Can Star Wars survive on nostalgia alone?

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Star Wars franchise, including The Book of Boba Fett and The Mandalorian Seasons 1-2.

At time of writing we’re halfway through Obi-Wan Kenobi – the Disney+ miniseries following the Jedi Master’s adventures in between the prequel films and the original trilogy. This article was partly inspired by that project, but I’ll try to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t seen it yet. And I’m trying to avoid jumping the gun and being overly critical of Obi-Wan Kenobi until I’ve seen the remaining episodes.

So the question I want to wrangle with today is a complicated one, and we can look at it in different ways and from different angles. Can the Star Wars franchise survive if all it does is look backwards? Can it coast indefinitely on past successes? Are these deep dives into minor chapters of its sole original story all we can ever expect to see? Or maybe, one day soon, will Star Wars have to try something genuinely new and different?

Can Star Wars continue to rely on bringing back characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi?

For all the talk of prequels, sequels, and spin-offs, Star Wars has really only ever told one single story since it premiered in 1977. Every project that we’ve seen since then padded out that story; the prequels provided background information about characters like Anakin and Obi-Wan, the sequels picked up the stories of Han, Luke, Leia, and of course Palpatine, spin-off projects like Rogue One fed directly into the events of the original films, and even The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett brought back the Force and Luke Skywalker.

The Star Wars galaxy has tens of thousands of years of history; the Republic existed for millennia prior to the rise of the Empire. And it has an uncertain future in the wake of Palpatine’s schemes. Yet every single Star Wars project brought to screen so far across more than forty-five years of the franchise’s existence has taken place within the same sixty-year span of galactic history centred around the rise and fall of the Empire.

Every Star Wars project to date has been set within the same sixty-year period.

In addition, of the tens of thousands of inhabited planets that exist in the vast Star Wars galaxy, the franchise continues to revisit the same ones over and over again. Tatooine, for instance, has been a major setting despite its purported status as an “unimportant backwater.” Most recent Star Wars projects have, to their credit, visited a new planet or two… but the same handful of old ones keep cropping up over and over again.

Star Wars feels like it has an incredibly rich and deep setting, one with millennia of history and a vast landscape of different worlds inhabited both by humans and some very interesting non-human aliens… but on both the big screen and in the new streaming shows, we’re continually shown the same few years and the same few locales over and over again. It’s like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet and finding row upon row of dishes from all across the world, then constantly refilling your plate with chicken nuggets. I like chicken nuggets as much as the next person… but let’s try something different next time.

The Jedi Temple on Coruscant during the prequel era.

None of this is to say that I haven’t enjoyed at least some of what Star Wars has offered up over the last few years. I named Rogue One my favourite film of the 2010s, and with good reason – it really is an outstanding story. And despite the heavy nostalgia plays, I was surprised to find myself having a good time with The Book of Boba Fett earlier this year. So Star Wars can, at least for the moment, continue to find enjoyable ways to play in the tiny corner of the vast sandbox that it’s been restricted to. But can that continue for very much longer?

I suppose this gets at a more fundamental question: is Star Wars defined by the handful of characters that we’ve met so far? Are the likes of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker all that Star Wars can ever be? Or is there room for fans to find brand-new characters to fall in love with; characters who are different from the hero and villain archetypes that the franchise has introduced so far?

Is Star Wars bigger than Luke Skywalker? And do fans even want a Star Wars project without these familiar characters?

Many Star Wars fans seem happy to continue to explore the lives of characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Boba Fett, and Luke Skywalker, seeming to prefer that the franchise take a path not dissimilar to the old Expanded Universe. In the EU, that same handful of characters was thrown haphazardly into multiple stories set before, during, and after the events of the films – and with modern Star Wars retaining a focus on those classic characters in that same time period, it feels like we could be going down a familiar path.

However, there are other options available if someone higher up at Disney or Lucasfilm is feeling bold. Set aside characters like Leia and Han Solo and step away from the rise of Palpatine. Tell a story set in a completely different era, perhaps one that doesn’t focus on the Jedi and the Force. Visit completely different worlds, introduce a new alien or two, and tell a story that isn’t simply a riff on what the franchise has already done.

Darth Vader’s castle on Mustafar.

The Star Wars galaxy could be a setting for all kinds of different projects. There’s no reason why we couldn’t see everything from an ER-inspired medical series to a hard-boiled film noir crime drama – all set in the Star Wars galaxy. Forget the story outlines that have been seen already and take the setting as a blank canvas. Instead of telling a repetitive tale about a young Jedi from a desert planet who fights a nasty but ultimately redeemable family member/villain, do something else. Literally anything else.

