Why doesn't Darth Vader recognize C-3PO?

  • Similar to this question:

    Why doesn't Owen Lars recognize C-3PO during ANH?

    There are a couple of occasions during the original trilogy (Episodes IV, V, VI) where Darth Vader and C-3PO encounter one another (specifically in The Empire Strikes Back). It's fairly clear as well that Darth Vader knows that C-3PO is a companion to his son Luke. Unlike Owen, it seem likely that Vader would learn, through the Force and/or through Imperial Intelligence reports what specific 3PO droid it is. So, is there an in-Universe answer to why he would not acknowledge that historical relationship?

    I think this may have been asked before but can't find it.

    Did Anakin put the gold shell on him? Besides, there are other 3PO droids (probably even more C-3POs)

    3PO Droids are like VW bugs. They all look alike.

    Why would the Empire know specifically which 3PO droid it is? He's never in actual custody of the Empire in any movie except when they are being held in Cloud City - by which point, C-3PO is already disassembled. Vader and 3PO are both in the same locations a few times, but they never actually interact.

    @APaleShadow as many as it takes. One for each combination of characters. "Why doesn't Chewbacca remember Yoda?" seems legitimate.

    The Actual reason is because in the early 80s, when the movies were made, George lucas had not yet decided that C-3P0 and Anakin Skywalker had a common past.

    Oh, I've got another one. Why doesn't R2-D2 reeducate C-3PO after C-3PO got his memory wiped? Doesn't R2-D2 think it would be useful to know things like that he was built by Vader?

    @apaleshadow if that's the bar for relevance here then how could anyone ask a question they didn't already know the answer too? maybe there IS an in-universe explanation -- how the hell would he know -- that's why he *asked*! (obviously "as many as it takes" answer was being a smartass, but there are some relavent ones)

    @APaleShadow "These questions add nothing useful to the site," some of these are questions asked by a *lot* of fans after watching the prequels. And as DavRobo demonstrated below, there are sometimes in-universe explanations.

    I've updated my answer with a canon source that directly answers the question.

  • DavRob60

    DavRob60 Correct answer

    8 years ago

    He does remember! See Thank the Maker:

    Finally, when he reflects that the droid may have ended up in this condition trying to escape an old master, he persuades his mother, though she makes him promise that he would be responsible for it. Shmi states that he may only be allowed to keep things if he takes care of them, or else he didn't deserve to have them.

    The Lieutenant then asks Vader if he should have the technicians examine it or have the Ugnaughts dismantle it. Before giving his answer, Vader shows a rare moment of reflection on his past, and touches C-3PO's head against his own. Vader tells the Lieutenant to give the droid to Chewbacca, having heard of the efforts Chewbacca made in order to retrieve the droid (Although he passes his actions off as giving the Wookiee the junk that he deserves). He then proceeds to the interrogation chamber, where he has an "appointment" with Han Solo.

    Vader Remembers

    This come from Star Wars Tales #6, for which the canon level is not clear.

    Issue #1 to Issue #20 were edited by Peet Janes (Issues 1 and 2) and Dave Land (Issues 3-20) and were labeled Infinities, placing them outside the canon (though this is not to say that the events depicted are permanently outside of the official continuity, just that they should not be considered canon unless or until they are endorsed by a canon source)

    It's also been speculated that in ESB when Chewie tries to forcibly free Han and Boba Fett draws his gun, Vader stops him because he's concerned that he might accidentally shoot C-3P0.

    I think that Star Wars Insider mentioned the same thing once when they talked about this comic, but I'm not up to digging through back issues :-)

    @Thunderforge That sounds very unlikely. He killed his wife, younglings, tried killing Obi Wan, etc. I somehow doubt Lucas (or anyone involved) had 3P0's origin story mapped out at the time of filming that scene. Seems like pure fan speculation, as you say.

    Vader allowing Chewie to rebuild C3PO is one of the few times he showed compassion. Ah, if only Obi-Wan and Yoda knew! They would see the good within him, and know he's not all consumed by the Dark Side.

  • Droids are massed produced. Even C3PO, built by Anakin Skywalker, has a generic cover placed over his body. There are several other nearly identical droids throughout the series to offer proof that C3PO is not unique in an aesthetic sense.

    Outwardly C3PO is not unique, He shares the same body as other protocol droids, you can't expect Vader to remember him based on looks. The Sith lord was likely to have dealt with many such droids in the decades since he last saw C3PO.

    I wouldn't recognize my first car 20 years later, though I have seen MANY just like it since then.

