Return of the Jedi is a six-part radio adaptation of Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi, the third of the Star Wars radio dramatizations adapting the original trilogy. The drama was produced by HighBridge Audio, the company that had released the first two series on tape and CD, in association with Tom Voegeli Productions and NPR's L.A. Theatre Works. It was broadcast on National Public Radio in the US over six weeks in late 1996.

The drama came more than a decade after the first two radio series, Star Wars (1981) and The Empire Strikes Back (1983). Federal funding cuts had made it impossible for NPR to produce the third installment of the trilogy, but strong sales for recordings of the first two dramas convinced HighBridge to produce a new radio adaptation.[5] Once again Lucasfilm donated the rights and allowed the use of the film's sound effects and John Williams' musical score. Most of the cast and crew from the first two dramas were able to return, with the notable exception of Star Wars film actors Mark Hamill and Billy Dee Williams, whose roles had to be recast. The script was the final project for veteran Star Wars writer Brian Daley, who died the day that recording wrapped up.[1]

Because the Return of the Jedi audio drama was made thirteen years after the film it was based on, it could incorporate multiple references to new elements from the Expanded Universe. These include a cameo from Mara Jade in her disguise as Arica in Jabba's Palace[6] and references to events from Shadows of the Empire.[7] As with the other radio dramas, Return of the Jedi adds new scenes and dialogue to material adapted from the film.



Creation of the radio version of Return of the Jedi was delayed 13 years due to Congressional cuts in spending for public broadcasting. While NPR did not have funding to produce the drama, high sales for the compact disc and cassette releases of the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back radio dramas convinced executives at Highbridge Audio to take the initiative to produce the drama of Return of the Jedi through their studio instead.[5]

The bulk of the production crew and core cast from the first two dramas were able to return: scriptwriter Brian Daley, director John Madden, and producer Tom Voegeli, as well as Anthony Daniels, Perry King, Ann Sachs, Brock Peters, Paul Hecht, Bernard Behrens, and John Lithgow. Two of the series' three actors from the Star Wars films, however, did not reprise their roles. Joshua Fardon took over as Luke Skywalker and Arye Gross took the role of Lando Calrissian. Ed Begley, Jr. was cast as the voice of Boba Fett, while Ed Asner, speaking only in grunts, guest-starred as Jabba the Hutt.

Brian Daley was ill with pancreatic cancer when work on the drama began, so HighBridge contracted John Whitman to do the inevitable rewriting that would come after the director and cast began working with the script. Whitman had experience writing audio dramas for the Star Wars Expanded Universe, including Dark Empire and Tales of the Jedi. However, when Madden and the actors began their read-throughs of Daley's script, they found that very little rewriting was necessary and that his unaltered script would serve in most cases. Whitman is credited as a co-writer only for the first two episodes. One notable rewrite involved a conversation between Threepio and Boba Fett that provided exposition about Jabba's Palace. These scenes made Fett's character seem excessively friendly, so the bounty hunter was replaced with Timothy Zahn's character Mara Jade, in disguise as the dancer Arica.[1]


Return of the Jedi was recorded at the same pace as its two predecessors: one episode per day, for a total of six rather grueling days. The cast and crew returned to Westlake Audio Studios in Los Angeles, where the first Star Wars drama had been recorded.[1]

Tom Voegeli again realized the sound mixing at his home base in St Paul, Minnesota.[1] He and his team again had access to the sounds and music from the films. The dialogue for Chewbacaca, Artoo, Nien Nunb, and the Ewoks all came from Ben Burtt's sound library and were added to the newly-recorded dialogue in post-production.[1] This includes the songs "Lapti Nek" and "Ewok Celebration," which would be replaced the following year in the Special Edition by "Jedi Rocks" and "Victory Celebration".[8]


NPR broadcast the first episode, "Tatooine Haunts," on November 5, 1996, with subsequent episodes airing weekly on Tuesdays. The finale "Blood of a Jedi" aired on December 10. Some local stations followed different schedules.[3] Before the end of the year, HighBridge released a Collector's Limited Edition of the entire radio trilogy.

The radio drama's original script was published in Return of the Jedi: The National Public Radio Dramatization, also in December 1996. Anthony Daniels stepped in for Brian Daley to write the introduction. Along with Daley's script, the book contains production photos, relevant concept art from the film, and a transcript of the get well message that the cast made for Daley on the last day of recording.[1]


Episode Title Original Airdate
1 "Tatooine Haunts" November 5, 1996[3]
2 "Fast Friends" November 12, 1996[3]
3 "Prophecies and Destinies" November 19, 1996[3]
4 "Pattern and Web" November 26, 1996[3]
5 "So Turns a Galaxy, So Turns a Wheel" December 3, 1996[3]
6 "Blood of a Jedi" December 10, 1996[3]



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