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Battle Droid

SWI: The Phantom Menace
by yo go re

This is the end result of strapping a knife to a Roomba.

Rather than use flesh-and-blood warriors, the Separatists prefer mindlessly loyal soldiers that are easily controlled. Battle droids are dim-witted and no match for clone troopers or Jedi, but they weren't designed to be smart - they were designed to overwhelm Republic civilians through sheer numbers, something they do very effectively.

The Phantom Menace recently turned 20, so the kids who were the target audience when it came out are old enough for the nostalgia cycle to be catering to them now. And that means at last, the movie is receiving its critical re-evaluation. We're all for that, but let's not forget: some of us have been boosting the prequels since jumpstreet. Episode 1 is not without its problems, but it's never been as bad as a lot of fans claim - there's a lot of good there, including the Battle Droids.

With their cheerful "roger roger!"s and their puppy dog faces, B1 battle droids were the dopey, endearing face of underhanded evil in the prequels. It was unclear why they looked the way they did until until Episode 2 came out and we met the Geonosians, the insectoid race who built the dang things (the original plan was they'd look like Neimoidians, aka "Trade Federation guys," but then the aliens changed designs and the robots didn't, so here we are).

There were never physical battle droid props, but this 6" scale toy looks just like the renders seen in the film. It's tall and spindly, with narrow limbs, large rounded hinges for joints, and a blockish chest supported by two little flanges rising up from the waist. The surface of the droid is mostly smooth, with only a few simple seams, but that's the way it's meant to look - these aren't Michael Bay Transformers or anything. Having a slight recess below the neck and a knob on the left side of the chest is just right.

The droid is molded in tan plastic, then given a few paint apps to represent wear and tear: dark smudges, silver scrapes, all that. The painted eyes are black, making them the only "real" decoration on the droid, if you follow our meaning - not every droid to walk across a battlefield would have the same dents and ings, but every one would have the same eyes, yeah? There's no designation painted on its back, in case you want to armybuild. You have to expect we'll see more releases in the future, both in "Geonosis Red" and with the decorations that signify security, pilot, and command droids.

There's only so much you can do with human articulation, but a robot provides more opportunities. The battle droid has hinged "ears," a balljointed head, swivel/hinged neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel/hinge biceps, swivel/hinge elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, a balljointed chest, swivels for those "rib" things, balljointed hips, hinged knees, and hinged ankles with swivels both above (in the shin) and below (in the foot). Some of those sounds superfluous, but they're really not. The droid's neck can pull up out of the chest, slightly, and there are notches on the back of the calves that line up with the ridges on the back of the thighs. Can you guess where this is going? That's right, the Black Series battle droid has enough articulation to get into its storage squat, something the 3¾" versions could never do!

The battle droid's accessories include an E-5 blaster rifle, a comlink booster pack, and an alternate antenna array. The backpacks were worn by the rank-and-file droids, while the smaller version was reserved for commanders. The two receivers on the backpack can be retracted for stoarge mode, and the gun plugs into the righthand side. It looks as though the gun attaches backwards, with the handle pointing forward when it should be pointing back; that, however, is completely accurate to the film: if you watch when the droids are deployed from their carrier, their hands rotate 180° as they reach over their shoulders to grab the guns; again, this is a space-saving measure, since otherwise the handle would stick out from the droid's back, making it harder to stack them and carry them into battle.

The battle droid is a terrific figure. It looks right, moves better than it needs to, and has all the accessories you'd want. Plus, now that Hasbro has this mold, maybe they can finally get around to making a Black Series Mr. Bones! Or even better, take this overdue swell of support for the prequels, and use that General Grievous/Gamorrean Guard pricepoint to make a Destroyer Droid (one that can hopefully roll into a ball, just like this one can fold up).

-- 06/02/19

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