To the Gentleman at Slashdot Who Points Out That R2-D2 Totally Has Jets to Climb Stairs, DUH

When you think employing jet thrusters is a perfectly reasonable way to get a droid up some stairs:

a) you may not be grasping the fundamentals of that whole “good design” thing;

b) it’s called the “sun.” Get out into it.

I have a Slashdot account so I can’t be throwing stones, but, damn, y’all.

87 Comments on “To the Gentleman at Slashdot Who Points Out That R2-D2 Totally Has Jets to Climb Stairs, <i>DUH</i>”

  1. Yes, one did get the impression some of those Slashdotters have a rather terminal case of Taking This Shite Too Seriously where SW is concerned. Kind of make AICN Talkbackers look, well, cool.

  2. Probably the only thing I can postulate as being more nitpicky and mundane than bashing the “science” in Star Wars is actively trying to defend it as “possible.”

    C’mon, people. It’s a movie. ;)

  3. They could be a Doctor Who fan :) If Daleks can employ some technology to fly in order to overcome stairs …

  4. To same said gentlemen: Lucas didn’t design these droids to be a design marvel, he designed them to be cutesy side kicks in a movie (replicated to, uh, perfection with the brownies in Willow).

  5. Stuff for Nerds. Stuff that needs better editing.

    What did you expect?

    (Full disclosure: my /. account # is in the low 10,000s, so I’ve got a long history of dissing the site for crappy editing…)

  6. Umm… Lemme know how that whole arguing with Slashdotters about Star Wars thing goes. I think the average Birther has better reasoned arguments and less overall crazy than that particular segment of sci-fi fandom.

    Also, wouldn’t it just be more efficient for him to use the little suction-cup line thingy? Not, like, good design efficient, but greener, surely.

  7. I thought your Death Star Throne Room observations were the most insightful. I’ve always wondered WHY they would build a huge pit in there. I blame the unions.

  8. (Blah, s/stuff/sensationalism/, that’s what I get for quickly posting while cooking dinner!)

  9. As someone who worked in robotics for years, I just have to say from a technical perspective that you got the terminology wrong: R2-D2 does not have to use jets to climb stairs, R2-D2 gets to use jets to climb stairs.

  10. They could be a Doctor Who fan :) If Daleks can employ some technology to fly in order to overcome stairs …

    Oh, C’mon. Surely no one was ever meant to take that seriously? It was in response to decades of jokes about defeating the dread all-powerful Dalek menace with a flight of stairs, and I can’t be the only one who found it hilarious when that Dalek parodied its own repetitive cry of “Exterminate” and started to fly up the stairs in the first season of the revived series.

  11. Ok, so I want to also point out, the irony of mucking up that comment on the blog of the author of the Hugo Award winning “Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded” is not lost on me. I’m going to stick with the “I don’t run a large technology news portal” defense.

    More seriously, I gave up on /. a few years ago. The culture on the website is noxious. From where I’m sitting, the problems which drove me away from /. are a pretty obvious outgrowth of the dedicated technology-centered moderation system and the bad editorial policies and integrity. (They may have changed, but I seriously doubt it. Their formula works well enough to attract a large readership.)

    The moderation system, IMO, is largely responsible for keeping exactly this kind of nerd at the top of the pile on /. (of course, if you are one of these folks, then I’m just bitching because my comments never got modded up ;).

    Finally, the moderation system seems to be built to create a democratic way for the community to moderate itself, but the maintainers reserve infinite mod points for themselves, and have gotten into moderation wars with the users in the past (most notably where valid criticisms they don’t like are being aired in public). So, the editors can’t edit have demonstrated an alarming lack of integrity and faith in their community in the past (particularly since they claim to be bastions of the Open Source movement…).

    So, I expect nothing less from /. Thanks for pissing them off, John. This is what keeps me coming back!

  12. Scalzi, do you have an engineering degree? [fact checking] You have a philosophy degree, so you’re opinion on the topic of robotic engineering is moot. Many slashdotters have degrees in Aerospace Engineering, Industrial & Systems Engineering, robotic Engineering.

    PS The science in Old Man’s War isn’t even yours. You cherry picked from Heinlein et al.

  13. You know who else can’t walk up stairs? Orko. And I bet he could take out both R2-D2 and the Daleks with one Columbia-blue hand tied behind his back. Why? Because he’s maaaaagic.

    I regret nothing! (THONK) (thud)

  14. Kevin S,
    Nope but any one can make an anonmouse report. This is currently mild wanking compared to some of the recent attention getting outbreaks. The competition for gawking and mockery by FW is stiff.

