Power of the Force, 1995
Appears in: A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi
Card Back: Designed as a protocol droid, C-3PO’s main programming function is to interact with human society. He is an interpreter fluent in over six million galactic languages, specializing in the areas of etiquette and translation – especially important during diplomatic missions. To aid in these tasks, he is equipped with microwave and olfactory sensors, photoreceptors, vocabulator speech units, energy transducers and broad-band antenna receivers. He was programmed with an elegant, human sounding voice, but more often than not C-3PO is heard whining and bickering with his companion, the astromech droid R2-D2.
C-3PO was once a simple interpreter aboard the transport ship Tantine IV, but a twist of fate made him one of the most wanted droids in the galaxy and a reluctant but loyal hero in the Rebel Alliance’s struggle against the Empire. When her transport was attacked by Darth Vader, Princess Leia Organa hid secret technical readouts for the Empire’s new Death Star in the memory banks of C-3PO’s companion R2-D2. The two droids then jettisoned from the ship in an escape pod, setting about the chain of events that brought Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi into the Rebel Alliance and ultimately led to the destruction of the Empire’s ultimate Battle Station.
I thoroughly enjoy the Prequels, but also firmly believe that the execution of the rather brilliant story could have been better. And so, if I could change three things about The Phantom Menace, they would be thus:
My first priority would be making Anakin Skywalker older. Imagine Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi encountering Anakin at 15, a veteran pod racer and Mos Espa slave on the verge of being sold off – how much more believable would his anger be, or his relationship with Padme? Secondly, I would make his accidental destruction of the Trade Federation control ship a deliberate action, the culmination of the Queen’s plan that only he had the skills to pull off. Show him as truly the greatest starfighter pilot in the galaxy.
My final change would be simple: the ‘Darth Vader built C-3PO’ connection would have to go.
Even though the concept gave us a rather excellent comic tale, that’s not enough to make up for the unnecessary and somewhat belittling connection between two characters that should never have had that level of relationship.
Such an idea was so out of the left-field that it would have been laughed out of town in 1995 – which is exactly when we’re going back to for the POTF2 C-3PO review…
C-3PO serves such a great function in the OT. From escorting R2-D2 in A New Hope to ‘discovering’ the Imperials on Bespin, he is a brilliant hapless messenger. The Power of the Force line gave us a basic figure worthy for such a character, and among the first wave of figures Threepio is by far the most striking.
Even after 22 years, the first thing you notice about the POTF2 C-3PO is how shiny he is. It seems Kenner saw little way of improving on the finish of the vintage figure and so went the same way, with a vac metal finish that’s perfect for Threepio’s golden chrome. Paint appears for Threepio’s exposed midriff, a glossy black covered in a multicoloured mess of wires. It gives that extra pop to the figure, making the shine of the gold even more impressive by contrast.
Even if the finish uses the same technique as the vintage figure, that’s where the competition ends. Once again POTF2 delivered a superior product to the 70’s figure with a grooved and panel-lined sculpt that perfectly captures the erstwhile protocol droid. The standard six points of articulation work well for C-3PO, and (knees aside) you can achieve pretty much any of his on-screen poses. With such a solid head sculpt to top the figure off with, it’s easy to see how this remained a default C-3PO figure for so long.
Of course, with so many positives, there is an inevitable downside. C-3PO came packed with no accessories whatsoever – not even a commlink. Of all the figures in the first wave it makes the most sense that it’s Threepio who loses out, but it still feels like a missed opportunity.
Yet that’s a minor nit-pick on an otherwise great toy. Accessories or no, the 1995 Power of the Force C-3PO figure remains a highlight of the line to this day.