- "For every bounty hunter that can do the job, there are a thousand more who think they can."
- ―Crime lord saying
Rango Tel was a particularly dim-witted Human male who hailed from the Outer Rim planet Sernpidal. Growing up as a street ruffian, an instance of pure and utter luck led him to believe that it was his life's calling to become a bounty hunter. Defeating a drunkard in an unruly bar brawl, Tel ended up collecting a bounty he never pursued and winning the allegiance of the Pa'lowick smuggler Aneesa Dym. With Dym at his side, Tel set out into the galaxy in the starship Dusty Duck and was quickly swindled into wearing an inappropriate vac-exposure suit that he believed was Mandalorian armor, consequently earning the derisive nickname "Tank Head."
Calling upon a contact from his youth, the racketeer Orin Nyell, Tel was given his first bounty: the Fluggrian Kam Nale, whose family threatened Nyell's smuggling operations on Ploo IV. Eager to make a name for himself in the bounty hunting trade, Tel set off with Dym to track down Nale, eventually locating him on Tatooine. The Fluggrian had involved himself with the local podracing circuit in Mos Espa, leading Tel to corner him in an alley shortly before the commencement of the Boonta Eve Classic. Having placed too much faith in the protective abilities of his vac-exposure suit, Tel was gunned down by Nale, bringing an abrupt halt to the short-lived Sernpidal native's career.
Born and raised on the Outer Rim world of Sernpidal, the Human male Rango Tel lived his young life as a disenfranchised street ruffian in the planet's slums. During his youth, Tel was involved with the local racketeer Orin Nyell, and did a few odd jobs for him. After several years, as a young man, he was drawn into a cantina brawl where he inadvertently incapacitated a patron with a bounty on their head for the murder of Pa'lowick smuggler Neeamesh Dym. Though Tel had initially been unaware of the bounty, he ultimately decided to claim it and began to believe that it was his destiny to enter the bounty hunter profession. The client was Neeamesh Dym's daughter, Aneesa, but unfortunately for Tel she had already spent all of her savings pursuing the killer across the galaxy. As an alternative to payment, Aneesa Dym offered Tel both her father's freighter, the Dusty Duck, and her services as the ship's pilot as he embarked on his new career as a ruthless bounty hunter. Tel accepted, eager to pursue his career away from Sernpidal—as the partnership commenced, Dym became smitten with her new Human companion.
When it came to inspiration for Tel's new image as a bounty hunter to be feared in the criminal underworld, he drew from the iconography of the Mandalorians, specifically the Basilisk war droid-riding warriors who had served Mandalore the Indomitable against the Galactic Republic, rather than the pacifist New Mandalorians who had recently ascended to power on Mandalore following the Great Clan Wars. Hoping to secure his own set of Mandalorian armor, Tel traveled to Feriae Junction, and came across a junk dealer of ill-repute and sought to purchase equipment for his new endeavor. Based on the direct request for Mandalorian armor, the junk dealer doubted Tel's intelligence. Passing off a vac-exposure suit as the genuine article, the dealer gleaned a handsome sum from Tel, and Tel, due to his ungainly appearance, earned the nickname "Tank Head." He did not realize that the nickname was meant to be insulting.
Eager to begin work, Tel called upon his old contact, Orin Nyell, and hoped to gain patronage in his bounty hunting career. Nyell, who was either sympathetic to Tel or humoring him for his own amusement, gave "Tank Head" a mark: Kam Nale, a Fluggrian whose father, Borzu had competed with Nyell on the spinward world of Ploo IV, specifically around the racketeer's water smuggling operation. Borzu had recently been assassinated by the Glymphid Aldar Beedo, and Nyell feared that Kam would take over his late father's business. Tel, eager to impress, accepted the job.
The hunt for Kam Nale
With Aneesa Dym in tow, Tel began tracking Nale. As Nale had no desire to follow in his father's footsteps and enter into illegality, he used a series of aliases to elude capture and death, evading Tel for months. Although Tel eventually learned that Nale had no ill intent toward his employer, he persisted, locating Nale—or "Elan Mak," the pseudonym that Nale was operating under—on the Outer Rim world of Tatooine in 32 BBY. "Mak" was to participate in the Boonta Eve Classic podrace, and it was there that Tel hoped to corner and kill Nale.
