Thursday, February 2, 2017


Students MUST post reactions ( minimum 250 words) to the reading/listening linked below. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

A Brief History of NPR’s Star Wars: In 1981, NPR affiliate station KUSC, based at George Lucas’ alma mater, the University of Southern California, hatched a bold plan to adapt Lucas’ Star Wars for radio.

Easily the most visual film of the past decade, Star Wars as a listening experience seemed like an unlikely idea, but Lucas sold NPR and KUSC the rights to adapt the hit movie for one dollar, and opened the Lucasfilm vaults to the show’s producers: the Star Wars sound effects would be available to them in their raw form, along with every note of John Williams’ music, including selections that had yet to appear on an album.The somewhat unenviable task of translating a visual-effects-heavy blockbuster to the spoken word was given to writer Brian Daley.

Click heading to read the rest of the article.

Click HERE to listen to the first 30 minute episode (featuring the ice planet Hoth and the Wampa attack) or HERE for the final 30 minute episode (featuring the final saber battle between Skywalker & Vader) of The Empire Strikes Back from KUSC's STAR WARS: The Original Radio Drama. 


  1. The more I listen to radio podcast stories, the more I realize how much detail and analysis of the story goes into them. What I have noticed is that the Star Wars radio adaptation does a wonderful job at interweaving narration into the script of the show. Other than at the beginning of each segment, the script gives the listener a vivid idea of what physical actions are taking place in the story, without the use of an actual narrator. The sounds implemented into the program allow a person the freedom to imagine their own version of what is going on in their own way, but also to understand exactly what is attempting to be depicted by the writers.

    When Luke falls from his encounter with Darth Vader, you can tell that that part was intended to force the listener to imagine him falling for quite a long time. They did this by implementing wind sounds, but also by choosing the perfect musical sounds to remind listeners of falling. The music was almost clumsy sounding.

    The writers made it quite easy to imagine what they intended for the majority of the program, but there were times when I was a bit confused on exactly what was intended. In those times, I believe a narrator could have helped, but I realize that a narrator would probably just distract the listener and draw back from the actual storyline. I would have appreciated a bit more background or scenery description, because I sometimes could not at all what the location may have looked like. Since I am somewhat familiar with the movies, I could imagine what it probably looked like, but I would not be surprised if I was mistaken.

  2. Almost immediately, I was hit with a realization of how robust the listening experience was — layers of different sounds worked to convey what was happening in the story and also added an extra facet of complexity that kept the story engaging. While listening to this, I had visuals of Carrie Fisher as Leia, Mark Hamill as Luke, etc. and this caused me to wonder what the experience would be like if I didn’t have any previous knowledge of the story. Would I find the listening experience as easy? Would I be satisfied with my own imagination when it came to picturing a wookiee or a wampa? Would I be clamoring to know more about the locations and what they looks like? Moreover, I wonder what it would be like if they had made this radio drama but did not have access to any of the music, voices, or sounds. I think so much of the appeal of the listening experience is that connection to the original. If anything, I assume a remake without the use of the iconic originals probably wouldn’t have been viewed as favorably. Lastly, I had the thought, what if there had been no Star Wars movie and there had just been the audio drama? I would like to think that listeners would be just as enraptured, but I think back to my Father explaining his first interaction with Star Wars. While the sound was an integral part of the experience, he described the overwhelming feeling of the massive spaceship pulling onto the screen in Episode 4 — he’d never seen anything like it before. This leaves me wondering, while sound could try to come close, could it really evoke the same feelings? I certainly think it’s possible but it takes an engaged and imaginative listener coupled with incredible sounds.

