Andor is so refreshing in part because it does not feel like the kind of Star Wars show that is going to drop everything, point at a familiar character arriving onto the scene, and go “look! Star War!” And yet, out of nowhere, this week’s thrilling episode dropped maybe one of the most absurdly deep-cut canonizations this era of Star Wars has ever seen.
“Aldhani” picks up quickly where Andor’s three-part premiere left off, as Cassian and Luthen race away from the planet Ferrix, and the latter just as quickly pushes the former into taking on a new mission on the titular planet. Before the two part ways, Luthen offers Cassian a reassurance—both a metaphorical down payment for the gig, and a request that he return back from it to deliver the “gift” in person. It’s a necklace, adorned with massive blue crystal: kyber, the crystalline resource vital to both the Jedi and Sith, and in Andor’s future, the superweapon systems of the Death Star. But it’s not the Kyber that’s the Easter egg here. It’s what Luthen tells Cassian about it.
“Blue kyber. Sky stone. The ancient world,” the man mutters, before adding “celebrates the uprising against the Rakatan invaders.”
Out of nowhere, Andor casually dropped the first Disney-era explicit reference to a deep, deep cut piece of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic lore. It’s the kind of thing, unlike Star Wars’ recent nostalgic, cameo-laden self-references, that will pass by most viewers completely. But for the people who know it, it’s an out of nowhere shock to your system.
The Rakata first appeared in the 2003 Bioware video game Knights of the Old Republic, a beloved Star Wars game that’s set to get a lavish remake (... at some point). An ancient race of cone-headed, fish-eyed aliens, it’s revealed that they are the architects behind the devastating weapon at the heart of KOTOR’s climactic act, the Star Forge—a massive automated factory-fortress that, channeling the power of a star and the Force itself, could endlessly churn out fleets and armies of droids to wage war with.
And when we say ancient, we mean ancient. KOTOR is set about 4,000 years before the Star Wars movies, and the Rakata were around almost 30,000 years before that. Believed to be the first species in the galaxy to develop hyperspace travel, the Rakata were masters of technological prowess to a point that would even be inconceivable in the “contemporary” time of Andor, let alone the time of their height in the status quo of the galaxy. But they weren’t just good with machines, the Rakata could wield the Force as well—having learned of its powers from a similarly ancient race called the Kwa, but ignoring their teachings of balance to only tap into the destructive power of the Dark Side—and what made their technology so powerful was a fusion between their mechanical ability and this spiritual one that fueled every aspect of Rakatan society.
But the Rakatans were also power-mad assholes, so they used this advanced tech and Force mastery to develop the Infinite Empire—a militaristic, galaxy-consuming imperial might that subjugated almost the entire known galaxy, from the core worlds to the outer rim. The Rakatans were cruel galactic masters, enslaving entire species to build their war engines, wiping out entire planetary ecosystems to terraform them as they saw fit, and eradicating any opposition to their rule almost immediately. The Infinite Empire ruled the galaxy for over 10,000 years with an iron grip... but it wasn’t exactly Infinite.
A combination of factors eventually toppled the Infinite Empire—laying the path for the foundation of the first Galactic Republic—but almost exterminated the Rakata entirely. The Star Forge itself actually played a part in that downfall, as it began to feed off of the Force within the Rakata, amplifying their aggressive tendencies to the point that a combination of slave world uprisings and in-faction rivalries gave way to a massive civil war. This was part of a one-two punch that finished off the Rakata: around 25,000 years before the events of the Star Wars movies, the species was hit with the outbreak of a deadly plague that didn’t just decimate the Rakatan people, but robbed them of their connection to the Force, making them incapable of using their own technology. Worlds in the Infinite Empire took advantage of the Rakatan’s weakness to rise up and expel them, eventually pushing them all the way back to their homeworld of Lehon. Even then, the Rakata couldn’t help but grasp for power, turning on the remnants of their own people and turning Lehon into a war-ravaged ruin of islands. The survivors fled underground, devolving into pockets of tribal civilizations over the centuries, until their once all-encompassing hold of the galaxy was all but forgotten.
Andor might be the first time that the Rakata have been explicitly name-checked on-screen, but it’s not actually the first time they’ve popped up in the Disney era of Star Wars’ rebooted canon. Bits and bobs of lore and details from across both Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel, The Sith Lords, have made their way into contemporary canon in the years since Disney acquired Lucasfilm, but for the Rakata and the Infinite Empire specifically, things have been much more obscure. The world Rakata Prime—not Lehon—was mentioned in the Force Awakens visual guide’s map of the known galaxy, while Lehon and the Rakata were noted as the first hyperspace-capable species in the galaxy in, of all things, a licensed model-making magazine to build the Millennium Falcon released in 2015. The species has also been mentioned in Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars roleplaying game sourcebooks, which have loose canonical validity.
The iconography of the Infinite Empire has also appeared on-screen, even if it was never directly identified as such. One of the treasures in Dryden Vos’ collection in Solo: A Star Wars Story is a small chest described in the film’s accompanying visual guide as a Wraith Box, a piece of Rakatan technology that appears in the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic. Meanwhile the symbol of the Infinite Empire—a shape akin to the hexagonal bipyramid structure of the Star Forge itself—has a teeny blink-and-you’ll miss it appearance in Star Wars Rebels’ second season. In the season finale “Twilight of the Apprentice,” which itself takes place on KOTOR II planet Malachor, Ezra, Ahsoka, and Kanan briefly walk past Sith ruins that feature the emblem of the Infinite Empire carved over all of them.
Absolutely nothing. And that’s great! Well, presumably Luthen still wants his necklace back after Cassian completes his job, but that’s about high as the stakes get in terms of this reference. The Rakata are long dead and gone by the time of Andor, so it’s not like they’re going to show up. Like we said earlier, this is the perfect kind of brief Star Wars indulgence—something that will fly over the head of a casual observer as just a piece of background fluff, but something that will have a very specific kind of Star Wars fan sending their eyebrows into the upper atmosphere.
And that’s just good. Not every Star Wars reference needs to be A Thing, or a prelude to even more explicit connections or ramifications. The galaxy far, far away is meant to be huge, and it can handle just having some texture for texture’s sake, while linking back to its long past. Someone got Stellan goddamn Skarsgård to say the word “Rakatan” on TV in 2022, and whether that either makes you want to travel back in time 20 years to blow your younger self’s brain wide open or means zilch to you even after it’s all been explained, that’s just neat. Nothing more, nothing less.
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