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The Star Wars Blueprints: The Ultimate Collection book provides this image enter image description here

which include #8 Hydaulic head extenders as well as this text:

R2-D2 rarely uses his extendable neck, specifically customized for operation within a Naboo N-1 starfighter's droid socket

When does R2-D2 demonstrate this capability? Why does he have it? When was it added, and why?

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    He probably used it in Dagobah. We never see him under the murky water and not certain he can float. So maybe with the extended neck and periscope he was able to roll around on the lake bed? – CBredlow Dec 14 '15 at 22:34
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R2-D2's go-go-gadget neck is actually a bizarre retcon. When the new trilogy was mooted, Lucas wanted to keep the unique shape of Doug Chiang's Naboo fighters as well as keeping Artoo in his current form. The only way this was possible was to deform the 'droid to fit the ship by adding a "custom modification" that has not been seen before or since:

Per the Star Wars Wikia:

Doug Chiang has acknowledged that an R2 unit cannot physically exist inside the frame of the spacecraft as it is depicted in Episode I and later in Episode II. His original concept artwork did allow for the legs of an R2 unit to fit within the tube-shaped socket, but George Lucas directed him to make the socket tube diameter the same, or nearly the same, as the diameter of the droid's head, which does not allow enough room for the legs of the droid. A compromise was reached in the Star Wars: Episode I Incredible Cross-Sections book which shows Artoo Detoo collapsing his legs and telescoping his head above his body until it was above the viewing threshold.

enter image description here

Note that this isn't the only time Artoo mysteriously sprouted a new ability when the plot needed it.

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    The exterior image here makes a little more clear than the cutaway diagram the narrowness of the craft's body right below where his head pokes out (click "Full Resolution" for a large version, I tried linking to the large version directly in now-deleted comments, but for some reason when I copy the URL and paste it here, it turns into a link for a thumbnail version). – Hypnosifl Dec 15 '15 at 7:02
  • Couldn't R2 simply fit sideways, though? It's not like he should mind, being a droid. – John Sensebe Aug 14 '16 at 16:25
  • @JohnSensebe - Go yell at Lucas. – Valorum Aug 14 '16 at 16:27

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