As I’ve previously noted, I pretty much checked out of Episode VII rumors—ah, I’m sorry, make that The Force Awakens rumors—a month or two ago. Before that, the rumors were coming so fast and wild that I was happy to glance through them without taking anything so seriously as to feel like I’d been spoiled. But one thing seemed to come up pretty consistently (spoiler alert, I guess): at the start of the film, Luke is out of the picture. Maybe kidnapped, maybe in exile. Maybe for ten years, maybe for thirty.
Indeed, it’s possible we have a clearer picture of this situation now than the last time I looked, but one possibility that was being entertained was that Luke was off either on a Force pilgrimage of his own or training new Jedi recruits. Another consistent rumor was that there isn’t really an active New Jedi Order when we start off, and to my mind Luke having gone off the radar to start an academy feels nicely in line with both of those scenarios.
The Expanded Universe, of course, offers up two versions of this premise. The most famous one is undoubtedly the Praxeum at the old Rebel base on Yavin IV where Luke trained the Solo children and two decades’ worth of others would would become the bulk of his Order. The second version is the ancient Jedi library and training grounds of Ossus—where the prominent characters Ulic Qel-Droma and Exar Kun were trained, and where Luke himself eventually returned near the end of the Legacy Era stories.
Should the sequel trilogy choose to go the academy route (in TFA or later), it’s easy to make a case for them to use Yavin—it’s a familiar world to movie fans, after all, and jungles filming locations are pretty easy to find. But who says that “familiar” is the best way to go here? I want the New Jedi Order to be based on Ossus.
Superficially, both Ossus and Yavin are generally portrayed as jungle planets, but there are two key distinctions: first, Yavin has already been shown as looking more or less like an Earth jungle, while Ossus’ flora and fauna have only ever been depicted fleetingly (and, as a Legends planet, filmmakers would be free to pick and choose existing design elements as they see fit, like The Clone Wars did with Dathomir). One only needs to look at the Saleucami and Felucia scenes of Revenge of the Sith to see how much more elaborately alien planets can be depicted nowadays as compared to the Yavin scenes in A New Hope. Combine that with a Jedi training context and Ossus could be a unique design opportunity for the saga—imagine the Dagobah training scenes in Empire ramped up to the level of Avatar‘s Pandora.
Second, while Yavin IV is by its very definition a remote and empty body in a remote and empty system (well, unless you count that place with the mermaids), Ossus has historically been portrayed as an inhabited planet. It has both a native species (Force-sensitive to boot) and a sizable human population. The Galaxy Far, Far Away is unique in that none of that means Luke couldn’t still be “off the grid” there; after all, even Tatooine had several active populations and multiple spaceports and vibrant (black) markets. Everyone waited with baited breath for Mark Hamill to grow an Obi-Wan beard for the movie; how awesome would it be for Luke to make his first appearance in TFA sauntering out of the wilderness and into a seedy town bar with a pupil or two in tow, much like Obi himself did with Luke in Mos Eisley?
Lastly, Ossus could play a special role in TFA by virtue of its link to the Jedi of ancient times. While it remains to be seen how faithfully the Old Republic of the EU will be adapted by the new canon, if at all, if Luke has spent any substantial chunk of the thirty years since RotJ seeking to reestablish the ways of the Jedi, it makes a lot of sense that he’d be looking into their past. Perhaps he’s led to Ossus in search of students and discovers a whole species of them, or perhaps he comes for the Jedi Library and decides to stay. There are several good answers, and all of them keep him logically away from Coruscant, and/or wherever the Rebel/New Republic seat of power is when the ST commences.
And, of course, Ossus’ link to the past could provide one further bonus: a tease of future storytelling. Many have speculated that Star Wars is adapting the Marvel approach by alternating between “tentpole” and standalone films, all of which connect with and feed into each other. That may be harder to pull off with your basic young Han Solo or Boba Fett one-shot films, but you just know they’re going deep into the Old Republic sooner or later, so how cool would it be to one day visit an ancient Ossus academy that was first established as ruins in TFA? Even ancient Masters like Bodo Baas could be introduced, in the same way that RotS established Darth Plagueis for future stories to expand upon. If you’re of a mind to see them, the newly-announced title The Force Awakens carries with it a lot of connotations for the evolving role of the Force in the galaxy, and maybe even its origins, to be examined. What did the prequels really mean when they spoke of the Force becoming “balanced”, and does the title refer to that, or simply the reemergence of the Jedi themselves? What better place to find out than their old home?
Oh, but one last thing—they should totally keep the term “Praxeum”.