of the Resistance. While Luke Skywalker has been the face of the light side, Leia is the face of the Rebellion. For the first two films in the Original Trilogy, Leia is the only main female character, but she also seems to be the sole leader. It is not until Return of the Jedi that another female leader is introduced, first in the novelization and then in the film. Fans would later find out that this leader, Mon Mothma, was not just a politician but the political leader of the Rebel Alliance.
Believe it or not but the Return of the Jedi novelization came out 13 days before the film was released, so fans could read about characters like Mon Mothma before seeing them on screen (and also find out what happened with Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker 13 days earlier). In the novelization, Mon Mothma is introduced as a former senior Senator and a member of the High Council (the latter no longer being associated with the Galactic Senate but the governing body of the Jedi Order).
The Time Between Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi.
How is it possible that a founding member of the Rebel Alliance has the least amount of screen time in Star Wars canon? She has a blink-and-miss cameo in The Clone Wars and is in a few episodes of Rebels but is absent for most of the Original Trilogy events on screen.
As if understanding the problem and trying to retcon, Lucasfilm has inserted Mothma into significant roles in novels like Queen’s Shadow and The Aftermath Trilogy. In Queen’s Shadow, Mon Mothma is in the background during Padme’s first year as a Senator, quietly assessing whether the former Queen could be an ally or enemy. In The Aftermath Trilogy, Mon Mothma finds herself trying to corral an entire galaxy on the brink of destabilizing post the destruction of the second Death Star. Looking at the most recent Star Wars canon timeline, these novels take place during “Fall of the Jedi” and “The New Republic” respectively.
An entire chapter has yet to be explored with Mon Mothma during the “Reign of the Empire.” This would be during The Bad Batch and Solo: A Star Wars Story and could see the development and construction of the Yavin 4 rebel base. While the Rebellion has not been fully realized in The Bad Batch, pieces are slowly being placed: Trace and Rafa have acquired a tactical droid from the Clone Wars and are working with Captain Rex, Hera has fled Ryloth with her parents, and Saw Gerrera’s faction is growing. By the time the Empire has settled its grip on the galaxy in Solo: A Star Wars Story, there are groups like Enfys Nest and her cloud-raiders leading Rebel cells.
The Return of the Jedi novelization mentions that Mon Mothma was organizing dissent, even as the Republic was beginning to crumble, then went underground after Alderaan was destroyed. In the short story “Contingency Plan” by Alexander Freed from A Certain Point of View we learn that Mon Mothma always seemed prepared for the worst. The story takes place right before the Battle of Yavin and finds the leader running through her plan if the Rebels assault on the Death Star fails. She has lists of Rebel cells and safe houses. There is some survivor’s guilt and guilt that she could not be with other Rebel leaders, like Leia, on Yavin 4.
During Aftermath, we see a different Senator who lets her guard down during the dwindling days of Imperial control across the galaxy. She proposes and passes the Military Disarmament Act, reducing the centralized military of the New Republic by ninety percent, putting more faith in planets and systems to defend and govern themselves. Unfortunately, that complacency and lack of resources in the Outer Rim ultimately leads to the emergence of a galactic threat in The First Order. It is a curious contrast to her point of view during the Original Trilogy. Still, The Aftermath Trilogy is the most Mon Mothma content we get in canon.
Other major leaders in Star Wars have been explored more in additional canon content. Wilhuff Tarkin, the infamous Grand Moff first introduced in A New Hope has been everywhere in recent canon (The Clone Wars, Rogue One, Rebels, and The Bad Batch), but he also got his own novel (Tarkin by James Luceno) detailing his backstory and rise within the Empire. Thrawn, a popular character from the Expanded Universe but new to canon, has already had one trilogy of novels and is finishing up a second prequel trilogy of his time in the Chiss Ascendancy. And this is all before most Star Wars fans even heard his name uttered from Ahsoka Tano’s lips in The Mandalorian. And yet, the Rebellion equivalent (even superior) of both Imperial Officers has not even gotten her own novel?
Meanwhile, on the live-action side, Genevieve O’Reilly will reprise her role as Mon Mothma (from a cut scene in Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) in the upcoming series Andor. The show will revolve around Cassian Andor before his fateful meeting with Jyn Erso but during his time as a Rebel Spy. Very little is known about the series, which has wrapped filming, but Mon Mothma will play some part. It is also not clear what part of the timeline the show will take place (obviously before Rogue One), but Alan Tudyk has confirmed that K-2SO will not make an appearance. Tudyk also confirmed in this interview that there are plans for a second season. This news could mean we see Mon Mothma during the period of The Bad Batch and Solo: A Star Wars Story, which would include Rebels. Forest Whitaker is also reportedly returning as Saw Gerrera in Andor. Gerrera, who met his end in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, had an arc with Mon Mothma in Rebels that highlighted their opposing tactics in fighting the Empire. Andor could provide more context to Saw’s faction and increasing isolation within the Rebellion.
Whether live-action or through a novel, Mon Mothma’s time gathering intel and building rebel cells across the galaxy is worth exploring. And, while we will see more of her in Andor, her early years with the Rebellion deserve a closer, more detailed look.