Disney should look to everyone’s favorite rogue archaeologist for their next Star Wars spinoff film.
Despite everything horrible going on in the world right now, I consider myself and all other Star Wars fans extremely lucky to live in this golden age of Star Wars content. There are enough films and TV series in development that I’ll still be going to see new Star Wars movies in theaters even after I pay off my student loans — hopefully within 20 years.
We’re a little spoiled, really, with a new Star Wars film hitting theaters every year, books on the shelves every month, and comics printed basically every week. Solo: A Star Wars Story is finally in theaters, the sequel trilogy wraps up next year with Episode IX, Rian Johnson is creating a trilogy of his own, the minds behind Game of Thrones have a new trilogy in development, and Disney just confirmed they’re appointing James Mangold to write and direct a Boba Fett film– and those are just the movies on the way. The Star Wars universe is so rife with wonderful characters and intriguing mysteries, creators don’t even have to necessarily come up with original ideas to make great films — just ask J.J. Abrams.
That’s what makes the announcement of a Boba Fett film so puzzling to me. Why him? He’s the most overrated man in the galaxy. Especially when there’s an existing character who is a perfect choice for a stand alone Star Wars film. Someone whose complex code of ethics leaves them operating in a moral gray area more often than not, whose intricate backstory makes countless new story angles available, who carries with them an incredible cast of auxiliary characters, and who, most importantly, is neither white, straight, or male. It’s time for Doctor Chelli Lona Aphra to star in her very own Star Wars film.
Unlike every Star Wars Story in development, Doctor Aphra is not a character from the original or prequel trilogy. Doctor Aphra was actually created by Star Wars: Darth Vader mastermind Kieron GIllen, who didn’t introduce her to Star Wars fans until Star Wars: Darth Vader #3 in 2015. Born 22 years before the Battle of Yavin, Chelli Aphra grew up in the Outer Rim just as the Clone Wars came to a close, eventually following in the footsteps of her father to become an intergalactic archaeologist, albeit a rogue intergalactic archaeologist. She’s essentially a more educated Han Solo mixed with a more violent Indiana Jones. Her career eventually brings her face-to-face with Darth Vader and the two form an uneasy partnership; this is where readers first meet her.
Now you may understandably be thinking, “She partners with Vader? So she’s definitely a bad guy,” but you’d be mistaken. Aphra doesn’t excitedly join Vader, rather she knows the second she’s no longer useful to him, she’ll die. Throughout her tenure as Vader’s “partner” (more like an indentured servant), Aphra proves herself to be one of the more morally ambiguous characters in Star Wars canon. With the exception of Cassian Andor and Benicio del Toro’s DJ from The Last Jedi, characters in the Star Wars universe tend to be either good or evil with little gray area. Aphra, on the other hand, wavers between hero and villain often, making her one of the most complex characters available.
While shes a (mostly) loyal servant to Vader, she could never be classified as evil. Sure, she does plenty of bad things — assisting in the extermination of the last Geonosian Queen, torturing many-a-man, luring her colleagues into a deadly Imperial ambush — but she rarely revels in her actions. She doesn’t ruthlessly murder innocents or bring harm to anyone unless her mission commands it — hell, I’m not sure she ever even kills any Rebels. She is simply doing what she must to stay alive in a universe she can’t trust. This makes her a breath of fresh air in a franchise where the vast majority of main characters exist on a black and white, good or evil scale.
Her severe trust issues stem from the death of her mother at the hands of raiders, raiders who went unpunished because neither the new Empire nor Federation bothered to stop fighting long enough to actually govern the galaxy. She doesn’t see good guys or bad guys, she just sees people vying for power while everyone suffers. She brings a sense of nihilism to the Star Wars universe that was merely hinted at in The Last Jedi and absent from the rest of the properties.
Taking a nihilistic approach to a Star Wars story through the complex perceptions of Doctor Aphra would allow viewers to see a side of the universe they’ve never seen before — one that shows the toll over half a century of near nonstop war has on the mental state of the galaxy. Aphra offers a glimpse into the day-to-day effects endless wars have taken on the greater populace. Focusing on that within a film would help ground the overall narrative of the trilogies, emphasizing why sustainable peace in the galaxy is so important.
Aside from a healthy injection of humanizing nihilism into the Star Wars universe, a Doctor Aphra film would showcase life in the Star Wars galaxy from an entirely civilian perspective rather than the perspective of military conflict. Granted, this would mean it’d have to be a film with origin story elements that introduced Aphra as a child and followed her through her 20s, but such dedication would be worthwhile.