Would Star Wars fans want to see a show in this setting that steps away from the Jedi, the Force, and the Empire? Surely there has to be room for that in a setting as vast and untapped as the Star Wars galaxy. By diversifying the way it tells stories, Star Wars could build a solid foundation for the future.

Would anyone be interested in a medical drama set in the Star Wars galaxy, for instance?

It seems obvious that this nostalgia-heavy, backwards-looking Star Wars can’t last forever. Heck, it can’t last more than a few years at most, because sooner or later the franchise is going to exhaust all of the characters and settings that the original films and the prequel films had to offer. What will come next after The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi? Will it be Jar-Jar: A Star Wars Story? Even if Star Wars pulls out every single minor character and tries to expand their role into a fully-fledged Disney+ series, there’s a hard limit on how long that can last.

And there’s a real danger, too, that revisiting classic characters to give them additional stories could detract from powerful moments in the original Star Wars saga. The Book of Boba Fett may have gotten away with bringing its obviously-dead title character back to life, but one thing fans seem to universally agree on is that The Rise of Skywalker failed to successfully resurrect Palpatine, and that his ham-fisted inclusion in a story that was never meant to be his ended up being a weight around the neck of the sequel trilogy.

“Somehow Palpatine returned.”

This was my concern going into Obi-Wan Kenobi – and no, there aren’t going to be any major plot spoilers here, don’t worry. But in a general sense, I was worried that any story featuring Kenobi set in this time period would have to be incredibly careful not to overwrite or damage moments like his reunion with Darth Vader aboard the Death Star.

Even if it could avoid those pitfalls, there was still an open question about how ultimately necessary a series like Obi-Wan Kenobi would be. We’ve already seen the most interesting and most important parts of Kenobi’s story; what could this miniseries add to that that wouldn’t end up feeling incredibly tacked-on? How would it avoid the trap of sending Kenobi on a rip-roaring adventure that you’d think he might’ve mentioned?

Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s duel aboard the Death Star.

Several of Star Wars’ recent projects – including ones I personally enjoyed, like Rogue One – could have been reworked to be set at a different time, in a different location, and featuring different characters. The same fun stories could be present, but by stepping away from the familiar into something different and new, there’d be no danger of treading on the toes of any of the powerful and impactful moments from earlier Star Wars stories.

When I think about the idea of expanding Star Wars and telling new stories in its wonderful galaxy, my mind doesn’t immediately go to Luke Skywalker and a handful of other classic characters. We’ve seen their lives play out already, and adding new chapters partway through – or unnecessary epilogues – just doesn’t feel worthwhile. Moreover, what we’ve seen so far are the most interesting and most important chapters of their lives, dealing with the rise and fall of the Empire, the death and rebirth of the Jedi Order, the Galactic Civil War, and so on. At best, anything else feels tacked-on, and at worst it undermines parts of that original, powerful saga.

The twin suns of Tatooine.

Both for the sake of telling engaging and exciting stories and as a point of simple practicality, Star Wars can’t keep relying on the same few characters, the same few planets, and the same tiny sliver of its vast and expansive setting. Sooner or later the creative team will have exhausted the potential of every major and minor character from the originals, the prequels, the sequels, and spin-offs… and what then? The choice will be either to bring Star Wars to an end or to try something else.

There’s so much untapped potential in a setting as wide and deep as the Star Wars galaxy. There are tens of thousands of years of history to explore, an uncertain future to chart, and more planets, aliens, and factions to explore than we could reasonably list. We could see a story charting the very beginnings of the Republic and Jedi Order, or the franchise could step away from its familiar niche into completely different genres; mystery, crime, horror, adventure, even romance or comedy. All it would take is a degree of boldness on the part of the producers in charge – a willingness to try something experimental with the franchise they own.

So that’s my answer to the question posed above. Star Wars can’t keep doing this forever. Something’s going to have to change if the franchise is to survive long-term, and the sooner attempts are made to make the switch – to figure out what might work and what won’t – the smoother the transition will be. After forty-five years, it’s time for Star Wars to set aside the Skywalkers, Palpatines, and Kenobis.

The Star Wars franchise – including all films and television shows discussed above – is the copyright of Lucasfilm and The Walt Disney Company. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The Book of Boba Fett review

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, The Last Jedi, and other iterations of the Star Wars franchise.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Book of Boba Fett when it was unexpectedly announced at the end of The Mandalorian Season 2. I was hopeful for a new series set in the Star Wars galaxy – only the second-ever live-action TV show in this setting – but I’d also felt underwhelmed by both The Mandalorian and a slew of announcements from Disney and Lucasfilm that seemed to be relying far too heavily on Star Wars’ past at the expense of trying anything even slightly new and different.

