Star Wars: The Bad Batch’s Cast and Crew Talk Putting a New Perspective on the Rise of the Empire

Star Wars: The Bad Batch’s Cast and Crew Talk Putting a New Perspective on the Rise of the Empire
Clone Force 99 is making its way through a changing galaxy. (Screenshot: Lucasfilm)

Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Bad Batch animated series is nearly upon us. It’s time to see a new take on one of the most explored periods of the galaxy far, far away in Disney’s stewardship of the franchise: the downfall of the Republic and the Rise of the Empire. But for the team behind the new Disney+ Clone Wars spinoff, making the show felt like the passing of a baton.

“I got to work with Dave [Filoni] on Star Wars Resistance, which was such a great experience, and getting the chance to develop [Bad Batch] with him, you know, it’s kinda like a master class in writing Star Wars,” executive producer and head writer Jennifer Corbett told press at a recent virtual junket for the series. “With this being a sequel series of sorts to The Clone Wars, it was kind of crucial that he be involved in this process very much. Because these are characters that he’s created and it’s the world that he knows. Every day, every script is a learning experience, and it’s so exciting to see this show grow and develop with this team. He’s been fantastic to learn from.”

“I’ve known Dave for a long time,” executive producer Brad Rau added. “When he was starting Clone Wars, I first met him up at the ranch — Skywalker Ranch — and I happened to just be starting my own animation studio at that time. So I was unable to join the force of The Clone Wars. It was one of my regrets that I rectified later on in Rebels, to join as an episodic director, and then on Resistance. He’s an awesome guy, a good friend — I couldn’t think of a better mentor, especially for Star Wars. The stuff he tells us every day is fantastic and amazing. Just collaborating with him and being able to work with Jen so closely on this show’s been awesome. It’s been a dream come true.”

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The Bad Batch marks an interesting turn for Lucasfilm animation; both post-Clone Wars projects from the company’s animation division, Rebels and Resistance, had marked clean breaks in both time period and aesthetic. Although Rebels ultimately went on to pick up threads and character arcs from its predecessor, Bad Batch feels unique in that not only is it a direct continuation of that root origin point in Clone Wars but continues its artistic style too — give or take a few tweaks.

“That [aesthetic continuation] is very intentional,” Rau noted of the show’s art choices. “The Bad Batch is a spiritual successor to Clone Wars, so we wanted to honour the style and the legacy of that. That being said, the whole team at Lucasfilm and our partners at CGCG [Inc, the Taiwan-based studio that also worked with Lucasfilm Animation on Clone Wars, Rebels, and Resistance], we’ve just tightened everything up. So the fidelity is tighter. The style is tighter, the [animation] rigs are tighter. The way that it’s designed is still the legacy of The Clone Wars, but a little more detail, a little bit more focus. And the work we’re doing, you know, for me, having worked on a lot of these shows, with a lot of the same people internally… it’s just the best team, and I think we’re doing our best work ever right now. It’s really fun.”

That continuation isn’t just stylistic, but narrative-driven as well. When we last saw the Bad Batch in the opening arc of Clone Warsseventh and final season, they were being whisked away on more top-secret missions for the Republic in the final days of the titular conflict. Now, in The Bad Batch, those days are here, and the Republic’s rapid transformation into the totalitarian Galactic Empire comes hard and fast for both the new show and its heroes.

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“This time period is one of the reasons I got so excited about this show, other than this oddball group of characters. But I just found it intriguing and engaging to watch a series where … we’ve seen the Clone Wars, where it’s the height of the Clone Troopers doing what they’re meant to do, and what they were created for,” Corbett said. “The question became, ‘What happens after the war is over? What happens to clones, who all they know is being soldiers?’ Especially for the Bad Batch who do things differently as it is with the Republic and how they fit in once it becomes the Empire. Because obviously, they’re two very different regimes, and how they react to this new environment and the new way of doing things, and new way of following rules. Which again, isn’t their, uh, their favourite thing to do!”

“It was interesting to just sort of talk about the transition from the Republic to the Empire and what that looks like,” she added. “Because it’s not what we saw in the original trilogy, where it’s the dominance of the Empire. it’s the early stages. I found it kind of interesting to show planets and places that were happy that the war is over, and they don’t really understand the implications of what an Empire actually means. It’s kind of just laying the groundwork for what everyone knows the Empire to be later on.”

That transformation from the more liberally structured world of the Republic’s final days to a tightly maintained force like the Imperial Army is just one of many things that’s going to brush up against the Bad Batch’s cast of ragtag “defects,” and their relationship to their more standard Clone brothers. That’s a challenge felt by the voice of both the show’s starring squad and those legions of brothers who now find themselves to be footsoldiers of the Empire: returning Clone Wars and Rebels star Dee Bradley Baker.

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“It’s an interesting point, that in the transition — the sudden, shocking transition from Republic to Empire — that it becomes a suddenly much more rule-based power structure of the galaxy, of the universe… and the Bad Batch are not so much a rule-based unit,” Baker laughed. “They’re very much a team, but they are not like the Clones are, where it’s more of a top-down command structure. It’s very interesting to place them in the middle of this transformational moment and to see how that plays out.”

The Empire’s rise is not the only transformational moment the Batch will face in the show. In fact, the trailers have given us a look at them in action: a young girl named Omega, who seemingly joins up with the squad as they go rogue. “It’s a fascinating relationship that unfolds — because at first, of course, the team is … they’re kind of their own sealed unit, and they’re certainly not used to having anybody else along or working with anybody else,” Baker said of Omega’s dynamic within the team. “It’s interesting in terms of the story and the writing, to have this kind of personal relationship with the younger character, and to see how that changes and how they accommodate that and how that works.”

“It’s more of like an uncle/niece, or a father/child, dynamic, but not entirely,” Baker added. “So it’s interesting to see all of that unfold. But I think it connects you to the story in a personal way, so it’s not just an action story — as Star Wars never is — that there’s a personal story that’s also playing out as well, that connects you to the entire story.”

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“She’s so great. We have this awesome team of elite Clones and everything we’ve been talking about in this changing galaxy, this time period that as a fan, I’m just so excited to see, ‘cause we haven’t seen that much about the rise of the Empire,” Rau added of Omega, before teasing how she’ll be the ones who will help acclimatise the Batch to a galaxy where they are not the ruling power’s elite, recognised agents anymore. “To have these clinical, best of the best soldiers as suddenly fish out of water in this changing galaxy, and to have this kid that they look to, to help raise in a very parental way.”

“And it’s a two-way street, honestly, the way that works — that none of them are really equipped to go out into the world. How do they eat? They don’t have a mess hall to go to. How do they get their gear fixed? How do they get fuel for their ship? These are things that are [like] ‘Wait a minute, oh yeah, we didn’t have to deal with that last week, now we gotta deal with it’ are all things we get into. It’s really interesting.”

Star Wars: The Bad Batch begins streaming on Disney+ from May 4, with an extended 70-minute premiere, before broadcasting weekly on Fridays. Stay tuned to Gizmodo for more coverage of the show’s launch this week!