The Star Wars Deep Dive: Why Would Luke Want to Go to the Imperial Academy?

For many across the galaxy, the Empire was a powerful draw.

The Star Wars Deep Dive is a StarWars.com feature that explores themes, motifs, and characters from across the saga.

Looking at the vast desolate wasteland of Tatooine, it never came as any surprise that Luke Skywalker wanted to leave that place. “If there’s a bright center to the universe,” he told See-Threepio, “you’re on the planet this is farthest from.”

What was surprising, when you sat down and thought about it, was that Luke felt that his pathway away from Tatooine was to go to the Imperial Academy. Why would a good kid like Luke want to join? And he wanted to do so in a hurry. “If these two new droids do work out,” Luke tells Uncle Owen, “I want to transmit my application to the Academy this year.”

But what sort of Academy would Luke be going to? Well, according to Luke, the same one Biggs and Tank took off to. According to Ultimate Star Wars, this was a dream long held by both Luke Skywalker and his friend Biggs Darklighter. They wanted to leave as soon as they could and the Academy was the only thing that would make that possible.

I’m not sure if you noticed, but Luke wasn’t exactly living the rich life. His family is farming moisture on a desert world and they don’t exactly live in the lap of luxury. Sure, they have a nice life, but there’s really no way to afford a way off the planet if you’re a kid like Luke. Luke didn’t have any other options or pathways to upward mobility. His family simply wasn’t wealthy enough to consider any option other than Luke joining the Empire for him to live the life he wanted to live.

Biggs takes the first plunge and heads off to the Academy and he just leaves Luke alone to deal with his aunt and uncle. The only thing Luke knows is that he’s restless. To Yoda’s eternal dismay, Luke sets his mind to the future and the horizon.

What would have happened if Luke had joined the Academy, though? Would he have been a stormtrooper, fodder for the Imperial war machine? Would he have been sent to Carida and learned to be a pilot like Han Solo tried to do before getting bounced to the 224th Mud Jumpers?

Or would he have climbed his way through the ranks like Biggs?

There are many pathways that Luke could have taken, but because of his friendship with Biggs, I wonder if that’s the most likely path he would have taken, as well.

Hobbie and Sabine at the Imperial Academy in Star Wars Rebels.

When Biggs joined the Academy, he went through his entire curriculum, graduating with a commission to be first mate on the Rand Ecliptic. During his Academy days is when he met Derek Klivian, who you might all recognize better as “Hobbie.” Hobbie had already defected to the Alliance, but went undercover at the Prefsbelt Academy with the intention of helping get cadets to jump ship and join the Rebellion in the same way Sabine Wren had helped him and Wedge Antilles.

Both were posted aboard the Rand Ecliptic and staged a successful mutiny that left Biggs free to join the Alliance to Restore the Republic. After one last trip home to Tatooine, Biggs ended up as part of Red Squadron on Yavin 4. Though Luke would take a different path, it would lead both of them to the same Death Star trench by the end of A New Hope. It was blind luck (or the will of the Force, depending on who you ask) that Biggs made it to Yavin 4 in time to take part in the assault against the Death Star with Luke.

Mutiny and defection was dangerous. When Hobbie was rescued from Skystrike Academy alongside Wedge Antilles, there was a third pilot trying to defect with them. Rake Gahree was killed in their escape attempt. The Empire didn’t make it easy to flee to the Rebellion. Desertion meant death if they caught you. But, thanks to Beckett’s statement in Solo, it might be safe to assume that once you got away, it wasn’t like the Empire was going to send bounty hunters after you.

As a poor kid on a backwater planet in the Outer Rim, Luke didn’t have a lot of options. If his sister’s droids and Obi-Wan Kenobi hadn’t fallen in his lap, there’s every chance his only shot at a better life would have been to join the Empire.

I’m glad Luke didn’t, though, and joined up in the fight to bring down a system that would prey on kids in exactly that way. The Empire truly was evil and Luke ended up joining the right side.

Bryan Young is an author, a filmmakerjournalist, and the editor in chief of BigShinyRobot.com! He’s also the co-host of the Star Wars podcast, Full of Sith. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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