Being a droid in the Star Wars universe seems like it sucks. Sure, R2-D2 can talk back to Luke, but for the most part, we see droids like C-3PO and Rogue One’s K-2SO, two fully-formed personalities who had their minds erased on the whims of their human owners. But Lando Calrissian’s droid in Solo: A Star Wars Story is different, in part because she’s technically not Lando’s droid at all.
L3-37, the droid co-pilot played via motion-capture by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, is self-made, according to Entertainment Weekly, which published an article about the character on Thursday.
“She’s a self-modified droid,” script writer Jon Kasdan explained “The idea is that she’s sort of a mutt, if you will, of various parts of different kinds of droids who has improved upon herself.”
“She’s a complete individual in the galaxy,” he continued. “We wanted to have it be a completely different kind of droid than you’ve ever seen in the movies. And we definitely wanted it to be a female.”
While having a female-identifying droid is new for the Star Wars films, which have almost exclusively featured male droids or droids without an established gender, L3-37’s status as a DIY droid without an owner is intriguing. Certainly, it will make her relationship with Lando interesting, as the pair will be on equal footing. The pair look friendly in the trailer, and Kasdan said L3-37 has “a working relationship with Lando, and it’s very sophisticated and informed by years of working together.”
But L3-37’s status as a self-made, self-owned being really highlights how all the other droids in Star Wars are, ultimately, things to be bought and sold. L3-37 blurs the already strange line between droids as “people” and droids as property. What allows L3-37 to exist in society as an individual of her own accord, and what’s stopping somebody from claiming ownership of her or junking her. Perhaps she’s only able to do her thing because Lando is an exceptionally chill dude in the glaxay when it comes to droid rights?
The Star Wars films haven’t explored this idea much in depth. It’s tackled human slavery via Anakin Skywalker’s origins on Tatooine, but not droid slavery, so to speak. However, an official C-3PO comic got into some pretty intense territory about what it means to be a droid in a galaxy full of masters.
Perhaps the closest example we have to L3-37 in Star Wars movies is IG-88, the droid bounty hunter in Empire Strikes Back. The rogue assassin droid somehow had enough agency and respect to be hired by the Empire, though how exactly, that worked was unclear. In a now non-canonical story, one of IG-88’s fellow rogue droids came really, really close to leading a full-blown droid revolution, as the droid was able to upload itself into the second Death Star, where it had full control of the battle station. It only went along with the Empire’s orders to maintain the illusion that they had control until the time was right, but the Rebel Alliance just so happened to blow up the battle station before IG-88 had a chance to put his plan into motion.
We haven’t seen too much of L3-37, but it’s unlikely she’s as murderous or ambitious as IG-88. However, her status as a “free” droid might shed some light on the complicated relationship between man and machine in a galaxy far, far away.
Solo: A Star Wars Story opens on May 25.