email thomas




















By Thomas Wheeler

So, what's better for a Star Wars fan who likes Astromech Droids than having a whole bunch of them around here. I mean, I did a headcount -- or maybe that should be a dome-count -- and I've got somewhere around twenty of the little fireplugs here. And that's with a few unaccounted for. And I know that's not a complete collection, either.

So, what could be cooler than that? How about a radio-controlled Astromech Droid? That's TO SCALE with the other little guys!

Now, I've always liked radio-controlled vehicles. But it wasn't until 1987 that I actually got one. I finally had an excuse. Hasbro worked one into the G.I. Joe line that year. It was called the Crossfire, and for the most part., it looked pretty much like a conventional R/C car. Fairly race-car-looking, except it was molded in military olive, and there were missiles attached to it. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you asked), the missiles did not actually fire. But it worked perfectly well as an R/C vehicle.

The Crossfire was about average size for a radio-controlled toy at the time, and of course it had a fair length of antenna sticking out of the back, enabling it to receive the signals from the controller, which also had a long antenna on it.

Target has taken on a series of four remote controlled Astromech Droids. The series includes two of the best known Droids -- R2-D2, of course, and R5-D4, who so dramatically popped his motivator on the deserts of Tatooine near the Skywalker farm, so C-3PO and R2-D2 could remain together to continue their adventures. Presumably the remote-controlled version is a little more effective in his operation. A third Droid in the series is R5-X2, of the same type as R5-D4, but with a mostly red body and a more detailed dome.

Then there's the one I went with -- R2-Q5. He's an Imperial Astromech Droid. Now, I don't know if it's entirely fair to place such alliances on these droids. Okay, R2-D2 was pretty loyal to Luke, and before that, to Anakin, and before that, to Padme. Let's assume he was a more special case than most. It seems that just about everybody in the galaxy used Astromech droids. It's no wonder there's been so many different toys of different droids over the years. They're all over the place! And ultimately, they're going to respond to their owner, whoever that may be. To what degree most of the Astromechs possessed enough sentience to consider preferences of Republic over Empire, or whatever, I have no idea. And believe me, I'm hardly the first person to broach that subject. Take a look around Wookieepedia sometime.

Which is what I did to get a little background information on R2-Q5. I wasn't sure I'd find anything, but -- surprise! There he was. It wasn't much, but there was something. Says Wookieepedia:

R2-Q5 was an R2-series astromech droid produced by Industrial Automaton. R2-Q5 had black coverings highlighted by red access panels. R2-Q5 was a well-equipped droid, with tools for repairing starships and special, hidden spy devices. He was also one of the few beings aware of IG-88A's infiltration of the Death Star.

During the latter stages of the Galactic Civil War, R2-Q5 was assigned to the second Death Star above the Moon of Endor. When a Rebel attack destroyed corridors in the second Death Star, an R4 droid carrying a vital message was immobilized. R2-Q5 had to download the data from the downed droid and deliver it to the Emperor. He was destroyed in the explosion of the second Death Star.

You know, one wonders about that. I mean -- was he? Something as small as an R2-droid could theoretically survive the explosion of something as big as the Death Star, like the proverbial straw in a tornado. And we know Astromech Droids can survive in space. Still, even if he did, he probably took a bad bounce on Endor. Or an Ewok turned him into a home entertainment center or something...

I find I do have to question the description of R2-Q5 having "red" access panels. The trim on this droid, even in the photograph of the real one used in the movie attached to the Wookieepedia entry, looks distinctly copper-colored, and that's certainly the color Hasbro used on the toy, a very metallic copper finish.

So, why'd I pick R2-Q5? Well, for somebody different, if nothing else. As I said, he's of a size with the standard Astromech Droids, and I really don't have too many Imperial black ones. And R2-Q5 has a really superb finish. (Say what you will about the Empire, they kept their machines and equipment a lot cleaner than the Rebellion.)

R2-Q5 has a very nice glossy black finish, head to toe -- or dome to feet, anyway, with copper and silver highlights on his body. All of these details have been very neatly painted.

