NPR Star Wars Radio Series promotional poster

An expanded radio dramatization of the original Star Wars trilogy was produced in 1981, 1983, and 1996. The first two radio series, based on Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, were produced and broadcast by National Public Radio as part of NPR Playhouse. A dramatization of Return of the Jedi was produced by most of the same team and also broadcast on NPR. Later all three dramatizations were published by HighBridge Audio.

The radio serials were made with the full co-operation of George Lucas, who for one dollar each sold the rights to KUSC-FM, the public radio affiliate at his alma mater, the University of Southern California. Lucas also allowed the use of original sound effects and music from the films.

The adaptations for radio are part of Star Wars canon within its Expanded Universe. National Public Radio has no plans to produce radio dramatizations of any other Star Wars films.

Star Wars[edit | edit source]

Star Wars is a 13-part (6½ hour) radio serial first broadcast on National Public Radio in 1981. It was adapted by Brian Daley from the original film, and directed by John Madden, with music by John Williams and sound design for Lucasfilm by Ben Burtt.

The series fleshes out the storyline by adding a great deal of backstory that had probably been created but not used by Lucas. Examples include: Princess Leia obtaining the Death Star schematics and her initial encounter with Darth Vader; Luke Skywalker using his binoculars to observe the movie's opening battle and trying to convince his friends at Tosche Station of what he saw; the skyhopper race that results in Luke's vehicle being damaged (seen in the movie in the background of his Tatooine garage); and Vader's interrogation of Princess Leia (a controversial scene for its intensity).

The episodes were entitled:

  1. "A Wind To Shake The Stars"
  2. "Points Of Origin"
  3. "Black Knight, White Princess, And Pawns"
  4. "While Giants Mark Time"
  5. "Jedi That Was, Jedi To Be"
  6. "The Millennium Falcon Deal"
  7. "The Han Solo Solution"
  8. "Death Star's Transit"
  9. "Rogues, Rebels And Robots"
  10. "The Luke Skywalker Initiative"
  11. "The Jedi Nexus"
  12. "The Case For Rebellion"
  13. "Force And Counter Force"

Cast[edit | edit source]

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. Two of the actors, Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels, returned to reprise their roles as Luke Skywalker and C-3PO respectively.

The supporting cast included James Blendick, Clyde Burton, Bruce French, David Alan Grier, Jerry Hardin, John Harkins, Meshach Taylor, Marc Vahanian, John Welsh, and Kent Williams.

The Empire Strikes Back[edit | edit source]

The success of the first series led to a 10-part, five-hour series based on The Empire Strikes Back, again written by Daley and directed by Madden.

Like the preceding series, The Empire Strikes Back expanded its story by incorporating new scenes that did not affect existing continuity. Examples include an Imperial attack on a Rebel patrol (set before the film's opening scene) and a tense conversation between Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, stranded in the Hoth wastelands awaiting rescue.

One of the unusual promotions that National Public Radio did for the radio serial was to get Craig Claiborne to create his version of Yoda's rootleaf stew recipe, which the Jedi Master served Luke in the hut on Dagobah. The recipe ran in magazines and newspapers across the country.

The Empire Strikes Back debuted on NPR on February 14, 1983.

The episodes were titled:

  1. "Freedom's Winter"
  2. "The Coming Storm"
  3. "A Question Of Survival"
  4. "Fire And Ice"
  5. "The Millennium Falcon Pursuit"
  6. "Way Of The Jedi"
  7. "New Allies, New Enemy"
  8. "Dark Lord's Fury"
  9. "Gambler's Choice"
  10. "The Clash Of Lightsabers"

Cast[edit | edit source]

Billy Dee Williams reprised Lando Calrissian, and John Lithgow played Yoda; at the time Madden was directing Lithgow in the play Beyond Therapy.

The supporting cast again included David Alan Grier and also included Sam McMurray, Steven Markle, Stephen D. Newman, John Pielmeier, Geoffrey Pierson, Gary Tacon, and Jerry Zaks.