    As for some of the differences associated with the audial experience, I was surprised to find that the audial explanations didn’t bother me. For example, there was a string of lines from Luke when he was in the cave explaining his surroundings like “My lightsaber is on the ground” or “Han, I got myself down.” While I had initially thought I would find it to be annoying, it organically blended into the listening experience. Something I didn’t like was the narrator at the beginning. While he may have been reading as to convey the rigidity of the opening crawl, I found his voice too robotic and a little disjointed/underwhelming when compared to the rest. Additionally, I thought the action moved too quickly or scenes changed unexpectedly at certain points, and I realized I was only able to keep up because I had preexisting knowledge of the story.

  3. I listened to the Star Wars episode that featured the planet Hoth (episode 5), and was pleasantly surprised at how well it was able to portray the events of the story. The familiar themes supplemented the feeling of the franchise, while setting the mood with tones of either triumph or trouble. Sometimes, the music would seem a little long, perhaps trying to illustrate the setting of a certain scene, but not being completely effective with visuals. Either that, or it was used as a filler between scenes, which was sometimes distracting for me. Another problem I had with listening to this podcast was visually seeing the characters. Part of me, having already seen the movies, wanted to stray towards visualizing the characters as I’ve seen them before. The familiarity was an element that I wanted to stick with, though it wasn’t completely possible. Another part of me, not knowing the exact looks of the characters, filled in the blanks with new details. Although this gave room for creativity to flow through my mind’s “movie”, this also resulted in me feeling torn and therefore slightly undecided on the exact visual qualities of the characters and places of the podcast. Sometimes I would decide how a character looked in my mind, and then be unsatisfied with it. Then, by the time I saw how a character’s physique best fit the storyline, that point in the story would’ve been passed and the detail made irrelevant. Though frustrating at times, the loss of one sense created a mentally stimulating challenge for my brain as I listened through this.

  4. The first thing I noticed was that there was never *just* dialogue. There was always a music bed, sound effects, and stings happening. This constant use of sound effects isn't something I would have noticed before this class. The sounds are so vivid it's easy to visualize what's happening. You could tell a high-action scene by the layering of increasingly intense music with various shooting sound effects and yelling, more urgency in the speaker's voices, etc. During a calmer scene, you would hear a conversation with solely very quiet music in the background. In between dialogue scenes, various themes from Star Wars played.
    I also liked the format of the scenes. In the first scene, we listened from the perspective of one person communicating with others over his radio. I thought that we would be following this character throughout the episode, but he died in battle (!). The next scene changed to a conversation whose characters alternated. The shift in focus in different scenes keeps the episode interesting.
    A scene that I really liked was between R2D2 and C3PO. It's cool how it maintained the same humor as in the movie even without being able to see their movements and mannerisms.
    Later, when Luke is on his own in a cave, you can detect his alone-ness and urgency by the sound of the wind in the background and the music stings that occur as he tries to communicate with Han.
    I really enjoyed listening to this episode. It was as vivid as watching it would be.

  5. I have not always been a huge fan of Star wars; to be honest; I just don’t get the hype or neither am I into air craft or space themed movies. However, this concept of not having to see the movie taking place in space is making me interested in the movie. I am quite impressed with the sound effects that were used throughout the episode; every sound effect was accurate and imaginable. In the opening scene when the air crafts were battling, they were able to distinguish that there was several space ships attacking each other and shooting and hitting their targets.
    The background music starting back up in between scenes was another genius technique I realized can be used to distinguish when the scene is over and another one is starting. When the scene is close to ending the music slowly rises and stays at high tempo, when it’s starting again, the tempo goes back down. When background music is also left playing in the background, they don’t use the upbeat ones; they use a really mellow tone that doesn’t affect the audience hearing the voices or creature growls or sounds.
    Another factor was the constant mentioning of names, since people are obviously not watching this; I realized that they constantly keep saying each other’s name in conversations to make sure that people don’t get confused about who is talking currently in the scenes. This podcast has definitely made me more interested in star wars because I have a better chance of focusing on the story line instead of the setting which I don’t like.

