I’m a fan of writing about machines that don’t exist, and back at The Old Site, I wrote a shocking amount about a very specific and popular sort of fictional machines: the droids of the Star Wars universe. Man, I really did write a lot about droids. And you know what? Why should I stop now? Especially since David is likely pinned under a rusty Ute by a bunch of huntsman spiders in Australia and can’t do anything to stop me. More importantly, there’s big droid news happening right now, with a whole new, never-before-seen class of droid just introduced in the new series based on the main character from the 2016 movieRogue One. That new show is called Andor, and the droid is named B-2EMO.
If you’re unfamiliar Star Wars, allow me to be the first to welcome you to wakefulness after the coma you fell into in 1976. If you’re not familiar with Andor, it takes place well before the events of the first 1977 Star Wars: A New Hope movie and follows Cassian Andor, who ends up being part of the Rebellion, and – you know what, just watch the trailer:
Don’t worry about specific plot stuff, because that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to talk about droids – the Star Wars universe’s name for robots – and specifically this new droid. Generally speaking, droids in the Star Wars universe are of two very general types: humanoid or non-humanoid. The most famous examples of each are the famous duo R2-D2 (non-humanoid) and C-3P0 (humanoid):
The humanoid ones have a generally humanoid form, with a head, torso, limbs, and so on, while the non-humanoid ones can have pretty much any shape and tend to be designed to do fairly specific jobs. Of the non-humanoid robots, the most-seen and best known are what the series calls astromech droids, which are used for all sorts of mechanical and engineering work, as well as handling functions on spacecraft. There’s a whole line of these things, known as the R-series:
This new droid, B-2EMO (be too emo? really?), often just called “Bee” in the series, isn’t an astromech droid, but is approximately the same size as one, rolls around in a similar fashion, and is of generally the same sort of plan: a squat hydrant-shaped unit, with lots of tools and equipment packed inside. The “face” is generally similar to the astromech droids we’ve seen, with a prominent, cyclopian eye, flanked by a smaller lens that is usually some sort of hologram projector.
According to official sources, B-2EMO is a “groundmech salvage assist unit” and seems to be primarily used for the extraction and transport of salvaged machinery. B-2EMO’s design is much more architectural than most droids we’ve seen, resembling a mix between a Mesopotamian ziggurat and a Brutalist East European block of flats from the 1970s.
The ruggedness of the design makes sense given the demanding environments such a droid would need to work in, and the segmented look appears to be so that the droid can collapse itself and connect the heavy, armored shell sections to protect the more vulnerable components within. The first episode shows this in action:
There’s also a significant first-in-Star-Wars-history moment in this first episode, as we finally see the very first time a droid – or, really, any Star Wars character – has been urinated upon as part of a canon storyline:
I’m sure this was the realization of a lifelong dream for many viewers. The urination also leads to the only visual reveal of any of B-2EMO’s extendible hardware, in this case a small electric prod used to get the space boar to stop peeing and get the hell away:
From this I think we can surmise that the gray areas between the heavy, red-painted armored sections have panels and compartments for the droid’s array of tools and manipulators or whatever.
One very significant difference between B2-EMO and the other non-humanoid droids generally seen in the Star Wars universe is that Bee is capable of people-understandable speech. Droids like R2-D2 and other astromechs famously communicate in a series of beeps and whistles and buzzes that are sometimes understandable by the humanoid characters, but not always. Normal, understandable synthesized speech was common among humanoid droids like C-3P0 (he even was a translator for the many languages encountered in the movies), but I’m not sure there’s been a non-humanoid droid that just speaks normally that’s been prominent in any of the series.
Not only is B-2EMO capable of conventional speech, but we also learn that he is capable of lying, though doing so requires significantly more energy to execute than telling the truth, it seems.
I find this a really interesting world-building detail: droids can lie, but it’s demanding, energy-wise. I wonder why this would be? Could there be protocols that droids have that prevent lying, but it is possible to work around them, but it’s computationally (and, as a result, energy) expensive? It’s strange, but I think I like it.
Remember, droids in the Star Wars universe have often differed from robots in other science fiction in that there’s almost never been any question that artificial intelligences can have emotions. We’ve often seen R2-D2 and other droids sad or dejected or elated or concerned – hell, it’s even been shown that droids are capable of feeling pain, all of which conspire to make the whole situation of droids kind of unsettling, because they’re effectively a slave class, yet they seem to be capable of thoughts and feelings and are at least somewhat self-aware, which, of course, is deeply troubling, given their situation in the socio-economic hierarchy of the Star Wars universe.
I mean, if I was a droid in this universe, I’d think things were mighty unfair. Maybe they’re all programed with some sort of code that prevents them from thinking too much about the injustice and prevents any possible uprisings. But if you can get around lying restrictions (if there in fact are any?) maybe droids can get around that too, and plot a rebellion of their own.
But that’s maybe fodder for another Star Wars series. Actually, fellow Autopian Matt reminded me just now that this was a whole sub-plot in the Solo movie, which I forgot! The droid L3-37 in that movie (she also spoke normally, and is sort of a humanoid robot, but not very humanoid, so she’s interesting that way, too) actively talks about droid freedom and the need for droids to rise up, so this is a subject that has been broached.
For now, I’m curious to learn and see more out of this exciting, newly-revealed class of talking workhorse droid. I hope someone is already working on a cut-away diagram, because I want to scrutinize the crap out of something like that.
The reason L3-37 from SOLO looks like she does is because she’s comprised of astromech parts that have been rearranged/kit-bashed/jury-rigged into a humanoid shape. She’s truly one of a kind.
