The news that J.J. Abrams will be directing Star Wars Episode VII may have me down at the mouth for what it says about the larger, risk-averse state of franchise science fiction and fantasy. But when it comes to Star Wars, because I am an irrepressible optimist, there’s always a new hope. And this time, it’s in the form of rumors that Disney may be considering a female lead for the project, though some of that sourcing includes the speculation that Matthew Vaughn pitched Chloe Grace Moretz as a lead, a prospect that would have killed me and sent me to feminist nerd heaven.
Because I’d love to see this come to pass; because I still think it would be smart for Disney to not entirely blow up the Expanded Universe continuity so it can juice the value of a ton of extant intellectual property; and because early rumors are that Michael Arndt, who is writing the script, is setting the movie in the Jedi Praxaeum, the school established on Yavin 4 after the end of the Galactic Civil War, it’s worth a reminder of how many fascinating female characters pass through that setting in the Expanded Universe. Any of these women would make for terrific subject material for Episode VII, and pay us back for the deeply terrible writing for Padmé Amidala in the prequels.
1. Jaina Solo: The most obvious way, and one of the coolest, to pass the torch from the generation of actors who defined Star Wars to their characters’ children. Jaina Solo is Han Solo and Leia Organa’s daughter, and in the Expanded Universe, she grows up to be an incredibly talented fighter pilot, Jedi Knight, and half of a hot will-they-or-won’t-they romance with the descendant of an Imperial officer. There’s a ton to be done there, and a natural bridge for small roles for Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, as well as Mark Hamill as Jaina’s famous uncle.
2. Tenel Ka Djo: Princess Leia is one of the most badass subversions of the princess genre of all time, from her toughness under torture, her prickly romance with Han Solo, and her role as a stateswoman in her own right. But she’s hardly the only descendant of a royal family to find a larger purpose in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Tenel Ka Djo is the heir to a hugely powerful matrilineal kingdom, Hapes, who walks away from her destiny to train as a Jedi Knight. Disney’s made some steps in the right direction with Brave, but this would be downright revolutionary.
3. Mara Jade: Maybe the contender with the strongest fanboy constituency, there are challenges with making Mara the main character of a new trilogy, namely that she ends up as Luke Skywalker’s wife, and telling her origin story now would require finding a way to substantially age down Mark Hamill if they’re going to have a canonical epic romance. But Star Wars is, to a certain extent, really the story of Darth Vader. With him out of the picture, Mara’s trajectory from the Dark Side—she worked for the Emperor, before Luke found her and turned her to the light—would provide a complementary journey that would hit familiar emotional beats and make similar use of the Force.
4. Daeshara’cor: In the original Star Wars trilogy, members of the alien species Twi’lek mostly got to be sexy—and sacrificed—dancing girls or villainous advisers. Daeshara’cor is a former slave who hooks up with the Republic and with Luke Skywalker out of her hatred of the institution. She could be an interesting way to tease out the impact of the Empire and the stakes of the Rebellion that doesn’t involve goofy trade federations or adorable podracing moppets.
5. Tionne Solusar: Need to give a new generation of Star Wars fans a thorough grounding in the mythology of the Force and Jedi history? Who better to feature than the Jedi historian. Send Tionne around the galaxy on a testing and recruiting mission, and you could recreate some of the getting-the-band-together magic of X-Men: First Class.