The Book of Boba Fett was, in many ways, the nostalgia overload that I expected it would be. The show could feel, at times, like executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni were two Star Wars-loving kids playing with life-size action figures of their favourite characters. Whether it was Boba Fett riding a Rancor monster, Luke Skywalker building his Jedi Academy, the Mandalorian wielding a lightsaber, or characters from The Clone Wars making significant appearances, The Book of Boba Fett had this almost child-like tone that harkened back to the Star Wars adventures kids have enjoyed making up for decades.

Boba Fett riding a Rancor in the series finale.

A friend of mine (who is far smarter and more astute than I am) also noted, with a degree of disappointment, that The Book of Boba Fett had a “lighthearted Disneyfied edge” at times, with some of the show’s potentially dark themes of violence and criminality being blunted or just outright ignored in favour of creating something that would work for younger kids as well as teens and adults. And I can’t deny that – several sequences in The Book of Boba Fett could have been transposed into the most basic of Disney Channel comedy shows with barely any adaptation required.

In addition, The Book of Boba Fett relies very heavily on The Mandalorian, to such an extent that anyone who hasn’t watched the previous two seasons would be, I suspect, rather lost – especially in the final two or three episodes in which the titular Boba Fett scarcely features. There was the return of Grogu (Baby Yoda) at Luke Skywalker’s Academy, Din Djarin (Mandy) seeking out the survivors of his Mandalorian clique, the residents of Mos Pelgo and their sheriff, and even the Tatooine mechanic who found him a brand-new ship to replace the destroyed Razor Crest. Though the way in which Mandy was written into the story made a degree of sense – as I can believe he’d feel he owed something to Boba Fett after the way he helped out in The Mandalorian Season 2 – it made the final three episodes of what was only a short seven-episode season feel like the first part of The Mandalorian Season 3.

Mandy returned in a pretty big way.

All of the pieces fell into place for The Book of Boba Fett to be a series I’d expect to find completely disappointing… but I didn’t. Even the incredibly weak, hand-wavy explanation for Boba’s survival after Return of the Jedi couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm for what was an enjoyable romp in the Star Wars galaxy, and when I would’ve expected to find myself sighing with disappointment at the overuse of classic characters and other nostalgic crutches, I found myself so immersed in what was a thoroughly engaging story that I just… didn’t. That isn’t to say that The Book of Boba Fett was “perfect,” not by any stretch. But it was fun – despite its imperfections.

It’s words like that that I’d use to describe The Book of Boba Fett. It was a series that had huge entertainment value, depicting a rip-roaring adventure across the sands of Tatooine. Perhaps it’s specifically because of the “Disneyfied” toned-down darker moments, but the show managed to have this incredibly positive, energetic atmosphere that cut through all of the nonsense and amplified the exciting and emotional moments in its story, making it a fun watch almost all the way through.

Boba with Fennec Shand and a Gamorrean guard.

I’m always a sucker for stories about outnumbered heroes, bad guys with “hearts of gold,” and heroic last stands, and The Book of Boba Fett gave me all of those things. Whether it was Boba Fett sneaking into Jabba the Hutt’s palace to steal back his ship, learning to fight like a Tusken raider in the Dune Sea of Tatooine, or the gang coming together to fight off the forces arrayed against them, The Book of Boba Fett packed these exciting and often emotional punches in just the right way for the story to be incredibly enjoyable for me.

If I look at The Book of Boba Fett with a more critical eye, there are absolutely things that I would have changed or chosen not to include. I don’t think, for example, that the sequences with Luke Skywalker and Grogu were especially satisfying when I think about them more deeply. The Mandalorian Season 2 spent basically its entire runtime getting Mandy and Grogu to attract Luke’s attention, and for Luke to then present Grogu with a binary choice – to go with Mandy or train as a Jedi – then to have that choice happen entirely off-screen, effectively rendering everything Mandy did in Season 2 pointless… it leaves a bit of a bad taste. It’s “The Rise of Skywalker problem” – where the next chapter in the story effectively undoes the big narrative moments from the chapter that preceded it.

Luke offered Grogu a choice, and he apparently came to his decision off-screen.

Also, as some fans far smarter than I am have already pointed out, it feels wrong for Luke Skywalker to offer Grogu such a choice to begin with. We don’t know how much time had passed since the events of The Mandalorian Season 2, but it could perhaps be a few weeks or a few months – a year at the very most. Grogu hadn’t spent much time there nor done much training, so for this choice to be presented to him while he’s at such a young age – and for Luke, whose entire arc in Return of the Jedi had centred around his own attachment to his father while simultaneously being a Jedi Knight – to be the one forcing this choice onto Grogu, are likewise things that feel wrong.