  15. yeah I think I saw the “rebuttal” you mean, John. I wanted to sit the poor lad down and have a chat with him. It was poorly-thought-out wharrgarbl from ear to ear.

  16. I’m waiting for Lucas to go back and give R2 jets in the first three movies. Who can forget him rolling around those conveniently flat, swampy vistas on Degobah?

  17. Am I the only one who remembers that R2-D2 is an astrodroid, a hot-swappable guidance computer for a small fighter spacecraft, and that it is entirely reasonable that a chassis meant only to run short distances around a hangar deck would not have a very good stair-climbing functionality?

  18. Also, the TIE fighter didn’t make it into the top 10 bad designs? Despite the fact that it cannot land on planetary surfaces (more than once), requires a specially fitted hangar and a whole support team to get the pilot in and launch, and doesn’t actually have shields?

  19. Flasher: The TIE can land on planetary surfaces (as, in theory can all SW small fighters) – they launch from and return to planetary bases regularly in the EU. The lack of shields is a money saving effort on behalf of the Empire, who view TIE fighters as completely disposable due to their cheap manufacturing costs (apparently, it doesn’t cost much to train a TIE pilot either!).

    Oh gods, I’ve become one of them!

  20. The TIE can land in a special retrieving harness, which I guess can be on a planet as well. I don’t recall planet-based TIE bases in the EU books I’ve read, I’m sure there are some, but it’s going to be a bitch to retrieve one of those things in gravity. (In space it can manouver into the rig, which is still awkward, but a lot less so.)

  21. they launch from and return to planetary bases regularly in the EU.

    …in the European Union?

    Ha! And to think the Yanks say we don’t spend enough on our military!

  22. Peon Po:

    “Scalzi, do you have an engineering degree?”

    One does not need an engineering degree to know that having to use jets to get up stairs is a bit much, Peon.

  23. Peon,

    I have a philosophy as well. Does that prevent me from recognizing engineering design flaws? We all know that R2 really didn’t have jets until Lucas thought it would be “cool” for R2 to suddenly have jets…


  24. I especially loved how a statement like “I reject episodes 1, 2, and 3” gets flaunted like a badge of pride.

    Have a seat, scooter: Uncle Barbarian’s gonna have to set you straight.

    First let me put my Rabid Star Wars fan hat on. As someone who’s read EVERYTHING in the entire continuity from Shadows to Exile, who also prefers to think of the story as not including anything before episode 4, who has Wookieepedia at the top of his bookmarks list: why are you such a moron?

    Let me tell you about the letters G, T, and C. They represent “levels” of canon in Star Wars. The “G” stands for George, and it’s the highest level – it means what George says, goes. “T” stands for television – apparently (and Karen Traviss fans found this out the hard way recently) if it’s in their goofy little clone wars cartoon, or any other poorly conceived and executed huge mistake Lucasarts may make for television in the future, it’s in the second-highest level of canon. The “C” stands for “continuity” and represents everything else. You know, all of the novels and everything that sort-of, kind-of, almost all fit together in a coherent way before that new batch of “g” shat all over it.
    If George wants to release a 30-second additional scene for the end of Jedi that somehow leaves no doubt that Wedge Antilles dies of AIDS 5 minutes after death star 2, Grand Admiral Thrawn never existed, and Princess Leia turns out to be infertile, kiss the “c” grade goodbye.

    I think they’ve demonstrated that it’s much more important for the TV people to have free reign than it is to keep the crazies like us happy.

    I understand that there can be few things more pathetic than fan-wank. I know that when someone tries desperately to explain that it’s actually perfectly reasonable when “Next week, New Found Glory guest stars on a very special Star Wars” (, it’s pretty sad.

    Do you know what’s more sad? Thinking you’ve still somehow made a cogent point after you announce that you’re pretending that half of the thing you’re defending doesn’t exist.

  25. It’s posts like this and the few before, that reassure me, you’re the perfect choice to consult on SGU. :)

  26. R2-D2 has a design similarity to that of the Daleks in Doctor Who. A little problem like stairs really do not obther daleks much, just a little use of anti-gravity makes their day go much better.

  27. Slashdot posters get some points for reading my mind when they posed the question of what red-blooded 8 year old boy genius who loves pod racing who being kept as a slave build a robot designed to do protocol? Wouldn’t he build a robot to help them escape?

  28. Oh and I know you said you were planning on raking Star Trek poor design theories through the coals next week. I look foward to it and plan on bringing popcorn.

