There’s something very wrong with the above picture. A lot of people won’t notice, or care, but I’ve spent a lot more time in the Star Wars universe than most people. There are wheels on these vehicles. Vehicles don’t have wheels in the galaxy far, far away. They walk, hover, or fly. In fact, there are exceptionally few wheels in all of Star Wars.
Here are all of the wheels I can think of in the Star Wars universe. If I miss any, please let me know. First, there are astromechs and mouse droids. At least that’s the easy assumption. If I were to build something on Earth that moved like they move, I would use wheels. But, we never see the wheels. And, with the kind of wheels that wouldn’t be visible on the bottom of his feet, how could R2-D2 possibly move around in the sands of Tatooine or the forest of Endor’s moon with all the roots and branches everywhere? It’s entirely possible that the astromechs and mouse droids use some other technology to move around. I like to think that’s the case. Still, we’ll list them as maybe having wheels.
Chopper from Rebels definitely has a wheel. He periodically careens around on it knocking over storm troopers like bowling pins. I’ve never liked Chopper’s wheel, as I’ll explain a bit later. But, I can justify it. Chopper is old and outdated. He’s cobbled together from spare parts and junk. The wheel was a “make do” solution that Hera used after she rescued Chopper. It wasn’t part of his design and is part of what makes him unique.
In fact, there are lots of things that roll in Star Wars without being or having wheels. Droidekas from the prequels roll without wheels. Their entire bodies roll. Ball droids from the (ugh) sequels also roll, but again, it’s their round bodies rolling, not because they have wheels.
When it comes to vehicles, there are only two things that are close. In Revenge of the Sith, Grievous rides in a doughnut-like cart. But I’m not sure it qualifies as a wheel. It’s more like a moving track on the outside of a hoop. The hoop doesn’t rotate around a center like a wheel does. There’s no axel. It looks similar to a wheel, but it’s really different technology. And the Jawas’ sand-crawlers move on tracks. Aside from walkers, they’re the only two vehicles that even touch the ground when they move.
That is until Chapter 15 of The Mandalorian – The Believer. In this episode, the rhydonium transports clearly have ten wheels, as you can see in the above picture. Every shot of the transports felt wrong to me. And they tried to add tension by making it so that if they drove too fast, and jostled the rhydonium too much, it would explode. It doesn’t make sense. With hover technology so prevalent, why would something so volatile have to bump along the ground?
That’s not what really bothered me about it, though. It felt like a mistake to me because wheels are simply not part of the Star Wars aesthetic. They ride bikes, but the bikes don’t have wheels. They drive cars, but the cars don’t have wheels. They transport soldiers and materials in walkers. Even Cliegg Lars’ wheelchair doesn’t have wheels.
I don’t think there’s any deep meaning behind the lack of wheels in Star Wars, but I like it as an aesthetic choice. It adds to the alien-ness of everything. It helps make its world its own, with unique technology, a unique history. Putting wheels on a rhydonium transport is like having the elves of Lothlorien bake cookies with fudge stripes on them.
I understand that anything that’s been around for 40+ years with as many different people involved in running things is bound to have some aberrations creep in. I still like The Mandalorian. But, Jon Favreau (@Jon_Favreau), Dave Filoni (@dave_filoni), Ben Last (@BenjaminJLast), and Kathleen Kennedy, what do we have to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?