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In episode 1 of The Mandalorian we see inside Din Djarin’s (aka: “The Mandalorian”) ship and he’s carrying at least four bounty marks/targets who are frozen in carbonite as pictured below:

All of Dyn Jarren’s bounty marks I the cargo hold of his ship.

In fact we see an unnamed Mythrol — which Din Djarin just captured — get flash frozen on the spot.

But this is a bit confusing considering the seemingly improvised effort that was made in Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) to carbon freeze Han Solo as well as (potentially) carbon freeze Luke Skywalker as well.

From the way it was played out in The Empire Strikes Back it seems that nobody really trusts the carbon freezing of living creatures and even Boba Fett clearly expresses his concerns to Darth Vader when Han Solo is used as a test subject for this procedure.

“What if he doesn’t survive… He’s worth a lot to me…”

Considering the events of The Mandalorian happen five years after the events of Return of the Jedi — which itself take place about a year after the events of The Empire Strikes Back — did news about the usefulness of freezing living creatures in carbonite become common knowledge six years later in the Star Wars universe? Did news of Han Solo’s carbonate captivity in Jabba’s palace get out and suddenly it became a trendy/cool thing for bounty hunters to do?


Looking for in-universe, canonical explanations; not armchair speculation and theories. If none (currently) exist, legends explanation would suffice. Regardless, please provide references and context.

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    I thought using the improvised Cloud City chamber was risky because that equipment wasn't originally designed for use on people. That doesn't preclude the possibility of there being similar equipment elsewhere that was designed for use on people. – Harry Johnston Nov 25 '19 at 2:45
  • @HarryJohnston Perhaps you are right. But it would be interesting to know how this came to be in this series in 2019. – JakeGould Nov 25 '19 at 2:55
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    Bioware's Old Republic games also feature carbonite captivity like it's a common thing. While it's clearly was there because the Cloud City was a "mining" facility that used that way to conserve their export goods. – user28434 Nov 25 '19 at 15:16
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    I honestly never got the point of freezing someone in carbonite in the first place. I guess so they won't struggle, but I figure a simple sedative would be equally effective, and not leave you with a 2-ton block of solid material that requires special equipment to move around. – Darrel Hoffman Nov 27 '19 at 19:28
58

When Vader decides to use it, it's clear that the technology was not commonly used on people and fraught with risk. Lando's equipment was not designed to do this. Since Vader was ruthless, he wasn't afraid to take a risk in seeing if it would kill Han. From The Empire Strikes Back screenplay

LANDO: Lord Vader, we only use this facility for carbon freezing. If you put him in there, it might kill him.

VADER: I do not want the Emperor's prize damaged. We will test it... on Captain Solo.

Apparently Vader first used it himself, back when he was still a Jedi. From The Clone Wars: The Citadel

[Breaking into The Citadel] incorporates a plot devised by Anakin using reprogrammed battle droids led by R2-D2 to pilot a Class type B escort shuttle through the orbital defense lines, and the human and clone crew being frozen in carbonite to fool life form detectors

After the strike team is carbon-frozen, they are loaded onto the shuttle and transported to the Citadel. When the droid's ship reaches orbit above Lola Sayu, they are interrogated about their cargo by the Citadel's warden, Osi Sobeck, and his tactical droid, K2-B4. The ship and its cargo pass the scans, and land in a cavern near the Citadel, where the droids unload and thaw out the strike team.

There are two reasons why the technology would develop rapidly after this

  1. The Mandalorians have a tight-knit community (as we see in The Mandalorian). While it's unclear how closely aligned with them he was, Boba Fett would have had an opportunity to share this find with them.
  2. Jabba the Hutt clearly liked having his prisoner on display. Since the Hutts were frequent patrons of bounty hunters, it would have spread the news that this was a viable way to imprison bounty targets. From the Return of the Jedi screenplay

    JABBA: I will not give up my favorite decoration. I like Captain Solo where he is.

    Jabba laughs hideously and looks toward an alcove beside the throne. Hanging high, flat against the wall, exactly as we saw him last, is a carbonized HAN SOLO.

