“If there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from,” says Luke Skywalker in response to C-3PO’s query about where he and R2-D2 have landed. The first time we watch Star Wars: A New Hope, we have no reason to disbelieve him: The desert planet of Tatooine is almost nothing but sand broken up occasionally by a Jawa sandcrawler or the bones of a Krayt dragon. The biggest city we see, Mos Eisley, is small and seedy—a frontier town with no frontier worth exploring. Tatooine is bleak, empty, and desolate.
Until it isn’t. Despite Luke’s assertion to the contrary, Tatooine is happening. It’s the center of a massive crime organization. There’s a thriving pod-racing scene. It’s home to multiple giant monsters. It’s where the One Destined to Bring Balance to the Force was immaculately conceived. In terms of the franchise’s canon, Tatooine is the “bright center” to the Star Wars universe—and I’m sick and tired of it.
Tatooine is in six of the 11 live-action Star Wars movies: A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, all three original trilogy movies, and The Rise of Skywalker. It made appearances in both The Clone Wars and Rebels cartoons, and Din Djarin and Grogu stop by Tatooine not once but twice during The Mandalorian’s first two seasons. And, just for good measure, Tatooine is mentioned by name in three of the remaining five live-action films.
I’m not annoyed that there’s so much Tatooine-madness throughout the franchise that it causes a continuity problem with Luke’s original assessment of his home planet (okay, yes, it does, but I acknowledge that is nitpicky and is my own cross to bear). It’s that every time the franchise returns to the desert planet, it’s wasting an opportunity to take us somewhere new. There are an estimated 100 billion planets in our galaxy, and I think it’s reasonable to assume the Star Wars galaxy has about the same. But even if it only had a hundred planets in it, that leaves dozens and dozens of new places to take us because every time we head back to Tatooine, the Star Wars galaxy feels smaller and less imaginative.
Tatooine has loomed so large that even when the franchise does head to other worlds, it can’t escape the planet’s dusty shadow. In The Force Awakens, Jakku is clearly a stand-in for Tatooine, meant to make fans who were put off by the prequels in familiar territory—and to give new protagonist Rey as identical an origin to Luke Skywalker as possible. In The Rise of Skywalker, Pasaana—the world Rey, Poe, and Finn visit to find that Sith dagger—is yet another desert planet. And while we thankfully spend most of the time there in the big city, Rogue One’s Jedha is one as well.
What’s so galling is that it doesn’t have to be this way! You can blame production costs or scheduling issues for coming back to Tatooine in Return of the Jedi, but George Lucas had the technology to render any environment he could imagine by the time he began work on the prequels, as we saw in the raging ocean world of Kamino in Attack of the Clones, and the volcanic lava planet Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith. But even those have a clear basis in real-world environments, and Star Wars is set in an alien galaxy that can allow for anything—like the psychedelic jungles of Felucia, which we glimpse for a tantalizing moment when Aayla Secura is killed in Sith. But, as it did in myriad other ways, The Last Jedi showed exactly how creative Star Wars planets could be. Crait, where the Resistance makes its last stand, is a planet covered in a crust of white salt covering a red crystal core—which leads to the stunning and wholly unique image of speeders parting the white and leaving blood-red wakes behind them.
That’s what Star Wars could be giving us all the time, but tomorrow, The Book of Boba Fett premieres on Disney+ and takes us not only back to Tatooine but to Jabba’s palace as the ex-bounty hunter/ex-Sarlacc snack attempts to replace the Hutt as the area’s crime lord. And next year, the Obi-Wan Kenobi TV series will almost certainly feature Tatooine, given that the show is set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, when Obi-Wan is serving as the galaxy’s most hands-off babysitter. And who knows how many more times the planet will make an appearance on all the myriad Star Wars movies and TV series in the works?
Maybe The Book of Boba Fett will surprise us, and take Boba and his new best friend Fennec off-world for some criminal enterprise after being initially shackled to Tatooine once more. I just want to see something new, dammit, and something that isn’t covered in sand. I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere… much like Tatooine, come to think of it.
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