  29. Scalzi, you snarking on slashdot is a bit like Usian Bolt poking a beehive with a stick just to prove he can outrun the bees.

    (Which isn’t to say I didn’t laugh–because I did).

  30. When my friends and I saw Episode II in the theater, and R2 deployed those jets for the first time in the series, to fly along in that video game advertisement droid factory, the guy I was sitting next to turned to me and said, simply, “No.” Freighted with meaning, that single syllable was.

    (Conveniently, it’s also the word Lucas seems to have stopped hearing sometime in 1998 or so.)

  31. Peon Po, whilst Mr. Scalzi doesn’t have an engineering degree, I am reliably informed that you can hit him up for bitchin’ bootleg midichlorians. They’re disguised as Coke Zero – philosophy majors are the shit at midichlorians ’cause they’re like a metaphor for our fundamental interconnectedness with the universe.

    Either that or I need to cut back on the caffeine. One or the other.

  32. I read your article but not all of the responses, so I hope this wasn’t addressed elsewhere. But you missed perhaps the biggest technology gaffe in the entire Star Wars Universe:

    Walking machines.

    I mean, really. They have anti-grav technology of some kind. Luke’s el cheapo speeder that you mentioned floats even when the damn thing’s turned off! Imperial Star Destroyers (or their Republic equivalent, whatever the hell they were called in Ep. 2) can float in atmospheres without any kind of thruster rockets holding them up. So their anti-grav is cheap and strong!

    Yet they build Imperial Walkers?! WTF is up with that? That can get tripped, fall down, and blow up?! You’d think they’d at least have some anti-grav backup to keep the thinks from toppling over!

    Now, the Hoth battle is probably my favorite of all the movies, and I really dig the Walkers from a “wow-that’s-cool-as-shit-looking” perspective, but from an engineering POV? No freakin’ way.

    And don’t even get me started on the idiotic scene in Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi when there’s a quick shot of a droid being tortured by having its feet scorched with hot irons. Why the hell would anyone engineer nerves into a droid?!

  33. See also: ED-209. Thank goodness OCP took care of that shit by putting the drug-addicted brain of a master criminal into its next giant robot.

  34. Maybe my memory is failing me, but they don’t seem to use stairs very much in the Star Wars movies, especially in the environments R2D2 is designed for.

  35. All I can say is DUCK when you release the Star Trek one next week.
    Hey I’m looking forward to it even as a Fan of the series(s) and like most NORMAL people I can poke a bit of fun at things I like. So much of these Science FICTION (not the term fiction here) is not real it does not have to match up to real life… but come on sometimes things are just too far out to be anywhere near real.
    I think that means that I agree with you John – even if I wish that R2-D2 could climb stairs… and why have stairs in the future/alternative world anyway ramps my friends ramps are the go!

  36. @ Warren Terra:

    Actually, that was not the first time a Dalek levitated up the stairs. They first did that during the Sylvester McCoy episode “Remembrance of the Daleks.” I remember thinking when I first saw it at the age of 17 that it was about freaking time they figured out how to get up the stairs.

  37. Okay, am I the only one who remembers R2 climbing up a short flight of stairs at some point early on in the Star Wars canon? (Might have been in an early comic book?) I remember it being horribly complicated and awkward. But on the hand, I thought that was the main reason for the retractable middle “foot” to exist…

    (Hey, learn something every day. Originally, three legs meant it was a remote controlled R2, two meant it was Kenny Baker inside.)

  38. And don’t even get me started on the idiotic scene in Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi when there’s a quick shot of a droid being tortured by having its feet scorched with hot irons. Why the hell would anyone engineer nerves into a droid?!

    Well, because you want the droid to avoid damage, so you equip it with the ability to detect that it’s being damaged, and a programmed response to avoid the source of likely damage. Nerves, and pain.

  39. ajay and John, yes, that was my point. Pain is not required for a droid to avoid damage.

    Sol said:
    Okay, am I the only one who remembers R2 climbing up a short flight of stairs at some point early on in the Star Wars canon? (Might have been in an early comic book?) I remember it being horribly complicated and awkward. But on the hand, I thought that was the main reason for the retractable middle “foot” to exist…

    It’s in Star Wars (aka A New Hope) when they’re heading into the Millennium Falcon’s hanger in Mos Eisley. There’s a shot where you can see R2-D2 coming down the stairs. He’s on the far left, and he has to do this kind of back and forth motion that’s terribly awkward. I’m sure it was also pretty dangerous for Kenny Baker if he fell forward.

