By: Daniel Reynolds
For the next three Fridays leading up to The Force Awakens’ release on December 18th, join Reynolds as he takes a journey through the fun and weird bits of Star Wars lore. It’s Force Friday!
As you’re no doubt aware, there’s a new Star Wars movie coming out in three weeks. Holy shit. It’s been ten long years since the last Star Wars film–an experience that has not inspired a ton of joy–so it’s exciting to think about what’s in store for Episode VII: The Force Awakens. So far in trailers, we’ve seen snippets of what director J.J. Abrams and crew have planned and let me tell you: It looks delightful.
With the return of familiar faces Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and (presumably?) Mark Hamill as Han, Leia, and Luke, respectively, there is a touch of the old and significant in The Force Awakens. These are the characters who have long been at the heart of the best Star Wars stories. As the emotional core of the original trilogy, they have also long been one of the biggest reasons for that trilogy’s continued resonance. We care about Star Wars movies because we care about them.
Apart from its central characters, however, is the other magic of Star Wars: the stuff found in the margins. Here we find the strange, random and sublime creatures and characters who fill in the backgrounds of our favourite movie universe, the weird details that make it the special thing it is today. For our first entry in Force Fridays, here are the 10 best random characters and creations from the universe that Lucas built.
(Note: I’m focusing purely on the six films for this list–so no Extended Universe stuff, novels, video games, cartoons, etc. Just the characters who appear in the six movies.)
10 – Emir Wat Tambor
Yeah, we’re going to start with a character from the prequel trilogy. Want to fight about it? Wat Tambor appears in both Episodes II and III (before getting sliced down by a rampaging Anakin) and looks like a giant diseased tooth encased in metal. He also represents a group called the Techno Union. He’s also the one of the few Star Wars characters to inspire a ton of bizarre memes. What’s not to like?
There are a lot of funky robots in Star Wars–some that look scary, others that look non-functional, and still others like our little friend the Mouse Droid. There was never a more Star Wars-idea than “Hey, let’s slap a toaster onto an old remote control car and have it race around the Death Star.” Still, you’ve got to hand it to Lucas, in Star Wars, even the smallest robot gets a big emotional moment.
8 – Bib Fortuna
I’ve always enjoyed Bib Fortuna’s presence in Return of the Jedi because he tries so hard to appear competent. As the Twi’lek majordomo for Jabba the Hutt, Fortuna’s got an important role in the palace. He’s the guy in the know, the creature with a finger (or tail?) in every pie on Tatooine. You almost feel bad for him when Luke totally force tricks him into doing his bidding. De wanna wanga, indeed.
7 – Watto
I went back and forth on whether or not to include Watto or Sebulba on this list. I like them both. Watto’s appearances in the prequel trilogy are one of the first and best examples of a CGI character done right (with Sebulba a close second). There’s just something about his grizzled countenance, his grumpy-voiced delight in telling a Jedi that mind tricks don’t work on him, that ultimately won me over. Plus, look at that funny little hat he wears!
6 – Nien Nunb
Have you ever had more questions about a Star Wars character than Nien Nubb? Where did he come from? (I mean, besides the planet Sullust.) How did he end up as Lando Calrissian’s c0-pilot in the Falcon? Why does he have big ears and look like he’s wearing a mask underneath his flying cap? Why is he wearing a flying cap? And most importantly: What is he chattering about in Return of the Jedi? People have put a lot of thought into this.
Biggs of Episode IV comes to us as if from a different movie. It feels this way because, well, most of his scenes were cut from Star Wars: A New Hope. What’s left of poor Biggs isn’t particularly flattering. He’s the guy who left his small town first and so is lionized as the coolest dude ever. Except when we finally catch up with him, he looks even less cool than uber-dork Luke. Biggs’ freaked out “I can’t see’em” are his last words before being shot out of the sky above the Death Star. Even Luke knew it was time to let this guy down easy. Great name, though.
4 – Admiral Piett
Compared to Admirals Ozzel and Motti, there’s a certain regal sadness to Admiral Piett. Like Bib Fortuna, it’s hard not to feel a little pity for him. He didn’t ask to be promoted all the way to Admiral–in fact, he was just minding his own business when it happened. So what does he get for all his trouble, for the stress of having to constantly live in the shadow of Darth Vader’s force choke? He gets an A-wing in his face, and the weirdest looking ship-to-ship explosion send-off in the entire Star Wars series.
3 – Doctor Cornelius Evazan (and Ponda Baba)
Today is the day I learned that our favourite man on the scum and villainy scene in the Mos Eisley Cantina is actually a doctor. Man, Star Wars is the best sometimes. Anyway, Doctor Cornelius Evazan (and his pal Ponda Baba) are famous for a few things: earning the death sentence on twelve systems, getting in Luke’s face for no reason, picking a fight with one of the last remaining Jedi Knights, and being involved in the only known case of blood in the entire Star Wars oeuvre. It’s a small claim to fame, but with a face like that (and a disgraced medical practice to boot), I think Cornelius would take whatever plaudit he could get.
2 – Admiral Ackbar
An obvious choice, perhaps, but it doesn’t get more Star Wars-y than Ackbar. In his unassuming way, the great Mon Calamarian (get it, he looks like a fish) quietly offers one of the prime distinctions between the Empire and the Alliance–equal opportunity hiring practices! While the bad guys are all stiff white guys, the good guys have a cast of colourful characters and the most prominent fish-based military leader in the galaxy. And of course, I have to mention the most incongruent line reading in the history of movies. Hear the emotion, gaze into those cold, dead fish eyes.
1 – Lobot
This is an odd choice for number one, I know, but I feel a personal connection to the quiet presence of Lobot. Allow me to explain. A few years ago, my father had a tumour in his head. He got it removed–it was non-malignant, thank god–but as a result, he lost his hearing in one ear. To help him out, my dad had a cochlear implant installed, basically a little brown box bolted onto the side of his head. It detects sound on his left side and transfers it over to his right. The implant is nowhere near the size of Lobot’s considerable tech accoutrements, but every time I see it, that’s where my mind goes.
Lobot gets one moment to shine in The Empire Strikes Back, when Lando wakes him up to help subvert the will of the Empire. He doesn’t have any lines. But since it was my dad who got me into Star Wars in the first place, and who I’ll be seeing The Force Awakens with (on the 22nd), it feels fitting to have him as number one.