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Star Wars: The Bad Batch preview: Clones, chaos, and the rise of the Empire

It’s been more than seven years since Star Wars: The Clone Wars ended its original run, but the story of the Star Wars saga’s clone troopers is far from over. The series was given an additional, story-ending seventh season on streaming service Disney+ a year ago, and now the new series Star Wars: The Bad Batch returns to that tumultuous period in the franchise’s timeline.

Premiering on Star Wars Day, May 4, Star Wars: The Bad Batch follows the members of Clone Force 99, a group of clone troopers  introduced in the final season of The Clone Wars whose genetic mutations during the cloning process gave them unique abilities — and also earned them the nickname “The Bad Batch.” The series picks up as Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine (secretly Sith Lord Darth Sidious) issues Order 66, the command that forces the clone troopers to turn against the Jedi, setting the stage for the eradication of the Jedi Order and the creation of the Galactic Empire.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch | Official Trailer | Disney+

The Bad Batch follows the members of Clone Force 99 — Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, Crosshair, and Echo — as they deal with both the climactic events of Order 66 and its aftermath, which test their loyalties and force them to confront an uncertain future after the war they were created to fight is over.

Digital Trends got an early look at the first two episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch — including the extended, 70-minute series premiere — and talked to the show’s creative team about what they have in store for the popular misfits of Clone Force 99.

“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, [but] the question became, ‘What happens after the war is over? What happens to clones when all they know is being soldiers?'” explained the series’ head writer and executive producer, Jennifer Corbett.

The answer to that question is particularly compelling when it comes to Clone Force 99, whose willingness to bend the rules to accomplish their missions flies in the face of the freshly formed, heavily regulated environment of the new Galactic Empire.

By picking up the story as Order 66 sets Palpatine’s plans in motion and the Galactic Republic suddenly becomes the Galactic Empire, Star Wars fans are given an insider’s view of a period that hasn’t been seen before in the saga.

“It was interesting to talk about the transition from the Republic to the Empire and what that looks like, because [at that point] it’s not what we saw in the original trilogy, where the Empire is so dominant,” said Corbett. “It’s the early stages, and [there are] planets and places that are happy the war is over, and they don’t really understand the implications of what an Empire actually means. And it’s laying the groundwork for what everyone knows the Empire to be later on.”

Not only does the series take a deep dive into the formative period of the Galactic Empire, The Bad Batch also explores the relationship between Clone Force 99 and the rest of the former Republic’s clone army — and how their abilities also give them a unique perspective on this turning point in the Star Wars saga’s timeline.

“In the sudden, shocking transition from Republic to Empire, it becomes a much more rule-based power structure in the galaxy,” explained Dee Bradley Baker, the prolific voice actor who not only voices all five members of Clone Force 99, but has also provided the voices of all the clone troopers in the various Star Wars animated series over the years. “The Bad Batch are not so much a rule-based unit, so…”

Voicing all of the members of Clone Force 99 and a host of other clone characters in the series, Baker isn’t the only returning presence on The Bad Batch, both in front of the camera and behind it.

Series creator Dave Filoni, who has served in key creative roles on a long list of past and present Star Wars television series (including The Mandalorian and The Clone Wars), also return as an executive producer on The Bad Batch. The series will also feature some appearances from well-known, popular characters in the Star Wars mythology, including Fennec Shand, the assassin portrayed by Ming-Na Wen in The Mandalorian.

“To have these clinical, best-of-the-best soldiers suddenly become fish out of water in this changing galaxy … none of them are really equipped to go out into the world,” added Brad Rau, supervising director and another executive producer on the show. “How do they eat without a mess hall to go to? How do they get their gear fixed? How do they get fuel for their ship?”

These basic questions, as well as much larger questions about the role they now play in the new power structure of the galaxy, make The Bad Batch an intriguing entry point for audiences into this largely unexplored chapter in the Star Wars saga.

While the show’s creative team played coy about revealing how far ahead they’re looking with The Bad Batch and how long the show might go on, they did assure fans that, despite Clone Force 99’s affinity for creating chaos, the people behind the camera do indeed have the big picture in mind.

“There’s a plan,” laughed Rau.

“There’s always a plan,” agreed Baker.

The first, 70-minute episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch premieres May 4 on Disney+ streaming service. Episode 2 will debut Friday, May 7, with subsequent episodes premiering weekly on Fridays. 

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