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The entire C-3PO and R2-D2 story finally explained

Who are the real protagonists of the Star Wars saga? At one time, people would have said Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo, but the scope of the story has expanded a lot since then. Those characters don't appear as adults (or at all, in Han's case) until Episode 4, and only one of them survives to Episode 9, the final installment. If you start from Episode 1, you might think Anakin Skywalker's the protagonist, but he's an antagonist by Episode 3, and dies in Episode 6. Rey and Finn are characters that resonate with a lot of people today, but they don't even show up until Episode 7.

If you're looking for the true lead characters of Star Wars, the only real answer is C-3PO and R2-D2. The two droids appear in Episode 1, they'll appear in Episode 9, and they're in every episode in between, as well as spinoffs like Rogue One, Clone Wars, and Rebels. They don't always drive the action, but when something important happens they're usually there. C-3PO is a lovable bumbling scold, programmed with every known language and custom. R2-D2 is a mischievous troublemaker who doesn't speak in words but is never hard to understand, designed to interface with computers and keep starships repaired and on course. Together they're one of fiction's greatest duos, and the real POV characters of Star Wars. So with that in mind, let's take a look at the saga from their point of view.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

R2-D2 came from the Planet Naboo, where he was one of several nearly identical astromech droids stationed on Queen Padmé Amidala's royal starship. He had personality from the very beginning, however, and was ready to stand out. When the Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi helped the Queen and her retinue escape from captivity during a blockade by the Trade Federation, the starship was fired upon by Trade Federation ships hoping to recapture Amidala. A bunch of astromech droids, including R2-D2, exited the ship to make repairs from the outside. While several other droids were blown off the ship and destroyed, R2 survived and made the repairs that enabled the ship to escape. He was personally thanked by the Queen, and from that point on served her more directly.

When Amidala's ship stopped on the planet Tatooine, they met C-3PO, a protocol droid that lacked his outer casing, which made him look a lot like a metal skeleton covered in wire. Anakin Skywalker, a young boy of extraordinary skill, claimed that he had built C-3PO himself, although later Star Wars lore made clear that C-3PO had already existed and just fallen into disrepair until Anakin reconstructed him with new parts. Anakin and his mother Shmi were enslaved by a junk dealer named Watto, and Anakin had (re)built C-3PO to help Shmi with chores. When Qui-Gon saw Anakin's potential to become a Jedi, he won the boy's freedom from Watto, but Shmi was forced to stay behind. C-3PO stayed with Anakin's mother, but it would be far from the last time that he and R2-D2 would be together.

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

When Padmé Amidala's term as Queen of Naboo ended, she became a Senator. R2-D2 joined her on Coruscant, the Galactic Capitol. R2 helped Obi-Wan Kenobi and a now-grown Anakin Skywalker to foil an assassination attempt on Padmé's life, which led Anakin to take her into hiding off-planet, bringing R2-D2 along. When Anakin began having visions of his mother in peril, the trio returned to Tatooine. There they were reunited with C-3PO, who now had a rusty metal covering that made him look more like a typical protocol droid, albeit a run-down one. His improved status reflected the good fortune of Shmi Skywalker, who had been freed from slavery by a man named Cliegg Lars, who became her husband. Shmi and 3PO moved from the town of Mos Espa to the Lars moisture farm out in the desert known as the Jundland Wastes.

Unfortunately Shmi had been captured by Tusken Raiders, and died just as Anakin arrived to save her. When Anakin and Padmé bid farewell to the Lars family, C-3PO came with them, altering his existence forever. The two droids accompanied Anakin and Padmé to Geonosis, which would soon become the site of the first battle of the Clone Wars. They found their way into the foundry where Battle Droids (the primary troops of the Separatist Forces) were built, and C-3PO's head was swapped with a Battle Droid head, much to his confusion and chagrin. Fortunately in the chaos to come, R2-D2 was able to reunite his friend's proper head and body, but not before some excessive wackiness. R2 and 3PO were able to escape with their allies, but the Clone Wars had begun. The two droids then attended the secret wedding of Anakin and Padmé on Naboo, and were in fact the only other main characters present.

The Clone Wars

Thanks to six seasons of television, R2-D2 and C-3PO had far too many adventures during the Clone Wars to recount them all here. Suffice it to say that R2-D2 usually accompanied Anakin Skywalker on missions, while C-3PO was more often the companion of Senator Padmé Amidala. They did have a few adventures together, however, such as when they accompanied Anakin and Padmé to Cato Neimoidia as part of a plan to expose Rush Clovis as a Separatist spy. While there, Padmé was poisoned and 3PO helped a 2-1B medical droid see to her recovery (in the Clone Wars season 2 episode "Senate Spy").

