With Disney Plus’ The Bad Batch kicking off today to help celebrate our favorite Star Wars holiday May the 4th, we thought it would be the perfect time to shed a little light on who exactly the show is really about. For those fans of the franchise’s animated series, you will recognize the group from The Clone Wars, but they have a long history in Star Wars.
It All Starts with Jango Fett
When Jango Fett agreed to become the genetic template for the Republic’s clone army, he knew that there would be situations that the Kaminoans could not prepare regular infantry for. The Kaminoans agreed to allow Fett and his Mandalorian mercenaries to personally train a special batch of clones. However, the perfectionist cloners did little to hide their disappointment and skepticism.
The result was two elite breeds of clone trooper: Advanced Recon Commando (ARC) Troopers and Clone Commandos. Though just as independent as ARC troopers, clone commandos were more susceptible to orders and indoctrinated with absolute loyalty to the Republic. Thus, the Kaminoans considered clone commandos superior to all other clones: a perfect balance between standard clone troopers and the difficult-to-control ARC troopers. Kaminoans modeled clone commando squads after the four-member hunting pods of the aiwha: the flying cetaceans native to Kamino.
By the time that the Clone Wars began, the clone commandos had completed a decade-long training program. But despite being highly trained and fiercely cohesive, the clone commandos suffered high casualties in the First Battle of Geonosis. It was because of their elite training that they were unfit to serve in a regular infantry role. Combined with the Jedi’s lack of experience as military leaders (after all, the Republic lacked a standing army for 978 years), clone commandos suffered a staggering 50% fatality rate in the opening battle of the Clone Wars. Those squads that didn’t survive intact were merged together into new units (such as “Omega Squad”).
Despite being named in remembrance of 99 (a malformed clone who died two years previously in defense of the Kamino cloning facilities), these particular clones likely predate their unit’s namesake. Though Jango Fett’s clones have growth acceleration to speed up their development and training, it seems highly unlikely that Clone Force 99 was grown to adulthood in just two years. Not to mention the impossible task of shortening the ten-year-long commando training program into just one-fifth of the time. Though admittedly, a shortened timeframe for training and indoctrination could explain the utter disobedience constantly demonstrated by the Bad Batch.
However, a particularly dark side effect of such exponential growth acceleration is the Bad Batch having an even shorter life expectancy than clones. At best, a Republic clone will last 50 years (the equivalent of a century for normal Human aging). To gestate and grow a clone in just two years? That would mean the life expectancy of the Bad Batch is roughly 10 years…meaning that (with the possible exception of Echo) they will soon die of rapid aging in just 8 short years. This ghastly revelation would explain why the rebellious clones are never seen in Star Wars Rebels (which begins 14 years after Episode III: Revenge of the Sith).
Given the time to grow and train a clone and the Bad Batch’s first confirmed battlefield appearance, this indicates that these experimental clones were first gestated three years after Master Sifo-Dyas first placed the order for the clone army (about three years after the Battle of Naboo in The Phantom Menace). This offers an intriguing narrative development in the backstory of the Bad Batch. Among the first dozen prototype clones, only half survived through gestation. The surviving six would have been “reconditioned” (killed) by the Kaminoans (deemed “uncontrollable” by Kaminoan standards) if not for the direct intervention of Kal Skirata. A Mandalorian bounty hunter hired by Jango Fett to help him instruct the clone troopers. And that reconditioning was just for the clones not being docile and obedient enough.
The Kaminoans are scientifically objective but at the cost of being emotionally indifferent. (A cultural trait for which Darth Plagueis the Wise praised the Kaminoans as “progressive” and “Sith-like.”) Even benign recessive traits like green eyes were viewed as “genetically inferior” and such beings were immediately exterminated after birth. Kaminoan arrogance and eugenics were such that the only genetic experimentation even tolerated was attempts to produce and replicate Force-sensitivity. (As demonstrated by their extreme disappointment, Jango Fett, not Sifo-Dyas, would be the template for the clone army.)
