Picture the pitch meeting: “He’s like BB-8…but evil.” For the second entry in the latest “Star Wars” trilogy, this month’s “The Last Jedi,” director Rian Johnson and the rest of the creative team clearly made it a mandate to add a whole host of cool new creatures to their stacked lineup, from the charming Porgs to the sleek Vulptex. But despite the decidedly more adorable leanings of those two new critters, “The Last Jedi” will also play home to at least one nefarious new creation: BB-9E.
Yes, that “E” stands for “evil.” No, really, that’s true.
Over at Entertainment Weekly, a new video introduces “Star Wars” fans to some of the finer points of the decidedly dour droid and, as writer Anthony Breznican sagely notes, “Just because something is cute, doesn’t mean it can’t also be evil.” BB-9E contains multitudes. But is he hiding something else? Let’s dig deep.
His Creative Inspiration
As EW notes, BB-9E is meant to look comfortingly familiar, thanks to his ball-droid unit design, but that all comes with a twist, thanks to flat-top head that abandons the happy curves of BB-8. He’s also got a single glowing eye that’s literally meant to remind fans of HAL 900, “the malignant supercomputer” from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which doesn’t exactly scream “hug me!”
As Neal Scanlan, the head of the “Star Wars” creature shop, told EW: “BB-8 has this huge personality and this huge heart, but you know, in a sense, I’ve always found it to have a sort of slightly manipulative quality. With BB-9E, we go back to literally the cold First Order sort of Empire version of what a BB unit might be. This was much more cold, calculative, much more direct.”
Not scary enough? Scanlan also said that his chrome panels and blue and white lights are meant to evoke the feel of being pulled over by the police, adding that the character has a “patrolling element.”
Our First Meeting
As so many of cinema’s most beloved characters that came before him, BB-9E was first revealed to the public when an early look at new LEGO sets were leaked back in May. Oops? The new droid later made his first official appearance a few months later, during the toy-buying bonanza that is “Force Friday,” when said LEGO sets (and other toys) were released for public consumption.
His Dark Powers
As the official “databank” for all Star Wars properties notes, BB-9E is part of the “latest technology” that helps the First Order “across all its activities,” which are of course primarily evil in nature. While the droid’s databank entry doesn’t reveal too much more about the little ball off rage, it does indicate that he’s part of a group of “dark, gleaming BB astromech units…that keep their starships and machinery operational.”
Okay, perhaps he does need a hug.
His Very Important Nicknames
Yes, that “E” in his name does stand for “evil.” But it could have been worse.
Just be thankful we didn’t stick with his obscenely adorable on set nickname, BB-H8
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) August 31, 2017
He’s a Loner
Billed as a bit of a “free agent,” BB-9E isn’t like other beloved droids in the Star Wars universe who tend to stick close to one or two human companions. He’s not like BB-8 with Poe Dameron, or even R2-D2 and C-3PO with the Skywalker clan and their associates. He’s rolling on his own.
We do know that BB-9E primarily toils on the Mega-class Star Destroyer “Supremacy,” which serves as Supreme Leader Snoke’s personal flagship, basically spending his time doing whatever evil deeds need to be done to serve the First Order. While that sounds lonely, he won’t be the only droid for long, as a meeting between him and BB-8 isn’t just destined, it’s promised.
He Will Meet BB-8
Entertainment Weekly shares that there will be a “confrontation” between the pair, but Scanlan paints it in slightly different terms, telling the outlet, “There’s a lovely moment between BB-8 and BB-9E, which tells that sort of parallel story of Vader and Luke.”
And while we don’t know how that will shake out, a non-canonical animated short gives at least a small taste of what their exchange might look like. Surprise: they’re very different, with BB-8 all curiously happy and BB-9E not exactly rolling out the welcome mat. Still cute, though.
— Star Wars (@starwars) September 2, 2017
You can watch the full Entertainment Weekly video below.
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” opens on December 15.