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By Thomas Wheeler

One of the cool things the Star Wars Clone Wars series -- and toy line -- has allowed for is the vast expansion of individual clone characters, as well as Clone Trooper divisions, present in the Star Wars universe. And for someone such as myself, who is always happy to add a new Clone Trooper or two to my collection.

Which brings us a new Clone Trooper with a very distinct specialty. He is designated as a "Riot Control Clone Trooper". It's an interesting designation. Not exactly what one would expect on the battlefield, but then somebody's got to keep the peace on the homeworlds while the rest of the army is off in battle.

It occurred to me that while I've been reviewing quite a number of Clone Troopers here and there as I have added them to my collection, it's been a while since I've actually addressed the Clone Wars themselves. While I suspect if you're reading this review, you probably know a fair bit about them already, it also occurred to me that someone might be reading this review out of a general curiosity about the concept and some of the characters involved, so on this occasion, I'd like to present a general summary of the Clone Wars themselves, as they pertain to the Star Wars universe, and the CGI animated series based upon them.

The beginnings of the Clone Wars are first portrayed in the 1999 film "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" as the Invasion of Theed and the Battle of Naboo. However, the real tension begins with the Separatist Crisis, a series of debates in the Galactic Republic that are referred to in "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones", and began about two years prior to the start of that film. By the beginning of Attack of the Clones, many star systems have seceded and left the Republic. The tension caused by this secession eventually leads to the outbreak of war.

The war has different causes: The Republic's Chancellor Palpatine tells his people that the war began because of several different reasons such as the years of separation by the outer rim territories, as well as the separatists' capture of the Jedi and financing of rebellions by radical states within the Republic. While these are all true, Palpatine had covertly influenced and created these events with assistance from his secret apprentices.

The conflicts leading up to the Clone Wars begin 22 years before the events of A New Hope and end 19 years before it. During the film, The Phantom Menace, The Trade Federation, a major galactic trade organization under the control of the Neimoidians, blockades the small planet Naboo and demands the capitulation of the world by its queen, Padmé Amidala, who refuses their demands and requests help from the Galactic Republic, the main governing body of the galaxy. The Republic responds by sending two Jedi ambassadors, Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi, to oversee the situation and negotiate with the Trade Federation. The Federation, wary of the Jedi and secretly taking orders from Darth Sidious, attempts to murder the Jedi, who escape to Naboo just as the Federation begins a full-scale invasion. Following a brief occupation, the Trade Federation is defeated by an alliance of the Naboo Royal Guard and the indigenous Gungan Tribes, with the help of the Jedi, and the Viceroy is forced to surrender and deactivate his droid armies.

Following these events, Jedi Master Dooku resigns from the Jedi Order and returns to his homeworld of Serenno, taking on his hereditary title of Count. However, the Jedi Council is unaware that Dooku has fallen under the control of Sith master Darth Sidious, who begins to organize a separatist coalition of planets and civilizations, with the intention of seceding from the Republic. During this time, the Separatists begin forming their own armies, which primarily consist of battle droids constructed by the Trade Federation and its allies.

Ten years later, following the attempted assassination of Senator Padmé Amidala, the investigation by Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker puts them on the trail of Jango Fett, an interstellar bounty hunter. Tracking him to the world of Kamino, Obi-Wan discovers that the Kaminoans have used samples of Fett's DNA to clone a vast army of soldiers, referred to as Clone Troopers. The order for the soldiers had been submitted to the Kaminoans by Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas.

Meanwhile, the Republic faces internal opposition as several thousand worlds publicly secede from the Galactic Republic and form the Confederacy of Independent Systems, or CIS. The Republic Senate deliberates passing the Military Creation Act, which calls for the formation of an army to serve the Republic to keep order across Republic Star Systems and prevent further secession. As deliberations stall, Shadow Senator for Naboo Jar Jar Binks proposes (after suggestion from Chancellor Palpatine) that the Chancellor be granted emergency powers in order to resolve the issue of the Clone Army that is awaiting approval on Kamino, and to take decisive action to put down the rebellion. This is greeted by applause from the majority of the Senate Chamber, and Chancellor Palpatine describes it as a "purely temporary measure".

The Clone Army of the Republic first sees battle engaging the Separatist forces on Geonosis, rescuing a group of Jedi trapped by Count Dooku's droids. The Republic's forces in this engagement are commanded by Master Yoda. The Battle of Geonosis marks the end of Attack of the Clones and the beginning of the Clone Wars.

The animated series debuted on Cartoon Network on October 3, 2008. Star Wars creator George Lucas says "there will be at least 100 episodes produced [about five seasons]".

