Protocol Droid

AP-5: The Singing Protocol Droid

An RA-7 Series Protocol Droid drifts through the vast darkness of space, unafraid but “strangely calm” in “the silence” and “solitude.” Overcome by the euphoria of be-ing in this moment, “in a world all my own,” the droid, AP-5, begins to sing. As he does, a herd of baby neebray flock surround him. With their vibrant colors and dancelike movement, the neebray accentuate AP-5’s song, adding to the tranquility of the moment.

Admittedly, this scene from “Double Agent Droid, the 19th episode of Star Wars: Rebels third season, is entirely unexpected. With the obvious exception of those characters who are already musicians, it is strange for anyone in Star Wars to break into song. What makes this even more random is that the character doing the singing is AP-5, a protocol droid with the same languid tone and delivery as the late Alan Rickman. Coupled with the droids grumpy personality and dry sense of humor, that AP-5 is the one to sing about the beauty and wonder of the universe is an absurd juxtaposition that immediately catches one off-guard.

For many, the song was undoubtedly funny, a moment of welcome levity in an episode of Rebels. After-all, as showrunner Dave Filoni points out, the intention of the song, random as it may be, was meant to inject humor into the seriousness of show. For some, the song may have been off-putting, an absurdity that is annoying, adding nothing but pointless filler to the animated show. And still for others, the song very well may have been forgettable, overshadowed by the more exciting bits of the episode in particular and the series in general.

What did I think of it? Well, the fact that the languid and grumpy AP-5 is caught-up in the moment, singing how he “finds it easy to see” that he “fits into” beauty surrounding him, is certainly funny. But while I can appreciate the levity, I would also describe the song, and the scene as a whole, as utterly delightful. In a way, it serves as a reminder that every character, even those playing a minor or background role, belongs in the Star Wars universe. Facing his own mortality, AP-5 recognizes and affirms that there is no reason to be afraid as he drifts through space precisely because his existence has always had meaning. He has always fit into, and helped make, this universe more spectacular, more beautiful, more wonderful.

And the same is true for each one of us. Like AP-5 and all of the characters in the Star Wars universe, you and I perfectly fit into this universe. Honestly, what better way to capture this euphoric sense of belonging than through song?


Check out these other posts about random protocol droids in Star Wars:

U-3PO: The Other Protocol Droid

K-3PO: The Dead Protocol Droid

E-3PO: The Rude Protocol Droid

TC-14: The Federation Protocol Droid

TC-70: The Hutt’s Protocol Droid

R-3PO: The Red Protocol Droid

R-3PO: The Red Protocol Droid

In my previous two posts about protocol droids I focused on two from the TC-series of droids: TC-14 and TC-70. In this post, I decided to switch things up once again and go back to the 3PO-series by offering some details about R-3PO, the red protocol droid. 

R-3PO, like its counterpart K-3PO, only appears in The Empire Strikes Back. Specifically, the protocol droid can be found in two distinct scenes in the film, both times in the Echo Base hanger. The first scene is in the opening minutes of the film when Han Solo returns from his tauntaun patrol of Hoth. As Solo walks around an X-Wing and heads towards the Millennium Falcon, which is in the background, one will catch a quick glimpse of R-3PO walking by in the foreground. But to see the droid you have to look closely because the foreground is dark and it is slightly difficult to see R-3PO.

Later in the film, when the Rebels are scrambling to evacuate Echo Base, R-3PO shows up once again. Following the death of Admiral Ozzel, and Captain Piett’s promotion to Admiral, the very next scene takes us back to the Echo Base hanger. Now, we see Rebel pilots running to join Princess Leia’s briefing where she is discussing the evacuation and defense of the base. As the pilots run to the assembly of pilots, R-3PO is clearly visible on the right side of the screen, standing near an X-Wing and watching the commotion unfolding around it. 

