[SPOILERS for those not caught up on Star Wars Rebels ahead.]
Star Wars Celebration 2016 brought with it several exciting reveals about the upcoming third season of the Disney XD animated TV series, Star Wars Rebels. The crew members of the spaceship Ghost will be faced with a number of new threats where Rebels season 3 gets underway; most notably, the fan-favorite Star Wars Legends villain Grand Admiral Thrawn (voiced by Lars Mikkelsen), who is now part of the new official Star Wars canon. In addition, Darth Maul (Sam Witwer) returns in Rebels season 3, after his encounter with the show’s heroes during the Rebels season 2 finale left Kanan (Freddi Prinze Jr.) blind and led Ezra (Taylor Gray) further down a dangerous path: trying to unearth the secrets of the Sith holocron, for his own use.
The Star Wars Rebels season 3 trailer also features an appearance by an intriguing new character that is known as The Bendu. Rebels showrunner Dave Filoni, speaking during the Celebration panel for the show, revealed that this new addition is voiced by none other than Tom Baker: a seasoned actor most famous for playing the fourth incarnation of the time-traveling Doctor on Doctor Who, many years ago.
Filoni praised Baker during the Celebration panel for Star Wars Rebels, mentioning that when he recorded his lines for the TV show “Tom charmed everyone in the room, my wife included.” Bendu comes from George Lucas’ original name for the Jedi Knights in the Star Wars mythology (namely, the Jedi Bendu), though it has since come to have a different meaning within the larger Star Wars franchise’s lore.
Bendu in fact represents a set of beliefs held by the Bendu monks (or, the Order of Dai Bendu) in the Star Wars galaxy – beliefs involving the unification of the galaxy through the Force. During the Rebels season 3 trailer, Baker’s character can likewise be heard saying “Jedi, Sith, the light and the dark. I’m the one in the middle.” You can check out an official screenshot of the Bendu character from Star Wars Rebels, below.
The Bendu appears in the Star Wars Rebels season 3 premiere episode, “Steps Into Shadow”, that was shown to those who attended the show’s panel at Celebration 2016. Here’s IGN‘s impression of the character, from the site’s review of the episode:
Also appearing in the Season 3 premiere is Tom Baker’s character, Bendu, who’s a fascinating new inclusion. As the trailer shows, Bendu seems to be a creature particularly powerful in the Force – almost an Avatar of the Force, representing what’s in between the light and dark sides. Bendu feels like the spiritual successor for the offbeat Mortis storyline on The Clone Wars (which also featured beings who embodied elements of the Force itself) and Baker brings just the right thoughtful, effortlessly confident tone to the character.
As the above image of the Bendu on Rebels illustrates, Kanan seeks the counsel of the character in Rebels season 3; by the look of it, to help with his connection to The Force, now that he has been stripped of his ability to see. Moreover, one of the larger themes that Rebels season 3 appears to explore (with its Ezra/Darth Maul plot thread in particular) is that the dichotomy between the Light and Dark Sides of the Force may not be quite as rigid or clearly-defined as some believe. That’s all the more fitting an idea for Rebels to tackle this season with its storylines and character additions like The Bendu, given how this TV show continues to mature and develop in general (much like its own protagonist, Ezra).
Star Wars Rebels season 3 premieres on Disney XD in fall 2016.