I have to start off with an apology: I was wrong. Wrong in the worst possible way, too: I misidentified a tiny image of a droid in a Star Wars movie. I hope I don’t have to offer my resignation, but I do understand. I would like, however, a chance to fix things. I have a theory, you see. About a droid.
Here’s where I was wrong: the droids I thought were R6 units are actually an entirely new, never-before-seen class of astromech droid. Here’s a screencap from The Force Awakens that shows the droid in question, and an R6 astromech:
Now, to be fair, I think you can understand my confusion. It was only thanks to the recent iTunes release of the movie that I was able to actually see these in enough detail, and I never even thought to look until I started to notice a strange new astromech droid in some of the Force Awakens toys.
This new droid type, it turns out, is known as an R0 droid. Here’s some better images of these droids as they were being built for the movie:
If we look at these droids, their heads seem to be right between the truncated cone of the R4 and the inverted bucket of the R5. R6 droids used the same shape head as the R5, but with the R2/R3/R4 eye and ‘face’ hardware.
These new droids use R2-style eyes, have some R5/R6-looking ‘arm’ like things in recesses on the head, and have a regularly-spaced band of square panels, the left one under the eye being some sort of white light.
Now, for true droid geeks like myself, there’s a lot to process here. First, why isn’t this an R6 droid? I mean, it has a very similar-looking inverted bucket-shaped head, and the R6 droids have been established for a while in non-movie Star Wars-related media and products.
So why the need to introduce a similar-but-different droid type?
R1 through R5 droids all show up in the earliest Star Wars movie from 1977; no new droid types have been introduced in the movies since then. If The Force Awakens wanted to introduce a new R-series droid (the movie, of course, already introduced a whole new series of astromechs, the BB-series) there was probably a good reason why they came up with this type instead of using the R6, right?
I have no clue what the prop people on the film were thinking, but, personally, I have a theory. My theory also fits with the odd choice of name for this new Astromech, R0.
At first, R0 for a new, unseen class of astromech droid makes no sense; it’s long been established that R-series droids are named simply and sequentially; it starts at R1 and various media have shown droids all the way up to R9. So why would they go back to R0 instead of, say, R10?
Here’s why: these droids are not an entirely new class of droid. The R0 droids are the designations given to repaired or maybe resurrected astromech droids, and the R0 name is really referring to the head, which is a component made by Industrial Automation (or maybe they’re aftermarket R-compatible heads?) specifically to be a service part that lets droids whose heads have been destroyed or damaged be put back into service.
And why would the Resistance have so many headless droids? Because of incidents like this:
Remember that? Right near the climactic end of Star Wars, poor intrepid R2-D2 gets blasted right in the goddamn head by a TIE fighter. That’s just part of the danger of being an astromech droid, and having your head exposed out there in space, right in the path of lasers and asteroids and debris and the force knows what else.
Luckily, Artoo was repaired, but it’s a safe bet that unusual effort and resources were expended to make sure he was repaired; after all, this was the droid that helped destroy the Death Star. This is not the time to cheap out with some half-assed repair.
But, for a small force with limited resources like the Resistance, they’re not going to have the luxury to spend a lot of time on astromech repairs every time one gets a head blown off, which, let’s face it, probably happens fairly often.
I’m assuming there’s some good reason why the droid’s heads have to be exposed anyway—maybe for unrestricted full 180° sensor access or something—so, if this is a real, recurring problem, it stands to reason there’d be good, relatively cheap repair solution.
That solution is the R0 head. Sure, if you have the money, you could order a proper replacement R2/R3/R4/R5/Rwhatever head for your droid, but if you’re buying these things in bulk because without them all of your fancy X-Wing fighters aren’t going anywhere, chances are you’ll be wanting the cheap, universal part that’s, you know, good enough.
This would make maintenance and repair much easier. Instead of having to keep a supply of five different types of expensive droid heads on hand, all they’d need is the one type of cheap universal R0 heads. Sure, if it was your own droid maybe you’d spring for the fancier R3 dome or whatever, but, come on, this is war.
The design of the head seems to suggest this, too. There appears to be less equipment on the head (at least in its default configuration). There don’t seem to be any holoprojectors, for example, and those things seem expensive and probably useless if your main job is to help manage and fly a space fighter.
So that’s my theory. We actually haven’t seen a new R-series droid in the Force Awakens, but what we have seen are many types of R-series droid bodies (which house the main locomotor systems, many tools, and the whole main system bus, I bet) brought back into active service thanks to the cheap, plentiful R0 replacement head part.
I like this theory. It makes a lot of sense, and, I think adds a nice pragmatic richness to the world, as well as conjuring up fun images of catalogs and warehouses and droid-repair storerooms.
Now I have to somehow get JJ Abrams in here to weigh in on if my theory is true or not. I can’t imagine they’d have bothered to build a whole new droid head type without a reason; maybe mine is right?
If I’m right, I think they should give me an R0 head. I really need to get that old junked R4 in my yard running again.