There were many memorable moments in the sizzle reel of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but one of the most darkly funny was seeing C-3PO rise from a slab with bright red eyes. Although the golden protocol droid has suffered part replacements in almost every movie of the saga, this is the first time that his eyes have changed color. And, as the saying goes, eyes are the windows of the soul. So, could C-3PO be possessed? There is a recent canon precedent in the Star Wars: Doctor Aphra comics: Agent Triple 0, or 0-0-0, another 3PO protocol unit whose personality, specialized in diplomacy, etiquette and customs were overridden by the triple-zero protocol matrix, which added “torture” to his list of skills. His chassis was dark silver, and his “eyes” were red.
Doctor Aphra is a comic book series set roughly at the same time as Episode IV: A New Hope. It follows the adventures of Aphra, an archeologist specialized in ancient droid technology, as she retrieves strange artifacts for Darth Vader (among other patrons).
She acquired 0-0-0 protocol matrix from Quarantine World III, and along with Vader, proceeded to install it on the body of a protocol droid. The personality matrix was 700 years old, and the Empire, through Tarkin, had already tested out it out -- and judged it too psychopathic for their needs. Aphra’s and Vader’s goal was to use Triple Zero to wake up their BT-1 assassin droid, a lethal robot disguised as an astromech that would become his faithful companion.
So, according to some leaks, the reason why C-3PO’s eyes are red in the trailer of The Rise of Skywalker is because the Resistance heroes, along with the new bounty-hunter Zorii Bliss (played by Keri Russell) have to replace Threepios’s memory with that of another droid in order to decipher a code that will allow them to reach the Wayfinder Device, which will, in turn, lead them to the Sith Fleet before the First Order. The rumor says that to accomplish this, they head to an abandoned droid factory in the snowy planet Kijimi, where they put C-3PO’s memory inside R2-D2 and the modified matrix in the body of C-3PO.
Eventually, Darth Vader, Aphra, and the droids parted ways, with Vader going on to live the events depicted in the original trilogy, and Aphra and the droids looking for business elsewhere in the Galaxy. That didn’t prevent Triple Zero from enslaving Aphra and forcing her to go into missions that even the tough-skinned archeologist deemed immoral and unethical.
Now, would it be reasonably possible that Triple 0 could have ended up in the same abandoned droid factory that Poe, Finn, and Zorii all explore in Kijimi?
The answer is a robust yes: although we don’t know exactly where Kijimi is, we do know that Aphra’s archeological specialties were droids and weaponry and that she had a good knowledge of the ins and outs of the Empire. With that in mind, it is possible that Triple 0, BT-1 and Aphra knew about this location, and taking into account Triple 0’s dictator tendencies, that Aphra might have found a way of disabling him, hiding him among his "peers."
Another interesting aspect of this theory is that, just as much as C-3PO’s was Anakin’s first creation, “that he never finished,” Triple 0 was probably Vader's last one. Both of them addressed the same man as “Master.” And just as much as Threepio is firmly in the light side of the Force, Triple 0 is the perfect droid for someone with a much darker side, and we know how vital Balance is in the Star Wars universe.
Triple 0’s arc of self-discovery also mirrors Rey's. After searching the entire Galaxy to see who created him and why, Triple 0 finds out that he was considered a defective unit, and that he was slated for destruction.
So if this is the case, what new skills could we expect from Threepio in The Rise of Skywalker? For starters, he will have no qualms about breaking Asimov’s First Law of Robotics and enacting violence onto his enemies. In the comics, Triple 0 is capable of electrocuting people with a touch, something that he does more often than not because to accommodate his torture protocols, the diplomatic skills pertaining to “being a good sport” had to go too. He also delights in torturing organics and shows a remarkable strategic intelligence that allows him to become the leader of a crime syndicate -- again, just like C-3PO becomes Leia’s spymaster during the Age of Resistance.
However, for those that enjoy C-3PO’s polite speech pattern, do not fret: 0-0-0 talks in the same joyful, seemingly helpful way – only his words usually carry threats of violence instead of helpful suggestions.
Directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker stars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Billie Lourd, Keri Russell, Matt Smith, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher, with Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant. The film arrives on Dec. 20.