With The Mandalorian Season 2 all wrapped up, it sounds fitting for me to now spotlight the show’s first recurring character with a West Asian actor. Beginning all the way back in Chapter 1: “The Mandalorian”, Iranian-American Omid Abtahi portrays Dr. Pershing, Moff Gideon’s go-to “cloning engineer”. The actor marks a carryover from another Star Wars TV show, having previously voiced Cadet Amis on The Clone Wars. Across the first two Mandalorian seasons, four different directors – Dave Filoni, Deborah Chow, Carl Weathers, and Peyton Reed – helmed Pershing’s scenes, all from episodes penned by Jon Favreau. Arguably The Mandalorian‘s most frequently-appearing male Asian-American cast member, Omid Abtahi, and Favreau, have given the doctor an impression that seems conniving, but not ruthless.
A long time ago…
Dr. Pershing initially comes off as merely the Client (Werner Herzog)’s timid lackey, accompanying the Client as he assigns Din Djarin with hunting down Grogu. Chapters 1: “The Mandalorian” and 3: “The Sin” have the Client and Pershing disagree a few times over whether or not to destroy Grogu, with Pershing reinforcing a not-yet-named Moff Gideon’s orders to deliver him alive. When “The Sin” sends Din on a self-imposed mission to rescue Grogu from Imperial experimentation, Din spares Pershing after the scientist stammers that he defended the Child from death at the Client’s hands. Demure Pershing doesn’t seem to have become one of the most popular Mandalorian characters; I didn’t think much of him until his concern for “Baby Yoda”‘s life put his motivations and morality into question. In any case, when Disney+ posted the trailer for The Mandalorian Season 2, the since-deleted page listed Omid Abtahi among Pedro Pascal’s returning co-stars.
Halfway through Season 2, Chapter 12: “The Siege” provides a holographic cameo from Dr. Pershing. While hacking an Imperial laboratory’s computer, Mythrol uncovers a three day-old message from Pershing to Moff Gideon. The message reveals to Din Djarin and his friends that Din failed to kill Gideon in Chapter 8: “Redemption”, and that the Moff requires Grogu’s midichlorians for some kind of cloning experiment.
When “The Siege” dropped, it felt kind of relieving to learn that Gideon didn’t destroy Pershing after losing the Child, unlike what happened to the Client in Chapter 7: “The Reckoning”. Pershing’s message doesn’t mark the first time the show confirms Gideon’s survival to the viewers, but it does help detail why he keeps ordering captures of Grogu. My relief at seeing the doctor alive felt tempered by the thought of him draining Grogu’s blood for his experiments; it made his efforts to “protect” the Child in “The Sin” feel less noble. Still, he mentions that after running out of midichlorians, he suspended the cloning project to protect his volunteer from a “regrettable fate”. Relatively speaking, it sounds like Pershing values life more than the trigger-happy Gideon does.
Dr. Pershing would finally re-appear in person in Chapter 16: “The Rescue”. As the episode opens on Imperial pilots transporting Dr. Pershing to Moff Gideon, Din Djarin and his team essentially hijack their flight, in preparation for their rescue of Grogu from Gideon. After the team picks up Bo-Katan Kryze and Koska Reeves as their final members, Pershing helps plan Grogu’s rescue, without a prompt. The captive doctor reveals where on Gideon’s light cruiser Din could find the Child, and where and when Gideon will unleash the Dark Troopers. Pershing’s intel does help reunite Din’s clan, but only after Din overcomes a swarm of Dark Troopers – with help from a code cylinder Fennec Shand takes from Pershing – and Gideon himself.
Dr. Pershing’s reasons for guiding Din to Grogu remain open to interpretation. The likeliest one I can think of concerns Pershing’s need to remain on his captors’ good side. I’ve also considered the chance that he intends to land Din in Gideon’s grasp. However, this would imply that Pershing doubts Din’s chances of overcoming whoever would try to stop him from reaching Grogu. Even if Pershing has a selfish reason for assisting with the rescue, it does sound like a relatable reason, and ensures his contribution to the plot.
Dr. Pershing defies description: An Imperial-aligned scientist who doesn’t willingly kill; a soft-spoken weakling who evades elimination from the Mandalorian. Asian actors rarely land heroic roles in the Star Wars movies, and when I asked one of my Fil-Am friends – who’s loved Star Wars for longer than I have – to help me find a male example, neither of us could recall one who doesn’t die. By these standards, it impresses that Omid Abtahi would land a character with hazy morals, rather than outright evil ones. Each of Pershing’s appearances across the first two Mandalorian seasons, whether in person or as a hologram, helps ensure Grogu’s safety in some manner. If the thought of two Star Wars cast members from Asian countries conversing in complete sentences sounds exciting, Abtahi and Ming-Na Wen accomplish that when Pershing and Fennec discuss the Dark Troopers. “The Rescue” never specifies what happens to Pershing after Grogu’s would-be saviors land in Gideon’s light cruiser, but hopefully he again proves important – even if Season 3 drastically shifts the show’s premise.
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