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SW: Before the Storm
by Artemis

Nobody likes the new guy.

R7-T1, nicknamed Artee, served as Luke Skywalker's in-flight astromech droid when the Jedi Master borrowed an E-wing escort starfighter from the New Republic Defense Force for a brief time during the Black Fleet Crisis. However, Skywalker never became comfortable with either the new starfighter design or the newer-model droid, and soon abandoned them in favor of his usual T-65 X-wing starfighter and his old friend and trusty astromech droid, R2-D2.

It's not surprising that Luke didn't like Artee or the E-wing - the whole time he had them, he was probably hearing the Force whispering in his ear: "these things weren't in the movies, the toys won't sell well!" Nowadays you can watch Star Wars on video iPods more powerful than the computers that ILM wished they could afford back when they made it, but you'll still never find anyone, no matter how far ABY you go in the chronology (that's "After the Battle of Yavin," if you've got a life and don't know stuff like that; the first Death Star popping its clogs is kind of the Star Wars version of Jesus being born), who believes that Artoo - who was at least 20 years old when we first met him - is obsolete and is regarded as being right. Mind you, I shouldn't talk - I'm still using Windows 98.

R7-T1 is a Build-A-Droid, or "Droid Factory" or whatever they're calling them - to get him, or her as the case may be (Wookieepedia doesn't say, and I'm not going to go reading Star Wars EU just to find out) you need to buy the Mon Calamari Warrior (for the "body"), Snow Bunny Padme (left leg), Saesee Tiin (right leg), and the Qarren Soldier (head and third leg, yuk yuk yuk). Back when I was reviewing Padders I recall saying that I wouldn't be buying the whole set just to complete R7, but my eternal fascination with droids, and a few handy sales, changed my mind, and so R7-T1 takes his (or her) place as the R7 droid in my nascent Essential Guide to Droids collection, in which I attempt to collect figures of all 108 droid types listed in the book. Yes, I know the droid freighter is going to be tricky, especially in scale.

Possibly to try to ease the transition for recalcitrant fans (and other writers) - fat chance - R7 is visually very, very similar to R2, with only cosmetic differences. The big one is the triangular "eye", along with the pattern of panels on the droid's body, which carries over the angled motif in place of R2's all-right-angles design, save for the fiddly little "arms" which R7 omits (or more likely hides behind a flat panel somewhere). For all that, though, they're strikingly similar droids - in fact, like all R-series astromechs (R1 excepted, since it re-used an earlier body shell), from the neck down it's basically a repaint of the same body. Hasbro haven't used that as an excuse to cut corners, though - all of R7's panels are sculpted on, not just painted onto a generic R-series body.

The droid plugs together firmly - though not irreversibly, which is nice since the body includes all sorts of techy stuff sprouting from its "neck" and it'd be a shame to cover that up for good. The third leg is just a plug-in, so if you want your R7 bipedal it's just a matter of removing it. Its ankle is solid, locking the wheeled R7 into the usual backward tilt. Elsewhere you wind up with a swivel neck and shoulders, and pin ankles on the two main legs. It's not much, but it's really all an astromech needs. All three "feet" have little wheels inside them, but in walking mode they don't extend so far from the soles as to make the droid unstable.

Each leg includes a rocket attachment, a la Attack of the Clones and subsequent - they plug into the sides of the legs, and are molded from clear blue plastic, which remains unpainted as the jet flare. The rest is painted silver and blue, the blue representing the panel on the leg which flips open to deploy the rocket - since the whole piece is just a plug-in that panel is missing on the basic leg, but it's not something you really notice.

This was actually the first Build-A-Figure I ever completed (though subsequently I've built a couple of other droids, and I'm one Colin Baker away from a Giant Robot), and as I've always felt with BAFs, they're a bit of a luxury - if Star Wars figures didn't frequently go on sale quite cheaply around here, and if I didn't have this thing about droids, I doubt I'd have given R7 a second glance as an incentive to buy figures that, all told, I don't really want. But it's a good droid figure, and for someone who collects most Star Wars figures in any given set, it's a good incentive to upgrade that most to all.

-- 8/16/09

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