“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there came a time of revolution, when rebels united to challenge a tyrannical empire.”
This week I took time to relax and reawaken my nostalgic Star Wars memories in celebration of the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Star Wars National Public Radio Drama.
As a kid growing up in the late 1970s or early 80s, life was vastly different from the world I know now. Like seriously different. Back then, my family had only five channels on television to chose from, and if I wanted to see my favorite film, I had to wait until it aired on CBS, ABC, or NBC. Television was the only way I could watch movies because my family couldn’t afford an expensive VHS or Beta player. But instead of waiting around for my favorite film to air on television or released on tape, I spent most of the time playing with toys, reading books and comics. For me, Star Wars was my favorite choice to pass the time. After all, it had lightsabers, comic relief droids, space ships, a kick-ass princess, a scoundrel, a hero, a walking carpet, and of course the greatest villain ever. Then in early 1981, my mother told me the news that was music to my ears. As she read the morning newspaper (Minneapolis Tribune) during breakfast, she said that Star Wars would be on the radio. I quickly looked at her and uttered these words, “Seriously, mom, how is Star Wars going to be on the radio? She said, listen, and you’ll understand. Years later, I finally understood what my mother was trying to say. You see, she grew up in a time when a cast of characters would react as a narrator weaved a tale of adventure, mystery, or science fiction on old radio shows. So one evening, I turned on my small bedside radio and listened to something that I’ll never forget today. I tuned into the Star Wars National Public Radio Drama. I quickly closed my eyes and visually imagined what I was listening to. It was something surreal. In all reality, all I remember was falling asleep, but I was young, and my radio often put me to sleep.
Of course, the Star Wars (NPR) Playhouse Radio Drama, written and adapted by Brian Daley, was an instant success. The result was an enjoyable and very worthwhile experience that made the film come alive, despite the lack of the film’s landmark visuals. It was not just some cheesy adaptation that someone put together, hoping for the best. No, the radio play, at least in my humble opinion, was a masterpiece. The Sound design led by Tom Voegeli, son of the legendary Don Voegeli, used bits and sound effects from the Lucasfilm archives. John Williams’ majestic score was used almost to a better advantage here than in the actual movie. Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Anthony Daniels (See Threepio) voices made the drama feel like the Star Wars we all know and love. Although, not everyone could come back for the Star Wars Radio Drama. Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, and Princess Leia were all voiced by different actors. These actors did a fantastic job, giving their emotional takes on the characters without coming even close to betraying who those characters are.
I have seen the original Star Wars film on video more times than I can count. Much to my pleasant surprise, I found the radio drama far more interesting than the movie itself. While it starts a little slow, the adaptation was notable for including a back story and additional scenes not used for the film release. The scenes help flesh out a galaxy far, far away providing more details about certain characters. They’re not crucial to the overall experience, but they do bring a lot of helpful tidbits. You get to meet Luke’s friends at Toshi Station. He is also allowed to grieve his family’s loss (Uncle Owen, Aunt Beru). Obi-Wan gets more training time with Luke, and his sacrifice receives more attention. There’s even an entire episode dedicated to Princess Leia’s backstory. But it doesn’t end there. There’s a scene where they explain why Han and Luke put on those headsets during the initial TIE fighter battle. Why Obi-Wan felt so comfortable choosing Han Solo and Chewbacca? Why the Rebel Alliance trust a young boy like Luke to fight against the death star? What the heck was Han Solo loading into his ship as he left the rebel base? This fantastic Star Wars Radio Drama adds much more depth to a classic story that will stand the test of time.
- A Wind to Shake the Stars
- Points of Origin
- Black Knight, White Princess and Pawns
- While Giants Mark Time
- Jedi That Was, Jedi To Be
- The Millennium Falcon Deal
- The Han Solo Solution
- Death Star’s Transit
- Rogues, Rebels and Robots
- The Luke Skywalker Initiative
- The Jedi Nexus
- The Case for Rebellion
- Force and Counter Force
I highly recommend this presentation. You can listen to the Star Wars: The Original Radio Drama here. It has also been released for purchase on cassette tape and compact disc. The Empire Strikes Back, and Return Of The Jedi radio drama adaptations are also available as well.
May the Force be with you….