Photo Credit: Lucasfilm
R5-D4 was a red astromech droid who spent years on a Jawa Sandcrawler, longing to be purchased and put to use by just about anyone on Tatooine. He knew he wasn’t perfect – various dings, deep scratches, and an unflattering faded paint job plagued the little droid’s quest to find a home. But he was persistent, and he knew – or rather hoped – that one day, someone, anyone, would give him a home.
“Well come on Red, let’s go.”
Immense joy! R5 could hardly believe it. He’d been chosen out of a long lineup of droids. Not to mention he was competing against a slightly battle damaged, yet still more attractive, blue astromech named R2-D2.
Those words that brought R5 so much joy were simultaneously a crushing blow to R2-D2, who was on a secret Rebel mission. Owen Lars had chosen to purchase the red astromech, not the blue one, as a counterpart to the fluent-in-over-six-million-languages protocol droid, C-3PO. R2 panicked, knowing that if he was separated from 3PO – or worse, left to rust on a Sandcrawler – he would never achieve his mission. Fortunately for the galaxy, we all know that just before the cash exchanged hands and the deal was finalized, R5-D4 malfunctioned – Luke believed the problem to be a bad motivator.
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It wasn’t a bad motivator at all, but rather R5-D4 somewhat reluctantly doing his part to help the Rebellion. Turns out, while on the Jawa Sandcrawler, R5 and R2 had interacted. R2 had somewhat evilly tried to sabotage R5 in order to ensure he would be the only healthy, and thus desired, astromech in the Jawas’ lineup.
To R2’s dismay, R5 had woken up during the procedure and managed to defend himself. R2-D2 then told R5-D4 his story – that a princess was relying on him to deliver information that could save the galaxy from sure destruction at the hands of the Empire – and why it was imperative that he be the one to escape the Jawas if the chance arose.
R5 did not make any promises to R2-D2. But as he rolled towards the Lars homestead, he realized that the galaxy was bigger than he was and that if what R2-D2 had said (or chirped and beeped) was true, he had to help him. It was then that R5-D4 made a choice: he forced himself to visibly malfunction so that the moisture farmer would have to take R2-D2 instead, thus freeing the blue astromech from the Jawas and allowing him to continue on his mission.
I won’t spoil R5’s ultimate fate here, (it’s different from his fate in the now Legends story, Skippy the Jedi Droid) but it’s worth checking out in From a Certain Point of View’s surprisingly emotional story, “The Red One.”
Thank you for your sacrifice R5-D4. You are not forgotten.