Star Wars: The National Public Radio Dramatization - Brian Daley I am not a fan of Star Wars in any way near the way I'm a fan of Star Trek but the original film* remains one of my all-time favorites; it was the near perfect recasting of the archetypal (Western, at any rate) hero myth into a science-fiction setting. For all its adumbrations of Lucas' shortcomings as a director and writer, the film worked on every level for me. Much of that success must be laid at the feet of the veteran actors Lucas managed to corral - Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing and James Earl Jones, who all rose far above the material to create some of the most memorable characters and scenes in SF movie history.

The importance of that critical chemistry is evident when you listen to this adaptation for radio. The script was written by Brian Daley, who wrote some decent, pre-Rebellion Han Solo adventures (Han Solo at Stars' End, Han Solo's Revenge, Han Solo and the Lost Legacy) but here he adds a lot of pointless padding that dilutes the power of some of the most iconic scenes and are boring.** Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels reprise their film roles so they do fine (unless you didn't like them in the movie) but the rest of the cast is either lackluster or horribly miscast (with one exception I'll get to below); my cats could read this stuff with more conviction and distinctiveness. The "horribly miscast" role is Perry King (of "Riptide" fame if you're old enough to remember that TV show) as Han Solo. Even if I had never seen Harrison Ford's performance, King's take on the Solo character just didn't work; and in comparison to Ford's, it suffers irremediable harm. The exception to the awful cast is Brock Peters - Admiral Cartwright in Star Treks IV & VI and Tom Robinson in the film version of To Kill A Mockingbird - as Darth Vader. He managed to nearly equal Jones' film version.

An example will suffice: One of the most memorable scenes - Tarkin's confrontation with Leia when he destroys Alderaan - falls entirely flat because neither actor could pull it off. It deserves to be quoted in full and here is the link to the scene on YouTube. Watch the scene and you'll see how both body language and vocal cadence carry it off:

LEIA: Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding
Vader's leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on

TARKIN: Charming to the last. You don't know how hard I found it
signing the order to terminate your life!

LEIA: I surprised you had the courage to take the responsibility

TARKIN: Princess Leia, before your execution I would like you to be my
guest at a ceremony that will make this battle station operational. No
star system will dare oppose the Emperor now.

LEIA: The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems
will slip through your fingers.

TARKIN: Not after we demonstrate the power of this station. In a way,
you have determined the choice of the planet that'll be destroyed
first. Since you are reluctant to provide us with the location of the
Rebel base, I have chosen to test this station's destructive power...
on your home planet of Alderaan.

LEIA: No! Alderaan is peaceful. We have no weapons. You can't

TARKIN: You would prefer another target? A military target? Then name
the system!

I grow tired of asking this. So it'll be the last time. Where
is the Rebel base?

LEIA: Dantooine.

They're on Dantooine.

TARKIN: There. You see Lord Vader, she can be reasonable. (addressing
Motti) Continue with the operation. You may fire when ready.

LEIA: What?

TARKIN: You're far too trusting. Dantooine is too remote to make an
effective demonstration. But don't worry. We will deal with your Rebel
friends soon enough.


I'm giving this two stars because of Peter's performance more than anything else but I wouldn't recommend this to any but the Star Wars completist.

* And by "original," I do mean the original version, sans Lucas' "improvements" (ugh).

** Even accounting for the fact that this is a radio adaptation and some things that could be shown in the film needed to be elaborated on for a solely listening audience, there's still far too much useless jabbering. In fairness, one part did work: In the film, when Luke races back to the farm to find his aunt and uncle dead, it's all done visually without a line of dialog. Daley successfully converts that scene for the radio by having Luke recount what he found when he gets back to Obi-wan and the droids.