It is a time of tranquillity for the New Republic. The remnants of the Empire now lie in complete disarray, and the reemergence of the Jedi Knights has brought power and prestige to the fledgling government on Coruscant. Yesterday’s Rebels have become today’s administrators and diplomats, and the factions that fought against Imperial tyranny seem united in savoring the fruits of peace.
But the peace is short-lived.
It’s difficult for Star Wars Expanded Universe authors — many of whom are easily interchangeable, officially-sanctioned fan fiction writers — to establish themselves as more than just a ghostwriter. To develop a new character that both fits in with the existing universe and has the potential to continue on as a franchise is the brass ring they all reach for: your Thrawns, your Daalas, your Corran Horns. No one’s going to give you a three-book contract for Prince Xizor or worse yet, Hethrir. Coming up with a wholly original, compelling character is not only difficult, it’s kind of a crapshoot.
Luckily, there was a natural opening for a main character in the Star Wars universe after the end of the original trilogy. The hero, Luke Skywalker, doesn’t have a viable love interest. Han and Leia are going to need someone to double-date with [obligatory joke about C-3PO and R2-D2 being in a relationship here].
One problem: by the end of The Return of the Jedi, Luke has been transformed into an almost completely sexless Zen-like figure (not that he was exactly a sexpot in A New Hope, mind you). What kind of romantic foil do you write for a vulnerable blonde from the middle of nowhere with puppy-dog eyes, an icy exterior, and daddy issues?
Enter a string of (more or less) plausible girlfriends.
Gaeriel Captison, The Truce at Bakura
What’s her deal? The Truce at Bakura, and Gaeriel herself, are both weird and self-contained, especially when compared to other installments in the EU franchise. She’s a senator on Bakura, a planet not far from Endor, and is a member of a religion that believes Jedis and Force-users like Luke disrupt a cosmic balance. She also dresses a lot like Stevie Nicks, all shawls and bare feet. The two of them don’t ever really stand much of a chance: they share a brief kiss after the battle of Bakura, but frankly Luke shows more interest in his doomed protege Dev Sibwarra.
Supposedly Kathy Tyers, one of the few female EU writers, based Gaeriel’s singular religious beliefs on her own experiences as a Christian science fiction author. She’d hoped to leave Gaeriel and Luke married at the end of Truce, but the Mara Jade train had already pulled out of the station, and it was not to be.
How’s it end? She sacrifices herself to destroy an enemy warship, the first but certainly not the last of Luke’s girlfriends to die a martyr.
Teneniel Djo, The Courtship of Princess Leia
What’s her deal? Skywalker girlfriends tend to come in two flavors: gentle, self-sacrificing little mice, and violent, wild-haired killers. Djo is the latter. Upon meeting her mother-in-law Ta’a Chume (spoiler alert, I guess, if you were hoping she was going to end up marrying Luke) for the first time, she says:
Let me assure you that I am not a pacifist. In the past two days alone, I have killed several people, and if you ever try to harm me or mine, I will force you to confess publicly all your crimes, and then I will execute you. I assure you, I find you to be that contemptible!
She is a Force-witch of Dathomir, which is very likely the greatest thing it is possible to be, and is so amazed that a “simple male” like Luke is capable of accessing the Force that she decides to make him her husband. It’s amazing. She drags him all over Dathomir, fighting Nightsisters and expressing bewilderment over things like “men’s rights” and wearing clothes and not stabbing things.
How’s it end? She changes her mind and marries Isolder, eventually becoming Queen Mother of the Hapes Consortium instead.
Mara Jade, Heir to the Empire
What’s her deal? It’s Mara Jade. It’s Timothy Zahn. His Thrawn trilogy sold over fifteen million copies, almost single-handedly revived the sputtering EU franchise. Jade is the standard by which all other Skywalker girlfriends are measured. She’s a classic redhead, all fire to Luke’s ice. She was raised to be Palpatine’s personal assassin — The Emperor’s Hand — and spends a fair amount of time trying to kill Luke before they eventually get together, which is delightful. She’s been a spy, a mechanic, a smuggler, a bounty hunter, a Jedi trainee, and oddly enough, a computer hacker. All-purpose sci-fi girlfriend, our Mara. Plus she’s got a lot of rage.
Zahn spoke about how Lucasfilm dealt with the Skywalker/Jade arc over the course of several different series and authors in a 2000 interview with TheForce.Net:
At first they were unwilling to have Luke and Mara married, engaged, whatever. They wanted it left ambiguous. I said those were the two things I feel are needed for closure: if it wasn’t agreeable someone else could do the book, that’s fine, and it was one book originally. And they came back and agreed to let me do that. So it was immensely fun during the next few years to watch all the rumors starting that Luke was cursed, he could never get married because Lucasfilm had decided Luke would never be married, all the time knowing that, yes he WAS set up, and all the authors knew he was set up, and so they were bringing it that direction. So any woman they brought in would eventually be written out or put into “friendship mode” or whatever. So it wasn’t a matter of Lucasfilm was saying “no”, it was a matter that the other authors were aiming the same direction I was. And everyone was keeping it a secret. It was very well done.
How’s it end? They get married and have a son, Ben Skywalker. Eventually Mara dies fighting her nephew Jacen Solo after he turns to the dark side, but that’s a long way down the road.
Callista Ming/Cray Mingla, Children of the Jedi
What’s her deal? Quite possibly even more boring than Gaeriel Captison, which is really saying something. She’s a Jedi from the time of the Galactic Republic who uploaded her consciousness into an Imperial Dreadnought ship to fight the Empire, and somehow ends up falling in love with Luke as a computer, and then transfers her consciousness into the body of his (dead) student Cray Mingla.
It’s weird, and also boring. Probably the biggest romantic red herring in the Expanded Universe.
How’s it end? Once Callista enters Cray’s body, she loses her ability to access the Force except through the dark side, and leaves Luke to wander the universe alone. There’s a weird coda to their relationship about twenty or thirty years later, after Mara has died, when Luke runs into Callista again after her body has been taken over by Abeloth. Abeloth is an evil Force goddess, basically, and Luke gets to have a sweet little goodbye with the real Callista after defeating Abeloth in battle.
Akanah Norand, Before the Storm
What’s her deal? Another misandrist weirdo! Bless the EU authors for working in so many Amazon analogues, you know? Akanah pretended to have known Luke’s mother in order to obtain his help locating the other adherents of the White Current, and they have this totally guilty, conflicted affair that falls to pieces when she admits she used him.
How’s it end? She is also possessed by Abeloth! Luke also saves and kills her in battle, which is slightly less sweet the second time around.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.