And, yeah, that is it. As I said, R-3PO pops up briefly in two scenes. Ultimately, like so many other droids in the saga, R-3PO’s role in The Empire Strikes Back is straight-forward: populating the background in the Star Wars universe. Never-the-less, even though R-3PO is an extremely minor character doing very little on-screen, it has been given a sliver of backstory. As the canonical reference book Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know notes, R-3PO is a “moody, red protocol droid on the lookout for spies” (pg. 164). This counterespionage role for R-3PO is, in fact, a carry over from the Expanded Universe where R-3PO was first presented as being tasked with weeding out spies among the droid pool in Echo Base. And considering this aspect of R-3PO’s background has been maintained in the Star Wars canon, it is probably safe to assume that the droid was also abandoned by its master, a smuggler who “accidentally” left the moody R-3PO in the hands of the Rebel Alliance. 


Check out these other posts about random protocol droids in Star Wars:

U-3PO: The Other Protocol Droid

K-3PO: The Dead Protocol Droid

E-3PO: The Rude Protocol Droid

TC-14: The Federation Protocol Droid

TC-70: The Hutt’s Protocol Droid

AP-5: The Singing Protocol Droid

TC-70: The Hutt’s Protocol Droid

With the release of the seventh and final season of The Clone Wars animated show upon us I thought it would be appropriate, as part of my protocol droid series, to recognize a protocol droid that made its debut in the The Clone Wars. To that end, I could think of no better droid to highlight than TC-70, a TC-series protocol droid with feminine programming which as Jabba the Hutt’s translator.

As you undoubtedly already know, before The Clone Wars show debuted in October 2008 it was preceded by The Clone Wars film which was released in August 2008. And it was in this film where TC-70 was first introduced to the Star Wars canon, standing next to Jabba the Hutt in a hologram (see featured image) and ensuring listeners – in the movie and in theaters – could understand what the crime lord was saying as he spoke in his native Huttese. Moreover, what makes TC-70 all the more special – and I guarantee 99.9% of you are unaware of this – is that “she” is the very first character to speak in the The Clone Wars franchise following the introductory narration. Feel free to share this unnecessarily specific bit of Star Wars trivia with others, and/or use it to establish yourself as the dominant Star Wars fan in your group of friends. 

TC-70
TC-70 stands next to Jabba the Hutt.
Photo Credit – The Clone Wars Season 3, Episode 4: “Sphere of Influence”

Following “her” role in The Clone Wars movie, TC-70 also went on to appear in a handful of episodes in Season 3 of The Clone Wars show. While these episodes, and the film, are the only instances where TC-70 shows up in The Clone Wars, “she” does make a rather minor appearance in another Star Wars story. In Marvel’s Star Wars 15, TC-70 pops-up in a few panels, again translating for Jabba, this time as the crime lord speaks with the Wookiee bounty hunter Black Krrsantan. Considering Star Wars 15 takes place in the year 10 BBY, and TC-70 made “her” in-universe debut in 22 BBY, it is comforting to know that the protocol droid was able to stay in Jabba’s good graces for at least twelve years. Then again, given what we know about Jabba the Hutt and his temper, it is safe to assume that at some point after her appearance in Star Wars 15, TC-70 found herself on the wrong end of Jabba’s rage. 


Check out these other posts about random protocol droids in Star Wars:

U-3PO: The Other Protocol Droid

K-3PO: The Dead Protocol Droid

E-3PO: The Rude Protocol Droid

TC-14: The Federation Protocol Droid

R-3PO: The Red Protocol Droid

AP-5: The Singing Protocol Droid

TC-14: The Federation Protocol Droid

While the 3PO-series protocol droid is the most common and recognizable protocol droid in Star Wars, thanks in no small part to C-3PO, other series of protocol droids do exist. The TC-series protocol droid is one such example, although you would be forgiven if you confused a TC unit with a 3PO unit because they look nearly identical. Having the same manufacturer, Cybot Galactica, the TC-series can basically be thought of as an upgraded version of the 3PO-series.

