A Bold Ad-Lib In The Phantom Menace Made Captain Panaka Part Of Star Wars History

Part of the beauty of the "Star Wars" universe is how big and populated it is. Not only did the original trilogy deliver groundbreaking visual effects, but George Lucas wrote enough backstory and worldbuilding while working on the first film to sustain decades' worth of "Star Wars" movies. That worldbuilding also resulted in hundreds of smaller background characters that became overnight fan favorites once the movies — and the merchandise — started arriving. Even the most inconsequential one-off characters suddenly became beloved by audiences despite there being little to no official information available about them — at least, until we got entire novels and books devoted to every Glup Shitto and Max Rebo out there.

Of course, not every character gets that treatment. In fact, there is one character we only know the name of because the actor decided to take matters into his own hands during shooting — Quarsh Panaka. You remember that guy, right? He's Queen Padmé Amidala's Head of Security and companion during the events of "The Phantom Menace."

Speaking to Star Wars Insider in 2022, actor Hugh Quarshie talked about christening his character. "I was a little concerned that in the script my character's name didn't get a mention in dialogue," he explained, adding that he decided to name the character himself on-camera. "I found an opportunity to announce it while I was in the Tatooine desert with Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), so I said 'Panaka' when I answered my communicator. I wanted to make sure that the audience knew exactly who he was!"

Well, it worked.

Panaka's fall from grace

Unfortunately, Panaka has a less than heroic story after his role in liberating Naboo from the invasion by the Trade Federation. After the Clone Wars, Panaka continued working for the Empire, remaining extremely loyal to Palpatine — remember, old Sheev is a Naboo native — and he even rose to the rank of Moff. The novel "Queen's Shadow" (a great source of "Anakin sucks" information) specifies that Panaka gave his first formal address as governor of that galactic sector around the time of Padmé's funeral.

At some point during the events of " Leia, Princess of Alderaan," Panaka met Leia and even deduced (or heavily suspected) that the princess of Alderaan was Padmé's daughter. Before he could even think about divulging that information to the Emperor, however, he was killed in an attack by Saw Guerrera's forces.

Though Panaka did not return for the other two films in the prequel trilogy, "Attack of the Clones" introduced his nephew, Gregar Typho. Typho served as Padmé's bodyguard and, after her death, became convinced there was a larger conspiracy and set out to hunt down her killer. Together with Padmé's handmaiden Sabé, they faced Darth Vader and deduced he was responsible for the death of Anakin Skywalker and Padmé. Unsurprisingly, Vader prevailed, but luckily for Typho, the Sith Lord spared him.