I mentioned in my From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back post that the predecessor was the first Star Wars audiobook I had ever listened to. It was perfect because I got to hear different narrators interpret different characters and authorial voices. That, coupled with the fact that the stories revolved around my favorite Star Wars film, and I was predisposed to like Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View. Having done a reread to gather my favorite character stories, I was a little more stringent on what made a great character story versus a story that just happened to have my favorite moment or character. If the point of these stories is to encourage the reader/listener to gain a new perspective of a well-known event in Star Wars canon and even shift the way they think about the overall story itself, does the author succeed? I think about the story “The Final Order” from The Empire Strikes Back and how I will never think about that two-second scene of Captain Canonhaus dying over a hologram the same way again. Not all stories are going to have that impact but, if the narrative makes you reflect on something bigger outside of that character moment, it’s a win.
There were plenty of situational humor stories in this collection as well as in Empire Strikes Back collection and, while some of them were fun palette cleansers between the heavy stories, others were completely forgettable. But there are some great gems here that are worth reading and rereading. Here are my top ten best character stories from Star Wars: A Certain Point of View:
Stories in the Sand by Griffin McElroy
How does one write a story about a creature whose face is never shown? Very little is known about the Jawas, but especially what they look like as they are always in robes, completely covered with their glowing eyes shining through the darkness. Turns out, the robes are for moisture regulation and are made as early as infancy. “Stories in the Sand” by Griffin McElroy perfectly starts out describing the sandcrawler which acts as a and transportation to these popular Star Wars aliens. The massive, now iconic, Star Wars vehicles are designed to weather the harsh, unforgiving Tatooine landscape and are also equipped with magnets to intake endless valuables beneath the desert floor, which have to be sorted and prepped for sale. It is the perfect kind of a nightmare bestowed on a Jawa who just wants to see the galaxy and work on starships. Jot the Jawa, who is shorter than most Jawas, is a born engineer who is relegated to the daily life of reformatting droids that they come across before putting them up for sale. A natural curious tinkerer who enjoys learning how things work, Jot spends his free time watching holo-projections of the droids’ memory cores he works on before he wipes them clean. One day, Jot stumbles across R2-D2 and watches the memory core. All the flight logs of planets, the moments R2 was witness to as far back as the Clone Wars are shown and it blows the little guy’s mind enough for him to finally decide to leave for the stars. In the meantime, does he dare wipe this droid’s vast and rich memory? Of course not, but Jot’s decision to leave was definitely the right choice, given what happens to his Jawa clan in the film. I wouldn’t mind revisiting Jot in a future POV collection story that finds our hero working on various ships and living his best life.
The Red One by Rae Carson
I have yet to read any of the novels that Rae Carson has written for Star Wars canon: Most Wanted and The Rise of Skywalker novelization but, if there was ever a reminder that I need to it’s “The Red One”. The title referring to R5-D4, a droid who finds himself the property of Jawas in the lonely Tatooine desert with no other droid to speak to and in desperate need of a tune-up. He just wants to be cleaned and oiled and have a purpose but finds himself an almost victim of sabotage by a crazy droid named R2-D2. The blue R2 unit tells R5 that he is on an important mission from the Rebellion and must escape the Jawas. To do that, he needs to be sold and was trying to sabotage the competition. Not a nice thing to do to a fellow droid; however, the Rebellion is a familiar word to R5, tugging at his memory banks. He is faced with a decision: does he trust this droid who is pleading with him to help when R5 gets chosen by Luke Skywalker, or does he ignore him for a chance of salvation away from a junkyard? You would think there would be little to tell with this story but Carson brilliantly conveys the urgency, and awareness, of droids who find themselves running out of time. We the readers know the urgency of R2-D2’s situation and the significance of the information he carries, but now we understand R5 urgency as well. And wow does that make for a compelling short story. In a few sentences, Carson describes what a droid goes through when he has a change of heart and programming:
“He knew what he had to do. For the first time in four years of awareness, he would execute a deception. As a mere R5 unit, he shouldn’t have been able to, but in the split second it took to formulate a plan, he discovered no barriers, no limits. He had been altered.”– The Red One, Rae Carson
Luckily, it doesn’t end where we last see R5 in A New Hope, but shortly after that, when he realizes that his trust was put in the right place. If you have seen The Mandalorian, you know R5 ends up in good hands and I can’t help but wonder if someone from Lucasfilm that works on the series loved this short story as much as I did.
Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray
Any story written by Claudia Gray is going to catch my attention and, when I first read “Master and Apprentice”, I thought it was the perfect and necessary context of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s underdeveloped bond. I certainly didn’t expect her to take the basis for this short story and write a novel, one of her best in my humble opinion. But before that, we have this beautiful story of a Jedi Master, one with the cosmic force, speaking to his former Padawan, with the understanding that he will join him soon. I wondered if this story was possibly inspired by a later arc in The Clone Wars around Yoda learning the secrets of maintaining autonomy after death through the force (which also included Qui-Gon, voiced by Liam Neeson himself). And this is very much a Qui-Gon story, which at the time, we had little POV stories to draw insight from post The Phantom Menace. But this also from the POV of a force ghost who moves through time and space fluently and sees Obi-Wan, not just in the current moment, but in all moments of his life. Kenobi has summoned Qui-Gon for strength and assurance to begin his journey with Luke Skywalker after the young boy leaves to go back to his farm, where he will find nothing left. The Master takes in the weariness and fears that his Padawan has while relearning expression through gestures in a human form and Gray describes the complexities of that duality expertly.
Qui-Gon reflects on Kenobi’s own tragic experiences with death and watching many of his loved ones die, knowing that he will soon have to make that decision himself for Luke. Qui-Gon, having long since mastered the cosmic force retaining his sense of self, knows that death is not the end for a Jedi and won’t be the end for Obi-Wan and his relationship with Luke, just like his death wasn’t the end for him and Obi-Wan. The Master shares his own failures with his Padawan and thinks to himself they can discuss more when they are both beyond the physical world. Until then, Qui-Gon assures his Padawan he has done right by Skywalker and awaits their reunion.
Laina by Wil Wheaton
I cannot mention this story without first noting that it was written by a Star Trek actor from Star Trek: The Next Generation (arguably but honestly the best Star Trek series) which excelled at character-driven stories. So I shouldn’t be surprised that this made my list. “Laina” by Wil Wheaton is told from the perspective of her father, Ryland. A Rebel Sentry currently stationed on Yavin 4, Ryland makes a decision to ensure the survival of his toddler daughter: knowing that the moon he is currently stationed on is a military target, he decides to send Laina with her aunts to a planet that is far away from any fighting. He begins to record a holo for his daughter relaying his decision and reasoning as he tells their family story: she was born in an underground mining colony on a moon in the Outer Rim, that a former friend had betrayed them, lying to an Imperial Officer that they were Rebel spies and leading to her mother being executed. It is more exposition for the reader’s sake but it is also a message for his daughter, who might grow up without both her parents, why he joined the Rebel Alliance, and why some things are worth fighting and dying, for. The holo is, at best a recorded memory they can watch together later and, at worst, a memory of him for her on their last day together. Ryland wants his daughter to grow up free from fighting and have a normal life while also understanding the sacrifices her parents made to give that to her.
You can take a guess at which planet he is sending her too and it was a great, yet horrible twist reserved for the end of the story. The fate of all involved is left open-ended, which is also great yet horrible but it got me thinking a lot about Laina long after the last words of the page were read.
Eclipse by Madeleine Roux
It’s the last few days of Breha Organa’s life and all she can think about is her daughter. She is in the Alderaan palace, fielding questions from attendants and droids that just don’t matter because she is worried about her family. Balancing her worry for her daughter with her duties as a Queen is something we explore in Claudia Gray’s Leia: Princess of Alderaan, a fantastic YA novel (and a former C&C pick) that was released a few months earlier than this novel and is a great companion read. Bail returns and, while having her husband with her ease her nerves a little, it is short-lived as he tells her that Leia’s transport ship was destroyed and they are at war with the Empire. The Queen’s steely resolve is evident in her refusal to lose hope for her daughter’s survival. We follow her thoughts and feelings as no word of Leia’s survival comes and more details of the destruction of her ship emerge and she resolves herself not to break in front of her generals. Breha even comforts her husband who is on the cusp of breaking down as the two do not want to accept the nightmare of losing their child.
Their suffering is short-lived as the inevitability of the Death Star arrives at Alderaan. Breha pieces together that the Empire got a hold of Leia and knows of Alderaan’s involvement. And so, she and her husband rightly believe that their daughter is still alive. Characters who go through death in these short stories run the gambit of emotions: sometimes it’s fear, sometimes it’s confusion and sometimes it’s peace. All three of these emotions cross Breha but, in the end, she settles closer to peace. It’s the last moment of Breha Organa’s life and she dies, knowing in her heart that her daughter is safe.
