I can’t believe I published our hotly-anticipated 2019 Year In Droids Recap on Monday, only to have the biggest fucking droid-related news of the year happen after the fact. Yes, my fellow dorks and associated dipshits, I’m talking about the stunning reveal of an R2 droid with humanoid-style limbs as seen in the final episode of The Mandalorian. What hath God wrought?
The droid gets revealed in a pretty dramatic fashion about three-quarters of the way into the episode. Like the headline said, I haven’t even had a chance to watch the episode yet, I just got word of a droidular surprise and scrubbed through the episode until I found it.
The droid’s job is to be a ferryman on what looks to be some kind of underground river of lava—a sort of mechanical Charon on this sort-of-Styx. I can’t spoil the overall plot because, again, I haven’t seen it, so don’t worry.
The droid is clearly a very modified R2-series astromech droid, some significant changes to its mechanical layout.
Most notably, the sockets at the sides of the droid’s drum-like body have had their stubby legs replaced with a pair of articulated arms, terminating in actual mechanical hands, complete with three digits, including an opposable thumb.
The “shoulders” plug directly into the former leg sockets and appear to afford the arms a good range of motion, and must be some sort of universal joint.
The shoulder units also incorporate lower extentions that mount a pair of smaller, thinner arms that also appear to terminate into small three-digit hands. These arms do not appear to be used for manipulating the ferry-propelling pole.
The socket that once accommodated the droid’s third leg now is connected to a sort of pelvis, onto which the droid’s long bipedal legs mount. You don’t really see the droid walking that much, but I assume the legs work, and seem to be good at compensating for the force of the pole moving through the molten lava, and keeping the droid upright.
A final major change is that the R2 unit’s head is extended a bit, a feature we’ve seen referenced before in other Star Wars materials, and has been suggested is used when the droid is installed in certain spacecraft:
There also seems to be a small raised panel on the droid’s domed head, possibly where the extra control and balance hardware was installed to properly use all those new limbs without stumbling around like a drunk.
What’s interesting—well, mildly interesting to a very specific sort of person—is that almost all the instances in The Mandalorian that we’ve seen R-series astromech droids have been in contexts of them performing transportation jobs.
Previous Star Wars universe movies and other media haven’t really focused on these droids doing such jobs, but I suppose if there was a standard, self-contained unit that could handle piloting any number of vehicle types, why wouldn’t people be using them all over the place?
I’m guessing this strange ferry-operating be-limbed R2 is a one-off. Maybe some enterprising company out there sells these hex-limbed upgrade kits out of the back of droid enthusiast magazines? I think I prefer my R2s short, slow, and stumpy, but I’m delighted to see this, regardless.