'Mandalorian' raiders come from 'Return of the Jedi' and a 1951 sci-fi classic

The guys hassling the village in "Sanctuary" have a long cinematic lineage.

Gort and Klaatu in 'The Day the Earth Stood Still'; Inset: a Klatooinian from 'The Mandalorian'

If you watch all the scenes in Return of the Jedi set in Jabba’s Palace or at the Sarlacc Pit, you can, more or less, populate the entire supporting cast of creatures in The Mandalorian. So if those bull-dog-faced raiders in Chapter 4; “Sanctuary” seemed a little familiar, that’s because Luke Skywalker totally lightsaber-ed one of them while fighting over the Great Pit of Carkoon on Tatooine. The raiders who Mando and Cara Dune (Gina Carano) beat-back in “Sanctuary,” are a deep-cut from earlier Star Wars stories, but part their origin is even older than that.

Spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian Episode 4: “Sanctuary.”

The aliens who are harassing the village on the peaceful planet of Sorgan are called Klatooinian, and they originate in Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Back then, there was mostly just one guy, a pirate-looking dog-faced guy named Barada. According to Star Wars.com, this guy was actually a slave of Jabba the Hutt, which apparently, didn’t prevent Luke from having to take him out during the skiff battle over the Sarlacc. If you played the ‘90s Star Wars Customizable Card Game published by Decipher Inc., or you collected the toys around the time of the 1997 Special Edition hype, you probably remember this guy. Here’s what a Klatooinian looked like in Return of the Jedi.

looked like in Return of the Jedi.

, and they originate in Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Back then, there was mostly just one guy, a pirate-looking dog-faced guy named Barada. According to Star Wars.com, this guy was actually a slave of Jabba the Hutt, which apparently, didn’t prevent Luke from having to take him out during the skiff battle over the Sarlacc. If you played the ‘90s Star Wars Customizable Card Game published by Decipher Inc., or you collected the toys around the time of the 1997 Special Edition hype, you probably remember this guy. Here’s what a Klatooinian looked like in Return of the Jedi.

Barada; the OG Klatooinian from 'Return of the Jedi'
Barada; the OG Klatooinian from 'Return of the Jedi'

And, here’s what the Klatooinian look like in The Mandalorian.

A Klatooinian raider in 'The Mandalorian'
A Klatooinian raider in 'The Mandalorian'

And now, here’s the weird part. The “Klatooinians” are called Klatooinians as an homage to 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still. Quick refresher: that movie is about a flying saucer landing on Earth, a dude in a mask coming out with a giant robot, taking off his mask and telling everyone on Earth that war needs to be ended right away or bigger-deal alien powers are going to blow up the planet. Though he looks human, the guy making these gentle demands is called Klaatu and his giant robot enforcer is named Gort.

Klaatu tries to explain what's up in 'The Day the Earth Stood Still.'
Klaatu tries to explain what's up in 'The Day the Earth Stood Still.'

Now, Klaatu’s muscle, the giant robot Gort, can only be disarmed with the code phrase: “Klaatu Barada Nikto,” which will prevent him from using his death ray on everyone.

As you may have noticed, both the words “Klaatu” and “Barada” are here, and, if you know your deep-cut Jabba’s Palace lore, then you also know there’s a group of aliens called Nikto. They look like this.

A Nikto on the surface of Tatooine in 'Return of the Jedi'
A Nikto on the surface of Tatooine in 'Return of the Jedi'

So, yes, in Return of the Jedi, even though the words are never spoken, you have aliens named “Klaatu, Barada, and Nikto” as a big nod to The Day the Earth Stood Still. To be clear, the Klatooinians and the Nikto don’t look anything like anyone in The Day the Earth Stood Still, but those words have been embedded into expanded universe Star Wars lore for decades. The Klatooinians even made a few appearances in the prequels and the animated shows, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen them in anything new.

Finally, “Sanctuary” on The Mandalorian seems like it might be more than just a little bit aware of the strange DNA of old school sci-fi. Just as the climax of The Day the Earth Stood Still involves disarming a giant robot named Gort, this episode features Mando, Cara Dune and a group of villagers taking out what appears to be a mechanized AT-ST. And yes, while we’re familiar with how the Ewoks took out these walkers in Return of the Jedi, this episode makes the AT-ST dangerous again. Which, in a way, feels like people battling a giant robot.

Showrunner Jon Favreau may have been inspired by westerns for the basic plot of The Mandalorian, but with the Bryce Dallas-Howard-directed episode “Sanctuary,” it’s clear that the roots of the series also extend to classic science fiction from before the dawn of Lucasfilm.

It’s exciting to see the Star Wars universe enriched with these stories, but it’s also fantastic to see how The Mandalorian is hopping between genres faster than the Razor Crest can jump through hyperspace.


The Mandalorian is streaming now on Disney+.