Review: Star Wars Jedi Temple Challenge

 

Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge dropped the first two episodes on Star Wars Kids YouTube channel this week. This game show has three teams of kids participating in padawan trials trying to earn the title of Jedi Knight. Their guides are Jedi Master Kelleran Beq (Ahmed Best), a protocol droid AD-3 (voice Mary Holland and performer Gordon Tarpley), and an astromech LX-R5 (operator Michael McMaster). The padawans have to compete in tests of strength, knowledge, and skill while avoiding temptations from the Dark Side (Sam Witwer).

 

Jedi Temple Challenge hits all of those nostalgia factors of game shows like Legends of the Hidden Temple. But it also brings a lot of new things to the table. I was surprised to see fully illustrated segments during the knowledge trial. I especially love how they build into the show hyperspace sequences and created the various worlds where each challenge takes place. By episode two, I was screaming “PUNCH IT” with the kids as they flew their ship into hyperspace. It balances out the realness of the game show aspects with the fantasy of Star Wars by making sure it fits in the mythos. There’s a lot of imagination built into the set pieces. It invites the viewer to let go of reality and believe in what they’re watching.

 

This show is so much fun and something the world really needs right now. It’s so inspiring to see these kids cheer each other on while living out the fantasy of trying to be a Jedi. I found myself rooting for every single one of them. I wanted them all to win. I wanted the show to be an hour long so each team got their chance at the Jedi Temple. It’s so positive and wholesome. Even when teams are eliminated, there’s no negativity around these moments. In fact, it’s spun into being a life lesson. The children are told they are still on a journey and will be a Jedi one day. They’re encouraged to not give up on that dream. That’s such a wonderful message. Ahmed Best mentioned this in an article with starwars.com:

“The thing I think that makes Jedi Temple Challenge kind of special is the fact that there really are no losers. This whole idea of being in the temple is this idea of work and continuing to work to improve and get better. So when a team didn’t finish a challenge, it wasn’t because they weren’t good enough. They just needed to go back and train and get better and work harder…. When it came to the kids who couldn’t solve a puzzle or were the last to put their lightsaber together, I loved the moment of being able to tell them, ‘Look, this is just the beginning of your journey.’”

 

It’s also so lovely to see Ahmed Best thriving in Star Wars. As a Prequel Trilogy and Clone Wars fan, I love Jar Jar Binks. The Phantom Menace was my first Star Wars movie in theaters, and it’s my third favorite Star Wars film. I love the character, and I love the work that Best does in all of his roles. Is it weird to say that I’m proud of someone I don’t know? Because I am. I am so proud of Ahmed Best’s journey with Star Wars. I’m so happy to see him in a place where he is comfortable in the franchise, embracing it, and being loved by fans. I want to know more about Master Kelleran Beq. I want his story. I want his background. I need to see this character integrated into the bigger lore. More than anything, I want Best to play this role and make it stellar. It’s what he deserves. Best is such an inspiration to anyone who has overcome hate and prejudice in fandom. I am so incredibly happy to see him thriving in Jedi Temple Challenge.

It was also a great surprise to hear Sam Witwer voicing the Dark Side. You can hear his little nods to being the voice of Darth Maul but still making it something completely new.

Something I would love to see in future seasons is variations in some of the challenges. If season one has the same format for all of the episodes, then that’s fine. It’s a new show and should be allowed a space to find its footing. Maybe starting in season two the strength course could have one or two new obstacles that could be swapped out in different episodes. The knowledge trial and the final Jedi Temple trial have variety already built into them. It would be cool to see the strength trial have the same thing. I’m also making this suggestion after two episodes. For all I know, this could happen later in the season, and I just don’t know about it.

I also think it would be cool if we learn more about Kelleran Beq and AD-3 over the course of the series as it builds its own lore. Maybe during the knowledge trial, some of AD-3’s story could be about their past and how AD and Beq met.

 

Probably the best thing about the series is it’s completely free. It’s not on Disney+ or cable channels like Disney XD. Any child can watch this series on YouTube. That’s really huge. While it’s another bigger article for me to write for another time, I’m a firm believer that there are financial barriers in fandom. It’s easier for fans with more money to access things like cable channels, Galaxy’s Edge at Disney, merchandise, books, and comics. Books, comics, and shows like Star Wars Resistance or Star Wars Rebels on cable channels is where a lot of the diversity is in Star Wars. And yes, there are free things to enjoy in fandom like fanfiction, fanart, and creator discussions on platforms like YouTube. But it’s important for kids to have access to shows in Star Wars like this where the leads are a black man and a female droid. Where they can see kids from various backgrounds working together in a fantastical setting. This is so important, and it’s such a smart move to put it on YouTube over Disney+. It takes away that financial barrier that can sometimes hold people back from experiencing a galaxy far, far away.

 

There are things about Jedi Temple Challenge that don’t work for me, but that’s okay. I am an adult watching a children’s game show. AD-3’s jokes don’t always land with me. But they would make my Star Wars loving nephews crack up. They would love her quips so much. There has to be an understanding that not all Star Wars is written for the adults in the rooms. It’s so important that children have their own Star Wars as well. They need shows like Jedi Temple Challenge and Forces of Destinies. Then they can grow up into the more mature titles like The Mandalorian. There is nothing wrong with a children’s Star Wars show with jokes written for children. It’s not the end of my fandom love of Star Wars if it’s not 100% written for me.

I would also love to see LX-R5 do a little more. Again, I’m judging from two episodes. There could be more of him in the future. But for the moment, LX-R5 is just kind of there.

 

I really love Jedi Temple Challenge so far. I can’t wait to see where it goes and how it grows. I’m so jealous of these kids getting to compete for their Jedi robes and lightsabers. I would love to try the course myself just to escape from the world for half an hour.

The first two episodes are currently up on Star Wars Kids YouTube page for your enjoyment. Go watch some good old fashion fun Star Wars.

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