While under the Disney banner these past five years, the Star Wars universe has expanded and continues to do so. With each passing year there are new films (either saga episodes or standalone pictures) as well as new books, comics, and an animated series that are all working to properly flesh out this new era of Star Wars canon.
This weekend alone, on Star Wars Rebels, fans witnessed a previously unseen confrontation between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul, further deepening the long held grudge between the two characters. The episode titled 'Twin Suns' took viewers once again to Tatooine, where Obi-Wan lives in exile, carefully watching over a young farmboy from afar. It's a new chapter of Star Wars canon and one fans have waited a long time to see unfold.
In a sense, the airing of a new episode can be just as much an event as a new film (if on smaller scale), introducing viewers to a new piece of the Star Wars universe at (roughly) the same time. The success of both Star Wars: The Clone Wars and now Rebels have proven there's an audience for these animated series, and they've been great venues in which to expand on the previously established canon. And there are a lot of gaps in Star Wars canon in need of filling, like the a rather large gap of some 30 years or so between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.
A few comics and novels have begun filling in that time frame, like Marvel's Shattered Empire and the Aftermath book series, but it's been left mostly untouched. And that's especially true for the activity of one character in particular -- that unassuming farmboy, Luke Skywalker. His adventures after the Battle of Endor and before meeting Rey on Ahch-To are shrouded in mystery, just begging for further exploration.
What was Luke doing for those 30 years? And why does it make sense for Disney to consider using an animated series to explain? Let's break it down:
What Comes After Rebels?
Star Wars: The Clone Wars ended not because of a creative decision but a business one, with Disney wanting their own Star Wars animated series to air on their own network. Their animated series would retain much of the same creative team who had worked on Clone Wars, but would instead be set closer to the events of the original trilogy -- a move reflected by quite a bit of material produced for the Disney-era of Star Wars.
This is what became Star Wars Rebels, a series set roughly five years before A New Hope which focuses on the earliest days of the Rebel Alliance. Rebels was just recently renewed for a fourth season, and it's assumed that season will bring the narrative of Rebels very close the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That is almost certainly where Rebels will end, leaving it for Rogue One and later A New Hope to continue the story of the Rebellion.
It was also recently announced that Dave Filoni -- originally the supervising director for The Clone Wars and Rebels -- has accepted a new position at Lucasfilm which has him overseeing all "future animation development." This implies there are future animation projects which require his oversight, suggesting that Lucasfilm already has plans for a new series to come after Rebels. And seeing as how The Clone Wars was set within the prequel trilogy and Rebels just before the original trilogy, it'd make sense to use a third Star Wars animated series to flesh out a time nearer the current trilogy of films -- perhaps even filling in some portion of that 30 year gap.
"Pass On What You Have Learned"
When Star Wars: The Last Jedi releases this December, it will very likely touch on what Luke has been doing since he went away following Kylo Ren's massacre of the new Jedi. But even that is a relatively short span of time, only a few years at best. The bigger story is how Luke went about restarting the Jedi Order in the first place, something which The Force Awakens mentions only briefly. This is a chapter in Luke's journey fans are desperate to see and it previously played a large role in the now defunct Expanded Universe. There still exist some non-canon stories from which to pull inspiration, using what happened in the EU as a starting point, as Rebels has done with Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Were Disney considering a new animated series set after the events of the original trilogy but before the current trilogy, then a series about Luke training the next generation of Jedi seems a perfect fit. There would be a cast of veteran and new characters, appealing to both longtime fans and those who've only become interested in recent years. It would feature the mentor/student relationship which has been a staple of the Star Wars saga, introducing a whole new generation of Jedi and the opportunity to see the kind of teacher -- not to mention Jedi -- that Luke has become. There's also the potential for a few other Jedi to reappear, either as Force Ghosts or in the flesh (assuming, of course, they managed to remain hidden all these years and survived).
Most importantly, though, an animated series exploring Luke's training of new Jedi would include a young Ben Solo before he becomes Kylo Ren. Similarly to how The Clone Wars focused on Anakin's slow descent into darkness, this series could do the same with Ben, fleshing out his relationship with his parents and Luke along the way. Not only would this provide further context, but it would certainly add even more emotional weight to the betrayal witnessed later. This would be a series tinged with sadness since we know the eventual fate of these young students, but it could also offer hope, showing the good buried deep inside Kylo Ren and perhaps a way for Luke (or Rey) to help him return to the light.
Perfect Actor For The Job
In addition to filling yet another gaping hole in the Star Wars saga and giving fans a closer look at a beloved character, an animated series featuring Luke Skywalker could quite feasibly include Mark Hamill. Though he's known the world over for his role in Star Wars, in the years since, Hamill has enjoyed a prolific career as a voice actor. His iconic take on the Joker is by far his best known role outside of Luke, but Hamill has voiced dozens of characters throughout the years, from heroes to villains and all that comes in between.
For the most part, the animated Star Wars series have employed new actors when bringing in characters established in films, preferring to use experienced voice actors. However, this season on Rebels, Forest Whitaker bucked that trend, voicing the character he first played in Rogue One, Saw Gerrera for his animated appearance. Plus, Hamill is an experienced voice actor, more so than even some of the actors currently working on Rebels.
Add to the mix the rumors that The Last Jedi may be Luke's last adventure (at least corporeally, returning as a Force Ghost is always an option), and the desire to see more of Luke's life post-Return of the Jedi becomes that much stronger. Hamill reportedly gives a fantastic performance in The Last Jedi, and while that would be a high note to end on, fans will always clamor for more.
An animated series starring Hamill as Luke Skywalker can give fans what they've always longed for -- Luke as the Jedi Master he was destined to become, reestablishing the Jedi Order and teaching a whole new generation about The Force.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017