Star Wars: Rebels – The Forgotten Droid

Season Two of Rebels has made a point to develop characters, from Zeb to Ezra, and Agent Kallus to Hera, but one character so far has been excluded from this group, Chopper.  The resident astromech has played the odd role of being exaggerated comic relief, but also on several occasions, savior of the crew of the Ghost, who have relied upon the feisty droid to interface with various computers to push missions across the finish line of success.  It’s in that capacity that Chopper appears in “The Forgotten Droid,” but not in the role of the titular forgotten droid.  That role belongs to a new droid character, AP-5, whose voice evokes thoughts of Alan Rickman and the protocol fussiness of C-3PO.  AP-5 is an interesting addition to the Rebels universe, but “The Forgotten Droid” has to live in the shadow of the preceding “Shroud of Darkness” and so a perfectly serviceable Rebels episode feels a bit less than it should were it aired earlier in the season.  Shoe horned into the climax of the episode is the reason why “The Forgotten Droid” could not have been aired much earlier, however.

That reason is touched upon in the opening moments of the episode where we enter a meeting in progress discussing two things.  First, the potential of a new home for the Rebel Alliance, with intel brought in by the bounty hunter and Sabine’s friend, “Ketsu Onyo.”  Introduced in “Blood Sisters” and at least that time, employed by the Black Sun, Ketsu provides what is supposed to be the final piece of information concerning the safest place in the Outer Rim for the rebels to hold up.  This brings us to topic number two, the ship carrier that was stolen in “Homecoming,” is out of fuel and more must be acquired before it and the rest of the fleet can head to this new safe haven.  On that account, Sabine mentions she’s been tracking Imperial fuel shipments and suggests targeting a supply depot on a nameless planet.  The plan is risky, but everyone agrees to give it a go.

After the Ghost arrives on the landing pad at this aforementioned planet, everyone departs, but not before Chopper is instructed to stay with the ship.  This is a difficult order for the droid who has spotted an astromech leg and perfect replacement for his own mismatched legs at a nearby shop.  Despite some friendly ribbing, the rest of the Ghost’s crew give little effort to Chopper’s desire for a better working limb.  Hardly a breath after everyone departs to steal fuel, Chopper abandons his post and flies over to a droid parts dealer with the leg.  In a clever bit of visual storytelling, as Chopper tries to convince the Ugnaught merchant to hand over the leg, we see his comrades racing back to the Ghost with the stolen fuel and under fire from pursuing storm troopers and the subsequent flight of the Ghost making a getaway.  Chopper and the merchant remain ignorant of all of this as the haggling continues.

Finally the merchant turns away and Chopper simply steals the leg, but not unnoticed and is soon being chased himself by other storm troopers.  He flees through a door and onto the deck of an Imperial cargo hauler.  After he finds a hiding spot, we cut away to the bridge of the ship and finally meet AP-5.  With large bulbous insect-like eyes, the black protocol droid is the target of insults slung at him from the ship’s commanding Imperial officer, who warns AP-5 that he simply cannot wait to toss the AP-5 aside once a replacement is available.  The lack of respect continues as AP-5 departs the bridge to only be bumped out of the way by a passing storm trooper.  Somewhat resigned to his lot in life, AP-5 notices an open doorway and soon discovers Chopper hiding within.

A brief chase ensues before the two droids begin to learn about each other.  After Chopper’s attempt to convince AP-5 that he’s an Imperial droid, Chopper tells the protocol droid that he’s in fact a war hero, who was shot down in a Y-Wing during the Battle of Ryloth.  Coincidentally, AP-5 was at that battle, and not in charge of inventory as his current demeaning duty requires, but was a droid who specialized in strategy and tactics and assigned to part of the Republic’s fleet.  Unfortunately for AP-5, his commander was ultimately killed and he ended up being passed from one job to another until his current role.  Given his poor treatment from living beings, AP-5 is skeptical when Chopper tells him he has friends, going so far to show a hologram of Hera to the protocol droid.  At about the same time, the abusive captain appears and calls for storm troopers to seize the astromech, but then is unsurprisingly shocked senseless by Chopper who drags the body out of sight.