Verge of Greatness by Pablo Hidalgo
“Verge of Greatness” by Lucasfilm’s own Pablo Hidalgo features POVs of two Imperial greats within the Empire who can’t help but trip over their own egos. The story takes place at various moments before the use of the Death Star on Jedha, Scariff, and Alderaan as Grand Moff Tarkin thinks about Director Orson Krennic in a way a serial killer thinks about their past victims. Tarkin, who is the main POV of the story, recalls hovering over Krennic during his development and successful testing of the Death Star, to his swooping in and taking the credit. And yet, Tarkin is unable to completely enjoy his victory, with the location of the Rebel base still unknown. Eager to use the weapon as a statement and to force Princess Leia’s hand to give up the location of the base, he gives the order “You may fire when ready,” ending the existence of Leia’s home planet and billions of lives. There is even a hint that Tarkin feels that commanding this superweapon puts him on equal footing with the Emperor, while Krennic just wanted recognition of his accomplishments. Both men have a deep understanding of each other’s weakness: Tarkin views Krennic as ambitious but lacking the understanding of Imperial politics and Krennic views the Grand Moff as dangerously ignorant of the weapon he wants to control. And both have zero awareness of their own failings. Tarkin skims over the intricacies of the Death Star with little interest and does not take the precautions Krennic would given the Death Star plans are in the hands of the Rebel fleet, even in the face of political fallout from the Emperor.
When they do find the Rebel base, Tarkin takes great pleasure in instructing the gunners “You may fire when ready” and those are his last words before the Death Star explodes. As for Krennic, his last thoughts at the end of this story, and before he falls victim to his own weapon, are knowing that the end is closer for Tarkin than the Grand Moff could ever imagine.
Of MSE-6 and Men by Glen Weldon
A boy and his droid is another popular Star Wars trope: R2-D2 and Luke/Anakin, K2-S0 and Cassian Andor and BB-8 and Poe Dameron are all power couples. But they are all heroes, at least what Star Wars film narrative deems as heroes. In “Of MSE-6 and Men” by Glen Weldon, the power duo is a Stormtrooper designated TK-421 (TK) and his Imperial mouse droid, MSE-6G735Y (G7). The former enjoys modifying the latter and uses the droid to deliver cargo and messages aboard the Death Star. TK wants to transfer to Coruscant and thinks being on the Death Star is suffocating. He speaks freely to the droid simply because the droid will not judge him like the thousands of other Stormtroopers and officers aboard. So of course his droid accidentally runs into a superior officer one day and malfunctions, and of course, malfunctioning means the holorecorder plays back communication of TK taking off his helmet and fretting over a zit on his face. Then things get interesting. Instead of destroying the droid or finding the owner and reprimanding him, the officer repairs the droid and sends it back to TK with a secret message, which we don’t get to read but it must be flattering because TK sees it as an opportunity to get his transfer to Coruscant. The two men navigate a relationship using a straightforward communications droid and TK feels like he is on his way to a transfer when he gets moved to security duty in the hangar bay. The overall story had to collide somehow and TK is one of the Stormtroopers that gets ambushed when the Millennium Falcon arrives to rescue Princess Leia. The story mostly lives in comedy but takes a tragic turn, all through the perspective of the mouse droid, who logs a part of the events leading to the destruction of the Death Star.
Once you get past the log intros meant to be G7 inputting commands the story flows more smoothly and this story might require a reread for one to truly appreciate it as the structure might be jarring the first time, but it works as a contained story of the connection between two people on the ill-fated space station.
The Baptist by Nnedi Orkorafor
“The Baptist” was the first left-field POV story that put me on guard of how far Lucasfilm was allowing authors to stretch creative storytelling within Star Wars canon. There is not likely to be an Omi Disney+ series but it was such as welcome surprise to get the perspective of a force-sensitive creature that, not only has a different understanding of the force but views its’ gifts in a very different way. Nothing could be more of a direct parallel to how people in our world experience spirituality in different ways and it is no surprise that Nnedi Orkorafor is behind the wheel of this story. I encourage you to read about her life and how she became an author after originally being interested in Entomology (the study of insects). Her stories often involve creatures with tentacles and I wonder who chose who to tell the story of the tentacle trash monster known as the Dianoga. But this is not just any Dianoga, this is a force-sensitive warrior known as Omi who is stolen from her homeworld by Vodrans and sold to the Empire. Omi’s species are also physically hermaphroditic and can choose their gender as she recalls encountering a male she defeated in battle. She also keeps having visions that the place she’s in will burn one day and tries, at first to escape, then resigns herself in her new home (the garbage shoot on the Death Star). One day, she senses a kindred spirit in one person who can submit to It (what Omi calls the force) and she tries to baptize him. Naturally, the man in his friends think she is trying to kill him and shoot at her so she lets go but she is confident that the man, Luke Skywalker, will go on to do great things (though she should have sensed that Leia also had the force but that is a small nitpick).
