Why Doctor Aphra should be the future of Star Wars on the big screen

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #22 Pride variant by Paulina Ganucheau
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Star Wars has said goodbye to the Skywalker Saga. Don’t take my word for it. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy told Vanity Fair that the departure from the franchise’s traditional narrative is generating "a lot of time, discussion, and thought." That was echoed in our own conversation with Kennedy. She told us at Star Wars Celebration: "We need to create a whole new saga. That takes a lot. There's a lot of conversation around that."

But it might not be something that requires too much debate. The next Star Wars hero could already be here if you know where to look, and she’s been quietly building a considerable following in the pages of Star Wars’ comics. Say hello to Chelli Lona Aphra, better known as Doctor Aphra to her friends – and enemies.

Aphra first appeared in the pages of the Darth Vader comic in 2015. Brought to life by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca, she is an archaeologist-turned-chaotic force of nature who gets on the wrong side of the galaxy’s scum and villainy just as often as she swipes ancient relics from lost civilizations.

It’d be easy to paint her as a ‘female Han Solo’, yet that feels reductive. In truth, her lineage can certainly be traced back to the likes of Han or even the derring-do of Indiana Jones, but – as I’m sure she would have no problem telling you – she’s the first Doctor Aphra: a whipsmart adventurer who can count a silver tongue and a blaster among her many, many get-out-of-jail-free cards.

On her own, she’d have enough charisma to kickstart her own big-screen adventures. Yet, she has even more firepower – and fan-favorite characters – in her corner. They come in the form of Triple Zero and BT-1, better known as Bee Tee.

The twisted answer to C-3PO and R2-D2, Triple Zero’s a walking, talking torture machine, Bee Tee an assassin droid. They are legitimately hilarious and tailor-made for the big screen thanks to Triple Zero’s deadpan declarations of death and their morbid double act. They’re joined on their various adventures by Black Krrsantan, best known to The Book of Boba Fett fans as the gladiator Wookiee who made quite an impact in his brief stopover in Mos Eisley.

A new hero for a new era

So, the gang’s all there – but why is Doctor Aphra a perfect fit to make the leap to live-action? Well, following her adventures would take us away from the Jedi entirely. Sure, Aphra ends up having her scrapes with Luke Skywalker and is in the employ of Darth Vader for much of her debut run, but she always deals with those dynamics on a smaller, more intimate scale – something we haven’t seen much of in the movies.

Aphra is far more concerned with digging deeper into the stories and cultures of wider Star Wars mythology. She’s rolled into ancient tombs, uncovered strange new corners of the galaxy, and has fought some of the fearsome non-Sith this side of The Screaming Citadel.

As a way to hit the refresh button on Star Wars, Aphra feels like the perfect way in; a new set of eyes that could work in just about any era, any planet, and any trap you could put her in, all while living to tell the tale. As a wildcard, she’s also a perfect addition to shake up the Star Wars formula and is one of the franchise’s few characters who has been able to fully capture the shades-of-gray area the series has tried so desperately to bottle in the years since Han Solo charmed us all with a wink and a smile.

As a first step, too, she could be even more important. The backlash to Kelly Marie Tran in the Star Wars sequel trilogy can never be erased, but an Asian (and LGBTQ+) protagonist would go some way to being more inclusive of Star Wars’ diverse fanbase and would ring in the new era on a positive note.

The Doctor is in

Doctor Aphra

(Image credit: Marvel Entertainment)

If someone can bring all that together, it might just be Taika Waititi. He’s all set to direct his own Star Wars movie in 2023 and, while we don’t know for sure what he’s cooking up, it already feels like a perfect match.

Only a cursory glance at his films show that he can guide a lead that loves one-liners, bolster them with a fast and funny ensemble, and come out the other side with enough heart and charm to stop things from getting too cynical. His eye for action and comedy already meshes well with Doctor Aphra – and so, too, does his mission statement, outlined in a recent interview with Total Film.

"Look, I think for the Star Wars universe to expand, it has to expand," he told us. "I don't think that I'm any use in the Star Wars universe making a film where everyone's like, 'Oh great, well that's the blueprints to the Millennium Falcon, ah that's Chewbacca's grandmother.' That all stands alone, that's great, though I would like to take something new and create some new characters and just expand the world, otherwise it feels like it's a very small story."

In that sense, Aphra is a bit of a pipe dream. She’s not wholly original, but is just unfamiliar enough – and crucially, away from any talk of Palpatine, dyads, and midichlorians – that it still just about chimes with Waititi’s words. We can already hear the ping-ponging of banter, a Waititi specialty, echoing through the halls of Aphra’s ship, The Ark Angel.

It feels like an obvious fit. The next Star Wars movie needs to be a prominent shift right out of the gate, while still maintaining the series’ sense of adventure among the stars. Taika Waititi is in Kathleen Kennedy’s plans. Maybe, just maybe, Doctor Aphra should be too.

Discover what's coming next in a galaxy far, far away with our guide to upcoming Star Wars movies and shows.

Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.