Season Two, Episode Eighteen — “The Forgotten Droid”
By Jason Gibner. One of George Lucas’ boldest moves was to start 1977’s Star Wars from the perspective of two bickering droids. (Suppose it could be considered insane… from a certain point of view.) As we all know, they weren’t real robots. But a skinny British guy stuffed in a gold costume, staggering next to a remote-controlled trash can? That’s how you start your ten million dollar space opera movie?
Sure, we all know Star Wars had been greatly inspired by Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, but if you really stop and think about the first fifteen minutes or so of that film… yeah, it’s just a whole lot of people firing away in masks and helmets, only to then have two dirty robots arguing in a desert… well, that makes you understand how bonkers it had to have seemed to certain people (at least, for a while). There’s really no wonder how, upon viewing an early cut of the film, folks like Brian De Palma and John Milius called it a total disaster. I wonder if they ever apologized.
Mysteries of the universe.
Of course now those oddball moments are considered classic beyond classic. They’re studied and emulated by this new generation of Star Wars storytellers. And that worship of this saga’s cozy quirks is wholly evident in “The Forgotten Droid.” It’s an episode that goes deep into the day-to-day life (and struggle) of an average droid, and that’s something that should leave fans either doing backflips, or inversely, settling in to take a nap. (“Wake me up when Ahsoka and Vader finally have their reunion.”) While it manages to still hit some emotional sweet spots, it just can’t compare to the gut punches we got in episodes like “The Honorable Ones” or “Shroud of Darkness”. “The Forgotten Droid” is an odd, goofy, deep cut episode that feels more like a writer’s room “we get to do an all-droid episode” high-five fest rather than a top-shelf piece of Star Wars. But it is not without its charm.
WHAT WORKED: So much of this season has focuses on giving each character their own moment in the spotlight, and I guess the last on that list was Chopper. While I’ve always liked Chopper, he didn’t have immediately recognizable droid charm that an R2-D2, BB-8 or 9-D9 had. I’ve always found his cranky attitude to be a bit trying, and mostly I’d just prefer it if he’d be more of a help around the Ghost. I know he’s old and patched together — he was a part of the Clone Wars, after all — but I just like my droids to be cute heroes. (Don’t judge me.) Anyway, Rebels finally gets around to revealing more about Chopper and what makes him the kind of droid he is, which is realized just as the old fella finds his own C-3PO. (with the equally grumpy Imperial Inventory Droid, AP-5.) Their relationship, while naturally similar to R2 & 3PO, really clicks. Once the two of them get together, the whole thing becomes this kinda bizarre droid buddy comedy, as the two cranky droids steal a freighter (and become instant BFFs). If it sounds insane, it’s because it is. But somehow with that Star Wars weirdo magic, it all pretty much flies.
WHAT DIDN’T: In a common problem plaguing Rebels episodes, the intro to “The Forgotten Droid” (which is about stealing fuel and finding a secret base for the Rebel Fleet to hide) was extremely rushed. It’s beginning to feel like whenever Rebels needs to pad out an episode, the default plan is to have the Ghost encounter a Star Destroyer, where Hera (or Kanan) gets thrown in a gun turret to shoot out some TIEs.
Also, this episode goes a little heavy on some cringeworthy slapstick humor with an over-the-top idiot Imperial officer and the droids. I get the desire to change up the tone after such a dead serious episode (“Shroud of Darkness”), but there’s a couple moments here that really seem like they’re strictly for the kids. Also, the return of an extremely cranky Hera caused an actual sigh from me. Hera has had some of this season’s best and worst moments. Her uneven characterization sadly continues here.
“No, you are the one who is useless...” – AP-5.
“How do you know the Rebels will treat me better then the Empire? Because I am your friend?” – AP-5.
“You stole an Imperial freighter?” – Hera.
“Chopper doesn’t have any friends.” – Hera.
“An Imperial Droid?! Oh, I think not...” – AP-5.
“There’s no need for violence!” – AP-5.
“Don’t worry, I won’t charge you an arm and a leg for it.” – Ugnaught Storekeeper.
“Credits? What do I look like? A senator?” – Ugnaught Storekeeper.
“No, the first one to the bridge is NOT the captain!” – AP-5.
Hera: “The entire rebel fleet is betting on Chopper!” Kanan: “Yeah, try not to think about it.”
“I won’t forget you, my friend.” – AP-5.
BEST MOMENT: After an Imperial goon blasts Chopper’s new buddy AP-5, the cranky astromech goes into wild berserker mode and beats the snot out of the goose-stepping moron in an attempt to save his droid friend. As the mistreated and misunderstood Imperial protocol droid lays wounded the ship’s cockpit, the two droids actually share a very nice, heartwarming moment of friendship. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for two robots talking about how they love each other. Don’t judge me.
EPISODE’S MVP: AP-5. Voiced by Stephen Stanton (doing his best Alan Rickman as Marvin The Paranoid Android), this droid absolutely steals the show. He’s a robot with a heart of gold that I hope we see again in future episodes. The episode’s closing look on Kanan, Ezra and Zeb’s faces as AP-5 and Chopper take off into the ship doing some classic droid bickering was absolutely classic. Is their relationship a rehash of what’s worked for Star Wars before? 100% yes. Was it still entertaining to watch? Sure.
– The idea of the Ghost crew (and the Rebel fleet) now having a former Imperial Droid as part of their team, with all of his knowledge of the Empire, is seriously intriguing. Let’s see where this goes in the future.
– Sooooo, what’s that planet the Rebel fleet was flying to there at the end? I was keeping my fingers crossed for it to be Dantooine, but it’s a new one called Atollon. We’ll see how long the Rebels last there.
– Look close behind the Ugnaught storekeeper… that looks like a production art version of BB-8 hanging there behind him.
– Speaking of BB-8, good to hear lots of talk of droids stealing freighters in this episode.
– Hey, Ketsu Onyo! Long time no see! Hopefully she gets more to do in a future episode again.
– In this week’s “Ralph McQuarrie designed it first” moment, the look of AP-5 with his rounded shoulders comes from an old Ralph concept for a ’77 Star Wars Death Star droid.
7 out of 10
Next: “The Mystery of Chopper Base”, soon.
Before: “Shroud of Darkness”, here.