Explore the inner workings of one of the galaxy’s most notorious crime syndicates.
Very few groups in the galaxy can intimidate a Jedi just with the utterance of their name -- and the Pykes are one of them. The syndicate made the leap from Star Wars: The Clone Wars to the big screen in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and they haven’t stopped looking for their next profitable opportunity since.
Let’s meet the underworld gang that’s crossed paths -- and weapons -- with Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Boba Fett.
Behind the Scenes
Like most things in Star Wars, the Pyke Syndicate has an extraordinary origin story. Their creation began in 2007 with a sketch by concept artist David Hobbins.
“George Lucas plucked the design out of dozens (this one, in particular, a design for an alien Jedi) to represent the Pykes,” Phil Szostak wrote in The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story, “asking for eyestalks that came out of its bulbous head to be removed and replaced by what were then its nostrils, giving it an odd fishlike appearance. The Pyke’s head and costume design was honed in mid-2009 by Star Wars comic book and concept artist Doug Wheatley. Oba Diah, aspects of Kessel, and the Pyke Syndicate’s role in the spice trade were all delineated and designed at that time as well.”
The Pykes were finally seen in the galaxy far, far away in the 2013 The Clone Wars episode “Eminence.” In the foreboding story, the Pykes seized the chance to join forces with Death Watch and Maul in the Shadow Collective as they planned their move against Mandalore’s Duchess Satine.
The Pykes’ first live-action appearance was in the 2018 feature film Solo: A Star Wars Story through a sickly and misshapen representative named Quay Tolsite, and they had parts to play again in 2021’s Star Wars: The Bad Batch and 2022’s The Book of Boba Fett.
Before the Empire
The Pyke Syndicate was a powerful part of the sansanna spice cartel, former Chancellor Valorum explained to Master Yoda in The Clone Wars. “Their criminal activities allowed them to almost completely control the production of raw spice, used to create a powerful drug.”
Valorum had sent Jedi Sifo-Dyas to stabilize their looming underworld war without the knowledge of the Jedi Council. Years later, searching for more information about what happened to the Jedi Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker followed the trail to the Pyke planet of Oba Diah.
“We have no quarrel with the Jedi,” Pyke leader Lom Pyke told them. As he took the Jedi to the imprisoned advisor that had accompanied Sifo-Dyas on his mission, Lom also admitted freely, “The Pykes were well paid to shoot down [their] ship.”
Lom returned the advisor, Silman, to the Jedi as a peace offering -- but the human wasn’t in a stable state of mind. “The Pykes are not to be trusted,” Silman managed to tell Obi-Wan and Anakin before Dooku arrived to close loose ends. Both the advisor and Lom Pyke died at Dooku’s hand; Marg Krim succeeded Lom as the new leader of the Pykes.
True to Silman’s warning, the Pykes still maintained their uneasy alliance with Maul. They also had connections in the Galactic Senate who turned a blind eye as their operations grew. Near the end of the Clone Wars, the Pykes were firmly established in spice running, and they worked with couriers like the Martez sisters to move their cargo.
The Mines of Kessel
After the Empire assumed control of the galaxy, the Pykes had struck a deal with King Yaruba of Kessel. They finally had direct control of the spice mines. The Empire provided prisoners -- from felons to dissidents -- as workers in exchange for valuable minerals. The Pyke Syndicate used hired guns to secure the spice and keep an eye on the subjugated workers. Droids labored alongside the unfortunate slaves in endless shifts and punishing conditions.
As for the Pykes themselves, the toxic gases of Kessel and pervasive dust of the spice mines required them to don protective suits from head to foot. Operations were overseen by Quay Tolsite. The director was also responsible for brokering deals with possible traders, which made him Qi’ra’s primary target when she and the Millennium Falcon crew put their Kessel coaxium heist into motion.
Their Reach Expands
Even after their loss following Han Solo’s infamous Kessel Run, eventually the Pykes expanded their operations to planets like Tatooine. On Tatooine, a Pyke train carrying a spice shipment across the Dune Sea was waylaid by Boba Fett after they attacked his Tusken camp.
“We thought you were uncivilized raiders. We were trying to protect our route,” a Pyke said by way of explanation.
After claiming Jabba’s throne and position as daimyo, Boba Fett recognized the growing threat the Pykes posed to Tatooine. He gathered the local crime families and asked them to remain neutral in his upcoming war against the syndicate.
“The Pyke Syndicate are mustering troops in Mos Espa,” the former bounty hunter said. “They have slowly absorbed our planet as part of their spice trade… I will vanquish these interlopers who threaten our planet.”
Boba Fett made good on his promise. The Pykes might have been run off Tatooine, but they continue to expand their criminal influence across the galaxy. Who will be strong -- or foolish -- enough take them on next?