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SWIV: A New Hope
by Artemis

As I've probably mentioned before, I like droids. Not battle droids, though - when it comes down to it, they're all basically just variations on guns on legs. What I like are the workers, the droids that seem to fill every niche and function available. I find it interesting to contemplate the social and cultural consequences of droid technology - and besides, if you ask me, droids are all that make Star Wars science fiction, rather than fantasy with laser swords, so bonus. But when it comes to blue collar worker droids, their collars don't get much bluer than the ASP.

Height: 1.6 meters
Status: Household/business laborer
Classification: Industrial Automaton ASP-7 droid
Affiliation: Varies based on owner

The ASP line are the penknives of the droid world - they're not big and fancy, nor especially versatile or precise, but they're cheap and simple and, if you need something unscrewed or pried open, chances are at least one of the people in the vicinity of the problem will have one handy. Industrial Automaton - one of the "big two" droid companies (sort of the IBM/Microsoft to Cybot Galactica's Apple, although IA having made R2 and co. suggests they're a bit more reliable) - produced the ASPs as affordable entry-level droids, to get buyers used to looking for a droid to do their work for them, in the hope that they'd move on to more sophisticated (and more pricey) droids after a while (though you wonder how, given that ASPs can only say two words, "affirmative" and "negative" - maybe they just wanted buyers to get used to their habit of not teaching sophisticated artificial intelligences any basic English). The ASP-7 is the middle-of-the-road model, average in every way, like Mario, and out here in the real world, was one of the little additions George Lucas popped into Episode IV when he went and "Special Editioned" the original trilogy. Not exactly a proud origin, but at least it's not that stupid Jabba scene, or (it can't not be mentioned) Greedo firing first.

In one way, the humble ASP was a trailblazer - he's the first of a long line of droids Star Wars churned out once they had CGI available, and no longer needed to make everything either fit on top of a stripped-down remote-controlled toy car, or Anthony Daniels. The ASP is simple machinery at its simplest, with a hollow frame body containing the bare minimum amount of moving parts, so it wasn't really that difficult a job for Hasbro's sculptors to work on. One surprise - since there weren't any humans in the droid's brief appearance - is how big he is: the simplistic construction and hunched pose suggested (to me, at least) a squat, hobbit-sized droid, but in fact Aspy is regular height for a Star Wars adult, and consequently - though hollow - much bulkier than most, with his broad shoulder span. Paint is simplicity itself, just a brushed silver base coat with airbrushed black breaking up the monotony on the chest and around knee level on the legs.

The black reaches up onto the face, providing a bit of interest on an otherwise thoroughly minimalist visage - it's just a slightly triangular curve with a slit half-way up. The "head" is in fact hollow, just a shell to provide the vague illusion of a humanoid appearance, while in back it's just a basic support frame with a couple of gadgets stuck on at angles (according to the Complete Guide to Droids, the cigar-shaped thing is its brain; then again, sometimes it's just a cigar. Yuk yuk yuk). The face is mounted on a swivel joint, allowing it to tilt up and down a little - about 45° all told, after which it'll pop off as it exceeds the joint's range, but it's easy to fit back on. The real thing probably does that too.

This isn't a recent figure, and that shows in mobility - with the exception of the "face tilt", articulation is right back with the original Power of the Force line with the Big Five: swivel neck, shoulders, and hips. For play value that's pretty weak - these days, if this droid were to be made as a new figure you'd probably see elbows, knees and ankles at least, but then again it's an ASP, no one's buying it because their kids thought it was cool; for my purposes (standing on a shelf amid its fellow Complete Guide to Droids mechanicals) it's sufficient.

ASP-7 gets an accessory to play with, a bundle of pipes the packaging calls "Spaceport Supply Rods" - I don't know what it is they supply to the spaceport, but there they are. They're softish plastic, so the piece is unlikely to break as you work it in and out of the droid's little claws, they're cast in a single piece of tan plastic, and that's really all there is to say about them.

This figure, just like the ASP itself, is nothing fancy - and if you're a demanding buyer, you wouldn't even give it a glance. But it's got a simple task to fulfil - be an ASP - and while it's no great shakes, it does that. More importantly, while over-promoted battle droids and Mary Sue R2s weigh down the toy store shelves, it's droids like this little guy who actually keep the Star Wars galaxy ticking over, so no droid collection should be without one.

-- 09/13/09

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