Leaving Dym behind to oversee repairs to the Dusty Duck, Tel set off into the city of Mos Espa in search of his mark. During his search, Tel wandered into the Poodoo Lounge and attended the Pre-Boonta Concert featuring podracer Boles Roor in the hopes that "Elan Mak" would show. After hunting for several days, Tel arrived at the Boonta Eve Classic early, in the hopes of finally achieving something for the first time in his life. Tel was able to corner Nale in a back alley, hoping to kill the elusive Fluggrian and claim his second bounty. Tel placed his faith in his faux-Mandalorian armor, believing that it would protect him against any retaliation in the inevitable quick-draw duel between him and Kame Nale. However, Nale was too fast, his heavy blaster pistol making short work of Tel and his substandard equipment. Tel was killed before his career had even begun, and Nale walked away unscathed, continuing to podrace under the "Elan Mak" alias. Dym never learned of Tel's fate, as she was murdered shortly after by the Sith Lord Darth Maul in an unrelated incident. Tel's attempted hit on Nale did have its repercussions, however–the Fluggrian, more cautious after the attack, returned to Ploo IV and took up his father's mantle as Nyell had feared.
Personality and traits
Rango Tel stood 1.7 meters tall and had fair skin. He grew up in a harsh environment, living as a street ruffian on Sernpidal who was prone to violence. Tel originally had no desire to become a bounty hunter, and it was sheer happenstance that caused him to decide upon his career. He also lacked prior knowledge going into the bounty hunter trade, and was of the belief that Mandalorian armor was easy to come by. Tel's ignorance led him to pay a copious amount of credits for a suit that was clearly not of Mandalorian make. Not only clueless, he was additionally overconfident, in that he thought himself capable of murdering Kam Nale. That overconfidence, however, proved to be his fatal weakness. Particularly dim-witted, Tel did not realize that the nickname "Tank Head" was an insulting one, and could not pick up when the racketeer Orin Nyell was toying with him.
Although he lacked the requisite skill to succeed as a bounty hunter, Tel did enjoy a streak of luck, not only being able to call on a contact from his youth in Nyell to give rise to his prospective bounty hunting career, but also in chancing upon his first quarry in a drunken brawl, without even realizing what he was doing. Tel also understood, to a degree, the importance of image in the bounty hunting trade, drawing upon the imposing and intimidating elements of the defunct Mandalorian warrior culture, without having the proper understanding of how to execute such an image.
Relationship with Aneesa Dym
During his brief bounty hunting career, Tel worked alongside the pilot Aneesa Dym. When her father was fatally stabbed by a dissatisfied customer, Aneesa Dym relentlessly hunted the murderer, although she also placed a bounty on his head. The bounty was claimed by Tel, and as a result, Dym fell in love with the Sernpidal citizen. Together they pursued Tel's one and only bounty, Kam Nale, in the Dusty Duck, with Dym providing her services as a pilot of her late father's ship. Their relationship persisted until 32 BBY, when both perished on the same day in unrelated killings.
Behind the scenes
- "Other than that, my submission is almost entirely intact. My only regret is that I told so much of Tel's story; there's not much chance of him cropping up somewhere in the EU. But at the same time, his story couldn't really be told if he had survived it; part of his character was that he had to die on this first bounty hunting mission. So I guess I'll just keep looking for a crime lord to mumble something about a thousand people who think they can do a bounty hunter's job."
- ―Aaron Sinner
Rango Tel first appeared in George Lucas's 1999 film Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace as an unnamed background extra seen briefly during the film's introduction to the city of Mos Espa. He was played by an uncredited actor. Tel was later one of the first characters to have his backstory elaborated on through the Hyperspace "What's The Story?" feature on the website StarWars.com. An entry on Tel in the site's official Databank was written by Aaron Sinner, who originally named the character "Ip Numeth." The organizers of the competition instead chose "Rango Tel," a name contributed by the contestant "Captain Daultay Dofine," and additionally created the nickname "Tank Head."
Sinner chose Sernpidal as Tel's homeworld due to having located it on a map of the Star Wars galaxy and found it "sufficiently backwater." After watching Tel's lone scene in The Phantom Menace, Sinner was reminded of Mandalorian armor, and he used the armor as the basis of the entire article. He felt that the story which he crafted necessitated the dim-witted character's death. Star Wars author Abel G. Peña has named Tel's Databank entry as the most hilarious and endearing of any "What's The Story?" character.
- The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia
- Star Wars: The Official Starships & Vehicles Collection 26
- (First identified as Rango "Tank Head" Tel)