We meet a TC-series protocol droid for the first time in The Phantom Menace. A Trade Federation protocol droid with silver plating and feminine programing serving aboard the Lucrehulk-cargo freighter Saak’ak, TC-14 greets Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi when the two Jedi arrive to negotiate with the Federation. Leading them to a conference room, TC-14 promptly leaves to inform Viceroy Nute Gunray, leader of the Trade Federation, that the two Republic ambassadors are Jedi Knights. Shocked by this news, Gunray and the captain of the Saak’ak, Daultay Dofine, decide to send TC-14 back into the room with refreshments while they figure out what to do. Moments later, after the conference room is filled with dioxin gas, TC-14 will walk out of the room and encounter waiting battle droids, “excusing” itself and exiting before the two Jedi go on the offensive. 

And, yeah, that is it. TC-14 is only on-screen for a handful of moments at the outset of Episode I. What happens to “her” after leaving the conference room is a mystery, your guess being as good as mine (although she isn’t destroyed during the Battle of Naboo as the Saak’ak is NOT the Droid Control Ship). Never-the-less, TC-14’s introduction and brief role in The Phantom Menace set the stage for more TC-series protocol droids to appear in other Star Wars stories, and I will discuss some of those droids in future posts. 


Check out these other posts about random protocol droids in Star Wars:

U-3PO: The Other Protocol Droid

K-3PO: The Dead Protocol Droid

E-3PO: The Rude Protocol Droid

TC-70: The Hutt’s Protocol Droid

R-3PO: The Red Protocol Droid

AP-5: The Singing Protocol Droid

E-3PO: The Rude Protocol Droid

The moment in The Empire Strikes Back is brief but memorable, a short exchange between protocol droids. Having just landed on Cloud City, and meeting Lando Calrissian for the first time, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO follow Calrissian through the halls of the atmospheric metropolis. As they all turn a corner, a door on the right opens and standing before C-3PO is a droid that looks similar to him, another protocol droid: E-3PO (first identified by name in the Star Wars Customizable Card Game). Their conversation goes like this…

C-3PO: “Oh, nice to see a familiar face.”
E-3PO: “E chu ta.”
C-3PO: “How rude!”

And, yeah, that’s it. Like I said, the moment is brief, and as E-3PO walks-off, C-3PO goes on to get himself shot by stormtroopers. Where E-3PO goes once exiting the scene is unknown, this short appearance and one-liner being it’s singular moment to shine in the film, doing so by jumping on the C-3PO insult wagon. It is worth remembering that up to this point in The Empire Strikes Back, our favorite protocol droid has been the butt of a number of jokes in the movie, primarily due to his penchant for annoying those around him…especially Han Solo. I won’t list these moments as you should be familiar with them (if not, go watch the movie?), but with these moments in mind we can all pretty easily understand why C-3PO, when he literally comes face-to-face with another protocol droid, would say it is “nice to see a familiar face.” That E-3PO instead reacts by being rude is just fantaaaaaaaastic, a sign that C-3PO doesn’t just annoy his human allies, but instantaneously annoys other droids just by speaking. 

But what does this Huttese phrase which E-3PO levels, “E chu ta“, actually mean? More importantly, does it even matter? The basic fact is that it is clearly an insult, a form of Huttese curse, and it works even better without knowing what it “officially” means. The imagination is more than capable of filling in the blank. And since that’s the case, I will just offer what I like to believe the “rude” E-3PO is saying…

C-3PO: “Oh, nice to see a familiar face.”
E-3PO: “Eat shit.”
C-3PO: “How rude!”

You gotta admit that “E chu ta” does kinda sound like “Eat shit.” 😉


Check out these other posts about random protocol droids in Star Wars:

U-3PO: The Other Protocol Droid

K-3PO: The Dead Protocol Droid

K-3PO: The Dead Protocol Droid

I recently wrote a short piece about U-3PO, the other protocol droid on that Tantive IV at the beginning of A New Hope. I did so because a friend had asked me about the protocol droid, wondering if I had any information about it. After writing that post, I got this crazy idea to write some more posts about protocol droids which appear off to the side or in the background of scenes throughout the Star Wars saga. And so, in this post, I want to jump into The Empire Strikes Back and offer some brief background, along with my unsolicited thoughts, on K-3PO, the dead protocol droid in the Rebel base on Hoth.

