My favorite Star Wars droid is R2-D2. I can’t see this ever changing. No other droid was held (in toy form) in my hand as a small child in bed, or accompanied me on long childhood car journeys, formed part of toy re-enactments of galactic adventures with my limited number of other figures, etc. “Artoo” and me are inextricably linked at this point and it will be forever thus. So what can be said about R2-D2 that hasn’t already been said?
It’s a pretty well known fact among fans that R2-D2 has been continually in operation and has not, as far as one is aware, had his knowledge databanks wiped across the span of the Star Wars saga. It is expressly noted at the end of Revenge of the Sith that R2-D2 will retain access to memories whereas C3-P0 will have his memory wiped, and by the time of A New Hope the latter believes that he first worked with binary load-lifter droids.
R2-D2’s memory is therefore a precious asset. We are told under his period of ownership with Anakin Skywalker that his processors and memory matrices have been tweaked and improved. With his memory intact R2-D2’s memories span from the early days of Naboo (he originally belonged to the Royal Family of Naboo) to the scenes at the end of Endor, and beyond.
It is particularly worth quoting a key insert within the The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary (“The Visual Dictionary”) in full, as it really is fascinating. In a small section in the R2-D2 pages entitled Standby Mode it says,
“As R2-D2 recuperates in his self-imposed low power mode, his diagnostic systems are attempting to organize the vast trove of information in his databanks from over seven decades of uninterrupted operation. The defragmenting of millions of exanodes within his memory is causing R2-D2 to “dream” many of his adventures”. (my emphasis in bold)
This sounds a little sad to me. I had always assumed before reading this that unless he was deliberately tampered with, or wiped, that his memories would be preserved as long as he was. I thought that data retention/organization was only of concern on planet Earth, on our galaxy. I thought that the paradox of modern technology a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away would have solved this problem.
Now, to paraphrase Philip K Dick’s book title, I’m left all at sea wondering “if Astromech dream of electric sheep” and if the spritely droid we see sparking into life to frame BB-8’s extract of the map to Luke Skywalker is back for good, or only temporarily?
Hidden further, in an even smaller untitled entry, in The Visual Dictionary it is stated that,
“Known to very few, R2-D2 has been keeping internal copies of much of the data he has accessed over the decades”
So we have confirmation of the vast stores of information, internally stored but now increasingly difficult to organize and subjected to de-fragmenting exanodes within his memory (okay I don’t know exactly what that means but it doesn’t sound like a good thing).
So I’m left wondering what triggered this apparent degeneration, why is it occurring now, as opposed to some point say, during the Original Trilogy? Personally I feel that it is because R2-D2 is heartbroken. Increasingly we are coming to acknowledge what we all had an inkling of all along; that these little droid guys are imbued with very individual personalities. The C-3P0 Marvel Comics one-shot touched on this theme. I expect it will be explored much further as the “new canon” continues.
So think about what R2-D2 has been exposed to in his history. He has seen (not exhaustive):-
- the rise of Palpatine and fall of the Republic
- the fall of his former owner Anakin and the pain that Vader inflicts across the galaxy
- the death of Padmé (his “owner” as part of the Royal Court of Naboo)
- the death of Obi-Wan (with whom he was intimately associated with — although as Obi-Wan said never owned by) at the hands of Anakin/Vader
- the disappearance (?) of Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s Padawan
- his new owner Luke maimed by Anakin/Vader and then almost killed by him.
- Han Solo and Chewbacca go off on a seperate path post-Endor
- Han and Leia’s son betray and destroy other Jedi students studying under his owner Luke
- Luke disappearing in exile.
Is his low power mode in The Force Awakens a droid “proxy” for depression? Was R2-D2 suffering all those months? I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising, its not uncommon for this condition to visit people in later life, and particularly if someone experiences the loss of friends and family in their later years. Given that R2-D2’s lifespan has exceeded that of almost anyone else in the saga his losses have been more numerous than most.
We are told that “continuing the tradition established by the Rebel Alliance, Resistance droids are granted independence and responsibility and are seen as more than just machines” (The Visual Dictionary page 63). We are also told that R2-D2’s, “celebrated role in the Rebellion has afforded him semi-retirement rather than the standard recycling the resource-strapped Resistance would normally employ” (The Visual Dictionary page 65). Bearing that in mind maybe R2-D2 is suffering side effects from abnormal longevity for an Astromech droid.
To end on an optimistic note though, I hope and pray that R2-D2’s condition is eased by a master plan cooked up by him and his Master Luke. Remember at the start of this piece when we looked at the key quote and it said “his diagnostic systems are attempting to organize the vast trove of information in his databanks from over seven decades of uninterrupted operation.”?
If, as many suspect, the roots of the dark times being experienced by the Resistance in The Force Awakens reach back far, far into history, perhaps back to the early Prequels era, how would Luke address this? Well I can’t guess what Luke is doing, but I’ll harbor a guess that R2–D2 is organizing that information for a reason that’s critical to countering Snoke and his influence…
Save the Dream. Save the Rebellion.
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