Clone Wars S1 E1: Ambush
A galaxy divided by war! Peaceful worlds must choose sides or face the threat of invasion. Republic and Separatist armies vie for the allegiance of neutral planets.
Desperate to build a Republic supply base on the system of Toydaria, Jedi Master Yoda travels to secret negotiations on a remote neutral moon….
Great leaders inspire greatness in others.
As with many of the best Star Wars stories we begin in media res, with Yoda on a mission to convince the Toydarians to side with the Republic. However, Asajj Ventress and the Separatists have arrived on the planet first, and are already holding court with the unconvinced Toydarian ruler.
With the Republic ship under heavy fire, only Yoda and three Clone Troopers can land on the planet. What should have been a simple meeting quickly turns into a race against time as Ventress deploys a battalion of Battle Droids to stop the four from making it to the rendezvous point by nightfall…
Clone Wars S1 E1: Ambush puts Yoda front and center, and my first takeaway was how refreshing it was to see the character written and performed so well.
Tom Kane does a fantastic job on vocal duties. From Yoda’s mirthful giggles to his serious, wisdom-dispensing side, Kane captures the details that evoke the character at his best.
This praise extends to the animation. Yoda’s calm, cross-legged meditation as the escape pod comes under fire is a perfect unspoken character moment. Conversely, once the action starts, his deft acrobatics have never felt more fitting. It’s a near-seamless blend of prequel and original trilogy Yoda.
That’s a point best illustrated in the emotional core of the episode.
As Yoda and the clones recuperate in a cave, the Jedi Master drops his mischievous obtuseness to speak plainly to the troopers. It’s a visually beautiful moment of offbeat zen with echoes of The Empire Strikes Back.
The scene also hints at something else to come in the series – the unique personalities of the clones. We get a brief but precise introduction to Lieutenant Thire, Jek and Rys, as they receive advice that later helps to win the day.
It’ll be interesting to see if we learn more about these characters in the future.
As for the bad guys?
Asajj Ventress is menacing, no doubt, even if her threat is (entertainingly) undermined by Yoda. It’s good to see the expansion of dark side users promised by the series, and I look forward to learning more about her character.
The Battle Droid slapstick didn’t work for me, but it wasn’t unwelcome; after all, this is a cartoon. Neither was it too far from what we’ve already seen on screen in The Phantom Menace.
That said, it’s welcome to see the Super Battle Droids and Droidekas raise the threat level. It takes some shrewd – and enjoyable – force use on Yoda’s part to get the clones out of one tricky situation.
On the whole, the episode is definitely entertaining.
The production itself is solid. As always with Lucas-era Star Wars, the sound design is excellent. The graphics look a little dated by today’s standards, but then the episode is 12 years old.
It’s the content that matters, and one particularly reassuring aspect is the location design.
Toydaria is a beautiful setting; imaginative and evocative. It’s easy to see kids (and toy photographers) using their back gardens to recreate this adventure – a thought you could imagine George Lucas had when he was putting the series together.
If you were coming in blind, as viewers were back in 2008, you might think that Ambush is a little light for a first episode. But, with the knowledge that there are seven full seasons to go, it’s a solid introduction.
From treating existing characters with respect through to sowing the seeds for future stories – all while being entertaining in its own right – Ambush hits the spot.
Clone Wars S1 E1: Ambush
Director: Dave Bullock
Writer: Steven Melching
Story Editor: Henry Gilroy
Supervising Director: Dave Filoni
Executive Producer: George Lucas