Star Wars was a thirteen-part (6½ hour) expanded radio adaptation of the original Star Wars film, produced in 1981 and broadcast by National Public Radio as part of NPR Playhouse. It was adapted by Brian Daley and directed by John Madden. The audio dramatizations were published by HighBridge Audio.
It is the first series in an expanded radio dramatization of the original Star Wars trilogy. Following its success, two more radio dramatizations were produced of The Empire Strikes Back (1983) and Return of the Jedi (1996).
The series was made with the full co-operation of George Lucas, who donated the rights and allowed the use of sound effects and music from the films. They are part of Star Wars canon within its Expanded Universe.
The medium of radio has a less demanding narrative pace than cinema, allowing script writer Brian Daley more freedom to expand the characters and explore the situations leading up to the first film. The first thirteen-episode drama thus includes lengthy scenes set in Anchorhead, on Alderaan, on Ralltiir, and on board the Tantive IV.
The series fleshes out the storyline by adding a great deal of back story that had probably been created but not used by Lucas. For instance, there is a Skyhopper race between Luke Skywalker and his friends that takes place days or weeks before the events of the movie.
The advertising slogan of the radio series was "You may think you've seen the movie; wait 'til you hear it!". One of the strengths of radio is that the listener is called upon to use their imagination and create their own visuals mentally. The drama succeeds by the auditory associations with the movies, drawing on the subliminal power of John Williams's incidental music, Ben Burtt's sound design, and of course the voices of the leading actors from the cinema screen, Mark Hamill, and Anthony Daniels.
Director John Madden said, "Anyone who's ever listened to radio drama will testify to the fact that a play you hear will (remain) in your mind - twelve years later you'll remember it vividly. And the reason you'll remember it vividly is because you've done the work... it lives in your imagination."
Many of the actors involved in the movie were unavailable to reprise their roles (Harrison Ford, for instance, was committed to the first Indiana Jones movie), but Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels returned to reprise Luke Skywalker and C-3PO respectively.
- Luke Skywalker .... Mark Hamill
- Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi .... Bernard Behrens
- See Threepio (C-3PO) .... Anthony Daniels
- Han Solo .... Perry King
- Princess Leia Organa .... Ann Sachs
- Grand Moff Tarkin .... Keene Curtis
- Lord Darth Vader .... Brock Peters
- Admiral Motti .... David Clennon
- Biggs .... Kale Brown
- Deak .... David Paymer
- Camie .... Stephanie Steele
- Fixer .... Adam Arkin
- Heater .... Joel Brooks
- Customer #2 .... Phillip Kellard
- Lord Tion .... John Considine
- Prestor (Bail Organa) .... Stephen Elliot
- Captain Antilles .... David Ackroyd
- General Dodonna .... James Blendick
- Rebel .... John Dukakis
- Wedge Antilles .... Meshach Taylor
- Narrator .... Ken Hiller
- 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
Synopsis of Expanded Universe scenes
The whole of episode 1 is set on Tatooine, and fills in much of the back story of Luke's difficult relationships with his Anchorhead friends. Rising to the challenge of a Skyhopper race against the cocky Fixer, Luke wins the race and the respect of his peers. When Luke spots the capture of the Tantive IV by the Devastator in the Tatooine sky, his friends ridicule him. These scenes tie in closely with the cut Anchorhead scenes from the first Star Wars film, portraying a convincing picture of teenage life on a desert planet. Luke's relationship with Biggs is explored with emotion as they face the pain of parting.
Episode 2In episode 2 Princess Leia Organa and Captain Antilles are detained by the scheming Lord Tion on Ralltiir. While on the planet, evidence of Imperial atrocities influences Leia to take a stand against the Empire. She also makes contact with a Rebel spy who reveals intelligence about a secret Imperial project, codenamed "Death Star". Tion visits Leia and her father, Bail Organa, on the pacifist world of Alderaan, but tensions rise between Leia and Tion, and in her anger, Leia lets slip the codename, thus revealing her Rebel associations. Tion attempts to arrest Leia, but during a struggle he is accidentally shot.
