I am known around these parts as the Luke Skywalker fan. He was my favorite Star Wars character when I first started liking Star Wars, and that distinction has never changed. In anticipation of The Last Jedi, I thought it would be fun to rank the ten greatest Luke Skywalker appearances, from both Canon and Legends. My criteria are threefold: characterization and agency, appropriate use of the Force for the time period, and impact on other characters. Note that I am not including live action appearances, because it’s almost impossible to rank Luke in the Original Trilogy and his cameo in The Force Awakens, while wonderful, isn’t enough to judge his character in the Sequel Trilogy. Without further adieu…
“I know only one truth: It’s time for the Jedi to end.”
The first trailer for The Last Jedi ends with Luke’s shocking declaration about the future of the Jedi Order – that there is no future. After all his explorations of the galaxy, all the knowledge he’s gained about the Force, he’s concluded that the Jedi must die out. This is a result of Kylo Ren’s fall to the dark side and Luke’s subsequent hermitage/depression. He blames himself for what happened, and believes the Jedi Order will keep on destroying itself if it continues. He has become jaded, cynical, and fatalistic.
Or so some people believe. I, on the other hand, have much different thoughts. Luke isn’t calling for an end to the Order because he’s given up. On the contrary, he knows exactly what he needs to do now, and Rey is the only person who can help him.
“Where’s Luke?” That was the question on everyone’s lips during the lead up to The Force Awakens. We all wanted to know why Luke wasn’t on the poster or the trailers. What has he been up to the past 30 years?
A few seconds into the movie, during the first line of the opening crawl, we (sort of) got our answer. Not to mention a hell of a lot more questions.
We also got a new cast of characters who, for a couple of hours at least, made me forget about the search for Luke Skywalker.
(Spoilers under the cut.)
The first time I saw A New Hope, I fell in love. Not with the film itself, or the Star Wars universe, or even the Battle of Yavin. I fell in love with the characters. I wanted to be like Princess Leia. I loved Han and Chewie’s friendship. I loved the bickering droids. I even loved how evil Vader and Tarkin were. Most of all, I loved Luke Skywalker.
I still love Luke, and the promise of Luke in TFA, even the most miniscule appearance, has me absolutely giddy. I have my theories about what he’s been up to in the galaxy, but I’m trying to go into the film with a clean slate. I’m not expecting him to have children, or to have trained Jedi, or to still be in contact with his friends and family. Basically, all of my worst fears about TFA. However, I have hope that J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan will give us a more interesting story for Luke than Obi-Wan 2.0.
But this column isn’t about Luke Skywalker. This column is about falling in love with a new set of characters. I already have attachments Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron, and I don’t even know them yet. I already want to give Kylo Ren a big noogie. Captain Phasma already scares the bejeesus out of me. I want to know more about Maz Kanata and Supreme Leader Snoke. And General Hux gives me very confusing feelings. All in all, I’m already way more invested in these characters than I was during the prequels–and I like the prequels.
I’m excited to meet all the new characters, yes, but one of them stands above the rest: Poe Dameron. Yes, I find Oscar Isaac painfully attractive. Yes, I have a thing for X-wing pilots. Yes, I loved seeing his parents in Shattered Empire. It was kind of inevitable that I’d fall in love with Poe before even seeing TFA.
Everything we learn about Poe makes me like him more and more. He’s got a cocky streak to him, which is typical for pilots in the Star Wars universe. Unlike Han he’s extremely dedicated to the Resistance, and he’s served the Republic his entire life. I find that sort of dedication extremely appealing in characters–probably one of the reasons I love Wedge Antilles so much. We know Poe is so dedicated to the Resistance that General Organa herself chose to send him on some important mission. From the trailers, we also know that things don’t go so well for him, but I’m hoping his resilience sees him through, just like with Leia.
I relate to entertainment most when there’s a character I really connect with. In the Original Trilogy, it’s Luke Skywalker. In The Hunger Games, it’s Peeta. In Mageworlds, it’s Beka and Jessan. In Legends, it’s Mara Jade. I’m hoping that, with the Sequel Trilogy, my love affair with Poe Dameron is solidified. Not only Poe, but I’m hoping to meet a whole bunch of new characters I fall in love with.
And if Luke Skywalker swoops in and saves the day, well, I’ll be the happiest girl in the world.
This post contains spoilers for the “Journey to the Force Awakens” books and comics.
Regular readers and listeners of Tosche Station already know my feelings about Luke Skywalker. He’s by far my favorite character in the Star Wars universe, and the reason I got invested in the Expanded Universe and read tons of books set after Return of the Jedi, even when I soured on certain events. I needed to know what happened to Luke after he became a Jedi. I wanted to know if he trained other Jedi, got married, and had children. We got answers in the form of books and comics: Luke started a Jedi Academy on Yavin 4, married Mara Jade, and had a son named Ben. He rose to the rank of General, resigned his commission after the Battle of Mindor, and dedicated his life to rebuilding the Jedi Order. His life wasn’t all roses, however. He had a brief dabble with the dark side about six years after the Battle of Endor, and many years later his own nephew/apprentice became a Sith and killed his wife.