  6. I’ll admit right now that it felt weird listening to the Star Wars audio adaptation because I had seen the movies so many times. I chose to listen to the final lightsaber battle because it’s so iconic and they used sound effects, music, and the actors’ capability to capture the characters so well in order to make me feel like I was watching the movie for the millionth time. For a second, I thought that the actor voicing Luke WAS Mark Hamill himself but I don’t think it was. Although, I was happy to hear that C-3PO’s voice actor voiced him and he was just as snarky as he was in the films. The whole show itself capture what makes the Star Wars films great and it, once again, reminds me of that whole scene in A Christmas Story where Ralphie is listening to the radio show and he and his brother and really invested in the story. I also really enjoyed the accompanying article because it showed me that anything can be a radio show. That published extended universes of well known franchises like Star Wars could have radio adaptations that allow the listeners and fans alike to learn more and have more adventures in the world that George Lucas created even after the credits roll in a darkened theater. It also reminds me of the numerous videos I’ve seen of famous voice actors from anime, western animations, and video games reading the scripts of films like Star Wars, The Avengers, and even Harry Potter while recreating the iconic scenes from those films in the voices fans recognize them for. Hearing Tara Strong speaking Darth Vader’s lines as Bubbles from The Powerpuff Girls is the best. The same can be said when listening to Jim Cummings saying Voldemort’s lines at the end of the first Harry Potter film as Winnie the Pooh.

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back as the radio version. Having the intros of each episode set the scene through narration, just like reading the moving text at the beginning of the movie in theaters, was a great choice. By having each intro explode with the Star Wars theme and continue under the narration gets any listener hyped up and ready to fully listen to what will come next.

    While practically the entirety of the two episodes I listened to stuck to the basic structure of the movie, I found a couple of the changed dialogues to be a fascinating way to add depth and imagery to the scenes where only visuals played a role in for the movies. In the first episode, when Luke is stuck in the snow and tries to get his lightsaber through the help of the force, he does so silently in the movie, but for radio, listeners would normally not have a clue what is going on in the scene. I thought it was interesting how they decided to have Luke talking to the force, asking for it’s help and calling for it. It showed a layer to the force that normally isn’t thought of; as this power that helps those in need as opposed to just a power that a Jedi controls.

    After reading the article, the mention that these radio episodes included backstories to characters and not just turning the movies into radio adaptations is why I would want to continue to listen. It was also pretty cool that the first adaptation was made after purchasing the script and sound effects for a dollar.

  8. The first thing I noticed was that I really enjoyed the introduction being read aloud. I imagined it scrolling the way it does in the films.I was reminded of how when I was younger I could not finish reading it before it disappeared. The layering of sounds, including the ship beeping noises and the clicking of switches, along with the people talking over radios created this sense of immediacy. It gave me as the listener a sense of panic which was appropriate for the scene. Because you are relying on your sense of hearing, it almost felt like I was listening to the radio signals myself. In that moment I was really submerge in the scene. I felt my mood being manipulated by the music. If the score got really epic, I was expecting the arrival of a really epic character. One obvious example of this was the Empirical death march music announcing Darth Vader, though it was only played at the mention of him, which helped build up the anticipation of hearing him. The sound of chatter in the back ground served to fill in the space, so that it didn't seem like the characters were in an empty room. One thing I found myself doing when adapting my own movie script was having the characters mention each other by name when speaking. The same went for this star wars adaptation. This is to compensate for the fact that you can't actually see who is speaking and who is present. At moments in this episode, I found it distracting, as it made the dialogue feel heavy.

