>I think we've all forgotten one major point - the core crew at the IPO
>are from an earth whose pop culture included the original Star Wars
>franchise. So unless they've forgotten everything they ever knew
>about it, seeing some guy named Palpatine suddenly acquire the makings
>of an empire has got to be throwing up some red flags.
Actually, if I recall correctly, no. They don't come from that Earth anymore.
They used to. If you go back and look at the old Core and Golden Age and Exile stuff (it happens a lot less in FI) you'll notice that a lot of times the UF versions of our heroes explicitly draw on their knowledge of pop culture. Redneck got his start in UF because he found a Myrmidon in a swamp and recognized it as a Y-Wing, and RebelTech got it's start when he gave Washuu a bunch of West End Games sourcebooks and told her to make the stuff in them work.
In the now-deprecated Split Infinitive, when Ben is hurled into the Star Trek universe, he explicitly recognizes it AS the Star Trek universe. Martin Rose runs into Inspector Zenigata at one point and recognizes him as being from Lupin III. Larry Mann was incredibly nervous during his first employment interview with Largo because he'd seen BGC and knew what was coming. (And, in fact, that iteration of Larry had an enormous collection of 20th-century pop culture memorabilia specifically as a hedge against that kind of thing.)
That all changed during the Core 4 reboot. It re-wrote the universe so that all that stuff organically existed in it in the first place. In UF there never was a Star Wars or Star Trek or Doctor Who (the latter being replaced by Professor Enigma.) There are no Superman or Captain America comic books because Superman and Captain America are real guys who were active on Earth in the 30s. War of the Worlds wasn't a teleplay, it was a news report. There was never a Transformers TV series (or if there was, it was adapted from their real-life adventures after the fact.) The various CSI's were never made in their recognizable real-world formats. Babylon 5 was never made. Nor were Robotech or Macross or etc etc.
Now, some people still remember the prior iteration of the universe, I believe. But even if they do, they don't have a reference guide to it, because all the stuff that went along with that iteration is GONE. Ben may very well still remember that Star Wars was a set of movies and enormous set of novels at one point, but he can't go reference them because they don't exist anymore. So he has to run off 400-year old memories, which may or may not include the name 'Palpatine' in them. (It's never actually said on-screen, you know.)
(This is assuming they do still remember the previous iteration of the universe. It could be they were rebuilt from the ground up and have a kind of hazy recollection that there was a Universe 1.0 at one point, but don't really recall what was in it.)
Frankly, it's better this way. If this were still the 'old' universe, the sensible thing to do on Ben's part would be to collect a massive, enormous database of all media ever produced on Earth from, say, the publication of "The Blazing World" in 1666 up until around 2025 or so, and run the names of EVERY person or location he encounters that seems to be significant against it. This would lead to things like him knowing Utena's whole life story about three days after meeting her.
(As always, some of this may be inaccurate; it's based on my remembering the Word of God and is not the word itself.)