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Star Wars (radio)

Star Wars is a 13-part radio drama first broadcast on National Public Radio in 1981. It was adapted and expanded from the film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope by Brian Daley, and directed by John Madden. 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 movie.

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 speeder race between Luke Skywalker and his friends that takes place days or weeks before the events of the movie.

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. Han Solo was played by Perry King, Princess Leia by Ann Sachs, Ben Kenobi by Bernard Behrens, and Darth Vader by Brock Peters.

NPR's reruns of the 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, but a key scene in the final episode was clumsily cut for timing.

The success of the series led to another, 10-part, series based on Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, again written by Daley and directed by Madden. Billy Dee Williams reprised Lando Calrissian, and John Lithgow played Yoda.

It was not until 1996 that a 6-part adaptation of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was made by Highbridge Audio (the company that had released the first two series on tape and CD), using many of the original radio cast but with Joshua Fardon taking over as Luke Skywalker. Edward Asner guest-stars as Jabba the Hutt — speaking only in grunts! Sadly scriptwriter Brian Daley died before the series went to air.

All three series were released on tape and CD in the US. Unfortunately NPR's cuts to the first series were retained.

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