Here’s the weird thing about Star Wars: The Bad Batch: You don’t have to really have any working knowledge of the two prior animated Star Wars series set around this time: The Clone Wars or Rebels. (I speak from experience, I’ve only seen a handful of episodes from either series.) Of the three so far, a strong case can be made that The Bad Batch is the most accessible right from the start.
At least, it’s the easiest to describe to someone in one sentence: “After Emperor Palpatine initiates Order 66 to kill all the Jedi, five Clones, known as The Bad Batch, who don’t have the programming to blindly follow that order, try to figure out why, out of the blue, all the Jedi were killed.” And that premise is pretty juicy, because, as a viewer, we can imagine ourselves in that situation and thinking, wait, this makes no sense, what’s going on here? And to top it all off, the main antagonist of the series is none other than Tarkin, here still an Admiral rather than the Grand Moff we got to know in the original Star Wars. But instead of having to make, yet again, another villain, The Bad Batch uses literally the main bad guy from the first Star Wars. There’s no learning curve here with him: we know what Tarkin is all about and we know he’s bad news.
Ahead, we spoke with head writer Jennifer Corbett and producer Brad Rau who take us through why this series will be something different. And how they convinced the powers that be that the main villain needed to be Tarkin himself. Also, it’s not lost on them that the section of Star Wars timeline they are dealing with, between Revenge of the Sith and Solo is pretty barren and open right now, which gives them a lot of room to maneuver.
I completely understand why people like The Clone Wars and Rebels, but they were just never something I got into. But watching The Bad Batch, I was hooked. That might be kind of weird…
Brad Rau: I think with characters like The Bad Batch that we have introduced in The Clone Wars, but we don’t know that much about, and we don’t know what their potential destiny is in the Star Wars galaxy, gives us a lot of dramatic weight for sure. New characters in this era that we’re familiar with, but we haven’t seen much is I think a great combination for a new show.
And not to get too topical, but the idea that they are just basically in the military, and there’s a coup against the Jedi, and they are just trying to figure out what is going on because none of that makes sense is a pretty great premise for a show.
Jennifer Corbett: I think what’s fun about it is that, The Bad Batch, even in The Clone Wars, wasn’t a very political group. They’re just soldiers who go from mission to mission, and that’s what they know, and that’s what they excel at. So when the Republic falls and the Empire takes over initially, it’s like: that’s a little weird, but oh well, it’s another regime that we’re still going to be soldiers of honor. But then once they start to realize things are a little different, then they have to start thinking politically in a sense, which isn’t what any of them are used to. So it’s fascinating to watch their thought process, especially in the pilot and how they come to the decision that they do.
Did you two get excited when you heard that premise? That it’s basically about them just trying to figure out what’s going on because everything has unraveled? Because when you try to explain The Clone Wars to a non-Star Wars person, it’s pretty complicated. The whole, “Oh, one guy is in charge of both factions who are fighting,” thing.
Jennifer Corbett: I mean, as soon as I saw the arc on The Clone Wars for them, I loved this group. But the fact that you were going to be able to explore this time period, I was drawn to immediately. But, from just a character standpoint, there’s something really engaging about telling a story about these clones who were created and trained for one purpose: to be soldiers. And what happens when you take that away from them, because it’s all they’ve known and they’re not prepared for a time without war. And The Batches have prepared for having to take care of themselves, because it used to be done by the Republic. But now they’re the ones that have to find shelter, find food, find fuel, and it’s completely foreign to them. And we definitely go into those topics throughout the series. And yeah, it’s a fun ride.
Another advantage I think you have, at least what hooked me: It’s not like you both have to be like, “And you won’t believe the new bad guy we have. You think Vader’s bad? Wait till you meet Darth Bad,” or whatever…
Brad Rau: Darth Bad!
But Tarkin is the bad guy. He’s literally the main bad guy from the first Star Wars movie. So how does that work? Do you have to make an argument to use a character like him?
Brad Rau: Jen, you maybe can speak to this more. How early was Tarkin there?
Jennifer Corbett: That was a pretty early decision. Because, again, it is that recognition: the face and the name. And it’s like, Vader’s off doing other important things right now. So who’s going to handle the situation on Kamino? And it’s going to be Admiral Tarkin.
Does anyone higher up than you say, “Well, we don’t know if we can use Tarkin for this, he’s the main bad guy from the original Star Wars?” Or is it just, “sounds great.”
Jennifer Corbett: It’s definitely a conversation. But there was no pushback about it. Because, again, he served a purpose. We weren’t just throwing him in there because it’s like, oh, let’s just use Tarkin. It just made sense with where he was in his career and where he’s going.
Brad Rau: And we work really closely with Dave Filoni on the show as the co-creator and as our mentor really. So all of this stuff gets debated with Dave and those are… speaking of juicy conversations, those are fun.
When you look at that Star Wars timeline, you have a pretty good piece of real estate to work with here, between Revenge of the Sith and before Solo. Do you map out, okay, what other characters might be available during this time period that could potentially show up?
Brad Rau: Yeah, definitely. It’s an awesome, exciting time period. I think as fans and as creators, one of the reasons it’s exciting is the different characters that are alive in the Star Wars galaxy at this time that we might be able to come across. So yeah, we talk about it, we think about it. And when it makes sense, all we can really say is that we’ll probably see some more familiar faces.
Does that timeline real estate you have afford more freedom? I get there are obviously some places you can’t go because there’s a bunch of stuff that happens after the story is set, but not for a while…
Jennifer Corbett: Yeah, you’re right. There are things we know we can’t do and things we need to stay away from. But luckily, given that our characters are Clone Troopers, we don’t have to worry about a Jedi issue or anything like that. And I don’t feel like we’ve ever, creatively, come up against a wall where we can’t do something because of that. Again, it hasn’t really been explored that much on screen. So it is exciting to be able to really dive into different storylines that haven’t really been explored yet.
‘Star Wars: The Bad Batch’ begins streaming on May 4th via Disney+. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.