email thomas

















By Thomas Wheeler

Although the majority of my current Star Wars collection consists of a wide variety of Clone Troopers, assorted Stormtroopers, and a large supply of astromech droids, every once in a while, I'll bring in the occasional Battle Droid from the other side of the Clone Wars conflict, if I believe there's good enough reason. Generally speaking, the Battle Droids aren't quite as diverse a lot as the Clone Troopers.

So, I came across a very nice vehicle and figure set from the Star Wars line, which consisted of a Battle Droid, along with one of their STAP vehicles, first introduced in Star Wars Episode I. The vehicle seemed well made, as did the droid, the price was agreeable, so I brought it in to my collection, and now present it here for review.

Let's consider the history of the STAP vehicle, and the Battle Droids, and then give some consideration to their respective toys.

The Single Trooper Aerial Platform (or STAP, and this is the first time I've known what it stood for -- thank you, Wookieepedia) was an agile flying machine designed for use by the Trade Federation's and Confederacy of Independent Systems' B1 battle droids.

Single Trooper Aerial Platforms were similar in design to personal repulsorlift airhooks used for both civilian and military purposes. Designed to travel fast, the STAP's only weapon was a twin blaster cannon connected to it. High voltage energy cells powered the machine.

Each STAP was piloted by a single B1 battle droid that stood on a long foot panel, gripping a pair of handles that controlled its weapons and were used to pilot the craft.B1 battle droids usually piloted these STAPs. STAPs utilized by the Trade Federation prior to the Clone Wars tended to be brown in color; Separatist STAPs were predominantly blue with white triangular markings.

The STAP-1 was used for scouting and anti-personnel hunting operations, and would occasionally be used in open battle to harass enemy forces. Because of its open design, STAP units were vulnerable to enemy heavy weapons, making them rely on their speed and agility to dodge enemy fire.

STAPs were used extensively during the Invasion of Naboo in 32 BBY, where Trade Federation forces used them to great effect against the Naboo security teams and to subjugate the local populace.

Later, they would be used during the Clone Wars, especially during the Dark Reaper Crisis, on planets such as Raxus Prime, alongside heavy armored vehicles.

During the Battle of Teth, STAPs were utilized by the Separatist forces against the clone troopers and AT-TEs scaling the cliff wall. Anakin Skywalker managed to destroy all but one by knocking their droid pilots off, using the remaining STAP to reach the top of the cliff.

STAPs were again utilized by the Separatists on Naboo during the Blue Shadow Virus crisis. A small force of three battle droids riding STAPs were escorting a tactical droid when the convoy was destroyed by Captain Typho, Chrin and another member of the Royal Naboo Security Forces. They were also deployed by the CIS during the Battle of Tirahnn.

It later saw use during the Galactic Civil War when a small Jawa warlord named Wittin found a STAP and remote controlled B1 battle droid pilot. He then outfitted it with several modifications, such as a twin ion cannon to stop other vehicles as well as advanced armor upgrades. He then used this vehicle in Jabba Desilijic Tiure's dangerous gladiatorial game.

Which, frankly, was a heck of a way to end up, if you ask me. Now let's consider the history of the B1 Battle Droids...

B1 battle droids were battle droids that made up the backbone of the Trade Federation Droid Army and the Separatist Droid Army. Often called "Clankers" by Galactic Republic clone troopers, they were the successor of both the HKB-3 hunter-killer droid. and the OOM-series battle droid.

B1s were perhaps the most numerous—and expendable—soldiers in galactic history, and, unlike most organic soldiers, they were capable of action in hostile environments such as underwater or in space. They were designed, for the most part, to defeat their enemies through sheer numbers, not through their ability to think (they were very vulnerable to tricks) and utilize combat skills (unlike clone troopers).

The B1 battle droid was frequently used as a soldier for the Trade Federation. As a result, B1s were present in nearly every battle involving the Trade Federation.

Early battles involving the droids required a control mainframe for the droids to "think" from, but this was mostly removed post-Battle of Naboo after an attack destroyed the mainframe stationed there, resulting in all the droids on the planet shutting down.

Neimoidians were known to spread the false rumor that B1 battle droids' heads were designed to imitate the shape of a Neimoidian's skull after death. In this way, they were intended to strike fear into an enemy's heart. In addition, their bodies vaguely resembled those of the Geonosians.

