Star Wars Theory 101: Droid value fluctuations

16 05 2009

With all the froth and bubble about the Australian Federal Budget this week in the media, it seemed that the public would take anything, even (yet) another NRL animal saga to distract our attention from a budget which was, almost in equal measure, as bland as it was terrifying.

Given my wish to avoid polluting this fledgling blog with any discussion of NRL (and boycotting even the temptation to grace it with a tag) I think we should deal with a far more relevant and interesting issue of interest. Namely, the economics and politics of “Star Wars”, since this has a very real effect on more of our population, here in Australia than either NRL or Federal Politics (mind you, the “Life cycle of newts” may well rank better than these!).

The most intriguing dilemma I have with the economy of Star Wars concerns the true value of droids. How much are they worth??


Some have suggested that droids (even old models like dear old C3PO and R2D2) must be of considerable value. Evidence for this viewpoint includes the fact that Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Leia routinely waste valuable seconds waiting for these tardy droids in close escapes. Memorable examples include waiting for R2 on the flight deck on Bespin (in the Empire Strikes Back), recovering this same clumsy droid from the menacing jaws of the Saarlac in Return of the Jedi (is the Saarlac perhaps Iron deficient, one might wonder?) and Chewbacca carrying bits of  C3PO around Bespin with one arm, fending off Stormtroopers with the other and nothing more than a preened coat of fuzz as armour.

Added to this fine logic we have supporters who argue that R2, far from being a flip-top bin on wheels, is actually a powerful lock picker. Perhaps the makers of the amazing high-tech architecture often present should have invested more in security than doors than go “Phwwizzzt”. Nevertheless, if I were confronted by trained imperial thugs with blasters I would kiss that droid all over his bald Titanium head if he could zip me through a steel door instead. Heck, I might even shout him a cask of sump oil if we managed to get out of there alive!

Of course, on the other side of this debate we have what is, in classic Star Wars Economic Theory, known as the “Tatooine dilemma”.

On Tatooine, predominantly in Star Wars: A New Hope, though importantly also in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, we see what can only be described as a debasement of the Droid Market.

Luke’s Uncle Owen is so sand poor (excuse the pun) that he is barely managing to eke out an existence as a water farmer on this desolate planet. The twin sun system, no doubt responsible for the increased evaporation, or perhaps the  reason is global warming induced by pod racers running on fossil fuels. In any case, they are by no means affluent given the clothes they are forced to wear (which we see from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace were in vogue over 40 years previous).

Nevertheless, when the local Jawa Carboot sale rolls into town on serious Caterpillar tread, we see Luke and his Uncle buy not one but TWO droids while still having to feed the family on Rancor Vomit soup. Of course, having often had to struggle up sand dunes in a wheelchair (OK, I haven’t but this is not to say that the day might one day come!) I have to query the utility of R2 and his obviously urban locomotion in that kind of terrain (personally, I’d have gone for the diesel R5D4 with Sunraysia tyres). 

In Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Princess Leia, disguised as bounty hunter Boushh, eschews the more traditional home-baked  lasagne or bottle of Margaret River Merlot as a polite gift for Jabba for our slighty worn R2D2. In return, his expression is more one of an indifferent (or possibly constipated) slug far more than one who has just won the lottery. It seems that R2 is worth squat diddly on Tatooine.

Now there is further evidence that these droids are neither expensive nor complicated to construct. In Phantom Menace, a 9 year old Anakin Skywalker manages, rather coincidentally (given the sheer number of droids presumably available in the known universe) to have constructed the very same droid that his son would buy in the same place second hand many decades later. Saving his hard earned allowance, possibly earned raking the sand traps on the ninth hole, Anakin buys enough bits from the Tatooine equivalent of Dick Smith’s Electronics to make his very own working droid! And it speaks over six million languages!!

Now one has to ask the question why the droid market became so depressed in Tatooine, when elsewhere in the galaxy, rebel alliance freedom fighters would risk their lives to save them?

I would suggest the lack of bike paths might be a serious issue for a droid like R2. Which raises serious doubts about the intelligence of Uncle Owen and even Luke himself given their local topography. By extrapolation, even Anakin himself must not be too bright genetically, being the source of at least half Luke’s genes. This is further evidenced by the appalling acting by Anakin as he grows up in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. So any thick Tatooine hick can knock a droid together!

A protocol droid like C3PO would be similarly anachronistic on Tatooine, being a rough trading port full of bounty hunters, weird creatures with anger management issues and has-been lounge bands. Who really needs to hear a constant stream of expletives in six million languages? With the amount of foul goop spewing from the mouths of some of these vile creatures as they speak, the last thing you need is to understand the even viler intent of their strident communication. Ignorance in this case not so much as bliss as accepting the lesser of two evils.

So we have an unanswered question on the true value of these metal misfits. Han Solo, attempting to relieve himself of his debt to Jabba the Hut, perhaps would have done far better to fill the Millenium Falcon full of junk droids, have his faithful Wookie fix ’em up and flog ’em all off to Rebels getting X-wings ready for attack on the Death Star! If only Han hadn’t dropped out of his business degree to join the Texas Hold ’em circuit!!




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