Tuesday, July 11, 2017

'Star Wars: The Radio Drama' Episode Review: 'Rogues, Rebels, and Robots'

"That's no moon. It's a space station." (C) 1977 20th Century Fox Film Corporation
Rogues, Rebels, and Robots


  • Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)
  • See-Threepio (Anthony Daniels)
  • Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi (Bernard Behrens)
  • Han Solo (Perry King)
  • Chewbacca 
  • Artoo-Detoo 

Music: Opening theme.

Narrator: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there came a time of revolution, when Rebels united to challenge a tyrannical Empire. In the Rebellion's most desperate crisis, plans for the Empire's mightiest weapon, the Death Star, were stolen by Rebel agents and placed in the memory banks of the astrodroid Artoo-Detoo. Artoo and his fellow droid, See-Threepio, are now under the protection of the young farmer Luke Skywalker and the veteran Jedi Knight Ben Kenobi. Their plan is to deliver the droids to Rebels on the planet Alderaan. 

Sound: The Millennium Falcon's booming passage through hyperspace. Then engine hum and noise of various instruments of forward compartment up in background.

Narrator: In order to achieve their objective, Luke and Ben have hired two reckless smugglers, Han Solo and his copilot, Chewbacca, along with their starship, the Millennium Falcon. Having fought her way past an Imperial blockade, the Falcon is now en route, her passengers and crew unaware that the Empire is already moving against the Rebel Alliance with all the power at its command.

Ben: (SIGHING) That brief shock was the jump to lightspeed. I think we can unfasten our safety belts now, Luke.

Luke: Fine with me. That was the wildest ride I've ever been on! Between those Imperial cruisers blazing away at us and Han's crazy piloting, I never thought we'd make it. 

In Episode Nine of Star Wars: The Radio Drama, science fiction novelist Brian Daley picks up the story of Luke, Ben, Han, Chewbacca, and the droids' flight from Mos Eisley Spaceport where "The Han Solo Solution" left off. Evading the dreaded Imperial Star Destroyers over Tatooine, the unlikely group of "rogues, rebels, and robots" is flying through hyperspace to the Alderaan system. There, Luke (Mark Hamill) and Ben (Bernard Behrens) hope to deliver Artoo-Detoo to Bail (Prestor) Organa so the Rebels can retrieve the information hidden in Artoo's memory banks, while Han (Perry King) is hoping that he and Chewbacca will receive the 15,000 credits they were promised so they can pay Jabba the Hutt for a shipment of lost spice. 

"That holographic game board. I wouldn't've expected Han to be the kind to play."  (C) 1977 20th Century Fox Film Corporation

In essence, "Rogues, Rebels, and Robots" is an extended version of the sequence where the Falcon flies through hyperspace en route to the doomed planet of Alderaan (which was destroyed at the end of "Death Star's Transit"). In this episode, Ben begins teaching Luke in the ways of the Force, first by getting his new apprentice to look beyond outward appearances to see truths buried beneath them:

Luke: Just look at this compartment, will you? Shipping containers, spare parts, empty crates, and plain old junk all over the place. Some starship!

Ben: This is a working freighter, Luke, even if her activities are rather on the shady side. Independent captains like Solo run their ships to suit themselves and live as they see fit. But I'll tell you this: For all the clutter, the Millennium Falcon is in excellent shape and far faster than when she was built. Solo wasn't exaggerating about those "modifications" he's made on her.

Luke: You know what I was surprised to find back at the tech station? That holographic game board. I wouldn't've expected Han to be the kind to play.

Ben: Spacers fill the hours they spend in transit in a surprising variety of ways, Luke. But the fact that a rough-and-ready fellow like Solo chooses such a pastime does indicate another side to him.

Luke: But who does he play against? The machine?

Ben: Against his first mate, Chewbacca, in all likelihood. 

Luke: You mean that big, shaggy Wookiee can play the board game?

Ben: Games of skill and thought aren't restricted to human beings and machines, Luke. Don't let Chewbacca's great size and fierce appearance fool you. Wookiees are a species with great adaptability, and they're quick to learn.  

After a brief discussion regarding their mission to Alderaan and Ben's appraisal of Han's personality, Kenobi begins teaching Luke how to become one with the Force and to use his lightsaber. The young farm boy from Tatooine is surprised that Ben wants to start his training now, but the old Jedi believes there's no better time than the present. 