But the Expanded Universe is now Legends, and we have a new canon. New films, depicting the events 30 years after Jedi. We never thought this day would come. Now everything we once knew about the Galaxy Far, Far Away has been altered, and we’re left to wonder about the events that happened between Jedi and The Force Awakens. We’re just now getting some answers in the form of Aftermath, Shattered Empire, and other books in the “Journey to The Force Awakens” line. But they’re just drops in the bucket, and only succeed in creating more questions. Then you add in the marketing for TFA, which has been very light on story but high on visuals and Force themes. We’ve seen Han, we’ve seen a tiny bit of Leia, but no Luke whatsoever (at least from the front).
Which leads to the most common question echoed about the internet: “Where is Luke Skywalker?” Or, better yet: “What the hell has Luke been doing in the galaxy?”
I don’t know what Luke’s been doing for the past 30 years, but I’m pretty certain he’s up to something hugely important during the events of TFA. And my favorite theory, the one I’ll cling to until December 17 (and probably even after that, even if I’m proven wrong) is that Luke is off the grid, training a group of secret ninja-like Jedi Knights.
Once upon a time, there was a girl named Nanci.
When Nanci was 11 years old, she saw Star Wars for the first time. And promptly fell in love with Luke Skywalker. She loved everything about him: his farm boy earnestness, his hot-shot piloting, his skills with a lightsaber. She loved that he was brash and courageous and kind and loyal and optimistic even in the face of certain death. She loved everything about him — yes, even the “Tosche Station” line.
(Yes, she did choose the name for this podcast and blog.)
People told her that one day, she’d grow up and stop loving Luke so much. That Luke was a character for kids to look up to, while Han is the character adults loved.
That never happened. Nanci stayed firmly on “Team Luke” despite all arguments to the contrary. (His relationship with Mara Jade helped solidify her lifelong devotion.)
But even so, things started going sour.
The Expanded Universe lost its luster. Luke stopped being the character Nanci believed him to be. Even amazing one-offs, like Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, weren’t enough to make Nanci happy.
She still loved Luke, even if he’d lost his way in the Expanded Universe.
Then the reboot happened.
(Spoilers for the book and some rumors about TFA under the cut.)
The novel was first announced at Celebration VI under the “Rebels” banner, and is the third book in the now defunct “Empire and Rebellion” trilogy that takes place after A New Hope. Del Rey has saved the best for last here, as this novel features Luke Skywalker in first-person POV.
To say I’m excited about this novel would be an understatement. But in case you’re not like me and squeal at anything involving Luke, here’s a more detailed blurb from Random House:
Luke Skywalker’s game-changing destruction of the Death Star has made him not only a hero of the Rebel Alliance but a valuable asset in the ongoing battle against the Empire. Though he’s a long way from mastering the power of the Force, there’s no denying his phenomenal skills as a pilot—and in the eyes of Rebel leaders Princess Leia Organa and Admiral Ackbar, there’s no one better qualified to carry out a daring rescue mission crucial to the Alliance cause.
A brilliant alien cryptographer renowned for her ability to breach even the most advanced communications systems is being detained by Imperial agents determined to exploit her exceptional talents for the Empire’s purposes. But the prospective spy’s sympathies lie with the Rebels, and she’s willing to join their effort in exchange for being reunited with her family. It’s an opportunity to gain a critical edge against the Empire that’s too precious to pass up. It’s also a job that demands the element of surprise. So Luke and the ever-resourceful droid R2-D2 swap their trusty X-wing fighter for a sleek space yacht piloted by brash recruit Nakari Kelen, daughter of a biotech mogul, who’s got a score of her own to settle with the Empire.
Challenged by ruthless Imperial bodyguards, death-dealing enemy battleships, merciless bounty hunters, and monstrous brain-eating parasites, Luke plunges head-on into a high-stakes espionage operation that will push his abilities as a Rebel fighter and would-be Jedi to the limit. If ever he needed the wisdom of Obi-Wan Kenobi to shepherd him through danger, it’s now. But Luke will have to rely on himself, his friends, and his own burgeoning relationship with the Force to survive.
A Luke Skywalker novel where he’s paired with a female lead? Count me in!
Over on the catalog Edelweiss, Knights’ Archive spotted a listing for the audio version of Kevin Hearne’s upcoming debut Star Wars novel. It will star Luke Skywalker and round out the unofficial “Empire and Rebellion” trilogy.
In an attempt to distract the Empire from important Rebel Alliance activity, Luke Skywalker draws the attention of Imperial Security, leading him-along with Princess Leia Organa, Han Solo, and Chewbacca-into a deadly trap right in Darth Vader’s sights!
No mention of Rogue Squadron of X-Wings in there, but I’m still really excited for a book starring Luke Skywalker, the most underappreciated of all the Star Wars Original Trilogy characters.
The novel is scheduled for release on January 13, 2015, which is the day after my birthday. Thank you, Del Rey, for a lovely birthday present.