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Spoilers ahead for the Season 7 premiere of The Clone Wars on Disney+, called "The Bad Batch."
Star Wars: The Clone Wars is back and more cinematic than ever with the beautifully-animated final season premiere. "The Bad Batch" was both Star Wars' triumphant return to the series that originally ended back in 2014 and the beginning of a long-awaited fully-animated arc. In the premiere, Rex and Cody teamed up with a group of clones with "desirable mutations" known as the Bad Batch.
The unconventional clones complete their missions to great success, but with very unconventional tactics, and Rex's mission to discover if his old friend Echo is really alive and the source of the Separatist intel that they've been using to gain ground on the Republic forces doesn't go entirely as planned. Hunter is the Bad Batch leader, backed by the sizable Wrecker, the tech-savvy Tech, and Crosshair the killer shot.
"The Bad Batch" is the first of four episodes that will make up the "Bad Batch" arc (and one third of Clone Wars' 12-part final season), and voice actor Dee Bradley Baker was at his best voicing all the clones, including the new Bad Batch troopers. Baker was kind enough to speak with CinemaBlend about the final season of The Clone Wars, and he weighed in on creating the voices for the Bad Batch, the importance of clone individuality, and the coming tragedy of Order 66.
When asked about his process for coming up with the voices for the Bad Batch when they were so different from the "regular" clones, Dee Bradley Baker responded:
It starts with the script and then you sort of triangulate the tone and the feeling of each of these guys in the Bad Batch with the writers and with [supervising director] Dave Filoni. So we just kind of came up with that in the session because I didn't really know what to do. It's kind of daunting and almost frightening to come in and try to make these guys that are clones but they're not clones. But we did this back when we made the original Clone Wars series. Most of what you hear vocally in the first four episodes of the final season arc of the Bad Batch we recorded probably seven or eight years ago when we were making the original series.
Dee Bradley Baker had spent six seasons voicing clones like Rex, Cody, Echo, and more, and while they all have traits that set them apart from each other, they were all very much clones coming from the same mold and training. Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, and Crosshair don't even look like clones at first glance, and yet they are fighting the same fight and were engineered rather than born.
While the Bad Batch didn't make their fully-animated debut on Disney+ until 2020, the audio for their arc was actually recorded years ago before The Clone Wars was initially cancelled. Although the majority of the Bad Batch audio will be what was recorded before the Disney+ revival, Dee Bradley Baker confirmed that some elements have been changed:
They kept much of that and then we added some and changed some elements of it more recently, in the past couple of years when they finally decided to go back in and finish it all up. That was originally established seven or eight years ago, but you show up and you've got your script and you consult with Dave and the writers, and you arrive at the distinct tone and sound of each of these guys, which has got to be further out from the clones than the clones are from each other and then you run with it and hopefully it works. I think actually it worked beautifully. It's one of my very favorite arcs of all the Clone Wars series.
The Season 7 premiere proves that Dee Bradley Baker and the Clone Wars team successfully distinguished the Bad Batch troopers from the "regs," or regular clones like Rex. While the full arc will play out over the next few weeks, fans are clearly in for one of the most memorable arcs from the series.
So how does Dee Bradley Baker go about recording an arc like "The Bad Batch," when many of the scenes are clones voiced by him talking to other clones voiced by him? Baker explained:
Well, originally when we started The Clone Wars, like 12 years ago or whatever it was, we would record them separately to keep them distinct. But as we went on, we converted to just reading them and just jumping from one to the other. The metaphor I use is like jumping from rock to rock in a stream where the story is rushing by you because the rock is clearly sitting there in front of you, you can jump from one to the other. And that's how it feels to me as I can just jump from one to the other. So we set maybe an adjective or in some cases now I'll just make a different sort of symbol next to the name so it's just a visual key that switches me in to this character. I feel like I can see the character, I can see what they seem like and I can just snap into it with that. So the way we recorded that now is that I would just read just going straight through it.
Yes, Dee Bradley Baker perfected the art of voicing full scenes with multiple different characters all played by him in one go! His career in voice work does go back to the early 1990s, so he brought plenty of experience to The Clone Wars when it launched, over the years of the original run, and now with the revival. Still, I for one would have loved to see a recording session of Baker talking to himself while he switches between clone voices!
"The Bad Batch" is one of the Clone Wars arcs that manages to show the personalities and loyalties of the individual clones (at this point in the Star Wars timeline, anyway) beyond their status as a nearly uniform fighting force for the Republic. Dee Bradley Baker explained the importance of such arcs:
I think it's central to what's interesting and what's entertaining and meaningful about this, is the story of the brothers-in-arms and the soldiers in a war that's a conflictive conflict. And then how they sort this out as it all comes to them, with the grander story that's playing out. That to me is the heart of one of the main things that's the most interesting about the series, is how these soldiers process this and how they get through it, how they survive. With their wits and their competency and their collaboration and how they solve problems and win the battles and then survive it and try to get out. It's about to get to be the most interesting part of The Clone Wars. It's the very end of it, it turns out.
Sadly, these brothers-in-arms who have learned to solve problems and work together over the years are soon going to lose their ability to make certain decisions, with the exception of Rex and a couple other clones who remove the chips in their brains. Why? Because Order 66 is on the way.
First revealed after Anakin turned to the dark side and Palpatine's plan fell into place in Revenge of the Sith, Order 66 is of course a tragedy for the Jedi Order. Dee Bradley Baker shared his thoughts on the tragedy in relation to the clones:
It's a devastating realization when they come to realize, if they come to realize, their role in this grand diabolical plan that Palpatine has put together. It is a tragedy and they are but pawns in that, and yet some are able to at least make their way out of that, which is heartening and gives some hope, I think. Because hope is a precious commodity once you reach the end of The Clone Wars. It goes south quick. And for me, part of what is appealing about Star Wars is that even though it paints these kind of grand political tragedies that these individual stories play out in, that are personal and interesting, but that there is hope and reconciliation and positive transformation that enables the good guys to win in the end.
Considering the shot of the visibly pregnant Padme in the Clone Wars trailer suggests that The Clone Wars is fast-approaching the beginning of Revenge of the Sith, that devastating realization could come sooner rather than later. Fortunately, Star Wars Rebels proves that the fall of the Republic and Order 66 don't devastate all the heroes of the Clone Wars, with both Rex and Ahsoka surviving to fight in the next stage of galactic conflict.
And the good guys will win, as any Star Wars fan worth their salt knows! The original trilogy ends with an Ewok dance party, not with Order 66 2.0. Dee Bradley Baker elaborated on the importance of hope in Star Wars for real-life viewers:
And I think people need that reassurance and they need that kind of framing in their daily lives and as their lives play out. As they're parenting and their careers and everything else plays out politically in the real world that we are all saddled with, that you have a positive frame on things. And I think Star Wars has that, and that's one of the great things about it, is exactly that. There's good and there's bad and there's also hope, and then hope triumphs.
Will hope triumph on The Clone Wars when all is said and done? That likely depends on where in the Star Wars timeline The Clone Wars actually ends, and on which character(s). Ahsoka may be the most hopeful character, since she'll survive the Clone Wars and be able to go on the run, which is better than the fate that awaits many of her childhood mentors.
Alternately, if Clone Wars ends on an epilogue like Star Wars Rebels did, then the final credits could also roll in a happier place than around the beginning of Revenge of the Sith. We'll have to wait and see. There is always that obvious new hope on the way!
New episodes of The Clone Wars' seventh and final season release Fridays on Disney+. You can also find the first six seasons of The Clone Wars streaming on the Disney platform, along with plenty of other content set in that galaxy far, far away.