Star Wars: Best of 2017

The writers of on the highlights of a major Star Wars year.

For Star Wars, this was a year of new experiments, the release of highly-anticipated sequels, and a few surprises. And porgs, of course. In this special feature, the writers of look back on highlights from throughout 2017.

Star Wars Rebels Ups the Stakes and Barrels Toward Its Conclusion

Between the second half of Season Three and the beginning of Season Four, Star Wars Rebels gave fans some incredible moments. I laughed, I cried, I yelled at executive producer Dave Filoni several times. We saw characters introduced in 2016, like Thrawn and Saw Gererra, become more defined and more terrifying. Thrawn’s domination and eventual defeat of the rebels have brought us to Yavin and closer to the events of Rogue One. Sabine helped put the Darksaber into the hands of Bo-Katan Kryze and give Mandalore its first real leader in years. To the delight of fans (and, of course, myself), 2017 also saw the first on-screen kiss between Hera and Kanan. You could practically hear the fandom shout, “Finally!” This year also brought Agent Aleksandr Kallus, a.k.a. “Hot Kallus,” over to the Rebellion. Whether it’s Loth-wolves or the final battle between Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi, I think this year of Rebels has definitely been the best so far. – Shana O’Neil

Forces of Destiny and Blips Offer Bite-Size Star Wars Stories with Heart

Charmingly animated shorts brought even more Star Wars adventures to the screen this year and there was a lot to love.

BB-8 landed a starring role in the series of bite-sized Blips, simple animated sketches that highlight the shenanigans the beloved astromech and his counterparts and friends get into when facing down stormtroopers, pesky porgs, and the enemy of short droids everywhere — the dreaded control panel positioned just out of reach.

For the heroine-focused Forces of Destiny micro-adventures, the approach is also deceptively simple — beloved heroes, a familiar score and unmistakable sound effects, brief but exhilarating encounters told through a classic medium and compressed into less than three minutes of screen time. And the result is nothing short of magical: a closer inspection of the choices that define us, the minuscule moments that ultimately reveal our true nature.

Cartoony antics give both a distinctive flair for the absurd (Ewok pulley systems, droids stacked on top of droids, snuggly snow creatures, and slippery porgs among them). But what makes these capsule creations such a departure from the usual episodic story arcs is the focus on the seemingly inconsequential day-to-day vignettes that subtly reveal the importance of compassion, friendship, teamwork, and trust. There are no massive battle sequences teeming with dogfighting spaceships and row upon row of identically armored soldiers marching into combat. These are the quieter, yet no less important, acts of bravery that can have a ripple effect across the galaxy. Or, you know, just a droid discovering that a lightsaber is not a toy. – Kristin Baver

ILMxLAB Changes Reality

The virtual reality experiences from ILMxLAB in 2017 put fans into the galaxy far, far away like never before. ILMxLAB instantly transported us onboard General Leia Organa’s ship while never leaving our cozy living rooms in Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay. With BB-8’s familiar and heartwarming warbles and his quirky cast of new friends, all of the droids in the VR experience were immediately memorable and a perfect fit in the Star Wars universe.

ILMxLAB is also closing out the year with Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, a mind-blowing hyper-reality experience starring the gloriously snarky K-2SO. Can you imagine actually walking on the surface of Mustafar while on an undercover mission for the Rebel Alliance? (Just make sure you have the higher ground!) – Kelly Knox

Star Wars Tales for Kids Reach New Heights

Star Wars has always been a story (and franchise) that connects with kids. And it was for kids that some of 2017’s greatest Star Wars stories were created. This is the year that the women of Star Wars took center stage with Forces of Destiny and dominated a multimedia takeover that invaded YouTube, television, toy aisles, clothing lines, and bookstores. And in the process, they empowered and captured the hearts and imaginations of kids everywhere. But it wasn’t just Forces of Destiny that made 2017 so much fun for our younglings and Padawans. It was especially good for little bookworms of all ages — from adorable picture books that beg to be read aloud (BB-8 on the Run and Chewie and the Porgs spring to mind), to engaging chapter books (Adventures in Wild Space and Join the Resistance), to graphic novels (the return of Jedi Academy), to IDW’s phenomenally awesome Star Wars Adventures ongoing comic book series. There was a lot of great Star Wars content for adult fans this year, but the fact that the mountain of high-quality content for honest-to-goodness kids (and not just kids at heart) keeps growing gives me hope for the future. – Jamie Greene

