Writer's Workshop – Star Wars: the Clone Wars

Right off the bat: I’m talking about the TV series (2008-2014), not the movie. The series is worth at least one post. The movie… we might get to that another time.

Star Wars: the Clone Wars is a fascinating and unique series. For one, it is the second animated Star Wars television series to chronicle the Clone Wars (the first can be found here, in all its glory). Arguably, this second series is far worse than the original, in terms of vision and storytelling ability. Yet it is that storytelling ability that I feel makes the Clone Wars into an interesting show. Is this the best series I’ve ever watched? Not by a long shot. That said, it is enjoyable and worth watching if you’re bored or one of those few Star Wars fans out there still brave enough to care.

What makes Star Wars: the Clone Wars interesting is its scripts. Some are pretty great (Rookies), some are terrible (Bombad Jedi) and others are a mixed bag (Cat and Mouse). Let’s talk about “Cat and Mouse” a bit more. This episode is at a level that many are in the series. Parts of it are well written. The episode introduces compelling characters, an interesting plot, and a cool action set piece. One of the best parts: Admiral Trench, this fetching fellow below.

The Separatist Army: where even spiders can become generals.
The Separatist Army: where even spiders can become generals.

Yes, his look in a little too evocative of a certain local life form for my taste. Nevertheless, Admiral Trench is charismatic and provides and entertaining shift from General Grievous and Count Dooku (two villains who the audience know must survive the series). Yet just as the writing does something right (although credit must also be given to Dee Bradley Baker, who provided the voice) in creating Trench, it falls short in describing him. There is a scene with Republic General Wullf Yularen and Anakin Skywalker where the two discuss the evil admiral. This scene is designed to inform the audience just how dangerous Trench is. Unfortunately the dialogue isn’t great. I don’t remember the exact lines but, if you have time to watch the episode, General Yularen essentially informs Anakin that Trench beat him in the past by… beating him in the past. Trench is supposed to be a tactical genius but his tactics are never revealed. This could be due to a lack of time in the episode, or it could be that the writers didn’t feel familiar enough with military tactics to write about them, and assumed that what they had was good enough.

Equivalent: clone troopers are great soldiers. They are so skilled because they are the best soldiers in the galaxy. How did that explanation work for ya?
Equivalent: clone troopers are great soldiers. They are so skilled because they are the best soldiers in the galaxy.
How did that explanation work for ya?

When writing: research is everything. To draw an example, I highly doubt that Timothy Zahn is a military genuis but he was able to write Grand Admiral Thrawn as one (seriously, if you haven’t read those books – do yourself a favor, the are the second best thing to come from Star Wars). In addition, the episode also creates arbitrary drama between Anakin and Obi-Wan (they’re arguing about… something, I guess it’s to spice up the plot) and undoes its greatest accomplishment in its finale.

Yeah, Trench dies… or does he?!

No, no he does not.
No, no he does not.

There are a lot of episodes like this in Star Wars: the Clone Wars. As a writer, I find it fun to watch them. Many series out there reflect either superb or non-existent writing, it is interesting to find one in the middle. This allows the audience to learn: both from what is done right and what could be improved. I’m not saying to go out and write Star Wars fan-fiction in an attempt to improve the show. Just keep in mind what works and what doesn’t. This is a great show for writers, especially writers who happen to be Star Wars fans.

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