Personally, I always thought their elongated heads made them look more like Gungans, and I don't quite see the Geonosian resemblance, either.

B1 battle droids were physically identical to their direct predecessor, the OOM-series battle droid; like OOM models they were color-coded according to function, such as commander or security. Some were painted with different colors to blend into a certain environment. They stood 1.91 meters tall with black sensors.

B1s were usually slaved to a central control mainframe located on a remote starship or another well-defended facility. However, as the Droids evolve and get new and better software, they begin to think individually. However, this could lead to massive failure if the central control mainframe was destroyed, such as during the Battle of Naboo, in which Anakin Skywalker destroyed the Droid Control Ship. The monumental defeat at Naboo spurred interest in independent battle droids, and this technique gained ground following the battle and during the Clone Wars.

In extreme cases, the droids would deactivate the electromagnets that kept their limbs attached. During the Clone Wars, Galactic Republic clone troopers learned to aim at the hips, torsos, and arm joints of the B1s to quickly destroy them. But a head shot is the only decisive way to disable a droid. They don't need arms, legs or even bodies to pass intel to central command.

B1s were designed for cheap mass-production. As a result, they were very flimsy and vulnerable, but were capable of swarming an enemy with their hugely superior numbers. Other models, like the droideka, B2 super battle droid, grapple droid, and B1-A air battle droid, were more expensive and as a result less widely used but better soldiers.

Battle droids used E-5 blaster rifles, blaster pistols, and thermal detonators in combat. They spoke in a high-pitched monotone. The voice varied between units around the time of the Battle of Naboo, and at some point during the Clone Wars their voices were uniformly changed to a more high-pitched version.

B1 droids often employed sophisticated tactics in battle. Massed parade ranks or simple swarms were used, and they often displayed a concept of cover. During the Clone Wars, however, there was the inevitable development of wartime, and B1 programming began to show some improvement. Nevertheless, their in-battle reactions were often slow, and such initiative as was shown was slight. General Grievous, the commander of the droid army, hated battle droids for their weakness in comparison to the Republic's clone troopers.

Although they appeared to be weak, B1s were able to take down an enemy in hand-to-hand combat as seen in the Battle of Grassy Plains where battle droids were able to take Gungan soldiers one-on-one.

Although the earlier generations were entirely dependent on Central Control Computers, post-Naboo models featured a great degree of independence and personality. Many older droids that were originally reliant on Control Computers developed personality quirks and a tendency to excessively comment on their situations. Some older models of B-1 battle droids were pushed to the limit of their programming when they were assigned new duties which led to certain units talking endlessly in an attempt to handle the data overflow that had strained their old logic modules. And wouldn't that just get annoying in a hurry...

B1s were used by a variety of governments and armed forces. Even smugglers were known to use them, but in smaller amounts compared to the galactic armies of the commerce guilds.

B1 battle droids were used extensively during the Invasion of Naboo by Viceroy Nute Gunray. Although the droids were statistically flimsy, with overwhelming numbers they were able to subdue the Naboo and maintain surface control of the planet. The Trade Federation invasion force which held Naboo until the Battle of Naboo was mostly composed of B1s, droidekas and other mechanized vehicles such as AATs, MTTs, STAPs, and PACs.

Upon their arrival to the Trade Federation blockade of the planet, Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn highlighted weaknesses of the droids. These technical shortcomings, including a slow reaction time, weapon inaccuracy, and straight-forward tactics, stemmed from the nature of the Trade Federation quantity-over-quality production of B1s.

The Gungan Grand Army and the bulk of the Trade Federation invasion force ultimately fought openly in the Battle of Grassy Plains. Although the uneven nature of the terrain and innovative tactics of the Gungans initially posed a problem, the overwhelming supply of B1s and other machines on the battlefield proved to be the trump card.

The turning point and saving grace of the Battle of Naboo proved to be the destruction of the Droid Control Ship by Anakin Skywalker. After the Central Control Computer of the droid army was destroyed, all mechanized units on the Grassy Plains reset and became inanimate and harmless.

Upon the closure of the Naboo crisis, the Galactic Republic passed legislation that prohibited the Trade Federation's use of droid armies and the development of military hardware. The Trade Federation, however, relocated its military research and production centers to extra-Republic territories, like Geonosis.

During this time, the Trade Federation began to recuperate from Republic ordinance and the incredible financial loss from the Naboo fiasco. Existing models of battle droids were improved and new generations of soldiers were developed, such as the Super Battle Droid.

