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Arts & Life

A Long Time Ago On A KUNC Radio Dial Not So Far Away...

As Star Wars is once again invading popular culture, we remember the radio play that aired on KUNC. Before CGI, Jar-Jar, and Special Editions, there was an analog friendly version of the trilogy where Han shot first and the Force will be with us, always.

"You may think you've seen the movie; wait 'til you hear it!"

In 1981, NPR Playhouse distributed a 13-part adaptation of 1977's Star Wars produced in co-operation with KUSC ;in Los Angeles. Naturally, many actors from the film production were unavailable, however, Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) & Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) reprised their roles for the radio adaptation.

There were plenty of new voices, including Perry King, who had auditioned for the role of Han Solo in the film. This time around he got the job and was cast as the voice of Han Solo in the radio drama. King wasn't the only voice actor with a connection to sci-fi, Brock Peters, who voiced the villainous Darth Vader, has had film and TV roles in the other sweeping space opera of our time: Star Trek.

“You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? … It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.”

The serials were a huge hit nationwide and aired Sunday nights at 6 p.m. on KUNC for 13 consecutive weeks. Taking a film from 121 min to nearly 5hr 51m allowed "...listeners an opportunity to exercise their mind's eye" as Bill Hurt, the KUNC Station Manager at the time said.

The extended running time and episodic nature of the serials allowed script writer Brian Daley the opportunity to greatly expand on the situations in and surrounding the film. Additionally, the dramas made spectacular use of original film sound effects & the musical score of John Williams; both provided with the full co-operation of Lucasfilm, ltd. The success of the Star Wars Radio Dramatization was a huge boon to NPR at the time and led to the production of both The Empire Strikes Back (1983) and Return of the Jedi (1996) radio plays.

Take a moment to imagine Star Wars as many "saw" it in the theater of the mind's eye. As Obi-Wan Kenobi might have said "...Not as clumsy or random as a blaster; an elegant radio broadcast for a more civilized age."

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