Many of the great war stories often make sure to not only include the perspective of the combatants, but also of the civilians caught in the middle. That’s what you’re going to get with this penultimate chapter of the first season of Star Wars: Clone Wars.
Entitled “Innocents of Ryolith,” this episode is set shortly after last week’s “Storm Over Ryolith.” Anakin and Ahsoka have smashed the Separatist barricade of the recently captured Ryolith, and now it’s Obi Wan and Mace Windu’s turn to lead the planet-based invasion forces. What they didn’t count on is the Separatist leader, Wat Tambor (Matthew Wood) has set up a second barricade, and this one made up of the planet’s Twilek natives. If Kenobi and Windu want to take down Tambor’s principle weapons, they are going to have to do it over the bodies of a lot of dead civilians…or at least that’s what the Separatists want.
That doesn’t mean the story focuses on the two Jedi generals though. Hardly.
In fact, it revolves around three others, two young clone troopers and a very young civilian girl. The troopers are part of a scouting mission to find a chink in the Separatist living wall. For all appearances, the young basically nameless girl is a war orphan who ends up straggling after the soldiers.
All those familiar with this kind of scenario can probably figure out what will eventually happen. That doesn’t mean the episode is a snoozer. In fact, the way episode co-writer and script supervisor Henry Gilroy gets around this is to throw some seriously good outside WWII source material into the mix.
“We really wanted to tell a story about troops going into a foreign land, maybe being a little insensitive to the people, but growing fond of them and coming to love them and wanting to rescue them from their plight,” said Gilroy. “We saw it as an opportunity to reflect those great World War II stories of the American GIs moving through Europe and encountering the people of those areas, particularly orphans.”
For Gilroy and director Dave Filoni, inspiration for this particular story came from The Guns of Navarone, a classic war film in which a commando team must infiltrate impregnable enemy territory to destroy a gun emplacement. The narrative device proved to be an effective method for getting the Republic behind enemy lines – and into the occupied homeland of a downtrodden native race. And for those who fondly remember this 1961 Gregory Peck/David Niven war epic, the good guys wouldn’t have succeeded without the aid of the Navarone natives, who were led by Anthony Quinn.
“The idea is that this cannon is preventing our heroes from arriving to help, to liberate the planet, and basically it’s going to come down to one Jedi, Obi-Wan, to save the day,” Gilroy explains. “Plus, we’re able to really emphasize just how evil the villains are as they use the inhabitants of the town as human shields.”
While one has to agree with Gilroy about the evil of Tambor, it should never be forgotten that Obi Wan wouldn’t be able to do what he does best without the aid of the girl and the clones. “Innocents” is a much better story because of it.
NEXT COLUMN: We look at the last episode of the first season.