Warning: SPOILERS ahead for the Star Wars: Aftermath Trilogy
The very first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened to a desert landscape many people initially assumed was the same desolate place fans were familiar with from 5 other films in the saga, but as further marketing for the film was released, it was revealed that the sand dunes in the trailer weren't from Tatooine, but a brand new planet - Jakku. Jakku was clearly the site of a major battle, as it was strewn with all sorts of Rebel and Imperial equipment, from a Super Star Destroyer all the way down to Rebel flight helmets.
It was obvious there was something significant about Jakku, but without a fleshed out history at the time, it wasn’t clear why it was important. Now that the Star Wars: Aftermath book trilogy is wrapped up, we have all sorts of new information explaining what happened after Return of the Jedi and why Jakku is important in Episode VII. Except for why Rey and the Church of the Force are there - those details are still a mystery - but there's a lot more room for speculation now!
During his rise to power and his rule of the galaxy, Emperor Sheev Palpatine sent his emissaries to the far corners of the galaxy to establish research stations known as “Observatories.” These Observatories accomplished a variety of purposes from housing Sith artifacts to researching or storing superweapons and other dark magic or technological developments (and sometimes a blend of the two).
One of these Observatories was on Jakku. 30 years before the Battle of Jakku, Palpatine’s ship, The Imperialis (one of many identical ships by that name), arrived on the desert planet bearing Chancellor Palpatine and one of his close advisors, Yupe Tashu. The ship dropped off several construction droids to begin excavation at a site known as “The Plaintive Hand Plateau”.
The exact significance of the Plaintive Hand Plateau isn’t known, but it is revealed that Jakku wasn’t always a wasteland. It was once lush and had large bodies of water and was home to “The Anchorites”, a religion that aligned itself with the Jedi a millennia before the birth of the Empire. Over the course of the intervening years, Jakku’s oceans and vegetation disappeared, with the Anchorites likewise hardening and turning toward practices that aligned more closely with the dark side of the Force.
The Anchorites raised children from a young age to use as slaves or to otherwise be brought into their order in other roles. One of these slaves, a young boy named Galli, saw The Imperialis descending to the surface. It was clearly a newer and shinier ship than anything else on Jakku, so he chased it down to see Tashu dropping off the construction droids. Desiring to escape from his life on Jakku, he stowed away only to be discovered by Palpatine himself. The Sith Lord was not one to shy away from killing people to keep his secret efforts under wraps, but he saw a destiny in Galli and brought him under his wing, tasking him to stay on Jakku to guard the excavation site from prying eyes at all costs, promising the boy a grand future should he succeed.
Galli did just that. Over the next few years, the boy became ruthless and violent, learning to establish defenses and build weapons. He recruited other children to aid in his effort, even taming some beasts to help him guard the excavation site. The Observatory would have a variety of purposes: first, it was used to house several powerful Sith artifacts, including a black Sith holocron. Second, a navigational computer was installed, utilizing Jakku’s proximity to the “Unknown Regions,” plotting paths beyond the edges of the charted galaxy with the aid of data provided by Grand Admiral Thrawn, who originally came from a planet in unknown space himself. Beneath the Observatory, there was a shaft that descended into the very core of Jakku. While the surface of the planet was long dead, the core was still active with a spark of life essence Palpatine said “disgusted” him.
When the Observatory at the Plaintive Hand Plateau was completed, Galli killed all the other children he had recruited and buried it under the sands of Jakku to keep it hidden in the Plaintive Hand Plateau until Darth Sidious was ready to execute his plan.
With his task on Jakku completed, Galli, who now went by the name Gallius Rax, joined the Empire as an officer in Imperial Navy Intelligence, but he skipped the normal chain of command, reporting directly to Colonel Wullf Yularen, then directly to Palpatine after Yularen perished on the first Death Star.
Shortly before the Battle of Endor, Palpatine’s efforts to chart a path through the Unknown Regions paid off and he began to sense a dark energy coming from beyond. Believing the energy to be the source of the dark side itself, he became obsessed with locating it, even arranging to have his own Super Star Destroyer, the Eclipse, traverse the dangerous pathway into the Unknown Regions.
Calling Rax to the second Death Star before the massive battle, he instructed the Jakku native to take a part of the fleet, including the Super Star Destroy Ravager, to the Vulpinus Nebula to await next steps. After the Death Star was destroyed, the Empire’s Sentinels were sent to those most loyal to Palpatine, instructing their next actions. Thus, Rax began the Contingency.
While Palpatine was clearly overconfident in most ways, he was like many past Sith Lords in that he feared the loss of the power he’d amassed. That’s where the Contingency came in. The way Sheev saw it, if the galaxy didn’t belong to him, then nobody could have it. The Contingency was his equivalent of flipping the table when you lose at Monopoly, only he's a Sith Lord and Emperor of the whole galaxy, so his plan was a bit more destructive.
Rax rallied most of the remaining Imperial resources at Jakku where, like him years ago, they were subjected to the harsh conditions of the planet, evolving into a much more ruthless fighting force. Once the New Republic forces were lured to Jakku, Rax took Yupe Tashu into the depths of the Observatory where he threw the former Palpatine adviser into the planet’s core along with the Sith relics Palpatine was storing there, triggering an explosion of energy and causing the core to approach a critical mass. Once the buildup was significant enough, Jakku would explode, destroying the entirety of the Imperial and New Republic forces, aside from a select group of Imperials chosen to jump into the Unknown Regions to begin a new Empire from scratch.
The planet’s core was ultimately stabilized by New Republic forces and Rax was killed, but several Imperials, including Rae Sloane, Brendol Hux, Armitage Hux, and a group of children intended to be the foundation of the Empire’s future stormtrooper corps, fled the galaxy the rendezvous with the Eclipse in the Unknown Regions, leaving Jakku intact, but full of the skeletons of a once great Imperial fleet and the New Republic vessels they managed to take down with them.
While this explains a lot about Jakku, there’s a lot of mystery still in play. The Battle of Jakku and the explosion of dark side energy occurred at least ten years before Rey is even conceived, and it’s possible, if not likely, that her parents aren’t even from Jakku, but the impact that energy could have had on Rey is definitely something worth considering. Also, Rey trades her scraps at Niima outpost, and Niima was the name of the Hutt that governed the land in the area of the Plaintive Hand Plateau, meaning her home wasn't far from the wreckage of the Observatory.
Were Rey's parents drawn to that region because of the Force energy, or did the energy itself have any impact on Rey's "awakening?" The idea of someone being imbued with the Force from an outside source hasn't been explored in depth in Star Wars canon, so it's hard to know what kind of an effect, if any, that energy could have had.
In addition to Rey, Lor San Tekka and the Church of the Force are found at Tuanul village at the start of The Force Awakens. He’s dedicated to honoring the Force and preserving the Jedi order and even has a map that leads to Luke Skywalker, does that map have any connection to the navigational processing performed at the Observatory?
It’s hard to do anything with this new information other than speculate, but with so many significant and galaxy defining events occurring in that same region on Jakku, it’s impossible to dismiss their connection as pure coincidence. Outside of that, most answers are going to have to wait for The Last Jedi in December, and Episode IX in 2019.
Are all these events connected? Do you have any fan theories thanks to these new reveals? Let us hear about them in the comments.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017