Lor San Tekka and the Church of the Force


Very little is known about the captivating Lor San Tekka, even this close to The Last Jedi. What fans do know in “canon” terms can currently be recounted on one page of The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, a page within the Revised Star Wars Character Encyclopedia, a few references in issues of (the fun) Marvel Star Wars Comic Poe Dameron (see below) and The Force Awakens itself (plus novelizations). Very few fan articles (relatively speaking) have been posted since The Force Awakens was released in December 2015; and those that have principally date from around the release of the film.

Image result for poe dameron comic lor san tekka

Allow me to relay the key facts about Lor San Tekka in broad brush strokes before I begin to explore why I am so intrigued by the character.

What we know:-

  • He is a member of the Church of the Force an underground movement during the Age of the Empire, when the Jedi Knights were hunted to near-extinction and worship in the supernatural was a violation of Imperial law.
  • As a member of the Church of the Force he would have been part of a group of loosely affiliated worshipers of the Jedi ideals that steadfastly believed, during the Age of the Empire, that one day light would return to the galaxy (see TFA Visual Dictionary).
  • He has no abilities within the Force, but is an explorer in the traditions and history of the Force, including the study and preservation of artefacts (see Poe Dameron Issue 1).
  • He was presumably influential in helping Luke Skywalker set up the Jedi Academy by seeking out the Jedi lore that the Empire had attempted to destroy.
  • He is cited as proving his worth many times over to the New Republic and the Resistance in the reconstruction era post-Endor (see TFA Visual Dictionary).
  • After the destruction and slaughter of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Academy San Tekka retired to a spiritual village on the planet Jakku.
  • He has a relationship with the Skywalker-Solo family and knows both Leia and Ben Solo/Kylo Ren personally (as per Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens)
  • He held the fragment of a map, which he provided to Poe Dameron, that led the Resistance generally, and Rey and Chewbacca specifically to Ahch-To, where Luke Skywalker has placed himself in exile.

There is therefore a clear and finite limit to our present knowledge of the character. Juxtaposed against that knowledge is the charisma and gravitas brought to the depiction of the character by the veteran actor Max Von Sydow. The casting of Max von Sydow continued the well established tradition of matching heavyweight thespians with fresh acting talent within the cinematic Star Wars saga, since the first film back in 1977. In fact some of von Syndow’s previous work lends itself to imaginings of a younger San Tekka in the earlier days of his activity in the Star Wars galaxy. Even Game of Thrones thought Star Wars were onto something with the casting decision.

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Given this scarcity of screen time and established background knowledge I have wondered why I continue to be so intrigued by Lor San Tekka. I suppose one reason is knowledge of his involvement in the study and development of Jedi lore, which appears to have been a critical aspect of knowledge retention, and which also spans a considerable length of time within the saga. The Visual Dictionary dates his involvement in key events back to the prequel era. This suggests that the character will furnish us with considerable insight across the continually developing saga in due course.

‘Force-lore’ itself has also taking on an ever increasing role in the new continuity. Star Wars Rebels, particularly Twilight of the Apprentice, at times has a deep focus on Sith artifacts and temple structures. Likewise we have seen the introduction of The Bendu in Rebels last season. Rogue One gave us Jedha, the temple and the Guardians and Disciples of the Whill. We have also seen Holocrons used in the books such as John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn where the use of that medium by Kenobi traces a route through his immediate post-Order 66 activity via Kanan and on to Ezra in the Rebels show.

This is also one of the reasons why I was so enthusiastic for Marvel’s Poe Dameron title. I was bowled over when I found out that the key plot catalyst within the title would be the Resistance mission for Black Squadron to track down Lor San Tekka. The plot specifically focuses on the hunt for San Tekka to locate the location of Luke Skywalker. Even more excitingly after abandoning this story since the early issues, the next issue (issue 20) will be reigniting this element.

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There is another point of interest for me in the San Tekka character, i.e. the potential for the introduction of an adventure-seeking explorer/archaeologist- type into the Star Wars saga. This could come from exploring San Tekka’s role in the pre-The Force Awakens era. It would be particularly fascinating to explore his role during the reconstruction era post-Endor. This was one of the point of interests for me in the old EU / Legends books of Kevin J Anderson as Luke uncovered Jedi artifacts in Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy. In that case many of the old Jedi lore was discovered in the ruins of Coruscant and in the Jedi Academy in Yavin 4. In new canon it would be fascinating if we are going to be led to much of the developmental material, required by Luke and the New Republic, by the Lor San Tekka character.

As an aside, I personally feel that its appropriate, given the connections between the Indiana Jones films and the Star Wars saga, that we now have the potential to see depictions of a young Lor San Tekka adopting this adventurer role in future Star Wars material. To me that’s an exciting prospect.

Image result for harrison ford george lucas spielberg

The real driver in my interest in San Tekka however is the tacit acknowledgement within the Star Wars Visual Dictionary of his function as member of the Church of the Force. That institutional name, in and of itself, is enough to pique my interest (not least in that it will provide some Star Wars fans with an alternative to ‘Jedi” when citing their religion in the next census!). In an interview with SW Bookmarks Podcast, Pablo Hidalgo outlined that the Church of the Force was in fact originally conceived by George Lucas for a Star Wars live-action TV series.

We also know that there are two named characters who seem to be associated with The Church of the Force. The first is Dasha Promenti, the second is Ilco Munica, both of whom feature as characters in The Force Awakens. As the Tuanal village on Jakku “houses a collective of worshippers who praise the virtues of the Force” its fairly certain that they are members of the same Church as San Tekka. They were previously attributed with membership of the Church of the Force on the Star Wars Wikia site, but I note that this has since been removed.

