It seems the Alliance general orders Cassian to kill

Galen Erso

even after receiving confirmation that the weapon is complete and has been used to destroy Jedha. Why do this if he knows the weapon is already complete? Surely at that time, it would have been better to take Galen alive if possible so he can give the rebels some info on the weapon?


This is justified more extensively in the novelization:

Draven wasn't wrong to want Galen Erso dead. It would be a righteous killing as well as a practical one, the execution of a man surely responsible for the deaths of countless civilians. Erso's years inside the Imperial war machine could have no innocent outcome. If killing Erso saved a single life, then that was cause to celebrate — but if not, his assassination was no less justified.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Official Novelization Chapter 2

There are essentially two justifications:

  • Galen is not a Good Person. Not only is he (partially) responsible for any future deaths that might result from the Death Star, but he's likely to be responsible for more civilian casualties that the Rebels don't know about, or don't know to link to him, through other work with the Empire's weapons division
  • Similarly, just because the Death Star is complete doesn't mean that Galen's work for the Empire is done. If he's capable of building a laser than can destroy planets, and he's allowed to live, who knows what kind of atrocities he could commit in the future? Practically speaking, it's better to nip that one in the bud

We can argue over whether these are good arguments, but they are the ones presented. They also don't become less relevant with the knowledge that the Death Star is completed, but that does introduce a new one, also discussed in the novelization (emphasis mine):

Andor's message contained nothing new on Galen Erso. Those assumptions remained intact, and if Erso was instrumental in the planet killer project then maybe Draven could give the Alliance breathing room. A chance to evolve before worlds instead of cities started dying.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Official Novelization Chapter 2

Draven believes that killing Galen will spread confusion among the Empire's ranks, and possibly delay the full-scale deployment of the Death Star; it would be something of a blow to the (obviously nascent) project if its lead weapons architect was suddenly killed.

While we might argue that it would be a bigger blow to the Empire if Galen defected, bear in mind the circumstances under which Draven is making his decision:

  • He only has a short time to make his decision; about the length of a hyperspace jaunt from Jedha to Eadu
  • Taking Galen alive means infiltrating an Imperial facility and extracting a high-value target, but his only assets are a single spy, a reprogrammed (and slightly glitchy) droid, and a girl he doesn't fully trust - Bodhi is basically useless at this point, and Draven doesn't know about Chirrut or Baze - with no time to make a plan of attack. Meanwhile, the Death Star is floating around blowing up cities; time is of the essence

Evaluating risk/reward, trying to extract Galen is a risky proposition that presents great risk to his assets, on the possibility of useful intelligence about the superweapon, while the Death Star is flying around blowing up cities right now.

Meanwhile, killing Galen deprives the Empire of a valuable technical asset (and kills a probable war criminal, as a bonus), and more than likely delays the entire superweapon project, which in turn gives the Alliance time to regroup and reassess their strategies.

  • 1
    I am referring to the scene when Jyn and Cassian just escaped from Jeddah and confirm the weapon's existence, at which point Draven says "My order still stands" (something to that effect). This is what didn't make sense to me.
    – AbuMariam
    Apr 19 '17 at 3:47
  • 1
    @AbuMariam Is talking about when they are talking on the radio in the ship, just after leaving Jedha and before reaching Eadu.
    – Möoz
    Apr 19 '17 at 4:00
  • @AbuMariam My mistake, and updated; the earlier reasons don't become less applicable, but there are other reasons Apr 19 '17 at 13:08
  • "What could be worse than a Death Star?" "You haven't seen episode VII? Good for you."
    – Shokhet
    Apr 19 '17 at 13:32
  • Death Star II used the same reactor design as Death Star I - the same flawed, unstable design that Galen came up with. If Galen had lived and remained with the Empire, he may have come up with a stable design that would take more than a couple of shots to destroy.
    – Werrf
    Apr 19 '17 at 14:10

They think he will carry on making Super Weapons for the Empire

This is stated in the film when Cassian is asking how he should proceed following the information retrieved from Jedha:

Radio Operator: A coded message from Captain Andor, sir. Weapon confirmed. Jedha destroyed. Mission target located on Eadu. Please advise.

General Draven: Destroyed? Proceed.Tell him my orders still stand. Tell him to proceed with haste and keep to the plan. We have no idea what he is building for the Empire. We have to kill Galen Erso while we have the chance.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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