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    At the time of Han's carbonation, it had been performed enough times that they were familiar with 'hibernation sickness' (perhaps not always successfully). – Jeeped Nov 25 '19 at 3:35
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    C3PO also comments that "he should be perfectly safe, if he survives the freezing process". To me it always seemed like the ability to freeze people with carbonite was already understood (as were its hibernation sickness side effects), but the machine in question is normally used to freeze gas, not people. They simply weren't certain if they could use this specific machine to freeze people. – Theik Nov 25 '19 at 7:19
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    Not to mention that the frame into which Han is frozen is suspiciously humanoid-sized. If it was only meant for the industrial storage and transport of gas, it could be any size, but instead it's just right for surrounding a creature of about human size. – anaximander Nov 25 '19 at 13:44
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    Pretty good answer except Jango/Boba Fett weren't Mandalorian - per S2 of The Clone Wars series – NKCampbell Nov 25 '19 at 15:10
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    It's worth noting that whilst Vader knew carbonite freezing could work from the clone wars, he didn't know if it would work at that specific facility in cloud city, which wasn't designed for living beings. The fact a number of individuals know of it's effects and outcomes suggests carbonite freezing has been done before on living beings, just not at that specific facility. – SSight3 Nov 26 '19 at 1:12
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It is possible that the action of carbon freezing a human is well known through the galaxy and the point Lando was trying to make was that the equipment in Cloud City was not designed to freeze a living creature.

This would answer the paradox between it being seen to have happened at other times and Lando’s hesitance to confirm his own equipment is capable of freezing a living being. If you generally need specialist equipment to safely freeze a living creature and keep it alive then trying to do the same thing in an industrial unit not built for that would add some risk.

  • 1
    You are aware that The Mandalorian takes place after the original trilogy right? (see here). – TheLethalCarrot Nov 25 '19 at 12:22
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    my point is that Carbon Freezing may well be something that happened before and after we saw Han being frozen. So seeing 4 beings being frozen in Carbonite as per the question might be a regular thing to see in some places. Lando's hesitance may be more to do with the equipment being used rather then the procedure itself. IN fact we know it has happened before, from Clone Wars – Richard C Nov 25 '19 at 12:25
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    Can you provide any context for this past speculation? I am looking for in-universe, canonical explanations; not armchair speculation and theories. If none (currently) exist, legends explanation would suffice. Regardless, please provide references and context. – JakeGould Nov 25 '19 at 14:51
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    I don't believe there is any explanation, either in-universe, or from writers/directors etc so the best you will get for this currently are speculation and theories. I have based mine off the fact that in universe there are at least 2 cases of Carbon Freezing being used that predate the events in Empire suggesting that in universe this is not the first time it has been done (Darth Vadar himself as Anakin took part in one of these). So that then leaves having to guess as to the reasons for Lando's statement. – Richard C Nov 25 '19 at 15:48
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    @J.Wagner: You're inverting the sequence of events. Lando's hesitation was about Luke potentially not surviving the process, and in response to that, Vader decides to use Han as a guinea pig. – Flater Nov 26 '19 at 14:03
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Looking for in-universe, canonical explanations; not armchair speculation and theories. If none (currently) exist, legends explanation would suffice. Regardless, please provide references and context.

From the way it was played out in The Empire Strikes Back it seems that nobody really trusts the carbon freezing of living creatures and even Boba Fett clearly expresses his concerns to Darth Vader when Han Solo is used as a test subject for this procedure.

Current canon doesn't say much at all about freezing people in carbonite. But, since we can include legends, then I will be using the (legends) Wookiepedia entries on “Carbonite” and “Carbonite gun” as sources for all mentions of carbonite freezing throughout this answer.

There are several references to carbonite freezing of sentient beings:

  1. I-5YQ: Voluntarily. Survived
  2. Lorn Pavan: Voluntarily. Survived
  3. Anakin Skywalker: Voluntarily. Survived
  4. Han Solo: Involuntarily. Survived
  5. Savage Opress: Involuntarily. Survived
  6. Sintas Fel: Involuntarily. Suvived
  7. Antares Draco: Involuntarily. Survived
  8. Numerous mostly un-named individuals (some Jedi) by Natasi Daala: Involuntarily. Survived

In fact, what's difficult to find is a reference to somebody actually dying from carbonite freezing. I'm sure that it happened somewhere, but I found no such reference.

Many people, especially those frozen involuntarily, did report moderate to severe temporary side effects, but even people who are frozen by the most uncontrolled and/or wacky use of carbonite seem to always survive.

The Empire Strikes Back dialogue doesn’t make much sense if you only consider the history of carbonite freezing. Anakin Skywalker, a.k.a. Darth Vader, is questioning the safety of a procedure that he himself voluntarily underwent and survived?

