Droids and Why I Lose Sleep Over Them

Hello everyone and welcome to the Sarlacc Pit! This week I will be discussing a topic that regularly bothers me when thinking about Star Wars: droids. That’s right, these lovable mechanical creations have often kept me awake at night as I consider their lot in life. This week I will do a very general overview of what droids are, some common droid types and their purposes, and finally I will discuss a few reasons why droids seriously mess with my mind. Warning: this will have mild spoilers, so read at your own risk.

Background

Droids were mechanical beings created to assisted organics in performing various tasks. Depending on the tasks required of them, droids possessed varying levels of artificial intelligence. Droids were generally designed to be easily mass produced and easily repaired in case of damage. Most droids were designed to be completely obedient and followed the commands of their masters, however some droids were fully independent, able to function on their own (as was the case of droid bounty hunters). Droids could also be programmed to mimic voices and habits of different genders.

While many droids displayed emotions and personalities (which we will get into later), they technically were not living, and were thus unable to channel the Force. Despite this, 0-0-0, a reprogrammed protocol droid, theorized that droids that ran off an engine powered by blood may be able to use the Force (because the blood would contain midi-chlorians). This theory was never tested, which is probably for the best. A blood-fueled Force- sensitive droid would probably be too much to handle.

Droids were in existence dating back to the earliest days of the Jedi Order. Professor Huyang, an architect droid specialized in Jedi lightsaber design, assisted Jedi younglings in the construction of their first lightsabers for several millennia.

Huyang.png
Professor Huyang searching for lightsaber parts aboard the Crucible

Legends Note: While in current canon droids were “dead” to the Force, in Legends Canon, an astromech droid designated R5-D4, also known as “Skippy,” was Force sensitive. See a summary of “Skippy the Jedi Droid” at this Wookiepedia page:

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Skippy_the_Jedi_Droid

The appearance of different droids varied based on the tasks required and the intended species of use. These designs varied from the humanoid protocol droid to the GNK power droid, which essentially looked like a walking trash can. I’ll now talk about three of the most common droid types seen in the Star Wars franchise.

Protocol Droids

“I’m not much more than an interpreter, and not very good at telling stories.” – C-3PO, “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope”

C-3PO
C-3PO, one of Cybot Galactica’s popular 3PO units
LOM protocol droid
4-LOM: A LOM-series protocol droid who overcame his programming to become a bounty hunter
RA-7
One of Arakyd Industrie’s RA-7 protocol droid units, popular among Imperial ships and bases
0-0-0
0-0-0: A reprogrammed protocol droid effective in torture

Protocol droids were primarily designed to assist organics in etiquette (which could be considerably difficult to keep straight, considering the numerous planets, species, and cultures across the galaxy), as well as translate different languages. Most models were humanoid, but the designs would differ depending on the species that the model was expected to work with. Protocol droids were able to perform several different tasks, and had higher degrees of artificial intelligence than many droid types. While most protocol droids were fairly harmless, 0-0-0, a highly modified protocol droid designed by the Tarkin Initiative, had numerous weapons at his disposal, such as syringes hidden in his finger tips, and the ability to run an electric current through his hands.

Astromech Droids

r2-D2 x-wing
R2-D2 plugged into an astromech slot on a T-65 X-wing starfighter
BB-8
BB-8, a customized version of the newer BB units

The primary programming of an astromech droid was to function as a mechanic in charge of repairs aboard ships. These droids were equipped with numerous different tools that could be used for this purpose, as well as weapons if necessary. Many starfighters, such as X-wings and Y-wings, featured slots open to space that astromechs could plug into. While the droid was plugged into the ships systems, the pilots depended on the astromechs to make repairs, allocate power to different ship systems, and calculate hyperspace routes. Verbally, astromechs could only communicate in binary noises (which few sentients were able to understand), but when plugged into a ship, they were able to communicate via a terminal that translated their speech. Astromechs could also plug into various computer terminals to access data stored in computers.

Battle Droids

“Roger, Roger.” – common response of a B1 battle droid

Battle droids were classified as any droid who was primarily used in battle. The most common battle droids were B1 battle droids, B2 super battle droids, and droidekas. All three of these models had attack capability, but limited artificial intelligence, requiring tactical planning of sentients or tactical droids to guide them. Furthermore, B1 battledroids and droidekas needed a command system for them to function. These battle droids made up the bulk of the army of the Confederacy of Independent Systems during the Clone Wars. Other battle droids with better tactical skills and customized equipment for specialized operations existed as well to supplement the Separatists’ military strength. At the end of the Clone Wars, the Empire banned the production of battle droids, but some manufacturers got around the ban by relabeling their products as security droids. These droids were fully obedient, occasionally carrying out orders while expressing the desire to avoid the commands.

There are of course numerous other droid designs, such as power droids, medical droids, maintenance droids, droid starfighters, etc., and I have barely scratched the surface of the three droid designs that I have mentioned, but if I was to do a total explanation of each droid type, this would quickly turn into an encyclopedia. Therefore, we will move on for now with the promise that I will do more in-depth looks at different droid types in the future.

