Fast forward 31 years and I am still entranced by it and the other five. I cannot wait to share these with my son. To have a lightsabre duel or three with him. And, to see it again for the very first time.
Now, I finished watching Revenge of the Sith today, and I realized something that turned the whole of the series on its ear. Maybe you already realized this, and I am slow on the uptake. Anyway, I had that moment of epiphany right after Senator Organa hands over the droids to Captain Antilles. He orders C-3PO's memory wiped. It is an amusing moment. And even R2 gets in a chuckle. But, it hit me. Why not wipe R2-D2's memory, also? He has been more a part of the happenings than C-3PO. He is even one of only a handful of characters in all six parts. Why would you keep his memory intact?
His Story and History
Because R2-D2 is in fact what the story is about. Not Anakin. Not Luke. Not Obi-wan, Leia, Yoda or the Emperor. They are but pawns and supporting members for R2-D2. We first see R2 as one of a chorus of astromech droids on the royal starship fleeing the Naboo trade blockade. While his counterparts are picked off one by one, R2 is able to repair the shields and the ship is able to escape. This is the first of several times he is shown as savior when the humanoid characters are in a jam. He is presented to Amidala and everyone is quite taken by this little droid. Later in the movie, when the group return to Naboo, R2 gets into one of the fighters. Then, he is joined by the young Anakin. When Anakin powers up the fighter, he says that it is locked into autopilot and they go flying off into the dogfight with the trade federation droid ships. It is only after reaching the battle that R2 is able to disengage the autopilot. And Anakin is forced to fly and fight for his life. It is important to note that R2 accompanies Qui-Gonn to Mos Espa as we carries the technical details for the parts they need. He is in the background for most of the important moments throughout this episode and the episodes to follow.
In Episode 2, it is some 10 years later and R2 is still in the service of now-senator Amidala. While acting as her protector, he misses the introduction of two deadly worm-like creatures and Anakin must save her. Later we find R2 saving Padme from molten metal by stopping the droid production line on Geonosis. He also rebuilds C-3PO who has become parts of two battle droids.
Episode 3 begins with R2 helping with the rescue of Chancellor Palpatine. He shows more resourcefulness in that he defeats 2 of the larger, more powerful battle droids handily. And creates a diversion for the Jedis after they are caught by General Grievous. After this though, he is more of a spectator to the happenings. He and C-3PO are handed over to Captain Antilles for use on the blockade runner.
We jump some 18 to 20 years with Episode 4, where we find that he is accompanying Leia on her way to bring back Obi-Wan to Alderaan. The plan goes awry, but R2 along with C-3PO make it to Tatooine. He meets up with Luke and soon begins his search for Kenobi. While on the Death Star, he finds Leia is aboard, saves the gang from the trash compactor, and manages to get the Death Star plans to the main rebel base in time for them to utilize the information. He goes with Luke to help destroy the Death Star.
In Episode 5, he plays spectator to Luke's training. But once getting to Cloud City, he helps Chewbacca, Leia and Lando get to the Millennium Falcon, rebuild C-3PO, and restart the hyperdive engines.
With Episode 6, R2 and 3PO are given as gifts to Jabba the Hutt. At the right moment, R2 shoots Luke his lightsabre and helps Leia escape. He then goes with the strike force to Endor to disengage the shield generator. Thereby rendering the second Death Star, as well as the Emperor, defeated.
Droids are machines. Made by humanoids. Created to do tasks that the humanoids cannot or will not do. Droids are property. Droids are soulless. Droids may be able to think for themselves, but they are inferior to the humanoids. Droids are seen as slaves. To that end, droids are programmed to enjoy their slavery. They will obey the rules set for them.
But R2D2 has tapped into a source of programming that has allowed him to understand and manipulate the world, and universe, around him. He is unassuming, non-threatening, and melts into the background until he needs to make his move.
It is very interesting to note that Naboo was the homeworld for Palpatine. I do not think that R2-D2 is on Naboo by coincidence. I think he is there to track Palpatine. Somewhere along the way, R2 has come across the Sith master. Whether it was during Palpatine's apprenticeship with Darth Plagueis, or simply while at a coffee shop on Coruscant, R2 sensed his evilness. Maybe even sensed the grave threat that Palpatine truly was.
What? Sensed his evilness? Like "through the force" sensed? Yes. The true nature of R2-D2 is that he is tapped into force. But not in the same way that the Jedi or Sith tap into the force. R2-D2 has reached a level of artificial intelligence that goes beyond consciousness. He found the energy field that is created by all living things. Yes, I realize that R2-D2 is not a living thing. But he does use energy. Our definition of the force is given to us by a living being, Obi-Wan. Who then dies! And then continues to "live" in the force!
