R5-D4: The Complete History Of Din Djarin's Ally In The Mandalorian Explained - Looper (2024)


R5-D4: The Complete History Of Din Djarin's Ally In The Mandalorian Explained - Looper (1)


ByJesse Bereta/

Filled with Easter eggs and other references, the Disney+ "Star Wars" shows have been a platter of nostalgia for fans of the galaxy far, far away. Specifically, "The Mandalorian" has been a feast of nearly forgotten characters while filling in many holes of the beloved franchise. In "Chapter 18" of the series, entitled "The Mines of Mandalore," the creators gave one of "Star Wars" most unsung heroes a chance at redemption when the "built for adventure" R5-D4 droid accompanied Din Djarin and Grogu in their journey to Mandalore.

Sharp-eyed "Star Wars" fans will be quick to recognize R5-D4. The timid, red and white droid has been a part of the franchise since the very beginning. Notably, R5 nearly became the wingman to Luke Skywalker in "A New Hope" before the droid malfunctioned, forcing Skywalker's uncle to settle on an R2 unit instead. Whether by tampering, destiny, or sacrifice, R5-D4's head exploding in the first "Star Wars" movie was something of a catalyst for the entire galaxy being saved.

But Red, as Skywalker refers to the droid, arriving years later at Peli Motto's shop does present some questions. For one, the droid's malfunction in "Episode IV" would seemingly imply that R5-D4 was on the verge of being scrapped for parts, or at the very least destroyed in the Stormtrooper assault that killed its Jawa captors. Keep reading to discover how Red survived while R2-D2 and C-3PO were flying across the galaxy and learn how this R5 unit might just be one of the most important droids in the galaxy.

Low-cost droid for sale

R5-D4 shares his origins with plenty of other droids, a product of one of the leading droid manufacturers in the galaxy, Industrial Automaton. Best known for their versatile R2-series, the company opted to make a more cost-effective model for their astromech R-series lineup. The R5-series shares many characteristics with prior droids in the line but features a cone-shaped head and low-cost manufacturing.

Unfortunately, according to the "Star Wars Character Encyclopedia," the price cuts resulted in R5 droids becoming prone to malfunction and generally having less desirable personalities. Gaining an unfavorable reputation, Industrial Automaton was forced to discontinue the R5-series, with R5-D4 being one of the last off the line.

Despite being undesirable and often abandoned droids, some R5 units, such as R5-D4, have proven invaluable throughout "Star Wars" lore. There have been multiple R5 models showcased throughout the "Star Wars" saga, with variations of the robot appearing on the Death Star, serving in the Clone Wars, and, thanks to their low cost, a significant part of the Rebel Alliance. However, Rebel pilots typically avoided using R5 droids in their X-Wing droid sockets, as their taller stature made them an easy target for enemies. Nevertheless, one unit badged as R5-G8 was the droid of choice for renowned starfighter pilot Wedge Antilles.

Memory wipe

Not much is known about R5-D4's history before coming into the hands of the Jawas. The droid with a reputation for malfunctioning exchanged hands many times and is commonly connected to the desert planet on the Outer Rim, Tatooine. However, there is some suggestion that the droid took part in the early rebellion against the Galactic Empire that took place after the Clone Wars. Somehow, years before the Battle of Yavin that took place in "A New Hope," R5-D4 came into the possession of the Jawas, who wiped his memory clean.

According to "Galaxy Guide 1: A New Hope" for the "Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game," Red became depressed and neglected under the ownership of his abusive Jawa captors. Jealous of droids with purpose, R5 was difficult to work with and often angry. By suggestion of another droid, Red started to cooperate with the Jawas in hopes of being sold to better owners. Finally, hours before the arrival of an R2 unit, R5-D4 was deemed ready for sale and was cleaned up for potential sale to the Lars family moisture farm.

A fateful moment

It may be the saddest moment in "Star Wars: Episode IV" that fans typically don't realize is so tragic as they watch it. R5-D4 had spent years being dragged across the desert with dreams of finding a home like the Lars homestead, where he could find purpose in serving a proper master. Unfortunately, fate had other plans.

A blue and white droid named R2-D2 arrived on Tatooine, tasked with a secret mission by Princess Leia to deliver a message to the forgotten Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi. Captured by Jawas, R2 was determined to accomplish his mission by any means necessary — including, going against its basic programming and sabotaging R5-D4 in the middle of the night. Fatefully, seconds after Owen Lars purchased Red alongside C-3PO, the droid's motivator malfunctioned, causing its head to catch fire, and forcing the Jawas to offer R2-D2 as a consolation.

