Baby Yoda Conquers Our Galaxy

Baby Yoda Conquers Our Galaxy
(Promotional image courtesy of Walt Disney Co.)

There’s an odd-looking 50-year-old toddler from another galaxy, and everybody loves him.

Forget Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Given the mixed reviews and the steaming pile writer/director JJ Abrams had to clean up after The Last Jedi, even many diehard Star Wars fans (like yours truly) are giving the new one a pass until it comes to home video. And given Abrams’ frequent lack of storytelling punch, I might not even watch it then.

But this isn’t the end for Star Wars, as The Mandalorian continues to kick butt across that galaxy far, far away — and more importantly, into living rooms around the world. And that’s in no smart part because of a very small guy known as Baby Yoda.

He’s not actually Baby Yoda. The real Yoda was something like 900 years old when he died in Return of the Jedi, which took place a few years before the Mandolorian first donned his full Beskar steel armor. But what else are you going to call him? Old Yoda is shrouded in so much mystery that we don’t know what planet he’s from, or even what his species is called. So we have this new guy. He’s a baby, kind of. And he’s the same species as Yoda. So “Baby Yoda” it is.

ASIDE: Maybe there’s some Expanded Universe stuff out there, or even some fanfic, explaining Dead Yoda’s origins or whatever. But I’m sticking to the official canon here.

Like Original Yoda, Baby Yoda’s origins are a complete mystery. We don’t even know if he’s a he. I’m using the male pronoun because the one Yoda we do know was male, and we’ve got to refer to Baby Yoda as one gender or another. And anyone arguing we should call him by some made-up non-binary gender pronoun is going to get a midnight visit from Darth Maul.

As a plot device, Baby Yoda is the show’s McGuffin. He has some power the bad guys want, and some other power to melt the heart of a masked warrior who gives up everything to protect the little guy.

As a character, here’s what we know for sure about Baby Yoda, but it isn’t much:

• He’s a 50-year-old toddler (Yodas age very slowly it seems) and apparently an orphan.

• He doesn’t do much, he never says anything, but when push comes to shove he can be very powerful with the Force.

• The bad guys, some remnant of the deposed Galactic Empire, want him very badly for a nefarious but unknown reason.

• He’s just the sweetest cutest thing you ever did see.

And that’s it. That’s all we know. Except for one other thing: Everybody loves Baby Yoda. Everybody. If the Grinch watched that episode of The Mandalorian a couple weeks ago when Baby Yoda almost found a home, his heart grew five sizes that day.

Part of the character’s charm is that, just like Original Trilogy Yoda, Baby Yoda is obviously (but not too obviously) a puppet. There’s something old-school charming about a puppeteer bringing a literal human touch to a make-believe character. And as we learned from the prequels, a stiff puppet is still more convincing to the human eye than a fluid CGI creation is.

The show’s Big Bad is played by famed German filmmaking auteur Werner Herzog, and he’s obsessively protective of the little puppet. The actor I mean, not the evil character, who apparently wants to dissect Baby Yoda and take out his Force parts or something. Anyway, Vanity Fair reported last month on the fuss Herzog created while they were shooting together:

They were preparing to shoot a blank slate of the sequence as a backup in case they decided during postproduction that the puppet wasn’t convincing enough and a digital version had to be substituted.

Herzog, known for films about pushing the limits of human ability and endurance, could not hide his contempt.

“You are cowards,” he declared. “Leave it.

“Leave it?” Love it.

Comedian Bill Burr starred in last week’s episode of the show, as the menacing leader of a mercenary crew that the Mandalorian signs on with for a lucrative job. No spoilers, but you won’t be surprised to learn that they didn’t work well together, and that at one point Burr’s character actually dropped Baby Yoda. Fans were aghast. Even my too-cool-for-school 13-year-old son was heard gasping when it happened.

Because everybody, and I do mean everybody loves Baby Yoda.

I ordered my 9-year-old a Baby Yoda t-shirt for his Christmas stocking, but unfortunately, it’s back-ordered until the 27th. I’ve shopped for something, anything else that would get here on time, but seemingly everything Baby Yoda is back-ordered.

I’m not about to go all Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All the Way and go on a last-minute Christmas shopping rampage, but I do feel like I might get dinged a few Dad Points for my lack of foresight.

Rise of Skywalker opens on Friday, and my family couldn’t care less. The last two episodes of The Mandalorian stream on Disney+ this Friday and next, and you can bet we’ll be glued to the sofa for both of them.

Old Yoda is dead. Long live Baby Yoda.