It feels like this side of the story was contrived in such a way as to get Grogu to leave Luke’s Jedi Academy – perhaps so he can have a role in The Mandalorian Season 3, perhaps because there’s something else going on with his character that we don’t yet know, or perhaps because the creators and producers realised that, as things stand, Grogu would almost certainly end up among Kylo Ren’s victims when he betrays Luke – something we saw in the sequel trilogy. As I remarked in my review of The Mandalorian Season 2, this makes Grogu’s whole story feel bittersweet, and given the cute critter’s huge popularity with Star Wars fans and a wider audience in general, maybe this decision was made to save him from that fate.

Was an executive decision taken to “save” Grogu from the fate of Luke’s other students?

When I took a look at The Mandalorian Season 2, I also said that Luke Skywalker felt like a story crutch for a series – and a franchise – that was too reliant on its own past and on nostalgia plays. The same could apply to The Book of Boba Fett, too. In a series that was already throwing Star Wars’ greatest hits at viewers, the inclusion of Luke Skywalker was pure fan-service. I think it worked better here having been set up in Season 2 of The Mandalorian, and thus didn’t come from nowhere in quite the same way, but I would question whether or not it was strictly necessary to have these sequences in a show that was already so intent on looking backwards.

As I watched the first couple of episodes of The Book of Boba Fett, I thought to myself that, although the reintroduction of this seemingly-dead character was itself a huge “hail Mary” nostalgia throw, at least the series would finally take Star Wars away from the Force, the Jedi, and the Skywalker family. It ultimately failed to do that, bringing all of those elements back into play, and again I just feel that this is indicative of a franchise that doesn’t really know what to do or how to act without the crutch of those safe, comfortable, familiar elements. Star Wars teases viewers with a massive galaxy to explore, but every film and series so far has returned in one way or another to the same handful of characters and the same absolutely minuscule slice of that vast, tantalising setting. I would love for Star Wars to try something genuinely new and different one day, and while I didn’t really expect that from a series based around Boba Fett, it would still have been a bold decision to cut Luke Skywalker and Grogu from the story altogether, and leave the Force behind.

The Book of Boba Fett relied very heavily on elements and characters from past iterations of Star Wars.

The Book of Boba Fett, perhaps because it was relatively short at a mere seven episodes, wasn’t great at communicating the passage of time. This is also a complaint I’d raised about The Mandalorian, specifically in its first season, but in this case it was made worse by the fact that we were seeing different parts of Boba’s story that seemingly took place months or years apart. From his escape from the Sarlacc and capture by the Tuskens to his acceptance of Tusken culture and raid on the train to his meeting with Fennec Shand, their raid on Jabba’s palace, and then Boba laying claim to the throne… it wasn’t at all clear how much time had passed from one sequence to the next.

At one point Boba mentioned something about “years,” but that felt like little more than clumsy exposition – and didn’t even make clear how long it had been between some of the scenes we saw. Presumably his escape from the Sarlacc and his initial capture by the Tuskens took place within hours of Return of the Jedi – but the rest of it was decidedly muddled and unclear.

It wasn’t at all clear how long Boba spent with the Tuskens… or how much time had passed between flashback sequences and the show’s present day.

So let’s talk about Boba Fett’s survival, because this was one point I was really interested in prior to the series. For almost forty years it seemed as though Boba Fett was dead. Maybe some works in the old Expanded Universe found fan-fiction nonsense that brought him back, but canonically speaking, Boba Fett was dead. That’s how I interpreted the very unambiguous scene of him falling into the Sarlacc’s maw in Return of the Jedi when I first saw it in the early ’90s – and on every subsequent viewing, come to that. Overcoming that hurdle was something that The Book of Boba Fett had to at least try to do.

In the end, the answer was pretty lame, the sequence raced through pretty quickly, and the answer to this almost-forty-year-old puzzle hand-waved away. Boba Fett survived by essentially shooting and exploding his way out, then collapsed on the sand near the Sarlacc pit. His armour was stolen by scavenging Jawas, and Boba was later rescued – or captured – by Tuskens. It was all over pretty quickly, and while I don’t necessarily feel there’s much to dispute in terms of the basic mechanics of his escape from the Sarlacc – he still had his armour and most of his weapons and explosives as he fell, after all – it was just a bit rushed. It felt like The Book of Boba Fett was trying to brush the details of his survival under the rug so it could race ahead to tell other stories.

Boba Fett’s escape from the Sarlacc was quite rushed.

