The Star Wars faithful were getting excited about The Mandalorian as soon as it was announced. Not only is it the first live-action TV series ever to come out of a galaxy far, far away, and the flagship show for the newly launched Disney Plus. It also features a lead character who dresses a lot like legendary bounty hunter Boba Fett, and is set in the sort of wretched hives of scum and villainy that fans fell in love with when they saw the original movie back in 1977. But as it turns out, there’s something else about the show that’s got the whole world talking, and it’s known as Baby Yoda.
Since making his debut in The Mandalorian in November, Baby Yoda has been a sensation. A cuter, younger version of the ancient Jedi master, he’s one of the most endearing creatures ever seen on screen, and has since become the talk of the internet – a walking merchandising opportunity, and the source of wholesome memes.
But what is Baby Yoda? How does he fit into the Star Wars universe? And why is he such a big deal? We unleash the Bothan spies to find out.
What do we know about Baby Yoda?
The creature who’s become known as Baby Yoda is the surprise break-out star of The Mandalorian. Wisely kept hidden from all the pre-release marketing for the most anticipated show on the newly launched Disney Plus, he made his debut at the end of the show’s first episode. This was where we discovered that the lucrative target the eponymous Mandalorian bounty hunter was pursuing was actually a green alien infant with large ears – who looked a lot like a certain diminutive Jedi Master…
He’s clearly of massive importance to the mythology of The Mandalorian – and Star Wars as a whole. The mysterious Client (played by legendary movie director/actor Werner Herzog) hired numerous bounty hunters (including assassin droid IG-11) to bring back “The Child” – as he’s officially known in the show – with the successful hunter being handsomely rewarded.
The Client – who, going on his choice of Stormtrooper bodyguards and Imperial insignia around his neck – is probably connected to the now-defunct Empire, apparently wants something from the child. “I order you to extract the necessary material and be done with it,” he tells underling scientist Dr Pershing, but we have no idea what that material might be.
We’d be very surprised, however, if it didn’t have something to do with the Force – and rebuilding the Empire into what will become the First Order in Episodes 7, 8 and 9. Maybe they’re planning on removing the Midi-chlorians (Force-carrying particles) from his blood – that would explain why they were so keen on capturing Baby Yoda alive.
Is Baby Yoda a clone?
Is Dr. Pershing a Kaminoan cloning scientist? His badge says it all to me.What do you think? #themandalorian #babyoda pic.twitter.com/YQgnHn6vJ0December 8, 2019
The Baby Yoda clone theory suggests that Dr Pershing is actually a cloning scientist, based on the symbols on his uniform. That hints that the little alien was created on Kamino at the same facility where the Clone troopers were made, and that there’s a strong connection between Baby Yoda’s origins and that part of the Star Wars universe.
Cloning is a big part of the Star Wars universe – indeed, clones fought an entire war – so Baby Yoda could be a young copy of the original model. This is the best explanation yet of what Baby Yoda is, though it doesn’t necessarily mean the child is a clone of Yoda himself. Although if Baby Yoda is 50, as the show informs us, he predates the events of Attack of the Clones by two decades. So there are still a lot of unanswered questions around that theory. Is he a hangover from the early days of clone experiments that led to the Clone Wars?
This being Star Wars, however, there are plenty of other theories flying around the internet. One suggests he’s the child of Yoda and Yaddle, and in terms of timelines, that’s not preposterous. If Baby Yoda is 50 years old, he’d have been born about 10 years before the events of The Phantom Menace, and presumably both Yoda and Yaddle would have been on the Jedi Council at that point. It’s also unlikely, however, because Jedi have strict rules preventing romantic relationships – and Yoda’s never given us any indication he’d be the kind of guy to break them.
Some say he could be a reincarnation of the Jedi master. That would be new territory for Star Wars, but the post-Disney buyout Star Wars universe has frequently played around with the rules of the Force, so it’s not impossible. That said, the fact that Yoda died only five years earlier makes it too late for him to have been reborn as a kid who’s now 50, so this is probably one to file in the “pinch of salt” column.
Intriguingly, the date of Baby Yoda’s birth is very close to Anakin Skywalker’s – within a year, in fact. The Phantom Menace hints very strongly that the future Darth Vader had no father and was conceived by the Midi-chlorians. Perhaps the similarly Force-sensitive Baby Yoda came into existence at the same time in the same way, as part of the Midi-chlorians’ efforts to bring balance to the force.
Finally comes the option that he’s simply some random member of Yoda’s species, with no connection to him beyond that. But hey, this is Star Wars where everyone’s destiny is interlinked, so does anyone really believe that?
What is the name of Yoda’s species?
Nobody knows – which is odd in itself.
The Star Wars franchise has a long history of creating names for almost every character, species or planet that’s ever appeared in a movie, TV show or book – even if they’ve had mere seconds of screentime. For example, the Death Star trash compactor monster in Star Wars: A New Hope was subsequently designated a dianoga, while the space slug that tries to eat the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back is an exogorth.
Yoda is a special case, however. Before George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney, the Star Wars creator had a strict rule that specific information about Yoda and his past was out of bounds for writers. That means we have no idea where he originated or what species he belongs to. The closest Lucas came to giving anything away was describing Yoda as “the illegitimate child of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy”, though we suspect that’s not official Star Wars canon…
It’ll be interesting to see if, now Disney is in charge, they continue to follow Lucas’s directive to keep all things Yoda classified, or use Baby Yoda as an excuse tell us more about Yoda Sr’s mysterious past.
We do know, however, that Yoda’s species is naturally strong with the Force – and not just because Yoda himself had an incredibly successful career as a Jedi master. Even as an infant, Baby Yoda has the power to levitate a giant (and angry) Mudhorn, while the only other member of the species to feature on screen, as mentioned earlier, was Yaddle, a female member of the Jedi Council. She briefly appears in The Phantom Menace.
Why is Baby Yoda such a big deal?
Basically, the internet loves him – forget Porgs, this kid is arguably the cutest thing ever to come out of that galaxy far, far away. As soon as he made his debut in The Mandalorian’s first chapter, Baby Yoda became a meme generator of awe-inspiring power, and the most talked about thing in the show. Everything he does is guaranteed to make you go “Aww”, whether he’s sleeping, drinking soup, or even eating a frog creature alive – Baby Yoda can get away with pretty much anything.
Is Baby Yoda just a cynical cash-in?
It’s unlikely the merchandising bosses at Disney were complaining when the production team introduced Baby Yoda to the The Mandalorian’s story. Indeed, characters as cute as him are a dream come true for anyone who wants to sell lots of toys and clothing – unsurprisingly, there’s already some merch available (including the inevitable Funko Pop! Vinyl figure), with more to follow in 2020.
But, the fact that showrunner Jon Favreau and Chapter One director Dave Filoni were able to hold the character reveal until the show aired – keeping Baby Yoda’s existence a secret until The Mandalorian made its debut – suggests that in this case, keeping the storytelling sacred was the priority. After all, keeping Baby Yoda a secret arguably denied The Mandalorian and Disney Plus the biggest pre-launch marketing opportunity their hot new show was ever going to get.