The B1s, however, were retooled and refitted. Learning from the destruction of the Droid Control Ship above Naboo, the Trade Federation upgraded B1s with on-board independent intelligence centers that could operate without a master signal. The spherical centers of the Droid Control Ships were also redesigned to operate on land, which proved to be easier to defend.

After the Trade Federation joined the Confederacy of Independent Systems, they became a majority of the Separatist Droid Army. B1s would be the Confederacy's most common soldiers, with alleged quintillions churned out on countless CIS factory worlds.

They participated in many battles including, but not limited to, the First Battle of Geonosis, Battle of Muunilinst, Battle of Cato Neimoidia, Battle of Coruscant, and Battle of Kashyyyk. They were also used to eradicate the Nightsisters clan on Dathomir. Training models were even used on Kamino for the practice tests of Clone cadets.

Following the execution of the Separatist Council by Darth Sidious's new apprentice, Darth Vader, most, if not all, of the B1s were de-activated. However, some would be re-activated to serve in the various Confederate Remnants, such as the one controlled by Geonosian Gizor Dellso.

Soon after Order 66, surviving Jedi Olee Starstone and Roan Shryne fled to Jaguada, a former Separatist base. Attempting to contact Jedi on Coruscant, they accidentally activated the droid guards. Vader discovered their position, and sent troops from the planet to destroy them. The Jedi used the activated droids to serve as a rear-guard against the troopers.

During the rise of the Empire, some B1s were reactivated and reprogrammed for use as security droids.

During the Galactic Civil War, B1s left over from the Clone Wars were discovered on Geonosis by Rebel pilot Wedge Antilles after crash landing in his X-wing. Several stormtroopers that had landed on the planet in escape pods managed to destroy many droids by using E-web blasters, but they ultimately fell to the battle droids' overwhelming blaster fire.

Toy versions of the B1 battle droid were known to have been manufactured, as Jango Fett's cloned son Boba Fett had some of his own during his youth on Kamino -- and if that isn't a case of life imitating art or some such, I don't know what is.

So, how are the toys? Not the ones Jango Fett played with (although one does wonder if the movie used actual toy product, since by the filming of Episode II, action figure Battle Droids had been made), but rather the STAP and Battle Droid set I have here?

Really very impressive. It's been interesting to watch the development and improvement of Star Wars toys over the years. Certainly the figures are far more detailed and articulated than when the line came along in the 1970's, but the modern toys are, for the most part, superior in almost every respect even to those that emerged in the mid to late 1990's, just prior to the release of Episode I.

Now, this STAP, although part of the recent collection, is not technically a brand new toy. The copyright date on it does read 1998. So this is really the same STAP that was produced for Star Wars Episode I. But, let's give it a break on two counts. First of all, that's something like fourteen years ago. There's a lot of kids around that would like to have a STAP in their Star Wars collection that hadn't even been born in 1998. Secondly, it's a superbly-designed toy. This STAP was a good early indication that forthcoming Star Wars toys were going to be paying attention to a level of detail and accuracy that the line had been begging for, literally for decades.

The STAP is an odd-looking contraption. Some of the vehicles in the Star Wars universe have a fair level of plausibility about them. The STAP -- not so much. It's a rather vertical vehicle, with a narrow, slightly curved lower body, that has a platform for the Battle Droid to plant its feet, and two small jets out to the side. This section of the STAP, reasonably armored for its size, is mostly a rusty tan in color. Above this is a gray framework, also curved, topped by a wider section, the same rusty tan in color as the lower part, that consists of a pair of handlebars for the Battle Droid to steer the STAP, and two weapons mounts designed to look like blaster cannons, but which on the toy, also act as spring-loaded missile launchers.

The approximate height of the STAP is five inches. Its longest point, counting the missiles, is four inches at the top, which also bears its widest measurement at slightly over two inches, matched by the foot platform.

Needless to say, this thing doesn't have any landing gear. It's one of those odd vehicles in the Star Wars universe, like Speeder Bikes or Landspeeders, that when not in use just sort of hovers there. Obviously, that's not going to work on a toy, so the STAP comes with a transparent display base. However, the base serves a dual purpose.