Star Wars: The Clone Wars became most-watched series premiere in Cartoon Network history. The series averaged 3 million total viewers in its debut, according to Nielsen Media Research. Cartoon Network said the Star Wars spin off ranked as the number one channel among all major animated networks in the time slot among total viewers (the largest in the demographic for any premiere telecast of an original cartoon series).

On July 23, 2010 at the San Diego ComiCon; Craig Glenday, editor of the Guinness World Records, presented Star Wars: The Clone Wars supervising director Dave Filoni, CG supervisor Joel Aron and lead designer Kilian Plunkett a certificate proclaiming the cartoon series "the highest rated sci-fi animation currently on television".

An impressive achievement, and certainly more seasons to look forward to. Of course, the series has its major protagonists -- Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi -- and its antagonists -- Count Dooku, General Grievous, etc., but I've been very pleased to see the increase in the Grand Army of the Republic, the Clones. I just think they're very cool.

And now we have this Riot Control Clone Trooper. The back of the package for him reads: A clone trooper patrols the streets of Coruscant. The trooper is equipped with a blaster, riot shield and enforcement baton to help him subdue troublemakers. With his fellow troopers, he keeps order in the busy cityscapes that cater to everyone from diplomats to criminals. The troopers are always alert and on guard for the threat of trouble.

Okay, that's not bad, and pretty much what one would expect from any Riot Control force. But how do they figure as Clones, and within the animated series? For that information, I turned to the excellent online site known as "Wookieepedia" for further details.

It reads: Riot Clone Troopers were clone troopers of the Coruscant Guard, and were utilized on the galactic capital of Coruscant to keep peace on the Republic's home front during the Clone Wars. The riot troopers were special units of the Coruscant Guard, that were given special training in controlling crowds with the use of nonlethal weapons. Riot trooper squads were always ready for deployment, stationed in barracks spread across Galactic City. They also assisted the Coruscant Security Force when needed, supplying backup or helping in the hunt for dangerous fugitives.

During the Clone Wars, some riot troopers were deployed in the search for Duchess Saline Kryze, after she was falsely believed to have killed Davu Golec.

And that, at least explains which episode these particular troopers would have been notable in, "The Duchess of Mandalore".

I was a little disappointed that I couldn't find out more about these troopers, but apparently there wasn't that much more to find out. Hopefully we haven't seen the last of the Riot Control Clones in the series. Meanwhile, I welcome their presence in the action figure line, certainly.

So, how's the figure? Extremely cool. The figure is more or less a basic Clone Trooper, with a certain notable variance -- a brim over the visor. Some Clone Troopers have this feature, but not many, and more often than not, they're either notable for being officers, or some other highly-ranked specialty. That these Riot Control Clones have this feature speaks well of them.

Apart from this, the figure is fairly straightforward, dressed in the standard white armor of a Clone Trooper. But it's the markings that really make the difference here. The Riot Control Clone has dark red markings, and they're definitely more ornate than usual. Particularly notable is the symbol of the Republic, emblazoned on the chest of the Clone Trooper, and tapering down to the belt. The dark red color also appears around the visor, tapering to the chin of the helmet, on the fin over the helmet, in outlines on the sides of the helmet, as well as outlining the shoulder armor, with broad stripes down the arms, as well as bits of dark red trim on the knees, and at the base of the legs.

I think it's notable that the patterning has been done very neatly, with no evidence of wear and tear, and no weathering on the figure. Actually, one of the reasons I sort of shifted into the Clone Wars line, and away a bit from the movie-based Star Wars action figure line, was that the figures in the movie-based line were being given way too much weathering and battle damage. I understand these are soldiers, that they're going to take a beating on the battlefields, but I'd just as soon they not look it fresh out of the package. The Clone Wars line has a far lower percentage of figures thus affected. That's not to say that the Clone Troopers in the animated series don't see battle or don't show the effects of it -- certainly they do. And the occasional figure comes along who's been deliberately scuffed around to one degree or another. But as a general rule, they're neater, and I appreciate that.

One gets the impression that while the Riot Control Clone Troopers are hardly ceremonial, neither are they getting blasted around a battlefield every day. They can keep their armor, and the painted trim on it, better maintained. And certainly the paintwork on the action figure is reflective of this, as it's very neatly done.

Additional colors of course include the visible areas of the black "undersuit", as well as the brim over the visor, which is painted in dark grey, and the visor itself, which oddly enough is also dark gray, rather than the traditional black. It's an unusual variance, one for which I have no real explanation.

The body used for the Riot Control Clone Trooper is certainly the preferable one. There are a couple of body sets for Clone Troopers, and of the two most prominent ones, this is the best one. The articulation is excellent. The Riot Control Clone Trooper is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees (including a swivel), and ankles.

