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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Missing piece of Droid history

8/10
Author: Chip_douglas from Rijswijk, ZH, Netherlands
7 July 2006

Sound effects wizard Ben Burtt wrote this ill fated prime-time special that following the Ewoks/Droids Adventure Hour. It was long postponed (from December 1985 to June '86) and poorly watched when finally aired on ABC (maybe it's the title?). "The Great Heep" got a limited video release in Europe (but not in the States) and is therefore one of the least seen parts of 'official' Star Wars canon. George Lucas always likes to release his stories in the wrong order, like starting the saga with Episode IV, setting "Temple of Doom" before "Raiders" and jumping back and forth on the "Young Indy Chronicles" (not to mention "More American Graffiti"). This Great Heep is no exception, taking place between episodes 9 and 10 of the Droids Cartoon. In fact, you might say time in that galaxy, far, far away is moving in the opposite direction of ours, as the Droid's adventures circa 1985 (Earth time) take place between the 'classic trilogy' and it's prequels.

C3PO and R2D2 are on their way to Biitu to meet their newest master, Mungo Baobab but are high-jacked by flying Monstoids and subsequently split up. Threepio is forced to labor on the lube-crew for the Great Heep himself, a giant monstrosity of a Droid that has recently taken over Biitu and is draining all the moisture from the planet, while Artoo gets treated like royalty in the Heep's Droid Harem. He even finds a girlfriend there: KT-10, a pink, egg shaped unit with Daisy Duck shoes. Of course the young droid lovers are completely unaware they are merely being oiled up for The Heep, who recharges himself by sucking R2 units dry. Unlike most of the series episodes, this story actually revolves all around Droids, and we get to see a nice variety of them. Not surprisingly, Joe Johnston is credited as design consultant. The new vehicles and hardware (with the exception of a totally unnecessary and unfunny swipe at "Transformers") all look like they belong in the original trilogy (which cannot always be said of the designs used in the prequels).

Threepio finds master Baobab locked up in a cage, to be presented to the Emperor (for crimes unspecified) by Mungo's arch enemy Admiral Screed. Although he never gets to do anything really wicked in this cartoon, Screed certainly looks evil, brandishing a cybernetic eye and arm while wearing a long coated variation of the Imperial uniform. Unfortunately, in the mid eighties there were many restrictions concerning violence in cartoons and "Droids" was a victim of this (especially when compared to the non stop violence in the more recent Clone Wars cartoons). Blasters were not allowed to look like guns, Stormtroopers had to carry poles instead of rifles and Ben Burtt was even instructed to make his laser bolts sound less deadly. Being a prime-time special, "The Great Heep" was allowed to bend a couple of rules and includes some scenes that would (at that time) be considered too scary for Saturday morning. There are also a lot more silly pop culture references than usual (Droids carrying a Walkman, baseball caps, squirting flowers and reading Playdroid Magazine). Animated in Nelvana's typically 'shakey' style, some viewers may be reminded of the company's work on the original "Heavy Metal". Just don't expect any scantily clad barbarian women, guys.

Viewing this show again now that the prequel trilogy is completed (and excepting the fact that R2 and 3P0 did not spend twenty years walking up and down that same white corridor of the Tantive IV), one notices Artoo's handy jet rockets (as seen in Episodes II and III) must have already broken down by the time this story takes place (approximately four years after "Revenge of the Sith"). Lucky for him he still has a grappling hook and a working parachute. Also, when Mungo Baobab disguises himself as a droid, he imitates Anthony Daniels' prissy way of speaking, for that was the way we supposed all droids spoke English (excuse me, basic) before Episode I came around.

Despite the lack of this special's success (and it's unavailability), Ben Burtt still has a special place in his heart for both The Heep and Baobab, mentioning Mungo once more in his liner notes for the "Shadows of the Empire" soundtrack in 1998. The Great Heep also gave him the opportunity to invent another alien language (spoken by Short Round inspired sidekick Fidge), something he did for the Star Wars films and led him to write the very amusing "Galactic Phrase Book & Travel Guide" (which references the Baobab Merchant Fleet and the Heep). In 2004 the further adventures of Mungo Baobab (Droids episodes 10-13) were reedited, re-scored and retitled (as "Treasure of the hidden planet") for a DVD release. This 'feature film' begins with new opening narration, supposedly by Baobab, featuring a couple of clips from "The Great Heep". Can a DVD release be far behind? With Lucas and his time scrambling ways, you never know.

8 out of 10

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