Star Wars left a distinctive stamp on cinema that changed the way summer blockbusters were treated, the amount of merchandise you can get off the back of a film and inspired a love for space in several generations. Star Wars stands on its own perfectly well as two trilogies, but there’s a lot of space in the gaps between each film, the largest being a full twenty years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.
Since 1978 the mythos created by George Lucas has slowly expanded from the big screen to the TV screen. Beginning with the infamous Holiday Special all the way up to Disney’s Star Wars Rebels and into the unknown with the elusive live action TV series, Star Wars has carved out a distinct path on the TV screen that any fan should change the channel for. Here I’ll be explaining each of my favourite parts of the Star Wars television legacy as well as getting into what’s so brilliant and distinct about each.
A week before Thanksgiving in 1978, fans of Star Wars experienced Han and Chewbacca travelling to the Wookiee’s homeworld of Kashyyyk for the tradition of Life Day, while the Empire is trying to hunt down members of the rebel alliance. When I say infamous, the TV special is hardly acknowledged by the cast and, even when it is, they’d rather not act like it exists, as Anthony Daniels put it.
That being said, the TV special has distinct charm to it, with a strange tonal shift from Luke and Ben outside the burnt-out homestead in A New Hope to something more akin to Frasier, with a feeling like a Star Wars sitcom complete with a theme song sang by Princess Leia. Watching it now, it’s campy and nothing short of bizarre, but it’s a must-see for any fan because of how eccentric and distinct it is from anything else in a Galaxy Far Far Away.
Watch it because you’ll never see anything like it again.
Star Wars The Clone Wars
The year was 2008 and it was mid-august. Fans of Star Wars were a-buzz with the anticipation of a new film hitting the cinema three years after Revenge of the Sith completed the Skywalker tale. I was 13 at the time and it was a thrill to see Star Wars in the cinema (having only ever gotten the prequels on the silver screen) but the film ultimately proved mediocre, and the upcoming TV series that led on from the film had a shadow cast over it. But it didn’t last long! While The Clone Wars TV show initially proved straightforward fun in the Star Wars universe with good (but somewhat wooden) animation, it took time to find its feet.
As an over overall series, The Clone Wars is arguably the best addition to what fans can watch since Return of the Jedi. It stands as one of the few TV shows that noticeably improves every season on every count. The Clone Wars picked up the pieces of where the prequels failed, filling in and building on characters like Anakin and Obi-Wan as well as introducing stellar characters like Ahsoka Tano who skyrocketed in popularity in no time. Clone Wars excels in its characterisation of Anakin (played by Matt Lanter), delving past what the films established and showing the slow burn (as well as grave hints) to the Sith Lord.
It also breathes new life into characters like Obi-Wan (James-Arnold Taylor) by pairing him occasionally with Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman) and exploring his role as the diplomat that led to his title ‘The Negotiator’. Even characters that don’t get as much screen time such as Plo-Koon (Taylor) are excellently handled and play off their fellow Jedi so well that the banter between the council members is what I enjoy seeing most in the lulls between action.
But where Clone Wars really distinguishes itself is how it unpacks and explores the idea of what it is to be a Clone. Some of the most compelling episodes barely see a lightsaber ignite. The troopers that do survive the years of war show it, and it’s felt throughout. The finest arc of the show is watching the young clones from season one (Echo, Heavy and Fives) battle through to the final season, where only Fives survives long enough to become victim to an early onset of the Order 66 protocol. Clone Wars humanises and expands on the life of the clone troopers, picking apart the idea of the clones who would desert, the extent to which clones are loyal to their Jedi commanders and if they truly believe in the Republic.
While the first three seasons are fun and certainly not of bad quality by any stretch, the show finds its feet firmly by season four and progresses into darker territory along far higher concepts, such as Anakin, Obi-wan and Ahsoka encountering the embodiments of the force in the Mortis arc. It presses the ambiguity and confusion that runs concurrent with any war, constantly touching upon Palpatine’s duality, the corruption within the Republic and that the Jedi aren’t perfect.
The level of animation the show delivers is second to none; not only does it capture the dynamics between characters like Kenobi and Ventress in their body language, but it brings astonishingly written battles to life along with lightsaber duels that outdo many in the films. A must-see is the return of Darth Maul as it delivers on every aspect of the show. From the story to the incredible lightsaber battles and Kenobi’s struggle with a resurrected enemy he can’t defeat, it’s arguably the pinnacle of the show and my favourite thread that runs throughout the last season.
The Clone Wars is a show to behold at how it matures and improves. The shroud of the dark side grows in the latter half of the show, gradually shifting from what was a children’s show to a half hour series that rivals the films in many aspects.
A must-watch for Star Wars fans of any age!
Star Wars Rebels
I won’t talk about The Clone Wars without mentioning Rebels in the same breath and for good reason! I adore Rebels to the farthest reaches of space, probably more than The Clone Wars, as Rebels excels on completely different merits. While The Clone Wars took a few seasons to mature into what it was meant to be, Rebels flew out of the hangar blazing. Created by the same team behind The Clone Wars and with Dave Filoni at the helm, Rebels takes everything that was learned from The Clone Wars and furthers it.
Instead of running with already established characters, Rebels introduces a whole array of new characters from Kanan to the Inquisitor and the mandalorian graffiti artist Sabine. While The Clone Wars was a huge adventure spanning the galaxy and countless characters, Rebels is more akin to Firefly with its intimate feel as well as its central focus being on the planet Lothal, scaling back the story to a microcosm as an example of how the rebellion acted on back water planets.
Rebels follows the exploits of the crew of the Ghost on the planet of Lothal that’s firmly under the thumb of the Empire. Each of them have their own beef with the Empire and they join together, performing various heists and throwing spanners in the works.
With the cream of the voice acting crop involved like Freddie Prince Jr and Steve Blum, along with Jason Isaacs as the Inquisitor, and Ashley Eckstein returning as Ahsoka Tano, Rebels‘ main cast feels like a tight-knit family and the writers take free reign with the new crop of characters.
Set closer to A New Hope, Rebels tentatively eases fans back into that frame of mind, with much of the design being heavily based on Ralph McQuarrie‘s original concept art (you can spot the original Han Solo in the first few episodes) and some guest voices like Frank Oz, Billy Dee Williams and James Earl Jones all playing their characters from the Original Trilogy. Rebels had me tuning in every week for the banter between characters as well as the journey that Kanan takes young Ezra on to become a Jedi.
Live Action TV Show
Okay so this technically isn’t a TV show yet, but it’s something I’ve followed closely ever since it was mentioned back in 2011. Now there isn’t as much solid information as you’d want when it comes to the elusive live action Star Wars television series, but Lucas elaborated on the plans to film a live action show in 2011, saying that 50 episodes were written but they were put on hold due to high production costs and the shift in traditional TV broadcasting.
Upon Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm a few years back, there was far more uncertainty as to the pulse of the live action project. In the last few years, ABC president Paul Lee has drip fed information regarding it, stating that it was being reevaluated for production and that he’d love to make it a reality. This, coupled with the fact that Disney held open casting auditions for live action TV projects based on Star Wars, is enough to rest somewhat easy with the thought that Star Wars will end up on our TV screens eventually. With Disney pushing their new Star Wars IPs pretty hard, it’d be hard to fathom that they’d leave Rebels as their only property on television.
Have you kept up with Star Wars on the small screen? Have you much hope for the eventual live action series? Or would you rather Star Wars remain as a film? Let us know below!