A galaxy far, far away can’t exist without countless worlds to populate it. One of the key components of the Star Wars Saga is the fact that its locations look and feel unique. Beyond standard terrains like forests, deserts, and oceans, each planet has a rich history behind its distinct appearance.
Some Star Wars planets feel like microcosms — and not necessarily in a good way. Within the Saga, some stories only visit a single location on a planet, which makes it hard to get a full feel for that planet’s geography and inhabitants. Nevertheless, certain worlds stand out thanks to their unique landscapes and designs. Let’s take a look at eight of the most fascinating worlds in that faraway galaxy.
One of the most famous Star Wars planets also happens to be mostly artificial. As an ecumenopolis, Coruscant was a single planet-spanning city comprised of 5,127 levels. As the glittering surface of Galactic City expanded upward, so did more sub-levels become part of the underworld. The underworld earned its name because it lacked sunlight, which spawned rampant crime, poor living conditions, and an undeniable poverty gap.
Coruscant held other dark secrets. For the TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, George Lucas and supervising director Dave Filoni envisioned the idea that Coruscant’s Jedi Temple was built atop an ancient Sith shrine. An unreleased story arc entitled “Return to the Jedi” would have explored this Sith shrine. Though the Jedi symbolically built their temple over the shrine, they failed to contain its residual power. Darth Sidious exploited the shrine’s wellspring of dark side energy to cloud the Jedi Order’s vision, to disastrous effect.
It’s impossible to talk about Coruscant without talking about galactic politics. For millennia, Coruscant was the heart of the galaxy — perhaps a rotten heart, but a heart nonetheless. The planet was the capital of the Old Republic, as well as its modern successors like the Galactic Republic and the comparatively short-lived Galactic Empire. Coruscant was also the birthplace of the (often self-serving) human species. It thus follows that Coruscant’s total population, which numbered over 1 trillion beings, was 68% human.
While founding the New Republic, Chancellor Mon Mothma wisely withdrew the galactic capital from Coruscant. Another cosmopolitan world, Hosnian Prime, earned a tenure as the New Republic’s rotating capital. Sadly, that made Hosnian Prime a target for the First Order‘s Starkiller Base during The Force Awakens. By comparison, Coruscant’s role in galactic politics has mostly dimmed. Nevertheless, its distinct geography and culture leaves a lasting impression on fans.
In the tradition of designing Star Wars planets, each one draws upon a single geographical feature. Yet, the crystal structure of Christophsis posed challenges for Star Wars: The Clone Wars. According to concept artist Matt Gaser, the series’ design team had to figure out how Christophsis’s crystals would refract light. Concept artist Thang Le also stated that due to time and budget constraints, they derived the design of Christophsis’s buildings from iterations of a single structure — a hexagon.
Christophsis had a captivating appearance, and it glittered thanks to its natural beauty, which was a distinct contrast to the artificiality of Coruscant. The inhabitants of Christophsis erected their cities within the world’s natural crystalline formations. As a result, Christophsis was a distinct blend of natural and artificial architecture.
Christophsis was the site of two major battles during the Clone Wars. The first battle notably featured the introduction of Anakin Skywalker‘s new Padawan, Ahsoka Tano. The second battle served as the ending of the novel Dark Disciple, which chronicled Quinlan Vos and Asajj Ventress‘s mission to assassinate Count Dooku. Even though the inhabitants of Christophsis probably didn’t want their gleaming world to become a major battleground, that’s unfortunately what happened.
As the only non-planet on this list, the moon known as Rugosa was unique thanks to its immense coral formations. With input from Dave Filoni, concept artist Russell Chong designed Rugosa as a moon whose ocean had evaporated. Chong — whose other design work for The Clone Wars included the Malevolence and the Y-wing starfighter — was also a scuba diver, so he was the perfect artist to craft Rugosa’s appearance.
Author Jason Fry developed an intriguing backstory for Rugosa, which has since become part of the Legends continuity. Rugosa’s oceanic beauty drew the Toydarians in droves and they secretly converted the moon into a vacation site. When the Toydarians’ Hutt overlords discovered the deception, the Hutts released an ancient plague that dried up Rugosa’s seas within months. Still, life eventually returned to Rugosa. Master Yoda encountered a baby neebray manta there in “Ambush.”
Coincidentally, Rugosa’s environment evokes that of Atollon, a comparatively arid planet that hosts Chopper Base, the rebellion’s current headquarters in Star Wars Rebels. Rugosa’s land coral is strikingly similar to Atollon’s own rock formations. Even so, Rugosa and Atollon are distinctive and memorable in their own ways.
One of the many revisions that The Clone Wars made to existing Star Wars continuity was the condition of Mandalore. Departing from the planet’s history in the Expanded Universe, The Clone Wars established that centuries of war had ruined Mandalore, reducing its surface to a vast wasteland. Consequently, the Mandalorians kept to bio-cube cities that dotted their planet’s desert.
For the design of Mandalore, lead designer Kilian Plunkett and his team drew on both in-universe and real-world influences. They extrapolated Mandalore’s architecture from Boba Fett’s early armor designs. On the other hand, the self-contained biocities were partly based on THX 1138, while Mandalore’s repeated cube imagery had Cubist influences. One Mandalorian mural drew direct inspiration from Guernica, a painting by a certain Cubist artist named Pablo Picasso.
