Published June 17, 2022

Pride Month Spotlight: Doctor Aphra

Explore Doctor Chelli Aphra's morally gray 'Star Wars' journey in this Pride Month spotlight.

Since her introduction in 2015’s DARTH VADER #3 by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca, Doctor Chelli Aphra has become one of the galaxy far, far away’s most beloved new characters. Aphra’s adventures, both with and without Vader, have been filled with intrigue, deception, and double-crosses, all while exploring Aphra’s complicated love life and morality. 

With Aphra being one of the most prominent LGBTQIA+ characters in STAR WARS, let’s take a look at her journey from scholar to icon in celebration of Pride month.

Who Is Doctor Aphra?

The daughter of Korin and Lona Aphra, Chelli’s early life wasn’t particularly stable. Korin was a scholar obsessed with the Ordu Aspectu, a long-extinct offshoot of the Jedi Order, and often pursued information on the group at the expense of paying attention to his family. Lona later left Korin, taking Chelli to Arbiflux, a planet in the Outer Rim. While there, Lona imparted her own moral code onto Chelli, which rejected the binarism of good and evil in favor of free choice and helping those about whom one cares. Eventually, a group of raiders working for Imperial propagandist Pitina Mar-Mas Voor attacked the Aphra homestead, killing Lona. The Imperials then returned Chelli to her father.

Aphra later studied archaeology at the University of Bar’leth, where she met several characters key to her story, including Sana Starros, Kho Phon Farrus, and Eustacia Okka. Overall, Aphra proved troublesome for the university, stealing from professors and generally causing trouble. This soon invited the ire of Sava Toob-Nix, a scholar at the university. Toob-Nix attempted to stop Aphra from getting her doctorate, but she turned the tables on him, using his vault of highly illegal abersyn symbiotes to create a fake archaeological find. This “discovery” ensured Aphra got her doctorate and established her as resourceful and cunning.

Doctor Aphra Meets Darth Vader

Prior to teaming up with Vader, Aphra made a name for herself as a thief and droid expert. She also struck up a relationship with Starros, which ended poorly. She encountered Vader for the first time while on a mission to steal an assassin Blastomech called BT-1, AKA Beetee, and the Triple-Zero protocol personality matrix, which could turn a protocol droid into a deadly killer. The Sith Lord recruited her to his side to help his coup against Emperor Sheev Palpatine, and together they activated Triple-Zero and Betee.

Aphra and her droid companions worked with Vader for quite some time after this and were integral in helping him discover the true identity of Luke Skywalker, the young Rebel pilot who destroyed the Death Star. Around this time, she also befriended the Wookiee bounty hunter Black Krrsantan and ended up with a massive debt to him. 

Once Vader was done with her, the Sith Lord attempted to flush Aphra out an airlock. However, Triple-Zero, Beetee, and Black Krrsantan saved her. Vader remained under the impression Aphra was dead for quite some time. 

Doctor Aphra Strikes Out on Her Own

After her encounter with Vader, Korin Aphra returned and manipulated his daughter into helping him investigate the Ordu Aspectu by having her doctorate suspended. Their journey led them to Yavin IV, where they learned the location of the Citadel of Rur, a key location to the Ordu Aspectu. While on Yavin, Chelli and her companions caused trouble for Imperial Captain Magna Tolvan, who followed them to the Citadel. 

As in so many of Aphra’s adventures, things went poorly at the Citadel. Korin and Chelli resurrected Rur, an ancient Jedi who’d stored his consciousness inside a crystal. Rur was a technopath capable of manipulating and controlling droids and other machinery, which led a major fight to break out on the Citadel. Tolvan’s Imperial forces engaged the threat while trying to stop the Aphras, but in the end, Chelli ended up rescuing the captain. The aftermath saw Tolvan demoted. Chelli, for her part, parted ways with her father and pretended to put the dangerous crystal into quarantine, instead deciding to sell it to the highest bidder at auction to earn money and pay off her many debts.  

The auction went poorly, and Aphra ended up freeing Triple-Zero and Betee, who proceeded to take over a criminal organization and conscript the archaeologist into their service. A raid ordered by Triple-Zero brought Aphra back into contact with Tolvan. After nearly being executed by firing squad, Tolvan went after Aphra with more zeal than before. During a battle gone wrong on Skako Minor, Aphra and Tovlan ended up kissing, officially kicking off a romantic relationship that went poorly for both.

In subsequent stories, Tolvan attempted to thwart Aphra’s schemes, only to be outmaneuvered or forced to do something to protect her love interest. This came to a head when Aphra was imprisoned in Accresker Jail and Tolvan arrived to rescue her. Due to a deadly mold on the station, the Imperials set the prison on a collision course with a Rebel planet. To save them from certain death, Tolvan contacted Darth Vader, revealing she knew about his plot to usurp Palpatine. This spurred the former Anakin Skywalker to go to the prison to silence anyone who might know of his plan. 

Aphra used a creature called the Bor Ifriem to alter Tolvan’s memories to make her think she’d killed the archaeologist. Afterwards, Tolvan joined up with the Rebels and Starros, who saved her from Vader’s wrath. The two didn’t meet again until much later, and Tolvan was upset to discover Aphra had manipulated her memories. This led Tovlan to try to use Aphra as part of a plot to assassinate Emperor Palpatine. However, Aphra once again turned the event to her advantage and used the plot to get revenge on Imperial propagandist Voor – who was involved in the plan – for the death of her mother. 

This choice, though, led to Vader discovering Aphra was, in fact, alive. Aphra eventually escaped him, though, and gave the Rebel Alliance – and thus Tolvan – more time to prepare their defense on Hoth by hacking Imperial systems and messing with the Empire’s probe droids. Aphra, who’d often struggled with the morality of her actions, had finally done right by her mother’s moral code and helped those she cared about.

Doctor Aphra Begins Working for the Tagge Corporation

The most recent series featuring Aphra has seen her teaming up with Starros again. This time around, the exes reunited with Eustacia Okka in search of the Rings of Vaale, two cursed artifacts that promise power and fortune to those who hold them. As a result, they got roped into the Tagge Corporation, where they work under Domina Tagge on missions that have seen them taking on the Crimson Dawn, a deadly and secretive criminal organization.

Most recently, Aphra and Starros began investigating artifacts related to a group called the Ascendant, which led them into conflict with Kho Phon Farrus, a former colleague obsessed with the dark side cult. In the scuffle, Aphra got shot through the chest and seemingly died, only to resurrect as a mysterious being called Eternity.

Aphra’s battle against Kho Phon Farrus continues in STAR WARS: DOCTOR APHRA #21 by Alyssa Wong and Minkyu Jung, available July 13.

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