Now, the toy has all three legs down, and basically no articulation. The legs are not poseable, and the head does not turn on its own. That's not the purpose to this toy. It's an action figure only insofar as it's to scale with the 3-3/4" scale Star Wars action figure line, standing about 2-5/8" in height, and doubtless you could stand him alongside a display of his non-remote-controlled "peers" and he blends right in. But, technically, he's not really an action figure.

Here's where the second item that comes in the package comes into play. The controller. It's designed to look pretty much like a lightsaber handle, just distinctly smaller. Okay, this is a kid's toy. believe me, even a fairly small child would be able to operate this droid, and I think the controller was designed for smaller hands than mine. It's about 3-1/4" in length, and 3/4" in diameter.

So what makes this device work?

As best as I can determine, however, what makes it work is that it's not so much radio controlled, as it uses the same sort of system as a remote for a TV set or a DVD player. The controller has this little glass dome at the front, admittedly making it look that much more like a deactivated lightsaber, but I've seen that shape before on the remote to my DVD player and one of my VCR's.

Both the droid and the controller are battery-operated -- and the batteries are included! They each use two little A76 or LR44 batteries, likely readily available in the battery or camera department of your local mass merchandiser.

Both the droid and the controller have an on-off switch. The directions don't say which one needs to be turned on first, although it does show the droid first. The instructions indicate that optimum range is about three feet, and that the droid is recommended for indoor use only. Given that this toy is so small I think it would topple over a divide in a sidewalk, I'd say that's pretty obvious. So far, I haven't used it anywhere other than kitchen countertops.

When you turn the droid on, his center eye lights up red. I'm not sure what the R5 models do, which lack this feature in their design. Aim the controller at him, and press the button closest to the tip of the lightsaber. This will cause the eye to light up again, and the droid will proceed along a straight path, turning his head from side to side. You'll hear droid-like whistling and chirping. This is actually coming from the controller, though. I suspect stuffing even a small speaker into the droid was just too much to ask for. There's more room in the controller.

Press the second button on the controller, and the droid will move backwards in a circle, and make some different sounds. That's pretty much the extent of his movement, but hey, at this size, what did you expect -- a fully programmed tour around your home? If you want something more interactive, I think that half-sized hundred-dollar R2-D2 can still be found in some places.

In my experience, the toy IS a little temperamental. He'll turn on, but sometimes he doesn't want to move. I'm not entirely sure why. He'll light up, the controller whistles, but the droid stays put. Now, obviously there has to be an operating frequency for this toy, and indeed, both the toy and the controller are marked "Band 2". I would assume that there's perhaps four assigned frequency bands out there, one for each droid. But with an ideal range of three feet, that can't be a very powerful frequency, and it probably wouldn't take much to shake it up.

Now, when he DOES function properly, which is most of the time, he's great fun. He scoots along forward at a fair pace, and whipping around in backwards circles -- and he's got a pretty tight turning circle -- the droid comes across as quite comical, which isn't especially inappropriate for these little fireplugs.

He's good for startling people, too. Set up a group of non-remote-controlled Star Wars droids and put him in the group. Let a friend see them -- preferably one that doesn't know about these R/C droids. Keep the controller concealed. Then have him scoot around. Now calm your friend down.

Probably bug the heck out of your pet cat, too, although the droid is so small that if your cat is feeling feisty, the end result might, at best, be a droid swatted up against the far wall, or at worst, a trip to the vet if your cat thinks the droid is something edible. Might be just as well to keep Fluffy at a distance.

So, what's my final word here? I like him. I'm not entirely sure why R2-Q5 and his buddies are Target exclusives. You'd think this would be something any store would want to carry. But exclusive they are. Based on my observations around town, and admittedly at the time of this writing, most of the Target stores seem to be carrying them, and right alongside the rest of the rest of the Star Wars action figures. R2-Q5 is either short packed or particularly popular for some reason. R5-X2 seems to be the easiest to find.

And, of course, there's the secondary market. I haven't noticed any online retailers specifically carrying them, to the best of my knowledge, so these are really a Target exclusive!

Ultimately, the STAR WARS RC DROID R2-Q5 -- or any of his friends, for that matter -- definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!