106 days until Star Wars: A brief history of evil droids in a galaxy far, far away
Do evil droids dream of electrocuting sheep?
Droids have been part of the fabric of the Star Wars universe since its inception. C-3P0’ fear of death and castigation of R2-D2 for being reckless is literally our introduction into a galaxy far, far away.
“Did you hear that? They shut down the main reactor. We'll be destroyed for sure. This is madness.”
Those are the lines of a creature that is in fear for his very life. From those first lines, Star Wars has quietly ignored the rancor in the room: Droids are sentient creatures, which makes them an enslaved species. To borrow a great speech from the other ‘Star’ property, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek described the plight of the droids (and, let’s be honest, the clones too) best.
In case the video isn’t working or you’re at work (your secret is safe with me!), the basic gist Captain Picard is getting at is this: if you create thousands or millions of self-aware robots, that becomes a race of creatures that are entitled to the same rights and privileges as organics. So if Threepio and Artoo lived under Starfleet, they could file a complaint when random Jawas picked them up and sold them to the Skywalker family. Not so much in a galaxy ruled by the Empire. Or the Republic. Droids were considered property long before Palpatine’s droid (and clone) army was added into the mix.
“We seem to be made to suffer. It’s our lot in life.”
C-3P0 might complain, but throughout Star Wars he is — if not content — resigned to his role in the universe. Meanwhile, R2-D2 is considered an odd little astromech, perhaps because of his spunky attitude or perhaps because it is rare for a droid to become attached to organics due to the transient nature of most droid lives. But not all droids take their lot lying down. As far back as The Empire Strikes Back, the indications were there that some droids had not only realized sentience equals free-will, but had seized it with both hands.
Image Credit: Lucasfilm
Enter IG-88. An assassin droid and bounty hunter, IG-88 was an “independently programmed mechanical killer” with no master, according to Star Wars Databank. Not only that, but after the war (though which one is not stated), IG-88 made the decision to go into the lucrative career of bounty hunting. So here we have a droid as far back as 1980 who is making his way in the world, organics be damned. Another example of a droid gone rogue is 4-LOM, a protocol droid affected by logic glitches that helped him escape his programming to become a bounty hunter. Other droids-turned-murder-bots now banished to the realm of Legends include HK-47 and PROXY. Basically, given the chance, Star Wars seems to be implying droids are just waiting to murder the heck out of their organic overlords.
Can you really blame them?
“I’m 0-0-0 or Triple Zero, if you prefer. I’m a protocol droid specialized in etiquette, customs, translation, and torture, ma’am.”
When Disney acquired Lucasfilm, there was some concern the Star Wars universe would be sanitized for children. Then along came the Darth Vader comic by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca which introduced to two of the most gloriously evil droids in the entire galaxy: Triple Zero and BT-1. Serving under Lord Vader, these droids were given the kind of carte blanche to destruction most evil organics would love to have. At one point Triple Zero laments he cannot find joy in torture unless the victim is organic in nature. As of right now, it is unknown who created Triple Zero’s personality matrix, only that it is centuries old and considered extremely dangerous. For obvious reasons.
As for BT-1? He was created one of Grand Moff Tarkin’s ‘Initiative Bases.’ Designed to be an assassin droid for the Empire, Bee Tee had other plans. Upon activation, the droid killed everyone on the base before setting the base itself to self-destruct and jettisoning himself into space. Some droids just want to watch the world burn.
For now, both droids are in the employ of Doctor Aphra and Darth Vader, though of their own free will despite what their ‘masters’ may think.
Image Credit: Marvel/Lucasfilm
Soon after the introduction of these psychopathic droids, Mister Bones joined the Star Wars canon in Aftermath by Chuck Wendig. A modified battle droid from The Clone Wars, Bones was fashioned by a teenaged Temmin Wexley as a bodyguard against bullies. Things…spiraled from there. Becoming best friends, Wexley and Bones entered into a life that butted up against both the criminal underworld and the Rebel Alliance. Mister Bones has no qualms about straight-up murdering people who would harm his organic. He’ll even hum a little song while he does it.
Meanwhile, in non-murder droid independence, Chopper on Star Wars Rebels has proven to be ornery and capable of disobeying orders he doesn’t agree with. Over on The Clones Wars: Lost Missions, medical droid AZI-3 disobeyed his programming to blow the whistle on the clones being implemented with Order 66. And, of course, BB-8 was able to make the decision trust Finn and join in the deception of letting Rey think the former Stormtrooper was a Resistance soldier. Where will the Rogue One Imperial astromech droid C2-B5 fit in on this sliding scale of free-will? From The Star Wars Show reveal:
“As you may know, the Galactic Empire relies on astromech droids to maintain its machinery. But, unlike the Rebel Alliance, the Imperial technicians do not grant their droids independence and subject them to frequent memory wipes to keep them subservient.”
The wording here is interesting, as it’s official confirmation that, left to their own devices, will not blindly follow orders. All this adds up to a Star Wars universe that is slowly winding its way towards acknowledged what we’ve known all along: droids are people, too.