By George Bate & Josh Reilly B.
Best Comic – Hidden Empire
Hidden Empire served as the conclusion of Charles Soule’s Qi’ra trilogy that began with War of the Bounty Hunters and continued with Crimson Reign. Like the previous two installments, Hidden Empire has the gravity of a Star Wars story with stakes worthy of a movie or television show. The expansion of Qi’ra’s character and the ways in which Crimson Dawn interact with the Rebellion, the Empire, and more during the time period between Episodes V and VI are enthralling. Also, Hidden Empire is a crossover event, with plot threads intersecting with Alyssa Wong’s Doctor Aphra and Ethan Sacks’ Bounty Hunters.
- Doctor Aphra by Alyssa Wong
- Bounty Hunters by Ethan Sacks
- Darth Vader by Greg Pak
Best Book – The High Republic: Cataclysm
The High Republic: Cataclysm affirms what many Star Wars fans have known for a while – the High Republic era of novels and comics is absolutely necessary reading. Lydia Kang steps in for this adult novel in the High Republic era, crafting a sprawling ensemble piece that pits the Jedi against the Path of the Open Hand cult. The chapters flow seamlessly and each and every one of the novel’s (many) characters are given unique and fleshed-out arcs, making it difficult to identify any weak links among the characters. Axel Greylark continues to be one of the more intriguing characters of the High Republic era, while the array of Jedi on display (including Yaddle!) are so much fun to spend time with. Cataclysm will elicit laughs and tears in about equal measure and, although the resolution of the villains’ plot is somewhat unsatisfying, there is no doubt Kang has crafted a fantastic piece of Star Wars storytelling worthy of the award for Best Star Wars Book of 2023.
- The High Republic: The Eye of Darkness by Lydia Kang
- Inquisitor: Rise of the Red Blade by Delilah S. Dawson
Best Re-Released Legends Project – Republic Commando: Hard Contact
Republic Commando: Hard Contact was released as part of Del Rey’s Essential Legends Collection. Originally released in 2004, the book was the first in the Republic Commando series and was written by Karin Traviss, who also penned a number of other Star Wars novels. Republic Commando: Hard Contact follows a squad of clone commandos during the Clone Wars tasked with destroying a Separatist nanovirus lab. 19 years after its release and the novel is still well regarded among Star Wars fans. The tension is palpable, the stakes are high, and the lead squadron of characters serve as compelling leads.
Best Video Game – Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Admittedly, there were very slim pickings for the award of Best Star Wars Video Game in 2023. However, that doesn’t mean Star Wars Jedi: Survivor isn’t worthy of plenty of praise. Jedi: Survivor is a bigger and better sequel than its predecessor Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. An original and compelling central narrative involving a High Republic era Jedi and a lost planet proves to be refreshing, while Cal Kestis continues to develop into a complex character distinct from other Jedi in this era. Poor navigation tools persist, but Jedi: Survivor features engaging and intelligent combat, immersive and approachable puzzles, and massive environments to explore. Whether it be for the story alone, the gameplay alone, or both (as will be the case with most Star Wars fans), Jedi: Survivor is a tremendously enjoyable experience that rivals the likes of The Force Unleashed and Knights of the Old Republic as the best single-player Star Wars game.
Best Toy / Collectible – Darth Vader (Duel’s End) Black Series
Darth Vader’s cracked helmet has become an iconic image in Star Wars history, and this new Black Series inspired by the Obi-Wan Kenobi series further cements that. Rich detail, especially in the nuances of Anakin’s face, make this a necessary collectible for Star Wars fans.
Best Performance – Ray Stevenson as Baylan Skoll
Ahsoka was an impressive ensemble show, but it was the late Ray Stevenson who stole the spotlight entirely. There have been many fallen Jedi throughout Star Wars history (see Anakin Skywalker, Grand Inquisitor, Talon Malicos) and yet Stevenson managed to craft a wholly unique former Jedi who turned to the dark side. With relatively little screen time, Stevenson impressed as he evoked the calmness of Jedi like Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan Kenobi and Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn, while delivering an underlying menace and intrigue with his performance. Stevenson unexpectedly passed away in May of this year, mere weeks after appearing in London at Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023 and a few months before fans fell in love with his performance in Ahsoka. Stevenson’s rich legacy lives on through his compelling performances in a range of projects, including Rome, Black Sails, Dexter, and, now, Ahsoka.
- Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Sabine Wren
- Ray Stevenson as Baylan Skoll
Best Visual Effects – Ahsoka
The visual effects in Star Wars television impress more than the visual effects in most big-budget blockbusters. This can especially be said for Ahsoka with ILM outdoing themselves with stunning visual effects. The grandness and scale of the purrgil, the detail of Thrawn’s ship Chimaera on Peridea, and the live-action realization of Lothal are just some of the many visual effects achievements worthy of praise in Ahsoka.
Best Easter Egg – Kelleran Beq in The Mandalorian
In Chapter 20: The Foundling, it was revealed that the Jedi who saved Grogu from the Jedi Temple was Kelleran Beq. This is a great easter egg on a number of levels. For starters, Kelleran Beq is played by Star Wars legend Ahmed Best, best known for his role as Jar Jar Binks in the prequel trilogy. The character he plays in The Mandalorian, however, has some unexpected connections as well. Ahmed Best played Jedi Master Kelleran Beq in Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge, a kids game show that premiered in 2020. Finally, Kelleran Beq shares the last name of Achk Med-Beq, another Star Wars character played by Ahmed Best. As revealed in an interview on The Star Wars Show, Ahmed Best confirmed that Achk Med-Beq in Attack of the Clones is a relative of Jedi Master Kelleran Beq. On so many levels, Kelleran Beq’s appearance in The Mandalorian makes for a great easter egg.
