Wed
Feb 13 2013 11:00am
The 5 Soapiest Romances in the Star Wars Expanded Universe

soapy Star Wars romances Expanded Universe Han Leia Valentine's Day

For a space opera, the Star Wars universe certainly delves into soap opera territory when it comes to the love lives of its characters. I’m not talking your typical star-crossed romances, though there are plenty of those. Because once you strip aside all the Force politics that propel most of the interstellar conflict, you still have people who are lonely and yearning for their soulmates.

Han Solo and Leia Organa have the purest love story, hands down. What can beat “I love you”/“I know” as you watch your beloved get frozen in carbonite? So when it comes to the love lives of the Solos’ kids, or Luke’s questionable dating life, writers in the Expanded Universe had to get awfully creative. As in, ghosts, pheromones, hatesex, and a love child or two.

Last year, YouTubers OneMinuteGalactica reimagined The Empire Strikes Back as a hilarious soap opera called Galaxia de Pasión:

But it turns out the much racier stuff is in the EU! Honestly, there are only two exciting Han/Leia moments from the books that stand out in my memory: 1) Han kidnapping Leia to Dathomir to keep her from marrying Prince Isolder in The Courtship of Princess Leia; and 2) Leia staring at a spot on the carpet and thinking, “Oh yeah, that was fun when Han and I made love on the floor last night.” (No idea which book that was.)

There must have been some united consensus, or an edict from George Lucas himself, that no matter how bad things got, nothing would break up Han and Leia. But everyone else? Fair game.

Warning: Major spoilers for all of these romantic arcs. If you haven’t read the books/comics and want to save yourself for all the twists, fair enough. On the other hand, this serves as a handy crib sheet.

 

Callista Ming/Luke Skywalker/Cray Mingla

Luke Skywalker Callista Ming Cray Mingla soapy Star Wars romances Expanded Universe Valentine's Day

When he wasn’t founding the new Jedi Academy on Yavin IV, Luke became the freewheeling bachelor of the early EU books. And why not? He was a handsome war hero, part machine, with some deep-seated daddy issues. However, the kinds of women who were attracted to Luke gave readers some pause.

My go-to for WTF Star Wars romance would have to be Luke’s fling with Callista Ming, who he meets as a literal “ghost in the machine” in Children of the Jedi. A rogue Jedi from the Clone Wars era, Callista (then going by the surname Masana) fought alongside Anakin Skywalker to try and destroy the Eye of Palpatine spaceship. But when she and her fiancé Geith Eris were killed, Callista managed to transfer her essence—a handy Sith Lord trick—into the ship.

When Luke is taken prisoner aboard the Eye of Palpatine, Callista communicates with him through the ship, opening and closing doors as he runs from Imperial troops and talking to him on the monitors. She falls in love with him and is glad for this last, brief human connection before they destroy the ship.

But there’s a twist! Luke’s student Cray Mingla wants to join her dead lover in the afterlife, so she lets Callista take over her body. That’s only a little bit creepy, but Luke and Callista are glad for the chance at a corporeal relationship. Unfortunately, Callista’s resurrection comes with the price that she’s no longer connected to the Force. Or rather, she can tap into the dark side but not the light. Ultimately, this imbalance breaks them up, as Callista leaves Luke to try and regain her connection to the Force.

When it came to Callista’s ultimate fate in the EU, there was a little bit of behind-the-scenes drama, as well. Originally she was intended to be Luke’s ultimate soulmate—until it became clear that Mara Jade was the woman who fans were really rooting for, and Callista got the boot.

 

Jacen Solo/Tenel Ka Djo

Jacen Solo Tenel Ka soapy Star Wars romances Expanded Universe Valentine's Day

These two are the couple I most identified with as a teenager, probably because that’s when I was reading the Young Jedi Knights books and the New Jedi Order series had just kicked off.

Jacen and Tenel Ka had the most difficult path to love, thanks to a series of secrets, misunderstandings, and tragedies. It’s difficult to base even a friendship on trust when you lie about who you are as Tenel Ka did, keeping her Hapan lineage secret from fellow trainees Jacen, Jaina, and Lowbacca.

