Can Droids See Force Ghosts?

Netflix recently unleashed the entire run of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, including the sixth and final never-before-seen season, which dominated my weekend watching habits and has doubly reinvigorated my mental pursuit of esoteric Star Wars questions on top of the recent exchanges on Words With Nerds.

Often I promise these sorts of blogs will be brief musings, but then I start writing and I can never predict their final length. I like to think as I write on these things instead of coming into it fully-formed. Let’s see where we go this time!

What I’m Wondering This Time

One topic I’m not sure has ever been explored fully, is whether ‘droids see Force Ghosts. For those who don‘t immediately understand that phrase (really?), I mean things like the ghostly blue apparition–figures that appear after certain Jedi deaths.

Obi–Wan is of course the first we ever saw as an audience. Yoda followed by the end of Return of the Jedi, along with Anakin. The prequels later teased out the fact that this was a rare occurrence. I think that as an audience most presumed all Jedi could come back in this form. After all, our sample size of Jedi was fairly small, and they had a 100% return rate.

So anyway, I was wondering while watching one of the season 6 Clone Wars, could R2 see Obi–Wan on Dagobah? Yoda was talking to Luke as he boarded his X–Wing and he was joined by Blue Ben® trying to impel the youth from rushing off to face Vader at Cloud City.

Luke spoke to both, and Ben’s voice is heard very clearly by Luke and the audience. But if Obi–Wan is using some ancient art to communicate with another Force User via his connection from the Cosmic Force to the Living Force, could a ‘droid even hope to hear or see him?

As Obi–Wan explained to Luke, the (Cosmic) Force is generated by all living things. The living things are loosely explained in the prequels to be the Living Force, emphasizing the theme of duality Lucas was exploring in The Phantom Menace.

The key function of all this is, of course, the fact that the physical aspect of the Force is living.

As endearing as the ‘droids are, as key as they are to the motion of the story, they are not alive. There is no “living circuitry” to them. They may have intelligence artificially engineered into them, but they are in no way organic. Therefore, they are not alive.

If you want to play semantics, they are less alive than fire, which eats, breathes and grows. (Thank you, Backdraft!)

No Ghosts For R2!

So to my mind, R2 would be ruled out from seeing Obi–Wan in either The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi. He does not possess the correct antenna to see him, which is a connection to the living Force.

R2 can feel the effects of the Force when he is lifted in the air. He has personally witnessed the tremendous abilities of the Jedi. So he is aware of the Force, and has seen evidence of its existence, but cannot ever hope to participate with it on an intimate level.

This has to be troubling to a sentient machine. R2 would even see Luke conducting conversations with the dead while seeing nothing except a living person talking to thin air. That has to be maddening, even possibly causing logic conflicts that a mere ‘droid cannot resolve!

That opens other possibilities as well with ‘droids that would develop a deep resentment of living creatures in general and Force Users in specific. So perhaps, though I’ve spoken about the unfair treatment of ‘droids in the past, there was a practical reason for the bartender (Wuher) in A New Hope to have a “no ‘droids” policy.

After all, people couldn‘t know whether seeing someone doing one more thing they couldn’t would cause automata to snap finally. Imagine how messy it could get if a bunch of machines wigged out and started killing patrons. Very bad for business.


The one loophole I see in this would be that possibly a ‘droid could see the Force Ghost but not hear it. Then, at the very least, it would be able to reconcile why otherwise–sensible beings occasionally sat down on logs and talked into space.

Or perhaps there is a threshold of impact for Force Ghosts at first, but the more they exert their influence on the physical realm the more non-Force Users can interact with them. But then they become full–on poltergeists and then we have to speculate that possibly there is some Star Wars version of the Ghostbusters out there, whose actions inadvertently cause them to be evil since they’re interfering with the “light side” interacting with the living.

See? I never know where I’m going with these things either.

4 thoughts on “Can Droids See Force Ghosts?

  1. I’m going to disagree with you on a few levels.


    If ghosts were real (they’re not; consciousness doesn’t exist without physical form to give brainwaves direction), they’d be perceptible either by our eyes or by direct stimulation of the right parts of our brain such that we thought we saw them (I.e., some form of em waves that were able to penetrate our skulls without causing harm). The latter interpretation seems more in line with the fact that only Luke saw the force ghosts at the end of RotJ. In that case, droids might not be able to see force ghosts simply because they weren’t sent the message.

    If the former were true, I’d have a hard time accepting that droids were built to see a smaller part of the em spectrum than humans. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if droids were given sensors that were capable of intercepting force ghosts “messages” not intended for them. Who knows? They don’t exist, so we don’t know the details of their construction nor the nature of the “message.”

    Robo Insanity, aka Roberto-ism

    When I’m trying to work out a problem or plan out my writing, I talk to myself. I even argue with myself. While this might make humans laugh, it would have the same effect on droids as Jedi talking to force ghosts. However, I seriously doubt I’m the only human that does this, and humans already talk on hands-free devices on our backwards planet. Ergo, droids must be programmed to handle such phantom conversations. Droids aren’t welcome because they might be carrying weapons. Or stupid people don’t like being reminded they’re stupid. I’m not sure. You’ll have to ask a stupid person about that last one.


  2. The only hitch with the “if the former were true” part is that no one believes Force Ghosts to be in existence at all. Yoda perceives Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan perceived Qui-Gon (in EU only), Luke perceived Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon and Yoda. If QG and OW were able to appear at whim to whomever, and however, then the argument…oh wait, this is another blog post. Awesome/darn it. 🙂

    Well, the real root of the droid prejudice has to be left from the Clone Wars. An entire army was created, which enabled the war in the first place, and then the clones, etc. Then that probably bled into the fact that droids could be programmed – even presumably without their knowledge – to be spies for the Empire. At least with a person you can read tells about them, they leave trails, etc. A droid could be from ISB and not even know it’s recording secret information on an Imperial Citizen for use against them. So Droids are sort of the drones of the Empire and some loophole allowed the citizens to bar their entry to public places; or maybe the court precedent hadn’t yet been set, or was still being worked out in the SC of the SW galaxy.

    The point is, naturally I love that you called it Roberto-ism.


  3. However, a droid would be able to see wave spectrums beyond the small fraction we see as visible light. Ergo, X-ray, radio wave, etc. therefore. They can see the Force Wave.


    1. I like the reasoning, but to counter: the Force has two aspects, one of which is the Living Force, which is part of life itself. Even in the original film Obi-Wan specifically says it’s created by “all living things” — and ‘droids, as adorable as they are, are unnatural objects without actual “life” since they are inorganic. Wouldn’t it therefore be fair to say that the Force is “visible” only to those things “built” (born) to interact with it?


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