Another week, another seemingly insurmountable deep-space beast. Following up last week’s dragon-vanquishing, this week’s episode of Disney+’s The Mandalorian saw our titular hero along with Baby Yoda and a desperate frog-woman, face down an even scarier foe. And while this is the first time we’ve seen this particular creature in live-action format, it has a fascinating, 40-year history with the Star Wars franchise.
[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for The Mandalorian chapter 10 “The Passenger.”]
Ralph McQuarrie, one of the premiere visual development artists on the original Star Wars trilogy and one of the people most closely associated with establishing the “look” of the franchise, first created the spiders seen in The Mandalorian ahead of the release of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Back then, the creatures, which were dubbed “knobby white spiders,” were envisioned to face off against Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) while training with Yoda (Frank Oz) on Degobah. The piece of McQuarrie artwork painted was hugely evocative – the spider was hulking and grotesque and fit in with the nightmarish bog-landscape of Degobah.
What’s really cool is just how closely the creature resembles that original piece of artwork, down to the obelisk-style eggs, which brought to mind Alien spin-off/prequel Prometheus.
Canonically, the creature first appeared in Kevin J. Anderson’s Darksaber novel in 1995. (This novel has, like much of the expanded universe output, been erased from canon and now carries the “Legends” distinction.) Afterwards they appeared in several novels, comic books and videogames – most, if not all, of which have been erased from canon. Much later, the creatures entered the franchise properly by appeared on Star Wars Rebels, the computer animated series created by Dave Filoni (who executive produces The Mandalorian and who appears as a beleaguered X-Wing pilot in this week’s episode). Now dubbed krykna, these giant spiders were nasty and couldn’t be tamed by The Force. It’s worth noting that they also appear to be a species that could habit the outer rim planet of Batuu, where the events of the Disney Parks Star Wars land Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is set (wind-up versions of the spider are sold at the creature stand).
If the mysterious ice planet turns out to be Hoth, that could make for an even stronger connection to The Empire Strikes Back.