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
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
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
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
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.
Luke Skywalker/Mara Jade
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
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.