During the escape from Naboo, the Queen’s Starship suffers crtical damage after being fired upon by the Trade Federation blockade. A half dozen astromech droids made up of five R2 units and a single G8 droid scramble to repair the ship without hesitation. WIth disregard for their own safety, the heroic droids set about repairing the ship amid heavy arms fire from the blockading armada. One by one, the droids succumb to the enemy fire leaving only R2-D2 to survive and succeed in restoring power to the vessel allowing it to escape. Captain Panaka reads R2’s designation aloud and the theater erupts in applause. At this point you are thinking that the movie is uneven, but it might end up being no so bad. Then the ship make an emergency landing on Tatooine, Jar Jar both steps in dung and eats a fart, and the movie makes “whoopie”. Your hopes have been dashed.
As I’ve mentioned several times, rational fans have to compartmentalize the Prequel Trilogy and enjoy the few parts that work and ignore that which doesn’t like it’s too much grizzled fat on a seemingly decent cut of steak. The heroism of the astromechs is one of those things, like Darth Maul, that work from Episode I. R2-B1 is one of the fallen astromechs and its blue and yellow markings make it one of the more visually eye catching droids in this scene. Because of this distinctiveness, it made sense for Hasbro to introduce the droid at the tail end of the Episode I line. Those final figures were somewhat difficult to find and many fans would go without. As time went on, missing out on that figure became less and less of an issue. Hasbro was still feeling their way through collector grade astromechs at the time. That R2-B1 featured a vac metalized dome despite no astromech droid featuring a “chrome dome”. It was as if Hasbro was still blinded by the vintage Kenner R2-D2 figure. It also lacked refinement such as floating wires that were introduced on astromech figures in the subsequent years.
By including R2-B1 in 2007’s repaint wave, Hasbro provided a double kindness to fans. They upgraded a dated figure and gave fans an option for acquiring this character without dipping into the secondary market which was demanding a premium for the Episode I release at the time. For this release, Hasbro used the R4-G9 mold from 2005 which remains a fan favorite to this day. It seems they over-corrected the vac metalized dome issue with this flat gray paint application. Screen shots of the actual droid show a more metallic appearance. To make up for the perceived lack of value the relatively small figure offers, Hasbro included the power harness from the Episode I release to sweeten the pot. This figure was released a third time for the Walmart Discover the Force subset during the Episode I 3D hoopla in the Royal Starship Droids multi-pack (yet EV-9D9 has never been updated…HASBRO JERKS!). The later mold used the build-a-droid template which has the “speed holes” in the side of the torso and also includes a more metallic paint application to the dome. I personally think the final release is the most faithful to the on-screen version, but which mold is better is ultimately a matter of opinion. The base R4-G9 is still a very decent sculpt, so this version of R2-B1 earns an 8 out of 10.