The only reason that the others discover Tenel Ka’s true identity is when Jacen—whoops—accidentally cuts off her left arm while training with their brand-new lightsabers. That would be enough to derail any potential romance, but Tenel Ka readily forgives his mistaske and they become even closer friends.

However, she doesn’t recognize that what she truly feels is love until, during the first wave of the Yuuzhan Vong crisis, she thinks Jacen has died on a mission. Tenel Ka takes on the mantle of Queen Mother of Hapes without a consort, even when Jacen is revealed to be alive.

Having inherited some of his dad’s roguishness, Jacen takes his sweet time actually visiting Tenel Ka—five years, to be exact. And when he does stop by, it’s to ask for the use of her fleet in a mission. To her credit, Tenel Ka basically tells him, “Sleep with me and you’ll get your fleet.” Enter the Solo-Djo love child!

Tenel Ka makes the other Hapans believe her daughter Allana is one of theirs—which leads one to wonder just how much she’s been sleeping around—and she doesn’t even tell Han and Leia that they have a grandchild. But that secret doesn’t last long, with Tenel Ka and Allana endangered whenever someone wants to get at Jacen—or, worse, when he starts to turn into Darth Caedus and knows he’ll have to sacrifice someone he loves.

Once Jacen fully turns to the dark side, Tenel Ka knows she’s lost the man she loved. Though he redeems himself by saving Allana from a nanovirus, Tenel Ka ultimately must fake her daughter’s death and give her to Han and Leia to raise because it’s simply too dangerous. You have to wonder if things might’ve turned out differently if these crazy kids had realized their love for each other sooner.

 

Leia Organa/Prince Xizor

Princess Leia Prince Xizor Shadows of the Empire soapy Star Wars romances Valentine's Day

The Leia/Xizor romance may have lasted for only a hot second in Shadows of the Empire, but I will never forget this brief, bizarre almost-seduction.

Leia visits Xizor on a diplomatic mission, seeking a contact at the crime syndicate Black Sun in order to track down Boba Fett. What she doesn’t realize is that Xizor is the head of Black Sun and he’s been perfuming the air with special pheromones designed to make her fall madly in lust with him.

I still have uncomfortable feelings about this book because of the seduction scene. I read the junior novelization first, so for a while I remembered it very tamely; maybe they kiss and then Leia breaks away. But in the adult version there’s a whole extended scene where Leia is basically in heat. (My preteen self thought this was especially weird since Han’s only in carbonite—it’s not like he’s dead, Leia, god.) Somewhere in that time period (early 2000s), I also stumbled across a very graphic Leia/Xizor porn fanfic on the internet, complete with illustrations. So.

Let’s not forget that when Xizor wasn’t seducing Alderaanian princesses, he also had a friends-with-benefits relationship with his android bodyguard Guri. Ultimately he bites the dust—which just goes to show, you don’t try and break up Han/Leia!

 

Anakin Solo/Tahiri Veila/Jacen Solo

Jacen Solo Tahiri Veila Anakin Solo soapy Star Wars Expanded Universe romances Valentine's Day

Here’s another love triangle, except this time it’s two brothers sharing the same woman. (Not at the same time, thankfully.) Look at what upstanding Jedi these three look like in the art above. Too bad that by the time their romantic saga is over, the two guys are dead and the girl is on her third round of the universe’s most intense case of PTSD.

Even though Jacen and Tenel Ka were my ideal EU couple, Tahiri Veila was who I always pretended to be when playing Star Wars in the schoolyard. Let’s see: She gets raised by Tusken Raiders after they murder her parents. She gets kidnapped by the Yuuzhan Vong and almost “shaped” into one of them. Now battling a split personality, she watches Anakin sacrifice himself. She never gets the chance to tell him she was in love with him.

Is it any wonder that she becomes Darth Caedus’ new apprentice? Especially after he lures her to the dark side with the promise of bringing Anakin back. It’s left up to the readers to infer that they were also sleeping together, though it was a purely physical thing.