In a series that generally got the feel and tone right, there were a couple of odd choices. The Twi’lek character played by comedian David Pasquesi largely felt out-of-place; an overtly comedic character in what was, for the most part, a series that didn’t seem to be trying too hard to be funny. The biker gang that Boba Fett recruited to his cause were perhaps the oddest-looking group, visually speaking, and their speeder bikes definitely looked out-of-place, being far too bright and colourful in a setting that was otherwise comprised of tans, browns, and other desert tones.

Putting these two together created what was perhaps the worst sequence in the entire series: a slow-speed comedy car chase that felt like it had been lifted out of a Disney Channel movie aimed at a pre-teen audience. Tonally speaking it was just wrong for The Book of Boba Fett, it dragged on far too long, and ultimately added nothing of substance to the show.

The Book of Boba Fett did not need a comedy car chase sequence.

But really, all of those points are glorified nitpicks, and didn’t really detract too much from what was a fun romp. Though there were things I would’ve changed or chosen not to include, taken as a whole package The Book of Boba Fett worked far better than I would have imagined. If you’d told me at the start that the climax of the series would’ve been Boba riding on a Rancor monster fighting alongside Mandy, a Wookie, and Baby Yoda I might not have even bothered to tune in… but the way it got to that point, and even the climactic fight itself, were just plain fun.

Visually, The Book of Boba Fett looked amazing. The CGI work used to create Luke Skywalker was so convincing on my 4K television that I honestly thought I was looking at a real person at first. The Star Wars franchise – and, to be fair, Disney in general – is setting an incredibly high standard for other streaming shows in terms of visuals and special effects, and I hope this high standard of competition will see others raise their game. I’m looking at you, Star Trek – at the very least it would be nice to start getting Star Trek episodes in 4K HDR!

Boba Fett without his trademark helmet.

So I think that’s about all I have to say about The Book of Boba Fett. It was a technically polished series with a combination of great practical and digital effects that made it look absolutely fantastic. And it’s set a very high bar for digital character work that other shows – and even films – will struggle to match. Acting performances were fantastic across the board, with everyone giving it their all. The show also had a great, somewhat understated musical score that was pitch-perfect.

Above all, though, The Book of Boba Fett was far more fun than I could have possibly expected. Somehow, a combination of individual elements that seemed on the surface to be weak or otherwise uninspiring came together to build a far better and more entertaining series than should have been possible! I had a hugely enjoyable time with The Book of Boba Fett, and it even succeeded at getting me interested – and, dare I say, even a little excited – for Season 3 of The Mandalorian, which is rumoured to be coming before the end of the year.

After feeling underwhelmed or even disappointed with some recent Star Wars projects, it was nice to be able to kick back and enjoy an exciting, action-packed romp across Tatooine with Boba Fett and his motley crew. At time of writing, a second season of the show hasn’t been confirmed – but it seems almost unfathomable to me that there won’t be more adventures with Boba and Fennec Shand.

The Book of Boba Fett is available to stream now on Disney+. The Star Wars franchise – including The Book of Boba Fett and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Lucasfilm and The Walt Disney Company. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

It’s disappointing that Rangers of the New Republic has been axed

Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian and the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

I’ve made no secret here on the website over the past couple of years that I’m not exactly thrilled with the direction of the Star Wars franchise. In the aftermath of the total narrative failure of The Rise of Skywalker, Lucasfilm has doubled down hard on overplaying the nostalgia card in practically all of its upcoming projects.

There’s some kind of series or miniseries focusing on R2D2 and C-3PO in development. There’s a prequel to Rogue One focusing on Cassian Andor. There’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, which will bring back the classic character to look at his life in between the prequels and the original films. There’s The Book of Boba Fett, in which Boba Fett is inexplicably back from the dead. There’s Ahsoka, a spin-off from The Mandalorian focusing on a character from the animated shows.

Boba Fett is one of several minor characters returning to Star Wars.

All of these projects indicate to me that the higher-ups at Disney and Lucasfilm don’t really know how to handle the Star Wars franchise. They’re intent on looking backwards at Star Wars’ past, seeming to think that what the franchise was is all it can ever be in the future. The result is spin-offs from spin-offs, prequels to prequels, unimportant chapters being thrown under the microscope, and characters of decreasing importance thrust into the spotlight.

Though it was purported to be a spin-off from The Mandalorian, one of the few announced projects that seemed to have any semblance of originality was Rangers of the New Republic. The series was to have looked at the New Republic – the galactic government which was created by the Rebel Alliance following the events of Return of the Jedi – in far more detail than ever before. However, Rangers of the New Republic has now been cancelled.

Logo for Rangers of the New Republic.