R2-D2 utilizes the energy of the force to manipulate the events that ultimately bring balance to the force.
Palpatine had for years worked behind the scenes with the Trade Federation to create the blockade on Naboo. His lust for power, a Sith attribute, coupled with his disgust for the ineffectual rule of the Chancellor was the driving force for his ambition. R2-D2's awareness of this was hampered in that he was bound to his programming. He cannot kill a humanoid. He could not move directly against Palpatine. Moving his way into the Queen's starship, he not only fixed the shields, but he created the leak in the hyperdrive! He did this to delay the Queen's arrival and to let others try to work out the dispute. He also knew that there was a strong presence in the force on Tatooine. If the Jedi found the presence first, it would be a blow to the Sith. In a sort of in your face move, R2 manipulates the situation again when they are back on Naboo. He gets in the fighter BEFORE Anakin does. He knew Anakin would be easily drawn to it. Further, R2 programmed the autopilot and forced Anakin into the battle. He was sure that the sight of this strong presence in the hands of the Jedi would be a blow to the newly elected Chancellor Palpatine. But, when Palpatine seemed unworried, R2 knew he would have to keep watching him.
By Episode 2, R2 was more aware of how the future would play out. He sensed Ani's love for Padme, and knew it would lead to Ani's undoing. He allowed the attack on Padme. He had hoped her death would let Ani focus on his future as a Jedi. He could not kill her directly. He could not go against his programming. It did not go as planned, as Ani saved her. And on Geonosis, R2 unwittingly saves her. He was only trying to shut down the battle droid production line. He rebuilds C-3PO because he sees the him as a front man and ally. Another entity he can manipulate. He also begins to realize he will not be able to change future events as we had planned. He makes sure he can stick close to Anakin if he is to have any chance.
In Episode 3, R2 reluctantly aids Anakin and Obi-Wan in saving the kidnapped Palpatine. R2's goal also is to eliminate the threat of General Grievous. R2 knows with his destruction, the droid armies would fall immediately. This would end the war and end how close Ani would have to work with the Chancellor. In the end, hampered in being a droid (second class citizen with no rights and no voice), R2 can only watch as the Republic is ripped asunder and the Galactic Empire takes its place. Yet he does manipulate things in his favor. He gets Senator Organa to attach them to a ship that routinely moves back and forth to Coruscant. And he makes sure that his memory is not wiped.
Well, he cannot communicate with humanoids anyway, so why does that matter? Ah, but he can communicate and it does matter! In the Ep. 1, he and Ani have conversations on the fighter. And in Ep. 4 and 5, he does the same with Luke! And, it again shows that R2-D2 can manipulate minds. And not just the weak-minded. But also the Jedi and Sith. Palpatine was powerful enough to hide his abilities even in the presence of Jedis. R2 is even more powerful in this ability.
If it weren't for his programming and the general dismissal of droids by humanoids, R2 would have been unstoppable. Really, I think of his programming to be more along the lines of the ethical code the Jedi follow. He is much more disciplined in following the guidance of the force than either of the Sith or Jedi.
The societal and political issues are the real limitation. The bartender in Ep. 4 - "We don't serve their kind!" - exemplifies how droids are viewed. R2 and 3PO must wait outside, while all sorts of creatures of Mos Eisley (a retched hive of scum and villany) are free to come and go as they please. And when you look at the groups that Count Dooku brings together to attack the Republic in Ep. 2 - the Trade Federation, the InterGalactic Banking Clan, the TechnoUnion, and the Commerce Guild - you find a group who see droids as dispensable pawns to enforce their ways. Droids are merely servants.
Overcoming the Limitations
If R2 had wanted to, he most likely could have attached himself to someone with political connections and proceeded to make changes that way. He must have sensed that Palpatine was too powerful to be removed through the political process. So he stayed with those who could stand against the Empire. He spent his time on gathering intelligence until the fateful day of coming across the plans for the Death Star. R2 must have also sensed that the growing unrest would need leadership. He went after the one he knew who others would rally around. A Jedi.
With everyone thinking they were extinct, a Jedi reappearing would be a catalyst for other systems to join the growing rebellion. And with the destruction of something so large and threatening like the Death Star, the Emperor would be seen as vulnerable. Defeatable.
And while it did not happen how R2 envisioned it, the effect was still felt. With Ep. 5 and 6, we see how the rebel forces grow and ultimately defeat the Emperor.
In the end, R2-D2 orchestrated a brilliant behind-the-scenes plan. He brought balance to the force. He brought down the Galactic Empire. He is the only character in the end who has lived and witnessed every event from the beginning. Indeed, R2-D2 is THE most powerful entity in the Star Wars Universe.