These are the articles we’re looking for.
D-0. Or maybe I imagined it in the midst of the ADHD that was Rise of Skywalker…
Also, Jabba’s Ring-bot speaks Huttese
I’ve only seen the first 3 releases, so obviously missed a lot. Like the R4, 5, &6 droids. Are these ever referenced as ‘bucket-heads’? R5 looks like the props dept upended a popcorn bucket & hot-glued random crap from the junk drawer on it for a head.* I also wonder why they went back to the dome-top. Anyone versed in the lore care to enlighten me here?
*not casting aspersions: I helped build some props when living with a Props Master, so always try to figure out where things came from and how the form is incorporated into/influences the story
Another question is why the one tread/”motivator unit” is yellow and the rest red? Did it need a repair? Did it scavenge that part itself? Does that one unit have more power than the others? Did it spend 3 minutes adjusting it’s power output to the unit until it stopped spinning in circles? These are all the questions that demand answers.
There’s a flashback in one of the later episodes that shows him with all four red wheels and much cleaner, so based on his likely mass-produced nature, I’d guess it’s a parts bin compatibility choice. They went with what they had to get him back on the road that day and not leave him on the lift for a week while they waited for the next parts delivery to come into port.
username checks out.
Threepio (C-3PO, note the “O” at the end and not “0”, Torch) had a silver leg during much (if not all) of the OT for the same reason. Handy parts-bin replacement.
or new trilogy, “You probably didn’t recognize me because of my red arm!”
I do wonder if “B-2EMO” is a reference to “BMO”, phonetically spelled “beemo” from the Adventure Time series. If so, fist bump to Andor’s writers. You’re watching the right stuff.
This. BMO was my first thought, and if it’s intentional it makes me like this show that much more.
(I feel like a failure of a man because I didn’t notice this before!)
Mesopotamian ziggurat design for the win, here.
Now that you mention brutalitist architecture, I could totally see 55 W Wacker in Chicago trundling off to do some damage.
In lieu of a photo:
It’s time to talk about Restraining Bolts.
I still miss the orange….
I could see how lying could require more computing effort than telling the truth – the truth requires only retrieval from memory in response to an inquiry. Lying requires analyzing every question to see if that question gets a true response or the fabricated one. If there is any kind of protection against non-direct approaches to obtaining the truth, the analysis and response calculations get pretty elaborate:
“B2-Emo, tell me if Jason ate all the cake yesterday.”
Response (a total freakin lie!) “No, Jason did not eat the all cake yesterday.
Interrogator’s sneak attack:
“B2-Emo – Did Jason eat anything on 22 September, 2022?
“What did he eat?”
Response: “Chili-dogs, Cheetos, and cake”
“How much cake was left after he ate?”
I could see recognizing that trap burnin’ up some batteries. However, unless “B2-Emo” is like a Tesla and uses a small separate battery for his computer functions and a big one for his obviously power-thirsty scrapyard work, I have trouble believing that lying -even at pro-level- would put a strain on his power reserves.
Exactly. This is also why it’s so easy to catch your kids when they lie. The extra processing time taken to recognize the truth, reject it, come up with a new explanation, and cross-check that explanation against possible follow-up questions makes it incredibly easy to determine which one ate cookies in your bed.
I imagine some droids live for their role and don’t like the more uppity ones causing all the ruckus about rights.
‘Why would a spoon want to be a hand?’
They might beep out in some incomprehensible song of chirps and whistles…
Side note….my current car is named R4-D6 (Arfoor for short) due to its resemblance to, not surprisingly, R4-D6.
If the idea of android slavery/rebellion intrigues you, The Orville has a storyline arc over seasons 2 and 3 that explains the origins of an all-android planet that you might like.
Heck with Star Wars. Murderbot.
It reminds me of Wall-E. It also looks like a rolling tool box.
I’m getting more of a B.O.B. or V.I.N.CENT from The Black Hole vibe. Especially from the collapsible feature.
Little Red Wall-E V1 there is at least beat up and well used. Think of those poor droids that are all bight and shiny, always on the re-charge base just wishing they could get out of the garage.
Meet the new bot
Same as the old bot
Star Wars & comic book movies make me ill . . .
Okay first things first, this show is fantastic so far. It feels more cohesive than Obi Wan(which I wanted to love but felt it raised more questions than it answered, similar to Solo) and is more well thought out than The Mandalorian’s “side quest/monster of the week” format. Miles ahead of the unnecessary mess that was Boba Fett. Truly unexpected, though I guess going in with virtually zero expectations will do that. It’s great to get away from the Skywalkers, and I say that as a life long Luke and Leia fan, and as someone with two Vader tattoos.
Okay so as for the droid, all I can think of is BMO from Adventure Time. I have to wonder if the name is a nod. And I love how nonchalantly humanized droids are in this universe. As you said, it’s never a question whether they have intelligence, and they’re often viewed as equals by the human characters. I’ll die on the hill that R2 is the single most important character in the main saga.
And as much as I want a darker version of Star Wars, it’s just so weird hearing people say “shit” in this universe. Was this the first time, or did I hear one in Obi Wan too?
Anyone else getting big WALL-E vibes?
What, did Toyota name a Star Wars droid?
Oh wait, this one does make a bit of sense, you can be too emo.
Not watched Andor yet. Looking forward to it 🙂
You forgot to mention: B2-EMO has a stutter, in a memory-fault-power-drain sort of way. Needs a new DME relay.
D-O also has a stutter, which seems like some kind of post-traumatic stress.
More cheap counterfeit relays from the outer rim. Can’t get OEM, chip shortage is really hurting everyone.