Where The Clone Wars took us to the years between The Attack of the Clones, and The Revenge of the Sith, Star Wars: Rebels takes us to the time between Sith and A New Hope (as well as Rogue One and Solo). Dave Filoni who served as the showrunner of The Clone Wars, is also hard at work here as he introduces us to a whole new cast, and some very familiar enemies.
The series premiere, Spark of Rebellion was a double episode that first debuted on 26 September, 2014 and was written by Greg Weisman and Simon Kinberg.
We meet a young Force-sensitive boy, Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) who inadvertently gets mixed up with the crew of the Ghost, who are intent on rescuing some wookies from an Imperial Star Destroyer, on their way to enforced slave labour on Kessel.
He meets pilot Hera Syndulla (Vanessa Marshall), former Jedi padawan, Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze jr.), a Lasat (based on the early designs for Wookies) named Zeb (Steve Blum), a young artist and fighter, Sabine Wren (Tiya Sircar) and their droid Chopper.
In their way are the Imperial Forces, and a dangerous ISB agent, Kallus (David Oyelowo) and the Dark Side Inquisitor (Jason Isaacs) who are dispatched by Darth Vader (James Earl Jones). But they will also encounter familiar faces, from the films and from The Clone Wars. Characters are updated to reflect the show’s visual style but with composer Kevin Kiner using more of John Williams’ original cues and variations, everything feels like a cohesive whole.
In fact a lot of the designs and images are based on early pre-production work of A New Hope done by Ralph McQuarrie, so a lot of this series feels familiar in a truly enjoyable way.
With action beats, music cues, and humour, the series differentiates itself from The Clone Wars immediately (though still set in the same universe). There’s a sense of excitement that permeates it, like that joy when Star Wars first came out, and you were getting new toys for birthdays and Christmas.
Ezra serves as the viewer’s in to the story and the universe, and a nice intro character for younger viewers who may have not seen the films yet. And while he’s Force sensitive, he is just realising now, thanks to the crew of the Ghost, that there are those willing to fight the Empire, and that there are those people who are worse off than he thinks he is, and who need their help.
And Kanan also agrees, with Hera’s urging, that Ezra should start his Jedi training.
Droids in Distress first aired on 13 October, 2014 and was written by Greg Weisman. Following their adventures in Spark of Rebellion, the Ghost is low on supplies, and take a questionable job of stealing a weapons shipment from the Imperials. What they don’t realise is how dangerous these weapons actually are.
It seems they are disruptors, something that was used against Zeb’s own people when the Empire came to his homeworld. Consequently, he takes the mission personally, and it also gives the character some welcome backstory, including the use of the Lasat weapon, the guardsman bo-rifle.
Ezra begins to demonstrate more in the way of his Force powers, and his need for training.
There is a nod to the droid that piloted the Star Tours ride in Disneyland, and an appearance by C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2, who behave exactly as you would expect them to. There’s a glimpse of a droid that is based on McQuarrie’s original design for Threepio.
More to come from a galaxy far, far away next week, when I delve into more episodes of Star Wars: Rebels. May the Force be with you…