I want to start off this entry with an apology to my grade school friend, Stephanie Brown and any other members of the Phoenix Christian Grade School graduating class of 1981 who attended our graduation party in 1981. I didn’t realize how much of a totally obsessed nut I was back then; a nut who sequestered himself for 30 minutes during the party just to listen to a silly Making of Star Wars For Radio broadcast. It was rude, and disrespectful, but I was a 13 year old Star Wars junkie… I’m truly sorry.
The Star Wars Radio Drama had just wrapped up its 13 episode run the week before with the epic conclusion, Force and Counter Force. Normally the episodes aired locally, Sunday at 12PM on our National Public Radio affiliate, KMCR (now KJZZ). I would get home from church just in time to turn on my dad’s stereo receiver, tune in the station, and get a blank cassette tape ready to record. However, for some reason this special was going to air Friday evening, the night of the graduation party. What was I going to do?
Fortunately my parents had bought me a portable Sanyo radio/cassette player for Christmas (I think the reason I got that present in the first place was my dad was tired of me always using his stereo). I figured I could just take the player with me, tune in like I always do and record the special. No problem…
What I didn’t realize was I was about to do something incredibly stupid. When people saw me walk in with the stereo I think the natural assumption was I was going to be using my stereo to provide music… and I did. I brought my little tan cassette case which held some 30 tapes or so. Now I have to say my musical tastes have always been a bit eclectic, so my selection of music at the time included: Jim Croce, The Doobie Brothers, Christopher Cross, Chicago, Juice Newton, The Oak Ridge Boys (remember… eclectic tastes), Kim Carnes (yeah it was the album with Bette Davis Eyes), a couple of K-Tel albums I had recorded on cassette, and of course my trusty copy of Meco Star Wars. For the first hour or two we played music in the background while people went swimming and ate, but then it was show time…
Looking back on this some 34 years later, I really have to wonder what in the world I was thinking. I announced that I had a show to record; so I switched off the music, turned on KMCR, and subjected my friends, and Stephanie’s family, to 30 minutes of my obsession (I think Stephanie eventually brought out her own stereo, so maybe it wasn’t so bad). Now mind you, this is a show I’m recording, I can listen to it later. But of course being an idiot 13 year old boy I sat transfixed listening to The Making of Star Wars For Radio: A Fable For the Mind’s Eye at a low murmur while my friends continued to have fun. So, to the PCGS Class of 81 I offer this profound apology.
Some of you reading are probably asking themselves, there was a Star Wars Radio Drama? How did I miss this? Where can I hear it?
Simply put, the original Star Wars Radio Drama is nothing short of nearly 6 hours of storytelling perfection. Over the course of 13 episodes Brian Daley, the author of a trio of Han Solo novels from the late 70s, retells the original story of A New Hope, expanding on ideas in the movie and giving the audience a glimpse into the events leading up to the movie.
We are introduced to Luke Skywalker (voiced by Mark Hamill), on Tatooine in the premiere episode, A Wind to Shake the Stars. Through Hamill’s performance and stellar writing we come to understand just how badly Luke wants to escape to the stars. He is surround by friends who really don’t like him, and his future appears to be permanently tied to his uncle’s struggling farm. His one hope for getting off Tatooine is his friend Biggs who is leaving to join up with the Rebellion.
In the outstanding second episode, Points of Origin, we follow Princess Leia Organa on an adventure to deliver medical supplies to Rebels on a planet under siege by the Empire. She is nearly foiled by the evil Lord Darth Vader (voiced brilliantly by actor Brock Peters of To Kill a Mockingbird fame). Over the course of the story we learn about the Organa family’s involvement in the Alliance and their efforts to keep that secret. Leia’s backstory is explored in this episode and in the next installment we learn how Leia got here hands on the Death Star plans. Moments like these give Leia a chance to shine making her a much richer character
Even though the show clocks in at almost six hours, it is never boring and is always engaging. The sound editing is outstanding, and the performances are brilliant. I especially loved Perry King’s (of the 80s show Riptide) performance as Han Solo, a role he was up for in the original film. Also on board is Anthony Daniels reprising his role as C-3PO , and veteran actor, Keene Curtis, as the evil Grand Moff Tarkin.
The Star Wars Radio Drama is engaging theater for the mind and draws the audience into a story that is both familiar and new. That’s what attracted me to the show so much; it was an inventive way to retell a story that was dear to me. It gave me a better sense of who Luke, Han, and Leia were, and a greater appreciation for the story George Lucas had crafted. The show gets my highest recommendation
In closing, to coin a term used by the show’s director: “You may think you’ve seen the movie, wait til you hear it.”
You can buy the original Star Wars Radio Drama (including that Making of special I just HAD to record) here:
May the Force Be With You!