As Star Wars Brings Back Boba Fett, His Ship Name Might Be Left Behind

As Star Wars Brings Back Boba Fett, His Ship Name Might Be Left Behind

For decades, the infamous Firespray-31 of Boba Fett — and his father before him, Jango — has been known as the Slave 1. But as Boba himself is thrust back into the Star Wars spotlight, that name might not be coming with him, thanks to a policy that’s recently been made rather prominent itself.

Boba Fett’s return to the spotlight has been with us for a while now, as the character, who was revealed to have survived his Return of the Jedi encounter with the sarlacc, appeared in the second season of The Mandalorian last year. Now, as Boba prepares for his own spinoff Disney+ show in The Book of Boba Fett, and plays major roles in events like Marvel’s War of the Bounty Hunters, one of Star Wars most recognisable designs has returned to be a major force for the franchise’s other great love beyond its own continuity: toys

But that toyetic aspect of Boba — from a generation of would-be firing rocket packs all the way to the latest action figures — may have now revealed an aspect of the character’s history that might be on its way out, in one form or another. This past weekend, Lego revealed three new Star Wars playsets inspired by the second season of The Mandalorian: Moff Gideon’s Imperial cruiser, an Imperial transport Marauder speeder, and a new $US50 ($64) set based on Slave 1. Except it doesn’t carry that name.

Instead, the set was simply titled “Boba Fett’s Starship” — a name that sparked reporters at Star Wars and Lego sites Jedi News and Brickset, respectively, to ask Lego designers Jens Kronvold Frederiksen and Michael Lee Stockwell about the intentionality behind the name change. After all, sometimes Lego Star Wars sets receive title changes, either to avoid spoilers in advance of a project’s release, or sometimes due to legal issues — last year, a trademark dispute lead to the toymaker rebranding its Razor Crest playset as “The Mandalorian Bounty Hunter Transport” in European markets, for example.

Image: Lego
Image: Lego

But the name change for Slave 1 — which last received a Lego set under that name as part of the company’s celebration of 20 years of Star Wars Lego playsets in 2019 — is purportedly for a different reason altogether: a mandate from Disney to move away from the ship name in future branding. “We’re not calling it Slave I any more. This is Boba Fett’s Starship,” Stockwell told journalists after the reveal, with Frederiksen adding that the policy stretched beyond Lego itself. “Everybody is [changing the name]. It’s probably not something which has been announced publicly but it is just something that Disney doesn’t want to use any more.”

While slaves and slavery still exist as part of the Star Wars universe’s narrative (two examples that touch upon the subject matter: Anakin Skywalker’s backstory in The Phantom Menace, and The Bad Batch revisiting Clone Wars slaver villains the Zygerrians), distancing from the Slave 1 name in merchandise perhaps makes sense from Lucasfilm’s perspective. The awkwardness of it been the butt of a few jokes over the years, but now Boba Fett is once again a major player in Star Wars continuity, even more so than he was at the height of his Expanded Universe popularity perhaps, thanks to his return in The Mandalorian.

With his own live action series to come later this year (and, inextricably linked to Star Wars as always, the reams of merchandise that will come out of that show), having a starring hero’s — well, anti-hero’s — main vessel named Slave 1 is going to be problematic. It’s not the first time that Star Wars has tried to distance itself from “Slave” for branding purposes, either.

Princess Leia’s bikini costume from the opening act of Return of the Jedi has been referred to as “Slave Leia” for years, but back in 2015 there were reports that Disney was looking to push back from both the name and merchandise of Leia in the outfit, leading to commentary from Carrie Fisher herself. In the 2016 novel Bloodline, the moment is given a new name in the form of the title “Huttslayer,” a reference to a real-world push to rebrand the “Slave Leia” term.

As Star Wars Brings Back Boba Fett, His Ship Name Might Be Left Behind

While the news has drawn ire this weekend from certain groups of Star Wars fans — rallying around a tweet from Mark Anthony Austin, a VFX artist who physically portrayed Fett in material added to a single scene in the Special Edition of Star Wars: A New Hope — the move toward not directly referring to Slave 1 appears to have been in the works for as long as Boba’s planned return, to varying degrees.

The official site’s wiki-esque Star Wars databank, for example, refers to the ship as Slave 1 in the header, but in its URL as “Boba Fett’s Starship.” When the ship made its return alongside Boba in The Mandalorian episode “The Tragedy” last year, it was never explicitly referred to by its name despite making prominent appearances. Since then, further Star Wars material has been similarly half-and-half. The ongoing Marvel Star Wars comic event series, War of the Bounty Hunters, where the ship has appeared multiple times, refers to it exclusively as ‘[Boba’s] ship,’ while in last year’s Empire Strikes Back: From a Certain Point of View anthology, the ship is explicitly referred to as Slave I multiple times.

It’s also a move that’s been happening on Star Wars merchandise in the background even before Lego directly addressed it this past weekend with similarly mixed effect. Hasbro’s recent Star Wars: The Vintage Collection release of the ship refers to it as Slave 1 on packaging, as does a ShopDisney exclusive “Toybox” version of the vessel, while an upcoming model kit re-issue from MPC designates it “Boba Fett’s Starship.” In Topps’ digital Star Wars trading card app, cards based on pre-Mandalorian appearances of the vessel refer to it as Slave 1, while cards released more recently either use “the ship” terminology or dance around naming the vessel.

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For all the perceived furor around Lego’s discussion surrounding the ship as a new, active decision by Disney to change the name, it’s clear that while not only has this “policy” been in the works for a while, it’s also one that has not yet been definitively implemented one way or another. What’s unclear currently is if a canonical name change for the ship will appear down the line, or if Star Wars product will commit to dancing around Slave 1 as a title for the foreseeable future.

When Gizmodo reached out ahout the situation to Lego, Disney, and Lucasfilm — the latter specifically to discuss whether or not Slave 1 as a name would be retired narratively rather than just in Star Wars merchandising — the companies did not respond to multiple requests to comment. We’ll update this post if we hear more.

Whether this policy remains strictly limited to merchandise rather than Boba’s future narrative remains to be seen, but there’s not really a reason for Slave 1 to have its name in Disney’s version of Star Wars canon right now, anyway. In Legends continuity, Boba’s father, Jango, was sold into slavery as a young man following a battle with the Jedi on Galidraan, and named his second ship Slave I during the events of the video game Star Wars: Bounty Hunter when he acquired it chasing down a target during a prison riot, details of which have yet to be re-entered into the current continuity timeline.

And if they don’t, Boba could just as easily want to keep using the name in Book of Boba Fett, or change it out of a desire to make it his own, or honour his father some other way, having now reclaimed his family armour in The Mandalorian. Without that specific connection, Slave 1 just becomes a ship name, and those are hardly written in stone — not even on the toy boxes.

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