Tatooine is the desert planet so beloved by the Star Wars franchise that it's been included in multiple films, TV series and video games. But as we continue to explore further stories within the Star Wars canon in the expanded universe, why do we keep returning to Tatooine? Even when the creators try to steer away from Tatooine, such as in The Force Awakens, we still end up with sandblasted deserts. Why?
What is it that makes this planet so important that it's seen on screen again and again - even returning as the setting of 2022's The Book of Boba Fett?
Let's take a little look...
Why is Tatooine so important?
Reason 1: Nostalgia
Tatooine is the first location original Star Wars fans witnessed. It was permanently cemented in nostalgia due to this fact alone - it's the setting that started it all. The combination of bleak arid climate, distinctive native inhabitants and ceramic-style architecture made it a unique setting at the time. Unlike other sci-fi, which offered a high-tech, space-age feel, the sands of Tatooine set the tone of the Star Wars franchise as more of a Space western, where even the most advanced equipment such as Luke's land speeder or intelligent droids were dust-blasted, run-down and dulled out.
That explains the importance of Tatooine as a visual motif and shows why many Star Wars creators lean on the nostalgia of the planet to win viewers over. After all, we all take comfort from familiar things and placing stories on Tatooine means the viewer can instantly recognise the setting and focus on the plot.
Reason 2: Birthplace of the Skywalker family
Canonically, Tatooine is also important because it's the planet from which the galaxy-shattering Skywalker lineage hails from. As we found out in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Anakin Skywalker is born on Tatooine before he's found by Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Tatooine is also the planet Kenobi chooses to take Anakin's young son, Luke, back to in order to keep him hidden. He leaves him in the care of Owen and Beru Lars but remains to watch over the family.
It's also the planet on which Rey returns to lay the Skywalker family's legacy to rest, burying their legendary sabers deep in the sands of their homeworld.
Reason 3: Classic storytelling trope
In the fantasy genre, the trope of 'farmer' to 'chosen one' is so common that it's been defined as an integral part of the hero's journey. This journey is a concept in storytelling that sees a character living in obscurity suddenly faced with destiny who goes on an adventure, encounters a mentor figure and must overcome evil.
In Star Wars, George Lucas wanted to replicate that hero's journey in a science-fiction format: so it's only natural he would choose a new type of farming that carried much of the same connotations as traditional fantasy farmers.
Moisture farming on Tatooine is a physical job which means the future hero already has some physical abilities. It's also a job that keeps Owen and Beru far from other civilisation, making Luke eager for adventure like a classic hero's journey character.
Reason 4: Practicality for filming
Imagine you're part of the team in charge of Star Wars: A New Hope. They needed to scout real-world locations that they could use to film otherworldly settings, because CGI technology was nowhere near as good as it is nowadays.
Originally, Lucas had envisaged Tatooine as a jungle planet but switched it to a sand-based one instead. Tatooine's desert location opened up a wide range of shooting locations - anywhere with swathes of sand that allowed the Star Wars team to set up equipment and props would suffice. Lucas needed a location that wasn't too far from Europe for practical and budgetary reasons.
Where was Tatooine filmed? Ultimately the team settled on Tunisia, where they spent 8 weeks creating the buildings and landmarks of fictional Tatooine. The name Tatooine even comes from Tunisia's own Tatouine.
Reason 5: Mos Eisley Cantina
Okay, bear with us - this is basically just the same 'nostalgia' reasoning as earlier, but Mos Eisley Cantina deserves a special mention. The cantina scene stands out in Star Wars as the first time we truly see the wild and wonderful alien races and cultures of the galaxy. Before Luke and Obi-Wan step into it, you're still following two humans and have maybe seen a few Jawas, Tusken Raiders and Banthas.
Once they're through the threshold and that iconic song begins, you're transported to a wonderful and whacky new world of science fiction. For original viewers and first-time watchers, we still think the Mos Eisley cantina scene is one of the most important parts of the Star Wars experience. Especially the song. Did we mention the song?
Time to move on from Tatooine?
So with all of those reasons, we can see why Tatooine is so important to the Star Wars universe. However, as The Book of Boba Fett is proving, perhaps sandy arid planets with gang warfare and junkyard treasure hunters is getting a little long in the tooth?
But Tatooine will always be the true gateway to Star Wars for first-time viewers - and though you may never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, this author in particular wouldn't say no to a trip there.
If you'd like to uncover the buried Skywalker sabers under the sands, why not grasp your own Skyglider saber today - inspired by the most famous Jedi family of them all.