By Josh Reilly B.
From Thrawn to sabaac to Malachor, recent years have seen a number of elements from Legends be reincorporated into canon. Such inclusions have not only been met with praise from fans, but have laid the groundwork for other characters, locations, and plot points from Legends to re-emerge into canon stories. One of the most well regarded Legends stories is Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, a video game chronicling Darth Vader’s secret apprentice who begins to redeem himself. The game was met with positive reviews from both fans and critics alike upon its release in 2008 and spawned a sequel two years later. Ever since Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, fans have speculated as to whether or not the game’s protagonist Galen Marek, a.k.a. Starkiller, could work his way into a future canon project, something we would love to see actualized. Given the way in which canon has unfolded, however, an unaltered adaptation of Starkiller’s character may not fit well into the broader Star Wars timeline. But, there is still plenty of opportunity for Starkiller to make his canon debut.
First off, who is Starkiller?
For those unfamiliar with The Force Unleashed, the character later known as Starkiller was born as Galen Marek, a Force-sensitive son of two Jedi Knights raised on Kashyyyk. After Order 66, Vader hunted Marek’s parents down and, before slaughtering their young son, sensed the power within him and took him as his apprentice. Knowingly violating the Rule of Two, Vader trained Marek, now known as Starkiller, in secret, grooming him as his right-hand man when he eventually overthrew The Emperor.
As part of his training, Starkiller was ordered to slaughter several Jedi Knights. However, upon Palpatine’s discovery of Vader’s secret apprentice, Vader betrayed Starkiller. Starkiller, however, remained loyal to Vader, helping form a rebellion against the Empire to complete his master’s mission of overthrowing The Emperor. His scheme did not go as planned, with Vader once again betraying Starkiller, using Starkiller’s formation of a rebellion to arrest those who sought to defeat the Empire.
After being left for dead, Starkiller re-emerged to save his allies and defeat the Empire once and for all. In trying to destroy the Death Star, Starkiller was killed, but helped his allies escape. Starkiller’s family symbol, that of the Marek family, was used as the symbol of the Alliance to Restore the Republic given Starkiller’s heroic actions.
In The Force Unleashed games, Starkiller was played by Sam Witwer, who has become a staple in a range of Star Wars projects. Witwer is best known in the Star Wars universe for his portrayal of Maul, most recently seen in the stunning final season of The Clone Wars. In an exclusive interview we did with Witwer, the actor discussed his adoration for The Force Unleashed and its potential to be worked into canon, as seen by the appearance of flame troopers in The Mandalorian. Witwer has yet to appear in live action, but fans would love to see him undertake such a role, perhaps, once again, as Starkiller.
Starkiller the Inquisitor
Perhaps the most obvious way to incorporate Starkiller into canon is as an Inquisitor. As revealed by Sam Witwer during a Twitch event, Starkiller almost appeared in Star Wars Rebels. Witwer stated, “Dave [Filoni] did share with me, by the way, he considered making Starkiller an Inquisitor in Star Wars: Rebels. It didn’t quite fit the story they were telling, but he did think about it because he thought that would be interesting.” While this idea didn’t materialize in Rebels, Starkiller could still appear in a future project as an Inquisitor. Ever since Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, there has been a host of high quality Darth Vader content, some of which includes Inquisitors. In this sense, it’s possible that the Inquisitors are explored once more and that Starkiller is among their ranks.
Starkiller as Palpatine’s Secret Apprentice
One way in which Starkiller could make his way into canon is as the apprentice of none other than Sheev Palpatine himself. In true Star Wars tradition, The Rise of Skywalker excels in telling a great story, while leaving much unexplained, including how Palpatine returned from the dead and what he was up to after the events of Return of the Jedi. Before grooming Ben Solo as his new apprentice (via Snoke), it’s possible that Palpatine could have toyed with the idea of other apprentices, including Galen Marek. Marek would obviously not be around by the time Ben Solo came into the picture, but it’s conceivable to think that, in his effort to retake control of the galaxy, Sidious took other apprentices under his wing.
Marek could also have served as Palpatine’s apprentice prior to Darth Maul. By the time The Phantom Menace begins, Maul is Palpatine’s right hand man, designed to assist his master in actualizing his grand scheme to take over the Republic. Although Maul is Palpatine’s apprentice in this film, Palpatine could easily have had other (failed) apprentices that came before Maul was taken from Talzin.
A Secret Apprentice to Lord Vader
Another way in which Starkiller could play a role in canon is simply as the secret apprentice of Darth Vader again, as he was in The Force Unleashed. The prequels established in canon that Sith continually seek to usurp other Sith, as shown later by Sidious’ murder of his master Plageuis and Dooku’s plans to overthrow Sidious. It’s already well established in canon that Vader wanted to overthrow Sidious, even as early as several weeks after the events of Revenge of the Sith. Vader later tries to accomplish this goal by recruiting his son Luke to join the dark side, allowing the father and son dyad to destroy Palpatine and take over the galaxy together. If this was a long standing plan of Vader’s, it’s plausible that he, at one point, trained a secret apprentice to help him overthrow his master. Starkiller could play a role here, as Vader’s secret apprentice.
High Republic Sith Lord
The High Republic era seems like it will be a topic of focus for many years to come in Star Wars canon. Due to its largely unknown contents, this era is ripe for exploration and experimentation. Although the Sith are thought to be eliminated at this point, we know that Sith Lords like Plageuis and Palpatine operated in the years leading up to The Phantom Menace. Therefore, another way that Starkiller could play a role in canon is as a High Republic, or even Old Republic, Sith Lord. This would require some pretty major retooling of Starkiller’s character, given that taking place in this era would mean that he is unaffiliated with Vader. However, the character arc and personality of Starkiller could be altered to work in this as yet unseen sect of the Star Wars universe.
Force-sensitive bounty hunter
Although this option would, largely, strip Starkiller of much of his Legends back story, it would be an interesting take to see the character emerge into canon as a Force-sensitive bounty hunter. We’ve seen Force-sensitive individuals be Jedi, Sith, Inquisitors, and many other things, but a bounty hunter with the ability to wield the Force has yet to be seen in canon. As projects like The Mandalorian seem to be delving deeper into the underworld side of the universe, and Witwer’s close relationship with Dave Filoni, it would be intriguing to see a radically reworked version of Starkiller play a role in the series.
Overall, Star Wars has done a great job in carefully integrating relevant elements of Legends into their new stories. With the exception of some elements, such as Thrawn, much of this re-integrated Legends material takes the form of inconsequential locations or items or Easter eggs. However, there’s still ample room to play around with more substantial components of Legends, including beloved characters such as Starkiller. With Witwer’s well established role in the Star Wars universe across multiple domains and the wealth of upcoming projects spanning many different eras and platforms, we think it’s fully possible that Vader’s secret apprentice will be seen once again.
Images courtesy of Lucasfilm, Disney, & LucasArts