Darth Vader’s First Armor-Clad Steps Lead a Memorable Year in Comics

When you step back and look at what Marvel tackled with Star Wars in 2017, it’s really kind of astonishing. Writer Charles Soule launched a second Darth Vader ongoing, picking up right after Revenge of the Sith; for fans of Vader, this series is enthralling, offering insight into his relationship with the Emperor at his lowest point, and his view of the past and who he used to be. It also showed us how he acquired his first lightsaber — now a big part of the Sith Lord’s journey. The series has been both thrilling and tragic, and a brilliant exercise in furthering our understanding of Darth Vader as not just a villain, but someone navigating an unwanted fate. The unstoppable Star Wars series took some bold chances, going gothic-horror in the Screaming Citadel crossover; the Doctor Aphra ongoing continued the adventures of our favorite shady archaeologist, exploring her family and new schemes; and Captain Phasma revealed what happened after the First Order commander escaped the Starkiller trash compactor. (Let’s just say, you don’t want to be the guy who found out it was Phasma that lowered the base’s shields.)

Not to be left out, IDW Publishing’s Star Wars Adventures has been downright charming — it’s like a 2D Star Wars cartoon brought to comics. The ongoing series is perfect for kids but also adults, with an energetic, lively feel that captures the swashbuckling side of Star Wars. It’s also quite beautiful, with a simplified, animated-style take on Star Wars heroes. Highly recommended. – Dan Brooks

Honoring 40 Years of Star Wars at Celebration Orlando

Star Wars Celebration 2017 took over the Orange County Convention Center from April 13-16 and brought the very best of the galaxy to the Sunshine State, honoring four decades of the saga while focusing on the ever-expanding future of the franchise.

The hot ticket of the show was the 40 Years of Star Wars panel, where Galaxy Stage host Warwick Davis was joined by an incredible number of stars. Billy Dee Williams, Hayden Christensen, Peter Mayhew, Kathleen Kennedy, Mark Hamill, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, and Dave Filoni all took to the stage, joined by Harrison Ford and the maker himself, George Lucas, in a surprise appearance. When the curtain parted to reveal John Williams, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and the opening solo flute to Princess Leia’s Theme, it made for an unforgettable Celebration moment. Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, delivered a beautiful remembrance of her mother. The loss of Fisher was keenly felt across the four days of the show, none more evidently than at Mark Hamill’s tribute to Carrie Fisher, where the Star Wars icon opened his heart to discuss his “space twin”. Candid and humorous, it filled the Celebration Stage with laughter and tears.

Despite our shared loss, the long weekend was still a hearty celebration of all things Star Wars. The Collecting Track was busier than a buzz droid, the 501st, Rebel Legion, Mando Mercs, and R2 Builders were a constant presence around the halls, and an A to Z of authors discussed their work at various panels. Artists Alley was heaving, the podcast stage broadcasted across the planet, and all the while, the attendance rose to a Celebration record of more than 70,000 visitors.