  40. Please, please, please link the nerdgassing in response to your Star Trek article next week.

    Which, by the way, I am really looking forward to.


  41. I dredged this wonderful post up from the comment muck at Slashdot:

    “R2 is a Sith Lord. Think about it for a minute.

    1. We know that damaged Sith get a mechanical exoskeleton.
    2. People can understand R2. Canon states that requires The Force.
    3. He’s got lightning attacks.
    4. He was present at the very beginning of the series. Used Force Persuade to prevent the shots from being fired. “Hold your fire; there are no life signs aboard.”
    5. His jets can’t provide enough thrust to lift him. He can fly. We’ve seen him do it without using his thrusters.
    6. Palpatine hid himself from the Jedi; it’s a known trick.
    7. In IV, he was able to stand outside the bar without getting picked up by the Stormtroopers who were looking for him. “I am not the droid you’re looking for.”

    Watch the scene with the cave on Dagobah again when Yoda and R2 are judging Luke’s performance.


  42. There’s a scene in Episode II where R2 can be seen in the background climbing some steps when Anakin and Padme arrive on Naboo. I’m surprised no one has noticed it.

    I never concerned myself too much with the droid getting tortured in Jabba’s palace. Those things have nerves of steel!

  43. OK, not to defend SW fanboys or anything, because I agreed with 90-95% of your original article. But I have to cite a Star Wars defender and note that the prequels never stated that midichlorians were the cause of the Force. It’s only implied that their presence indicated the potential of a Force-sensitive, and correlation does not equal causation. They could be an organism that is attracted to Force-sensitives.

  44. I’ve always figured that the same vitriol, noxious idiot brigades at /. are the distant relatives of an ancient clan of idiots that lack a certain satire gene.

    The same morons claiming you need a degree in Engineering to understand basic engineering are most likely the great-great grandsons of the same idiots that rioted over the 1700’s essay “A Modest Proposal”.

  45. I just re-read the article and noticed again the first comment…

    “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

    How apt.

  46. After reading PJ the Barbarian’s explanation of Star Wars Levels of Canon at #29, all I can think of is a line from another movie entirely: “Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.”

    More seriously, if folks want to say that a certain coherent grouping of someone’s work (like the original trilogy, or the first release of the first movie, or whatever) stands better on its own than as part of a larger grouping, I can understand that perfectly as a statement of art criticism, or of personal appreciation. I might or might not choose to agree with it.

    If they want to construct an elaborate scheme about varying degrees of reality for different related fictional creations, I think we’ve largely left art criticism behind in favor of something more like an elaborate shared game.

    I’m not particularly interested in that game, but I can see that some folks enjoy it. It’s only when they start yelling at each other about how person A’s fictional-reality hierarchy should agree more with person B’s fictional-reality hierarchy that I start to think “get a life”.

  47. I knew there was something familiar about point b) in the original post…

    Maybe deprived of their systems, some of these geeks might go out and get some sun or meet people or something. It couldn’t hurt.
    The Android’s Dream, p.200

    The rest of the page is worth reading too, as is the entire book.

  48. But you can program a droid to avoid damage without requiring it to register as “pain,” which I think might be the point there.

    Actually, Mr. Scalzi, I think you’re wrong about that.

    “Pain” is nothing more than a sensation which causes us to try to avoid its source. Program a droid (or AI, or whatever) to be able to sense damage and to attempt to avoid it as a default, and you’ve made it feel pain.

    It would surely be possible to make it merely aware of damage, and require it to consciously choose to avoid what’s causing that damage each and every time, but that’s not a good use of resources (specifically, consciousness – there are only so many things we can afford to be explicitly aware of).

  49. I think it’s an impressive bit of programming to have the droid moan and howl when being tortured. It’s the attention to those little details that really shows the droid builders cared about craftmanship as well as commercial viability.

  50. Ahh the internet. One large body of FAIL. Hint: The lot of you are arguing about design point of fictional things.

  51. James:

    Hint: The large majority of us (here, anyway) are aware of that and are having a bit of recreational fun. You look silly for not recognizing that.

  52. Yes John, *I* look silly. And yet you’re the one participating in a flame war about Star Wars with people on Slashdot.

  53. “And don’t even get me started on the idiotic scene in Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi when there’s a quick shot of a droid being tortured by having its feet scorched with hot irons. Why the hell would anyone engineer nerves into a droid?!”
    Link to obligatory Simpsons reference.

