September 19, 2016 – Where did Kylo Ren get his name from?
A year-old discussion forum has raised the possibility that an animated character called Kybo Ren, from the 1985 television series Droids, has somehow influenced the naming of Adam Driver’s conflicted character. But first, some background:
Who Is Kybo Ren?
The animated television series, Star Wars: Droids: The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO, ran for only one season in 1985, producing 13 episodes. Droids features the exploits of C-3PO and R2-D2, who face off against various gangsters, pirates, Boba Fett, IG-88, the Galactic Empire and other villains. Droids takes place between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, thus making the 1985 series one of the first true prequels.
You can watch the complete series on YouTube, or purchase the 2004 DVD release, entitled Star Wars Animated Adventures: Droids.
We first meet Kybo Ren, a short and squat space pirate, in episode 7, “The Pirates of Tarnoonga” (first aired 19 October 1985). Captain Kybo Ren-Cha hijacks a ship with a valuable fuel shipment, whose passengers include Jann, Jessica and the two droids. They are captured and taken to the water planet Tarnoonga. C-3PO, R2-D2 and Jann attempt to re-capture the fuel shipment and rescue Jessica from the lascivious advances of Captain Kybo Ren.
Kybo Ren stars in the next episode, No. 8, entitled “The Revenge of Kybo Ren” (first aired 26 October 1985). He escapes and kidnaps Gerin, the daughter of Lord Toda, Mon Julpa’s political rival. The two droids as well as Jann and Jessica follow Kybo Ren to the planet Bogden to rescue Gerin before Mon Julpa is handed over in exchange. However, the tables are turned when Mon Julpa reveals Lord Toda and a squad of Tammuz-an soldiers smuggled aboard the pirate’s own ship. Kybo Ren is sent back to prison and an alliance is forged between Mon Julpa and Lord Toda.
So here are some arguments, both FOR and AGAINST, as to why the two names may or may not be linked:
Reasons Why the “Kybo Ren” and “Kylo Ren” Names (if not the Characters) Are Intentionally Linked:
1. Homage: Star Wars has a well-known history of planting visual and aural easter eggs throughout its films. And we’re not just talking about the well-worn phrase, “I have a bad feeling about this”, in all seven live-action Star Wars films.
For example, the number 1138 is used over and over again (full usage list HERE) in Star Wars films, video games, books and various other George Lucas projects. The number honors Lucas’s first film, THX 1138.
It is plausible, therefore, that either JJ Abrams or Lawrence Kasdan, who both co-wrote the script for The Force Awakens, would have borrowed Kybo Ren’s name, changed a letter, and introduced “Kylo Ren” – a subtle nod to the 1985 character.
Moreover, JJ Abrams (born in 1966) readily admits that he is a big Star Wars fan. He was 19 years old when Droids was first televised in 1985, so there is a fair possibility that he was exposed to the animated series. How fitting it would be to pay homage by slyly slipping in a character’s sound-alike name into The Force Awakens.
2. History of Borrowing: There is a history of recycling names from earlier Star Wars works. Turning to Droids again, we first hear of “Boonta” and a “speeder racing event” in episode 4, “A Race to the Finish” (premiered 28 September 1985). In the Droids episode, Boonta is the name of the planet.
George Lucas recycled the name Boonta in The Phantom Menace (1999), giving rise to the “Boonta Eve Classic Podrace”. The annual podrace is held on Tatooine in and around the Grand Arena in Mos Espa. The event was held by the Hutt Clan to commemorate the holiday Boonta Eve.
So if George Lucas can borrow the name “Boonta” from Droids, it is not a stretch to see JJ Abrams borrow and modify the name of “Kybo Ren” and transplant it to The Force Awakens.
3. The Lucasfilm Story Group: Names and story lines in the Star Wars universe are not haphazardly thrown together. To prevent conflicts and inconsistencies, the Lucasfilm Story Group, a division of Lucasfilm Ltd, was created in 2013. LSG determines what is canon and ensures that there is a cohesive continuity across all media – film, novels, comics, video games and so on.
LSG maintains a vast database of names (planets, characters, vehicles, weapons, etc.) along with background stories. It is inconceivable, therefore, that “Kylo Ren” (2015) would not have been cross-checked against “Kybo Ren” (1985) for any conflicts and confusion.
Even if the names arose coincidentally, LSG would surely have alerted the writers and producers of The Force Awakens as to the sound-alike names. And, we surmise, JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan would have winked at LSG and said, “We know”.
Reasons Why the Two Names Are NOT Linked or Related At All:
1. Mere Coincidence: It has been said that given enough time, a room full of monkeys randomly banging away at their keyboards would eventually (though unintentionally) type out the manuscript for Shakespeare or the Bible. This is the nature of probabilities.
Kybo Ren and Kylo Ren are short names consisting of three syllables. If you divided the monkeys into two rooms, how long would it take them to come up with the two sound-alike names? The answer is: A lot shorter period of time than it would take to type up the Bible. This is the law of coincidence.
2.The Two Characters and Their Storylines Have No Similarities: Just because two names sound alike does not mean they have anything in common. For example, no one would confuse Jimmy Dean (the spicy sausage) with James Dean (the dead actor). Similarly, it would be misleading to say that Kylo Ren and Kybo Ren are somehow tied together, just because their names sound alike.
3. “Kylo Ren” Is Not a Name: In an August, 2015, interview with Entertainment Weekly, JJ Abrams revealed that Kylo Ren isn’t the character’s true name or the name he was born with. Just as “Darth” is not a name, but a title; so, too, “Ren” is not a surname. JJ said, “He is a character who came to the name Kylo Ren when he joined a group called the Knights of Ren.”
4. “Kybo Ren” Is Not a True Name Either: Kybo Ren’s full name is Gir Kybo Ren-Cha. According to Wookiepedia: “The character was only called Kybo Ren-Cha in Droids; his full name was revealed in the second edition of A Guide to the Star Wars Universe in 1994.”
Thus it is a false equivalency to say that Kylo Ren and Kybo Ren must be somehow intrinsically linked because of their coincidental names. The argument falls apart when we acknowledge that both characters’ oft-used names are not their true names at all.
So which is it: Coincidence or intentional linkage? Until someone directly asks JJ Abrams, we don’t really know.
And if you do manage to confront JJ, please also ask him about the “Rey” lookalike character in Droids. That image opens up another debate and really bothers us. But we’ll leave that discussion for another day.