Andor Ushers in the First Onscreen Use of the BBY/ABY Dating System

The first three episodes of Andor have dropped and with it comes one of the largest tonal shifts we’ve seen in Star Wars programming since… well, ever. But beyond taking the galaxy far, far away to the far more adult themes of rebellion and spy-craft, Andor has an onscreen first that got an audible gasp out of me. It features the first true use of a calendar system in Star Wars.

As we’re introduced to Cassian for the first time in the show, he enters the Preox-Morlana Corporate Zone on the planet Morlana One, title cards and all. It’s not often we see title cards for planets and locations in Star Wars; in fact, I believe this may be the first time since Rogue One that we’ve seen title cards for planets. Below that a new title appears, reading ‘BBY 5.’

As a fan of uhh… fictional chronologies, this was unbelievable, as it finally acknowledged the BBY/ABY calendar system as a canon resource (at least it displays it in some official capacity). It’s a huge moment for Star Wars fans, as I’m sure I’m not the only one rejoicing right now because of it. So let’s break it down!

Like our real-world Gregorian calendar uses BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini) to differentiate our time and place in history, Star Wars has had a number of dating structures proposed since it’s inception (both in-universe and not) to keep track of the elapsing of time. BBY, or Before the Battle of Yavin, and ABY, After the Battle of Yavin, mark the destruction of the first Death Star in Episode IV: A New Hope as the focal point on which all time before and after revolves. It’s really quite a neat system from a real-world perspective as it allows us to use the original Star Wars film as our gauge on this universes history. From an in-universe perspective though? Eh, it’s not the strongest point in time for them to wrap their history around. The destruction of the Death Star, while big, is dwarfed by events like the start of the Empire before it, or the start of the New Republic after it, but I digress. Seeing Andor finally utilize this dating structure, one previously used primarily by fans and the occasional guidebook, was a treat, even though it isn’t necessarily an in-universe dating system.

While certain Legends titles began truly utilizing the events of 77’s ‘Star Wars’ as a historical focal point in the early ‘90s, the terms BBY and ABY weren’t coined until West End Games 1996 version of their Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game Guide. It has since featured in a number of guidebooks, and was later adopted by the new canon in 2014.

The dating structure isn’t perfect, as it’s mostly fan-administered and doesn’t have any meaningful way to delineate months or days within a given year. One issue I’ve found; The Mandalorian’s first season was said to take place 5 years after Return of the Jedi (4 ABY), so naturally it’s 9 ABY. Despite the fact that in season 2 a bunch of time has clearly passed, (likely more than a year based on the change seen in Nevarro City alone), there’s been no official word on how much time has passed, so most fans still date season 2 as also occurring in 9 ABY.

With the dating of ‘BBY 5’ in Andor, we know exactly where this fits on the Star Wars Timeline, and it’s refreshing to see it front and center at the start of the series. Of course, nobody within the series knows that in 5 years time the Death Star will be blown up above Yavin 4, but from a canon perspective, it could still make sense. We know the Star Wars story is told in past tense: “a long time ago…” so this works itself out as a recounting of the year 5 before the Battle of Yavin from some indeterminate time in the future.

I do wish we had gotten a title card date for the flashback scenes, but we can work it out to roughly 20-18 BBY; at a time where Cassian was roughly six years old.

Fun fact: because of a line in 2016’s Star Wars: Galactic Atlas, we used to believe that 0 BBY and 0 ABY were two halves of one year (a fact that caused quite a few chronological errors), but with the upcoming 2023 release of Star Wars: Timelines reference book, Lucasfilm is officially doing away with the pesky 0 BBY altogether. Now, anything directly prior to the Battle of Yavin is simply logged as 1 BBY.

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