Here's the thing. The other set of body molds has three major differences. First of all, it's poseable at the waist, not the mid-torso. Now, usually, I prefer waist articulation. But the armor design of the Clone Troopers allows for the mid-torso articulation to look good, and oddly enough, it actually looks better. Secondly, the other set of body molds doesn't have ankle articulation. This can present problems with standing the figure well. Thirdly, the figure has a much tighter "ratcheting" effect in place on its articulation points, which tends to limit posing.

Additionally, there are these odd little "cuts" in the upper arms and upper legs, into which the elbow pads and knee pads fit, and the end result of all of this is a Clone Trooper that looks somehow more "rigid" than the other one, honestly isn't as poseable, and frankly just doesn't look as good. I'm willing to buy Clones in this other format if it's the only way to get a certain individual or trooper specialty, but I can't say that I'm especially pleased to see it when it turns up. If Hasbro ever decided to make all of their Clone Troopers from the same set of body molds that were used for the Riot Control Clone Trooper, I'd be perfectly happy with that.

Any criticisms? Just one -- some of the black "undersuit" paint could be a little neater. Some of it, especially around the legs, is clearly hand painted. Now, I've seen far worse examples in the past. But I really believe that it would be worth the time and expense to create some proper paint stencils at this point. Certainly this set of molds sees abundant enough use on a multitude of figures.

The Riot Control Clone Trooper comes with some interesting hardware. Most notably is something that any riot patrol officer on the face of the planet would recognize as being essential equipment -- a large shield. The shield is close to three inches in length and about 1-1/4" wide at its widest point. Is is a dark translucent color, with a red frame around it, and a red emblem in the center representing the Galactic Republic, similar to the one on the armor of the Trooper.

Here we see a bit of wear and tear, as the emblem on the shield does have a few intentional nicks and missing bits. But hey, better the shield than the trooper. You consider what an actual riot on Coruscant would be like, with all of those various alien races, and who knows what they might be throwing at you or what's in it? Some of their drinks alone could be pretty dangerous.

The Riot Control Clone Trooper also comes with the aforementioned enforcement baton. This is a small, silver-gray piece, about 1-3/4" in length, with a handle at one end and some high-tech detailing at the other that makes me wonder if maybe this thing has properties similar to the average electrical cattle prod. It's small and slender enough by my estimation to fit into the category of "easily lost", so if you're not displaying it with the figure, I recommend a Ziploc Bag for it.

And just in case things get really nasty, the Riot Control Clone Trooper also comes with a standard blaster. I really wonder, given the number and variety of Clones that have come with this singular piece of hardware, just how many of these things have been made... There's got to be some countries with smaller arsenals.

One additional, somewhat critical note, and this mostly pertains to packaging. I am aware that it's the convention these days to pose figures fairly dramatically in their packages. It makes them more visually appealing or some such. And I also know that it's important, when displaying a figure in his package with his accessories, to make sure that he's able to hold onto his accessories throughout the various shipping procedures until he arrives at his destination store and can be put up on display for purchase.

And I am aware that it's customary to use the moderately annoying transparent rubber bands in order to achieve this objective. That having been said, I think a certain amount of caution needs to be exercised to see to it that the toy isn't damaged in the process! The left hand of my Riot Control Clone Trooper -- in other words, the hand that was holding the baton -- has some severely crimped fingers at the base, and it's strictly because a rubber band was wrapped around his knuckles to enable him to hold the baton so tightly that it actually deformed the plastic. Will it work itself out over time? I honestly don't know. Right now, it's almost painful to look at. I keep thinking about what my hand would feel like to have that done to it. I understand the need for package restraints. But perhaps some restraint needs to be shown. This is not a criticism of the figure. It's a concern over a certain packaging procedure.

The Riot Control Clone Trooper also comes with a display base, as well as a Card and a plastic die to enable him to participate in the Galactic Battle Game, for those so inclined.

One other note. I don't know if this has been speculated on, but I can't help but wonder if these red-trimmed Riot Control Clone Troopers might be the predecessors of the red-trimmed Shock Troopers that we saw in Star Wars Episode III. The markings are different, and for that matter so is the shade of red used -- this Riot Control Clone has a distinctly darker red -- but it's a passing thought that I didn't want to let pass without mentioning it.

So, what's my final word? I'm always pleased to welcome a new Clone Trooper into my collection, and as such, I am certainly pleased to welcome the Riot Control Clone Trooper. His division might not have seen that much action in the Clone Wars series so far, but he's an interesting and distinctive Clone Trooper that certainly has an unusual specialty. He's more civilian enforcement than battlefield soldier. He's an interesting-looking Clone Trooper with some cool equipment, and if you're enjoying the Clone Wars concept, and perhaps are doing a bit of army-building, then you'll certainly want to add him to your collection. I'm very glad that I did.

The RIOT CONTROL CLONE TROOPER from the STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS collection definitely has my highest recommendation!