Reasons Why Droids Cause Me To Lose Sleep

Apart from some bounty hunters and battle droids, droids seem pretty tame. Simple robots with specialized tasks right? Wrong. There are many reasons why droids are much more complex than their programming, and we will now go into some of the reasons why droids are a very complex topic.

Personalities and Emotions

“Don’t call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight glob of grease!” – C-3PO, “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope”

Normally when you think of robots, one of the first things that come to mind is pure, emotionless logic. However, droids have constantly been shown to have personalities and display emotions, especially in droids with advanced artificial intelligence. While droids may be programmed with base personalities, even going so far as having designated gender-based personalities, as the droid has more experiences, their personalities would become more complex, often displayed by emotions such as happiness, fear, displeasure, and even depression (in “Star Wars Episode VII,” R2-D2 was essentially in a deep depressive state after Luke went into hiding). Droids also developed friendships, as was the case with C-3PO and R2-D2. Now, obviously, having a droid with certain personality types could be difficult, so the development of a personality would often be curtailed through the use of regular memory wipes. However, these did not work as well as we are led to believe, as droids were shown to maintain remnants of memories, even after memory wipes (see Marvel’s one-shot Star Wars: C-3PO). These memory remnants could be quite troubling for droids (as they would occasionally “dream” of events from before a memory wipe), and might have assisted in maintaining deep-seated droid personalities even after memory wipes (as C-3PO appears to maintain his persnickety personality after his memory banks were erased after “Star Wars Episode III). So essentially, instead of emotionless robots obeying their master’s every whim, droids would argue with their masters, and even attempt to avoid work that they would find displeasing.

Free Will?

“I do not want to die.” – A B1 Battle Droid in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”

Droids were mechanical constructs used to assist organics with various tasks. As such, they should have been programmed for strict obedience, correct? However, throughout the Star Wars franchise we can see examples of droids doing something directly against the wishes of their owners. In at lease two cases (once during “Star Wars: Rebels” and once during Marvel’s Star Wars: C-3PO, and I’m sure there are numerous other cases) droids even went directly against their basic programming. In each of the above mentioned cases it was due to events that caused them to establish friendships with other droids. That’s right, droids were able to completely overcome their basic programming through the power of friendship. That’s like if my toaster oven became friends with my bread slices and decided to not toast toast.

One way to enforce a master’s will on a droid was to use a restraining bolt. Restraining bolts were small devices that could be attached to the droid to restrain their movement and force them to respond to a signal from a remote device. Droids were generally afraid of the thought of having a restraining bolt attached. That’s right, droids were afraid to have a device attached to them. That would be like if your car panicked every time you tried to put on a new set of rims. Also, the restraining bolt was not even fail proof, as they were generally not hard to remove if another droid assisted them.

Pain Receptors

“We have been without an interpreter since our master got angry with our last protocol droid and disintegrated him.” – EV-9D9, “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi”

tortured droid 1
A power droid being tortured in Jabba’s palace
tortured droid 2
A protocol droid being disintegrated in Jabba’s palace

I believe the title of this segment says it all. Most droids were fully equipped with pain receptors. Now, this was probably intended as a mechanism to encourage self-preservation. However, this was occasionally taken advantage of, as torturing droids was apparently a thing that would happen. I just want to say, who would torture a power droid? All those little GNKs do is walk around, say “gonk,” and provide power to appliances, never doing nothing to nobody. While the pain receptors would be a useful self-preservation mechanism, the fact that it was coupled with highly developed artificial intelligence, as well as emotions and personalities, it became a recipe for something truly horrifying, as could be seen in the dungeons of Jabba’s palace.

Conclusion

In most science fiction stories, robots are depicted as logical, emotionless servants who obey all their master’s orders no matter what might happen to them. In Star Wars, droids developed personalities, would disobey their orders, feared pain, and even dreamed of past lives. At a certain point in the history of droids, they surpassed the intended purpose of an automated appliance, and evolved into a species all of their own. This is what bothers me. These droids should be assisting organics no matter what, but instead they refuse orders. The only connections they should make is a sense of obedience to their master, but they make friends with each other. They should take any damage without flinching, but instead they are susceptible to torture. All of these points are reasons why I often lose sleep thinking about droids. However, their personalities and behaviors make them some of the most lovable characters in the franchise, so we’ll call it even.

friends

Like I said earlier, I have just barely scratched the surface on the droid conversation. I fully expect to do more factual rundowns on varieties such as protocol, battle, and astromech droids in the future, so stick around for that. For next week, I plan to mention a little-known freedom-fighting group called the Free Ryloth Movement, which consisted of Twi’leks on Ryloth fighting for their right to independent governance from the Clone Wars era through years after the Galactic Civil War. It’s a movement fairly unknown to casual movie watchers, so it promises to be an interesting topic. I hope you enjoyed this week’s post! Thank you for reading, and may the Force be with you!

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