Poor Anakin.

 

Luke Skywalker/Mara Jade

Luke Skywalker Mara Jade soapy Star Wars Expanded Universe romances Valentine's Day

But for all of the manipulation and heel face turns in this article, can anything really top falling in love with the man you’re virtually programmed to kill?

While the original trilogy is going on, Mara Jade is trained to be the Emperor’s Hand—his personal assassin who doesn’t ask any questions. When Palpatine dies, he leaves one final order for Mara, which reverberates through the Force: YOU WILL KILL LUKE SKYWALKER.

Not so easy to turn away from a command like that! Timothy Zahn throws Mara and Luke together in Heir to the Empire, much as the sight of him inspires in her the uncontrollable urge to kill. Being Luke, he commits to helping her break the telepathic bond with the Emperor despite that putting him in direct danger in Dark Force Rising.

Ultimately, it’s the kind of loophole twist you wouldn’t see coming that frees Mara in The Last Command: She kills the clone Luuke, thus fulfilling her obligation and freeing her to love the real Luke. (Personally, I would’ve liked to see some hatesex in there, but the Star Wars books usually fade to black on these scenarios.)

But God forbid these kids actually be happy, because during the New Jedi Order series Mara gets the incredibly soapy plotline of some disease eating away at her while she’s pregnant. (Seriously, this is some One Tree Hill shit.)

And even when giving birth to little Ben Skywalker neutralizes the disease, Mara is not long for this world. Because Jacen’s sacrifice to become Darth Caedus is to murder his aunt. Way to give Ben a complex, man.

RIP Luke/Mara Jade

Luke Skywalker Mara Jade soapy Star Wars Expanded Universe romances Valentine's Day

 

So if you’re feeling down because you and your valentine aren’t awesome planet-hopping bounty hunter Jedi, chin up. Because your love life could be a lot worse.


Natalie Zutter is a playwright, foodie, and the co-creator of Leftovers, a webcomic about food trucks in the zombie apocalypse. Her writing has appeared on Ology and Crushable, where she discusses celebrity culture alongside internet memes (or vice versa). Weekly you can find her commenting on pop culture on KoPoint’s podcast AFK On Air, calling in to the Hunger Games Fireside Chat podcast, reviewing new releases at Movie Mezzanine, and on Twitter.

 

29 comments
Dave Thompson
1. DKT
Wow. In one post, you've realized my affection for even the most juvenile of the SW books (Young Jedi Academy...there was a series that came along about 5 years too soon) as well as my utter disdain for the New Jedi Order. What they ended up doing to the Skywalker kids (and ESPECIALLY Mara Jade) is the kind of stuff I hope gets retconned with a sentence, or even red matter.
Jeff R.
2. Jeff R.
Where's Jaina Solo/Ronan Fel? Surely that one fits as well as any of these...
Chris Nelly
3. Aeryl
His name is Jagged, no Ronan. Not Soapy enough, IMO, though they do break up/get back together enough for it. I think it's because they are the next generation Han/Leia, which means they can't get broke up for good.

I have to actually give props to the EU writers, they weren't trying to hook Luke up with the first Force user to come along, they were just overriden by the fans, because Mara was so badass.

I never understood the disdain people have for the NJO. I ate them up, finally finding a SW story that appealed to my darker nature, instead of all the cookie cutter, of-course-we-will-win BS of the previous editions. I also never understood why people were so offended that several of Luke's first students would fall to the Dark Side. If ever there was a time where one the job training is a no-no, it's as a Jedi Master.

The only thing I disliked about the story, was the fact that Jacen's fall pretty much made Leia's fears in Tatooine Ghost absolutely valid, when I don't think that was the intention of that story at all.
Jeff R.
4. Cybersnark
See, I liked NJO and LotF (haven't actually read FotJ yet, since I refuse to start until I have all the books in hand) because they were darker. Nothing's more boring than a hero who wins all the time and never has to suffer life-shattering consequences.