Realizing the seriousness of the situation Bail Organa resolves to help the Rebellion, and plans to take the Tantive IV on an undercover mission to Toprawa to intercept the Death Star plans from the Rebels (see Havet Storm). Leia persuades her father to allow her to run this mission with Captain Antilles. Realizing that the Galaxy is facing a terrible threat, he commissions her also to locate the exiled Jedi Knight, General Obi-Wan Kenobi, and ask him to resume the fight against the Empire.
The Tantive IV emerges from hyperspace over the planet Toprawa and receives the transmission of the secret Death Star plans. The ship is pursued by the Imperial Cruiser Devastator through hyperspace to Tatooine. Before Leia can locate General Kenobi, the Tantive IV is attacked and boarded. Desperate to get the data tapes (sic) off the ship, Leia resorts to loading the data into a droid - Artoo Detoo - instructing him to take an escape pod down to Tatooine and bring the Death Star plans to General Kenobi.
The continuing story
At this point, the drama reaches the point where the first Star Wars film, A New Hope, begins. While the dialogue is more verbally detailed for the radio medium, the story now more or less adheres to the original film narrative. Some notable additional scenes or interpretations that expand the story are:
In episode 6, C-3PO and R2-D2 hide in a Mos Eisley used droid lot to avoid Imperial stormtroopers. They evade capture, but the owner kicks them off his property shortly after. In episode 7, again trying to evade stormtroopers, Artoo knocks on a Mos Eisley resident's door. Threepio tells the owner that he and Artoo are members of the Skywalker Technical Maintenance Service, and that the droids are canvassing the area as a part of a publicity campaign. When the owner steps out, Threepio and Artoo hide inside the shop and lock the door (the portion of this scene depicted in the film).
In episode 8 Princess Leia is held aboard the Star Destroyer Devastator on approach to the Death Star. In a chilling exchange, Darth Vader invites Leia to gaze on the Death Star through the viewing portal of the ship, offering her one last chance to reveal her Rebel connections before she is tortured aboard the Death Star. Nevertheless, Vader displays a certain respect for his royal prisoner, ordering his captain to treat her courteously.
Later, aboard the Death Star, Vader is heard torturing the Princess, using hypnotic drugs to make her talk (this is, essentially, an extension of the "torture droid" scene from the movie, detailing what happens after the door closes). His interrogation fails and he summons a medic to tend to Leia prior to further questioning.
In a private conversation, Admiral Motti suggests to Grand Moff Tarkin that he should consider using his command of the ultimate weapon to overthrow the Emperor. Outwardly, Tarkin rebuffs Motti, but it is also clear that the idea had previously crossed his mind as well.
In episode 11, while separated from Han Solo and Chewbacca on the Death Star, Luke and Leia hide from stormtroopers in a utility compartment. Leia asks Luke about how he got involved in the story, and Luke expresses his condolences to Leia for the destruction of Alderaan. They are soon discovered and the action leads to the chasm "swing across" scene from the film.
Episode 12 contains extended exchanges between the principal characters concerning Han Solo's decision to depart immediately. Solo threatens and harries Commander Willard for his promised payment, demanding the precious metals that he knows would be needed for the Rebel combat operation. Luke later visits Solo and attempts at length to change his mind, confiding in Solo his decision to volunteer as a pilot for the Rebel assault on the Death Star.
Leaving Leia to pacify an enraged Han, Luke joins Biggs Darklighter, who tests his flying abilities using a flight simulator. It is revealed by Commander Willard that Luke was only "killed" twice, despite Biggs pitting him against "the virtual equivalent of the entire Imperial Starfleet". (Whether Willard was actually exaggerating or not is left for the listener to determine, though regardless Luke does well enough that the Rebels are willing to put him into a starfighter for the assault.)
Other broadcasts and releases
- NPR's reruns of the first series had some small timing cuts. Perhaps the most telling of these involves some dialogue in which Leia tells her father about a walk she took in the countryside on Alderaan, which makes the planet's eventual fate seem more of a personal tragedy to her.
- BBC Radio 1 broadcast the series in the UK, with a key scene in the final episode clumsily cut for timing.
- All three series were released on tape and CD in the US, in a version retaining NPR's cuts.
- The Collector's Limited Edition release restored dialogue removed in the cuts made by NPR.
- The script of the first episode, "A Wind to Shake the Stars," including an interview with scriptwriter Brian Daley, was later published in Star Wars Galaxy 2.
- Star Wars: Empire: Princess... Warrior expands on events from the radio drama