Thankfully for the galaxy, this meant that R2-D2 would meet Luke Skywalker who would bring him to Obi-Wan, causing a domino effect that would result in balance being brought to the Force and the fall of the tyrannical Galactic Empire. Meanwhile, R5-D4 was brought back onboard the Jawa Sandcrawler, unsold and damaged.

The Red One

Surprisingly, there is much more to the story of R5's malfunction than is captured in the original "Star Wars" film. In 2017, an anthology collection of short stories about the galaxy far, far away was released called "From a Certain Point of View." The 40 stories, each written by a different author, shared a unique perspective from side characters from "Star Wars: A New Hope." One of these canon tales included R5-D4 and his ill-fated interaction with R2-D2.

"The Red One" tells how R5 was awoken in the night when R2-D2 was attempting to sabotage his circuitry. After protesting, the blue droid explains his mission and how it is vital that it find its master or the entire galaxy will be doomed. Still, R2 promises to no longer tamper with Red and the other droids. The next morning, R5's dreams come true when it is finally purchased by Owen Lars alongside C-3PO to work a steady job on the moisture farm. However, when a defeated R2-D2 exclaims that it is the galaxy's only hope, R5 has second thoughts. Red deliberately malfunctions, forcing the Jawas to offer R2 in place. In their final interaction, the blue droid thanks R5-D4 for his sacrifice. Subsequently, Red is inspired by R2-D2 and finds a new purpose in wanting to join the Rebellion.

Saved from destruction

Alternatively, R5-D4 had a very different outcome following its appearance in "A New Hope." "Star Wars" history can be complicated, as after Disney acquired the rights to the franchise many of the established stories were no longer considered canon. The former collections are now classified under the "Legacy" platform, including Red's adventures directly following the interaction with R2-D2.

In one account of R5's story in the pages of "Galaxy Guide 1: A New Hope," the droid was stolen by a trader known as Mace Windu. No, not the Mace Windu who was a legendary Jedi portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson in the prequel films. Rather, this Mace Windu was named after a character from George Lucas's original 13-page story synopsis that would eventually become "Star Wars." This Mace Windu, later renamed Macemillian-winduarte, came upon the Jawa Sandcrawler fresh from a visit to the Lars homestead as the Imperial Stormtroopers were attacking. While searching for another droid, Macemillian managed to save R5 in the final moments of the assault.

Given new purpose

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Dark Horse Comics

R5-D4's non-canonical epilogue continues further in a short story called "Across the Burning Sands of Tatooine," which first appeared in the "Galaxy Guide" and was later reprinted in "The Movie Trilogy Sourcebook." Following the droid's capture by Macemillian, R5 was sold to a Rebel historian and spy known as Voren Na'al. Originally, disgruntled that he was sold a droid with a faulty motivator, Na'al changed his tune when he discovered that Red was present when C-3PO and R2-D2 were sold to Owen Lars.

Upon learning everything he could from the droid, Na'al then gave R5 new life with a refurbishing and the installation of "intelligence gathering software." Subsequently, Red was sold to the Imperial Perfect's administrative assistant in Mos Eisley, where the droid gathered valuable intel as a Rebellion spy through the destruction of the Empire in "Return of the Jedi." R5 found purpose in its new role, letting go of the low self-confidence and jealousy of other droids.

Skippy the Jedi Droid

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Dark Horse Comics

This may be getting out of hand, but there is one more story that recounts R5-D4's perspective during the droid's fateful meeting with R2-D2. Don't worry though, the best has been saved for last. R5 makes a starring appearance as "Skippy the Jedi Droid" in a story printed in the comic book "Star Wars Tales" #1 published in 1999. In this reimagining of Red's story, the unwanted droid is secretly one of the only Force-sensitive droids to ever appear in the franchise.

The story begins with Obi-Wan sensing someone with the Force but is unable to pinpoint who it is coming from. Meanwhile, bounty hunter Boba Fett accidentally knocks a drink off R5-D4, who was being utilized as a serving droid in Jabba the Hutt's palace. However, unaware to everyone, R5 manages to straighten the drink with his Force powers. Later, upon that unforgettable day at the moisture farm, the droid uses the Force to persuade Owen Lars to purchase him. Yet, when the droid has visions of the impending doom that this choice would cause, R5 causes himself to malfunction and uses its powers to have R2-D2 be the replacement. Sadly, this story ends with Red being shot by a Stormtrooper, and destroyed without anyone knowing about his gifts and sacrifice.

Cameo in the prequels

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20th Century Fox

The "Star Wars" prequels, episodes one through three, have a plethora of Easter eggs and references to the original three films. It is almost tradition that any new "Star Wars" content feature some acknowledgement of the original trilogy that started it all. Case in point, R5-D4, who was by all intentions a one-off droid with a minor role in "A New Hope," but can be spotted in the 2002 film "Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones."

