At the start of A New Hope, when the corvette is being attacked, C3PO says something to the effect of:

There'll be no escape for the princess this time.

But when Luke stumbles onto Leia's message in R2D2, C3PO seems to not know who the figure in the message is:

I'm afraid I'm not quite sure, sir. I think she was a passenger on our last voyage. A person of some importance, sir - I believe.

Is C3PO feigning ignorance to protect her, or does he really not recognize her?

  • 3
    C3P0 not knowing Luke's disposition I'd would bet he/it was cautiously withholding information.
    – Xantec
    Dec 14 '11 at 20:53
  • 20
    @Xantec Have you ever known C3PO to withhold information?
    – Kevin
    Dec 14 '11 at 21:03
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    Anyway, if he was feigning ignorance, I would think he wouldn't add the "person of some importance" part.
    – Kevin
    Dec 14 '11 at 21:05
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    @Kevin Perhaps he is usually so good a withholding critical information that we never knew he knew it to begin with, and his mentioning anything about Leia in the garage was actually a slip up on his part
    – Xantec
    Dec 14 '11 at 21:44
  • 1
    Does the fact that C3PO knew that that ship transports a princess necessarily mean that they knew each other?
    – mg30rg
    Jan 22 '15 at 15:35

George Lucas spoke to this issue in an interview in July 1977, transcribed in The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film

In a series of three radio interviews, Lucas pretended to speak as three of the characters from Star Wars film; Leia, Han and C3P0. When asked a question about C3P0's knowledge of the Princess he replied;

"There are literally hundreds of Ambassadors, to many systems, including several ambassadors from Alderaan. We would take ambassadors and important government people from Alderaan to all over. Mainly I'm an interpreter robot. If we found alien life-forms or if we were on a planet where they did not speak the Universal Galactic Language, I would have to translate. So I wasn't really in on what was going on. I was programmed to mention having no knowledge of the Princess - that she was aboard the ship. That's why I always seemed ignorant when she was brought up. I knew who she was, but I was programmed not to say who she was"

  • 1
    This is a great find. While guesses and assumptions are nice, this is from the horses mouth. Jan 13 '16 at 17:42
  • @JeremyFrench - I thought so.
    – Valorum
    Jan 13 '16 at 17:55

I'll have to go watch it again to confirm.. But remember; C3P0 had his memory wiped at the end of the prequel trilogy (so he would have no background knowledge of her) and, although we see R2D2 with Leia, I don't know that C3P0 was formally introduced to her.

His comment about her not escaping indicated that he knew she was on-board, but if he had not 'met' her, he may have guessed that the image was her, but having no formal knowledge, chose not to state so.

Update I just watched it; and where R2 is getting the message from Leia, C3P0 is wandering around asking "R2D2, where are you?" before spotting him down the hall, with a somewhat cloaked Leia. He doesn't ask anything about what the Princess wants or anything, so I would surmise he didn't know who R2 was interacting with. He also has no clue about what 'Secret Mission' R2 is on (before boarding the pod, and later, on Tatooine, he asks what mission R2 is talking about)

When Luke asks him later about their background you get this quote:

He says he's the property of Obi-Wan Kenobi, a resident of these parts. And it's a private message for him. Quite frankly, sir I don't know what he's talking about. Our last master was Captain Antilles, but with what we've been through, this little R2 unit has become a bit eccentric.

Give that Threepio thinks of himself as belonging to Antilles, it's not unreasonable to assume he may not have met the princess directly.

  • 2
    But, being a protocol droid, he likely was briefed on all the dignitaries and "persons of some importance" on board the ship. So he was able to guess at who she would have been.
    – Xantec
    Dec 14 '11 at 21:44
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    All of this ignores the "there'll be no escape for the princess this time" line.
    – user8719
    Apr 11 '13 at 18:00
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    @mh01 - Not really; C3P0 may have known that she was on the ship, but may never have been 'introduced' to her formally. If he knew some (ever from gossip) of her history the 'no escape this time' line would make sense. But, being a machine, although he might GUESS who she was, had he not been introduced, proper protocol would be to not make any assumptions as to her identity.
    – K-H-W
    Apr 11 '13 at 21:12
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    I'm thinking more of the "this time" part - it seems obvious from that much at least that C3PO had been involved in similar episodes in the past. Despite that I suspect you're probably right; I'll need to re-watch the scene where she puts the message into R2 in particular.
    – user8719
    Apr 11 '13 at 23:08
  • 1
    The princess is a notable figure in the rebel alliance, but remember that the Holonet is under imperial control. While C-3P0 the protocol droid might know who she is and what she's done, there's no reason to believe he'd know what she looks like, or that he's ever been on the same ship as her before until that trip. Though it does beg the question - what is a protocol droid doing on that ship if he doesn't even know what the very important Princess Leia looks like?
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 17 '15 at 14:24

My guess, and the only way I've thought of so far to reconcile these two, is this:

C3PO knew the Princess was on the ship, but he didn't know which passenger she was. He saw Leia around, and from observing her interactions with others he could infer that she was at least connected (strongly) to the Princess, or even that she was the diplomat aboard the ship, but he didn't gather evidence to a strong enough degree of certainty that she was herself the princess. His comment on the ship was just referring to the fact that he knew that Princess Leia was on the ship, and probably that she had had trouble with the Imperials before.

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    How could he not know what passenger she was? There's only 2 women in the entire universe! Dec 15 '11 at 16:41

Keep watching. When Luke walks away Threepio tells R2 to be careful and not to show the full message, implying he knows what's up and played stupid.

  • 6
    Threepio tells Artoo to trust their new master and "Just you reconsider playing that message for him." In other words, he is telling him to play it.
    – phantom42
    Oct 10 '13 at 14:19

I agree with the people that say that maybe it was just out of chance, because it was a vague idea, etc. However, just for the hell of it, I think there might two possibilities:

  1. C3PO did not know her, as somebody already mentioned, because his memory got wiped at the end of episode III.

  2. You MAY want to look at this:http://vimeo.com/112993361

C3PO says: "There'll be no escape for the princess this time".

However, this was only in the final version of the movie. In the first versions C3PO actually says: "There'll be no escape for the captain this time".

This means she was hiding in the ship and actually nobody knew she was there. Only R2 ;)

  • 3
    The memory wipe at the end of Episode III does not explain why 3PO did not know her. By the time of that memory wipe Leia's whole career had consisted of being born and then being a newborn baby for a little while. The whole idea behind the question is the presumption that post-wipe 3PO would have known or interacted with Leia at a significantly later date, like when she was old enough to go on missions and stuff like that! Oct 18 '15 at 19:15

C3PO's restraining bolt put him in safe-mode and prevented him from full memory access. As an aside, R2 also had a restraining bolt, which prevented him from full message playback of Leia's "secret mission" message. Once the bolt was removed, R2 secured the message until the proper recipient (Obi-Wan) could be identified.

  • 3
    Is there any proof of what you're advancing here ? Jan 13 '16 at 17:36

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