It was from within the folds of this underground community of faith that San Tekka developed his beliefs in the Jedi ideals despite not being Force-sensitive himself. As part of his activities within The Church he uncovered much of the history of the Jedi Knights that the Empire attempted to bury, leading many individuals to seek him out for his knowledge of Jedi lore. As an interesting aside to this, Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath Trilogy alluded at various points to a similar process in Sith artifacts in the immediate post-Endor period.

One aspect to the San Tekka character is absolutely critical to the ongoing saga development post-Endor. This hinges on his linkage with Skywalker. In Episode VI we see the ‘Return’ of ‘the Jedi’. The title of that film is so commonplace for most of us by now that we probably don’t pause to consider what it is telling us anymore. The ‘Return’ in question takes place with the coming of Luke Skywalker as the supreme remaining Force user in the Star Wars galaxy and a Jedi; at the end of the film he is assumed the first and only Jedi Knight in the Galaxy at that point.

As an individual Luke’s connection to his teachers Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, as well as his father Anakin Skywalker also allow him to uniquely forge a ‘bridging function’ from the old Jedi that existed before Order 66, and the establishment of Luke’s own new Jedi era following the Emperor’s defeat at Endor. Indeed we know from Claudia Gray’s Bloodline the extremely limited knowledge that surrounded the roots and descendants of Vader in the current continuity (whereas in the EU it was common knowledge).

Image result for luke skywalker force awakens

San Tekka in undertaking the function of providing and supplementing Luke with a knowledge base to build his new Academy is vital to the establishment of Luke’s new Jedi collective. As a leading light in the study of Jedi lore he must have been a critical advisor and influencer within the post-Empire political and cultural settlement. It is clear that his knowledge of the galaxy and its history was useful to the New Republic during the period of galactic reconstruction.

What is also immediately clear is that San Tekka was devout in his belief in the Force and had the courage of his convictions. Like Obi-Wan facing Vader he knowingly submits to Ren’s summary justice on Jakku, because he firmly believes that his cause is just and because he knows that Ren would not be persuaded to take a different course in any event. His final words to Ren are damning in their simplicity. San Tekka for his part is safeguarding something that he is passionately devoted to and which he values more than his own life. As a devotee of the Church of the Force he has strong faith that he is protecting a greater cause. Ren responds by killing him brutally before ordering the destruction of San Tekka’s spiritual colony of Tuanul in the remote Kelvin Ravine.

In terms of future considerations I think these are best developed in a question format, highlighting issues raised by the Lor San Tekka character:-

What will be made right?

San Tekka hands Poe the map fragment for Luke’s location and says “this will begin to make things right”. An interesting query in this regard is what will be made right? Looked at logically this must mean that San Tekka either disagrees with Luke’s exile, or (and this is my view), feels that now is the right time to disclose his whereabouts on Ahch-To to the Resistance and trigger a pre-planned sequence of events.

Does the location of both San Tekka and Rey on Jakku suggest some link?

I think this is a good question. I’m attracted to the location of San Tekka on Jakku being akin to the role Kenobi took on Tatooine. This would see San Tekka performing a watch-person role for Rey the way Kenobi did for Luke. It is obvious that Rey is extremely strong in the force almost to the point of being an aberration. Contrast Rey’s raw Force abilities displayed against Ren and the savageness of her usage of the Force, compared to Luke’s ability against Vader in ESB. Granted this isn’t a like-for-like match but Rey is extraordinarily strong in the Force. Given San Tekka’s expertise in The Force and Jedi Lore, is mere coincidence that he resides in the same place as Rey (indeed a very short distance given that BB-8 has travelled between the two points over land)? I’m fairly certain that San Tekka and Rey’s location within a close proximity is no coincidence.

Does San Tekka’s character have the potential to tighten the linkages between the key periods of the saga?

This is always a fascinating element within the Star Wars saga for me. There are very few characters with the potential to span from the Prequel Trilogy to The Force Awakens era. In the main it will be the two droids R2-D2 and C-3PO who provide this continuity. A human, and a fascinating character such as a Jedi archaeologist, serving such a function would be fascinating. My personal view is that we may see some linkages between San Tekka and Snoke in their earlier activities during the Prequel and Original Trilogy time periods, and in the era of Luke’s Jedi Academy being set up.

How close was San Tekka to Ben Solo?

This, my final question of the piece, is critical. From the dialogue cited at the top of this piece I suspect that there was considerable history between the two characters. This is what makes the scene so poignant. One must remember that there is a potential for Kylo Ren to have killed two father figures in The Force Awakens. Han Solo obviously is his birth father, and the tragedy of that scene is arguably the stand-out moment of the film. However, right at the outset he kills San Tekka, and given what we know from Claudia Gray’s Bloodline it is quite possible that if San Tekka and Luke were both at the Academy together then San Tekka may have served in a guardianship role for the young Ben Solo. It may be that he knew San Tekka better than Han. Lots of water has passed under the bridge by the time of their meeting on Jakku, however for me this just adds to the poignancy of the scene, which is a very sad one when it is contemplated.

I for one look forward to the further development of this character through the Poe Dameron comic and upcoming installments in this Star Wars continutity. My personal hope? Well….maybe he’ll bump into Doctor Aphra somewhere along his journey.

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3 Comments

  1. This is so informative! Episode 7 was the first time I heard his name but I was mesmerised by the character on screen, though he occupied it so briefly. Even in those few movements, I could just tell that there was soooo much story there. Thank you for doing all this research on him and the Church of the Force. I am intrigued!

    Liked by 1 person

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