Celebration is set to return in 2019, its 20th anniversary and a year already loaded with amazing Star Wars treats. As always, Celebration will be front and center. I, for one, cannot wait. – Mark Newbold

The Freemakers Meet New Villains and Allies

Season Two of LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures amped up everything I love about the show. The season had a full story arc as the Freemaker family finds their place in the Rebel Alliance while Rowan seeks to build the Arrowhead, a ship that might change the tide of the war with the Empire. The new villain, M-OC, was a perfect foil for both the Freemakers and for Darth Vader. Plus there was plenty of family heroics and crazy action in “Escape from Coruscant” and “Free Fall.” Even RO-GR has an amazing hero moment as the season wound to a huge climax. Adding Lt. Valeria, voiced by Yvette Nicole Brown, brought even more fun and excitement to the whole season, and having Graballa the Hutt (especially in the high-rolling hijinx of “The Embersteel Blade”) and Hondo Ohnaka appear just increased my enjoyment. But the show really shone in the finale, “Return of the Return of the Jedi,” where so many seeds planted throughout the series, from Zander’s old crush to Kyber Saber, all come to fruition. This show has so much heart, is so much fun, and feels so Star Wars, that if you’re missing it, you’re really missing out. – James Floyd

Rogue One and a Game-Changing Star Wars Rebels Season Come Home 

One of the best parts of any year is the release of new Star Wars on home video, mainly because that’s when we all get our largest fix of behind-the-scenes information and documentaries. 2017 saw the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars Rebels – Season Three. My favorite bonus features? On Rogue One it was watching how Princess Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin were brought into film; it was startling to see the actors on set in the gear they used to play characters as they originally appeared in 1977. Star Wars Rebels was full of great things, too, but it was the audio commentaries that spoke loudest to me, as well as the behind-the-scenes feature of Timothy Zahn being introduced to the new, animated Thrawn. My favorite might have been the commentary on “Twin Suns” — the discussion about Obi-Wan and Maul was riveting, as was the talk of the Seven Samurai influence. The home video releases since From Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of the Saga have offered us a window into how Star Wars was made and this year gave us a great taste of it. Here’s hoping for more in 2018. -Bryan Young

Uncovering Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and More Disney Parks Surprises

Star Wars films, TV series, books, and comics wrap us up in the universe like warm and comforting blankets. By watching or reading, we can escape into them. But soon, I’ll be able to join the story with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and I am ready to be first in line to visit the Disney Parks expansion. I might move to Anaheim in order to be closer to Disneyland. One of my highlights of 2017 was attending D23 Expo and learning the Star Wars-themed land would be called Galaxy’s Edge and seeing a model of the new expansion. I was enchanted by the detailed model of the outpost, complete with an X-wing, droids, and a marketplace. I looked at it from every angle possible, imagining walking through every passage. I’ve been looking at construction in Disneyland from a parking garage, and it finally feels real — I thought it was too good to be true. The designs I’ve seen and in-universe storytelling approach has me longing to walk into Batuu and feel like I’ve been transported to another planet. And to fly the Millennium Falcon.

And we got another preview of Batuu when Disney Parks updated Star Tours: The Adventures Continue before The Last Jedi. The StarSpeeder 1000 added Crait to its itinerary, and I was thrilled to visit the salt-covered planet before Episode VIII. Interacting with Poe Dameron as the First Order attacked the Resistance base was exhilarating, but I was more excited about seeing the pack of vulptices running across Crait’s surface — no offense, Poe. I can experience Star Wars fandom in myriad ways, but I’m incredibly moved by what Disney Parks is doing to make those experiences up close and personal. – Amy Ratcliffe

Star Wars Battlefront II, Classics, and New Game Experiences Arrive

It’s been a whirlwind year for Star Wars video games. In November, Galaxy of Heroes brought massive turn-based warfare to players with its most impressive Territory Wars update. That same month, Battlefront II launched with a story-driven single-player campaign, robust Starfighter Assault mode, and Galactic Assault, DICE’s latest all-out combat experience for fans of every Star Wars era. Thanks in part to the wizardry of motion capture, its inspired writing, and some truly stellar performances, Inferno Squad’s story is the strongest Star Wars campaign I’ve played in almost 10 years. Iden Versio, Del Meeko, and their daughter, Zay — not to mention Uncle Shiv — are handled with the same kind of affection and care you’d expect from the films. Especially now that we’ve seen where Iden’s story goes in the Resurrection DLC, it’s clear that Star Wars games are still a fertile ground for rich, character-driven storytelling, and I can’t wait to see what stories in gaming come next.