Ben: Well, the way of the Jedi is a lifelong education, Luke. I began learning it when I was younger than you. I have achieved a certain mastery, and yet I am no less a pupil for all of that, even now. 

Luke: You've taught  a lot of students, haven't you, Ben? Even this Darth Vader, the Jedi who turned traitor and killed my father.

Ben: Darth Vader....started out as my pupil, yes.

Luke: I want to know about Vader, Ben. Who he is and why he went over to the dark side of the Force. I want to face him when I'm a Jedi Knight and tell him whose son I am. 

Ben: If you wish to be a Jedi, you'll have to put aside your desire for revenge. 

Luke: But...

Ben: Anger and hatred...and fear, too...those can help you draw power from the Force, but only from its dark side. And in the end the dark side of the Force exacts a terrible price from those whom it seduces. 

Luke: But...but tell me about Vader, Ben. I want to know who he is and why he gave in to the dark side. 

Ben: Luke, Luke, you're reaching far ahead of yourself. The workings of the Force aren't always so direct. Above all else, mastery of the Force demands patience.

"First defensive posture...." (C) 1977 20th Century Fox Film Corporation

 After a long conversation in which Ben hints that there may be other Jedi out there in the wider galaxy, Luke begins his training. First, Ben teaches young Skywalker how to ignite his lightsaber and puts him through a series of drills. Then, when Luke shows some aptitude in the use of the Jedi weapon, Kenobi uses a remote target globe for a more advanced lesson on how to use the laser sword properly, and how to call on the power of the Force. 

Of course, since Brian Daley was working from the fourth revised draft of George Lucas's screenplay for Star Wars, several familiar scenes are included in "Rogues, Rebels, and Robots." These include:

  • Artoo's game of holographic chess against Chewbacca, during which we learn that the Wookiee is a sore loser
  • Han's declaration that "Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side." 
  • Ben Kenobi's "bad feeling" that something terrible has happened 
  • The Millennium Falcon's arrival at the Alderaan system - or what remains of it
  • "That's not a moon out there! That's a space station!" 
My Take

The ninth episode of the 13-part Star Wars: The Radio Drama series is more character-driven than it is a showcase for action-adventure. It is, in essence, the calm before the storm; it begins as our heroes escape from one Imperial trap and lays the groundwork for not just the rest of A New Hope, but also for the rest of the original Star Wars saga. Luke takes his first tentative steps into the larger universe of the Jedi here, and we can see that Daley is beginning to show Han's transition from independent rogue to reluctant Rebel, albeit in subtle shadings of the Corellian's character, just as in the original 1977 film. 

Because Brian Daley had written a trilogy of Han Solo adventures set before Star Wars, every episode which features the cocky Corellian space pirate reflects the author's affinity for the character. As a result, Perry King gets a lot of great lines to deliver. My favorite one is this: 

Han: Anyway, we're coming up on Alderaan. You measure your freedom in this life in cash, old man. If you have enough, you can go as far and as fast as you want. Come on, Chewie!

Daley also fleshes out Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi's part a bit beyond what we saw in Lucas's film version of Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope. Not so radically that we can't imagine Sir Alec Guinness delivering the dialogue written here for Bernard "Bunny" Behrens, but listeners will get more of the old Jedi's abilities to read a person's true inner self even if it's concealed behind a facade of bravado and venality. Ben knows that there's more courage and loyalty in Solo's heart than he lets on....and he doesn't shy away from telling Han so!

Once again, Star Wars' lead actor Mark Hamill lends his voice talents to portray the young farm boy from Tatooine. Although Hamill was then trying to take other roles in films such as The Big Red One and plays like Amadeus,  he didn't want anyone else to play Luke Skywalker in the radio adaptation. He gives director John Madden one of his best performances yet, using his voice (and unseen body movements) to evoke his best-known screen part. 

Anthony Daniels, who has played See-Threepio (C-3PO) in all of Lucasfilm's Star Wars live action and animated projects (including a cameo in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), plays the easily-rattled and prissy protocol droid in this episode, too. Daniels often had to deliver lines to characters (Chewie and Artoo-Detoo) who weren't even in the recording studio. Their "voices" - sound effects created by Ben Burtt for the movie - would be added later in post-production by the series' sound mixer, Tom Voegeli, Nevertheless, Daniels gave director John Madden a top-notch performance that allows the audience to "see" Threepio bickering with his astromech counterpart or arguing - briefly, anyway - with Chewbacca over the finer points of dejarik.