Return of the Jedi[edit | edit source]

NPR's plans for a third radio serial (which would be based on Return of the Jedi) were put on hold when federal funding for NPR was dramatically reduced after the election of Ronald Reagan. It was not until 1996 that a six-part adaptation was made by HighBridge Audio, the company that had released the first two series on tape and CD.

Like the preceding series, Return of the Jedi expanded its story by incorporating new scenes that did not affect existing continuity. Examples include Luke Skywalker constructing his new lightsaber and C-3PO conversing with Mara Jade in the palace of Jabba the Hutt.

Scriptwriter Brian Daley died before the series was produced, so "additional material" was contributed by John Whitman, who introduced changes required for continuity with the now-planned prequel trilogy, as well as any changes identified by the director and cast.

The episodes were titled:

  1. "Tatooine Haunts"
  2. "Fast Friends"
  3. "Prophecies And Destinies"
  4. "Pattern And Web"
  5. "So Turns A Galaxy, So Turns A Wheel"
  6. "Blood Of A Jedi"

Cast[edit | edit source]

The adaptation used many of the original radio cast, though Joshua Fardon took over as Luke and Arye Gross replaced Billy Dee Williams as Lando. Ed Begley, Jr. was the voice of Boba Fett and Ed Asner, speaking only in grunts, guest-stars as Jabba the Hutt. The only actor who starred in both the feature films as well as previous radio dramas was Anthony Daniels.

  • Joshua Fardon (Luke Skywalker)
  • Perry King (Han Solo)
  • Ann Sachs (Princess Leia Organa)
  • Anthony Daniels (C-3PO)
  • Bernard Behrens (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
  • Arye Gross (Lando Calrissian)
  • Edward Asner (Jabba The Hutt)
  • Paul Hecht (The Emperor)
  • John Lithgow (Yoda)
  • Brock Peters (Lord Darth Vader)
  • Ed Begley, Jr. (Boba Fett)
  • Samantha Bennett (Arica)

The supporting cast included Rick Hall, Andrew Hawkes, Sherman Howard, Karl Johnson, John Kapelos, Ron Le Paz, Joe Liss, Paul Mercier, Steven Petrarca, Jonathan Penner, Gil Segel, Nia Vardalos and Ron West.

Other broadcasts and releases[edit | edit source]

  • There are several radio promos, deleted scenes, and additional music tracks available that originated on previous releases of this collection and in the NPR broadcast versions.
  • BBC Radio 1 broadcast the series in the UK, with a key scene in the final episode clumsily cut for timing.
  • All three series have been released on cassette tape and CD.

The tracks are:

  1. "Radio Promo #1 - Anthony Daniels"
  2. "Radio Promo #2 - Ann Sachs"
  3. "Radio Promo #3 - Mark Hamill"
  4. "Star Wars Radio Drama - Additional Music"
  5. "Star Wars Radio Drama - Alternate Take 'Your Father's Lightsaber'"
  6. "Star Wars Radio Drama - Alternate Take 'Bail and Leia'"
  7. "Return Of The Jedi Radio Drama - Alternate Take 'Speederbike Chase'"
  8. "The Making Of The Radio Dramas"

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Audio dramas
Original trilogy
Episode IV · Episode V · Episode VI
Dark Empire
Dark Empire · Dark Empire II · Collector's Edition
Dark Forces
Soldier for the Empire · Rebel Agent · Jedi Knight· The Collector's Trilogy
Tales of the Jedi
Tales of the Jedi · Tales of the Jedi: Dark Lords of the Sith
Crimson Empire · Empire's End · Nightlily: The Lovers' Tale · Rebel Mission to Ord Mantell
The Mixed-Up Droid · We Don't Do Weddings: The Band's Tale
Fan works
Smuggler's Gambit · Smuggler's Bounty · Smuggler's Revenge
Book-and-record · HighBridge Audio · List of audio productions

In other languages
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