Plus, Jacen's Fall was practically a Take-That to the whole idea of the Prequels; Jacen Solo was a far more compelling and tragic character than Anakin Skywalker could ever be --because we knew him. We could remember him as that goofy animal-loving kid who told dumb jokes, and understand how his experiences had shaped him into a more thoughtful young man.

There was no sudden "I am Evil!" moment, no deliberate stepping across the Rubicon --he simply and calmly decided on an entirely reasonable-to-him course of action that required difficult decisions. By the time he stopped to self-evaluate, he was already Fallen.
Jeff R.
5. Jeff R.
Also, your comments about Calista's ultimate fate don't make that much sense, since her actual ultimate fate comes after Mara's death. (Along with that of Luke's other ex. Widower Luke is doomed to get no play ever again.)

Anyhow, the main complaint about the NJO/Legacy era is that it introduces a strong element of fatalism that is alien to the spirit of Star Wars. And also Flimsy. The SWU is paperless, dammit.
Natalie Zutter
6. nataliezutter
@JeffR - Maybe I had the timeline backwards. I wasn't referring to her eventual death, but the fact that the writers realized there was no way the fans would be happy with Luke settling down with Callista once Mara Jade got introduced into canon. I would've gone more into Luke and Callista's final encounter, but this article started to get way too long!

Which is also why I didn't go into Jaina/Jagged. Believe me, I would've come up with twice as many romances if I'd had the space. Maybe I'll pen a Part 2! (I realize I mostly dealt in human romances, and should throw some more aliens and droids into the mix.)

@Cybersnark - See, you make Jacen's fall sound a lot more convincing! I had gotten about halfway through his NJO arc when I rage-quit that series, so the rest of my info on him is cribbed from Wookieepedia and friends. Maybe I'll pick up a few of the books and actually read through what he was thinking when he became Caedus.
Dave Thompson
7. DKT
See, I like Dark Star Wars. It just felt like NJO, etc., was unnecessarily cruel to characters in a way that violated the spirit of those characters, if that makes sense? I know it's iffy to argue about creator's intent when it's a shared/expanded universe, but I would be really curious to hear what Zahn thinks of Mara Jade's fate (as well as the Skywalker children). That he's primarily gone back and done things like Scoundrels and Outbound Flight since lead me to guess he's not thrilled with the way things turned out. And I don't know if any of the creators during that era feel about the way things changed when NJO happened. (I'd love to read links, if there are any, though!)

I like my dark Star Wars with new characters from comics, or even books (say Death Troopers, or Tales of the Jedi, etc.)

That said, I'm happy there are people out there who disagree and dig what's there. That particular SW branch just is not a series for me any more.
Jeff R.
8. lburns05
I'm fairly certain during one of the FOTJ books, during Tahiri's trial testimony, the prosecutor asks if Tahiri and Jacen were lovers. Her answer was along the lines of "love had nothing to do with it."
Jeff R.
9. Tesh
@DKT

Zahn minces no words in his dislike for Mara (and Chewie's) death in the NJO, and even on the tone of the entire NJO, which he felt wasn't true to the Star Wars movies.

http://www.theforce.net/jedicouncil/interview/timothyzahn.asp


I, for one, can't stand the 90s "darker, edgier" crap that infused the NJO.
Jeff R.
10. lburns05
Natalie,

You really should finish the NJO. The second half consistently rocked for me. Traitor, the 13th book, is my favorite Star Wars book of all time. It is insane. It also makes the way Jacen turns out seem like a reasonable conclusion. Traitor rocks my brain every time I read it.
Chris Nelly
11. Aeryl
@lburns, Traitor rocked that story, absolutely. That, and its companion that focused on Jaina. It really shows how they started growing apart in the Force.

I agree with Zahn that the tone for the NJO was different than the movies, but here is the things, the movies don't really make good books. They did that for years, told stories that were tonally identical to the movies, and Zahn was the only one who really pulled it off. The rest of it was boring. NJO raised the stakes in the story again, made me scared that characters I loved could/would die.