The droids were heroes in their own right when they were sent to the quake-ridden planet Aleen as a part of a relief effort. When R2 and 3PO found themselves trapped beneath the planet's surface, they discovered a way to stop the quakes, earning the eternal gratitude of the Aleena people ("Mercy Mission," season 4).

In one of their strangest adventures, R2-D2 and C-3PO made an emergency landing on the planet Patitite Pattuna, where they were tied up Gulliver-style by the tiny inhabitants. The Patitites brought them before their dictator, Hay-Zu, who considered all off-worlders to be enemies. R2-D2 accidentally squashed the tiny despot, to the delight of the other Patitites, who then helped the droids repair their ship. C-3PO introduced them to the concept of democracy, but it only led to more fighting as the droids made their escape. Then R2 and 3PO landed on the planet Balnab, which was also ruled by a dictator. This one turned out to be a hologram operated by a group of Pit Droids who were secretly running the planet themselves ("Nomad Droids," season 4).

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

By the closing days of the Clone Wars, R2-D2 was Anakin's full-time co-pilot, fitting perfectly into the astromech slot in his Jedi Starfighter. C-3PO, meanwhile, stayed with Padmé on Coruscant. R2 accompanied Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi when they boarded the Invisible Hand, flagship of Separatist military commander General Grievous, to rescue the kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine. He even fought off some Super Battle Droids on his own, showing how far his abilities and personality had outstripped the navigational and computer-interface functions he was built for. He joined Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Palpatine on the bridge as Anakin crash-landed the ship on Coruscant. C-3PO met up with R2-D2 soon thereafter, accompanying a group of politicians to meet the arriving Jedi.

Anakin Skywalker soon fell under the sway of Palpatine, who was secretly a Sith Lord, and became Darth Vader. R2-D2 was noticeably unsettled by his master's changing behavior, but still accompanied him to the lava-strewn planet Mustafar, where Palpatine had sent him to kill the Separatist leaders. When a distraught Padmé followed Anakin to Mustafar, C-3PO piloted her ship himself, showing that he had gained skills as well. While Obi-Wan and Anakin were fighting their most famous duel, the droids helped an injured and very pregnant Padmé back onto her ship.

Both droids left Mustafar with Obi-Wan and rendezvoused with Bail Organa of Alderaan. After Padmé died and her children were placed in hiding, Organa gave the droids to Captain Raymus Antilles, who commanded his flagship. To protect the children from Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, Organa told Antilles to have C-3PO's memory erased.

The in-between years

C-3PO and R2-D2 spent most of the time between the end of the Clone Wars and the Battle of Yavin serving Captain Antilles on board his ship, the Tantive IV, which served as transport for Alderaan's royal family and also flew missions for the burgeoning Rebel Alliance. They did occasionally have other duties, however, such as when Bail Organa sent them to escort an Imperial Minister named Maketh Tua and an Aqualish arms dealer named Amda Wabo on a mission to the planet Garel. Officially, C-3PO was there to translate between Tua and Wabo, who lacked a shared language, but R2-D2 knew their true mission, which was to prevent Tua and the Empire from getting their hands on a shipment of powerful weapons. The mission was a success, and the droids also crossed paths with the small rebel cell known as the Spectres, which led to Organa and the larger Rebel Alliance learning of the cell's existence (in the Rebels season 1 episode "Droids in Distress").

The two droids were also at the Rebel Alliance base on Yavin IV in the lead-up to the Battle of Scarif, where a suicide mission by a ragtag group of rebels enabled the Alliance to obtain the schematics to the planet-destroying Imperial space station known as the Death Star, in which the traitorous Imperial engineer that designed it had hidden a weakness that would enable its destruction. Ultimately those plans ended up on the Tantive IV with R2 and 3PO aboard, which would lead to their biggest adventure yet.

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

Princess Leia Organa was fleeing from Scarif to Tatooine with the Death Star schematics aboard the Tantive IV when Darth Vader's forces attacked and boarded the ship. C-3PO and R2-D2 became the most important droids in the galaxy when Leia hid the Death Star files in R2's memory banks. C-3PO didn't know about the mission she'd given R2, but he followed his friend to the surface of Tatooine via an escape pod.