K-3PO behind Toryn Farr
K-3PO stands behind Toryn Farr.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Easily identified by its white-plating and two red dots on the right side of its chest, K-3PO is a protocol droid that works in the Echo Base command center. The first time K-3PO appears in The Empire Strikes Back is when Han Solo enters the command center to tell General Rieekan that he is planning to leave the Alliance. In that scene, K-3PO is working at a tactical screen as Solo walks by. Later, when the fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers arrive in orbit above Hoth, the protocol droid can be found once again in the command center, just before the ion cannon is fired, standing behind Toryn Farr, the woman who is speaking in this particular scene.

After the Battle of Hoth commences, with the Rebels fighting desperately to hold off the advancing Imperial Walkers, we once again return to the Rebel commander center with Han Solo. Questioned by Princess Leia about why he is still in the base, Solo comments that he heard that “the command center had been hit” by the Empire. The scene suggests as much, with the twisted wreckage of screens and computers strewn about the icy room. And there, among the wreckage, is the “lifeless” form of K-3PO, right arm missing and a massive scorch mark emblazoned on its white chest.

To be honest, I have always appreciated that K-3PO is laying among the wreckage in the command center. I admit this seems a bit strange, an odd expression of enthusiasm over K-3PO’s demise. But this is not to say I wanted the droid to die. Far from it. No, what I appreciate is that the protocol droid’s “death” adds an extra layer, even a small one, to the dire situation the Rebels find themselves in at this moment in the film. While K-3PO is not the focus of the scene, its prominent place in the foreground as Han Solo climbs over debris forces the audience to take notice, to recognize that this Rebel droid is a casualty of the Imperial attack. Every time I watch The Empire Strikes Back I cannot help but look at the dead protocol droid, a droid I have seen, albeit briefly, actively working in this very command center in those two previous scenes. I may not have known this protocol droid, not in the way I know R2-D2 or C-3PO, but a tiny amount of sympathy never-the-less takes hold when I see its broken, inactive form among the mangled screens, wires, and debris of the Rebel base. 

U-3PO: The Other Protocol Droid

Knowing that I am fanatical in my love of Star Wars, a friend recently asked me a pretty unsurprising question about A New Hope. The question was this:

“What’s the name of the other protocol droid following R2-D2 and C-3PO at the beginning of A New Hope?”

Answer: U-3PO.

My friend then followed-up with a pretty obvious second question:

“What happened to U-3PO?”

Answer: Hell if I know.

Seriously, I have absolutely no idea. All I can tell you about the silver plated U-3PO beyond it’s name – which it officially received in the 1995 Star Wars Customizable Card Game – is that U-3PO follows the other two droids down a corridor in the Tantive IV before turning off into a different room. Then again, you could have figured that out yourself. What happened to U-3PO once it disappeared from view is a mystery. Admittedly, it is a mystery that has periodically popped into my mind. And if I had to take a guess, I would assume U-3PO was either “…sent to the spice mines of Kessel or smashed into who knows what!” Why? Well, honestly, if I have to explain it I’ll be taking the fun out of allowing you to figure it out for yourself (just re-watch the opening of A New Hope).

So the point is this: U-3PO is just the other protocol droid aboard the Tantive IV and has absolutely no bearing on the events of A New Hope. And yet, I will admit that I have always been intrigued that U-3PO is present in the film for those few brief seconds. It is certainly interesting to think about what happened to the protocol droid, and I hardly think some “canonical” answer is necessary. In this regard, the imagination is good enough for me.

But in closing, I will also say this: I find it equally interesting to imagine what role U-3PO could have played in the events of the film if it had stuck with R2-D2 and C-3PO. Who knows, maybe things would have been incredibly different if there had been three droids, and not two, wandering the barren wastelands of Tatooine.