Not a lot of the Bantam-era writers stayed with the EU when it went back to Del Ray, but I do believe several of the NJO books are written by Rogue Squadron writers(the ones after the fall of Coruscant, that featured the Rogue crew heavily I think).

@Cybersnark, me too. I did that with the NJO, and life happened in the middle, so I fell out of reading them. Didn't finally finish them til years after the story was done, and ever since I haven't started a series until the whole thing is published.

Natalie, I too recommend finishing the NJO. The later books in the series do a much better job of humanizing(heh) the Vong, making them more relatable and fleshing out their motivations and drives. The POV chapters don't make you feel like screaming after awhile.
Ian Johnson
12. IanPJohnson
That Star Wars telenovela gave me serious mental whiplash, considering that the subtitles didn't match up AT ALL with what they were actually saying.

(It was just what they're normally saying, translated into Spanish. You didn't miss anything interesting.)
Dave Thompson
13. DKT
Thanks for the link, Tesh. I suspected something like that, but it's nice to have a reference and be able to read it.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
14. Lisamarie
I like the NJO/Legacy series as stories okay, but I'm one of the ones that just does not enjoy them as Star Wars books. Zahn pretty much nailed it, in my opinion. It doesn't mean I don't think there are some big flaws in the cornier or more contrived EU, I just think the pendulum swung a little too far. Of course, I still read them ;)

I remember finding Callista really irritating. And I wonder now how one would explain the ability to only access the dark side of the Force.
Chris Nelly
15. Aeryl
I always read it as some cosmic punishment for taking Cray's body. Her continued existence was a perfect example of Sith selfishness, and an abandonment of the Jedi philosophy of accepting death. Of course with the things that were talked about in later books* about the nature of the Force, I guess it was all psychosomatic.

Now this article mentions that the technique she used to attach herself to The Eye was a Sith technique, but I never heard that before, though it makes sense. I always assumed she continued like Obi-Wan did, but by remaining on The Eye, she integrated her presence into it.

*These statements, having been made by Sith looking to corrupt others, being suspect, of course.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
16. Lisamarie
Right, I was thinking more about the suspect statements of the Sith - which I don't think I really believe - that there really IS no dark side. So, for whatever reason, she can only access the Force when angry or other 'dark side' purposes?

And then, how would midichlorians come into it (especially if there really is a specific Dark Side)? But I am willing to buy psychosomatic, although I kind of like the cosmic punishment idea, although I've always wondered how 'sentient' the Force really is.
Jeff R.
17. lburns05
I didn't read the whole Zahn interview. I love the Zahn books. However, I am 32 and I have noticed that my world has gotten much darker as time goes by. I live in Michigan, but my grandparents lived in NYC during 9/11. I went to see them in April 2001, and I drove right by the WTC. I flew in and out of Newark, I didn't see any troops with M-16s. I flew again in November 2001 and all 4 of the airports I was there were soldiers everywhere, in Grand Rapids, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Myrtle Beach. Vector Prime came out in October 1999, and I feel that its apocalyptic tone was very prescient. I love the darkest and more violent Star Wars books like the Black Fleet Crisis, and the NJO. I think the original trilogy of movies was very idealistic, with the good guys always winning, with little sacrifice. I appreciate the darker tone, and I think I identify more with the characters.

Lewis
Mike Kelmachter
18. MikeKelm
I suppose in some way, Mara Jade had to die, just like Chewbacca had to die at the start of NJO. You need a character of significance to die to raise the stakes. The problem with many of the pre-NJO novels had was that you knew that all of the characters you cared about were going to be around at the end- only red shirts died. Chewbacca had to die to make the point that t he Vong were a threat (they killed a movie character!).

As far as the "darkness" of the later series, I think it was a reflection of the maturing of the expanded universe. Timothy Zahn's original trilogy of books gripped everyone's imagination not only because we got to visit our favorite charachters, but because there was a genuine threat to them. A charismatic genius who was beating the good guys time and again? The X-Wing Series, the Correllian trilogy and all the others just didn't have that same sort of risk- especially once it was established that the New Republic was the most powerful player on the block. Sure you might have a regional threat, but a threat to the entire republic? Just not feeling it... To make it interesting, the NJO had to have the good guys either lose, or have victories that were far from clean to make the threat real. Once there was a real threat, the characters had to get darker to confront it.
Chris Nelly
19. Aeryl
@18, I completely agree. The lengths the story went to in an attempt to make the threats serious, became ridiculous.