It only makes sense if you also consider two key points from that situation:

  1. The carbonite chamber in question is used for one purpose, and that's not freezing organic material. This is mentioned explicitly by Lando.
  2. Both of the subjects are considered extremely high-value. Vader values Luke and Fett values Solo (also explicit statements.) Even a low probability risk is worth mentioning when such high consequences are associated with any problems.

Therefore, the Empire Strikes Back dialogue seems to reflect concern about an unlikely but disastrous possibility, not a concern about a common possibility.

On to the second part of the question.

Considering the events of The Mandalorian happen five years after the events of Return of the Jedi — which itself take place about a year after the events of The Empire Strikes Back — did news about the usefulness of freezing living creatures in carbonite become common knowledge six years later in the Star Wars universe? Did news of Han Solo’s carbonate captivity in Jabba’s palace get out and suddenly it became a trendy/cool thing for bounty hunters to do?

Carbonite freezing is ancient. It was the successor technology to colony ships, and was actively used as a weapon during the Clone Wars. The earliest reference I can find is 980 BBY, when a carbonite gun is considered for use in subduing Darth Bane. It's been around in portable, weaponized form for over a millenium by the time of your question's setting.

There aren’t any references to bounty hunters specifically using carbonite, but it’s apparent that carbonite is commonplace. A carbonite insert is even a common component of a hyperdrive.

Therefore, it is not surprising in any way that bounty hunters might be using carbonite if they find it convenient.

  • Great answer, although I do have a slight nitpick. Natasi Daala only ever had four Jedi imprisoned in carbonite, and all four were named. The hundreds of others she had secreted away weren't Jedi - they were political prisoners, dissidents, and other "embarrassments" she wanted out of sight. Essentially, Daala saw carbonite as a convenient, low-maintenance method of storing prisoners. – Omegacron Nov 27 '19 at 18:06
2

Your question can be answered by assuming that some or even many bounties are paid upon delivery regardless of subject's condition (Wanted, Dead OR Alive). Carbonite freezing would preserve the bounty subject, prevent it from rotting, and minimize escape attempts, housing, and feeding problems present with live prisoners. Unless the bounty specifically rewards better for a living target, most bounty hunters just wouldn't care if the subject survived or not.

To read about an early example of such activity by a powerful, non-fictional government, read about the ancient Roman practice of proscription here.

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    Sorry, but I am am looking for in-universe, canonical explanations; not armchair speculation and theories. If none (currently) exist, legends explanation would suffice. Regardless, please provide references and context. – JakeGould Nov 25 '19 at 14:50
  • HAN: "Over my dead body." - GREEDO: "That's the idea." - Why doesn't Greedo shoot on sight, or the Mandalorian freeze little Yoda? : "... proof of termination is also acceptable for a lower fee." – Mazura Nov 28 '19 at 1:42
1

Perhaps the bounty hunter simply doesn't care if the target dies some of the time. The pros outweigh the cons:

  • For example, maybe the contract is to capture the mark "dead or alive". In that case bringing the target back frozen is still a great way to prove that the contract was fulfilled.

  • Frozen prisoners are very convenient. The bounty hunter doesn't have to worry about feeding and securing prisoners that are frozen. The convenience outweighs a few dead targets here and there.

  • Chance of survival is probably "good enough" for a bounty hunter going through a lot of targets.

    **Bear in mind that for Vader to have even tried this in the first place, there must have been some precedent set beforehand. It is not too crazy to assume that some ruthless and unsavory types throughout the galaxy would have tried this first, though it was probably not too common.

Out of universe: This is probably just an oversight. The newer media has generally tried to make call-backs to past material, and this was probably just another case of that (with some mistakes, which is also pretty common in the newer media).