This story isn’t for everyone but I love when Star Wars gets into other entities and creatures using the force; although my thoughts of this occurring in The Clone Wars and Rebels have been mixed (like the Bendu, not a fan of the Loth Wolfs). There is also a lot to say here about our real world and taking animals out of their natural habitats and selling them on the black market, often leading to mistreatment and shorter lifespans. In-universe, this is a creature who recognizes a kinship in a human male and tries to make a connection beyond the limitations of language. If Luke were more trained in the force, would he have reacted differently in that scene? We will never know and Omi’s story, in this current life, is over once the Death Star blows up, but her death is not one of sadness but excitement for the next adventure, which is strangely heartfelt.
There is Another by Gary D. Schmidt
Anything revolving around Yoda and his time on Dagobah seems to be a sweet spot for these short stories which almost makes me wonder why there is no canon novel from his perspective. I am sure he will get another POV for The Return of the Jedi short story but I was surprised that he showed up here. “There is Another” starts with Yoda reflecting on his time in Dagobah and the difficulties of rotating between two seasons on the planet. It is clear that he is lonely in his isolation and feeling slightly sorry for himself. Yoda is often portrayed, certainly in the films but even in the animated series as a force of assurance and almost unquestioning righteousness so it is nice to see him display emotions like loneliness and self-doubt as he is called upon by Obi-Wan to help train Skywalker. And Yoda is actually longing to become a Jedi Master and train a Padawan again, to train a Skywalker…just not Luke Skywalker. Yoda is thinking of Leia as the one truly worthy and so when Obi-Wan Kenobi, one with the force, arrives to let him know it is time to train Luke, Yoda is not having it. Luke is undisciplined and unfocused, and reckless. And the thing is, Yoda is not wrong. Leia would have been a better choice, but this was after the original trilogy and George Lucas’s last-minute decision to make Leia Luke’s sister. And so, Luke it is and Yoda waits for his new Padawan with eagerness slightly edging his unease. He will be a teacher again, and for an old man who thinks he’s outlived his usefulness, that is everything.
The Contingency Plan by Alexander Freed
It is shocking to me how few Mon Mothma stories there are in canon. Yes, she is included in stories and novels in canon but there are very few stories that include her POV which is surprising because she is one of the founders and the original leader of the Rebellion. Mon Mothma is going over scenarios in her head at the beginning of “The Contingency Plan” by Alexander Freed. How the Battle of Yavin could play out and if the Rebel base is destroyed, where that would leave her and the remaining faction. It is not something Star Wars fans usually think about because the Rebellion won that battle, but for a seasoned strategic politician, all possibilities are thought through. With no time to even mourn her friend, Bail Organa, Mon Mothma begins thinking through her contingency plan in case Yavin 4 falls: safe houses, constant jumping from star system to star system to seek out remaining Rebel cells, potentially turning to Coruscant to seek support from other Senators. She weighs the losses, the potential gains and thinks about the young Princess on Yavin who just lost her father and mother but is still fighting. And Mon Mothma starts to write a document of surrender. She never executes this contingency plan as Yavin 4 succeeds and the Death Star is destroyed, but Mothma understands that it might still be a possibility long after the Battle of Yavin.
The story is an interesting read of a politician who feels that she might be too old and too cynical to continue being the leader of a Rebellion where most of the people who are fighting and dying are young. We often are exposed to Leia’s POV as a Rebellion leader who is right in the middle of the war zone and not kept at a safe distance, and Mothma feels somewhat guilty about that. If people are going to fight for this Rebellion, she wants to at least be prepared to fight as well but she also secretly longs for something as simple as a surrender. Her clash in leadership style with Leia’s is explored more in the Aftermath Trilogy but we get a great hint at Mothma’s view on prisoners of war that will inform her decisions post destruction of the second Death Star and as a leader of the New Republic.
Whether you agree or disagree with my list, I hope you find value in these short canon stories. Most are just additional side adventures of characters we likely will never see again but some (like Master and Apprentice ) might lead to more prominent roles in canon material and it is a talent pool of some of the best authors in Science Fiction and Fantasy writing today. And who knows…you might find your new favorite Star Wars character, or author, within these pages.