Star Wars: The Clone Wars Star Wars: The Clone Wars

You can't keep a bad man down — not even when he's sliced in half with a lightsaber in front of millions of moviegoers! Star Wars: The Clone Wars resurrects one of the franchise's most popular baddies, the Sith apprentice Darth Maul, in the series' two-part season finale, beginning tonight (8/7c, Cartoon Network). George Lucas himself gave the order to bring back the red-and-black horned demon, who was killed by Obi-Wan Kenobi in the 1999 film Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace. But it was up to supervising producer Dave Filoni to make it fly with the fans.

"We had to be ready for a tidal wave of questions and concerns — Is this too much? Have we gone too far? — and bring back Maul in a way that's both exciting and believable," says Filoni, who handed the choice voice gig to Sam Witwer, a hardcore Star Wars fan who is best known as the vampire Aidan on Syfy's Being Human. "I was very confident I could do Darth Maul justice and take him in a deeper direction — but then I started to freak out and lose sleep," Witwer admits. "I knew that if this didn't work the fans would come find me!"

The nightmarish plot (startlingly mature for a kid-approved show) reveals that — spoiler alert! — Maul's torso somehow ended up on the acid-rain, junkyard planet Lotho Minor where he's hiding out at the bottom of an exhaust shaft. "The twist is that Maul is so psychologically tortured and full of hate that the dark side of the Force has given him these hideous spider legs," Witwer reports. "He's a little bit Gollum, a little bit Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. And a whole lotta scary."

This isn't Witwer's first time at the Star Wars rodeo. He previously played the "Son" in the Clone Wars "Mortis" arc last year. He also voiced both Galen Marek and Darth Sidious in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed video games. "Sam is part of the family at this point," says Filoni. "We knew he was able to go to that crazy, wackadoodle place with Darth Maul and be really out there with his emotions. Maul starts out in this story as a rambling, incoherent, crying mess — basically, he's a rabid animal — and Sam gives a powerful performance. People will be surprised to learn that Maul is far more cunning and clever and intelligent than he was portrayed in Phantom Menace where he was seen as a 'Yes, master!' kind of assassin. Don't forget he was trained for years by Darth Sidious. There is a lot of the master in this apprentice."

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