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Jawa & WED Treadwell Droid

SWIV: A New Hope
by Artemis

Flexible thinking is hard work, so most people tend to develop their own particular standardized ways of dealing with problems: duct tape, WD-40, hit it with a hammer, use more power, switch it off and on again, take off and nuke the site from orbit, and so on. For the denizens of the Star Wars galaxy, the universal problem-solving method is clearly "build a droid to do it".

The Jawas come to the Lars homestead to offer droids for sale. One of the droids they show Owen Lars is a WED Treadwell droid, a common utility droid with multiple manipulator arms and goggle-like photoreceptors on a telescoping neck.

Since everyone and their dog in Star Wars has a backstory, it should be no surprise to learn that the Jawa who sold C-3PO and R2-D2 to Owen Lars wasn't just a nameless midget in a cloak, but was in fact a Jawa chief named Nebit. He is presumed to have been slaughtered along with his tribe shortly thereafter. Hey, it's not always a complicated backstory. You have to feel sorry for the little guys, though - bad luck to run into the Empire's only squad of accurate Stormtroopers.

The Jawa figure in this set is the same one used for the earlier Jawa/LIN droid release, which is fair enough, since it's not like Jawas look that different from one another. Hasbro haven't used that as an excuse to skive off, though - while it's the same basic figure, they've varied the paint and equipment, GI Joe style, to make him essentially new, with both the cloak and "jacket" now a darker, duller brown, the wrapped feet a lighter tan colour, and the hands a dusty dark grey rather than black. Additionally the bandolier is all new - different sculpt, different shades of paint - and the eyes are less yellow, more reflective gold. You can stand the two Jawas right next to each other, and you really have to study their sculpts to confirm that they're the same figure, so kudos to Hasbro for effort (and if you're thinking "inconsistent colouring", my Star Wars Visual Dictionary shows two Jawas with exactly these sort of differing cloaks and pouches, so it's all good).

Naturally the articulation is uncharged: balljoint neck (limited side-to-side tilting due to the bandoliers), swivel/pin shoulders and elbows, swivel wrists, and swivel waist. The different bandolier, with no holster on the left, means this Jawa can lower his arm more on that side. He has peg holes in both feet, but the static legs and cloak edges make him amply stable without a base.

In place of the LIN Jawa's pistol, this guy gets the full-size ionization blaster, a kind of electronic blunderbuss with a wooden stock, connected by a cable to a battery pack that attaches to the back of the bandolier set-up. It's not identical to the real prop but clearly the same style of weapon (it's easy to imagine such things varying wildly due to customization and ad-hoc repairs), and bonus points for the little cultural glyphs on the holster and belt, but here - just this once - the body re-use is a negative, as both hands are intended for regular shaped weapons, and this blaster has no handle, just the trigger guard and stock. Along with the thin but sturdy cable connecting to the power pack, it's pretty damned difficult to get the blaster into the Jawa's hands and keep it there; note I eventually gave up and faked it. Luckily it looks fine holstered.

There's one other accessory, a stubby little metal cylinder with a couple of prongs sticking out of it - I'd hazard a guess that it's a droid caller, but if so it's much larger than the one the LIN Jawa came with; then again, the customization factor could easily explain that. Another possibility (suggested by a different but similar gizmo in the Visual Dictionary) is that it's a recharge pack for the blaster, but I can't find anywhere on the weapon where it might attach. No matter - it's not like "random electronic junk" is an inappropriate accessory for a Jawa to have.

The other half of the set (and the reason I bought it, naturally) is a WED Treadwell droid, a kind of mobile toolbox and general-purpose handyman, although - the Essential Guide to Droids warns - a bit of a dim-witted one, prone to accidentally breaking its arms against obstacles, or forgetting to use insulated arms for touching live power cables, and other embarrassing cock-ups along those lines. Evidently they still sell well, thanks to being affordable and easy to repair in the event that they do break themselves. This model is a "Septoid" WED variant, named after some spidery species on account of the larger than normal number of limbs (eight, compared to the factory-standard four-to-six) and the unusual head; the standard WED has a squarish binocular head (and a toy of it, although a somewhat simplistic one, was sold with an Aunt Beru figure).

The Treadwell droid at the Jawas' auction was WED-15-ST68 - it was grubby but bright white, rather than the more restrained grey here, but the copper panels suggest it's the same droid; put the different down to the Tatooine sunlight, perhaps. The WED's base is solid - no moving tracks - and possibly a touch oversized, but that's not such a drawback, since in order to accommodate all those arms, the upper "body" is equally bulky compared to the thin, spindly real thing. The arms are mounted on a circular tray which plugs into the base by a rotating plug, with wires spread out either side to lie across the top of the base, and the "head" also rotates. Including the aerial, it exceeds 4" tall, but with the head so comparatively small, regular figures at least get their heads and shoulders above the bulk of the arms, so the upscaling isn't enormously obvious.

The arms are thin, softish plastic, so some degree of bending is inevitably when they're all folded together and packed into their plastic bubble - I'm inclined to forgive that, since it fits with the complicated, confused look of the real thing, and in all other respects the arms are great work. There are three different "upper arm" pieces in use, consistent in overall design but with variations in the exact details sculpted into them (Treadwell arms were sold separately, so it's appropriate for a droid to have this kind of "mix and match" look), and each of the eight arms has a unique "lower arm", varying from recognizable tools like a shovel and a claw to some techy gizmos we can only guess at. The arms can fold up reasonably tightly, or spread quite a distance, and the "elbows" are one-sided pegs that will let the lower limbs pop off rather than break if excess pressure is put on them.

The set also includes the usual Build-A-Droid part, the body of R5-A2, a white-and-orange unit seen trundling aimlessly around Mos Eisley, which amazingly doesn't seem to have had any Expanded Universe adventures at all. Quick, someone write a trilogy of novels! Since all the droids from R2 to R6 are identical below the neck this is the same piece as previous BADs, just repainted, but it's nonetheless good work, fully detailed and painted front and back, with intricate silver electronics on top, eventually to be hidden beneath the head. It's thoughtful of Hasbro to have bothered with them regardless, since it means that the piece can serve as a dismantled droid bit without looking like a dismantled droid toy - in a set with a Jawa, a chunk of droid counts as an accessory to the figure as well as a BAF bit.

It was the Jawa-and-LIN set that got me started on this droid collection of mine, and not just at random: the LIN was a very good recreation, and the Jawa, though I didn't (and still don't) intend to display him, was likewise a quality figure. The same is true for this set: good Jawa, good droid, and the applicability of the R5 bit as a proper accessory is a neat bonus. I've gone through a number of single figures, build-a-droids and multi-figure sets to amass the 17 Essential Guide droids I have thus far, and this set is definitely one of the best I've seen along the way.

-- 11/22/09

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