The New Republic hasn’t been explored in much detail in Star Wars’ main canon, instead being relegated to a background role in both The Mandalorian and the sequel trilogy. In The Force Awakens, we see Starkiller Base deployed against the New Republic’s capital system, destroying its government institutions and much of its military. By the time of The Last Jedi, the First Order is said to be in control of much of the galaxy, and the New Republic isn’t mentioned thereafter.

The Mandalorian showed us a glimpse of the New Republic, including how it tries to police outlying star systems and enforce its laws – and how it’s relatively ineffective at doing so. There was potential to expand on this depiction, showing both the governmental side of the New Republic, hampered by legislative inefficiencies, as well as the actual Rangers themselves.

A New Republic pilot seen in The Mandalorian.

A lot of Star Wars projects currently in production look at morally ambiguous characters. The Mandalorian focuses on a bounty hunter – someone who primarily operates outside of the law, albeit that he has a heart of gold underneath his armour. The Book of Boba Fett will focus on another Mandalorian bounty hunter, and if it stays true to its premise will show us Star Wars’ seedy underworld in more detail.

Andor will follow Cassian Andor – a character whose moral ambiguity was on full display in Rogue One, and who will do anything to advance the Rebels’ cause. Ahsoka is going to follow the titular Ahsoka Tano, an ex-Jedi who appears to be off doing her own thing rather than helping Luke Skywalker and the Rebels. The only series following an out-and-out hero – or one of the unambiguously “good guys” – is Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Cassian Andor will be the focus of a new Disney+ series.

Rangers of the New Republic had the potential to show us a different side of Star Wars – arguably one closer thematically to the original films, yet still distinct and independent of them. While other shows would look at the underworld of the galaxy, at criminals, or at spies who’ll do anything for their cause, Rangers of the New Republic could’ve been a breath of fresh air. The series could’ve presented an optimistic cast of characters who were genuinely trying to help the new government succeed.

Characters who are too pure and excessively virtuous can be boring, and that would’ve been a pitfall that Rangers of the New Republic would’ve needed to avoid. But had the show managed to walk that line, we might’ve seen something a bit different from Star Wars’ other current and upcoming offerings: a show that would’ve happily looked at the “good guys” as they tried to shore up the New Republic and tackled everything from criminals to ex-Imperial officers.

Emblem of the New Republic.

In part, the decision to cancel Rangers of the New Republic is probably tied to the situation with Cara Dune actress Gina Carano. Though it was never officially stated that the show would star Carano, many fans and commentators assumed that she would have a significant role to play, so following her dismissal from Lucasfilm in the aftermath of some very stupid social media posts, perhaps the show was always living on borrowed time.

We won’t get into the Gina Carano situation here. Suffice to say that anyone with any kind of profile needs to be incredibly careful what they say on social media, and she wasn’t. She upset a lot of people, doubled down on some of her controversial remarks, and that ended up costing her a potential recurring gig with Lucasfilm. She only has herself to blame.

Gina Carano as Cara Dune in The Mandalorian Season 1.

I would argue, though, that Rangers of the New Republic didn’t need to be all about Cara Dune. We met a couple of New Republic characters in The Mandalorian, and they could’ve served as a gateway into the show, keeping it connected to The Mandalorian and potentially building up to a crossover event with one or more of the other shows that were in production at the same time.

There was potential in Rangers of the New Republic. Not only was it a series that could’ve been something different from the likes of The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett by looking at the post-Return of the Jedi government, but it was also a series that could’ve left familiar characters behind to strike out on its own. All of the other Star Wars projects currently in production have this kind of backwards-looking, nostalgia-heavy focus, and Rangers of the New Republic was one of the few offerings that had the potential to be something a little different. As Star Wars continues to double down on nostalgic throwbacks, I fear we’ll come to regret the cancellation of Rangers of the New Republic.

The Star Wars franchise – including all films and series mentioned above – is the copyright of Lucasfilm and The Walt Disney Company. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The Book of Boba Fett: Thoughts, hopes, and expectations

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Star Wars franchise, including The Mandalorian Seasons 1-2 and Return of the Jedi.

“Mixed feelings” might be the best phrase to describe my attitude toward the upcoming Disney+ Star Wars series The Book of Boba Fett. I have no doubt that the series will do a lot of things well, from visual effects to exciting action sequences. But if you recall my criticisms from 2020 when it was first rumoured that Boba Fett might be included in Season 2 of The Mandalorian, the bare premise of the series is enough to leave me underwhelmed.

