The Big Picture
- The animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars gradually became more mature and appealed to older fans of the franchise with its exploration of deeper themes.
- The show featured moments of violence and brutality, such as Ventress brutally impaling a clone trooper, which were initially cut by the Cartoon Network censors.
- The Clone Wars showcased the individuality and unique personalities of the clone troopers, highlighting their importance and emotional connection to viewers.
After the release of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith in 2005, Star Wars fans were left without any hope for the future of the franchise, as it had appeared that the saga had concluded for good. Although Dave Filoni’s animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars initially appeared to be nothing more than a fun adventure show set within the galaxy far, far away, The Clone Wars eventually developed more mature themes that appealed to older fans of the franchise. It was often shocking that The Clone Wars was able to air on Cartoon Network considering the amount of adult content that the series so routinely featured. In fact, there was one critical moment in the show’s third season premiere that didn’t make it past the censors.
This ‘Clone Wars’ Moment Was Too Violent for Cartoon Network
The third season of The Clone Wars begins with a two-part storyline that explores the backstory of the group of clone troopers (all voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) that first appeared in the first season’s episode “Rookies.” After seeing the future ARC Troopers Echo and Fives training with their original unit in the first episode “Clone Cadets,” the second episode “ARC Troopers” explored their return to their home planet of Kamino. Unfortunately, Kamino has now been targeted for destruction by the Separatist Alliance, with the Confederate leaders General Grievous (Matthew Wood) and Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman) leading equally destructive invasions of the planet. Both of Count Dooku’s (Corey Burton) disciples are ruthless, but Ventress has one moment of savagery that didn’t sit well with Cartoon Network.
As Ventress faces off against a squad of clone soldiers, she corners a trooper named Colt who has been tasked with safeguarding the Kaminoans’ precious DNA samples; this is the most prized item on the entire planet, as it contains the genetic information of Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) that has been essential to recreating his likeness. At this point in the series, Ventress has yet to begin her redemption arc and shows no mercy to the clone. She brutally impales Colt in the chest and plants a kiss on his cheek before watching his body crumble to the floor. This was the sort of violence that Star Wars fans may have come to expect from a dark side Force user, but it may not have sat well with the families watching Cartoon Network for more kid-friendly programming like Chowder or Adventure Time.
A version of “ARC Troopers” that cut out the kiss was broadcast by Cartoon Network; subsequent releases of the episode on DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix, and Disney+ all include the moment in full; the version available for rentals on iTunes stays in line with the original Cartoon Network broadcast, and removes the kiss. A feature on the official Star Wars website confirmed that the moment had been cut before broadcast, but does not mention the reason for its removal. In all likelihood, Ventress’ seductive techniques may have been too extreme for Cartoon Network censors considering that the series still retained its “TV-PG” rating. Subsequent violent moments in The Clone Wars were saved for the director’s cuts; Grievous’ brutal assault upon the Nightsisters’ home planet Dathomir in the fourth season’s episode “Massacre” was shown in more detail in the director’s cut version that was included on the Blu-ray and Disney+ release.
‘The Clone Wars’ Gradually Became More Mature
Ventress’ mental torture of Colt before his death was a particularly tough moment to watch, as viewers had begun to develop an emotional connection with the clones due to the individuality that they had each developed. Several story arcs focused entirely on the clones, revealing that they were far more than just identical soldiers made to serve the war effort. The names, unique personalities, and characteristics of each clone trooper made them unique, and characters like Captain Rex and Commander Cody served as important a role as the Jedi warriors like Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter), Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor), and Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein); the Jedi showed a sensitivity to the clones’ feelings and feared the sacrifices that they would have to make in service of the republic.
While this may have felt like a rather extreme way of showing Ventress’ demented sense of humor, the kiss was an important part of her character’s trajectory within the season. It was important to establish that Ventress was already completely enriched within the dark side of the Force in order to make her betrayal at the hand of Dooku and Darth Sidious more shocking. Sidious fears that Ventress could be used in a plot by Dooku to overthrow him, and orders her assassination in the episode “Nightsisters.” After realizing that neither of her Sith mentors is interested in training her as an official apprentice, Ventress decides to get revenge on her former master Dooku by recruiting the Dathomirian warrior Savage Opress (Clancy Brown). This would ultimately lead the series to the resurrection of Savage’s brother, Maul (Sam Witwer), which became one of its most important story arcs.
Although The Clone Wars was canceled at the end of its fifth season (before eventually releasing two more seasons on Netflix and Disney+, respectively), the series had already gotten away with some fairly mature moments. In the fourth season, Rex and the other clones led a resistance force against the Jedi traitor Pong Krell on the planet Umbara in what essentially became the Star Wars franchise’s version of Apocalypse Now; the fifth season included such shocking moments as Maul’s execution of the Mandalorian Duchess Satine, his murder of the Death Watch leader Pre Vizla (Jon Favreau), and Ahsoka’s imprisonment at the hands of the Jedi Council. While The Clone Wars may have been initially intended as a family-friendly introduction to the galaxy far, far away, it clearly proved itself to be worthy of the franchise’s entire fanbase.