If you read my blog, you may have noticed a trend in my commentary on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Let me sum it up politely here: the movie isn’t very good. There, done.
Okay, not done. It destroys what still, even after the inconsistencies between Force Awakens and Last Jedi, had the potential to be a good Sequel Trilogy, it wastes opportunities for fascinating characterization, and it cheapened the victory of Return of the Jedi. And don’t get me started on those stupid Knights of Ren…
But there was one thing that brought joy to Rise of Skywalker, and that was the potato-sized droidsmith, Babu Frik. This little guy is awesome. He’s skilled, helpful and just so darn happy to be there, with his wee “heyheyyyyy!”
Sure, he’s a convenient plot point – but at least he has a purpose! Which is more than we can say for a lot of other Star Wars cute-bombs that have dropped over the years. Compare him to the porgs (no purpose), to Jar-Jar (painful) and even to Maz Kanata (such wasted potential…). Babu Frik is more in keeping with the classic tradition of jawas and ewoks – little races that made stuff happen.
Why is Babu Frik important?
But seriously, for a guy who has about 90 seconds of screen time, why do we care about him so much? Two reasons.
Babu Frik keeps the story moving
First, the whole movie would have ended and the galaxy would have been lost without Babu Frik. He could reprogram or modify almost any droid or machine, and with the clock ticking for our Resistance fighters, Babu Frik was able to access C-3PO’s main processing unit and then bypass C-3PO’s programming restrictions to allow access to the Sith language message locked in C-3PO’s memory banks following his reading of the Sith dagger. Without Babu’s expert tinkering, the programming preventing C-3PO from speaking Sith would have stopped our heroes from learning the one thing they needed to complete their quest.
(Okay, that last sentence just reminds me of why I really struggle with Rise of Skywalker.)
So without Babu Frik, the First Order / Resistance war would have ended very differently.
Babu Frik gives us a moment of joy amidst the pain
Secondly, Babu lightens the mood. To be fair, if our heroes just needed a droidsmith, it could have been anyone. But instead, we were treated to the cutest, funniest and most loveable little dude since Baby Yoda. He was a tiny model, not CGI, and that realistic appearance gave the audience a more visceral connection to him. Voiced by British actress Shirley Henderson (best known perhaps as Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter series), Babu was upbeat, non-judgmental and just delighted to crack open 3PO’s golden skull and let that Sith out.
He didn’t question whether it was actually a good idea to access the information in C-3PO’s brain. He didn’t freak out when 3PO’s photoreceptors became red. He didn’t even question his longtime friend and partner Zorii Bliss on whether she should really (really?) hand over her hard-won First Order officer’s access card to a dude she’d wanted to literally murder for years. Babu Frik just offered a joyous “heyheyyyy!” and carried on.
Where does Babu Frik come from?
We know nothing about Babu Frik, other than that he’s the droidsmith for a group of spice runners on Kijimi who Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) used to fly with. He’s the first of his kind we’ve ever seen in Star Wars and it’s fun to think that somewhere out there, there’s a whole planet of little talking potatoes just filled with positive energy and technical genius.
Will we see Babu Frik again?
I sincerely hope so. We have no idea the lifespan of his species, but if Star Wars races are anything like Earth dogs, the smaller you are the longer you live. I mean, look at Yoda – and next to Babu Frik, Yoda’s a veritable rancor. So maybe Babu Frik could show up in The Mandalorian (although I think Babu and Grogu together on screen might break even Disney+ for cuteness overload).
Or maybe we’ll see some flashback adventures of Poe Dameron and Zorii, where they find Babu Frik and bring him on board. If we’re lucky, we might even see Zorii take her helmet off.
Or maybe Babu Frik and Zorii Bliss, since their snow-covered planet was obliterated by the Final Order, could head to Babu’s homeworld and seek out the lost love Shirley Henderson claims he has.
Maybe Babu Frik lacks the gravitas of, say, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, but he’s a shining star of joy that reminds us all of what made Star Wars so fun.