This week’s episode of The Mandalorian featured the surprisingly important return of R5-D4 — an astromech droid that Din Djarin ended up taking to Mandalore. What you may not have known is that you’ve almost definitely seen R5-D4 before, and that in a non-canon comic book, the droid was actually a Jedi.
Who Is R5-D4?
R5-D4 is an astromech droid who, as part of the R5 line, was known to be dysfunctional. The majority of the droid’s life was spent on Tatooine serving various masters.
In The Red One, a short story in the canon anthology novel From a Certain Point of View, R5 meets R2-D2 on a Jawa sandcrawler and learns that R2-D2’s mission at the time (the beginning of Episode IV: A New Hope) involves the fate of the galaxy, and that R2 must be the droid that the Jawas sell the next day. R5 explains that if he is not bought soon, he will stop functioning.
When R5 was purchased by Owen, he forced himself to malfunction after hearing R2’s renewed plea involving the fate of the galaxy — a sacrifice that would allow R2 to play his part in taking down the Galactic Empire. R5 lived on though, eventually being purchased by The Mandalorian supporting character Peli Motto.
Has R5-D4 Appeared in Star Wars Before?
R5-D4 has actually appeared in two mainline Star Wars movies before popping up in The Mandalorian. The droid has a cameo on the streets of Tatooine in Episode II: Attack of the Clones, but its first (and most prominent) appearance was in A New Hope. As mentioned earlier, R5 was the red astromech droid that Luke’s Uncle Owen was about to purchase before it malfunctioned, leading Owen and Luke to purchase R2-D2.
R5 also appeared in earlier episodes of both The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett as a cameo. All-in-all, R5 appeared in three episodes of The Mandalorian prior to this most recent installment: “Chapter 5: The Gunslinger,” “Chapter 9: The Marshal,” and “Chapter 10: The Passenger,” as well as two episodes of The Book of Boba Fett: “Chapter 5: Return of the Mandalorian” and “Chapter 7: In the Name of Honor.”
Is R5-D4 Really “Skippy the Jedi Droid?”
A non-canon comic that was part of Tales of the Jedi #1, which came out in 1999, portrayed R5-D4 as a Force-sensitive droid. The comedic story reframed the encounter between R5 — known in the comic as “Skippy” — and Owen Lars.
In this version of the story, Skippy originally served Jabba the Hutt, but used the Force to escape and persuade Jabba’s Gamorrean guards to let him leave. After being picked up by Jawas, Skippy had visions of the future. When he was picked to be bought by Owen — which happened after the droid used the Force to persuade Owen — Skippy sensed that R2-D2 had to be the droid that Luke’s uncle purchased.
He realized that R2 would be found by Darth Vader otherwise, which would lead to Luke and Leia’s early deaths. Skippy chooses to sacrifice himself in this story as well, though here, he uses the Force to make C-3PO tell Owen to purchase R2-D2. Skippy’s fate in this comic is a bit darker, as the Jedi droid is destroyed during the Stormtroopers’ assault on the Jawa sandcrawler.