Darth Vader having built C-3PO is one of those weird twists that Star Wars largely forgot about. We were first introduced to the prissy protocol droid in The Phantom Menace, with a young Anakin having apparently assembled him from junkyard scraps in his free time.
Though the movies never explored their relationship, various comics and books have touched upon it. Most insightful is the 9-page short Thank the Maker, which shows Vader realizing who C-3PO is while on Cloud City during The Empire Strikes Back, reflecting on his childhood, and (in a rare moment of kindness) ordering that he be returned to Chewbacca rather than smelted down. We also learned that the ‘3’ in C-3PO was included by Anakin as a reference to the character being the third member of the Skywalkers after himself and his mother.
But none of this explains why Anakin felt the need to build a protocol droid capable of speaking six million languages. After all, he and Shmi were slaves on Tatooine and ‘protocol’ seems low on their list of immediate priorities. Lucasfilm has finally explained why in a new book, though, titled Skywalker: A Family at War, which bills itself as ‘the official biography’ of the family.
Here’s the relevant passage:
“The boy longed for a life far from Tatooine, free to explore the galaxy and fulfill his dreams of becoming something far greater than a Toydarian’s property. The droid he constructed was capable of millions of forms of communication. Anakin dreamed that, one day, with C-3PO as his faithful traveling companion, he and his mother would be able to venture anywhere in the galaxy and be understood and be able to understand the natives, whatever their language.”
It’s a neat bit of reasoning, though extremely depressing that Anakin’s goal was to escape alongside his mother. One of the worst decisions in Star Wars was Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan deciding to separate the young boy from his mom and abandon her on Tatooine. It’s not an entirely sad story, as Shmi eventually fell in love with Cliegg Lars and the pair married, but her subsequent kidnapping and being brutally tortured to death by Tusken Raiders is a bit of a downer.
It’d be fun to see a Star Wars equivalent of Marvel’s What If…? series exploring some of these questions, especially one in which Anakin realized his dream and escaped Tatooine without the Jedi getting involved. I’m betting his life might have turned out much happier if he’d never been trained in the Force and told he was the Chosen One.
In the meantime, we can next see C-3PO and R2-D2’s adventures in the upcoming Star Wars animated effort A Droid Story on Disney+.