Planet of Twilight, Crystal Star, Black Fleet Crisis, New Rebellion, the stories really became incredulous. The Vong represented an existential crisis for the NR, and they lost. The stakes were huge, the Jedi were hamstrung it was a great move to revitalize the story. The Killik trilogy that followed fell into the same trap, IMO, but because it was released post-RotS, they were finally able to use Artoo to inform Luke and Leia about their mother, so I forgave it.

Legacy was a much better series, good in all the ways the prequels were flawed, but the way Jacen's fall paralleled Anakin's(over love) was heartbreaking, IMO, and his slaughter of Mara paralleled Anakin's slaughter at the Temple. The final confrontation with Jaina broke my heart too, it was worse that Obi-Wan vs Vader in RotS.

I haven't started on Fate yet.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
20. Lisamarie
That akward moment when you read a Tor.com article, get really jazzed up about it, start readnig the comments and see that you already commented on it a year ago...
Alan Brown
21. AlanBrown
Falling in love with the man she was programmed to kill? I never before thought about it before, but I guess Mara Jade and River Song have a lot in common!
Jeff R.
22. Dunc
All this will be non canon after 2015 and the new Story Group continuity
starts..
Jeff R.
23. Nanci
"Originally she was intended to be Luke’s ultimate soulmate—until it became clear that Mara Jade was the woman who fans were really rooting for, and Callista got the boot."
Actually, Zahn got the contract to write Specter of the Past/Vision of the Future before the Callista books were released. They knew from the beginning that Luke and Mara were going to get married. That's why Kevin J. Anderson never included her in the YJK books - he didn't want to give away the spoiler.

This is from Celebration VI:

"All authors were informed what Luke’s love endgame would be so they could figure out ways to write those other love interests out after they were introduced."

And this is a panel from Dragon Con 2013, where other authors confirm it, if anyone is interested! It's very funny.
Jeff R.
24. Colin R
Star Wars is a series that is ostensibly for children, and is about a boy who grows up to murder all his friends including his wife. And then about his son who is raised in secret and trained to kill him. And the NJO is too dark!! OK I kid.

Personally I'm a fan of Dass Jennir and Ember Chankeli, which starts out as employer-employee, then shifts as she betrays him, and he saves her, and she's sort of his prisoner, and then he saves her again... all while he's basically Clint Eastwood Jedi, Yojimbo-ing his way through wild space. Dark Times is pretty awesome.

Zayne Carrick's flirtations are always very soapy and high-school too.

And Tahiri Veil has to be one of the most confusing characters in fiction. You didn't even touch on her aversion to shoes.
Chris Nelly
25. Aeryl
@20, Me too!!!

This caught my attention this time around.

Tenel Ka makes the other Hapans believe her daughter Allana is one of theirs—which leads one to wonder just how much she’s been sleeping around—

The impression I got, was that she wasn't sleeping with any of them, just very good at implying that she had, so all of her suitors believed the others had been "successful" but they hadn't.
J W
26. Susurrin
Well I see that I appear to be in the minority here, as I have never been able to stand Mara Jade. For whatever reason she always struck me as a bit of a Mary Sue (Mara Sue??) And Zahn's love for that character was too distracting for me as a reader.
Jeff R.
27. Gerd D.
Gee, that post makes me so glad I never ventured into NJO.
Poor Mara, even though Zahn himself got rather sloppy with writing her, she still would ahve deserved a better end.
Jeff R.
28. Wombat coal
Landon/Tendra
Luke/Gaeriel
Wedge/?
Corran Horn/Mirax Terrik
etc.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
29. Lisamarie
Wedge marries Iella, although he has a brief romance with Qwi Xux before Kyp mind wipes her.

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