Even on radio, 'Star Wars' has the force

AIRCHECK

July 09, 1993|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff writer

Who could have imagined it? The movie "Star Wars," the visual effects sensation of 1977, also turned into one of the most popular radio dramas of all time. And now National Public Radio has dusted off and spruced up the audio story of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia and those irrepressible robots, R2-D2 and C-3P0.

Give yourself a treat and tune in "Star Wars," airing for 13 weeks at 7 p.m. Sundays beginning this weekend on Washington's NPR affiliate, WAMU-FM (88.5).

First heard in 1981, when NPR claimed its largest audiences to date, the series has been digitally remastered to improve the sound effects, and lengthened somewhat by the addition of scenes originally edited from the show. (Baltimore's NPR outlet, WJHU-FM (88.1) currently has no plans to air the series.)

"It was one of the greatest times I ever had," recalls Brian Daley of the 1981 radio treatment of George Lucas' huge hit.

The science fiction and fantasy author, who lives in Arnold in Anne Arundel County, wrote the radio script and says he is delighted that NPR decided this spring to make the series available for re-airing.

"I think that with the whole books-on-cassette development, people are used to hearing drama again," says Mr. Daley, 45, who also wrote the radio version of the second part of the "Star Wars" trilogy, "The Empire Strikes Back" (in 1984).

But he regrets that plans within NPR to produce the third story, "Return of the Jedi," collapsed. He said the drama was in its early stages when, "basically, Ronald Reagan eviscerated public radio funding."

"It would have been fun to close it out. There were a lot of things in 'Jedi' I'd like to get my hands on," says Mr. Daley. The radio drama, like the movie, stars Mark Hamill as Luke and Anthony Daniels as the "droid" C-3P0. Perry King is the voice of Han Solo, Bernard Behrens is Obie Wan Kenobe and Ann Sachs portrays Princess Leia.

Mr. Daley recounts that he was picked to write the radio script on the strength of a trilogy of novels he had written about Han Solo, the colorful smuggler character played in the film by Harrison Ford.

His publisher, Del Rey/Bantam Books, had secured the written rights to the "Star Wars" package. And when Mr. Lucas granted NPR the radio rights, "I was referred to try a script."

He temporarily relocated to North Hollywood and spent several months knocking out the story, then participated in the production work, directed by Englishman John Madden.

"People would just drop in to do a bit part," he recalls, noting that Meshach Taylor, of CBS's "Designing Women," and David Alan Grier, of Fox's "In Living Color" were among the young actors heard briefly on one of the two radio dramas.

How did one of the flashiest visual movies of all time manage to translate into the sightless medium of radio?

"Certainly, there were some parts [of the film] we couldn't equal. But in other cases, we could do a lot more, to get into the corners of the story," explains the author.

Mr. Daley's other work includes two sci-fi novels he calls the "Coramonde series," the novelization of the film "Tron," co-authorship of a series of "Robotech" novels, two parts of "The Black Hole Travel Agency" series and scripts for the animated TV series, "The Galaxy Rangers."

*

Embattled Baltimore County School Superintendent Stewart Berger, who underwent a live grilling last week on "The Allan Prell Show" on WBAL-AM (1090), is scheduled to submit to radio listeners again next week.

The official is the scheduled guest on "The Marc Steiner Show," at 7 p.m. Tuesday on WJHU-FM (88.1), a 90-minute show.

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