  • 1
    Sorry, but I am am looking for in-universe, canonical explanations; not armchair speculation and theories. If none (currently) exist, legends explanation would suffice. Regardless, please provide references and context. – JakeGould Nov 25 '19 at 14:50
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    the out of universe comment is what got my downvote. Lucasfilm Story Group oversees continuity between all new media and is why all new stuff is canon (comics, books, tv, etc...) and Dave Filoni is deeply invovled in Mando and his knowledge of the SW universe (not to mention his access to Lucas during making of the Clone Wars series), it is laughable to say that people involved don't know the material. Are you sure you didn't mean CBS and Star Trek? – NKCampbell Nov 25 '19 at 15:09
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    @NKCampbell yeah... they have been doing a great job so far /s. I personally think that the Out of Universe bit is astonishingly accurate. – IT Alex Nov 25 '19 at 15:15
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    Just because you don't like what they are doing, it's unfair and flatly inaccurate to say they aren't familiar with the material is all I'm saying – NKCampbell Nov 25 '19 at 15:17
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The Clone Wars TV series is canon. I’m currently watching them for the first time, but in the series several Jedi along with several clone troopers freeze themselves in carbonite to get past scanners when they go and rescue another Jedi. So it is a known thing. When they did it in Cloud City the equipment was not meant for it hence the risk.

  • 1
    Sorry, but can you provide more citations than simply, “The Clone Wars TV series is canon. I’m currently watching them for the first time…” It doesn’t seem to me your answer really adds anything new to answers that already exist and is basically a comment. – JakeGould Nov 26 '19 at 1:29
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Tha Mandalorian takes place about 5 years after the events of 'Return of the Jedi'. Han Solo was frozen in Carbonite during 'The Empire Strikes back'. While the movie canon is not clear on how much time passed between TESB and ROTJ, it is usually estimated that about 1 to 2 years might have passed between the two films. Therefore, if the Mandalorian does take place 5 years after ROTJ as the series creator mentioned, I would say 6 to 7 years is more than enough time for the technology to be 'certified for use on humanoid lifeforms'.

On the subject that Carbonite was first tested in TESB, it has been alluded in canon (and non canon) sources that most of the technology in use throughout Star Wars remained mostly unchanged throughout tens thousands of years (talk about unrealistic technological stagnation), and that light sabers for example were invented during a more 'civilised era' (which could imply an era of relative prosperity, cooperation and technological breakthroughs in comparison to later ones). So, for all we know, freezing people in Carbonite may have been a common practice at some point (for what purposes, I cannot begin to guess - perhaps similar to stasis for long duration space flights, or surviving inhospitable environments until they changed to more suitable ones) which was simply... forgotten for the most part... or some knew that it was possible for complex lifeforms such as humanoids to be frozen in carbonite, but the contemporary people didn't know the specifics nor had the technical data on how to proceed (so they knew the technology was doable, but had to re-invent it for all intense and purposes) However, that's unverified speculation and it could have been that during TESB the technology was indeed first being tested for humanoid use (ever).

I still think its possible that because 5 years passed since ROTJ, the technology could have been improved to the point where it wasn't a matter of chance if the person frozen in carbonite would survive, but a certainty.

  • 1
    Sorry, but I am am looking for in-universe, canonical explanations; not armchair speculation and theories. If none (currently) exist, legends explanation would suffice. Regardless, please provide references and context. Also, I clearly state in the question: “Considering the events of The Mandalorian happen five years after the events of Return of the Jedi — which itself take place about a year after the events of The Empire Strikes Back — did news about the usefulness of freezing living creatures in carbonite become common knowledge six years later in the Star Wars universe?” – JakeGould Nov 25 '19 at 23:20
  • What speculation? Freezing people in Carbonite is apparently a practice in The Mandalorian. My point is that even if the technology was used on humanoid species for the first time in TESB in an experimental/test manner like its implied it was used to freeze Solo, 6 years after that would be more than enough time to 'certify' it for use on other humanoid races and to be employed as a 'common practice'. – Deks Nov 26 '19 at 1:11
  • Again “I am am looking for in-universe, canonical explanations; not armchair speculation and theories. If none (currently) exist, legends explanation would suffice. Regardless, please provide references and context.” Also, when you say, “I still think its possible that because 5 years passed since ROTJ, the technology could have been improved to the point where it wasn't a matter of chance if the person frozen in carbonite would survive, but a certainty.” That is speculation. – JakeGould Nov 26 '19 at 1:28
-1
  1. In The Empire Strikes Back, they are just testing it, so it is relatively new
  2. The Mandalorian is in the void area of time between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, so technology improves
  • Sorry, but I am am looking for in-universe, canonical explanations; not armchair speculation and theories. If none (currently) exist, legends explanation would suffice. Regardless, please provide references and context. – JakeGould Nov 25 '19 at 18:28
  • Hi user123639, welcome to the site. Your answer could be improved by citing sources. You may want to take the tour: scifi.stackexchange.com/tour – Raj Nov 26 '19 at 17:09

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