While we’re only a couple of weeks away from the official premiere of Star Wars Rebels, it may be a while yet before we really know on a macro level what the show is about. The Inquisitor, after all, doesn’t even join the party until later on—and it remains to be seen just how big of a presence he’ll be in the first season as a whole, to say nothing of future seasons. The same goes for Lothal—it’s the heroes’ base of operations for now, but forever? I doubt it.
So with that in mind, I asked the others to pitch their ideas for what you might call Rebels “bottle” episodes. Colloquially, a bottle episode of a TV show is a standalone story designed to be produced entirely using existing sets and contracted actors, meaning it can be produced for a bare minimum of expense—often these will show up to allow for something particularly extravagant elsewhere in the season.
While I didn’t hold them to the “cheap” part, I did mandate that the story be entirely self-contained, so it could theoretically go anywhere in the first season without getting in the way of whatever the larger arc turns out to be. Here are their ideas.
Jay: Alright so I’m always in favor of using EU elements, and thanks to the revived HoloNet News we have the means to do just that: the Coalition for Progress division of COMPNOR. They’re the part responsible for what we’d call censorship — their Art Group was famous in WEG for putting out lists of artworks, music groups, and shows that were banned for being un-Imperial.
The episode opens at some kind of entertainment venue on Lothal. Perhaps it’s a comedy club, a local theatre group, or even some sort of children’s entertainment to make it more sickeningly sweet. Whatever it is, it should be the kind of venue that a lot of people get together to relax and join in some communal fun. Sabine’s in attendance, outside of her usual Mando getup. Her civilian clothes are still individualized to her of course, but she’s enjoying being out in the open for once and just enjoying an evening’s entertainment. Perhaps it’s a slam poetry competition, I can see her being into that — it’s a little dated too, which goes with the theme of the show recapturing the vintage sense of Star Wars (but for a more 90s sort of vintage, the kind of vintage that applies to Sabine and Ezra as opposed to Kanan and Hera).
Anyway, Imperial goons come in and break up the party. I’d prefer that they were COMPForce thugs rather than stormtroopers, but they’ll probably be stormtroopers. The venue is closed, the performers are arrested, and the audience scatters. Sabine is ready to get into action, but she realizes that she doesn’t have her gear on her. She can call the Ghost crew to help in an easy op, but the adults told her that she shouldn’t do something so risky and that there would be trouble. She decides to go in for it on her own.
Now, Sabine could go get her gear from the ship — solo ops are tough, but it’s not like she hasn’t done them before (witness the short we’ve seen). However, this would again present the problem of letting the crew know that there’s a problem. So she has to improvise. This is where her creative side comes in. She gets in contact with the members of the Lothal community who enjoyed the show, and pretends to be just another one of them — tries to encourage them to rescue their friends. The Lothal citizens are intrigued at first, but they say no — they’re worried about Imperial reprisals. After some discussion, Sabine convinces them that all they need to do is create a distraction for her.
So the Lothrats make some sort of distraction. Let’s say it’s a giant luau or something — they hold a big noisy dance party past curfew, near the place where the entertainers are held. Stormies are sent over, and lookouts warn the residents in time to scatter. While the guards are away, Sabine uses some demolitions she had to cook up using only local ingredients — they’re pretty bland and certainly not as colorful as she expects, so she’s quite disappointed, but she manages to break in and rescue the entertainers. Just as she’s escaping, stormies find her and get her to surrender — Sabine reaches for her blaster, and then realizes she doesn’t have it on her. She’s about to do something rather rash, when the stormies are knocked out by Kanan and Hera. Sabine expresses surprise at them being there, and they say something along the lines of how they’d trusted her, but kept an eye on her just in case. Then they follow up with a “good job.”
There’s a lot of potential that could be used with COMPNOR and the Arts Group, but I liked the idea of a character-centric Sabine episode. I presumed there would be some sort of moral at the end like in TCW, but that rescue element isn’t really essential.
