Star Wars Droids: The Great Heep (1986) — Artoo and Threepio foil the Empire

“If I fall, I’m programmed to smash, not fly.”

Justin’s rating: The beardy side of the Force

Justin’s review: With the absolute piles of Star Wars shows we have today, it’s almost head-scratching to consider that between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, LucasArts only went ahead with two cartoons in the mid-80s. There was that two-season Ewoks thing that was clearly meant for teething infants, and then there was the rather interesting if short-lived Star Wars Droids.

This aired for a single season in ’85 and ’86, and it was notable for two reasons beyond merely being a Star Wars TV show in that decade. First, Anthony Daniels returned to lend his famous voice for C3P0. And second, the concept of the show was pretty neat: It followed the two droids prior to A New Hope as they were sold between owners, so you’d get several episodes with each owner apiece before they moved on. It was kind of an anthology series in that, even though it only featured three episode arcs before being canceled.

However, at the very end of Droids’ run, the powers that be authorized a one-hour TV event called The Great Heep, which is what we’ll be looking at today. I thought it was worth examining for the novelty of this early chapter in the franchise’s small screen appearances.

Anyway, C3P0 and R2D2 are on their way to meet their new master, a swashbuckling merchant known as Mungo Baobab. But as these things often go, the two are abducted by pirate droids and are relocated to a “droid harem” ruled over by a mega-droid named Great Heep that’s made up of a ton of other droids, Voltron-style.

Heep and his cronies have turned the planet into a wasteland while also capturing Baobab. He’s doing this to mine fuel for the Empire and Admiral Screed, a guy who looks like he lost every character creation roll when it came to looks.

It’s up to the droids and a few unlikely allies (read: a kid and his pet) to foil Screed and Heep’s plan — and maybe save the rest of the droid harem before they’re eaten by the mega-droid.

Granted that this is a cartoon interpretation and all, but it always bothered me a little how much they changed C3P0’s looks. He’s got a weird blue neck and midriff, for starters, his eyes can blink, and he’s got a variety of facial expressions. R2D2, on the other hand, simply had a TARDIS amount of random gadgets somehow tucked inside his shell.

But it’s still way more of a Star Wars production than I assumed. The sound effects, screen wipes, and callbacks to the movies (such as a certain interrogation droid or actual stormtroopers) are all welcome, and the plot keeps trucking along at a good pace through various action setpieces.

That’s not to say that this is high art. Droids was better than Ewoks, yet it involves far more slapstick and buffoonery (usually involving C3P0 falling, about to fall, or continuing to fall) than I generally care to see as an adult.

It is too bad that Lucas didn’t want to pursue more TV projects like this in the ’80s or even ’90s, because this actually shows some real potential. As it stands. The Great Heep remains a nostalgic trip to a decade far, far away.

Didja notice?

  • Not taun-taun sounds like a taun-taun
  • Hey, it’s your standard tornado generator!
  • Why does C3P0 have a portrait of Mungo hugging a space squid?
  • It’s so weird to me that R2 uses an earth mop and bucket
  • I may have geeked out a tiny little bit over the trademark Star Wars scene wipes
  • R2 squirts the big robot with a flower. And the big robot uses his OWN metal flower to squirt R2 back. Really, show?
  • It’s a… droid harem?
  • C3P0’s look of horror when the R2 unit is absorbed into Heep
  • R2D2’s pink girlfriend
  • Hey, it’s a stormtrooper!
  • Mungo’s droid disguise has style

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