Star Wars: The Last Jedi will introduce a new member to the galaxy far, far away’s continuously-growing droid family: BB-9E. As many fans know, robots are an integral part of the film franchise, playing key roles in all of the movies to date. In A New Hope, C-3PO and R2-D2 were the ones who set the story in motion, escaping with the Death Star plans to Tatooine and meeting Luke Skywalker. It’s impossible to imagine what the series would look like without the droids, and they’ve gone on to become some of the best characters Star Wars has to offer. It wasn’t really a surprise when the sarcastic K-2SO stole the show in last year’s Rogue One, getting one of the more emotional deaths in the third act.
One of the breakout stars in The Force Awakens was unquestionably BB-8, who provided amusing comic relief and turned into a merchandising juggernaut all on his own. Of course, the new-generation astromech returns in The Last Jedi, with Rian Johnson teasing he is the Buster Keaton of the Star Wars universe. While many will be excited to see BB-8 on the big screen again, he’s hardly the only droid that will appear in the film. With Force Friday II products being officially unveiled today, newcomer BB-9E is generating much interest, jokingly referred to by the fans as BB-8’s evil twin. So who is this robot and how will he fit into The Last Jedi? We’re going to take a closer look.
Who Is BB-9E?
Since most of Episode VIII is being kept under wraps, there aren’t many official details about BB-9E at this point in time. He essentially is the First Order’s answer to BB-8, designed in all-black with a flatter head than his Resistance counterpart. BB-9E is the latest in a growing line of “evil doppelganger” droids in Star Wars canon, following the footsteps of 0-0-0 (C-3PO) and BT-1 (R2-D2) from Kieron Gillen’s Darth Vader comic. Lucasfilm’s plan was to use Force Friday II festivities as a welcoming party for The Last Jedi‘s new star (and in a way they stuck to that), but it’s been known BB-9E would be in Star Wars 8 for months now. The character kept popping up in a variety of toy leaks, including LEGO sets and Funko Pop bobbleheads. He is also getting the Sphero treatment, along with R2-D2 and an updated BB-8.
Fans may recall that last year during Rogue One promotion, Imperial astromech droid C2-B5 was highlighted in imagery, but ultimately did not appear in the film. There is an outside chance that is the case with BB-9E, but odds are he will be seen in Episode VIII. Quite frankly, he’s too omnipresent in the marketing campaign to be in danger of ending up on the cutting room floor. The fact that Sphero made sure to include BB-9E in their latest product line is a strong indication he is a robot of some importance and Lucasfilm has big plans for him. Granted, the studio has been guilty of overselling “cool” looking villains in the past (see: Captain Phasma), but odds are BB-9E is at the very least a secondary supporting figure and doesn’t merely make a cameo.
It’s interesting that the BB-9E mini-figure is included in both the First Order Star Destroyer and Kylo Ren’s TIE fighter LEGO kits, as those may provide clues for how he’ll fit into the narrative. His presence in the latter suggests he could be Kylo’s personal astromech, similar to R2-D2 for Luke Skywalker. Additionally, Finn and Rose’s secret mission sees the two go undercover aboard a Star Destroyer. BB-8 is said to be accompanying them on this journey, so the stage is set for a scene where yin and yang cross paths. Fans shouldn’t expect anything similar to Chopper’s antics on Rebels in live-action, but an interaction between BB-8 and his so-called evil twin would provide a nice moment of levity in what should be a dark (but still fun) blockbuster. Hopefully, the incoming onslaught of new Last Jedi trailers and TV spots offer something more concrete.
Ultimately, BB-9E gives Rian Johnson an opportunity to further expand the First Order by showing off more of what the antagonists have at their disposal (also see the First Order Executioner). The director’s goal with The Last Jedi was to take the franchise in new directions and show fans things they haven’t seen before. While the Trade Federation’s battle droids were part of the villain forces in the prequel trilogy, they were primarily a faceless army. All of the movie robots to be given a personality (and a name) by the filmmakers fight with the good guys – including the reprogrammed K-2SO. It’s a simple, yet smart, concept. Take something we love (BB-8) and present the inverse of it, a line of thinking that also spawned Canto Bight. Hopefully, BB-9E isn’t just for show and becomes a standout in his own right.
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