The opening scenes of Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope established the overall importance of mechanical characters in the galaxy far, far away. Audiences are almost immediately introduced to golden interpreter droid C-3PO, the captain obvious of Star Wars, and his blue and silver compatriot R2-D2. As the Death Star-plan courier, Artoo also drove the plot of A New Hope, pushing Luke from his complacency and into a grand-scale adventure. Both automatons remained integral support players throughout the first trilogy and into the prequels and sequels.
Of course, Artoo and Threepio were far from the only droids with roles in the space opera. Robots, such as the probe droid that discovers the Rebellion's base on Hoth, were integral to both sides of the conflict. Recently, J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens, added another lovable droid into the mix, the Bill Hader and Ben Schwartz-voiced BB-8, who proved a charming and loyal companion for the Resistance’s forces. The lead-up to Force Friday II recently revealed BB’s evil counterpart, BB-9E, as part of the First Order’s mechanical contingent, although its true role in The Last Jedi remains unclear.
Nevertheless, 9E represents the latest in a long line of deviant droids, each of which had a lasting impact on the Star Wars universe in their own rights.
The Dawn of the Dastardly Droids
In the classic storyline, heroic ‘bots Artoo and Threepio were often counterbalanced by their Imperial versions, such as the mechanically tendriled Viper probe and the terrifying IT-O interrogator, which Darth Vader used to unsuccessfully pry the stolen Death Star plans from Leia. These droids were more workmanlike versions in comparison, though, lacking the personality of their Rebellion counterparts. But as Star Wars expanded from a hit movie into a trilogy, and later a cultural phenomenon, the mech world would balance out.
The first truly twisted robots arrived later in The Empire Strikes Back, when Vader summons a clutch of bounty hunters to his flagship, the Executor. Among their lot are rogue assassin droid IG-88, who rapidly became a fan favorite, and Threepio’s bane, 4-LOM. Scraped together from spare parts and using Anthony Daniel’s stand-in (according to Star Wars: Behind the Magic), the warped protocol unit is officially the first android doppelganger. Unfortunately, 4-LOM gets little more than a few moments of screen time and a tie-in toy, so he wasn’t exactly the most fleshed-out adversary, so to speak – at least until Legends came around.
By Return of the Jedi, the baddies got their first somewhat well-rounded droid in EV-9D9. Running the cyborg operations side of Jabba’s palace, “Eve” was programmed with a feminine persona and an all-business attitude. The trouble was, she enjoyed her job a little too much, delighting in the torture and slaughter of her fellow mechanoids. In addition to EV and her helper-bot 8D8, Jabba’s palace also included the snippy, door-bot TT-8L/Y7, which made gaining entry a tricky prospect for Threepio and Artoo.
The conclusion to the classical Skywalker saga was just the beginning of a very adversarial android world to come.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017