There’s More to Star Wars than Meets the Eye

I won’t say I “can’t get enough” Star Wars, but I sure do love it – a lot.  When the Humble Bundle featured a Star Wars audiobook bundle last summer, I grabbed it – I have all of the deluxe soundtracks for the Original Trilogy, the OT soundtrack anthology, the Prequel soundtracks, even the deluxe Phantom Menace soundtrack.  As a completist (obviously), I thought the audiobooks would be nice to have, and a portion goes to charity.

And that was the end of it.  I eventually downloaded the files from my account, and recently unzipped them, but they just stayed on my flash drive.

Yesterday, on a whim, I decided to listen to the “New Hope” adaptation.  I was working around home, and I often will throw a movie on just for background noise; I thought Star Wars audio would do the trick.

I listened to two hours worth yesterday, and have continued through the six-hour drama today.  Thought you knew everything there was to know about “A New Hope” because you’ve seen the movie 37 times?  You have the broad strokes, but you’ve missed the finer details.

Did Luke have a life on Tatooine, before his Uncle Owen purchased a couple of droids from the Jawas?  Of course he did, but the movies don’t tell much about it.  Luke isn’t some lonely farm boy hanging out with his aunt and uncle – he has friends, he’s basically a hot-rodder who wants to be a rebel with a cause – and like many young men, wants to fly ships and find the right girl.

The movie gives us an idea of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s noble past, and a few of his quixotic musings, but the radio drama expands on both of these – and takes “Ben Kenobi” out of rumored desert hermit, and references at least one past encounter between Kenobi and Luke.

Princess Leia also benefits greatly from the radio drama.  It doesn’t change the Star Wars galaxy’s tradition of placing teenagers in positions of galactic leadership, but it does give a view of her life immediately before the events of the OT.  When we first saw Star Wars, we really had little reason to care about Alderaan other than it being Leia’s home planet; the radio drama places most of an early episode on Alderaan, with Prestor (Bail Organa) and Lord Tion (an ambitious Imperial) discussing with the princess the possibilities of a political union.

Mark Hamill is almost as well-known for his voice acting as he is for his role in the OT, and he started brilliantly here; unfortunately, Anthony Daniels is the only other principal actor from the OT to appear in the radio drama.  It takes some getting used to, and in some cases, it’s almost impossible to get used to – part of it could be due to the script, but Perry King’s Han Solo (King had actually auditioned to play Solo in the movies) has more in common with Bill Pullman’s Lone Starr from Spaceballs than he does with Harrison Ford’s characterization.  And James Earl Jones is irreplaceable.

With the first adaptation coming in 1981 – after The Empire Strikes Back but before Return of the Jedi – it’s still a little surprising that the script plays up the romantic tension between Luke and Leia, and it’s clear that if Lucas had in mind that the two were siblings, it was a closely guarded secret that she was the “other” hope referenced by Yoda when Luke leaves Dagobah.

Star Wars: The New Hope ended up being much more than background noise, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough for Star Wars fans – especially those who want to know more of the story.

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