The Mandalorians have an extensive cultural history that tends to be rather divisive. In many ways, the Mandalorian clans have been locked in endless conflict for generations. That had an obviously detrimental effect on Mandalore, which has suffered from a near-complete ecological disaster. Even though Bo-Katan Kryze once said that Mandalorians always survive, we’ll see if they can say the same about their homeworld.
Umbara isn’t called the Shadow World for nothing. Home to the intriguing Umbaran species, Umbara had a dense atmosphere that prevented sunlight from fully reaching its surface. As a result, Umbara was trapped in a state of perpetual darkness. Its wildlife evolved to survive, with nasty predators like banshees and vixus proving fatal to unsuspecting visitors.
Umbara was special because it received an open-world PvE treatment from a tie-in Sony game, which is sadly no longer available. The game, Clone Wars Adventures, offered Umbara as a fully-rendered 3D environment that players could explore. Umbara was thus a rarity for planets from The Clone Wars since most of them weren’t available for fans to explore in that way.
Two Republic movers and shakers hailed from Umbara: Sly Moore, the stoic aide of Chancellor Palpatine; and Umbara’s senator, Mee Deechi. After Deechi’s assassination, Umbara seceded from the Republic, committing its well-equipped Umbaran Militia to the Separatists. The result was the Battle of Umbara, which became one of the most thought-provoking story arcs of The Clone Wars. In any case, Umbara’s distinctive environment makes it a fascinating addition to the Star Wars galaxy.
Another compelling world that originated in the Expanded Universe is Anaxes. On its own, the planet wasn’t extremely distinctive — it was recognizable for its red plant life, but not much else. However, a catastrophic event led Anaxes to become one of several Star Wars planets that suffered from annihilation.
The “Bad Batch” story arc, a set of unfinished episodes from The Clone Wars, marked Anaxes’s first chronological appearance. Back then, Anaxes hosted a major shipyard for the Galactic Republic. Sometime after the Clone Wars, a cataclysmic event ripped through Anaxes, shattering the entire world and leaving behind an asteroid belt. One of the belt’s larger planetoids hosted Fort Anaxes, which became a recurring locale in Star Wars Rebels season one.
Besides Anaxes, other Star Wars planets have been destroyed, including Hosnian Prime and — of course — Alderaan. Still, we don’t yet know of the exact nature of Anaxes’s destruction. Perhaps it was due to a hyperspace collision of some kind, like the one that shattered Pammant in the Expanded Universe. Regardless, Anaxes was yet another important and memorable transplant from the Expanded Universe.
Concord Dawn was another fractured (though not fully shattered) planet. A Mandalorian world, Concord Dawn suffered from Mandalorian warfare, even worse than Mandalore did. One such conflict ruptured the planet’s southern hemisphere, turning it into smaller asteroid chunks. As a result, Concord Dawn’s planet core nearly became exposed, much like the cracked, sulfurous world of Lola Sayu.
Concord Dawn’s star system served as the headquarters of the Protectors, who drew the attention of Imperial Viceroy Gar Saxon in “Imperial Super Commandos,” the most recent episode of Star Wars Rebels. Saxon and his super commandos massacred the Protectors, earning the ire of their absent leader, Fenn Rau. The violence in the Concord Dawn system is likely just the opening salvo of the Mandalorians’ next civil war.
When The Force Awakens began its press campaign, Jakku seemed like a carbon copy of Tatooine. Yet, as more material came out, it became clear that Jakku was far from a simple desert world. Whereas Tatooine became a trade hub thanks to the Hutt Clan, Jakku hosted many inhabitants who were left stranded there. (Case in point: Rey.) Moreover, Jakku was the site of the climactic battle of the Galactic Civil War.
I’ll admit that I was quick to dismiss Jakku as an unremarkable planet. Yet, when the second teaser for The Force Awakens opened with that mesmerizing shot of the downed Star Destroyer Inflictor on Jakku, that moment captured my imagination as a fan. And as it turned out, Jakku hosted an entire Graveyard of Ships from the Battle of Jakku between the Empire and the New Republic.
But what brought the Empire to Jakku in the first place? Chuck Wendig’s novel Aftermath: Life Debt suggested there was something special about Jakku. (Other than the fact that it was where Rey, Lor San Tekka, and the Millennium Falcon all resided during The Force Awakens.) According to Life Debt, Emperor Palpatine took a personal interest in something beneath Jakku’s surface. Palpatine offers an unspecific hint: “It was significant a thousand years ago, and it will be significant again.”
While it’s unclear what Palpatine wants from Jakku’s depths, it is certainly important to Galius Rax, the main villain of The Aftermath Trilogy. That “something,” whatever it is, is the reason that Rax brings the remnants of the Imperial Navy to Jakku. As a result, Rax sets the stage for the Battle of Jakku, which will feature in Wendig’s third and final installment, Aftermath: Empire’s End. Until Empire’s End gets published in February 2017, fans will just have to wonder why Jakku is so special.