Let’s be blunt for a moment. Boba Fett was a dull character whose entire popularity in the early 1980s came from his unique-looking armour. This led to sales of action figures, models, and dolls – and an oversized, undue gravitas given to a minor, one-dimensional foil for Han Solo. Boba Fett does have a unique, cool look, I won’t deny that. But his role in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi was minor, and his death in the latter film was a fittingly unspectacular end for an unspectacular character.

Boba Fett’s popularity stems from toys and action figures. By the way, does anyone else really dislike Pop Vinyl/Funko Pop? I just can’t get on board with the design of practically any of their figures…

However, Boba Fett’s popularity endured over the years, helped in no small part by his character being fleshed out in a fan-fictiony way by writers of the old Expanded Universe books and comics. So by the time of the prequels, George Lucas and others involved in the production of those films clearly felt an obligation to include backstory for him as well.

I don’t hate Boba Fett, but when I watched the Star Wars trilogy for the first time I just didn’t get the hype. Why was this character so remarkable considering he did one thing – captured Han Solo – then died in a pretty stupid way when his jetpack misfired? And he didn’t even capture Han Solo himself, he had to enlist the help of Darth Vader and a whole legion of Stormtroopers. In short: cool-looking armour, but that’s about as much as I can say about Boba Fett in his original incarnation.

Boba Fett’s first appearance in The Empire Strikes Back.

However, The Book of Boba Fett isn’t following the character as he appeared in the original films. As I noted in my review of Season 2 of The Mandalorian, the character introduced to us as “Boba Fett” feels a long, long way removed from the bounty hunter we met in The Empire Strikes Back. His entire demeanour was so radically different that I said in my review that the two characters feel entirely separate. The plot of The Mandalorian Season 2 wouldn’t have been any different had that character been given a different name and Boba Fett never been mentioned.

One thing I will credit The Mandalorian’s Boba Fett with is that I felt the character got a more nuanced portrayal than he ever did in the films. There was a sense that this man was a weary veteran, ready to hang up the armour and live a quiet life somewhere. He’d fought all the battles he wanted to fight and was ready to try something new – at least until we saw him in the final moments of the season seemingly intent on seizing control of Tatooine’s underworld.

Boba Fett as he initially appeared in The Mandalorian Season 2.

Just like The Rise of Skywalker had done before it with Palpatine, The Mandalorian Season 2 completely ignored what has to be the most important point about Boba Fett: how on earth is he still alive? If the new series can find a way to pull an answer to that question out of its backside that even makes a degree of sense, it’ll have made progress. And I think that’s my biggest single request when it comes to the storyline of The Book of Boba Fett: find some way to give us a plausible explanation for the main character’s survival.

Remember that Boba Fett fell into the gaping mouth of a giant monster in the Tatooine desert. The Sarlaac monster in the Pit of Carkoon was presented as a truly awful torturous death, supposedly taking a long time in its inescapable digestive tract. Jabba the Hutt was said to favour this method of execution, and planned to execute Luke Skywalker and Han Solo there in Return of the Jedi. Boba Fett fell into the monster’s mouth, and that seemed to be a very definitive end for him!

How did Boba Fett survive? Finding a plausible answer is key to the show’s success.

One aspect of the story of The Mandalorian Season 2 has potentially complicated any story of Boba’s escape. The fact that his armour had been lost on Tatooine, recovered by Jawas and later sold to Cobb Vanth clearly indicates that Boba didn’t simply blast his way out of the creature as soon as the battle on Jabba’s barge was over. Because he fell into the pit wearing his armour – and thus carrying at least some of his weapons – the show might’ve been able to argue that he didn’t die and simply shot his way out. But if so, he’d have kept his armour.

So the question of his survival remains, and in the aftermath of just how poorly the awful line “somehow Palpatine returned” went down in The Rise of Skywalker, I can’t imagine that The Book of Boba Fett would try to ignore this point. Even if all we get are a few lines of dialogue saying that he climbed out and was saved by roaming scavengers or Chewbacca’s great-aunt, I think we need some kind of closure before we can take seriously the fact that Boba Fett is back.

Boba Fett, moments before dying like a chump.

Then we come to the premise of the series itself, and this is perhaps what I’m most interested in. One of my biggest disappointments when it came to The Mandalorian was that the show’s basic premise remains unfulfilled despite sounding incredibly promising. I wanted to see “the adventures of a gunslinger away from the reach of the New Republic,” but instead the show brought Baby Yoda, the Force, the Empire, and even Luke Skywalker into play in a story that increasingly felt like Return of the Jedi II as Season 2 wore on.

The Book of Boba Fett promises us the following: “Legendary bounty hunter Boba Fett and mercenary Fennec Shand navigating the galaxy’s underworld when they return to the sands of Tatooine to stake their claim on the territory once ruled by Jabba the Hutt and his crime syndicate.”

