- "It's always been kids who have been my favorite Star Wars fans and to be able to give back to the kids is something special."
- ―Ahmed Best describing the show's target audience
Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge is a children's game show currently developed by Lucasfilm. It debuted on the Star Wars Kids website and YouTube channel on June 10, 2020. The series puts its young contestants through a series of obstacles as part of a Jedi training course that tests them on the core Jedi principles of strength, knowledge, and bravery. The show is hosted by Ahmed Best, who plays the character of Jedi Master Kelleran Beq, the mentor of the contestants. Best is joined by his droid companion, AD-3, voiced by Mary Holland.
- "I think what's the most important about the representation of someone like Kelleran Beq as far as being a person of color and the leader of this Temple—kind of like the Dean of Jedi—is it breaks down what's possible. It breaks down what you can do, and creates just a brand new world of possibilities out there."
- ―Ahmed Best describing his character Jedi Master Kelleran Beq
Jedi Temple Challenge was the brainchild of Lucasfilm employees Steve Blank, Scott Bromley, and Mike Capoferri. During an interview on The Star Wars Show, co-star Ahmed Best confirmed that Blank, Bromley, and Capoferri had given him considerable flexibility in developing the main character Jedi Master Kelleran Beq including his history, mannerisms, and lightsaber color. Best confirmed that Master Beq was related to Achk Med-Beq, whom Best had portrayed during a brief cameo appearance in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones.
Master Beq's droid companion AD-3 was voiced by co-star Mary Holland, with Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre veteran, artist and droid builder Gordon Tarpley providing the character's live performance. Holland described her character's main role as "providing them with someone who isn't so in awe of what they do that they lose all sense of reality and aren't able to consider other perspectives." Best added that AD-3's role was to serve as a friend to Master Beq that could be honest with him "without having any reverential fear or shyness."
- "Star Wars sets are very specific places unlike any other set you ever step onto. Immediately we all tried to figure out where we were. This could be a moon like Endor! And then the second round is a ship... we immediately try to start piercing the stories of where in the timeline you are, where in the universe you are, and it's one of those things where it just creates its own story as your're standing there."
- ―Ahmed Best describing the sets for Jedi Temple Challenge
According to The Star Wars Show host Anthony Carboni and Lucasfilm writer Kristin Baver, Jedi Temple Challenge was modeled after the "big-production" kids' game shows of the 1980s and 1990s. The series was filmed on a Los Angeles sound stage. Each episode consisted of three rounds, with participants progressing through several obstacle courses in a faux forest to obtain lightsaber parts, undergoing a quiz in a starship set, and enduring through a second set of obstacle courses to obtain kyber crystals from a Jedi Temple.
The set for the Jedi spaceship Athylia was created by production designer Ryan Brett Puckett. Puckett incorporated buttons and switches from various Star Wars ship sets including the hyperspace levers from the Millennium Falcon set used during the production of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Best observed that the show's sets were designed to the same level of attention as Star Wars movie sets. Holland also stated that the show's production design was designed to make the cast feel as though they were stepping onto another planet.
Master Beq's droid companions, the protocol droid AD-3 and the astromech droid LX-R5, were operated by Michael McMaster and Gordon Tarpley respectively. Tarpley provided AD-3's live performance while Holland provided the droid's live vocals and commentary from a control room in the sound stage. Tarpley and Holland work together to synchronize the former's live-action performance with the latter's voice work. The short stories told by AD-3 in each episode were written by the author Cavan Scott, who incorporated characters from the YouTube series The Star Wars Show including mouse droid CH-33Z and Kevin the Ewok.
Sam Witwer, who had previously voiced Maul in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, also voiced a dark-side voice that tempted participants in the Jedi Temple round. According to sound editor David W. Collins, Witwer's dark-side voice was designed to move around in both "stereo and surround sound to convey his non-corporeal, spirit-like nature, and make him sound elsewhere, elusive."
The Padawans' outfits were based on Jedi Apprentice Nedriss Narr's costume, a character from the Disneyland stage show Jedi Training - Trials of the Temple. The Padawans' training sabers were also modeled after the Padawans' wooden sabers from The Clone Wars episode "A Test of Strength."
- "When they don't move on, the message is go back to the beginning and train more. It's not that you lost and get out of here. There's a lot more lesson in not moving on than moving on. It's no, you can do this. You just have to jump back and train a bit more. So I really like that message."
- ―Ahmed Best discussing the show's message for children, during an interview with Anthony Carboni on The Star Wars Show
The show's first trailer was released on May 27, 2020 on the Star Wars Kids YouTube channel and The Star Wars Show. Co-hosts Ahmed Best and Mary Holland, who played Master Kelleran Beq and his droid companion AD-3, also promoted the show during an interview with The Star Wars Show host Anthony Carboni. During the interview, Best confirmed that a key message of the show was motivating children to succeed and that failure could provide a lesson for children to take a step back and train until they were ready to move to the next level.
The first two episodes of Jedi Temple Challenge were originally going be released on the Star Wars Kids website and YouTube channel on June 3, 2020. The series consists of ten episodes. However, Best later issued an Instagram post announcing that the series' release had been delayed until June 10 due to the George Floyd protests. The series was also promoted by StarWars.com staff writer Kristin Baver in an article published on June 10.
Reception and accolades
Matt Patches of Polygon described Jedi Temple Challenge as a "dream come true," saying that he "spent every second of it seething and shrieking with joy." Patches likened the series to the Nickelodeon game show Legends of the Hidden Temple.
Matt Fowler of IGN found that the series' incorporation of Jedi lore worked well with its Legends of the Hidden Temple–style concept. While critical of the show's "isolated feel" for distancing the audience from the contest and contestants, he praised the series' soaring score for maintaining a sense of consistency. Fowler praised Ahmed Best's performance as Master Beq, opining that he provided the lion's share of energy and personality throughout the series. Fowler added that Best's interactions with AD-3 helped provide momentum during the show's challenges.
Shah Shahid of the website "Comic Years" praised the chemistry between the two main stars Ahmed Best and Marry Holland, stating that two characters "can toe the line perfectly between providing information about the rules and playful commentary on the action as it happens." Shahid described Jedi Temple Challenge as a "fun and engaging show that sucks you in as you root for your favourites," adding that his children were invested in the fate of the child contestants in the first two episodes of the series. Despite the show's "elimination-style competition," Shahid praised the series for consoling unsuccessful contestants with the message that they could overcome failure with motivation to improve.
Notes and references