Star Wars: What Different Astromech Heads Mean | Screen Rant

Astromech droids are an essential part of the Star Wars saga, and the various droid models have different head styles, each with a unique meaning in the franchise’s two continuities. One of the Star Wars original and prequel trilogy’s main characters, R2-D2, was the first Star Wars character shown in the franchise, simultaneous with his counterpart, C-3PO. Famous for his heroism, despite being a simple mechanic, R2-D2 is a favorite among fans and even creator George Lucas. Throughout the franchise, astromech droids like R2-D2 are ubiquitous, with canon and Legends material granting different meanings to the various head designs of the droids.

Astromech droids served a variety of functions throughout the Star Wars franchise. Although their primary function was that of a mechanic, certain astromech types were essential crewmembers aboard starfighters, such as the Rebellion’s X-Wing and the Republic’s Clone ARC-170s. Here, astromechs would serve as navigators, perform vital in-flight repairs and hyperspace calculations, and could even pilot the ship if need be. In the Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith novelization, R2-D2 operated the blaster cannons on Anakin Skywalker’s Jedi Starfighter while the latter flew the vessel. On Utapau, Obi-Wan Kenobi had R4-G9 pilot his starfighter back to Clone Commander Cody, reporting his discovery of Grievous and tricking the Separatists into thinking that Kenobi left the planet.

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Throughout the saga, astromech droids are seen with a variety of different head styles and designations. While the films never delve into the intricacies of astromech droid models and styles, the non-movie material in the canon and Legends continuities explore them in great detail. Most astromechs seen in the Star Wars saga films are part of Industrial Automaton’s R-series. The first five R-series droids are shown throughout the original and prequel trilogies, and four more were introduced in various Legends-era material. Canon material set after the original trilogy introduced two new R-series models, with one being brought over from Legends and another being an original creation. Canon also introduced another now-iconic droid type: The BB-unit. Made famous by the Resistance hero BB-8 and the First Order’s BB-9E, BB-units brought a unique new look to the classic astromech droid, as well as new head styles.

The first five models of Industrial Automaton’s astromech droids are seen throughout the original and prequel Star Wars trilogies, which are part of both the Legends and canon timelines. Aside from the slow and cumbersome R1 droids, the most famous model was the R2-series, with its opaque, dome-shaped head and specialty in starfighter maintenance. R3 droids, a quicker-thinking and more powerful, yet less durable model, looked nearly identical to the R2, aside from a transparent dome-shaped head (which was painted in some cases, making it opaque and indistinguishable from an R2 droid). The durable and rugged R4 droids had cone-shaped heads and simplified faceplates, and the cheaper, more error-prone R5 units had flat heads with three photoreceptors and an antenna.

Legends-era material also introduced four more droids to the R-series. The improved R6 droid used the head shape of the R5 droid with the faceplate of the R2 and R3 models. Dark Empire’s R7 had an R2-style dome-shaped head with a unique faceplate (featuring a triangular photoreceptor), and though advanced, the droids saw little use outside of the New Republic’s E-Wing fighters unless they were modified. R8 droids combined the best features of all previous models, but were far more versatile than R7 droids, using a similar head and faceplate to the R2, albeit with a small dish instead of a photoreceptor. The most advanced Legends-era droid, the R9, had a vaguely similar dome-shaped head to the R2 and R3, but with a unique faceplate.

Astromech heads coincided with their respective droid models in nearly every case in Legends, but there were notable exceptions. For instance, R4 droids were extremely popular among members of the old Jedi Order, especially during the Separatist Crisis and Clone Wars, but they were often modified to use R2-series domed heads. This modification combined the advanced features of the R2 unit with the durability of R4 droids. These hybrid models, such as R4-P17 R4-G9, often served on Jedi Starfighters as integrated models or housed inside droid sockets. Following the poor reception and sales of their R5 droids, Industrial Automaton used R5 shells to house older units, leading some, like the R2-AG, to almost exclusively house higher-quality models within R5 bodies.

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Since they appeared in the original and prequel Star Wars trilogies all five original astromech types are part of the canon timeline, but the droids’ heads and names don’t hold the same meaning as they do in Legends. The discrepancy began in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, in which Jedi like Kit Fisto and Ahsoka Tano had droid companions who deviated from the usual Jedi-modified R4 droids. Droids like R6-H5 and R7-H7 used the familiar dome heads of R2 units without explanation. In its sequel series, Star Wars Rebels, another astromech, R3-A3, uses the cone-shaped head that signified R4 units in Legends.

The canon Star Wars timeline appears to eschew the Legends-era astromech head meanings, using any droid head style for the various R-series models. This implies that perhaps the differences between Star Wars droid models are internal, and the head styles are interchangeable and equally functional, making them possibly an aesthetic choice. Moreover, a droid’s designation similarly is no indication of their model, since Kit Fisto used a droid with an R6 prefix during a time where R3 units were considered “new” by Ahsoka Tano. This would make R2-D2 and R5-D4’s names coinciding with their models coincidental in the canon timeline.

The Star Wars canon also reintroduced the R6 droid, giving the model its live-action debut in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, where it (also coincidentally) retained its unique head and faceplate design from Legends-era material. The Force Awakens also included the R0 droid, a canon-exclusive droid model shown using heads similar to the Legends-era R6 droids and a wholly unique head style reminiscent of Legends R4 units. The new BB-units have a variety of head styles in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but Star Wars canon non-movie material has yet to explain whether or not these new astromech droids’ heads indicate any meaning.

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