On the desert planet once again (although 3PO had no memory of his original time there), the droids were captured by Jawas and sold to Owen Lars and his nephew, Luke Skywalker. R2-D2, however, was determined to fulfill his mission for Princess Leia by finding the exiled Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi. He succeeded, along with 3PO and Luke, but the Imperial search for the droids led to the murder of Luke's aunt and uncle. Soon after, the droids, Luke, and Obi-Wan escaped Tatooine on board Han Solo's ship, the Millennium Falcon.

After rescuing Leia from the Death Star, the whole group arrived at Rebel Alliance headquarters on Yavin IV. When Luke volunteered to fly an X-Wing fighter in the attack on the Death Star, R2-D2 performed the same function for him that he had for his father, interfacing with the X-Wing's astromech slot to help the ship fly. He took serious damage in that battle, and C-3PO even volunteered to donate parts for his repair, but the Rebels, grateful to Luke for destroying the Death Star, did an exceptional job of repairing R2 on their own.

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

When the Rebels were forced to flee Yavin for the ice planet Hoth, R2-D2 and C-3PO naturally came along. The environment outside was too cold for droids like them to function, but R2 did scan for signals when Luke and Han were missing, and C-3PO calculated the odds of their survival, which nobody wanted to hear. When Imperial forces arrived and the Hoth base had to be abandoned, C-3PO left with Han and Leia on the Millennium Falcon, while R2-D2 left with Luke in his X-Wing.

C-3PO was mostly an annoyance as the crew of the Falcon had to hide from the Empire and navigate an asteroid field. When they arrived in Cloud City on the planet Bespin, 3PO wondered away from his friends after encountering another protocol droid. He thought he heard an R2 unit and was looking for another familiar face, but instead he encountered a squad of Imperial stormtroopers and was literally blasted to pieces. Fortunately, those pieces were found by Chewbacca, the tech-savvy Wookiee copilot of the Millennium Falcon, who was able to restore 3PO to consciousness but didn't have a chance to fully reassemble him.

Meanwhile, R2-D2 went with Luke Skywalker to the swamp planet Dagobah, where Luke was to train with the Jedi Master Yoda. A swamp is a bad place for an astromech droid, and R2 quickly found himself submerged in sludge and even swallowed whole by a giant reptile, but fortunately it found him indigestible and spit him out. R2's only role in Luke's Jedi training was as a weight to be lifted with the Force, and he spent a lot of time sitting around waiting in this uncomfortable environment. Eventually, Luke had a vision of his friends in peril on Bespin, and he and R2 left to save them. There R2 and the disassembled C-3PO were reunited once again, and as they escaped on the Falcon, R2 helped put his friend back together. Unfortunately, Han Solo had been captured on Bespin and taken to the gangster known as Jabba the Hutt.

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

C-3PO and R2-D2 were part of the mission to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, although as usual 3PO wasn't nearly as informed about the plan as R2. They arrived in Jabba's palace on Tatooine, and R2 played a message from Luke Skywalker saying that both droids were gifts for the Hutt. 3PO was horrified, especially when he saw how badly droids were treated there, but he served as Jabba's new translator, while R2 carried a drink tray on the Hutt's sail barge, a kind of party boat that flew over the sand. Eventually the plan came together, and when Luke needed his lightsaber for the rescue, it turned out R2-D2 had been secretly carrying it in a hidden compartment all along. C-3PO was much less help, and had one of his eyes (temporarily) pulled out by Salacious Crumb, a monkey-lizard who was either Jabba's court jester or his pet, depending on who you ask. 3PO was lucky that R2 shoved him off the sail barge before it exploded, and their friends plucked them out of the sand before leaving Tatooine.

R2-D2 took a brief detour with Luke to return to Dagobah for one last visit with Yoda, who was literally on his deathbed. Then both droids accompanied the Rebels on a mission to the forest moon of Endor. When they encountered the native population — a bunch of tribal teddy bear-like creatures called Ewoks — the creatures mistook C-3PO for a god because of his golden sheen. With the help of Luke's Force abilities, 3PO was able to prevent the surprisingly vicious Paddington lookalikes from cooking and eating the Rebels, and their cooperation enabled the defeat of the Empire.

After the war

After the victory at Endor, C-3PO continued to serve Princess Leia and Han Solo as they rooted out Imperial holdouts and restored the Republic. When the First Order arose to attempt to reinstate a Galactic Empire, Leia became the General of the Resistance that opposed them, and 3PO followed her. On a mission for the Resistance, C-3PO formed an unlikely friendship with a captured First Order protocol droid named O-MR1. When the droids were trapped on a dangerous planet, a tentacled creature ripped off 3PO's left arm. Ironically, O-MR1 ultimately sacrificed his existence to save C-3PO, leaving only his left arm behind. For a time, 3PO wore O-MR1's arm in memory of his friend, even though its red color didn't match his gold plating (as depicted in the Marvel comic Star Wars Special: C-3PO: The Phantom Limb).