Long before Red was a beaten-down droid blowing his own lid, it was a bright and shiny bot rolling the streets of Mos Espa. Eagle-eyed fans spotted R5-D4 in a scene when Anakin Skywalker has returned to his old home in search of his mother. Blink and you might miss the robot, as Red is only rolling by momentarily and isn't acknowledged and doesn't even have any 'beeping' lines. However, it does confirm that the Astromech has been on Tatooine for longer than fans expected.

R5-D4's return

R5-D4: The Complete History Of Din Djarin's Ally In The Mandalorian Explained - Looper (10)


Regardless of the many tales written about R5-D4 in the aftermath of his motivator exploding, audiences did not truly know if the droid survived past "A New Hope" until recently. Red was absent from any movie in the subsequent timeline following "Episode IV;" however, those who have grown to love the unsung robot were ecstatic for its quiet return in the Disney+ "Star Wars" shows.

R5-D4 made a triumphant return in "Chapter 9: The Marshal" during the second season of "The Mandalorian." In the episode, the beloved bounty hunter is forced to land the Razor Crest on Tatooine, choosing the hanger of old friend Peli Motto. The hardened mechanic is loyally followed by her rambunctious pit droids, yet it was a major reveal when Motto called upon the near-forgotten R5 robot that carried her map of Tatooine. Considered a subtle Easter egg to the original "Star Wars" film, R5 remained a regular background character in Motto's garage for subsequent episodes and into "The Book of Boba Fett" series.

Red's new mission

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Finally, after decades spent as a side character and screen filler, "The Mandalorian" has refurbished R5-D4 and given the droid a new purpose. Still serving Peli Motto at the beginning of season 3 in "The Mines of Mandalore," Din Djarin comes to the mechanic in hopes of fixing up a different droid: the IG-11 bounty hunter with a memorable death in Season 1. But when those hopes are dashed, Peli offers a handy, yet awkwardly "fragile" alternative: R5-D4. Despite Mando's former distaste for droids and R5's apprehension of danger, the bot joins Din and Grogu for their mission in Mandalore.

Hilariously, Peli calls R5 "built for adventure;" however, this is a significant pilgrimage for the Astromech. In every other appearance of Red, audiences have never seen the droid anywhere other than Tatooine. It is assumed that R5-D4 has never left the desert planet, which makes his fear of leaving with Mando understandable. But the little forgotten droid from "A New Hope" proves a worthy Astromech, scanning the alien world's atmosphere for breathable air — despite a minor setback.

Kissed by a Wookie

Not to be forgotten, R5-D4 does have one other appearance in the ever-expansive "Star Wars" lore. Undoubtedly, it is the most obscure and unexpected cameo a droid could make. Red makes a subtle, but unforgettable appearance on the 1980 LP "Christmas in the Stars,"the original StarWars Christmas album.

Released two years after the infamous "Star Wars Holiday Special," the galaxy far, far away took another stab at delivering holiday joy — but the "Christmas in the Stars" record is no joke. Starring original voice actors Anthony Daniels and Ben Burtt as C-3PO and R2-D2, the "Star Wars" holiday album also marks the debut of future rock star Jon Bon Jovi (credited as John Bongiovi), providing lead vocals in the song "R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

More relevantly, R5-D4 is one of only a handful of characters from "Star Wars" that earns a mention. Although, now knowing how timid the droid is, it probably would have preferred to have been left out. In the album, Red attends C-3PO's holiday party and mistakenly parks himself under the mistletoe. The droid earns himself a sloppy, hairy kiss from everyone's favorite Wookie, Chewbacca. Understandably, R5's only line on the album is a regrettable beeping noise.

R5-D4's future in Star Wars

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Unsung hero. Forgotten and unwanted droid. A Jedi robot. Call R5-D4 what you will; the red and white bot with a faulty motivator is a well-established character within "Star Wars" history, and his greatest adventures may be yet to come. With appearances in games, comic books, and a Christmas-themed studio album, Skippy can pop up anywhere. It is safe to say that audiences have not seen the last of the little droid who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of restoring order to the galaxy.

Unfortunately, R5 failed to appear in the most recent "Star Wars" trilogy, as even R2-D2 and C-3PO were treated like ancient relics of the past. So, it is assumed that Red meets an end somewhere along the expanding "Star Wars" timeline. Thankfully, Disney+ shows like "Andor" and the upcoming "Ahsoka" exist in a period where R5 can find further relevance. Meanwhile, joining "The Mandalorian" on his ongoing quest could bode well for the Force-sensitive droid. Who knows, perhaps Red will earn some Beskar armor and become a bounty hunter himself.

R5-D4: The Complete History Of Din Djarin's Ally In The Mandalorian Explained - Looper (2024)


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