- The Mortis Statues in Ahsoka Part 8
- The Mortis Statues in Ahsoka Part 8
New Character of the Year – Baylan Skoll
No new Star Wars character left a lasting impression that matches that of Ray Stevenson’s Baylan Skoll. Far more than just a fallen Jedi, Baylan Skoll is a character of immense depth, whose true motives are shrouded in mystery until that jaw-dropping moment in the Ahsoka finale. In a year in which various new Star Wars characters populated shows, books, comics, and more, it’s a testament to the strength of Baylan Skoll that he comes out on top as our Character of the Year.
- Shin Hati
Character of the Year – Baylan Skoll
Fittingly, our character of the year award goes to Baylan Skoll. At this point, you can really tell that Ray Stevenson left quite the impression on the editors of The HoloFiles and Star Wars Holocron. It’s difficult to imagine that someone could take over the role of Baylan Skoll and play the character with the presence of Ray Stevenson, but we really hope this is not the last we’ve seen of Skoll. Whether it be in a comic or book or even a reimagining of the character in live-action or animation, Baylan Skoll must live on.
- Bo-Katan Kryze
- Baylan Skoll
Best TV Episode – Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 – “In the Stars”
The award for the single best episode of Star Wars television of 2023 could be given to a number of episodes, but, for us, it has to go to the Star Wars: Visions short “In the Stars.” Directed and written by Gabriel Osorio and from the Chilean creative team at Punkrobot Studio, “In the Stars” follows big sister Koten and little sister Tichina (voiced by Valentina Muhr and Julia Oviedo respectively), who struggle to survive on their home planet after it has been decimated and exploited by the Empire. The planet’s population has been largely killed off and the remaining survivors are deprived of water as the Empire uses the resource in their massive factory. The two sisters mourn their mother, with little sister Tichina desperate to hold onto the memory of her mother through a water painting. With a genuinely tear-inducing score by Andrés Walker and Patricio Portius, “In the Stars” is unbelievably endearing and is up there with Luke and Leia’s reunion scene in The Last Jedi as possibly the most touching moments ever in a Star Wars story.
- The Bad Batch Season 2 – “The Outpost”
- Ahsoka: Part 6 – “Far, Far Away”
- Ahsoka – Part 5: “Shadow Warrior”
Best Show – Ahsoka
Overall, it was difficult to pick a more outstanding show worthy of this award as Ahsoka succeeded and excelled on so many levels. As a continuation of Star Wars Rebels, it was phenomenal with beautifully realized live-action depictions of Sabine Wren, Hera Syndulla, and Ezra Bridger. Ahsoka also saw the introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn, a formidable enemy who rivals any other in a galaxy far, far away. Speaking of far away galaxies, Ahsoka also featured a lot of intrigue and world-building, attributable to much of the show being set in an entirely different galaxy. Rosario Dawson commands the screen in a show that feels higher stakes than anything in Star Wars since the sequel trilogy. With not a weak episode in its first season, Ahsoka is our pick for the Best Star Wars Show of 2023.
- The Bad Batch Season 2
- Ahsoka: Part 5 – “Shadow Warrior”
Best Star Wars Moment – The Siege of Mandalore in Ahsoka Part 5
Ahsoka – Part 5: Shadow Warrior has a host of all-time Star Wars moments. And yet, for us, the crown goes to the episode’s Siege of Mandalore vision / flashback sequence. This sequence has everything a Star Wars fan would want. The return of Hayden Christensen as prequel era Anakin Skywalker is jaw-dropping to say the least. Ariana Greenblatt perfectly brings a young Ahsoka Tano to life. Captain Rex makes his live-action debut. Anakin and Ahsoka’s conversation works on a number of levels as it brings fitting closure to their master-apprentice relationship Ahsoka. And, to top it all off, this sequence features our first live-action look at a Mauldalorian!
- Grogu adopted by Din Djarin and named Din Grogu
- Thrawn’s entrance in Ahsoka Part 6
- Anakin and Ahsoka in the World Between Worlds
True Highlight of 2023 – Daisy Ridley’s Return to Star Wars at Star Wars Celebration
Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023 featured some amazing moments, but none were as impactful as Daisy Ridley coming on stage during the Lucasfilm Studio Showcase. The panel included the announcement of three Star Wars movies, including one directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (Ms. Marvel), which would see the return of Rey Skywalker leading a new Jedi Order. Thunderous applause welcomed Ridley onto the stage in London as fans rejoiced at a continuation of the sequel trilogy character’s journey. Seeing the smile on Daisy Ridley’s face was worth the price of admission alone as her excitement for her character Rey and Star Wars more generally are so contagious. If you’re like us, you’re looking forward to the new Jedi Order movie and couldn’t be happier that it was announced on such a momentous occasion with Daisy Ridley emerging at Star Wars Celebration.
- Hayden Christensen returning as prequel era Anakin Skywalker
Thank you, Star Wars fans, for making this such an amazing year!