  54. The one thing I have learned reading the several hundred posts on this subject at various sites is that the empire does not like handrails.

    The Icelander (on I’m surprised he didn’t mention the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any money for handrails in the Death Star budget.

    T.M.S.:There were suposed to be handrails but someone stole the plans before the station was finished.

    I had a really good chuckle from those two comments and then completely lost it with the following exchange

    wage0048: The Ewok village had handrails.

    schattenteufel:But their handrails were designed for human-sized creatures (which they’d never even met before), even though Ewoks were much shorter. Their “handrails” were higher than their own heads! They’d have fallen right off their platforms, under the supposed handrails!

    squidloe:Maybe the Wookies were frequent visitors to the Ewok “massage” parlors?

    The only beings that seem to use them are the teddy bears. and even those ones are too high up to be any good for

  55. Eek. I have heard of getting sonned, but that’s the first time I’ve seen somebody get ladded.

  56. My favorite ‘design’ quirk is the dress code in Episodes 1-3. I remember walking through an exhibit of the costumes thinking that they would all have herds of dust bunnies under those sweeping robes.

  57. @15

    I am a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). I hold/held very high elected and appointed positions at both the regional and international levels of that organization.

    I was responsible, among other things, for the satellite distribution system of a major television network.

    A Technical Emmy has been won by my then employer for my work, as an engineer. 2005 Documentation of Closed Captioning, shared by ABC, CEA and PBS.

    I have a degree in Mathematics (technically the degree is in Natural Sciences – and yes I know that the Queen of the Sciences isn’t one). I have taught Engineering at the college level and am qualified to teach Professional Engineers for their required Continuing Education Credits (CEUs)

    My closest friend in the industry is a Fellow of a different professional engineering society and has won one of their major medals. His degree is in Comparative Religion.

    Lillian Gilbreth, considered one of the first great women in engineering had a Doctorate in (I believe) Psychology and her partner/husband Frank Gilbreth was an eighth grade drop out.

    I don’t consider myself a great engineer, although I have trained under one and worked with a few others, but I am a damned good one.

    Engineering is applied mathematics, the ability to apply that mathematics does not require a science degree.

    Don’t question people’s ability to engineer simply because they don’t have the right intials after their name.

  58. Pam Adams @ 69:
    My favorite ‘design’ quirk is the dress code in Episodes 1-3. I remember walking through an exhibit of the costumes thinking that they would all have herds of dust bunnies under those sweeping robes.

    I’m still getting my head around how the Queen of Naboo not only had an entourage of near-identical handmaidens, and when escaping from Naboo they happened to luck on a ship fully pimped out with a full wardrobe of elaborate royal couture and a lifetime supply of make-up.

    And when it comes to Star Wars design fail — how about Coruscant? If the entire planet is one giant city, where does all the food and potable water comes from?

  59. @71

    What of Trantor (Asimov) and the capital planet in Bill the Galactic Hero (Harrison)?

    On Starwars, I’ve only seen the first and the one with Jabba the Hut and remember little of either.

    I saw Star Wars with two other broadcast engineer friends. The control panel for the weapon beam on the Death Star was a Grass Valley Group triple effects deck video switcher, I think a 1600 but perhaps a 1400. Our network had just started to use them in our control rooms. We went into laughter at that point.

    If I like the writing it is a lot easier for me to suspend belief in science fiction than in other fiction.

  60. ntsc, I think that might actually be part of the point. If Episodes 1, 2 and 3 had been anywhere near as much fun to watch as the original movies, then geeks wouldn’t have anywhere near as much fun slating them.

    I think there’s a sort of Conservation of Entertainment Principle at work here. As so many geeks didn’t find the movies themselves (the recent ones) sufficiently entertaining, fun has to be derived from slating the SW universe in as funny a way as possible.

    Or, again, I may have had too much caffeine.

  61. Personally, I found the entire list spot on. And even though I noticed almost all of the items listed (and even more that went unlisted) when I first saw the movies, they didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the movies…except for Han saying, “It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs!” GAH!!

    Anyway, as much as I enjoy the Star Wars universe I have no problem separating science from fiction. I watch the Star Wars movies for enjoyment and escapism. They’re fun. If I want to have a “serious” discussion about them, I’ll talk to my oldest son about how the Star Wars saga follows the Campbellian Mono-myth almost to the letter. And even that’s fun because my son is a great kid.

    <wrenching myself back on point> My point is, IT IS NOT REAL. It’s FICTION. Might I respectfully suggest that you take some advice from William Shatner and “Get a life”(thought I’d get this in before the 10 things list about Star Trek).

