Fans may think they know what the new series Star Wars: The Bad Batch is all about, but they truly don’t yet know just how much action-packed, emotional energy is contained within the series centered on a ragtag group of mutated clone troopers.
The series, which has a special 72-minute premiere on May 4, follows the troopers of Clone Force 99 starting at the literal first moments of the Galactic Empire, led by the self-appointed Emperor Palpatine.
The Bad Batch focuses on specially mutated clone troopers Hunter, Tech, Wrecker, Crosshair and Echo as they navigate a new galaxy ruled by fear, order and obedience. And ahead of the show’s premiere, Dork Side of the Force attended a virtual press conference with voice actor Dee Bradley Baker and showrunners Jennifer Corbett and Brad Rau, where they talked about the growing excitement for the new Star Wars series and what fans can expect from the “spiritual successor” to The Clone Wars.
Fans of The Clone Wars, where the Bad Batch first appeared, know these troopers are close to fearless and aren’t so keen on obeying orders. They were last seen during a four-episode arc in The Clone Wars, where they added android ARC trooper Echo to the ranks.
“Together, they are a force to be reckoned with,” said Dee Bradley Baker, who voices the Bad Batch troopers.
“A sudden, shocking transition from Republic to Empire”
When asked about the series’ inevitable comparisons to Rogue One, supervising director and executive producer Brad Rau said the emotions infused in these characters’ stories “gives the action a lot more texture.”
“Let’s face it, we’re blowing stuff up and we’re, you know, we’re having fun doing that,” Rau said. “But to have the emotional context of that is the challenge, I think, in any of these stories. For us, I think, it helps that we are coming into characters that are familiar and yet, we don’t know that much about. And it gives us room to kind of play around with how those characters develop.”
That emotional complexity plays out best as we see the Bad Batch troopers being forced to choose between the life they were created for as an elite squad of soldiers serving the galaxy’s government and embracing their independence and disobedience to help those in need. Baker notes that the “sudden, shocking transition from Republic to Empire” confuses and disturbs the Bad Batch troopers.
“It becomes a suddenly much more rule-based power structure of the galaxy,” Baker said. “They’re very much a team, but they’re not… like the clones are, where it’s more of a top-down command structure. And it’s very interesting to place them in the middle of this transformational moment and to see how that plays out.”
“It’s fun to be Wrecker”
Fans already know Baker has been the voice behind all of the clone troopers in The Clone Wars and Rebels, but it’s particularly exciting to hear him reprise his roles as the unique members of the Bad Batch. In the press conference, Baker explained the tricky part of portraying five different characters is making sure the differentiations are concise and consistent. Baker said voicing Clone Force 99 is “kind of another step beyond what I’ve been asked to do in the Clone Wars series” and “for me, it feels like I’m jumping from rock to rock on a stream.”
“And it’s impressive to watch him do it in the room because when we first started, I thought he was going to go a character at a time,” Corbett said. “And just watching him like, act out a scene with himself, with all of these Clones.”
Of course, asking Baker to pick his favorite trooper of Clone Force 99 is like asking to pick a favorite child. He does have a soft spot for the muscles of the group, Wrecker.
“It’s fun to be Wrecker because he’s so honest and so clear and funny. I have great affection for all of them. They’re all very interesting fellows,” Baker said. “But Wrecker… he’s probably the furthest away from me. And he’s great fun.”
The legacy of the Clone Wars
From the teasers, trailers and show art, it’s clear right off the bat that The Bad Batch has the same animation style as The Clone Wars. Showrunners Rau and Corbett said that was intentional, especially as The Clone Wars creator Dave Filoni also created the Bad Batch troopers and their original story arc.
“The Bad Batch is a spiritual successor to Clone Wars,” Rau said. “So we wanted to honor the style and the legacy of that.”
Corbett also worked with Filoni on the animated series Star Wars: Resistance, and getting to work with him again for The Bad Batch is “kind of like a master class in writing Star Wars.”
“With this being a sequel of sorts to the Clone Wars, it was kind of crucial that he be involved in this process very much,” she said. “Because these are characters that he’s created, and it’s the world that he knows. But every day, every script is a learning experience.”
Being a successor and sequel to The Clone Wars, The Bad Batch is set to showcase a unique point of view of a crucial time period in Star Wars history: the immediate aftermath of Order 66 and the earliest days of the Galactic Empire. Corbett said they made it a point to show different reactions to the creation of the Empire, including planets and people who are genuinely happy for the Clone Wars to be over but don’t yet fully grasp what Imperial rule means.
And, the show is not set from the viewpoint of the Jedi or Sith, but rather begs the question, “what happens to the rest of the galaxy once the war is over?”
“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. “What happens to clone 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.”
Hunter, Tech, Wrecker, Echo and Crosshair — oh, and a curious little girl from Kamino named Omega. They’re all coming to a small screen near you when The Bad Batch premieres on May 4 on Disney+. The series’ second episode drops May 7 with subsequent episodes premiering weekly on Fridays.