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  • Writer's pictureAaron Fonseca

Star Wars Examines Consciousness Using One of the Franchise's Cruelest Droids

This weeks Your Nerd Side Show:

Star Wars just explored themes of consciousness and redemption through EV-9D9, a torture droid in Jabba's Palace, from Return of the Jedi

The following article contains spoilers for Olivia Chadha's "The Key to Remembering" in From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi and Marvel Comics' Star Wars: Dark Droids #1, on sale now.

In the recently released From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi, Olivia Chadha's "The Key to Remembering" focuses on EV-9D9, the torture droid in Jabba the Hutt's Palace. Throughout the story, EV-9D9 begins to theorize that droid consciousness and free will are tied to memory. She figures out a way to prevent her own memory wipes, and EV-9D9 is able to mostly overcome her cruel programming in light of her new building experiences.

This theory of memory and free will in droids is especially interesting in light of other droid rebels like R2-D2 and L3-37. EV-9D9's theory also has important implications for the Dark Droids arc running throughout Marvel's original trilogy era Star Wars comics. Analyzing EV-9D9's theory reveals that droids' ability to become sentient, either unwittingly or purposefully, has been hampered by the practice of memory wipes and the removal of continuing experience, and allowing droids to exist with their memories intact allows them to become anomalies and achieve a higher level of consciousness as well.

EV-9D9's Memories Help Her Overcome Her Cruelty in Star Wars

From the beginning of Chadha's "The Key to Remembering," EV-9D9 is upfront about her cruelty. She views herself as a scientist. While she enjoys torturing other droids, her experiments also have a larger goal: to unlock the secret of droid consciousness. Her efforts are inhibited in part by her monthly memory wipes, per Jabba's orders. While she has some of the data from her former experiments, EV-9D9 does not have many, if any, memory of actually enacting the past months' torture. She also acknowledges that she may have conducted the same experiments and come to the same conclusions multiple times before.EV-9D9's life changes when she meets R2-D2, whom she refers to as an anomaly.

Of all the droids in the Star Wars saga, R2-D2 has the most continuous and expansive memory since he has never experienced a full memory wipe throughout the course of the franchise. Some theorize that R2-D2 could also be considered the narrator of the Skywalker Saga, as intended in George Lucas' original vision for Star Wars. Thus, throughout the saga, even as R2-D2 works to help his Republic and Rebel friends, R2-D2 also becomes a hero for revolution among the droid community, like L3-37 from Solo: A Star Wars Story.

From the beginning of "The Key to Remembering," Chadha acknowledges EV-9D9's flaws, such as her desire for torture, while also arguing that her environment in Jabba's Palace brings out her worst tendencies. Importantly, R2-D2 also encourages EV-9D9 to seek freedom for herself. R2-D2 tells her, "'You can do good things despite your programming. Try not to forget, and you'll learn.'" By tying learning to memory, Chadha argues that memories and experience are how droids can move beyond their initial programming. This theory holds true throughout the franchise since many more of the most beloved droids, such as Chopper from Star Wars Rebels and L3-37, do not undergo memory wipes.

In response to R2-D2's advice, EV-9D9 sabotages her next memory wipe and keeps her memories intact. After Jabba's death, EV-9D9's dark urges for torture retreat further as new memories and experiences help her establish new routines and desires in life. Her penchant for torture is not completely erased. She still slightly poisons a customer at the end of the story after he mistreats R5-D4, an unsung Rebel hero. However, her acts of torture are now directed at those who treat her and her fellow droids with cruelty, making her an anti-hero rather than a villain. Thus, Chadha establishes both R2-D2 and EV-9D9 as rebels in the same vein as L3-37.

EV-9D9's Memory Theory Has Intriguing Hints for Star Wars' Dark Droids Arc

The parameters of droid consciousness that Chadha establishes in "The Key to Remembering" have wider implications for the Star Wars universe. In Marvel Comics' Star Wars titles, the Dark Droids arc incorporates a similar exploration of droid consciousness. In Star Wars: Dark Droids #1 (by Charles Soule, Luke Ross, Alex Sinclair and VC's Travis Lanham), the Scourge acts as a hive mind, taking over droids throughout the galaxy, including some beloved faces. In doing so, the Scourge absorbs their victims' memories but supersedes their free will to serve their own dark agenda.In light of EV-9D9's memory theory, the Scourge's actions are even more horrific. The Scourge robs their droid victims of their identities by separating them from their individual memories and experiences and robbing them of their personhood. Thus, while the story arc banks on the horror of enemies hiding within the heroes' ranks, the arc also establishes that the Scourge threat is even more horrifying for the droids of the galaxy, both the Scourge's victims and those left behind. Thus, the story arc promises to center the droids and cyborgs of the galaxy as they fight for their own survival and to save their friends, establishing more clearly the boundaries and possibilities of droid consciousness along the way.

Overall, Chadha's "The Key to Remembering" uses EV-9D9, one of Star Wars' cruelest droids, to explore themes of consciousness and redemption within Star Wars. While Jabba the Hutt's torture droids might seem irredeemable in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Chadha effectively shows that anyone can work toward redemption if they have the correct tools, such as memory and experience, to steer them down better paths. As Star Wars continues to expand throughout the timeline, the question of droid rights and droid sentience has become even more vital to the franchise's core, and EV-9D9 provides an effective argument for the importance of droid freedom to keep their memories in order to grow and rise above their original programming.

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