Even diehard Star Wars fans were tripped up by an opening scene in Andor, the new Star Wars show on Disney Plus, that displayed the cryptic characters “BBY 5.” Turns out it’s a way of marking time in the galaxy far, far away — one that references a pivotal moment in Star Wars history.
BBY stands for “Before the Battle of Yavin.” Yavin is the planet around which the climactic battle in Star Wars: A New Hope occurs, with Luke Skywalker destroying the first Death Star and saving the Rebel Alliance from total annihilation. “ABY” stands for “After the Battle of Yavin.” BBY counts down, with 0 BBY representing the year in which the Battle of Yavin occurred. ABY counts up from that same year, with ABY 1 being the year following the Battle of Yavin.
It’s analogous to our real world nomenclature, which uses CE (the “Common Era”) and BCE (“Before the Common Era”) to mark epochs of time. There’s no year zero in the real-world calendar, however. BCE and CE instead share year 1, which coincides with the Christian belief in the birth of Jesus Christ. Prior to BCE and CE, historians instead used BC and AD — Before Christ and Anno Domini, or “The Year of our Lord.”
Therefore, BBY 5 represents five years before the events of A New Hope. We get into the nitty-gritty of the larger Star Wars timeline — including how Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, and the other Star Wars streaming television shows factor into things — in a larger feature on the timeline.
Star Wars properties have traditionally offered this kind of historical context in their opening scenes. The nine mainline films all feature an iconic text crawl that marches up from the bottom of the screen to disappear into space. The Mandalorian, on the other hand, does away with that text entirely, giving no upfront textual clues as to when or where the action takes place from episode to episode. It’s the same with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Jedi: Fallen Order, for that matter.
The lack of text crawls, or even the mention of planet names, caused a bit of blowback from the fandom, especially during the run of the first season of The Mandalorian. Andor’s approach therefore can be seen as a bit of a concession to those upset by the omission in the recent past. Just don’t call it fan service: Showrunner Tony Gilroy has said he assiduously avoided pandering to fans throughout the show’s production.