The countdown of our top five Season One episodes continues. So many great tales in this premiere year- Rookies, Cloak of Deception and Storm Over Ryloth were hot candidates for our prized number four position, but episode seven of the run, the exciting, gung-ho adventure story in the best STAR WARS tradition: Duel of the Droids, won the day. And here's five reasons why...
1. Artoo the hero. In the previous episode, Downfall of a Droid, our lovable blue lined Astro Droid was having going through hard times: lost in space after fierce battle, taken by a smelly, farting Trandoshan, and now delivered to General Grievous and quickly assembled for the vital information he carries about the Republic's war strategies, but his devoted friend and master Anakin Skywalker never gives up in his search for him, and finally traces his distress signal to his location on the sky world of one of the moons of Ruusan. Liberated by Anakin in a very cool sequence - with dark hints of Darth Vader emerging from him as he declares "Let him go" to the MagnaGuards keeping his pal prisoner- Artoo is soon back to his heroic best and returns the heroic favour in kind, cornering the gold traitor droid R3-S6 in a climactic duel to the death outside the now destructing Separatist base. We've always considered Artoo to have very human qualities, which is why he's so enduring to fans young and old, but his survival instincts prove equally intriguing, shining through in the last few moments during this fats and furious, spectacularly animated section, directed by Rob Bowman, as he has no choice but to cut loose the enemy droid and let him die. There's a hint here that Artoo had a bit of a grudge/dark side moment here, but just a little bit.
Watch out for the quirky synthesiser theme that music composer Kevin Kiner gives Artoo in this two-parter. The droid has never really had a theme before, so it stands out. It's an experiment that's never heard again in the series.
2. Arthree the baddie. We're used to the STAR WARS sagas colourful squat Astro Droids being a positive and commonplace force in the galaxy, either piloting alongside our Jedi heroes into dutiful battle, assisting dignitaries and Clone Troopers and generally just generally being there. So when you get a traitor droid from their ilk-the first we've ever seen in the series- its a great idea and visual opportunity for the writers and production team to grab a hold of. Masking his scheming and loyalty to General Grievous by making it look like he's new to the job- an incompetent and slow creation, Arthree is anything but, more cunning and calculating than a Battle Droid and, like Artoo Detoo, a real box of tricks with his devices. Eventually, finally revealed as a traitor to a gob-smacked Ahsoka, who had earlier pushed so hard for it and its abilities to Anakin as a replacement for Artoo, Goldie's turncoating on our heroes is finally crowd-pleasingly paid for as Artoo heroically dispatches him into the seemingly endless skies of the Ruusan moon.
Special note to Dave Accord and Matthew Wood on their clever sound design for Arthree, subtly making it stand out as a villains, with a colder personality than a normal Astro Droid.
3. Ahsoka versus Grievous. As our heroes, using the mission cover of destroying the Ruusan moon's enemy base in order to rescue Artoo, are quickly betrayed by "Goldie", headstrong and spirited Padawan Ahsoka Tano takes on lethal Jedi killer General Grievous in an epic lightsaber duel. She's foolish enough to think that she can find a way of dispatching him/it, even though so many other more accomplished and battle seasoned colleagues have already failed. Despite a game effort, she's soon outmatched and has no choice to but to hide in and out of a storage locker area to avoid his grasp, the General almost coming close to choking the life out of her when he finally corners her, and only her lithe, flexible frame and some unorthodox moves save her to live and fight Grievous another day-which she does by the mid-point of Season Five, though now more accomplished, finally getting to tie against the evil lightsaber wielding brute. It may be an early episode in the production run, but Ahsoka is definitely becoming a welcome addition to the STAR WARS saga and shows lot of potential for character growth-a true heroine for female fans young and old, and children in general, whilst Grievous, not previously quite as well used as he could have been in the live-action EPISODE III becomes an even more effective and scary player for chaos causing villainy within the animated medium.
Watch "Duel of the Droids " - The Clone Wars Episode Featurette #1.07 | StarWars.com
4. Captain Rex. Fans love Clones, and they especially love THE CLONE WARS' top-dog, Captain Rex. He's like the Clint Eastwood of the show, often with some of the best lines and some very cool action moments over the years alongside Anakin and Ahsoka. So it's fun when he has a few belittling moments, too, like the way he has to carry "Goldie" on his chest for the heroes secret skydive sequence, much to the merriment of his fellow troopers! Later on, for fans of adrenaline charged battle, he and his men partake in a mission to capture Grievous alongside Ahsoka. It all comes to nought, of course-Grievous is too wily and powerful- but they give it a damned good try!
5.The Russan skyworld. Credit to the designers of this episode for the story's intriguing outdoor locale and the Trade Federation communications/sphere base hanging very Bespin-like in its atmosphere of the Ruusan moon. Very THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and hauntingly eerie- the scenes where our heroes skydive and infiltrate the base is another one of those classic STAR WARS moments full of wonder and danger to come, nicely accomplished by Rob Coleman and his team, backed up with some with some nice incidental music from Kevin Kilner.
Coming October 15th to UK DVD and Blu-ray: STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS - THE COMPLETE SEASONS ONE TO FIVE.