Culture on My Mind
August 7, 2020
This “can’t let it go” deals with Star Wars storytelling potential.
On July 13th, a new animated series was announced on the official Star Wars website. Following a group of clone troopers that debuted in the final season of The Clone Wars, the new series – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – will follow “the elite and experimental clones of the Bad Batch as they find their way in a rapidly changing galaxy in the immediate aftermath of the Clone War.” The squad is comprised of a unique squad of clones who vary genetically from their brothers in the regular clone army, but these unique skills make them formidable in combat. The series will highlight daring mercenary missions as they try to survive in the smoldering remains of the Republic and the rise of the Galactic Empire.
It sounds exciting, and the team of Lucasfilm animation veterans Dave Filoni, Athena Portillo, Brad Rau, Jennifer Corbett, Carrie Beck, and Josh Rimes tells me that the series has both a great pedigree and chance of success. I’ll be watching when it premieres.
But the announcement also made me think about the possibilities for storytelling surrounding the clone army and the rise of the Empire. For seven seasons and twelve years, we’ve been companions to these soldiers as they waged war across the galaxy. We’ve grown to love members of a clone army, each of which was given individual personalities and character through the artistry of Dee Bradley Baker and the show’s writing staff.
We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve loved, and we’ve lost. The clones were built with a singular purpose – to be cannon fodder that won a war by sheer numbers – but they became individuals along the way, and they’re in a unique position as the Republic that they dedicated their short lives to falls around them.
The clones were built to be disposable. They just murdered the Jedi under pre-programmed orders from Emperor Palpatine. How does that make them feel? Where do they go from there?
From Star Wars: Rebels, we know that Rex, Wolffe, and Gregor felt remorse about their actions in service of the nascent Empire and joined the growing rebellion as a result. But those three had their control chips removed and had full knowledge of how the Emperor manipulated their actions.
We got a better look at the emotional aftermath with Grey, a clone who was troubled by his thoughtless execution of Order 66. As told in the Kanan: The Last Padawan comic series, Grey tried to atone for his actions in the Jedi Purge by sacrificing himself to save Caleb Dume, padawan to Depa Billaba, the Jedi Master that Grey murdered under the influence of Order 66. Caleb Dume would later become Kanan Jarrus in Star Wars: Rebels.
Millions of clones were birthed in the Kaminoan pods for the war, and we only have one story of remorse from a trooper that didn’t have his chip removed. Meanwhile, according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, anywhere between 10 to 30 percent of veterans have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the Vietnam War.
The clone troopers were also programmed with an accelerated lifespan, entering the war at what seems to be the equivalent of 18-20 years old but aging to their 50s or 60s in the span of a couple of decades. The clones would often talk about retirement after the war, but such speculation was cut short by commanders as “idle chatter”.
The potential here is amazing, and it would serve as a touching coda to the Clone War. It would also serve as a vital touchstone to our own global reality, which great science fiction often does as a metaphor for the human condition.
- What happened to the clones who stayed on as stormtroopers?
- What happened when they were forced to retire from Imperial service?
- What happened when they were replaced by non-clone soldiers? Was there a conflict?
- Did any clones feel anger about their pre-programmed lives or role as disposable assets?
- Did any clones feel anger about the years that were stolen by nature of their genetics?
- Did other clones feel remorse from Order 66?
- Did any clones try to make amends for the slaughter of the Jedi? Maybe even running a galactic underground railroad for any survivors?
- Did any clones try to secret away Jedi artifacts, lightsabers, or kyber crystals to preserve that history?
- Did any clones try to make amends for the oppression spreading throughout the galaxy, such as freeing slaves?
- Did any clones experience PTSD? How was that managed in the Empire?
- Did any clones actually retire directly after the war? Were there benefits, or were they abandoned?
- Did any clones try to leverage their skills as mercenaries, bounty hunters, or bodyguards?
- Did any clones try to make the most of their remaining years, such as running for political office, opening a shipping company, or even becoming an entertainer?
- Did any clones try to tell their stories for posterity?
- Did any clones try to start families, biological or otherwise?
- Did any clones return to Kamino to try to rescue, save, or adopt any remaining clone children before the facilities were shut down (as mentioned in Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith)?
- Were any clones (or their offspring) Force-sensitive? How did they manage that? On the run? As part of the Imperial Security Bureau to hunt down Force-sensitive children? As a Guardian of the Whills?
- Did any clones, aside from Rex’s crew, join the rebellion or fight against the Empire?
That list is just scratching the surface.
We have millions of individual voices (thanks again, Dee Bradley Baker!) with the same face in a galactic pool of trillions upon trillions of citizens swamped in the uncertainty of political upheaval.
Lucasfilm, let’s tell their stories. Let’s do it in an anthology of some sort, be it prose or comics or even television. Let’s do in it a series of anthologies. Let’s do it with shares of the profits going to veteran support groups around the world.
Let us not forget this generation of our favorite animated heroes.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch will premiere on Disney+ in 2021.
Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.
For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.