We’re in a period of time, right at this very moment, when escapist entertainment is not just welcome, but could possibly be considered a medical necessity. Thankfully, there’s a new season of The Mandalorian starting, and it’s already delivering with some quality droid content which, you’ll recall, is the only content that matters.
Just one episode in, and we’ve already got some great droid cameos and a genuine droid mystery. Let’s start with the cameos.
The first cameo is likely the most obvious, and while it’s not exactly the first time this particular droid has appeared on The Mandalorian, this is the first time its identity has been made explicitly clear.
That droid is, of course, one of the most influential and under-appreciated characters of the original Star Wars movies, our grubby red pal, R5-D4.
Most of us know R5 as the red droid that was almost sold to the Lars’ moisture farm (their farm-fresh moisture was really something special, by the way) until a bad motivator blew in his head, paving the way for the crucial R2-D2 to end up in Luke Skywalker’s hands and putting everything into motion.
It’s worth mentioning that most sources believe that R5 blew that motivator intentionally.
We get to see R5 again, called by name, even, back on Tatooine in a scene in the latest episode, and it’s confirmed that this is, in fact, the same R5 unit we all remember from way back in 1977 because they make a point to linger on some charring and damage at the same head-panel where that motivator went so very bad:
See! It’s R5, it’s definitely our old pal, now working at a spaceship repair shop, living his best life.
Actually, R5 did have a cameo last season as well, though without the conclusive shot of the motivator-damaged head, we couldn’t be absolutely certain it was R5-D4 and not just some other R5.
This was from episode five of season one, and I believe it’s been confirmed that, yes, this is R5-D4. I’m glad he gets some time off to hang out at that cantina that once used to not serve his kind.
There’s another droid cameo in this new episode, and this one is a really, really deep cut, making it more of an Easter Egg than an actual cameo, I think, especially because the droid in question I’m not sure has ever been seen operational.
In fact, it’s just part of a droid, the head:
It’s a weird head, too, looking kind of like a cross between an evil clown and a Kabuki theater mask. I’m not sure who the hell would want a droid with a punim like that, but it was still familiar. I looked back at the original Star Wars from 1977, and look who I found in the Jawa’s landcrawler:
Yep, that looks like the same droid, back when it still had a torso. That must mean that the Jawas seen in the recent episode are supposed to be the same ones from the original Star Wars? I guess so? Let’s just say it is.
Okay, now the big news: there’s an all-new type of R2 shown. Go ahead and take a moment to mop up whatever liquid you just spit-took onto your screen. The Mandalorian has already given us our first on-screen appearance of an R6 droid, an R2-style droid with a crazy body, and with this episode we now get an R2-type astromech droid that does not seem to have ever been seen before.
In case, improbably, you’re not up on your R-series droids, here’s what has been known and seen up to now:
The Force Awakens brought a new droid type I called the R0, and now, in The Mandalorian, we see this:
Okay, okay, let’s all just stay calm. Calm. What are we looking at, here?
The body is clearly a conventional R-series body, as used on the R2, R3, R4, R5, R6 and R9 droids, but that head! What is that head?
We also get to see the back of the head, as you see above.
Now, I have a theory, based on how this head looks. I don’t actually think it’s an all-new kind of R-series droid. I think this fella started life as one of the mainstream R-series droids, went through some shit that cost it it’s head, and what we’re looking at here is a cheap head replacement.
I had originally speculated this about the R0 droids too, but in that case the head looked like a mass-produced, well-built service part, and this one looks like a locally-built head, perhaps refurbished from old R2 heads, or something.
Unlike most R-series droid heads, this one is mostly free from optical sensors and projector units and little blinky lights and panels and scanners and whatever. It seems to have a lone ‘eye’ or whatever on that red panel, and the rest seems to be a sort of patched-together job.
While this could be a whole new type of R-series droid, I kind of like the idea that there’s a shop in Mos Espa or wherever that cranks out cheap but usable replacement droid heads with basic but essential functionality so locals can repurpose old broken droids.
They’re not pretty, they’re not particularly advanced, but they’re cheap and get the job done.
At least, that’s my theory. I’m open to hearing your ideas, too, if your geek glands can produce enough dorkamine to consider it for more than a few seconds.
UPDATE: I found out from some kind geek on Twitter what kind of droid head that is on the R-series droid. It’s from another, older type of astromech/utility droid called an A-LT Utility Droid, and these were first seen in the movie Solo, which takes place well before the original Star Wars.
It’s even mentioned in the Wookiepedia article that their heads were compatible with R2-bodies! So, there we go!
Whew. That’s a relief.