    On a final note, if anyone would like to discuss the piece of trash that Paul Verhoeven made that has the same name as Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers”, I’m your man.

  62. John Coxen:

    Yeah, but the “get a life” admonition is less than on point for someone who is a professional science fiction writer, you know? I snarked on the design flaws of Star Wars primarily for fun, and because I got paid to do it by AMC, but at the same time from a professional point of view it does have some relevance.

    So, basically: This is my life, thanks. And it is good.

  63. Please don’t misunderstand. “Get a life” was aimed as the fanboys that can’t stand to see their Holy Writ criticized in any way. I agree with your list. I just get irritated at ostensible adults who have so much of who they are invested in <insert something here> that they can’t hold a coherent conversation about anything – including their own raison d’etre.

  64. I hope, on the above topics, it doesn’t go too far the other way. I loved the way in Babylon 5, you had an O’Neill-type station, with fighters liberally barnacled with engines. Robust, plausible designs. The shwooshy dogfights in Galactica were all the sweeter for their silence, the muted, hull-transmitted rumble of gunfire, the blatting of fractional jets.

    It would be a terrible shame, though, if people stopped making up stories just because they can’t face ignoring the man behind the curtain.

  65. On a final note, if anyone would like to discuss the piece of trash that Paul Verhoeven made that has the same name as Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers”, I’m your man.

    It’s interesting as an elaborate piss-take of war films. That’s about all.

  66. Yeah, I liked Starship Troopers quite a bit. It wasn’t an adaptation of Heinlein’s book, it was a satire of it. My take of the movie was that its arguement was that military science fiction, especially when fighting an evil Other, was fascist. And so it was a fascist movie. Now, granted it was a pretty heavyhanded satire, but I enjoyed it none the less.

  67. Well, I *do* have a Mechanical Engineering degree, with just about two decades experience in industrial automation and robotics, and I can say most of Scalzi’s comments about the horrible technical designs in the SW universe were correct.

  68. I actually think that the terrible design doesn’t really detract from the films. In fact, it makes them all the more believable. Military design classics like “don’t get this radio wet, it’ll explode”, “we’ve run the fuel line through the ammo locker so that it’ll all explode at once” and “we’ve put the bridge immediately behind the smokestack so you can’t see where you’re going because the bridge is full of smoke” really happened in the real world, guys.

  69. I think Julian’s got this one figured out — not a lot of stairs in Star Wars. So one might take into account where old R2 was designed to operate.

    Now a 10 year old slave building a protocol droid for his mom is a bit of a stretch. Definitely a bit of history shoehorned into a spot it didn’t belong.

  70. If you want to excuse the deliberate design decisions, like R2’s jets, simply point out that conclusions like “R2D2 has jets to traverse stairs” is just an extrapolation from available data. We don’t know that’s why he has jets.

    But I admire John’s article for not making that link, instead simply noting that (a) stairs are a bit of a problem for R2 and (b) he’s got enough ordinance to give TSA heart murmurs if he ever went near an airport, but not a 30-cent voice chip.

    For me, it’s the design omissions which reveal the greater weaknesses. Safety railings, people! Safety railings! The Rebel Alliance isn’t the Empire’s greatest foe. OSHA is!

  71. Where did I read the rationalisation that R2D2 is a spy-droid disguised as an ordinary astromech? Or possibly an ordinary astromech upgraded and retrofitted so that it can serve as a spy. (R2 wasn’t given the plans for the Death Star, it stole them in the first place.)

    In this rationalisation, astromechs aren’t commonly found haring off having adventures everywhere — especially in places with stairs instead of elevators — so the compromises evident in their design make sense for their usual environments. R2D2’s other odd abilities are the result of being fitted with devices by the SW’s equivalent of James Bond’s Q, and are used for the surprise factor to get it out of bad situations. (Still doesn’t explain why it has jets rather than anti-gravity, though.)

  72. Rewatched Star Wars just ’cause, and the thing is, if R2 and 3PO had good design, they wouldn’t work nearly as well as characters. Think about it, if R2 had good design he’d be the size of a thumb drive, would simply interface with starships, and he’d probably talk like a GPS. No expressive whistles or beeps, no silly banter. What’s fun about that? (OK well, it wouldn’t be the same kind of fun.) Jets are COOL! R2 And 3PO are flawed and useful and full of texture and life and brilliance. All things that make for interesting characters. And all part of a universe that blew me away one summer day a long time ago in a town far, far away….