[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for “Star Wars: The Bad Batch” Episode 3, “Replacements.”]
Star Wars: The Bad Batch, the latest entry in the Star Wars franchise, is giving viewers a look at the early days of the Galactic Empire. The show opened with the Clone Army killing the Jedi during Order 66, and subsequent episodes have been exploring the Clone Army’s transition from fighting for the Republic to becoming the foot soldiers of the Empire. In the process, it seems to have answered one of the biggest lingering questions Star Wars fans have had about the franchise — when, how, and why did the Empire stop using clones to fill its stormtrooper ranks?
Throughout the films, the stormtroopers have evolved from being Jango Fett’s clones fighting for the Republic, to volunteer soldiers under the Empire, to children conscripted by the First Order. During the prequel trilogy, and the animated show Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the clones proved to be far superior soldiers. They were excellent shots, loyal to a fault, and (as we eventually learned) pre-programmed to comply with Emperor Palpatine’s commands. Despite their accelerated aging, the clones remained in top fighting condition till the very end — Captain Rex lived to join the Rebellion nearly 20 years after Order 66 in Star Wars Rebels. So why on Earth would the Empire ever stop using clones? Star Wars: The Bad Batch gives us the answers.
The origins of the Imperial stormtroopers weren’t explored in the original Star Wars trilogy; they were little more than faceless evildoers intended to evoke the image of Nazi stormtroopers. The prequel trilogy introduced the Clone Army, the first iteration of the stormtroopers, which Palpatine secretly created to instill political chaos in the galaxy. The prequels also give us our first hints about the ephemeral nature of the Clone Army – apart from their accelerated aging, the Kaminoans reveal that they had to pay Jango Fett a “considerable” salary to essentially keep him in an apartment in the cloning facility, so his DNA is readily available to make more clones. Jango’s death at the end of Attack of the Clones effectively destroyed the clones’ genetic supply.
These aspects of the cloning program relate to Star Wars: The Bad Batch Episode 3, “Replacements.” In the episode, Grand Moff Tarkin is underwhelmed by the clones, especially after the defection of elite Clone Force 99 thanks to some faulty programming chips. Tarkin realizes that the Kaminoans’ programming can’t be trusted to brainwash the clones forever, and hence he set in motion a new program — headed by Vice Admiral Rampart — that would make the clones redundant. As Tarkin explains in the episode, creating the clones is massively expensive. We also learn from Nala Se, the Kaminoan doctor in charge of the cloning program, that the Kaminoans are running out of genetic material for the cloning process. All these factors lead to Tarkin devising a new plan of action to conscript soldiers. To ensure the plan’s success, Rampart deliberately selects troops who feel personally wronged by the Republic, thus ensuring greater loyalty to the Empire. By the end of the episode, Tarkin and Rampart are pleased with their first foray into drafting soldiers, setting the stage for the end of the clone army.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch is filling in the gap in the stormtrooper evolution story, but there are still some holes. For the stormtroopers to evolve from clones to regular humans, something catastrophic had to happen. The lack of genetic material is high on the list. But Jango wasn’t the only willing donor in the galaxy, and Star Wars fans are gonna be Star Wars fans, so a number of new theories have sprung up. Following the events of “Replacements,” the prevailing theory is that Nala Se will attempt to track down Boba Fett, Jango’s unaltered clone, for more genetic material. Even if she succeeds, the Empire’s lack of faith in the program will spell eventual doom for the clones. The Empire’s changeover from clones to conscripted soldiers was meant to be seamless. Average citizens weren’t supposed to even notice the transition, just like they didn’t notice the end of the Republic when Palpatine declared himself the first Galactic Emperor. An insidious change like this would ensure the people’s faith in the Empire remained. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s wholehearted belief in the stormtroopers’ perfect aim seems to support the idea that the Empire successfully phased the clones out without anyone knowing, because while the clones were pretty good shots, the stormtroopers in the original trilogy very much aren’t.
In “Replacements,” we saw how contemptuous Tarkin is of the clones, and it’s possible the rest of the season will dive further into the rift between the Empire and Kamino. In the older video games, the Kaminoans stage a clone uprising which was squashed by the Empire; those games aren’t canon, but it isn’t crazy to think that The Bad Batch might introduce a similar plot point to explain the ultimate demise of the clone program. We certainly know Tarkin isn’t afraid to blow up entire planets, so the destruction of Kamino is another possible explanation as to why neither the Empire nor the First Order considered creating clones again.
Instead, the Empire built entire military academies with grueling programs designed to churn out merciless soldiers. And don’t even get me started on the First Order, who kidnapped children like Finn, Jannah, and Lando Calrissian’s unnamed child and brainwashed them to become stormtroopers. Every iteration of the franchise’s villains makes their stormtroopers ever more devious.
The Star Wars animated shows continue to expand the mythos of the franchise, and Star Wars: The Bad Batch is no different. It’s distressing to see the same clone army, who were vivacious and full of distinct personalities during The Clones Wars, become mindless automatons in the latest series. But will the Empire simply allow the clones to die out, or is there a version of Order 66 awaiting them too?
Star Wars: The Bad Batch is streaming now on Disney+.
KEEP READING: Why the ‘Star Wars’ Animated Series Aren’t Just for Kids
Paddington is about to give someone a hard stare.
About The Author