How the original Rogue One ending would've changed everything

Spoilers ahead for Rogue One: In the theatrical version of the film, pretty much every main character is killed in the Rebel assault to obtain the plans for the Death Star. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the original screenplay ended on a different note; as director Gareth Edwards told io9, in the first version of the film, all the main characters didn't die. Which makes sense—this is a Disney movie, after all. But Edwards said the idea to axe everyone came about as a narrative necessity.

These characters are obviously leaders and players in the Rebellion during the A New Hope era (or would have been, had they survived), and Lucasfilm needed to find a way to explain why they weren't around in the original Star Wars trilogy—specifically A New Hope, which takes place immediately after the events of Rogue One. And yes, we really do like the fact that these folks don't make it. It's a realistic reflection of war, and the fact that these potential-filled characters had their stories snuffed out is true to the type of story Edwards was telling. Bad things happen, and sometimes great people don't make it. But let's play devil's advocate—what if these characters survived? How could they have reshaped the Star Wars universe?

Saw Gerrera

Lucasfilm has been open about the fact that Saw Gerrera's role in Rogue One was reduced quite a bit from conception to production. After being first introduced in the animated series Star Wars: Clone Wars, Lucasfilm had bigger plans for his team of fringe Rebels in Rogue One. But reshoots and running time had their way, and much of Saw's story was left on the cutting room floor—and his story ended fairly early in the film's run time, as he's blown up during the Death Star's first test shot. But had he lived, you have to wonder what influence his gorilla tactics and ruthlessness might've had on the Rebellion at large. The Rebellion is desperate enough to seek him out in Rogue One, so it stands to reason he could've risen to a leadership role under the right circumstances. Could he have pushed the Rebellion down a darker path in its tactics to combat the Empire?

Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus

These two warriors were tasked with defending the ancient temple, but when the Empire came and started stripping it, they were pretty much out of work. They get roped into Jyn's mission after making their own stand for what's right, and prove to be critically important soldiers in the field. They may not be Jedi, but they still fight for the Force. If they had made it into the original trilogy, you have to think they would've continued fighting wit that same ground level approach, backing up Rebel soldiers and helping turn the tide against the Empire. Plus, had Chirrut stuck around through the original trilogy, his mantra of "I am one with the Force. The Force is with me" might have gotten popular a whole lot sooner.

Cassian Andor

We meet Cassian well into his spy career for the Rebellion, and from the moment where he shoots his own informant, it's clear he handles the uglier side of the hope-filled Rebellion. In regards to the big screen Star Wars films, we've never really met a character like him before, so it'd have been interesting to see the contributions he might've made in the war rooms of A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He would've almost certainly brought a darker edge to the Rebellion's tactics, and you have to wonder what other useful intel he might have acquired had he survived to keep fighting.

Bodhi Rook

Bodhi is instrumental in getting word out that a flaw potentially exists in the Death Star, after being given his secret mission by Jyn's father from deep inside the Empire. As far as his place in Rogue One, Bodhi serves as the team's pilot and communications expert. He also shows some creativity in confusing the Empire, by faking calls on the radio to make it seem like their strike team is more like a 100-odd soldier army. Had Bodhi survived, his outside the box approach and ingenuity could've been useful for the burgeoning Rebellion.

Orson Krennic

Up until Rogue One, we didn't really know that anyone other than Grand Moff Tarkin was in charge of the Death Star, but it all started with Orson Krennic. Krennic is arguably the most tragic character in Rogue One, and the Empire middle manager spends pretty much the entire film trying to prove his worth to Tarkin, Darth Vader and the Emperor—only to get fragged alongside everyone else when the Death Star gets its test shot. Had he lived, you have to think Krennic would've brought a brutal hand to the wheel of the Death Star. Might he have been able to protect it when others failed? He had a great mind and boundless ambition, and had Krennic lived, we have no doubt he would've continued climbing through the ranks of the Empire.

Galen Erso

Galen's survival could've arguably had one of the biggest butterfly effects on the Star Wars universe at large. As the man who designed the Death Star, having him survive to join the Rebels would've been a game-changer. Not only does he know the Death Star inside and out, but he would've also brought a great scientific mind to the Rebellion and additional knowledge on other Empire projects. He could've given the Rebels the edge, and had Galen made it to the Rebellion, he could've potentially flipped the scales in this war a lot sooner.

Jyn Erso

Jyn was the main hero in Rogue One, and included elements of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo all rolled into her personality. She effectively leads the mission to steal the Death Star plans, and shows off clever planning skills, bravery, and leadership abilities that would've certainly come in handy during the several battles that would follow the Battle of Scarif. Had Jyn survived, she would've almost certainly found herself within the inner circle populated by Luke, Leia and Han. She could've been a key leader, and her skill sets could've come in handy while running around through Death Stars and frozen battle fields. You also have to wonder if young Han might've fancied Jyn (their checkered pasts certainly have a few things in common) and been distracted from his relationship with Leia. Had that happened, would there have ever been a Kylo Ren to cause all that trouble in The Force Awakens?

K-2SO

A droid worthy of hanging out with C-3PO and R2-D2, K-2SO heroically gave his "life" to buy Jyn and Cassian enough time to liberate the Death Star plans. Had he survived the film, you could absolutely imagine him hanging out and providing some snarky coming relief throughout the original trilogy. As he proved in Rogue One, K-2SO also comes in handy during undercover situations, and you'd think Han and the gang could've used the back up when infiltrating those Empire bases.