Rocky: We’re coming into Rebels with a crew from widely different backgrounds, with different motivations for working against the Empire. They clearly have common ground in that, but how do they find their spirit of teamwork? The crew of the Ghost will need to sit down together and bond somehow. A beach episode doesn’t have to be about fanservice, and in this case, it shouldn’t be. The Avatar: The Last Airbender beach episode turned into important exposition for the characters, made the villains seem more sympathetic, and generally put the teams together a bit better. For better or worse, beach episodes are usually a diversion from the main plot, and placing one earlier in the season would be a good opportunity for character development early on. These are entirely new characters to the Star Wars universe, and we’re going to have to introduce them to the audience somehow.
Our heroes stop on an out-of-the-way planet, maybe for some repairs for the Ghost, and while there, they decide to go to the beach and relax. Quickly, it turns into a team-building experience, where they trade stories of their pasts and start to open up to each other about why they started working against the Empire in the first place. Of course, a beach episode isn’t complete without some comic relief. Perhaps Chopper gets turned into a drinks tray or an umbrella stand. Sun, sand, and water are a great opportunity for practical jokes- I mean, character development. There are probably some interesting beings at the beach, and plenty of opportunity for fun. It will also give the characters something lighter to do; they’ll be spending much of the show doing rather serious work fighting the Empire, and if A New Dawn is any indicator, Rebels will have a darker tone than we might expect from an animated show on the Disney Channel. Going to the beach will be a possibly needed relief from fighting a war against the Empire.
A beach episode is an opportunity to have some fun and not be serious all the time. It’s also a good way to bring some character development into the picture, and even focus an entire episode on building the characters we’ll be seeing throughout the course of the show.
Ben W: It’s shortly after Ezra decides to pitch-in with the Ghost‘s crew, and he’s having doubts if the Empire is all it’s cracked up to be. After all, he’s able to humiliate them relatively easily, and he’s just a kid. He mentions this in conversation with Kanan, who tells him the story of what (almost) happened to Gorse, how the Empire tried to destroy the moon and sacrifice the lives and well-being of everyone on the planet itself just for a few years’ worth of minerals that would grease the cogs on their war machine. He tells Ezra to ask Hera about the details.
On his way to speak with Hera, Ezra runs across Sabine and asks if she knows about what happened to Gorse. She says she’s heard only what Kanan and Hera have told, but has her own story about what the Empire did. She tells how Mandalore, after the Clone Wars, was in shambles, the government reduced to a tatters and Death Watch still roaming with no interest in setting up a government of their own. Then the Empire arrived, promising stability and order, and, after crushing what was left of Death Watch, set up forced labor mines and basically enslaved the entire population of the planet, much as they intended to do with Gorse. He asks what happened then. She says, nothing. She left the planet, and as far as she knows, nothing’s changed.
Zeb enters, having listened in on the story, and relates his own. Lasan, he says, was devastated by the Empire years prior using disruptor weapons, meaning that very, very few of his people survived. Zeb himself is the sole survivor of the Lasan Honor Guard, as the entire group was killed along with the planet’s rulers, and Zeb’s wife and child. For him, there is no happy ending so long as the Empire is still in power.
Ezra, shaken, goes to Hera and asks about Gorse. She tells him her side of the story, how Count Vidian was willing to kill in cold blood to further his own goals and the Empire was willing to accommodate him so long as his “efficiency” drive delivered on its promises. She tells Ezra that, even though the Imperials on Lothal are little more than bullies, the Empire as a whole doesn’t work like that. The Empire is bigger and more vicious than any of them really know, and Lothal is only a small theater in a much wider war. She encourages him, though, that even a small spark can start a fire, and there are many others like them who aren’t happy with the Empire’s reign. They just have to find them.
Alexander: You want to do a cheap, standalone episode? First, you need the right kind of setting. Ideally, something very simple and straightforward in terms of detail, so the crew doesn’t have to burn too much of their animation budget on a throwaway episode that’s ultimately meaningless in the greater scheme of things. I’m thinking a Star Destroyer: stark, bare, uncomplicated, probably already in regular use, but more than large enough to set an entirely self-contained story within. And since we’ll undoubtedly be seeing more than enough of our heroes over the course of the season, let’s leave them off the table entirely this time.