At this point, AP-5 becomes an ally or at least, guilty by association and soon both are running from storm troopers.  Chopper helps in this regard by disabling AP-5’s restraining bolt.  In short order, Chopper tricks the ship’s compliment of white armor wearing soldiers into the detachable portion of the cargo ship, though is shot in mid-flight, dropping to the floor.  In perhaps the most endearing Chopper moment ever, we are given a few seconds of the fallen astromech vainly trying to drag himself forward by his small utility arms.  He’s saved by AP-5 who pulls him back to his feet, so to speak, and the two exit the cargo section and then detach it, along with the storm troopers, from the larger cargo vessel.   At this point, a friendship has been built and the pair return to the bridge with Chopper setting hyperdrive coordinates to join the rebel fleet.

The same fleet is in dire straits.  The Ghost emerges from their caper to discover it under attack in desperate need of the stolen fuel.  Ketsu in her ship helps provide cover as the Imperials target the Ghost, correctly identifying it as the ship with stolen fuel, and she manages to make a hard landing in the carrier ship.  While said fuel is being transferred to the larger ship, Chopper contacts Hera, who’s appropriately irritated with the astromech she saved so many years ago on Ryloth.  It’s at this point that AP-5 is made aware of the fleet’s destination once the carrier is refueled and warns Chopper, who promptly warns Hera, who promptly warns the rebel fleet, that the alleged safe haven is actually an Imperial trap.

Before AP-5 can provide a new safe location for the rebels, the abusive captain reappears and shoots the droid twice in the back before Chopper subdues him once again (or bludgeons him to death with his stolen leg).  AP-5’s last act before the killing shot is to transmit the coordinates.  It’s in the space of this new system with the rebel fleet approaching a red planet decorated with whirling masses of white clouds that we find AP-5 resurrected courtesy Sabine’s technical prowess (who knew?) and donated parts from Chopper’s desired replacement leg strut.  Built into AP-5’s final moments and his new ones here is a realization that he has a friend in the unpredictable astromech and the episode closes with the pair walking/rolling away in a conversation reminiscent of R2 and C-3PO.

The final moment actually undercuts the episode a bit by being too much of a recreation of the droid friendship we are most acquainted with, provoking thoughts of unnecessary imitation.  While AP-5’s presence is definitely welcome within the rebel fleet, it would be disappointing if they did pair the two droids together in a similar relationship.  This probably will not happen, but it’s a lingering concern, as Rebels has done a lot to avoid imitating what has come before in terms of actual character relationships.  The episode is also hurt by following “Shroud of Darkness,” a stupendous episode full of revelations and exciting content.  This seems unavoidable because of the tie into the rebel search for a new home, a theme which has run the length of the season and is appropriately concluded prior to the season finale just under two weeks from now.

As for the name of this new home, a comparison of the planet with a screenshot from A New Hope, and it seems very likely it may be the gas giant Yavin in the background with a less than blue-green moon of Yavin IV off to the side.  If so, this would firmly establish when the Yavin base was established and on the current Star Wars timeline, would provide the rebels with a home for at least two to three more years before a homing beacon on the Millennium Falcon would reveal its location to the Empire.  If this is correct, it undermines the show’s ability to present the rebels in a dire situation of always being hunted for the next couple seasons, at least.  By extension, this may mean a deeper focus on our characters versus the continuing growth of the rebel alliance which will take more of a backseat role in the coming third season.  Though, on preview of next week’s episode, the planet or moon exhibited seems to have no similarities to Yavin IV.

“The Forgotten Droid,” is a fine episode of Rebels and certainly a bit more interesting than “The Call,” which spun the wheels of the show a fair amount more.  It rises above the dreaded “filler” tag because of AP-5, whose storyline in the episode raises the question of how droids should be treated.  Are they sentient beings deserving of equal respect or are they simply mechanical constructs, useful until replaced and scrapped?  AP-5, by way of the Alan Rickman inspired voice, reveals an unhappy identity longing to return to a task much greater than its current station.  Toss in the restraining bolt and the consideration of the droid as a disposable thinking and feeling slave becomes all the more apparent.  “The Forgotten Droid” manages to be more than it could have been, but probably would have been better appreciated earlier in the season than at its end.

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