So it seems entirely likely that if anyone on Kamino had considered the Bad Batch’s defects to be “desirable mutations,” that decision was most likely another intervention by Fett or his fellow trainers. A more intriguing proposal (since neither Sifo-Dyas nor Jango Fett knew with certainty just who or what these clones would be fighting) is Count Dooku: known to the Kaminoans and Fett as “Darth Tyranus.” Only Palpatine and Dooku knew that these clones would be fighting the droid armies of the growing Separatist movement due to their orchestration of that conflict. In order to judge EM tracking as “desirable,” one would need to know at least half a decade before the Separatist Crisis began that droids would be the enemy and target of these commandos!
Whoever the commandos’ early benefactor(s) had been, it seems their gamble paid off, as indicated by the Bad Batch’s record and reputation of a 100% mission success rate. The Bad Batch’s first appearance was during one such mission during the Battle of Anaxes. The final battle of the Foerost campaign, where a technologically advanced Techno Union fleet rammed through the Republic blockade at Foerost and made it as deep into the Core as the critical Republic naval base at Anaxes. Thanks to the efforts of Clone Force 99 and a covert rescue of the now-cybernetic Echo at Skako Minor, Anakin Skywalker killed Admiral Trench and vaporized his flagship. Echo then joined the Bad Batch, utilizing his cybernetic enhancements to aid in the Bad Batch’s missions.
Opinions differed on clone commandos throughout the conflict. Some clones were awed by the skills of these special forces units. Other clones felt the commandos’ reputations were greatly exaggerated and loathed the commandos as being culturally “too Mandalorian.” Towards the end of the Clone Wars, most clone troopers had come to hate the clone commandos. With the defection of ARC trooper “Spar” to the Mandalorians and the conquest of Mandalore by Darth Maul, most Republic troopers rejected their heritage as clones of Jango Fett. The majority of clone troopers considered Mandalorians to be Republic enemies, so clone commandos and the Mandalorian traditions that had been passed down to them were deeply offensive.
These Mandalorian traditions do not seem to be present in Clone Force 99, but the Bad Batch is likely to be just as detested (if not more so) by clone troopers. Widely regarded as “defective” and with uniquely altered appearances due to their mutations, the Bad Batch has no doubt endured more than its fair share of prejudice and bigotry. It seems this contempt is reciprocated, as indicated by the Bad Batch’s refusal to respect commands of any kind and the unit’s disdainful moniker of normal clone troopers as “regs” (short for “regular clones”).
Trained to be unflinchingly loyal and obey orders without question, clone commandos might not have required the inhibitor chips that most clone troopers were implanted with. For example, when Aiwha Squad received Order 66 during the Battle of Garqi, they executed that order with extreme prejudice…killing a Jedi Knight named Traavis, right in front of a young boy that the squad had just rescued.
All remaining ARC troopers and clone commandos were incorporated into the 501st Legion (the stormtrooper unit infamously known in the Empire as “Vader’s Fist”). As the new Imperial Commando Special Unit, clone commandos would hunt and exterminate any Jedi who had survived Order 66. Less known and less popular was the unit’s secondary objective: hunt down and exterminate any clone deserters and Imperial dissidents.
It is hard to tell based on the trailers what role (if any) Clone Force 99 played in Order 66. The only confirmed placement of these commandos during the events of Revenge of the Sith is in a formation with other clone troopers (on what appears to be Kamino) during Palpatine’s Declaration of a New Order: proclaiming the Galactic Republic to be a new Galactic Empire, with himself as Emperor.
Since Palpatine’s address is heard as a voice-over while the Bad Batch draws blasters on a group of clone troopers, it’s entirely possible that this is the moment that the Bad Batch decided to defect. Though the idea of the Bad Batch in Imperial service offers the tantalizing possibility of the commandos being deployed to hunt down their fellow clones…including a recently inhibitor-free ARC trooper Rex (seen in the official trailer).
All signs from the trailer indicate that the Bad Batch eventually leaves Imperial service (with the future Grand Moff Tarkin himself ordering the experimental clones to be “found and wiped out”), forced to run from and fight against their fellow clone troopers. It seems to be more an issue of how and when that defection occurs. Given the preponderance of hatred against clone commandos, the Bad Batch is unlikely to find many allies in the ranks of the new Imperial Army.
Now that you are all up to date on who The Bad Batch is, you are ready to dive in! You can stream the series here!
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