  9. I enjoy all of the Star Wars movies very much. As soon as I heard the opening music in the podcast I got excited. The nice thing about listening to this radio show was that the narrator read the opening crawl text that usually appears at the beginning of the movies. I sometimes get distracted and miss reading it (lol).
    I feel like the orchestral music is a key part in all of the movies. Listening to this radio show made me realize how important it is in setting the tone and providing listeners with smooth contrasts between different scenes. In addition, I like how the music gets louder and softer at appropriate times between dialogues because it helps listeners better understand and visualize what is happening.
    In the infamous scene where Darth Vader reveals that he is Luke Skywalker’s father, I felt like the voices were extremely dramatic, which I thought was necessary because the audience obviously has no visuals in such an emotional scene. In the few radio shows I’ve listened to, I felt that the voices had to be slightly over dramatic just to convey certain feelings clearly to the audience.
    As mentioned before, Star Wars is a very visual film, however the radio show did a fantastic job at telling the story with the help of sound effects. It is impressive that they were able to provide listeners with so much detail in their sound effects, such as the voices of Darth Vader, Chewbacca, C3PO and other droids, as well gunshots, droid movements, light sabers, and flying ships.

  10. I listened to the final battle scene between Skywalker and Darth Vader, because I remember seeing the scene in the film. I thought it would be greatly interesting to compare the listening experience with the visual experience. The iconic Star Wars theme at the start of the episode instantly set the scene for me. "Well, this is undoubtedly Star Wars", I thought to myself. I was amazed at how easy it was for me to totally visualize the scene which ensued. The sounds of lazer beams being shot back and forth set the visual up for me effortlessly. A large battle field appeared in my imagination. It was very hectic, with emotions high signified by the music and shots being fired back and forth. The tension could be heard in the voice actors tones, which in turn made me feel the tension. Every characters unique voice throughout made it quite easy to distinguish who was who, and the classic Darth Vader deep echoey breath was perfect for bringing him into the scene. The droning buzz of the light sabers indicated when Skywalker and Darth Vader's battle began, and the clashing and screaming indicated when sabers were being clanked together and when characters were injured. I actually very much enjoyed this listening experience, because too often I find the sets of the older Star Wars films coming off as cheesy. The listening experience allowed me to totally recreate the scene myself, and I was able to make things looked just like I wanted them to. It was as if I had taken the directors chair, and everything appeared just as I wanted it to.

  11. I have neither seen nor heard any of the star wars movies on my own whim ( I know, i’m sorry), and I found myself completely immersed in the story. In the movies, I feel that they skip a lot of the introductory information that you need in order to understand the story line; however, since I listened to the stories, it was so elusive and straightforward. The whole experience was one that I never had before. Perhaps it was because I knew some of the plot from spoilers and friends, but the sound effects were so well orchestrated that I didn’t even feel like I had to do review.

    Additionally, their technique for distinguishing of when a scene was over or when was beginning was much easier for me to see. They also allocated the sound effects properly. There wasn’t much upbeat happy music since it doesn’t fit the plot, but rather ominous and mysterious music. It did an amazing job of encapsulating the overall theme of what the movies series was trying to portray. The sci-fi portion of the movie was also vocalized through their sound effect—which I have to assume they took from the movie—throughout the duration of the audio clip.

    Overall, I enjoyed this assignment a lot because it allowed me to hear an interesting story and also allowed me to get some work done. I never really understood the difficulty of making an audiocast, but throughout this course I realized it’s the complete inverse. The timing, sound effects, and method of annunciating your words make all the effort. They have no visuals to back them up, so all the work is put into their auditory work. Hopefully, my podcast will be ¼ as good.

  12. Radio Free Death Star: Freedom’s Winter
    Notes taken while listening to podcast:
    · Music is in the background most of the time and becomes louder or softer based on the action of the scene.
    · Music marks a transition in either the setting or time. A theme is played after a scene ends. With music, there is no need for narration.
    · For example, as a listener, it is clear that the scene takes place at planet Hoth because of the transition music and the sound of wind blowing.
    · Would it be hard to imagine if I didn’t see the movie before listening?
    As soon as the podcast started and the main theme played, I was instantly transported into the world Star Wars, remembering the distant world portrayed in the movies. Even as the narrator read the familiar opening lines “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” I created the image of the scrolling yellow text. Right away the sound effects, such as the interference on the rebel transport ship, helped me create the scene. Another thing I noticed was the barely audible music that was playing in the background while there was dialogue. This music helped me create the atmosphere of the scene. When an action scene was approaching, the music would gradually crescendo, signaling a transition in activity. The auditory devices really helped me visualize what was going on. The one question I have is if it would be difficult to visualize the story without being familiar with the movie. I think that while listening to this podcast I heavily relied on what I’ve seen in the star wars movie, such as what the animals and people look like. Overall, I think the podcast did a good job of recreating the star wars universe that many of us recognize.