I understand that the name of the series is Star Wars, so the military angle is kind of a necessity and I am not complaining that each film focuses on a grand galactic war. It would just be a refreshing change of pace to see the galaxy from a different perspective, much how Solo: A Star Wars Story managed to do. With an Aphra movie, we’d see what life in the galaxy is really like from the perspective of scholars, college students, and other non-military characters. Just as how the nihilistic nature of Aphra’s story grounds the greater Star Wars narrative, highlighting the lives of characters outside the main conflict would remind viewers just what these wars are being fought for in the first place.
Any movie involving Doctor Aphra would have to include her supporting cast — a supporting cast made up of the scruffiest, grimiest, most devious characters in all the galaxy. Each of her compatriots represents the antithesis to a core character of the original trilogy, bringing much needed balance to the forc- I mean franchise.
Her two droids, the ever faithful and utterly maniacal Triple Zero and BT-1, are unlike any droids ever seen. Triple Zero looks like your average protocol droid, like C-3PO, but in his programming lies a unique specialization — torture. Triple Zero has a hilarious and downright uncomfortable infatuation with inflicting tremendous pain and death on organic life forms, so much so that Doctor Aphra is constantly holding him back from murdering innocents in cold blood. Then there’s BT-1, an otherwise typical astromech save for the arsenal of weapons stockpiled within his cylindrical frame. Whereas R2-D2 outwits his foes only resorting to mild violence occasionally, BT-1 blasts his enemies to smithereens with sheer force.
Not only are both droids unnervingly violent re-imaginings of the saga’s most pacifist characters, each owe their murderous tendencies to Grand Moff Tarkin. Each were created by Tarkin’s secret think tank, the Tarkin Initiative — the same initiative that spawned the Death Star. We’ve seen plenty of droids with great personalities, especially from K-2SO in Rogue One and L3-37 from Solo: A Star Wars Story, but the droids we’ve seen always align themselves with the good guys. These droids’ inclusion would not just provide a completely fresh take on droids, but would flesh out the legacy of one of the Empire’s most ruthless figures even more without having to rehash the Death Star.
Alongside the homicidal droids is the fearsome Black Krrsantan, Doctor Aphra’s answer to the mighty Chewbacca. Krrsantan differs from Chewbacca not just in appearance, but in profession as well. Chewbacca makes a living as a smuggler while Krrsantan has made a name for himself as a vicious bounty hunter. Before that, Krrsantan was a celebrated gladiator during his horrific enslavement, so he prefers a more personal approach to combat — namely beating his opponents to death with his steel-fused knuckles. While just a single Aphra movie wouldn’t be able to dive into the tragic story of Krrsantan, it would at least allow viewers insight into the gruesome ferocity of a Wookiee unhinged, something viewers got a glimpse of in Chewbacca during Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Most importantly, a movie center around Doctor Aphra would mean more Vader for everyone. Without Darth Vader, there is no Doctor Aphra, so he’d have to feature quite prominently in any film bearing her name. This wouldn’t be some 146 second, boner-inducing clip of Vader either — we’d get to see Vader at his best, hacking and slashing through literal battalions of Rebels while taking down Y-Wings with nothing but the Force (if the Aphra movie included bits of the Vader Down crossover, that is). An Aphra movie would give fans the opportunity to see Vader in action like never before, something every Star Wars fan would go nuts over.
In the context of the our world, Doctor Aphra affords Disney the opportunity to diversify the Star Wars universe with a lead that is neither a man, white or straight — which is pretty ironic coming from a straight white male such as myself. Disney has made strides with diversity across all their properties, but Star Wars still has the tendency to be lead by straight white actors and actresses. That’s not to take away from Disney’s efforts nor demean the value of any of the films or characters, just a simple fact that non-straight persons of color have yet to be featured as the lead in a Star Wars film.
For those who don’t know, Chelli Aphra is depicted as an Asian woman with an ongoing romantic courtship with a female Imperial Officer by the name of Magna Tolvan and has a romantic history with Sana Starros, Han Solo’s ex-wife. She has a complex romantic history involving both sides of the Galactic Civil War that mirrors her wavering allegiances to each side.
Aphra’s sexuality isn’t a simple diversity ploy; it strengthens her character and adds a layer of complexity as she finds attraction in people on both sides of the never-ending conflict while showcasing her lack of trust in anyone even more. Giving Aphra her own movie would afford Disney the opportunity to hit the diversity jackpot with a character that I don’t think even the most ardent critics of Disney’s so-called “SJW agenda” could really hate.
I won’t spoil Solo: A Star Wars Story for anyone, but I will say there is a surprise appearance from a character of the Rebels and Clone Wars universe shows Disney’s willingness to connect the films to their stories outside of the big screen. While this surprise had my jaw on the floor in the theater, I found myself giddy thinking about all the possible characters Disney could employ in their movies if they continue to pull from stories outside the films. Disney should open that willingness to the comic books and bring their biggest, most successful comic book creation to the big screen with Doctor Aphra: A Star Wars Story.