Editorial: Red Droid Redemption - The Fall and Rise of R5-D4 - Star Wars News Net (2024)

As the Mandalorian continues his quest across the galaxy, he has acquired a new droid to fill the astromech socket of his hot rod N-1 starfighter. He goes by many names: “Red”, “Skippy”, “That one”, and played a key part in the history of the Star Wars galaxy. This is the tale of R5-D4.

What about that one?

R5-D4 first appeared in A New Hope as one of the droids in the Jawa sandcrawler where R2-D2 and C-3PO were captured. R5 was Uncle Owen’s first choice to assist him on the farm, but when R5’s head plate blew off, apparently due to a bad motivator, he was swiftly exchanged for R2-D2, who then led Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi — this started Luke’s journey to become a Jedi and save the galaxy from the Empire.

Legendary figure

A meter-tall stack of the worst business decisions you could possibly want. – Mechtech Illustrated

R5-D4’s failure, causing him to be an inadvertent hero, sparked some stories in the Expanded Universe (now known as Legends) about him and his model. Sadly, his misfire seems to have doomed the R5 line of astromechs as a failure to create a cheaper version of the R2 which was quickly abandoned. In Legends, he was passed from owner to owner until he eventually fell into the hands of the Jawas. On the sandcrawler, R2-D2 sabotaged his motivator, ensuring he would then replace the unfortunate droid and continue his mission. It didn’t all end badly though, as R5-D4 escaped the stormtrooper attack on the sandcrawler and joined the Rebel Alliance.

Skippy the Jedi droid

We can’t talk about R5-D4 without mentioning Skippy the Jedi Droid, written by Peter David as part of the Tales anthology series. Skippy (aka R5-D4) is a droid that is fully self-aware and, through the midi-chloroxians that flow through his lubricant, has mastery over the Force! He feels he has a great destiny, but is laughed at when he tells other droids. Using the Force to remove his restraining bolt, he flees into the desert only to be captured by Jawas. But shortly afterwards, he has a vision of the Force and, on meeting Luke Skywalker, realises his destiny is to help him save the galaxy, and so he uses his powers to sacrifice himself, blowing his motivator and becoming one with the Force.

Now, to be clear, this story was never canon in any continuity — it featured an image of Leia with actual cinnamon rolls on her head, and parodied the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer song. It was never meant to be taken seriously! But the comic struck a chord with the fandom. He is frequently referred to as ‘Skippy’ online, and the idea of R5’s noble sacrifice seems to have carried over into the current storytelling.

Now let’s jump back into canon and look at his story in timeline order.

Crossing paths

The sandcrawler wasn’t the first time R5 and R2 had met. In Attack of the Clones, R5-D4 can be briefly seen in Mos Espa and even passes R2-D2 in the street. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, but it tells us that R5 is a longtime resident of Tatooine that once had an owner before falling into the hands of the Jawas.

The Red One

As part of the From a Certain Point of View anthology, Rae Carson told an expanded story of R5’s encounter with destiny. In this story, R5-D4 has been with the Jawas for four years, and all memory of what happened before has been wiped. He is happy when he hears he might be sold, but then is crushed to see a pristine R2 unit roll onto the sandcrawler. In this version of the story, R2 tries to sabotage him but is caught in the act and apologises, emphasising the importance of his mission. Despite his desperation to be sold, something in his memory circuits is triggered by the word “rebellion” (likely a callback to his Legends story), and he self-sabotages his head panel so that R2-D2 can be chosen instead. The story ends with R5 escaping the Jawas and heading out into the desert to find the Rebellion.

Return to the screen

To promote The Mandalorian, Jon Favreau shared several images from the production, such as the Amban phase-pulse blaster first seen in the Star Wars Holiday Special which became Din Djarin’s primary weapon. Another of these images was a very familiar-looking R5 unit. R5-D4 made a brief reappearance on-screen in Chapter 5: The Gunslinger, bumping into Din in the infamous Mos Eisley Cantina shortly before his fateful meeting with Toro Calican.

It seemed like that was it — a fun nod to the Original Trilogy. But there was more in store for our hero in red as he reappeared in Chapter 9: The Marshal as part of Peli Motto’s ever-increasing stable of droids. Called by his new owner to show the map of settlements on Tatooine, the camera lingered enough to show the damage to his head plate, confirming beyond doubt that this was indeed R5-D4. While Peli can be a little rough around the edges, it’s clear she has a kind heart, and it’s a relief to know that the droid ended up with someone who will take care of him.

Peli confirmed that she bought R5 from Jawas, so the poor droid likely was recaptured shortly after his escape! Peli also mentioned that he was in the Rebellion, so it’s possible he did find his way to the Alliance for a while before joining her, though she wasn’t clear on when he was a Rebel. Still, it’s a nice nod to his EU backstory.

Reunited at last

R5 has continued to appear in the background of Peli Motto’s garage in both The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, but during the season finale Chapter 7: In the Name of Honor he was reunited with R2-D2. Artoo flies Grogu back to Tatooine after he chose Din’s beskar over Yoda’s lightsaber. R5-D4 was among the droids who came to meet the famous X-Wing, and came face to face with the droid he’d sacrificed himself for years before.

While I do wish that more had been made of this reunion, I have to acknowledge that an extended scene of two tin cans whistling at each other might be confusing for the casual viewer and perhaps not the best use of the finale’s already packed runtime!

Onwards and upwards

And now it’s clear that the story of R5-D4 is far from over, as in Chapter 18: The Mines of Mandalore he took to the skies with Din Djarin to Mandalorian space. While he clearly had some reservations (with good reason!) about his new assignment, he stepped up when he was needed and saved Din’s life like the true hero he is. We wish him all the best on his new adventures!

Aled Morgan

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A teacher from Wales in the UK, Aled has loved Star Wars ever since that Star Destroyer flew over his head and blew his mind.

Editorial: Red Droid Redemption - The Fall and Rise of R5-D4 - Star Wars News Net (2024)

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