Make it an Empire-only episode. They’re a popular faction, so it shouldn’t hurt the ratings too much, and you can use it to test the waters for the possibility of further such episodes (or even an entire spinoff series) if it does well enough. We have a cast of one Imperial inquisitor, one Imperial agent, and legions of faceless interchangeable (and thus financially efficient) stormtrooper models. The Clone Wars gave us no shortage of generic, cackling, moustache-twirling villains: if we’re going to have recurring antagonists, it’d be nice to have at least one episode where we can look at things from their point of view without having them pitted directly against the people we’re supposed to be cheering for. Give them a neutral antagonist of their own for this very special occasion: an outside threat, or a mystery to be solved, unrelated to the resistance, something that everyone can comfortably get behind
Perhaps an insidious alien menace, stalking them within the halls of their own ship, or an investigation into the cause of a series of inexplicable cargo vessel disappearances along a certain trade route: a traditional Bermuda Triangle-style mystery (in space). It’s been far too long since we’ve had one of those. The important thing here is that we defy expectations and show the antagonists as something other than just a pure evil menace to be enthusiastically thwarted and killed at every opportunity. We managed to get away with that in The Clone Wars because the majority of the Confederacy’s foot soldiers were droids, but no such excuse is available here. As long as we’re mowing down Imperial troopers and officers by the dozen, the least we can do is take the time to acknowledge their humanity for one little episode.
Lisa: I want to see a droid centric episode. Chopper goes to a droid meeting to try and convince other droids to secretly join the Rebellion. Perhaps R2-D2 could make a cameo as the two have their own little adventure while escaping the grasp of the Empire. The dialogue would be tricky on an episode like this but I think most of us speak in beeps and whirs by now so I don’t think it would be out of the realm of possibility. Plus we all know that droids are the real heroes of the Rebellion so they might as well embrace this in Rebels too.
Mike: There’s been a lot of discussion about the role Kanan and Ezra should play as the “Jedi” of the series, given that the era is defined largely by its lack of Jedi. But if there’s one character with even more in-universe baggage than them, it’s Mando girl Sabine. In Karen Traviss’ Republic Commando books, Mandalorian culture was fleshed out from broad sketches into a living, breathing body of knowledge rivaling Elves or Klingons—up to and including the development of a functional language. Mando values were built around the family unit, and anyone who committed to the culture’s principles could join the family, species or gender or orientation or able-bodiedness be damned. Traviss also built a secondary language surrounding Mandalorian armor—I’m sorry, I mean beskar’gam—in which each color had its own meaning, and the colors one chose to adorn their armor communicated their own personal history and priorities to anyone who knew how to look. Boba Fett’s green and gold, for example, signify duty and vengeance, respectively.
On the other hand, there’s the TV Mandalorians. The Clone Wars took bits and pieces of the existing lore and built, frankly, a completely different society from the ground up that itself signified the coming need for a…rethinking of SW canon. One of the elements to survive TCW adaptation more completely was the Death Watch, a splinter group of tough-as-nails types fighting to return to the culture’s hardcore mercenary past. I wonder: what would the Death Watch, pretty much the Taliban of Mandalorians, make of our young hero Sabine?
It would be a great opportunity to draw from both the EU Mandos and TCW’s Mandos, I think, for Rebels to draw a pointed contrast between their ways of doing things and Sabine’s. Without knowing her exact history yet it’s hard to say how the story might be kicked off—maybe Sabine’s family is Death Watch and she’s on the run from them, or maybe they’re just recruiting. But when the fundamentalists in the sterile blue and grey armor come across the punkass kid with the bare arms and the armor (not to mention hair) that looks like a psychedelic Jackson Pollock painting? That’s a moment I’d like to see.
Of course, she fends them off in the end with the help of the Ghost crew. Real Mandos, Sabine understands, know a true family when they see one.