To my delight, the release of The Last Jedi also brought with it even more great experiences for gamers. Battlefront II alone added tons of great story content, a dazzling Galactic Assault scenario set on the planet Crait, and a new Starfighter Assault battle inspired by The Last Jedi’s opening scene in the skies above D’Qar. With its gorgeous world art and attention to detail, Crait is easily my favorite Battlefront map. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Battlefront II’s improved Heroes vs. Villains mode, which pits four familiar heroes against a cadre of ruthless bounty hunters and disciples of the dark side; it’s an underrated but incredible facet of the game. I didn’t think anything could drag me away from Starfighter Assault (I’m an A-wing pilot at heart), but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much fun there is to be had with Galactic Assault and Heroes vs. Villains.

Still, there were more great releases. Xbox players received an exciting blast from the past when BioWare and Microsoft announced the re-release of 2003’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, one of the most beloved games of all time, which was added to the Xbox One’s backward compatibility catalog in October. If you’ve never had a chance to play it, now’s as good a time as any to see what all the fuss is about; it’s not a Star Wars story you’ll soon forget. And Jedi Challenges, thanks to some AR wizardry, let us experience actual lightsaber duels (and more) right at home. In all, 2017 reminded us how technology continues to bring fans deeper into Star Wars than ever before.  – Alex Kane

The Galaxy Grows with Major New Books

With quite the stack of Star Wars books published this year, it’s difficult to narrow down some of the greatest of Star Wars on the page — and that’s even not counting the new books tying into The Last Jedi that came out in December. While Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn brought us the Chiss mastermind as he worked his way up to becoming Grand Admiral, watching the parallel, but more ruthless, rise to power of Governor Pryce in the novel was its own treat. Guardians of the Whills, by Greg Rucka, did an outstanding job of getting us inside the points of view of Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus from Rogue One, while Rebel Rising by Beth Revis showed us the emotional highs and lows of Jyn Erso’s formation, from love to betrayal. Delilah S. Dawson’s Phasma was full of can’t-put-this-book-down intrigue as we discovered what type of person Phasma really is. Leia, Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray brought so many great moments, introducing a new character for The Last Jedi, but more importantly, marvelously bringing a young Princess Leia into a web of deception and rebellion between her parents and Grand Moff Tarkin. Plus Gray’s final words in the novel are brilliantly feels-inducing. From a Certain Point of View had a whole heap of fun stories giving original takes on some of the characters and scenes of A New Hope — I’d say there’s something for everyone, but it’s so much more than that, like a full feast for every taste. On the non-fiction side, Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor by Ryder Windham and Adam Bray, shines in being both comprehensive and fascinating in its look at everything trooper related, from making stormtroopers for the films, to merchandise history and appearances in other media, and their connection to fan creativity and charity. – James Floyd

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Continues the Saga – Minor Spoiler Warning

So much has already been said and written about The Last Jedi. And I think this is a film that people will continue to talk and write about for years to come. It’s that kind of movie — one that challenges and surprises you. I won’t go into spoilers here, except to say that The Last Jedi is weird, funny, heartbreaking, and inspiring. It looks gorgeous, with a bold aesthetic we haven’t previously seen in Star Wars. Heroes and villains are faced with obstacles and with themselves. It takes chances with our notions of what Star Wars is and what it could be, from storytelling to filmmaking. Ultimately, The Last Jedi packs in a lot of movie and has a beating heart rooted in the tenets of Star Wars; speaking for myself, I found it to be beautiful in presentation, theme, and journey. The brainchild of writer-director Rian Johnson, The Last Jedi is finally here, and the saga is richer for it. (And, thanks to The Last Jedi, we now have porgs, too. Don’t forget that.) Now, to go see it again, and imagine where the story goes next. – Dan Brooks

What were your Star Wars highlights for the year? Let us know in the comments below! All Star Wars, all the time.