As for R2-D2, he stuck by Luke Skywalker's side as Luke built a new Jedi Temple and attempted to train a new generation of Jedi. Unfortunately, all of that was undone by Luke's own nephew, Ben Solo, who led the mysterious Knights of Ren in slaughtering the other trainees and destroying the temple. R2 stood with his master as they watched the Temple burn. Luke left R2-D2 behind when he went into hiding after that, and the exhausted droid entered a low-power mode that he would maintain for years, recharging his circuits and reprocessing his memories.

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

Still wearing O-MR1's red arm, C-3PO accompanied General Leia Organa on a rescue mission to the planet Takodana, where he awkwardly interrupted a reunion between Leia and her ex, Han Solo. Back at the Resistance headquarters on D'Qar, 3PO gently chided a younger droid, BB-8, for trying to wake up the still hibernating R2-D2, telling him it was no use. R2-D2 did wake up, however, when the Force prodigy Rey arrived on D'Qar and said that the First Order already had found most of the map to Luke Skywalker's hiding place — except for the part that had been hidden in BB-8, in old Imperial data files. Some part of R2 heard what Rey said, and emerging from his low-power coma, R2-D2 helped BB-8 assemble the map to Luke's hiding place on the planet Ahch-To. Leaving C-3PO on D'Qar, R2 accompanied Rey and Chewbacca on the Millennium Falcon to find Luke.

Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi

When the First Order uncovered the location of the Resistance base on D'Qar, it was C-3PO who received the transmission and informed Leia that they would have to evacuate. He and Leia and most of the rest of the Resistance leadership escaped aboard the starship Raddus. As the Raddus was pursued by the First Order, the bridge was destroyed by TIE fighters, leaving Leia badly injured. C-3PO wanted nothing more than to stay by her side while she recovered, but he found himself unwillingly involved in a mutiny led by Poe Dameron against acting Resistance leader Admiral Holdo. When Leia woke up and stopped the mutiny, 3PO immediately surrendered.

Meanwhile, R2-D2 was on the distant planet of Ahch-To, where Rey was doing a poor job of convincing Luke Skywalker to train her as a Jedi. Luke was burnt out on teaching, which was pretty understandable after one of his students killed all his other students the last time he tried. Nevertheless, R2-D2 changed his mind by playing the original recording of Leia that he'd delivered to Obi-Wan Kenobi decades earlier. Rey's training still didn't go well, and she, R2, and Chewbacca were soon on their way back to the Resistance.

After Admiral Holdo sacrificed herself and the Raddus to enable the other Resistance survivors to escape, C-3PO fled with Leia and the others to the salty planet of Crait. In the midst of a devastating attack from the First Order, Luke Skywalker surprised everyone by arriving just in time to engage his former protege Kylo Ren in combat. C-3PO seemed like he might have noticed something askew about Luke, but he shut up about it when Luke winked at him. Sure enough, Luke turned out to only be a mental projection through the Force, and not really on Crait at all. Nevertheless, Luke's gambit bought the Resistance enough time to escape, and C-3PO was reunited with R2-D2 aboard the Millennium Falcon when Rey and Chewbacca arrived to enable the evacuation.

Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise Of Skywalker

In the final days of the war, as the First Order became the Final Order and Emperor Palpatine rose again, R2-D2 remained at Resistance HQ while C-3PO went on a mission with the galaxy's greatest heroes to find the hidden Sith planet of Exegol. Along the way, they found a dagger that contained Sith runes that would show the way. 3PO was able to read the runes, but because they were Sith writing, his programming prevented him from translating them for his friends. In order to complete the mission, they had to go to a tiny droidsmith named Babu Frik, who was able to override the programming in C-3PO's electronic brain — but at the cost of his memory. Understanding the odds well enough to know that his sacrifice was necessary, C-3PO said goodbye to his friends and allowed his memory to be wiped for at least the second time.

When he returned to the Resistance base, R2-D2 was aghast that his best friend didn't remember him. Although the amnesiac 3PO was reluctant at first to let the pushy Astromech droid mess with his head, R2 was able to restore his memory. Together, they celebrated the final defeat of Palpatine and the First Order. Just as they were there for Palpatine's rise, they were around for his fall. After all, aren't they the real stars of the saga?