We initially had some trepidation when it came to the new Disney animated TV series, Star Wars Rebels, set five years before the original Star Wars movie (A New Hope) and 14 years after Episode III. We reviewed the first movie length pilot episode here, now available on DVD at Amazon.com here. Focus on the younger character Ezra and the more cartoony silliness initially pointed to kids as the target audience for the show. But as the series gained its stride, it became not only a good tie-in for diehard Star Wars fans, but something real, honest to goodness, Star Wars canon fans can be excited about, with its inclusion of original trilogy cast members as voice actors. And its primary and supporting cast work will have you wanting to watch it again and eagerly anticipate Season Two when it returns to Disney XD at your next binge session.
The high point surprised us: The return of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian in an adventure before The Empire Strikes Back. If you hate the fact that his primary role in the original trilogy was as a betrayer of Han Solo, you can finally see why Han previously was friends with him. Sure, he was an opportunist even back then, but he was also skillful and suave, and, believe it or not, much cooler than he was portrayed in the movies. That’s something worth seeing.
But it didn’t stop with Billy Dee Williams. The first episode, “Droids in Distress,” featured the return of Anthony Daniels as the voice of C-3P0. In the ninth episode the great and powerful Frank Oz returned to voice the part of Yoda, in “Path of the Jedi.” And how about James Earl Jones as Darth Vader again? You can’t really get more canon than that. Well, at least until we see Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker (and not only just hear them) return in Episode VII later his year.
Season One featured some welcome voices in the supporting cast, like Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter, Case Histories, Awake, Dig) as the ruthless (and well drawn) Inquisitor, Star Trek’s own Data: Brent Spiner as Gall Trayvis, Peter MacNicol as Teebo, and the great James Hong as Azmorigan. With a key cast led by the capable Freddie Prinze, Jr. as the Jedi Kanan, Star Wars Rebels may not be all you could want, but it will likely exceed your expectations.