THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS
Between the release of the first cast photo for ‘The Force Awakens’ in April 2014 and the film’s premiere, the only actor who barely had a name to his character was Max Von Sydow. Everyone else was given an in-universe moniker at some point during the lengthy marketing campaign, from Andy Serkis’ intriguing sounding Supreme Leader Snoke to Daisy Ridley’s surname-redacted Rey. Even the name Lor San Tekka was only rumour before the end credits of Episode VII – his name is never spoken in the film. Simply because of his age, a logical assumption would be that Von Sydow’s character would have some ties to previous films. He might even do a mean Alec Guinness impression.
As we now know, Von Sydow’s role is set up in the ‘The Force Awakens’ as an important one. He’s mentioned in the traditional opening crawl as ‘an old friend’, seemingly with the purpose of setting him up as an established character in Star Wars canon. He hints at a connection with the Skywalker family, saying of General (nee Princess) Leia “She was always royalty to me”, provides crucial information to the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, and is greeted with familiarity by Kylo Ren, who comments that he looks older than when he last saw him. So we can infer that San Tekka knew the family when Ren still called himself Ben Solo, and is associated with them closely enough that Ren feels the need to kill him to cut another tie to his past life.
This seemed an odd way to start the film, to set up a character as an important part of Star Wars lore, cast a notable actor in the role, and then kill him within the first five minutes. Even if we are to simply think of him as someone from the Skywalker/Solo family’s history from between the original trilogy and ‘The Force Awakens’, why is he the only one with information about Luke’s whereabouts? And why cast the role with someone like Max Von Sydow if he isn’t going to be important later? Otherwise the role could easily have been filled by an actor from the original trilogy reprising a role. So here’s my theory on how Lor San Tekka is going to fit into the new Star Wars Universe.
Aside from episodes VIII and IX, the other two Star Wars films confirmed to be in some stage of production are a film set directly before A New Hope telling the story of how the Death Star plans came to be in the hands of the rebellion, and a Han Solo origin tale. As well as the opportunity for more nostalgia (Death Star! Original Stormtrooper helmets! Ewan McGregor cameo!) there’s more chance for crossovers. And to service this, the character of Lor San Tekka (played by a younger actor) could have a role akin to Agent Coulson of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase One; popping up in different films to solidify a sense of continuity. Establishing him as a presence in the same time period as episodes IV through VI would suit the term “old friend” used in ‘The Force Awakens’ and help link the (for want of a better word) prequel films to the ongoing trilogy being released around them. And as to the future of the character in episodes VIII and IX, it’s notable that we don’t get a direct view of San Tekka’s body after Kylo Ren kills him. Could it be that he pulls the Jedi trick of disappearing after death, to return later as a Force ghost? If he was entrusted by Luke with his whereabouts, and is remembered by Kylo Ren from his days training as a Jedi, it could be he was part of Luke’s new Jedi order. In this case, he would at least play a part in any flashback sequences detailing Luke and Kylo Ren’s history, even if he doesn’t make an appearance as a Force ghost.
For a film that seemed to go to lengths to feel like the very first Star Wars film, with its opening on a desert planet and X-Wing vs spherical superweapon climax, ‘The Force Awakens’ read a bit more like ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ to me. There was more of a sense of being part of an ongoing story, setting up plot threads to be picked up elsewhere, foreshadowing the master villain through hologram messages, and ending on a cliffhanger moment. ‘A New Hope’ on the other hand was more of a self-contained story, even if it formed the basis of the whole saga. This is obviously a deliberate ploy by Disney – even if this new film makes the predicted $2 billion, it would still only make back half of what Disney paid for the opportunity to take the reins of the Star Wars franchise. They’re committed to making more, and are sowing the seeds in this instalment so that the audience knows there are further stories to come, and will look forward to the next film with as much anticipation as they did for episode VII. And it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Lor San Tekka was one of those seeds of continuity.