A publicity poster.

Cassette cover.

The Empire Strikes Back was a ten-part radio adaptation of the original film, Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back. The radio drama first aired on National Public Radio in the United States on February 14, 1983.[1]

It is the second in a series of radio dramatizations of the original Star Wars trilogy, and lasts for a total of five hours. It was produced and broadcast by National Public Radio as part of NPR Playhouse as a follow-up to the success of the first radio series, Star Wars (1981).

The series was made with the full cooperation of George Lucas, who donated the rights and allowed the use of sound effects and music from the films. As with other Legends material, only material matching what was featured in the original film is considered canon, but many elements of the story first featured in the radio broadcasts were later referenced in other Legends stories.

Like the first radio drama, The Empire Strikes Back was written by Brian Daley and directed by John Madden. Billy Dee Williams reprised his role as Lando Calrissian, and John Lithgow played Yoda.

The radio dramatization is published by HighBridge Audio. The radio drama's original script was published in The Empire Strikes Back: The National Public Radio Dramatization in 1995.

Episode list[]

  • 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 Enemies
  • 8. Dark Lord's Fury
  • 9. Gambler's Choice
  • 10. The Clash of Lightsabers

Expanded Universe scenes[]

Unlike the first Radio Drama, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back follows a narrative much more closely aligned with the original film on which it is based. There are some small segments of action or dialogue which may be highlighted as treatments of Expanded Universe material, but the overall narrative does not diverge substantially from the original plot.

  • Episode V opens with the battle of Renegade Flight over Derra IV, during which Commander Narra is killed.
  • Captain Needa's Star Destroyer is revealed as the ship which launches the Imperial probe droid. He comments to his second-in-command that he is bored and wants some action, and hopes they find some Rebels to kill before the war is over and there's no more glory to be had.
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi's apparition to Luke Skywalker in the Hoth snowstorm takes Luke by surprise—the dialogue suggests that this is the first time Luke has seen the spirit of Obi-Wan.
  • Expanded dialogue reveals the rivalry and power struggles between Admiral Ozzel and Captain Piett.
    • In addition, the scene where Vader executes Ozzel for his blunder was expanded to reveal the Dark Lord chose to kill Ozzel instead of merely punishing him for his actions due to anger at his uselessness, and viewing mere punishment against him as pointless.
    • Vader also makes General Veers remain and watch Ozzel's death, and warns both him and Piett that they will share Ozzel's fate if they disappoint him too.
  • Expanded dialogue reveals Captain Needa begging Vader not to kill him after apologizing for losing the Millennium Falcon in the Hoth asteroid field. Vader goes on to remark that Needa is inept. This changed Needa's portrayal, as he had previously witnessed Vader's execution of Ozzel for improper tactics. Needa's willingness to accept responsibility for failure portrayed him as a man of integrity and principle. Begging Vader for his life lessened this gesture. Vader's assessment of Needa's ineptness being added also changed this interaction somewhat. It is likely that the dialogue was added to make clear to the audience what had happened, as no visual medium was present to portray Vader's execution of Needa.
  • We learn something of the background of 2-1B and how the medical droid once served in an Imperial medical facility.
  • At the climax of Luke Skywalker's lightsaber duel against Darth Vader in Cloud City, Luke audibly announces his decision to jump off the gantry into the service shaft, leaving the listener in no doubt that Luke intended to kill himself rather than join Vader.



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