In a rather remarkable bit of toy engineering, the base also includes the launch button for the spring-loaded missiles at the top. I don't pretend to fully understand how it works, but when you snap the base completely onto the STAP, and then press the clear button underneath the base, somehow, this works its way all the way up through the lower part of the vehicle, and fires off both missiles at the top. I think I can see how it works, but it's certainly an innovative bit of engineering, and was probably a good bit more complicated then putting an activation button in the top of the vehicle closer to the missiles. I'm impressed.

The STAP doesn't have a lot of paint detailing on it. Mostly it's molded in either the rusty tan or the dark gray. However, there is a bit of silver here and there, and some painted trim, and this has all been very neatly done.

Let's consider the Battle Droid. There's been no shortage of these over the years, in both the movie-based and Clone Wars lines. Although they all tend to look quite a bit alike, some are more impressive than others, especially in the articulation department. Some have a full range of articulation, even down to the ankles. Others aren't even poseable at the knees and elbows, and generally don't stand up worth a darn, either.

Fortunately, the Battle Droid that comes with the STAP has a very decent level of articulation. He is poseable at the knees and elbows, along with the requisite level of articulation at the head, arms, and legs. He pretty much has to have this level of posability just to be able to be posed properly on the STAP, which requires that his knees and elbows be somewhat bent.

The Battle Droid is a sort of ivory in color, not unusual for Battle Droids, and he is one skinny customer. I suspect within the Star Wars universe, this is a result of them being pretty basic droids, cheap to make, and using a minimum of material. But I think there's also something to be said for a droid this skinny being a lot harder to hit on the battlefield. If you're used to aiming at a full-grown humanoid type, you're going to have a smaller target here.

The Battle Droid has a sort of framework look to it, like it really doesn't have any more "bells and whistles" than it would absolutely need. The body is humanoid, although the hands only have two fingers and a thumb each, and the head is a rather odd bit, sort of an elongated and slightly curved trapezoid shape, with two -- I'm not really sure what they are -- hanging off the back of his head. The droids eyes, or optics, are two small black circles about halfway down the head, each with a narrow slit in them.

The Droid does have a backpack, but I believe this to be communications equipment, given the antenna. I rather doubt it's rations and a bedroll, at any rate.

The Battle Droid stands about 4-1/2" in height. This is tall for the Star Wars scale, but then the Battle Droids did have a fair bit of height to them. He can readily be secured to the foot platform of the STAP, as it has pegs for the holes in his feet, and he can very nicely grasp the handlebars with his hands. Would that all action figures looked this effective in their respective vehicles.

Standing on his own, the Battle Droid does have a slight "spread-eagled" look to his arms and legs, but this is to accommodate his positioning on the STAP. The plastic used for the Battle Droid is somewhat flexible, so it's conceivable that he could be "bent" a little straighter over time, but really, there's plenty of other Battle Droids to be purchased individually out there. I even once saw a two-pack of them on a single card for the price of an individual figure.

The Battle Droid doesn't have a lot of paint details on him. Apart from the eyes and a couple of small details here and there, most of the paintwork is a bit of "weathering" mostly around his joints. Usually I'm not terribly fond of this sort of thing, but on occasion, within the Star Wars universe, it works. And it works well enough on the Battle Droid. If these things are as cheap to make as the backstory indicates, I doubt anyone's really going to bother to bring out a can of droid polish for them.

The Battle Droid does not come with any weapons or other accessories, but what the heck, he's got the STAP. What does he need with a rifle? The only additional components in the set are a plastic die and cards for the Battle Droid and the STAP to participate in the Galactic Battle Game, which I believe is finally being brought to a conclusion. Anybody want a couple'a dozen plastic dice?

So, what's my final word? Okay, this isn't exactly a brand new toy. The Battle Droid also has a 1998 date on him. But -- it's been a while since it's been offered, and if you didn't get it the first time, and don't feel like trying to track down the original, which could be both tricky and expensive, then here's a great opportunity to bring it into your collection. And certainly both the Battle Droid and the STAP are crucial parts of the Star Wars saga, not only in Episode I, but throughout the Prequel Trilogy and the Clone Wars series.

And both the STAP and the Battle Droid are very well done. For toys dating back to the Episode I releases, they've held up extremely well, and still look good today, and are fine re-appearances in the Star Wars collection. If you haven't owned them before, or perhaps want to do a little more army-building with them, this is an excellent opportunity, and you won't be disappointed.

The STAR WARS STAP with BATTLE DROID Vehicle and Figure Set definitely has my highest recommendation!