The upcoming High Republic transmedia initiative will redeem one of the most savage races in Star Wars lore. When viewers walked into movie theaters in 1977, they were dazzled by a vision of a galaxy far, far away. George Lucas’ creative genius made distant worlds and binary star-systems seem so very real, and his characters – modeled on mythic archetypes – felt equally believable.
But George Lucas, and all the creators who have followed in his footsteps, have actually taken a fairly limited approach when crafting alien civilizations. The alien races of Star Wars, like those in Doctor Who and Star Trek, are essentially monocultural. There is no trace of diversity among the Tusken Raiders, and nobody has ever explored Rodian multiculturalism. It’s easy to understand why Lucas et al have taken this approach, because it makes life a whole lot simpler. A species essentially becomes a shorthand for a particular type of character. But what happens when new creators break this pattern?
Speaking in an exclusive interview with i09, writer Cavan Scott revealed his upcoming High Republic series will take a different approach. One of the heroes of his story is Sskeer, a Jedi who is actually a Trandoshan. Until now, Trandoshans were essentially codified as being brutal and vindictive; beings who take pleasure in the thrill of the hunt, and who consequently tend to make their way in life as bounty hunters. But Scott decided it was time to challenge the monocultural view of Trandoshans.
The thing with Sskeer is that, he… I struggle with alien races that have one characteristic. Monocultures, I struggle with, because we don’t have that, as a species. It was something I was keen to explore. I have to totally put down the creation of the idea to Phil Noto, comic artist extraordinaire, who did this concept art while we were coming up with these ideas—and there was a Trandoshan in the middle with a lightsaber. I got very obsessed, as Mike and the rest will tell you, with that picture, trying to work out who each person in the line was—Sskeer really stood out to me. For exactly those reasons, he’s a Trandoshan, he comes from a very brutal background. What would that be like for a Jedi? He must have worked hard to get over that in his training. What would his relationship be with a young person who just came in? We’re going to see Keeve and Sskeer younger [at points during the comic]. How would he go against his nature, striving to be something else, to be the best? So yeah, Phil gave me the start for that and I ran with it.
Lucasfilm has promised the High Republic will utterly redefine the Force, because it is set in a time when Jedi embraced their individuality. The movies are set in an era where Yoda’s understanding of the Force as “an energy field created by all living things,” has come to dominate the Jedi. But 200 years before the events of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, every member of the Jedi was encouraged to relate to the Force in a different way. It will be fascinating to see how a Trandoshan understands this formerly uniform philosophy.
The High Republic will also feature a Wookiee Jedi Padawan named Burryaga. The Wookiees and the Trandoshans are traditionally enemies, with the Trandoshans routinely sending hunting parties to Kashyyyk to attempt to capture and kill Wookiees. Hopefully Cavan Scott’s comic will include scenes featuring both Burryaga and Sskeer working side-by-side, demonstrating how the light side of the Force can bridge the gulf of prejudice and racial hatred. All of these potential new wrinkles on a classic formula prove that High Republic really could be Star Wars as we have never seen it before.