Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Star Wars and animation. I have been keeping up with Star Wars: The Bad Batch, which has been okay but has only really piqued my interest when characters from The Clone Wars and Rebels showed up (which is happening more as the series progresses). And this week the teaser trailer for the anime anthology Star Wars: Visions was released and that looked interesting (you can check it out below).
And all this talk of animation inspired to go all the way back to 1985 and the very first Star Wars animated series, Star Wars: Droids: The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO (which was launched together with sister series Ewoks). The one season, 13-episode series follows the franchise’s lovable droids four years after Revenge of the Sith and 15 years before A New Hope as they assist three different “masters” and have adventures involving gangsters, pirates, tyrannical rulers, evil droids, and giant monsters.
Now the Droids being placed with Captain Antilles at the end of ROTS and then being found in his care at the start of ANH would seem to retcon the show out of existence, but it would have to be explained by Antilles losing the Droids and then reacquiring them at some point after all these adventures. What are the odds? Never tell me the odds!
I’ve heard of the series but I had never seen it until watching it over the past couple days for this article. So I went in fresh without any nostalgia attached. With that said and a Death Star-sized SPOILER ALERT here’s my retro review in three blasts:
Blast #1 Sights and Sounds
As mentioned above this series came out in 1985 and the animation style is very 80s. The characters are a bit boxy and the environments lack detail. And you will notice C-3PO has actual eyes which open and close, presumably to allow him more expression, and R2-D2 also moves in some cartoonish ways than would be physically impossible. It looks a bit off but you get used to it after awhile.
On the positive side C-3PO is voiced by Anthony Daniels himself so there is that level of authenticity. R2-D2 is also voiced by “himself” (that’s cute) and his sound effects do sound like they are sampled from the films themselves. The rest of the voice cast is just kind of there. There’s also a “danger theme” which is pretty cool. And speaking of themes, the opening theme “Trouble Again” by Stewart Copeland of The Police is a hefty slice of 80s cheese and sounds better suited to a family sitcom than a cartoon series. #justsaying
Blast #2 Heroes and Villains
The droids encounter several allies over their adventures. Their first masters in The Battle Against Sise Fromm arc are the trio of Jord Dusat, Thall Joben, and Kea Moll who all look like punk rockers but are pretty level-headed heroes. Then in The Pirates and the Prince arc their master is caring farmer and bare chest enthusiast Jann Tosh, and they are also aided by super cool space pilot freighter pilot Jessica Meade and kindly Mon Julpa, Prince of the Tammuz-an. In the final arc Uncharted Space their master is adventurer Mungo Baobab, who is a bit of a mix between Buck Rogers and Indiana Jones.
The new characters are okay but nothing to write home about. I will say that they do get better as the show progressed, with Mungo Baobab being particularly likeable, even with his penchant for randomly screaming like Space Tarzan.
Things get a tad more interesting with the villains. Famed bounty hunters Boba Fett and IG-88 do show up for an episode each. The voice acting was a little odd and Boba’s grappling line was actual rope for some reason, but I still enjoyed seeing the familiar faces. And there was also the familiar name of Kybo Ren. And no, that is not a typo. Three decades before angsty dark side user Kylo Ren debuted in The Force Awakens there was Kybo Ren-Cha (pictured above), a space pirate with the looks of Genghis Khan. And he was your typical one-note, power-hungry villain who was only interesting because his name would sorta be recycled years later.
In the first two arcs the bad guys are your generic space gangsters and pirates who truly aren’t all that interesting. In the final arc we do see our heroes tangling with the Empire led by the intimidating one-eyed Admiral Terrinald Screed. And because it is a children’s show the Stormtroopers blasters are replaced with staff weapons (less gun-like I presume) like an early prototype from Stargate. In the one-hour special The Great Heep, which acted as the season/series finale, our heroes face the titular gargantuan Abominor-class droid who did stand out from the usual bad guys.
Blast #3 80s-Styled Adventures
While an adventure series the show leaned heavily on slapstick humour, mostly involving C-3PO ending up in embarrassing situations. It’s very silly and corny but was common with 80s series. There is little blaster action and we mostly see people getting stunned. The ship-to-ship battles are better as we do actually see some ships exploded (unmanned of course). The show also boasted writing from some future greats including Michael Reaves (Gargoyles, Batman: The Animated Series) and Paul Dini (Batman: TAS, Superman: The Animated Series, Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs).
The stories themselves are pretty simple and straightforward, which makes sense as the show was targeted towards children and selling toys. This was the 80s. I believe older Star Wars fans (like myself) will find the show hard to get through as there is not much to really keep you invested aside from the bounty hunter cameos and references to Hoth or the Empire. So unless you have a hankering for some 80s animation or you are one of those franchise completionists like myself then I don’t think Droids will have that much to offer you.
So what’s your favourite Star Wars animated series? And are you excited for Visions? You can check out more animated content from a galaxy far, far away below:
Star Wars: The Bad Batch Gets Off to a Good Start
Reviewing the Star Wars Series No One Talks About—Resistance
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.