  13. This assignment was entirely new for me. I have no previous experience with the 'Star Wars' empire before, so listening to the first thirty minutes of an episode was especially interesting.
    I was very impressed with the audio version. I felt as if the radio version stood up well to Star Wars' extraordinary reputation. I was blown away by how accurate the sounds of the space ships seemed to be. The audio played out flawlessly as a visual within my mind. None of the sound effects, from the noise of the ships to the voice of Chewbacca, ever sounded outright fake or made up. I also really got a feel for the effect that music bridges can have on a piece with the changing of scenes. The last assignment's podcasts that I listened to did not utilize this effect as they should have, and it took me listening to the effect successfully played to realize that.
    Another thing that really stood out to me with listening to this episode was the need for very distinct voices for each of the characters. I could see how easy it would be to get lost following along a script you don't previously know when a lot of the characters sound alike. It also showed importance on how using smart dialogue prompts along the listener to follow the story more easily.
    Overall, I really enjoyed the assignment. It made me curious as to how the movies are in comparison to the podcast. It really opened my eyes to a lot of points I need to keep in mind for when I make my own podcast.

  14. (Amy Schwartz)

  15. DAD:

  16. I decided to listen to the first episode of the radio adaptation of Star Wars. I'm not super into Star Wars so I'm not really familiar with all the names of the characters, planets, languages, etc., even though I have seen a few of movies. Because of this I decided to start at the beginning and listen to the first episode. The radio adaptation was an interesting take on the movies because even though I couldn't tell you all the names of all the characters (except for the main ones probably) it was still really easy to tell that it was Star Wars. The sound effects were on point with transporting me into the Star Wars world without having to see it. For this homework I really tried to focus more on the sound effects in the background than on the dialogue between the characters. One thing I noticed is that there was never just dialogue. There was always some background noise, music, or effect. Throughout the episode the music was able to set the tone for what was happening with each scene. The beeps for R2D2 sounded somewhat differently each time adding to the effect of him speaking. The same happened with Chewbaca’s growls/grunts. He was making a different sound each time he “spoke”. The sounds kind of went along with the dialogue that was going on between the other characters. One thing I found difficult with this episode is that because I was paying attention to the sounds I wasn’t paying attention to the names of the characters. So towards the end I was getting confused with the voices. All of the sound effects made it easier to visualize the scene. It really goes to show you how much effort goes into making sure that the sound effects portray what the movies would have visually.

    P.S. I’m sorry this is late!!

  17. While I don’t frequent the Star Wars series. I did think it was interesting to read of its journey through the podcast universe. Particularly in a time where there was a mass exodus away from podcasts to the much more attractive televisions. It is unfortunate that the podcast series did have to suffer artistic scrutiny due to lack of funding/audience but it survived and continued making interesting content. I listened to one of the episodes and was taken aback by the amount of detail put into an audio episode. The open was extremely reminiscent of a Star Wars movie as the narrator gave the opening recaps the same way all the Star Wars movies do, but it was much better as it was read out to us. The music and sound effects were clearly given so much thought and made the whole thing so much more believable and attention grabbing. The story line itself was super captivating and made me want to listen to even more of the series. Not to mention the voice actors. With the amount of emotion put into the script, you can tell these vocalists gave this reading their all. The whole piece together was beautifully executed. Although, I cannot lie, my modern brain did want to see this acted out with visuals and acting matching the effort put into the sounds and voices. It would have made the whole package spectacular in my opinion.