‘The Mandalorian’: Why ‘Baby Yoda’ Could Be So Important

Donna Dickens
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SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST TWO EPISODES OF THE MANDALORIAN FOLLOW

For almost twenty years, the galaxy of Star Wars was home to Yoda, a seemingly singular being. Introduced in The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, Yoda instantly became — and to this day remains — the oldest character in Star Wars. Then in 1999, The Phantom Menace introduced Yaddle, another member of Yoda’s species. Now, The Mandalorian (Watch Now on Disney+) has given fans their most comprehensive look yet at a Yoda near the beginning of its life.

But the adorable reveal — that The Mandalorian’s 50-year-old target is in fact a baby from Yoda’s species (affectionately referred to as “Baby Yoda” by the internet at large) — raised more questions than it answered. Just how rare is Yoda’s species? Are they all equally gifted in the Force? What does the Empire want with the baby?  It also raises some tantalizing prospects based on Star Wars lore: including a tie back to Lothal and the Force Gods of Mortis.

THE FACTS, WE FIRST MUST PRESENT

Before getting into the speculation and educated guesses though, let’s lay the groundwork. What do we know for sure about Yoda’s species? Starting with Yoda himself, we know he was 900 years old at the time of his death in Return of the Jedi and that he had trained Jedi for over 800 years. Despite not joining the Jedi Order until he was around 100 years of age, Yoda never mentioned a word about his family, home planet, or cultural customs.

As for Yaddle, we know even less. Simply that she was born a little over 500 years before the Battle of Yavin, that she took a permanent leave of absence from the Jedi Council before Attack of the Clones began and that she was trained in a semi-forbidden deadly Force power known as Morichro.

George Lucas was notoriously cagey about Yoda and his species in interviews. Speaking to Moviefone in 2005, Lucas summed Yoda up thusly: “He’s a mystery character, he’s a magical character. He has no background. He comes and he goes. He’s the subversive secret mysterious stranger.”

Building off that sentiment, over the years Lucasfilm has merely added to Yoda’s mystique. In Season 6 of The Clone Wars, a medical scan revealed Yoda possessed a secondary “sub-brain” that activated when Yoda was having a Force Vision. Star Wars Rebels went a step further and placed a Yoda in a position of prominence in pictographs about the Force Gods. All of these facts point to a species intricately and deeply tied to the Force.

As for Baby Yoda? We know it is powerful in the Force despite its youth. We know it is old enough to hunt and problem-solve. Oh, and we know it was born the same year as Anakin Skywalker.

A NEFARIOUS REQUEST

So what does the remnants of the Empire want with an all-powerful baby? Nothing good. When the Mandalorian was hired, two narrative clues to the Empire’s motives were hidden in plain sight. The first was the tracking device given to the Mandalorian. In order for the unnamed Imperial “Client” to have such pinpoint accuracy to the baby’s location, it’s highly likely they once had possession of the child. The second clue was Dr. Pershing, the jumpy Empire scientist. He wore garb very similar to that of Galen Erso in Rogue One. According to the Rogue One Ultimate Visual Guide, that style of uniform was only worn by Tarkin Initiative Project Leads.

Dr. Pershing’s field of study was also discoverable. Galen Erso wore a badge on one shoulder of his uniform that indicated what his team was working on: the Death Star. The same was also true in The Mandalorian. The badge on Dr. Pershing’s uniform is nearly identical to the one used by the Kamino cloners in the Star Wars prequels. Both the live-action film and The Clone Wars animated series showed the clone youth on Kamino wearing shoulder symbols that resembled an “iL”. The same as Dr. Pershing’s badge.

This means that the rumors that the Emperor shuttered the Kamino cloning facilities after the war may only be true from a certain point of view. It seems especially notable given Palpatine’s upcoming return in The Rise of Skywalker. But that still doesn’t answer why the Empire wants Baby Yoda or why other parties clearly want the child dead.

LUMINOUS BEINGS ARE YODA’S SPECIES

Now is the part where things get speculative. On the surface, the Remnant Empire’s desire to capture the Baby Yoda seems obvious: it is a vulnerable child with an immense connection to the Force. Dr. Pershing’s team could do any number of things with someone so Force-sensitive. They could straight up clone the baby but that seems dangerous. Toddlers are already a handful without Force-throwing tantrums. But that’s not to say other aspects of the child’s genome wouldn’t be of interest. If the Empire wanted to see all possible outcomes, studying the brain of a creature with a Force-dedicated secondary brain might yield all kinds of information. If all of Yoda’s species has midi-chlorian counts higher than that of any creature not named Anakin Skywalker, Dr. Pershing might try to extract them to make Force-sensitive clones.

Then there’s the Anakin Skywalker connection. Lucasfilm doesn’t deal often in coincidences. They could have chosen any age for this baby. But they specifically set The Mandalorian nine years after the Battle of Yavin, making the child the same age as Darth Vader. It probably means something. But what?

I suggest that Yoda is not a species at all, but a mystical manifestation of the Force during times of great imbalance. In Star War Rebels, pictographs on Lothal clearly showed a being resembling Yoda at the center of a ritual of some sort. The distinctive alien was shown with arms uplifted, flanked on either side by two taller humanoids. Above them, another creature surrounded by light is either being worshipped or created, depending on how the viewer interprets the image. But if the Force is bisected into Light and Dark, each figure could represent one half, with the Yoda-type figure representing the Balance.

That got me thinking: if the Yoda Baby came into existence in direct response to Anakin’s birth, who might Yoda and Yaddle have been the foils to? Surprisingly, it was easy enough to line them up with Darth Bane and Darth Sidious respectively.

Darth Bane made his first appearance in Season 6 of The Clone Wars when Yoda encountered a vision of the former Sith Lord on Moraband. The last survivor of the Jedi-Sith Wars approximately 1000 years ago, Darth Bane was the father of the modern Sith. Without exact dates of the war and his birth, there is just enough overlap in the historical record to place Yoda and Bane in the same time period.

As for Yaddle, her birth does not at first glance appear to coincide with the rising of dark forces. Unless Palpatine is lying about his age. In the novel Tarkin, the Grand Moff said the Emperor was born in 84 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin). But who could prove it? Palpatine had contingencies for his contingencies and enough back-up plans to cover nearly any outcome. He obviously defied death if the Episode IX trailers are to be believed. Perhaps Darth Sidious is far older than he let on. If you streamline the Sith timeline to just Bane (and have Palpatine simply refer to him as Plagueis), the Emperor, and Darth Vader, suddenly you have three true Sith and three Yodas.

If someone could clone even part of a being that powerful, they might become nigh unstoppable. Something to think about.


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Donna Dickens
Donna has been covering genre entertainment for nearly a decade. She is a mom, a wife, a Slytherin, a Magical Girl, a Rebel, and a fan of House Tyrell.