    Now for C3PO's name, which may very well be unique, remember that Anakin has had extremely traumatic events happen to him in his life, not the least of all was the transformation into a hideous, youngling murdering, mangled walking corpse of a sith lord. It's quite easy to assume that there are things that Vader has just forgotten, either by choice or by subconscious repression, or by the trauma of being cut up, set on fire, and left for dead.
    Remember, even Obi Wan said that when Anakin became Darth Vader, Anakin himself was destroyed.

    In the end it's all speculation. The real answer is: When the original trilogy was written and filmed, Anakin Skywalker was not the creator of C3PO. There was no consideration given to who Vader would recognize, because there was no reason for Vader to recognize the droid, at all. Anakin as C3PO's father is just another thing wedged into the Star Wars mythos by a man who wanted to create a certain symmetry to his story, without caring how it worked with the original trilogy, because he's well aware that he can change the originals any time he wants to.

    Is C-3PO even ever called "C-3PO" in front of Darth Vader? I don't remember that it was.

    This should be the answer, but oh well.

    If I saw a baby blue '78 Chevy Malibu I would definitely have to take a second glance at the driver's side corner of the front bumper, to see if it was bent inward as was the case with my first car after a fateful brush with a lamp post in a McDonald's parking lot. The presence thereof would certainly hint that I had stumbled upon my first car, alive and well, causing further investigation.

  • Darth Vader had a few hard years in his life. The traumatic events on his home planet, and losing his wife, child, and body in the same day, likely made him shut out much of his life before he became Darth Vader. This is evidenced by his surprise when something from his past (Obi-wan) shows back up.

    Even under the best of conditions, childhood memories fade. I know I made a car for a Boy Scout race when I was about 9, but today you could show it to me, and I wouldn't even recognize it. It was a project for young Anakin, but there is no reason to believe he would remember the details enough to pick it out, especially if he had little reason to believe his droid would return.

    He he, as I read the other day _A guy can only be called "Annie" so many times before he snaps_

  • He probably does recognize C3PO, but really, when does Vader have the downtime to stop and catch up with his old droid? Plus, he has no way of knowing that C3PO is the same droid that he had built as a child. I don't think droids are detected by the force the same way life forms are detected, and I think Imperial Security is too busy to go out and find Vaders childhood droid. Think of it in realistic terms. If you tried to kill/corrupt your long lost son, would you really stop in the middle of it to point out that the car he's driving used to be yours?

  • According to the canon series Star Wars Adventures, Darth Vader simply didn't notice him.


    C-3P0: Darth Vader... Unlike you Artoo, I actually met him on Bespin! And I was lucky enough to escape that nightmare without him ever noticing me!

    There are two reasons this makes sense.

    One, C-3P0's design is quite common:

    How rude! Other protocol droid

    Two, as you can see, C-3P0 was in pieces and partially hidden behind Chewbacca and the room was quite dark and foggy. Darth Vader was also most likely distracted at the time.

    Only meeting

  • C3PO was at Anakin's wedding to Padme, along with R2D2. Anakin programmed C3PO with his personality (a personality, I might add, that appears unique to him as no other protocol droid has exhibited his unique complaining style and self-absorption). C3PO was vociferously complaining the entire time Chewbacca was carrying him into the carbon freezing chamber, and there's no way Anakin/Vader could have mistaken that personality for any other protocol droid.

    Bottom line - Lucas messed up his continuity. C3PO should never have been built by Anakin.

  • Aside from all of the other asnwers here regarding all the trauma that Vader went through, which I agree with.

    Vader was also making a conscious effort to FORGET everything that happened to him on Tattoine. He never wanted to think about it again OR to vist the planet again because of all the horrible memories that the planet held for him. From being Watto's slave, to his mother dying on that planet, to taking his first real steps towards the dark side when he slaughtered all of the Tusken Raiders that killed his mother and many other bad memories, he wanted to completely forget about that place and everything associated with it, like to try and help him forget his mother and everything that happened to her, along with that planet being the source of the pain and trauma in his life.

  • Because The Clone Wars are canon according to George Lucas we have all of that material to go by. When you see the lengths he went through to save R2-D2 and C-3PO it is clear that you wouldn't forget them. A more reasonable answer would be that he cares for them too much to allow the rebellion to know that he has an emotional connection to them. Also C-3PO does not know his origins, his memory was erased. R2 is smart enough to know what's going on. He knows is Anakin is gone and Vader is a bad guy. So in my opinion everyone but 3PO knows who each other is. Of course Vader knows this is his 3PO, and R2. But as much as love kept them together through the clone wars, love keeps them apart then after.

  • Why would Vader recognize Threepio? The latter resembled a good number of protocol droids, which were either gold or silver.

    This is already covered by Jonathan Aaron's answer.

  • The force only works with living organisims, he could not feel the presence of any other object than a old rebot that may of been refurnished. His reflection may of triggered a memory of his early life.

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