Though I stand by my criticisms of the Star Wars franchise making desperate nostalgia plays for characters and settings from the original films, that premise doesn’t sound half bad. Though I don’t want to get my hopes up too high after being burned by The Mandalorian, maybe we can finally get a look at the Star Wars galaxy away from the Force and the Skywalker family.

Hopefully The Book of Boba Fett won’t be repeating scenes like this one…

Boba’s survival after falling into the Pit of Carkoon risks coming across as cheap, fan-servicey, and just plain dumb. But if the show can find some way to navigate that sizeable pitfall (pun intended), then Boba Fett could actually prove to be an interesting point-of-view character for exploring the darker side of the Star Wars galaxy.

As an ex-bounty hunter, Boba Fett used to inhabit this seedy underworld that the show’s official description is teasing us with. But as someone who’s been out of action for almost a decade at this point, things have moved on in his absence. The biggest change, most likely, is the fall of the Empire. Without the Empire to crack down on criminals, and with the New Republic taking a different approach, it’s possible that the criminal underworld has grown since Return of the Jedi.

What will the criminal underworld be like after the fall of the Empire?

Boba Fett will have to navigate a changed world, and that offers up a lot of potential for exposition and explanation to be dropped into the series in a way that makes sense. There’s a high probability of learning more about the Star Wars galaxy – and particularly its criminal side – than we ever have before. That idea is definitely an interesting one, and though I wouldn’t personally have chosen to bring Boba Fett back from the dead in order to tell this kind of story, as a concept it’s hard to fault.

As a character, Boba Fett is perhaps open to further exploration. As I noted above, in his original appearances he was fairly one-dimensional, and his role in The Mandalorian Season 2 came with a degree of mystery to it. There’s scope to learn more about Boba Fett the man: who is the person underneath the armour? What drives him? What are his ambitions now that he’s got his armour back and taken over Jabba’s former throne? All of these things could potentially lead to interesting moments of characterisation, and as a concept the idea of an anti-hero or a villain with a heart and understandable motivations can work exceptionally well.

Din Djarin with Boba Fett in The Mandalorian Season 2.

All of this could come to pass if the show stays true to its premise! And this is where my concerns kick in. As Boba Fett’s return proves in and of itself, the Star Wars franchise is completely and utterly dependant on its original films and the characters and concepts that were present there. The Mandalorian brought us Baby Yoda, the Force, Ahsoka, the Empire, and Luke Skywalker in its first two seasons – along with dozens of other throwbacks to Star Wars’ past. Some of these elements came close to working, but overall they drowned out any originality the series could’ve had. I fear that The Book of Boba Fett will meet a similar fate.

There are all manner of ways this could happen. Off the top of my head, here are a few: Boba Fett comes into conflict with Luke Skywalker and his new Jedi Order somehow, perhaps even seeking revenge for his encounter with the Sarlacc. Maybe Han Solo will be a target of Boba Fett’s over the course of the show, again looking for revenge. Some other Jedi could emerge, perhaps a character from the prequels or one of the kids’ shows. Boba Fett could encounter Jedi or Sith artefacts, which would bring the Force into the series. And so on. There are many ways that we could see the show fall back on these nostalgia plays and fail to live up to its potential.

Promotional poster for The Book of Boba Fett.

I’d love for The Book of Boba Fett to have more to offer than nostalgic throwbacks, good visual effects, and well-constructed moments of action and excitement. Whether it will or not… well, the jury’s still out. I’m hopeful, but cautious.

The Book of Boba Fett exists in a strange space for me. I should feel more excitement for what is only the second ever live-action Star Wars television series, especially considering the huge budget afforded to shows made for Disney+ and the platform’s excellent track record with visual effects. Star Wars has literally never looked better in terms of visuals and special effects, and with the franchise taking a different turn to perhaps visit the seedier underworld in depth for the first time, there are things that pique my interest. I’m just having a hard time jumping on the hype train.

Despite that, I will do my utmost to give The Book of Boba Fett a fair shake. It will premiere on the 29th of December – right in the middle of Star Trek: Discovery’s imminent fourth season. I can’t promise I’ll have time to review every individual episode with so much else happening in December, but I’ll certainly share my thoughts on the series at some point, so I hope you’ll stay tuned for that. I’d love to be able to come back after the show’s first season and say that my fears and doubts were unfounded.

The Book of Boba Fett will premiere on Disney+ on the 29th of December 2021. The Star Wars franchise – including The Book of Boba Fett and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Lucasfilm and The Walt Disney Company. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.